Malaysians bearing gifts

I haven’t seen my parents for more than a year now, since our wedding in KL last summer.  So, it was with great excitement and haste that we cleaned the house in anticipation of their arrival.  For 4 weekends in a row, we cleaned, scrubbed and dusted the house.  But with Jessie around, our 9/10-year-old cocker spaniel, the dust and the fur balls magically reappeared the moment we unsullied the place.

So on Friday night, after work, we scurried home to start the cleaning.  It was finally at 9 pm that we were done, and had dinner.

WEEK 1

Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009

I woke up a little after 6:30 am.  Boiled gingko biloba with pearl barley in preparation.  Cut up all the vegetables for the week, marinated the chicken to be baked later and then readied a crock-pot for chicken curry.  After checking that everything was pristine, clean and put away, I finally sat down around 9:30 am.  Their plane was scheduled to arrive at 10 in Newark that morning.  We tracked the plane’s flight on-line and it was behind schedule.  We left the house 15 minutes later.

We reached the airport albeit a stall vehicle on the road, and a changed arrival entrance at the airport. We thought we were late.  My parents were later.  They finally came out from US Customs and Border, flustered, around 11:30 am.  Their mooncakes with yolk were confiscated. Mommy, however, managed to “smuggle” a piece of fresh ginger!

It was a happy reunion.

By the time we got home, my younger sister was there.  We unloaded all the goodies.  There were cookies, bags of heong peng, “fresh” dried shiitake mushrooms, fried ikan bilis (anchovies), dried prawns, normal mooncake without yolk and mooncake with green skin.  There were jewelries from my wedding last year, and jewelries for the wedding this September.  There were red packets strewn around for the making of Chinese lanterns for the wedding decor.

The first thing mommy said was, “Oh boy! Why is your fridge SO packed.”

“Pening!” (headache!)

I told her it’s usually not this full.  It’s just packed for them.

“You wait,” she forewarned.  “I will clean it out.”

I know she will.

That night, after much convincing, we headed to Petite Soochow in Cliffside Park for Shanghainese food.  We waited for almost an hour before we got our table – that was at 5:30 pm.  When the restaurant owner indicated that we were going to get our table soon, we quickly put in our order (kiasu).  We ordered the infamous xiao loong pau, red tofu, fried fresh fish cooked in braised red sauce, pan-fried scallion pancake topped with stir-fried chicken and brinjal and a clay pot lobster with vermicelli.  By the time the food rolled in, we were famished and ate like we haven’t been fed for ages.  (Although we act like that most times)

After dinner, we went food shopping, again.  Not like we weren’t stuffed to the gills and the fridge at home was not bursting at its seams.  We bought cabbage and some chicken for mommy’s mee siam for Sunday’s lunch.

Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009

Woke up pretty early.  Mommy and daddy couldn’t sleep.  Jet lag.

We had our breakfasts and waited for the rest to wake up.  The newly bought groceries from the night before were left in the fridge downstairs.  Both my sisters were still asleep downstairs so mommy couldn’t prep for lunch.

Daddy and I started working on assembling the wedding invites for the dinner in KL, while mommy began ransacking my kitchen.  Like a mole, she burrowed a hole through one food pantry, storing all the dried Chinese food – packaged bak kut teh, herbal soup, peanuts, dried bean curd skins, bubble tea, and the mushrooms.  (as of Friday, she still hasn’t gotten to the other two more food pantries – lucky me?)

With each new item that she pulled out, her criticism turned into exasperation.

“I can’t believe that you kept this thing for so long!”

In my defense, these are all dried goods.  It’s dead.  It’s meant to be kept.

When she found the mushrooms, she was beyond disbelief.

“This is from 2005!” she exclaimed. “I’m not buying you anything anymore!!”

I reasoned with her, “It’s dried.  It’s a fungi. And, how do you know it’s from 2005.  Cheh just went home last October.”

I quietly whispered to my father, “Tongku saang tongku.” (let the mushroom breed mushroom)

My father smiled.

Cheh finally woke up. Daddy and I stopped doing the invites because we didn’t know how to match up the flower to the hole in the card.

We started on the decor. Mommy was still mumbling to herself in the kitchen about mold.  I ran down to get the chicken and vegetable to keep her busy.  That kept her quiet for a little bit.

Assembling the decor was no joke.  Not only was it labor intensive, it was monotonous and required little fingers to work on them.  Child labor.  Cheap labor.

First step cutting the red packets into triangles, which my father had pre-cut in KL.

Second, folding the triangular cut-outs into little cones and gluing it together.

Third, taking five of the cones and gluing each petal together to make one bloom.

