Can You Handle It?

Danger! Danger! Warning!

When you absolutely don’t care what anyone thinks of you.

Proud? Arrogant? Naïve? Most definitely not!


Writer, Author, Storyteller



You are the artist of your own masterpiece… a representation of your life. The choice of tools or instruments…colours, whether it is oil- or water-based…The type of paint palette, the size of brush and the number of brushes used… The brush to canvas can be applied with gentle or stronger strokes. Every item used, even the type of canvas each is a representation of a part of your life.

No qualifications needed. No past experience needed.

Every stroke of the paint brush to canvas creates your masterpiece.

What if there is a small mistake in a choice of colour or a brushstroke? You just paint over it. It may leave a blemish or two or many in your masterpiece. Never mind. It is your masterpiece that you are willing to rise when you fall…that you are willing to start over with a “never give up” attitude.

No one can copy your masterpiece, not even replicate it by use of technology because the thoughts and emotions that you invested into this work is yours and your only.

Your masterpiece is evolving on a constant.

Everyone is an artist. There are no wrong masterpieces. There are no imperfect masterpieces. Everyone’s work is unique to that person. Which makes each masterpiece priceless.

Laura Atkinson’s art, 2013

NOTE: This picture above, was created by Laura Atkinson on a Samsung Note 2, when she was 12 years old.


There seems to be a misconception that being financially free is the ability to pay your monthly commitments and loans. Well…not really. Though you may be able to pay for your house or property mortgage, car loans, investments (if any), utilities, food, other commitments, you are not really financially free. You are actually cash flow debt free.

To be financially free is to be completely debt free. If you have property loans, motor vehicle loans, credit card debt outstanding; work at settling them soonest possible.

Your income as an employee, regardless of how high up the rank or ladder you are at, is never guaranteed. Incomes of businessowners are never guaranteed, too. Outstanding debts remain…guaranteed. Repayments are expected as scheduled.

The “trick” is how to manage or balance your income vs expenses. Not too long ago, you would hear the phrase, “How to balance your cheque book, or for the Americans, checking account“.

One of the biggest headaches we have is what to spend money on. Spend with money we don’t have.

Wait a minute. Spend money we don’t have? “How is that possible?” , you may ask. There are many different types of credit made available to us everyday. Often enough, we did not apply for this credit but it is already preapproved. So, why not take it?

Taking pre-approved loans poses several problems. One is, since we had no intention of applying for a loan, we did not have a need for it. Here lies the problem. Now that we have the loan, we have to look for something to spend on. So, what the financial corporation that lent you the loan has done is: pass the buck. It had cash that it needs to make money from. It lends you the money and earns an interest from it. You now, have to figure what to do with the money.

You may most likely end up spending the funds on unnecessary things. You may beautify your home with home renovations. Or go on that expensive holiday just to take some pictures and post on social media: “I was here”. Note that spending on these activities in itself is not wrong. However, if you did not plan for it…

Here lies the danger…. you may get offers from various financial lending institutions, all at the same or around the same time. The enticement is that these loans are easy money. You may be approved for several of them at the same time.

You are now attracted to get that super luxurious vehicle or travel business or first class on a holiday. You may also get attracted to investing in various investments. All these you would not have done otherwise, based on your income and living standards.

Another point which can be considered as the most important point, is that you have to pay back the loan with interest. It would be good that you work out your income less 10% savings for future, all your existing commitments, living expenses and just-in-case expenses to see if you have any money balance to pay for the monthly repayment over the duration of the loan/s.

A good safety net to have is that you have cash the equivalent of the loan on standby in the event if the loan has to be cashed in earlier than the stipulated period. This could set you in the “financially free” category.

You are going to ask, “Why do you then need a loan if you have the cash?” This is a topic that can be discussed in a future article.

Who is financially rich and free: The man who lives in an expensive part of town, has several flashy vehicles, wears branded clothes, patronizes expensive restaurants and has to worry about payments? Or, the man who lives in an medium to up-market part of town with a small mortgage balance or none, drives around in a 10 year old, fully paid for vehicle, not flashy in branded clothes and patronizes fine dine restaurants that serve great food, not necessarily too expensive, and can smile, laugh and sleep easy at night without having to worry about finances?


