Sunday, 27 May 2012

Day 331-Borneo International Marathon

Me with Just and FaiZ, 2 of my 3 running buddies at the airport leaving for Sabah, East Malaysia.
Pic was taken to taunt the 3rd friend who decided to stay in Singapore one more day for work.

I wasn't sure if I should post about the Borneo International Marathon or BIM 2012 because at first glance, it seemed completely unrelated to miniatures. Yet, BIM was about running and a big part of my life; a part of my life that could explain why it has taken me so long to start creating with my hands and finding a world just as fulfilling.

Handball in Uni back when I had hair down to my butt

My love-hate relationship with running started since I was 8.  Back then,  in my very small primary school, those of us who could run just a little quicker were invariably selected year after year for all the events during Sports Day. I remembered running in the 100m, 200m races and the 400m relay. I also shot-putted, high jumped and long jumped. My childhood room was littered with all the trophies, mostly bronze, some silver, one or two gold for races and competitions that I had won. I continued to run in secondary school but I started to dread the competitions because I hated the gun at the beginning of the races. In junior college and then the university, I stopped running and played in team sports like basketball, netball and handball. 

Me and the netball team in Uni 

I guess you can call me the sporty type. Crafting? Back then, it was as if  sports and crafts were mutually exclusive. You just didn't do both. In any case, school, sports, dance and a huge dose of disbelief that I could make anything with my hands helped me veered my course off art. I thought you must be born with the talent before you should even try. Living in a family where everyone of my siblings could draw except me did not help. 

Photo by CK- MacRitchie Reservoir 2010 during one of our runs

I stopped running when I started work but picked it up again after I had gained 10 kg. I became addicted to running because I would run, rain or shine and by shine, I meant flaming hot. That was until 2005 when I took part in my first full marathon. I completed the marathon in slightly under 6  hours when a few laughed and told me I could not. The skin on my toes came off and I could barely take off my shoes. I injured my knees and could not walk for 3 days and for the next 3 years, I did no running.

Running buddies- 6.30am, 2011 Wetland Run

It was only in 2008 that I resumed running again. Since then,  I have participated in at least 2-4 half marathons a year. And I thank my running buddies, Just, CK and FaiZ for re-igniting my passion.  

FaiZ, whom I introduced running to and who in 2005 came in 1 hour after me in the same marathon, not only did not stop running, he started a small group to run every Sunday and now runs at least  1 km or more ahead of me in every race. 

In search of the Shinto Temple Run 2012 where we had to cross a reservoir on rubber tubes 

Our Sunday morning runs which woke us up at 6 in the morning, took us to all parts of Singapore and it became a highlight of the week for all of us. I love my Sunday morning runs although I was always the last one in. There were a few times I got hopelessly lost because I was too far behind and my sense of direction did not help. 

This year however, I enjoyed a breakthrough. We decided to sign up for our 1st overseas run and I started training seriously. I ran 3 -4 times a week , 9km each time and I used a timer. I wanted to achieve a personal best because this was an overseas run. The long and short of it is that I did. I shaved off 20 minutes from my last time and did 21 km in 2:22:59 minutes. I even beat one of the guys and came in 3rd amongst us 4. 

I don't know how this post which was supposed to be about Sabah came to be about running. Perhaps like me and miniature making, I was trying to say that nothing is impossible. I never thought I could beat any of these guys. Like I never thought I could work with my hands. 

I am serious when I tell you, if I can, so definitely can you.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Day 327 & 329- Caterina's Gifts

It was on 21st May 2011, yes, you read that right, 2011, that Caterina wrote me about a swap.  Thankfully for me, Caterina was quite specific with what she would like; I loved her books and shoes and she liked my rusty suitcase and woven basket. So I readily agreed after ample warnings that  I would be taking my time with the swap. Those were my pre-suitcase garden days. 

Almost a year later on 17th April 2012, I received Caterina's little packages whilst my rusty garden for her and the basket were still lying around in my home, waiting for me to be sure. I will explain why later. Anyhow, I didn't immediately opened her parcels and it nearly cost me dearly. Let me also leave that gory detail to the end because I want to just show you the treasures I nearly lost.