Finally, taking twelve of the blooms and gluing it together to make ONE pine-cone ball.

Phew!  One down.  Seven more to go.

As we were getting lethargic from the repetitiveness, mommy called out for lunch!  Saved!  We had fried mee siam, with chilies imported from KL.

After that, my younger sister went back home to NY.  Cheh went apartment hunting.  Mommy and daddy succumbed to sleep and took their naps on the sofa that was calling and pulling them in to slumber.

While they slept, we watched Naruto.

Then I primed the Kidrobot munny with a spray paint.  This will be part of the wedding gift.  Let’s hope it comes out as planned.

That night, we had baked spicy chicken in an array of mixed greens for dinner.

Monday, Aug. 24, 2009

My parents woke up at 6 with me.  While I walked Jessie, fed her and made juice, mommy made little comments here and there.

“So dirty.”

“Drink your juice first before touching the dog,” she stated when I left my juice to brush Jess’ teeth and clean her mouth.

“Jessie, don’t come near me.  I’m clean,” she said while backing away when Jess tried to rub against her.

That morning, they accompanied cheh out to take the bus, while making a stop at Shop-Rite to “check prices.”

My mom spent the rest of the day sweeping the floors in the house.  When I came home from work, she proceeded to let me know how dirty and dusty my house was.  As she spoke, a fur ball rolled along the hallway.

“Aiyoh!  Jessie!”

I just nodded. (All my cleaning and scrubbing down the drain)

We had curry chicken with green beans and wax beans for dinner.  I pulled out the cherries that were saved just for them.

Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009

Did my normal routine while my parents were up.  The project for the day is raiding the freezer.

They took their morning stroll to Shop-Rite to check for “fresh” food.

When I called home during lunch, I got an earful about the things she found in my freezer.

“Ha! You don’t believe me. There was chicken from ’07!”

She made Ponte Chicken and Siamese meat with candlenut or Indian walnut meshed with pounded chili and Kaffir lime leaves brought from KL.

We ate her “fresh” Ponte chicken for dinner that night.  After dinner, while waiting for mommy to shower, we caught an episode of Bleach. When she came down after her shower, we watched half of “Run Papa Run.”

Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009

Walked and fed Jess, and juiced my fruits in the morning with mommy standing behind me like a hawk watching my every move.

They had their usual morning walk to Shop-Rite.

Called during lunch and was told that my mom had shined the kettle and was cleaning the ’07 chicken.  She had also rearranged the cabinet under the sink that was filled with recycled plastic bags in disarray.

When I got home, I found her in the backyard, tackling the leaves and weeds and sweeping up debris.

Had chicken stew for dinner.  Finished watching “Run Papa Run” part deux.

Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009

Woke up to a chilly morning. As it was a nice day, Mommy and daddy decided to venture to Wal-Mart and we dropped them off before heading to work.  I told them that there was a little strip mall around the bend that they could look into.

Mommy told me that they were in Wal-Mart for less than an hour.  I guess it is too cheap for her taste. My parents then ventured to the strip mall that I had mentioned earlier.  Instead of looking at the stores, my father gave my mother a tour of the parking lot.

He remarked, “Country bumpkins don’t know what city parking lots look like.”

Mind you, my parents are from a big city too.  Kuala Lumpur (KL) is as big, progressive and busy a city as New York city.  My father was just being sarcastic about my mom’s sheltered upbringing.

They had porridge and fried ikan bilis, from 2005, for lunch.  She told me that it was good.  Aged food DOES taste better.

My father told me that mommy cooked the infamous ’07 chicken, and dubbed it the “007 chicken.”  She also scrubbed out the coffee pot and my juicing machine, making it shine and restoring it to its original glory.

I told my younger sister, if she hasn’t already done so, to clean out her fridge and things she doesn’t want my mother to see or touch.

“Oh… I better put aside my X-rated stuff then,” was her response.

By dinner we all knew what we were having, the 007 drunkard chicken with imported Asian ginger. We washed the old chicken down with bubble tea, while watching Nodame.

Friday, Aug. 28, 2009

What a rainy day!  Mommy couldn’t finish her cleaning of the backyard and garden today.  It was a day of rest until she called me looking for the mortar and pestle.

I left specific instruction, before I left for work, for them to rest.  We were going to have ramen for dinner in Fort Lee.  No cooking.  No cleaning.  I guess there was something really important to pummel.

She called up a second time, this time really frantic – it MUST be something important.  She had yet to find the mortar and pestle.  I finally asked her what she wanted the mortar for.  To clean gingko which she brought from KL.  I told her I have a nut cracker.  She was overjoyed.

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