The purpose of this article is to help readers come to a realization that if the world does go into a recession this year as predicted in news and reports from all the media over the last year or so has informed us; that we, be prepared and are able to weather this period of uncertainty. Put your views and comments in the comment section for discussion.

There is a misconception that being financially free is the ability to pay your monthly loans and commitments.


Peace only settles in a person when it is invited in by that person. With peace, comes happiness and joy. Without peace, life is empty no matter how much that person may try to replace it with wealth and status.

The key to peace is to promote the purest love of mankind. All activities motivated by love and conscience can be said to be the purest form of peace.

Peace is a choice.

Give peace a chance.

Writer, Author, Storyteller


Food – An Answer to All Traffic Jams?

Petaling Jaya, Friday evening. Time is 5.45pm. Petaling Jaya or Pee Jay more commonly known as “P.J.”. A satellite town that was thought up in the 1950s, to be the homes of all those people working in Kay El (no, we are not talking about a Superman movie). Kay El or popularly known as K.L. or Kuala Lumpur, was the capital of Malaysia.

So, living away from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur was to have it’s advantages. The main advantage is coming home to the peace and quiet of your home, which was not too far away from your workplace. Great idea for the 1950s.

As I sit at my workstation, and my memories and thoughts sort of flow through my fingertips, to the Logitech MX Keys keyboard; I take frequent short breaks to go to the kitchen and snack on the last remnants of the walnuts we brought back from the U.S. When the packet was first opened, it had about 3lbs (1) of walnuts. Now, the balance of walnuts from that packet is in grams only. They say (Here we go again with “They say”. I keep wondering who are the “they”, the “experienced experts” who share their knowledge) that eating walnuts is good for health. This can be backed by several health and nutrition sites on the net.

Back to the “Friday evening. Time is 5.45pm.” Jeannie’s work ends at 5.00pm. We were on our way back from PJ to Subang Jaya after I picked (or “fetched”?, as it is more commonly heard in these parts) her up from her office. Subang Jaya, is a city that is 10 minutes away from Petaling Jaya. 10 minutes provided the traffic on the roads to and from it is very light. Peak hours are usually to and from office. Not really…Almost every hour is peak hour.

300 meters into our trip and we hit it. There was no way to avoid it, not in Petaling Jaya, that’s for sure. There was no unchartered route one could use to get out of it. There was no secret passage or tunnel. You cannot go under it. You cannot go over it. It was the infamous PJ traffic jam.

This would be the time radio stations will play the weirdest of music and have the most boring of talk shows aired. You can’t escape it other than to turn it off. Some people might try to brush up on their karaoke skills by singing along to songs that are bluetooth-ed from their smartphones. How much or how long can you sing? It takes at least an hour to get home. This traffic jam is everyday. Many people may have frayed nerves by time they reach home.

Traffic jams such as this has helped Jeannie and I come to a decision to have our dinner early. So, on this Friday evening; we decided to swing by this coffee shop.. I mean “restaurant”, which was a few meters off our route.

This coffee shop has been in that same place for decades. In the early 1980s, there was a stall operating out of this restaurant that used to sell rojak and the best tahu bakar (8) around. Uncle Al, dad’s younger brother living in Perth Australia; can attest to this. He will always bring up the time when, on one of his visits to Malaysia in the early 1980s; he and I came to this particular stall to buy rojak and tahu bakar. We were supposed to tapau (2) it back home to Aunty Maureen’s (dad’s sister) house for supper. It seems that most of the tahu bakar was eaten by me. I of course, deny such a thing ever happened. He will always relate this story whenever the subject of tahu bakar is brought up. (burp!)😉

The attraction of this restaurant today is its fried hokkien mee. We ordered mee / meehoon mixed, fried hokkien style. “What’s so special about this style of frying hokkien mee?”, you may ask. If you did not ask, then ask. I will tell you:

This is unique when the flames thrown up from the stove are huge and orangy in colour, blazing at times nearly 7 or 8 ft above the stove. When you see this, you can tell it is Hokkien style preparation. The huge flames that blare from under the wok, as though the chef…cook, I mean, is sword-fighting it. Clang, clang, hiss, sis, tong…The guy holds the wok with one hand and a long-handled ladle with the other. Holding the wok, he pulls, push, tosses the whole preparation in the air, which seems to land on the tossed food’s other side. Ladle in the other hand like a sword, he fights with the food preparation. he picks the garlic, lard, onions, a bit of oil and other condiments and stirs it into the food. Here, the agak-agak (7) style which means the amount goes by the feel or mood of the cook for that day. Somehow, it nearly always seems perfectly prepared.

