30 July 2009

My Oil-free Facial Moisturiser

Having tried Aubrey Organics' moisturiser, I asked my hubby to find an oil-free facial moisturiser for me. He came up with Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC), a cosmetics house that was founded in England, which has a full line of cruelty-free, vegetarian skin, body, and hair care products made with the finest natural ingredients and organic aroma-therapeutic essential oils.

I think the acronym of BWC is catchy, don't you?

Right now I'm using BWC's oil-free moisturiser for normal to oily skin. It has organic aloe vera combined with orgnic aroma-therapeutic essential oils - smells wonderful. It is light and absorbs quickly, without leaving any sticky feeling on your face. Even on my sensitive skin, the moisturiser has been gentle yet effective. My skin is hydrated and feels smooth.

Rakuzen @ Waterfront, Desa Park City

Ok, ok, I know this post doesn't fit under Food in Ipoh. But since I'm living in Ipoh, I don't think I will be blogging much about food in KL or PJ anymore. So, for now, I'll just slip this little article under the Ipoh Food section.

Ahh - Japanese food. Even my little ones like it. And Ipoh is bereft of any good, high end Japanese restaurant. I know there is a Sushi King in Ipoh Parade, which I have yet to go to.

Back when we were still living in the Klang Valley, we found this little shopping cum dining cul de sac area in Desa Park City, a relatively new and well designed neighbourhood. Prices for the properties there? Expectedly, high. The developers had included a little neighbourhood shopping area which I like very much.

Obviously Australian-inspired with its open-air parking, clustering of shops and eateries. The first time we were there, my son exclaimed, "Hey! This place looks just like the Woolworths in Adelaide near uncle's house!" Hmmm, so much for originality. But, it's still nice. Very open, airy and breezy. You feel relaxed almost immediately. There is a little Jusco supermarket there, a pet shop (which gives those spoilt toy dogs baths and a haircut too!), New Zealand ice cream, a DIY shop, pharmacy, Kluang Station (I think), a steamboat restaurant (which does excellent business) and our fav Jap restaurant, Rakuzen.

We have yet to be disappointed with the food in Rakuzen. My son eats a lot each time we are there, probably helped by the exercise as the kids love the little playground area behind the shops and restaurants. If you have kids who still like playgrounds, I highly recommend you try out this playground. It has some higher-end play equipment not commonly found in the other playgrounds. I'd say it's even better than Lake Gardens' playground, just smaller. So try out this place for a weekend evening stroll followed by dinner. I'm sure you'll like it.

29 July 2009

Life is fragile, Cherish it

A few days ago, I read from my secondary school group forum on Facebook that a schoolmate's husband had passed away suddenly. There were many messages of support and condolence sent through cyberspace. Today, our family's gardener said he saw an accident involving a motorcyclist and a school bus, which resulted in the death of the motorcyclist. Little did he realize that the motorcyclist was his own cousin, only 16, until he received a call from his daughter informing him of it.

Life is a gift from God. It is precious, and yes, fragile. Despite our respective challenges and difficulties, our hurt and wanting to "get back" at people sometimes, each day should be special and cherished. Love our loved ones, love ourselves, take time to show a little kindness, do what's right and thank God.

Thank you God, for giving us today.

27 July 2009

Bee Gaik Dining Place & Buffet Catering

We've seen this restaurant in Ipoh Garden South many times as we drive around the neighbourhood. Name sounds so Hokkien. So we decided to try it.

For dinner, we ordered the Assam Curry Fish Slices (they were out of fish head), Tung Po Yuk (braised fatty pork), bean sprouts fried with salted fish and golden bean curd. Prices of their dishes have all gone up, as can be seen from their menu where the old prices have been pasted over with new ones. Bee Gaik staff said they couldn't keep the prices as before on account of rising pork prices and everything else. Even with falling oil prices, food prices continue to rise and the government can't do anything about that (?).

The curry fish was delicious and I soaked my rice with the curry sauce. My hubby said my plate looked like some Indian rice! The bean sprouts were good and the salted fish fried till crispy - can't go wrong with Ipoh-grown bean sprouts! The braised fatty pork was tender and juicy with lots of gravy to dip the plain white buns that came with the dish.

