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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Blue Mansion, Penang

Once upon a time, a long long time ago... in the Middle Kingdom we now know as China, there lived a young man who dreamt big dreams. With nought but the clothes on his back, he left his homeland to seek his fortunes across the South China Sea, arriving first in Medan, Indonesia then Penang, a little British colonial island northeast of the Straights of Malacca. Cheong Fatt Tze was the name of this young man. From the age of 16 he started off as a humble water bearer to become a famous Mandarin with a vast empire under his command, the "Rockfeller of the East".

With the immense wealth he acquired from agriculture and shipping he built this mansion, blue because... well just because he liked the color blue. After all, there was only white, mustard or blue paint in those days. Grand and elaborate, this mansion had 38 rooms, 5 courtyards, 7 staircases and 220 windows designed with optimal fengshui in mind: a smattering of pineapples (wong lai) and bat (bian fu) motifs into the walls and windows to beckon Fortune into his home.

This is too big a place for one man! you may exclaim. Indeed, Cheong Fatt Tze had many wives - eight to be exact. As a wealthy and successful man, it was accepted and expected that he would acquire many brides (plus girlfriends). Is it any different today? Perhaps discretion has become the keyword in modern times. To keep so many females *peacefully* living under one roof must have been a great headache to Mr Cheong (or any man for that matter). The mansion housed three of his eight wives, six sons and many daughters. The latrine and kitchens were located away from the house and servants lived in a separate block of residence across the street.

When Cheong Fatt tze passed away, it was stated in his will that this house be never sold until the death of his youngest son. When the family fell into gentile destitution, instead of hastening the departure of the bequethed they sold off the furniture within the mansion piece by piece (see, contracts can have loopholes). When that was done, the many rooms were rented out. Or rather, a hat was passed around and whoever could contribute, stayed. Needless to say, with ages of neglected the once majestic mansion faded into debilitation.

This beautiful piece of 19th century architecture would have been demolished to make way for shinny new highrises if not for the efforts of a small but determined group of people who saw the true value of this heritage building. In 1990, the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion was acquired with private funds and restored to its glory as it stands today. Hats off to these visionaries who fought to preserve this extraordinary piece of heritage for generations to come. Like many, I was in awe of the architecture and stories woven into every intricate interior design (no photos allowed within, sorry!) and I am certain that many visitors feel the same.

Winner of the "Most Excellent Project" UNESCO Heritage Conservation Award 2000, National Architecture Award for Conservation 1995, ASEANTA 2004 Excellence Awards "Best ASEAN Cultural Preservation Effort, the Blue Mansion also serves as a heritage boutique hotel ("Excellence" Award in the "Best City Hotel" Category from the Expatriate's Lifestyle 2008 Polls). Guided tours are held twice daily at 11am and 3pm for a fee of RM12 per person.

Address: 14 Leith Street, 10200 Penang, Malaysia.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Removed My Own Stitches

without Lidocaine
and almost passed out in the process.

I had five effing knots to remove altogether, which was imo five too many. Looked for "how to remove surgical stitches" on Youtube but had no luck. Used google and came up with some instructions on WikiHow. A much better reference would have been this one, which I stumbled upon only after the whole bloody ordeal.

Using a pair of scissors and a tweezer cleaned with alcohol, I snipped off the head of the knots as close to the skin as possible. The first one was difficult, it being anchored at two places. Was horrified to find that the scissors were blunt, so had to sorta saw my way through along the blades. Fresh blood oozed from a little gape. Felt sick.

Second one was a piece of cake. The thread came off easily, but I was beginning to feel pain and faint-hearted. Went to take Ponstan and took a break by lying flat on the bed to wait for the lightheadedness to pass. The pain-killer was taking effect, which was good. Went to clean up the bloody smear from the first knot coz I think it was getting gruesome. Crawled back to bed.

A minute later I was back at it, this time I decided to start from the other end. That end was well crusted - scabs are a good sign of healing. Indeed, the third one came out beautifully at one gentle tug. Fourth one I almost lost the suture after cutting off its head. Had to dig around the flesh a bit, trying to catch the stray strand while muttering "shit oh shit how am I gonna explain this to my doctor". Of course I got it out in the end.

Okay last one... I just went for it. Snip snip... pull. DONE!!! I go to the bathroom, irrigate the site with lots of saline water and hope that it won't get infected. Dried it with cotton and sealed it with a surgical plaster. Heaved a great sigh of relief then proceeded to retch into the toilet bowl. Cat was concerned, stood on hindlegs and peered into the toilet bowl. The nausea passed after a few dry heaves. Felt like a complete wuss. It's confirmed then... I would have made a lousy clinician.

And then it occured to me that today was only Day 9 since the biopsy. Doc had said to wait for 10 days before removing the stitches coz the wound was deep and she wanted to make sure it had time to close. So. Hm. It seems that I jumped the gun a bit. This experience was interesting and loads of fun though (in retrospect). My only regret was that I did not have antibiotic cream to cover the suture holes. Will let you know if I turn septic in a few days.

p/s Am too physically and mentally drained to post pictures. Not that I have any to show anyway.... I had both hands full during the entire time.

p/p/s OF COURSE you should NOT try this at home. I am a deviant patient, please don't follow my example.