  Gifts for Maharaja

For the Maharaja, Caterina made a pair of golden slippers out of precious silk, a set of bowl and jug also in gold and a toy elephant with emerald eyes. Can you see that there was also a pretty anklet made with little gold balls on one of the elephant's feet? Just like my tattooed anklet. Intentional or not, details like this warmed my heart.

Here are the books I love. The one on the left is titled The Court and Camp of Runjeet Singh which Caterina meant for the palace, whilst Aladdin, or The Wonderful Lamp was for Maya. Caterina sent me a note about these books.

The Court and Camp of Runjeet [sic] Singh was a book written by Lord WG Osborne to chronicle events of Punjab from 19 May -13 July 1838 and his impressions of  Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

The book contains a vivid account of the person and character of Ranjit Singh, his habits and idiosyncrasies, and his virtues and foibles. The Maharaja was, observes Osborne, one of that order of men who seemed destined by nature to win their way to distinction and achieve greatness. Cool and calculating by nature, the Maharaja kept a just proportion between his efforts and objectives. Unable to read and write, he was amply compensated for this deficiency by an accurate and retentive memory, an extraordinarily agile mind and fertile imagination.

By sheer force of mind, personal energy and courage, he created a powerful nation...

The book was also said  to be illustrated with sixteen beautiful lithographic portraitures drawn by the author himself. All 16 of them were reproduced by Caterina in this teeny version. I know because I counted. This is exactly the kind of book I will love to read and own.  

Ranjit Singh, ladies and gentlemen, courtesy of Caterina, just in case you want a picture of him in your dolls' wallet.

Aladdin, or The Wonderful Lamp was an 1872 edition containing 16 illustrations by Felix O.C.Darley, or F.O.C. Darley, a self taught artist who was later hailed as the most accomplished and prolific American illustrator before the centennial. Darling Caterina had faithfully reproduced this book in 1:12 and I have just spent the last half hour speed reading it online and loving it.

In this edition, the story was set in ancient China or Cathay but the main characters have Arabian names like Fatima or Mustapha who was Aladdin's father. The genie was from Africa and there was a princess with a french sounding name called Badroul Boudour ala Brigitte Bardot.Whoever they were or wherever they were from, as far as Mr Darley was concerned, they all had Chinese faces and almond eyes and the men wore pigtails, even the African Genii. Some people may be irritated with the inaccuracies but I find these anomalies gems and totally identify with the characters. A stroke of genius on Caterina's part to have found  this particular edition, she, who love my almond eyes. For those of you who wondered, yes, I can still see even when I smile so widely my eyes narrowed into a line.

Much as I love those books, my favourite has to be these slippers that Caterina made for Maya. Poor Maya never saw these slippers though because they were hijacked quite quickly.

Look, he protested, Caterina made everyone else presents, the bar of soap for Papa, perfume for Mama, and Aladdin for Maya. Surely, those slippers were meant for me.

True enough, they fit him like the glass ones for Cinderella and since that day, he never allowed them too far from his sight, even in his sleep. 

Caterina, you have made a bunch of people really happy, so

Papa and Mama Rolla thank you.

Maya thanks you.

And OM says he loves you 
here's a 1001 kisses 
for your sweet Arabian Nights.

On Sunday, I went to the box I brought back from Europe to take out my goodies and found the box half eaten by termites, I nearly went crazy because amongst some precious items I bought from my recent travels were the packages from Caterina. Packages I didn't want to open until I could photograph them. Luckily for me, only the envelop containing her gifts were destroyed. I love my home but really hate these termites. The last time termites attacked was when they tried to eat up my Farmhouse Jr dollhouse, now the tribal house for my Rollas. I shudder even now thinking about how close it was that Caterina's treasures  could have been food to the white ants.

I will sleep now and hope to dream of 1001 ways to kill termites. Good Arabian Night, everyone!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Day 328- Suitcase Garden For Betsy

Chirp, chirp, chirpity, chirp-chirp

Hear that sweet sound of bird songs? 