While the restaurant is rather cramped, and noisy (all the chatter bounces off walls), the food was good and pricing reasonable. My children still like 1919 better, but we'll go back to Bee Gaik to try out their other dishes.

My Facial Moisturiser

Like most women, I have been in search of the moisturiser that is just right for my face, for a long time now. When I was a teenager right through to my late twenties, I didn't really need a moisturiser as my skin was combination-oily and sensitive to a lot of the cosmetic lines I tried, even those that guaranteed that they were hypoallergenic. But, after having my kids, I noticed that my skin texture has changed, and the production of sebum has definitely decreased, thus becoming drier.

This year, I have stopped using the skin care products one would usually find in the cosmetics section in Metro Jaya, Isetan, Parkson or Jusco. Continuing with our interest in alternative brands that use more natural ingredients, my hubby ordered in Aubrey Organics skin care products for me.

So far, I have tried Aubrey Organics which has Vegecol with Aloe Moisturising Cream for sensitive skin. I always thought that creams would be too heavy and rich (which they were in the past) for me, especially in Malaysia. But true to Aubrey's tag that their sensitive line would be soothing even for the most sensitive complexions, I found the Vegecol cream to be light, easily absorbed, gentle and most importantly, my skin did not break out. However, to my surprise, I found Vegecol to be just a little too light for my skin. My hubby loves it on his face, though. And he usually hates putting anything on his face.

Next, my hubby suggested that I try Aubrey's skin care line for combination-oily types. So I tried their Blue Green Algae with Grape Seed Extract cleanser, toner, moisturiser and mask. Again, I am happy to say that my skin did not react adversely with the product and the moisturiser (an antioxidant formula) balanced out my skin nicely without being greasy. I liked the cleanser, toner and mask too. But the only thing I did notice, however, was a distinct tingly warm feeling I got each time I put on the mask. Very warm sensation - although there were no negative effects after.
After Aubrey, I am now using an oil-free moisturiser. I really like it, and will write about that next.

26 July 2009

Bee Home Cafe (Sharon's Laksa)

This Saturday, my family and I decided to try out Sharon's Laksa in Taman Ipoh Perdana, which my hubby had read about from another Ipoh blogger. The blogger had rated the Laksa highly. I always enjoy spicy foods, so was looking forward to lunch on Saturday.

We arrived at about 12.45 pm, and the restaurant was empty. Service was prompt enough, and Sharon herself was there. When we said we had come to try her laksa, she was pleased. For us, we ordered Sharon's Siamese Laksa and the Sambal Lou Shu Fun. For the kids, we ordered the Chicken Chop and Fried Udon, along with a side of fried won ton. While waiting for our orders to arrive, we went outside to check out their al fresco dining area. Would be pretty pleasant at night.

The Siamese Laksa was tasty and creamy, but not truly the Siamese style we had expected. Perhaps it is Sharon's own interpretation. It was just a bit too sweet. The Sambal Lou Shu Fun, lacked the "fire" or what Chinese call "wok hei", thus tasted rather bland, save for the spiciness of the sambal. My son seemed to enjoy the chicken chop, but for the price of the chicken chop here, I would prefer to have Fantasy Cafe's chicken chop set which consists of soup and bread, the chicken chop with fries and salad, ice cream and tea or coffee. Real value for money and not bad in taste! My little girl enjoyed her Fried Udon, which came with slivers of chicken meat and cabbage. The fried wonton was alright, but there are places that do much better fried won ton, like Hoong Tho in Old Town.

By the time we left, the restaurant had served only one more table of two ladies. Pretty quiet for a Saturday. We probably won't be going back for Sharon's Laksa.

25 July 2009

Refereeing children's fights

How many times have you (if you're a mom) heard one of your children yell, "Mom! He hit me!", followed by the other child's, "But he hit me first!". They could fight over any seemingly insignificant thing like the remote control or a toy nobody was interested in until one person picked it up. My children, of late, have been having "copy-cat" fights. You see, my little girl likes to imitate (i.e. copy-cat) her brother's actions, which at times irritate my son. He asks her to stop, but she copies even his agitated demands that she stop imitating him. This happens several times a day.

