29 November 2012

Holiday checklist

It's the year end school holidays and like many families, we will be taking the family for a vacation. This time we will be gone for about 3 weeks.

Truth be told, I actually find vacations tiring.

There is the pre-vacation preparation and the post-vacation recuperation. I don't know why certain people love traveling so much. Guess I have never been much of a travel bug, especially for far-away long haul holidays.

First when you arrive at your foreign destination, there might be the jet lag to contend with. After being cooped up in economy for hours, I usually feel lousy. If you can afford to travel business for long haul flights, please do!

Then there's the multiple unpacking and repacking for the family as we move from place to place. Not to mention making sure there is the daily ration of drinks and snacks when we are sight seeing, as well as the jackets, hats, sun block and safekeeping of the passports; all of which come under my purview.

I thought as I prepare for this vacation, it would be useful to post a holiday checklist or travel checklist. Hopefully my kids will understand it's not just all play for mommy on holidays!

Holiday documents

  • book the air tickets
  • book the hotels or serviced apartments
  • if it's a self drive holiday, book your car in advance 
  • make sure passports are valid
  • keep photocopies of your passports, in the unlikely event you lose your original ones
  • apply for visas, where needed
  • buy travel insurance

The home

  • pay all bills - water, electricity, phone etc
  • tidy up the garden
  • get someone to look after the pets
  • stock up on pet food
  • fix anything around the home that needs fixing - leaky taps etc
  • unplug electrical connections that will not be used
  • empty the trash cans
  • lock up doors and windows
  • leave some curtains open
  • leave some lights on timer
  • if you feel it might be safer, move your valuables into your bank deposit box 
  • leave house keys with a trusted neighbour, friend or relative


I guess apart from your clothes and shoes and cold-weather gear:
  • toiletries - tooth brush, tooth paste, soap, face cleanser, moisturiser, shampoo, sun block, lip balm
  • hair dryer
  • hand sanitizer to be used when you are on the go
  • wet wipes (for those with kids)
  • tissue (lots of them for my family)
  • medication as needed
  • vitamins and other supplements as needed
  • bandages
  • wound care creams
  • favorite pillows or bolsters for the kids
  • books, Ipad, smart phone, chargers, adapters
  • rain coats
  • umbrellas
  • hats
  • backpacks
  • flash light
  • some card games for dull (or rest) days

 Phew! I think that's the main lot. Happy holidays everyone! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

(pictures from silampuneon.com, ten2oneentertainment.blogspot.com)

A Secret Garden in Ipoh

I have always lamented the lack of good quality western food in Ipoh. Although there are more choices in this category now, they still lacked the touch, taste and look we were looking for.

Until we tried the Secret Garden.

The Place

It is located in an old refurbished bungalow that has been allowed to retain its original appearance and architecture more or less intact. Many people love these restorations to old structures rather than extensive renovations, and so do I.

The bungalow is charming inside and pleasing to the eye. It is located on Lorong Cheah Cheng Lim, on the same road as Qdees Kindergarten and the newish Banyan Spa. There is ample parking space, and this road is usually quiet, which makes the place even more appealing.

We learned that the Secret Garden has been in operation for more than 2 years now, and offers dining as well as hotel services, although we did not inquire about the latter.I heard about this place over a year ago but between husband, kids, routine chores, dogs, house and garden, I didn't get the chance to try it out until recently.

Our food

My little girl had the Cappuccino of Mushroom (RM13.90), which was served in a cup on a ceramic tray accompanied by a bread stick. The soup was thick and rich, and had a nice fresh mushroom taste to it.

Hubby had the confit of salmon dusted with coriander powder (RM25.90), which surprised even him in terms of the serving size - 2 thick slices of lightly smoked salmon. I had a small piece to taste and it was perfectly acceptable, bearing in mind that I do not generally like smoked salmon

The Secret Garden salad (RM20.90): fresh greens tossed in tangy dressing, accompanied by thin slices of bacon and hard boiled egg on the side made for my healthy appetizer.

Both my children requested steak, so it was chargrilled sirloin steak (RM40.90) for my boy and chargrilled rib eye steak (RM45.90) for my girl and me to share; done medium and medium-well respectively. Although, we suspect they got the cooking directions mixed up for the 2 pieces of steak. Small matter. Both steaks were sufficient in size, flavourful and fragrant. Delicious down to the last bite. Hubby had spaghetti with grilled bacon (RM24.90) for his main, and was satisfied with his choice.