I will let you in on a secret: If there is not enough of clanging of the ladle against the wok, the food won’t be good. There is not enough effort and style put into that dish. So, next time you go for fried hokkien mee; these are some of the things to look out for.

This amazing firend hokkien mee / meehoon mixed should by eaten with this chili paste to take the flavour and taste to the next level. Ho chiak!

On one of our visits to this restaurant, we learnt that there was a stall selling popiah. This is not just some ordinary popiah . This, I can with full confidence say is one of the best popiah I have ever eaten, certainly the best in these parts. The skin, the ingredients are always fresh and full-bodied. The sauce, the chili paste simply amazing. A bit of a warning though: this popiah is quite spicy. It is delicious all the same.

Fresh, any way you look at it.
Tastes as good as it looks…even better.
Healthy food. Vegetables, “mah” (a bit of Chinese slang thrown in for good measure).

The food usually comes quite fast after we order. Tasty. Enjoyable. Get away from the maddening PJ crawl. Though we don’t really need an excuse to come and savor good, simple food.

By the time we get back on the road, the jams have quite gone. Traffic is still heavy but moving and tolerable. We reach home at around 8.00pm. Just in time for some coffee, drunk from my Hydro flask mug. With the lid on, it manages to keep the temperature of the drink for several hours.


  1. Kuala Lumpur is a city in Malaysia
  2. Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya are cities in the state of Selangor, Malaysia
  3. Hokkien mee, literally “Fujian noodles”, is a series of related Southeast Asian dishes that have their origins in the cuisine of China’s Fujian (Hokkien) province. Fried Hokkien prawn noodles, known locally as Hokkien mee, is a dish comprising thick yellow noodles fried in a rich prawn and pork stock and served with chilli and lime on the side. It is a popular local dish that has various accounts of its origins. wikipedia
  4. High in protein, iron and fibre, this flavoursome stir-fry made with Vegie Delights Savory Mince is so nutritious and great for a quick, healthy meal.
  5. “Ho chiak” means very delicious in Hokkien
  6. Popiah (薄餅) is a traditional snack believed to be of Chinese Hokkien origin. Popiah, which means “thin snack” or “pancake” in Teochew, refers to a spring roll made from thin flour skin wrapped around finely chopped vegetables and meat. Today, most popiah main ingredients include: Popiah skin, bean sauce, filling of finely grated and steamed or stir-fried turnip, jicama, bean sprouts, French beans, lettuce leaves, grated carrots, Chinese sausage slices, thinly sliced fried tofu, chopped peanuts or peanut powder, fried shallots, and shredded omelette. Variations. wikipedia
  7. “Agag-agak” is Malay for estimate, vagueness, uncertainty. wiktionary
  8. Chinese rojak made with a combination of fresh fruits, vegetables, you tiao tossed in sweet, savory, spicy, umami, nutty rojak sauce. Rojak is a popular street food. Grilled Crisp Tofu Pockets (Tahu Bakar) – Tahu bakar, or grilled crisp tofu pockets, is an Indonesian/Malaysian snack.

The Day When People Get Mushy

I was walking by the florist in Taipan USJ with Jeannie, to the now known as restaurant (in those days [I am beginning to sound like a relic] they were known as “coffee shops”) around the corner, when we noticed a big crowd of people there. Waiting to buy flowers? Not hibiscus, daffodils or dandelions. Roses!

It is only Monday, February 13th today. Malaysians for years have tried and maybe to some extent, beat the system. They are buying roses today when prices are reasonable. Buy before Valentine’s Day (February 14th, for those uninformed), when the price of roses could go up by 1000% or more.