Often, my son comes running to me, fuming. I reprimand my daughter but my son insists that's not good enough and that his sister will be at it again. I tell him there is little real harm in her copying him. Why not just walk away or ignore her? She enjoys it because you react to her. But my son says I am a softie when it comes to his sister.

Sigh, I do not recall as many fights with my brother when we were growing up. Probably because my brother is by nature conciliatory, non-confrontational and reserved (quiet). He would rather give in or tolerate as much nonsense as possible. He can continue reading even as you stand there talking to/ at him. He is like that to this day, as a married man. Lucky for his wife (and maybe lucky for his kids, too).

Back to my problem.....ooh, they're at it again. Gotta run.

23 July 2009

Children's school days

If you are a parent, you would be in the thick of education issues. My eldest is just in primary two. Chief among the issues were/ are choosing the right kindy, choosing the right primary school, the right type of primary school (government, private, international, and in Malaysia - if government, whether the main stream or the mother-tongue schools), the right tutors, extra-curricular activities. For me, at the moment, that's about it.

And the competition these days is tough. Just a one mark difference makes a huge difference. Before my son went to school, I told myself that I would let him develop his academic prowess at his own pace, that I wouldn't force or make him study hard to get the "A" grades, that I would accept his strengths or limitations (of course every parent would rather deal with the former), that I would not compare him to his friends and that I would not expect him to be like I was when I was a student. For the record (and humbly saying this, too) I was a straight A student. My parents never had to worry about my grades and they did not ever sit down with me to study.

I am disappointed to say that I have fallen short of what I intended to do - I have found myself pushing my son to do better, sitting down with him for homework and revision and yelling at him whenever he makes a mistake in mathematics or does not comprehend a principle, expecting more when he improves, and of course giving him long lectures when he disappoints me. Am I caught up in the system of grades? Am I not seeing the big picture, that childhood is to be enjoyed and cherished, and that education while essential, should not eclipse the wonderful years of growing up and being loved unconditionally by parents?

My good friend told me that she too examines herself and asks herself how she would like her children to remember her as. I guess that's a good question to take stock of - a loving, supportive yet firm mother; or a mother who loves but demands performance and results in return.

I see the hurt on my son's face when my words to him are harsh and cutting, and I want him to know that I love him so much, but I worry that in this unrelenting world, will he get by fine if he isn't one of the "top" performers? My hubby tells me it is no guarantee that academic performance equates to success later in life. I guess that's true. We have many famous personalities who are living proof of that.

So, I need to get my balance. The right amount of encouragement, of push, yet enough slack so the child doesn't feel stifled and pressured. I need to work on that.

20 July 2009

My Facial Toner

I haven't got great skin - you know like those you see on some women: flawless, glowing, blemish-free and yet strong enough to withstand the sun and cosmetics of various types and brands. Still, my skin isn't bad. But it's sensitive and can't take many brands of personal care products out there.

Over the years, I have tried, let's see - Clarins, Clinique, Estee Lauder, Shisheido, Loreal, Revlon, Olay, Origins - all with varying results, sometimes with breakouts and red blotches. And with the price of these "branded" lines, I can't say I'm happy with the results.

As we are currently experimenting with alternative natural ingredient brands (see my children's shampoo post), I have recently started using Thayers alcohol-free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner that my hubby has ordered in. Now, witch hazel toner is not something new. It's been around for ages - I remember my Mom letting me try hers when I was a teenager. But these "old" products have steadily been overtaken by up-market trendy skin care brands backed by giant companies - more glamorous and "fashionable" to be seen using and buying these commercial brands at their glitzy counters in suitably upmarket malls.

But I am pleased to say that Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner has been good for my skin. No adverse reaction. It smells of ... roses. And after about 2 weeks of using it, my pores are noticeably smaller and my skin looks, well, more toned. I give it an A rating. More on other stuff I use, later.