 It's what often greets us when we pop over to Betsy's blog 

 Now imagine a suitcase garden with baby green plants 

and one or two early blossoms....

White flowers, maybe ? Or purple? 

Why not both?

And of course her favourite.


And shall we make them grow tall and unusual,

bi-coloured and in pairs?

With pretty purple centers

just so they match the little ones?

Posing in front of Ascension's Gnome House


let's make what is seemingly impossible.

 A suitcase garden that can sing that birdsong

and tell a story.

To my friend, Betsy,

a lover of words, roses and birdsongs,

I make this suitcase garden.


This garden is not an original idea by me but one heavily inspired by a real life suitcase garden that you can see by clicking through to here

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Day 306-326- Blog Friends Are Real Friends Part 2

In Germany,

Birgit with Flutterby or Fluby, Wankendorf, 26/3/2012

Birgit. That lady gave me pause and I had to take a break from the last post before I start on this enigma. A Mrs. Columbus on her blog, she was at once a mystery and yet an old friend. Her blog persona struck me as one extremely witty and bright. More importantly, I knew she must be kind because she loved bears and made them adorable. I also knew I had to meet her if I were to travel to Germany.

Birgit looking at presents, Wankendorf, 25/3/2012

Birgit up close, was one who woke up at 3 am on the morning of 25/3/2012 to make sure she was at the Neumunster train station to meet Ro and me because our train was scheduled to arrive at about 5 in the wee morning. Due to daylight saving, she was not sure whether the train would pull up at 4 or 5 so she waited an hour at the station in the wintry cold. Just so we would not be alone when we alighted at the station. 

When we asked How do we recognise you? We don't know how you look like?, she told us to look for a lady wearing a wide grin on her face. That grin was easy to spot since there was only one other person at the station at that hour and he was a man.

Needless to say, she made me a bear and call him Singa P.Ore.

Mama Silke at her kitchen window, Wankendorf 25/3/2012

And because she knew I love marzipan, she made sure there was a dish of the best marzipan chocolates in our room when we arrived, enough for our stay and then some, for me to bring home.

Unforgettable was the Sunday when Mama Silke baked this huge marzipan cake for tea. And it was she who quietly pointed out to us while we were at the table, the 2 blue birds that had found their garden. If Mother Earth is personified, I swear she will look just like Mama Silke.

Birgit and Fluby nosing, Wankendorf 26/3/2012

Unforgettable too was when Birgit showed us a Germany I didn't expect. An open air museum  and acres upon  acres of rural farm houses with flocks and flocks of birds over a clear blue sky.  What more can I ask? And as if that is possible, there was more.

Most unforgettable- listening to Hey, Soul Sisters in Birgit's car while we drove through the most beautiful sunset strip I had ever seen after stopping at a most beautiful lake.

That 2 days with Birgit was like being in the Wonderful World of Disney. And like the perfect icing on a marzipan cake that last night at Wankendorf, I got a text message on my mobile asking me if I was ready for Poland tomorrow.

In Poland,

 Ewa- main market square Krakow, 28/3/2012

Ewa, who must have been born between a Monday and a Tuesday for she is both  fair of face and full of grace. I remember the 1st time I saw that face. It was a picture she had sent so I could recognise her at the crowded airport. I had thought she looked like a movie star.

Ewa at a flower shop, Gdynia,, 27/3/2012

It turned out that she is even more beautiful in person and in greater ways than I have expected. Yet, that beauty belies a diffidence that is almost vexing. You see, she doesn't know she's beautiful. 

P'Nilli when I arrived, Gydnia, 26/3/2012

Ewa gave me her bed and bedroom, cooked me my 1st meal in Poland, a hearty and tasty Goulash and made me fall in love with Zurek. And just in case I still did not feel welcomed enough, she made her doll hold up a placard for me. How can I not be moved? I didn't even mind P'Nilli calling me Auntie although I think we are of the same age. 