But florists have become smarter. They raise the prices by 200%, 300% or more, stating that this is due to the shortage of roses available. Those buying the roses won’t really mind the “slight” price increase. It will still be much cheaper than buying them on February 14th itself.

“What cheapskates!” you may say. Your true love will buy these roses on Valentine’s Day. Money is no object, even if it means “makan bubur” (1) for the next month or so.

Getting a dozen roses, the buds at the right stage of opening, not too closed up or not too open; surrounded by some that are fully opened and some leaves (forget what they are called) for decoration and presentation. The specially one-of-a-kind prepared bouquet (probably ten thousand others will have the same type of bouquet) is not enough these days. It has to be accompanied by exquisite chocolate.

Danielle Bernock

Those with credit cards will get the best credit card deals to finest dining at michellin, dunlop, goodyear or pirelli rated restaurants. They may come out with slogans for the cardholders like:
“It is not as though you are paying”. Well, yes, it is; when you get that credit card statement for payment!
“Show your love to the one you care”.
“Take up this package of a 5-day all expenses paid for two – wining, dining, a romantic cruise. The best part is it is 35% off the list price. We’ll thrown in a red heart-shape cushion with the names of you and your loved one on it for frrreeee! (Come on guys, by now; you should know the cost, over-inflated by x number of times; is included in the overall price that you are paying). “”What’s more?”” you may ask. You can pay over a 12 month installment plan with a 0% interest rate on the first month”.

Not to forget stiff competition amongst the kiasu (2) and the kiasi (3).

You hire a stretched limousine with driver to impress your wife, if you are married or your “she’s the one” if you are not married yet. Then, to go over the top; you present your mother-in-law with a gift voucher to use at a very expensive day-long spa. For your father-in-law: a bottle of single-malt 24 year (has to coincide with the lunar year of the Rabbit) whiskey. If he doesn’t drink; he will start now; he won’t want to miss out from this helluva expensive whiskey. By the way, these gifts also apply to the “she’s the one” ‘s parents; too.

At the end of it, they guy (yes, the displayer of love) may not even be able to afford to “makan bubur” as well. He may just have to settle for scraps of food for a very long time.

All this just for one day: Valentine’s Day. All this to impress the lady, and not forgetting; others who are looking: the kiasu and kiasi. The lady is happy, her parents are happy. Most of all; the establishments that receive payments for what seems as an extravagant day; are happy.

Woe to the guy if his lady demands this expensive show of affection everyday.

Is this really an expression of love (first time this word is appearing in this article)? Is love only for one day of the year? Going financially broke may not really display this thing called “LOVE” from either the recipient, nor the giver.

How Valentine’s Day may all have started:

The name Valentine comes from a Latin word meaning “strength.” There are many legends about it, but it’s ultimately unclear how Valentine’s Day became associated with the tradition of exchanging the affectionate gifts and love notes that we call valentines. (4)

When Claudius found out, Valentine was thrown in jail and sentenced to death. Legend has it that he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and when he was taken to be killed on 14 February he sent her a love letter signed “from your Valentine”. (5)

Love and affection for the lady, spouse, children, parents…should be everyday, 24×7. With it comes joys, happiness, excitement, fun, bumpy patches, potholes and rough roads along this lifelong journey. Enjoy the ride.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

P.S.: For those people who have received chocolate but aren’t really into it; I can help you. You can give it to me. I love chocolate.
I had fun writing this essay with lots of chuckles and smiles as I went along, thinking it up.

1. “Makan bubur” is Malay for eat porridge. This phrase is used to mean that you don’t have money for a good meal, that eating porridge is all you can afford.
2. Kiasu is a Hokkien (Chinese dialect) word that comes from ‘kia’, which means afraid, and ‘su’, which means to lose: fear of losing
3. Kiasi is commonly compared to Kiasu (literally: “fear of losing”); both are commonly used to describe attitudes where Kiasi or Kiasi-ism means to take extreme measures to avoid risk and Kiasu or Kiasu-ism means to take extreme means to achieve success. wikipedia


Get out of your comfort zone.


Every moment ahead of you, that has yet to come; is a moment that is unknown to you. Are you ready to take up the challenge?

Writer, Author, Storyteller