19 July 2009

Of dogs, birds and fish

Having a house with garden meant that we could have dogs (and other animals). Back in BU, we did not want to subject any dog to having to live his days out on a hot, small and tiled front yard. I don't know how so many people in terraced houses could keep large breed dogs - it's cruel.

So, here in Ipoh we have 3 furry companions. But this also means a lot more work - feeding, bathing, training. The kids love having the dogs, but I only let them play together when I am there to watch them. Can't ever tell with animals, can you? Not long after moving in, one of our black females must have managed to slip out the gate as I was driving out, because when I returned, the kids and my maid were franctic - saying that there were only 2 dogs left.

It was rainy that morning as I drove out to search for our missing dog. I circled the neigbourhood twice before I spotted a black, furry canine with a curly tail. As I pulled up next to her, yep that's my dog. But she ran off when I wound my window down and called out her name! Ditching the car, I got down, with my umbrella and went after her. But the more I called, the farther she ran. Scared of the umbrella? Didn't recognise me? I put the brollie down. That did the trick. She ran towards me, happy. Now, do I put her in the car? She probably wouldn't get in. So I walked home with her, in the rain. Then..I walked back out to get my car.

The birds - it was like the attack of the kamikaze-birds! They would crash into our large glass windows. Daily, we would pick up at least 6 bird carcasses. It got quite gross, and I was becoming a nervous wreck each time I heard a loud thud against the glass. This went on for about a month, before the birds decided to redraw their flight path - phew!

Then we got the koi into our pond. Things went swimmingly with the first batch of koi. But then a larger batch of koi got put into the pond and this is when the fish suicides started. They just vaulted out of the pond. We saved 5 the first time it happened. But sadly, the second time it happened, 7 koi died. But happily, that was the end of the fishy troubles.

17 July 2009

Living with life's imperfections

I just got back from completing a myriad chores, in the hot Malaysian afternoon. After dropping my son off at school, I went to look at some garden furniture; sorted out some banking; picked up some groceries; picked up a couple of indoor plants from the nursery; and renewed my road tax. I was positively dehydrated by the time I got home. Greeted by the dogs and a quiet house - I knew my lil girl was having her afternoon nap.

After a refreshing shower, I checked my email - there was one waiting for me from a good friend. She said she likes my blog and that I spelled out the challenges I faced moving to Ipoh, without trying to dish out any solutions. Life is often just that. Living with its imperfections. Often, we don't have the solutions. Sometimes it's just living with the questions....with a smile and a grateful heart, we'll be ok. Just what I needed to hear - sometimes just what we all need to be reminded of. Gratitude, count our blessings and have time to smile at our fellow human beings.

The fact that I have the mobility and energy to go about doing so many chores, that I have a car to drive about, that I have the opportunity to stay full time at home with my family like I wanted to, that we have a roof over our heads and health in our bodies - these are great blessings from God. My humble thanks.

My friend is so wise - I dedicate today's blog entry to you. You know who you are!

16 July 2009

My children's shampoo and lotion

Everyone's becoming more health conscious or health "aware" these days. My MIL is a pure vegetarian (also omits onions and garlic from her diet). While we are not yet prepared to go down that path, we have recently started to relook at the personal care products our family use.

On a trip to Melbourne, we picked up a bottle of baby shampoo called "Gaia", an Australian-made brand which uses natural and organic ingredients. It was fine on my son, but strangely enough, my girl (then 3) started dropping more hair than usual and had some grey streaks in her hair!

My hubby then did some research and he brought in Aubrey Organics Natural Baby & Kids Shampoo. It contains vanilla and almond oils, and we have had no problems with it. It cleans the children's hair well, lather is moderate and no adverse effects. So we went on to bring in Aubrey's Natural Baby & Kids Body Lotion for our children, which has organic evening primrose and aloe vera. Smells delicious!

Happy with the results, we have decided to explore more personal care product brands that use natural and/or organic ingredients. Will share more on this another time.

15 July 2009

Not working (in an office) in Ipoh

Actually, I asked for it.