 Me and Ewa @ lunch, main market square Krakow, 28/3/2012

Me and Ewa @ lunch, Gdansk, 27/3/2012

I don't know how 2 people who have never met can have so much to say to each other. From the moment Ewa and Papa Jacek picked me up at the Gdansk airport and in the cab ride to Gdynia, Ewa and I chatted and laughed without pausing, not even for air. And a good thing too that we hit it off immediately because we spent almost all our waking hours in the next 4 days in the company of one another. 

Ewa, who made my dream trip to Krakow a reality. From visiting a dragon castle called Wawel, to staying at a convent with the nuns of the Ursuline Order, from experiencing Mariacki Blue to exploring the Wieliczka Salt Mine protected by UNESCO. 

Papa Jacek cooking an incredible lunch just before we left for Krakow,27/3/2012

Those excursions paled however when compared to what was for me the most significant of what Ewa made possible. She made it possible for me to truly experience bigheartedness. To be embraced by her family like I was one of their own,  to be indulged in so much giving and generosity, I was often loss for words. And finally, to feel a part of a tie so strong it didn't seem like they could ever lived apart (not even for just 2 days in Krakow) without talking or texting each other at least a few times a day. 

Papa Jacek; now if Ewa is a Monday's Child, then he must be a Saturday's for he is full of loving and giving. He calls me Samantha even though Ewa told him it's Susan a few times. I think he knew that I have never really liked my name.

Unforgettable was the time he insisted Ewa show me that part of the bathroom wall where he stuck some paw prints on because he thought it would tickle me. 

Most moving for me was how everyone, including Ewa's gentle and beautiful mother were packed into a cab to suffer the hour long journey to and from Gdansk just to see me off at the airport. 

I am experiencing a little ache in my heart even as I typed, as if a part of it is missing. I think I must have left that little piece right there in their home. 

Back in Spain,

Chicken Lunch at Eva's Terrace, 31/3/2012

And back to being spoiled by another loving family who went to great lengths to make my last 2 days no less memorable.  

Eva made sure 31st of March was a big day for me, a day she planned for even before I left Singapore. This was the day I was to meet the other Spanish blogfriends. 

Me showing MaLu Teresa's gifts, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012

Six of them arrived, promptly at 5, one or two after the other. And Teresa Martinez who could not make it, made sure her gifts were handed to me. 

Ascension and me, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012

Firstly, Ascension who holds a special place in my heart because I know her the longest amongst the 6. She visited my blog so often and chatted with me so much, I felt we went through thick and thin together. If I ever learnt Spanish, I would have to credit her as my teacher for neither of us spoke the other's language.

Ascension, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012

From the moment she stepped through Eva's door, I could totally tell why we got along just by the way she dressed. This lady was clearly as eccentric as me. We both also share the same love for loud earrings. On her left ear, she wore the quintessential red and white toadstool, pretty but poisonous and on her right, a green gnome, both her creations. Crazy as they seem, I knew when she finally put them up for sale, they would be gone in 60 seconds.

Ascension is a gem and you don't need to meet her to know that. She is generous to a fault and will need an agent to manage her mini business fast because her gifts are too extravagant. Some of you may have already seen the overboard swap she did with me. Short of building her a house, I can never match what she did for me. 

Maria Luisa (MaLu)  pointing at the bowl of sweets from Ewa. 
Next to her is her daughter, also Maria Luisa
Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012

MaLu too visited my blog all the time. Not only does she share the same name as her daughter, Maria Luisa, they share the same love for minis and even share the same blog. No one really knew who wrote which post sometime. Their bond and the love between them was clearly extraordinary. I think they had enjoyed so much love from each other that they were quick to shower others similarly. In the weeks running up to my European tour, MaLu sometime chatted with me through Facebook, telling me how much she looked forward to meeting me. I was drawn to her in no time. 

Maria Luisa Jr was pregnant when we met. At the time of this post, baby POL was already born but not before MaLu gave me updates everytime she commented on a new post I made since I came back on whether POL has arrived or not. One and half hours after Pol Pol Poco came into this world, grandma MaLu already took a picture of him and emailed me. 

Gina, Marta & Eva Fernandez, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012

 2 of these friends I met for the 1st time.