Mole Removal

For those with morbid fascination of gross medical pictures, I got something different than the usual recipe/cat/food/emo posts. So here is the photo of the offending mole as promised, which gave me great worry over the past one week. There is such a thing called too much knowledge - and too much of any good thing is no good. The most concerned issue on top of the list was: "is this malignant melanoma?" So I decided to get it checked out.

Okay, so I know that I come from a moley family, and I myself have multiple moles scattered here and there but this is by far the largest I owned. Located on the right hand side my soft round belly, slightly above the umbilical line sits a raisin like protuberance which has been with me since childhood. I am pretty sure I was not born with it so it can't be a birthmark (checked my naked baby photos).

Isn't this the cutest thing ever?

Biopsy sample sent to path lab (marked Urgent).

99% of the time, moles are benign. But if the mole shows signs of ABCDE you should seek medical advice.
A- Asymmetry
B- Borders which are ill-circumscribed
C- Color of different shades
D- Diameter more than 6mm
E- Erosion, crusting, itching, ulceration and bleeding.

An elliptical incision is made to remove the mole, and to provide better apposition during wound closure. You will be injected with local anesthetic to numb the area. My procedure took a while longer than anticipated because it ran deeper than usual into the skin. Which got me agitated and thinking about worst-case scenarios.

It didn't help that there was a new albeit smaller mole adjacent to the mother of all moles. Knowing words like satellite lesions, metastases, dissemination etc does not help with peace of mind. Believe me when I say that I have read up on malignant melanoma of all sorts of research papers to learn more about it. You know, just in case.

When the results came back a week later, it was almost an anticlimax. Turned out that this fugly bugger was nothing but a simple mole called benign melanocytic nevus. So, life is back to normal. My concern is shifted to caring for the surgical site to ensure minimal scarring. I come from a family "gifted" with keloid scars. But that's another story for another day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm In Stitches

It was not a laughing matter. Went for a skin biopsy to check out a mole which has been with me since childhood. Only recently, it turned crusty and started to bleed when I scraped it. Nasty fellow.

So to the doctor it is! Cautherize? No way. I recommend the old-school slice and dice method ie. excisional biopsy. That is the correct way of doing a skin biopsy.

Will show you the offending mole in my next post..... If you show me yours ;)

Bloody ooze: clotting and crusting over the sutures

After cleaning - looks more presentable now.

Dr: Ooh... it's healing very well.
Kutucat: It is? Seems to me like there's a lot of stuff going on out there.

After one week, I went back to the clinic for follow-up. The doctor said that my wound was healing well and praised me for being such a good girl (What am I.... 5 years old?). But I did feel proud lah - I was very diligent in cleaning and dressing my wound daily okay.

RM4.90 per box of 20 strips

Am allergic to plasters hence the rashes and broken skin (erosion) which gave me two days of crazy intense itch, I could let it hang lose without bandages on except I'm afraid the suture migh get caught in the fabric and get yanked out accidentally... with little pieces of my flesh trailing behind the string. And my guts leaking out the gapping wound. No thank you. I have Handsaplast Sensitive! A hypoallergenic plaster with soft flexible material which allows skin to breathe. The adhesive is kind on the kind too.

Ahhh... nice...

More to come in the next installment. You will never look at another raisin the same way again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Peanut butter and chocolate cubes

Somebody requested for my version of peanut butter and chocolate candy so here you go:

1. 1 cup butter, melted
2. 2 cups cream cracker crumbs
3. 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar
4. 1 cup peanut butter
5. 1 and 1/2 cup baking chocolate
6. 4 tablespoons peanut butter

Mix butter, cream cracker crumbs, icing sugar and 1 cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly to the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 inch pan.

Melt chocolate with peanut butter over slow heat until smooth. Spread over the first layer of peanut butter and refrigerate for 1 hour prior to cutting.


Easy, right?

Forget about your diet and enjoy.

p/s 1 cup butter = 225 grams

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tomato Fried Rice

For this simple dish, youwill need
1. 1 carrot (diced)
2. 2 pieces of garlic (finely minced)
3. 2 sausages (sliced)
4. Mushroom (sliced)
5. 1 nice juicy red tomato (diced)
6. 2 eggs

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in wok. Fry garlic, carrots and sausages.

Add leftover rice (mine has been in the fridge for many nights)

Be sure to break up the rice. Add mushrooms.

Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of soya sauce for color and pinch of salt to taste.
Stir and mix well.

In the center of the wok, crack 2 eggs and let it cook.
Do not disurbed or else you will get goey fried rice.

Fold egg and fried rice slowly, allowing time for eggs to cook properly.
Add tomato only when nearly done.
Remember, tomatoes get wetter the longer you cook them.

Dish up and serve hot.
Enough for 2 persons
(which I managed to finish up all by myself in one meal).

I've omitted ketchup but you can add 2 tablespoons if you fancy a tangier taste to your fried rice. Fresh tomatoes are better though.