I'd been hassling my hubby for some years now to let me stop working full time in an office so I could be at home and enjoy the kids growing up. The move to Ipoh was the event that clinched the deal for me. So, here I am - in Ipoh, and working full time at home.

It's only been 11 months since I stopped work in August 2008. And it was close to moving time, so I've been kept busy. In between, my hubby and I went to Australia and China in Oct and Nov 2008. Then Ipoh in December.

Pros of not working in an office - I can be with my kids and not have to think about them at work, and feel guilty that I am an absent Mom or that I am putting too much burden on my parents to help me raise my kids. I get to watch my little girl take her afternoon nap, and kiss and cuddle her as much as I want. I get to supervise my son's school work, and take them out for breakfast treats. I can supervise the house chores done by my maid, and I don't mind even doing some of the chores myself, my way.

Cons of not working - I didn't expect to be so tired! I'm thinner now than I ever was since my marriage. Attributable to running upstairs and downstairs, refereeing my kids' fights, driving several rounds a day (to school, back from school, tuition, oh forgot bread - out again etc) and of course, the renovations. And now that we have dogs, I bathe them once a fortnight (I can't understand why my fab sis-in-law doesn't have time to bathe her dogs when she doesn't work and doesn't have kids) in addition to tending to the garden. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy these outdoor activities which I did not have when we lived in a terraced house in BU - but I am just surprised that staying home hasn't given me as much "me-time" as I had imagined. Even less, to be honest. In the office, one had chats and coffee with colleagues, and lunch hour. My lunch hour at home now is with the kids, making sure my son eats his whole lunch, then scooting everyone into the car for the drive to school. In the afternonon my lil girl clings to me, and wants Mommy's full attention. I don't even get to pee in private anymore!

But, despite all this, I am truly grateful and thank God that I have the opportunity to stop work and enjoy my kids before their childhood flashes by in a wink of the eye, and they become teenagers (another new ball game!).

Keeping the brain working - Well, there's always Face Book to connect with friends, I read online papers and lately I have volunteered my legal knowledge to ehomemakers, a non-profit organisation helping home-based women be self sufficient. And this blog is my latest endeavour to use my time creatively, for my leisure.

14 July 2009

Life in Ipoh

Pleasant. I believe I could use this word to describe life in Ipoh. Although possessing city status,Ipoh just doesn't have the energy of a city like KL. Even Melaka feels much more vibrant and "busy" compared to Ipoh.

This could be due to the appearance of Ipoh, which lacks skyscrapers or intimidatingly tall hotels or vast blockish shopping centres. The "city" area is made up of old prewar buildings that have been refurbished (or not) and the newer shops which look like those shops you see in Desa Sri Hartamas. It doesn't give a very city feel to the place, more suburban. Ipoh folk also dress much more casually compared to the KL-ites so there isn't much to look at unlike Jalan Raja Chulan where you could sit around the numerous cafes or stalls and "people watch" all those trendy office workers, shoppers and tourists.

The economy here is much smaller though. There aren't many MNCs here and I guess the only Malaysian company that employs a good number of people here would be Taiko Sdn Bhd, holding company of listed KL Kepong. With so much resources and land available, one wonders why Ipoh just hasn't caught up. Melaka and Johor earn from Singaporean visitors. Ipoh is too far north and sandwiched between the capital KL and manufacturing hub Penang - or so the excuse has been given for umpteen years to explain the lack of development in Ipoh. Be an education centre, then. Go out on trade missions and invite foreign education institutions to set up campuses in and around Ipoh, offer them incentives that beat KL. The standard of living in Ipoh is slightly lower so that would be a plus for students, and with the double tracking rail up (when it is up) and also newly resumed flights to Singapore in 2009, the Perak state govt should really pump up its marketing. But that is a topic for another day.

I am glad that, unlike KL and PJ, which have been stripped of leafy green tress, it is rather green here in Ipoh. The main roads of Jalan Gopeng and Jalan Tambun have nicely manicured road shoulders that converge at the antique fountain smack in the middle of the round-about leading into/ exiting town. At least the trees planted by the local council are "real" trees with branches that spread far and lush leaves, unlike KL and PJ where DBKL and MBPJ in their wisdom, have chosen to plant ridiculous non-shade-providing palms. Just because Malaysia in in the tropics doesn't mean we have to make our cities all look beachy, and windy, you know. What happened to all those grand raintrees and flame of the forest?