The elegant Gina, amiable and charming , who sat in a corner for sometime quietly putting the finishing touches to the prettiest rag bears (Birgit, you will absolutely love it) so she could give each of us one. 

And Marta who spoke rarely but when she did, she made so much sense that everyone listened. She was one of two of them who could speak and understand English, the other being Eva, and she helped interpret the excited chatter that went on so I would not feel left out.

Lastly, the effervescent Eva Fernandez who was so irresistibly lovable and warm and enthusiastic and spirited, she was decidedly the life of the party and made everything fun. She suggested I showed them how I rust plastic and while I did, oohed and aahed at the right places. And at one point, she made me take pictures with everyone as if we were at a wedding and I was the bride

Me & Eva Fernandez, Teressa, 31/3/2012

Me & Gina, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012

Me & Maria Luisa Jr with me feeling POL, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012

 Me & MaLu, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012

 Me & Marta Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012

Me & Ascension, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012

How can I even begin to tell you this was what I had longed for for so long?  Just to be able to finally meet these friends, who do not speak your language, who struggle to read your posts (especially my long, long ones) with lousy translation and then still try to tell you how great and wonderful you are. Just to be able to give them un abrazo and beso, the real ones, I mean. Just to be able to say a thank you but in person. I think only fellow blog friends in the mini community can truly appreciate how such seemingly simple gestures can really mean so much.

There was one point when Eva actually hushed everyone and asked me if there was something I would like to say to them. All eyes turned to me expectantly, waiting for The Speech, I guess. Of all the things, I began by rambling about the packet of Polish candies that Ewa had passed to me specially for the Spanish girls during this meet. I started to tell them about how Ewa had prepared the sweets even before I was in Poland and how she knew about this meet because I had been emailing her about it since before I left Singapore and how I talked about it so much because this meeting had meant so much ..and then 

horror of horrors, my eyes started to well and a lump came to my throat and tears started to fall and I never finished that sentence, not to mention The Speech. It really didn't matter because apart from Marta and Eva, I bet you no one else knew what the hell I was going on about. Maybe even Eva and Marta didn't see how a packet of sweets could make me cry. It was embarrassing to say the least.

When I came back to Singapore, I found out on some of the girls' blogs that Ewa's bowl of sweets had become the subject matter of a few photos. Maybe my little episode made them see those sweets in a different light? As for me, I could never look at those candies again without wanting to crawl into a hole. 

On the 20th Day,

Me and Dali, Figueres, 1/4/2012

I finally met the man I have been crazy about, the one I will never stop being infatuated with, my unrequited love. 

Unforgettable is that magic he built in Figueres and a dream come true that I got a chance to finally see and experience the vision of this genius and understand what greatness is all about. 

Eva and I , Dali Theatre Museum in Figueres, 1/4/2012

Unforgettable was also that day when I held Eva's iPad in my hand, attempting to navigate the roads of Spain, from Barcelona To Figueres, Peratallada to Pubol while she drove; how we had to cross that shallow river , drove that narrow road and how when we returned, we met with the car that was on fire. And me urging Eva to drive away before the car explode only to be told by Alex when we got home that cars only explode like that in the movies. 

That was you, Eva, making the 20th day happened for me. 

Talking to Petra on the phone, Figueres, 1/4/2012

And then as if the 20 days refuse to go away quietly,the phone rang when I was having lunch with Eva at Figueres. The caller was Petra.

Petra is a blog friend living in Germany whom I share an unusual connection with. Like some kind of good friends, we don't talk regularly but when we do, we share deeply. Petra knew I was in Europe so she emailed me and gave me her number so we could finally talk for real in the same time zone. 

It was so good to finally put a voice to that name and like the promise of a sequel to a great movie, we made a pact for the next time. That is when we will meet, Petra and I  so I can put a face to that voice.


One last thing I want to say before I pen off (of course it is already almost 2 am). Of all the photographs I have taken, I am most proud of the ones I have taken of my friends here. I didn't edit the photographs beyond converting them to greytones and cropping.  I hope you see what I see in these photos; their unadulterated beauty.
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