I noticed that Ipoh folk are more laid back and friendly. The shopkeepers all have a moment to chat with you. And there is less of that "hurry up" feeling whenever you go out to run your errands. Back in Damansara Utama or SS2 in PJ, I always felt hurried - heck the parking (or lack of) was enough to drive one ballistic.

Luckily for me, I am not a pathological shopper. If you are one, you might not survive in Ipoh. There are only Kinta City and Ipoh Parade, which carry brands like Jusco, Cold Storage, Padini, Nike, Royal Sporting House, G2000, Poney, and the main gents and ladies clothing and shoe lines, but on a much more muted scale. Of course there are lots of independent boutiques around, but style-wise, nah. You would be running screaming back to KL to shop!

Traffic jams? Much much less than KL. Happens only for brief spells at the peak of the usual to school- to work, back from work-school times. And Ipoh drivers move at a slightly slower pace, too. I am always overtaking them.

Scenery? Great. Ipoh is hemmed in by limestone hills all around. So when you are up on the flyover, you can see the green, rolling hills which does good for your soul. Air quality? Good, and being further up north, thank God Ipoh is spared the haze. The sky is almost always clear,blue with white puffy clouds.

Food in Ipoh

In the few months since we moved to Ipoh, we have tried out a few places and the kids and I have decided which ones they like or don't.

For breakfast there's Hollywood, a coffee shop in Canning Garden. It is probably the only Chinese coffee shop I know of which is pork-free. So there is a good-sized Malay clientele, which I think is great. You know, the muhibbah thing and all. The first time I saw so many Malays eating there, I was rather puzzled. Well onto the food that Hollywood serves. My son likes the Hong Kong style chee cheong fun done with prawns. The beef brisket noodles is quite good, as is the char kuay teow, though there are 2 different vendors of char kuay teow, one for the morning and one for the afternoon. The roti canai vendor there is so-so, and the Ipoh sar hor fun in Hollywood does not do the dish justice. It is much more delicious in other shops in Ipoh. There is a "pisang goreng" vendor there who sells a good variety of fried snacks.

I love roti canai, capati, tose, you name it, and it must go with good dal or fish curry. When we first came to Ipoh, I was quite disappointed as the standard of mamak food just can't compare to KL. The rotis were either too crispy or not brown enough and the dals and curries too weak. But happily I found one to my liking - Bukit Merah Curry House in Ipoh Garden. As for banana leaf rice, we like Kalai's in Ipoh's Little India section.

Of course there is the perennial favourite, Kong Heng, in Old Town, Ipoh. Most of the food there is pretty good. Sotong kangkung, pork satay, sar hor fun, chee cheong fun, laksa (nice and tangy). If it's full out, you could always hop next door to eat in the House of Mirrors or Tien Chun, which serves similar food to Kong Heng. Tien Chun does a great baked caramel custard - it sells out real fast.

For rice dishes at lunch time, do try out Koh Kee which is located just opposite the House of Mirrors in a little non-descript alley. All the food dished up tastes yummy with a homey flavour. We love it! And not too expensive either. Hoong Tho, not too far away from House of Mirrors (nearer to the Kinta Flats) serves up nice tasting noodles, and fried wan ton.

As for dinner, my kids love 1919 Restaurant and Gallery, which is opposite Tesco. Air conditioned, nice ambience and great waiting staff. I must say the training for their waiters is excellent. On Mother's Day, as we were leaving, the waiter wished me Happy Mother's Day. The manager there, Stephen, is real friendly and accommodating. If you are going on a weekend, do call ahead to reserve a table. It's that full.

Long-established Tuck Kee in Pasir Pinji gives great value food, and does not disappoint in taste. It is always used for wedding dinners, so beware. And the queue just outside Tuck Kee for the restaurant's char siu and roast duck snakes around the corridors! Some where near Tuck Kee in Pasir Pinji under a cluster of old trees is a collection of stalls. Locals call it "Tai Su Keok" which literally means "at the foot of the big tree". Lots to choose from and cheap. Fried yong tou foo with noodles, laksa, porridge etc .

Ipoh doesn't have much to offer in terms of Western dining, but there are Italia Mia (Sunway City); Brewster's and Miner's Arm (in town); and Fantasy Cafe for cheap and fast western sets (on the Road where Elim Church and Ave Maria girls' school are). Of course there is the exorbitantly priced Indulgence, which I have not tried. Apparently the price of food in Indulgence is as expensive as 5 star hotels in KL.

More of my accounts of food in Ipoh will come later.

13 July 2009

Feeling my way round Ipoh

The obvious places for me to shop for my family's needs were, of course, the all-familiar Jaya Jusco and Tesco. The Jusco in Kinta City is not bad, really. The supermarket section is huge - even larger than the one in One Utama in Bandar Utama, PJ. Tesco in Ipoh looks like....Tesco in Mutiara Damansara.

Then on to the wet markets. My "fabulous" sis-in-law obliged, on command of my MIL, and took me to 2 wet markets. The central market in town and another market in Pasir Pinji. The central market is big, clean but one can get lost there because of the multi levels, twists and turns, and split levels. It's also a bit farther for me. So I settled on the Pasir Pinji market. You can get everything there - pork, chicken, fish and other seafood, fruits, veges, soya bean produce, cooked foods, delicious "acar", assortment of local kuih, roast pork, drief stuff like onions, dried prawns etc., even clothes, pet fish, kitchen ware. Oh, it doesn't have any beef vendors, though. Neither does it sell any "tempeh" (made from soya and is a Malay favourite) which my daughter and I have grown to like - my maid makes delicious tempeh ikan bilis with chilly.

Ipoh Garden South is quite an established township, with lots of shops providing most of one's usual needs. There are pharmacies, hair salons, Chinese medicine halls, a dance centre (or two?), tuition centres, fruiterers, even a Pizza Hut. Speaking of fruiterers, back in PJ, there were not many shops selling only fruits but here in Ipoh, it looks like big business. There are fruit shops everywhere. But they are not cheap though. Quality of fruits sold in the Ipoh Garden South shop which I go to is pretty good. So I have to pay for that.

Ipoh Garden is of course THE established neighbourhood in Ipoh. Lots of shops, lots of banks, restaurants, mamak shops (my favourite is Bukit Merah) and the old style Indian barbers.

Another little township I found useful is Taman Cempaka. It has a small wet market, mini post office (great tiny mini Pos Malaysia, which I highly recommend if you are around this side of Ipoh), petrol station, 7-Eleven and lots of photocopy services. Must be a student population nearby.

In Ipoh - my feelings

Ipoh is a nice enough town (or should I say city). I am not unfamiliar with it as my grandparents lived in a little town just outside Ipoh.

But having to treat Ipoh as my city now, that was something different. I consulted my inlaws on where to go to buy what, which roads were best to take, how to find tutors - all the usual questions you would expect to ask being new in town. Unfortunately, my parents-in-law still work and have a very busy life, so I had to rely on my husband's brother's wife who doesn't work and takes care of my inlaws' household for advice.

This was the least pleasant part of starting life in Ipoh. To put it simply, my sister in law and I don't get along (surprise surprise!!). It was never deliberate on my part and I can honestly say I try to be nice to her, to try to connect each time we meet, but all my efforst are met with her stony, sullen, no eye contact, monosyllabic responses. I literally have to prod and pry information out of her. For example:

Me: Where can I go to buy stationery for the kids?
Sis-in-law: Mubarak.
Me: (holding on to my temper) Uh, where is Mubarak?
Sis-in-law: Old Town.
Me: (grinding my teeth now) Oh. And which part of Old Town?

Helpful huh? I don't think I got depressed. Thank God I am not prone to it. But I did feel very alone and you know, my husband is really from Mars. He did not notice, or maybe didn't think it was a big deal, that I was having some issues adjusting. It would have helped a lot if he talked to me about the move, how I felt, took me under his wing to show me Ipoh. But noooo. My hubby is the type who likes his wife to be independent, you know. All that nicey, romantic, supportive stuff fades after marriage I gues.

So yeah, I did get snappy and my hubby and I had big monumental fights in Ipoh. Seriously. And the renovation work on the house was driving me nuts! And my hubby is control freak and fuss-pot supreme. "Why is there a scratch on the wooden floor?", "Did you notice the metal grill wasn't done right?", "There's some stain on the marble floor". Give me a break. All day long I hear drilling and knocking, workmen trudging through the house, dust and cement all over, following the workers around and giving them old newspapers and rags (to the point we ran out of rags and I had to cut up my older T-shrts) endless cleaning, finding that my brooms were going missing daily, fetching my son to school and back on unfamiliar roads (I found a better route on my own - no thanks to you know who).

And you know, now that I don't work, I feel this control issue. Lilke I don't have any. When I earned my own money, I had a voice, authority. Now, do I? I have to check with my hubby on anything to do with the house. Then he says, but you can have your opinion, it's just that I may not agree with you all the time. Great. On the other hand, he says to me to be independent and take charge. And when I do, and when he doesn't agree with the outcome, we have our fights and he says "Why couldn't you have checked with me first? Is it so hard?" Behind their facade, I think all men are MCPs, control freaks and have huge egos.

Thank God for email. I emailed to my friends a lot and that helped me to vent. They gave words of support and advice. It really helped. Never disconnect with your friends. I miss my Mommy!!

Making the move to Ipoh

If you've ever done a move before, you will know it involves a lot of headache. If you were single, it would be much easier but with kids and a terracehouse full of 8 years of living, memories and stuff bought over the years, it can be quite a herculean task. And I was left to deal with the move mostly on my own as hubby was too busy working. Oh and in the middle of that I also had to resign from my job and wrap up my work in the office.

Movers - they cost a lot of money! And I was not prepared to pay RM3k to move my stuff although it would be a lot more convenient. I contacted Continential and Crown relocaters, whose services I ultimately did not use. In the end, we just rented a 10-tonne truck that came with the driver and his 3 assistants - that cost me RM1,200.

We also consulted for suitable dates to do the move. You know, us being Chinese and all.

With money saved meant my maid and I became packers. It took us about 5 weeks of daily packing to get our stuff taped into boxes. In between I had to ensure my little girl was entertained, otherwise she would be climbing into the boxes or trying to help us. Clothes that we would use upon arrival in Ipoh went into suitcases, as did the kids' toys, books and stationery. Each packed box was numbered and labelled with its contents, and also entered into my master list. My master list also contained all the other to-dos: get my son enrolled into his new school in Ipoh, disconnect phone/electricity/water, pay any outstanding bills, update new address for all our accounts/ friends, get standby supplies of medicines etc.

Needless to say, I lost weight during the process. Come December 2008, we emptied our house onto the truck, walked around the house with mixed emotions and drove off to our new life in Ipoh. I recall it was rainy that day, which only added to my melancholy.

Moving from KL to Ipoh

First came the long, long discussions about when and whether to move the family to Ipoh when my hubby was transferred from KL to Ipoh. It was a big decision for me. I was born and raised in the Klang Valley. I worked full time in the Valley and I enjoyed my job. All my friends were in KL and my kids enjoyed being looked after by my parents when I was at work. So, what would you do?

Immediate considerations for me were - I would have to resign, become a stay home Mom, become a single income family, I would not have my parents close by to run to whenever I felt like it, I would have no friends in Ipoh and I would have to learn a whole new town (albeit a smaller one). The kids would have to adjust too. Argh! It was ok for my hubby as he is an Ipoh boy and his family were in Ipoh. I would be the outsider.

Many of my friends said that they would never relocate from the Klang Valley but would instead ask their husbands to commute instead. But my hubby said he did not want the family to be split into two so the ultimate decision was to relocate the family. My friends said I was good to sacrifice so much to do so. Thus, began a new chapter in my married life.