By this time we had to leave for an appointment and had no time to sample their desserts. The dining area in the right wing of the bungalow now hosted 5 tables, at 1.45pm, which was reaching full capacity. There are more tables in the left wing of the house, as well as al fresco dining if one is so inclined, preferably at night.

We enjoyed our lunch. The ambience was  pleasant and relaxing, the service professional and the food good. The prices are also not exorbitant. We will definitely return to try out the rest of the menu.

(pictures courtesy of http://reiko67.blogspot.com)

Hong Kee Muah Chee and Fah Sang Wu

I read about this little stall that has been operating for ages in front of their home in Pasir Pinji from the Metro Perak.

I love sweet peanut paste soup (fah sang wu) and finally had the opportunity to find this stall last weekend.

Well, at first my husband and I drove right past it. Then we stopped to buy some chicken rice for my  maid, and I ventured to ask the vendor if she knew about Hong Kee.

"Of course!" she exclaimed. "But it's not good anymore and too expensive!" quipped her husband. Both husband and wife looked disapprovingly at me. "It was good when the grandfather was making it, but not anymore."

Turns out that the stall we drove by on the road side was the right one, so I bade farewell to the chicken rice vendor, and hubs and I turned back to Jalan Queen.

We bought 2 serves of the peanut soup and 1 serve of the muah chee. Despite the writeup in the Metro and other bloggers' comments, the food turned out to be a huge disappointment. The small single serve of peanut soup goes for RM2.50 and the tiny serve of muah chee also goes for RM2.50!! So that small amount of snacks I bought cost me RM7.50 - wow, in a place like Pasir Pinji. Talk about jacking up your prices.

I don't like the style of muah chee here where the dough is cut into pieces and then rolled/ mixed into a mixture of ground peanuts and sugar. I like the muah chee-KL-style much better, where the dough is shaped into a ball and the peanut/ sugar mixture is placed inside the ball. It's done inside-out here. 

The peanut paste soup was smooth, not very sweet and lacked the fragrant aroma of peanuts. I couldn't finish everything so I stored the leftover soup in the fridge. I had it the next day - I observed that the soup had turned lumpy with a thick layer floating on top, much like melted ice on a frozen river in late spring. Looks like peanut butter.

(pictures courtesy of syjsaw.blogspot.com)

14 November 2012

Chee Cheong Fun at Yei Lock Coffee Shop

Soft, smooth, white, with or without dried prawns.

If you are a fan of chee cheong fun, I would like to recommend that you try it at Kedai Kopi & Makanan Yei Lock on Jalan Kampar in Ipoh.

We decided to try out this place for breakfast on the suggestion of my dad, who was visiting us from KL. He had heard about it from a friend of his in KL. With no name (as usual), all we had to go on from my dad was that it was on Jalan Kampar, the second block of shops from the MGS roundabout, somewhere in the middle of the row, with a siew yoke stall inside. Well, we found the right place.

The chee cheong fun stall vendor is a lady, and she was very busy. But service is fast, and the steamed flat rice noodles were nice. Everyone agreed.

Actually I am not sure if this coffee shop is more famous for the chee cheong fun or for its Hainanese paus (steamed buns), as there is a big sign hanging outside the shop advertising the paus. They have a very good variety of them: char siew, curry chicken, red bean, kaya, coconut etc. Apparently there are 8 varieties in total. I bought some back for tea but can't comment because my kids, dad and maid finished the lot! I guess they were quite good.

The roast pork was only a 5/10. There are plenty of other places in Ipoh that offer better roast pork.
(pictures courtesy of food.malaysiamostwanted.com)

13 November 2012

Relationship checklist

I was reading an old copy of TheStar today, as I have been rather busy and preoccupied of late.

I came across the column, But Then Again, and couldn't help smiling. I cut out the article straight away for my 11 year-old boy to read. Kids are starting younger than their parents in most things these days, including having an interest in the opposite gender, and therefore will quite possibly start dating sooner too.

Anyway, the columnist Mary Schneider wrote about the Relationship Checklist. I couldn't agree more.

Do you remember when you were so head over heels in love with your boyfriend/ girlfriend that heart ruled over head, even over the sensible, level-headed and seasoned advice of your parents, who had eaten more salt than all the rice you have consumed (Chinese saying to describe the wisdom of the elders)? Well, now you're married to the person of your choice, and I really hope it has been a bed of roses for you so far.

Sure it's great falling in love. As Mary said, if it's a fling then there is no need to have a row of boxes to tick off. But if you plan to make this special person a permanent feature in your life, till death do you part, then practical and seemingly small matters are actually a big deal in everyday life!

I am not sure how many wives share negative and now extremely tired feelings about these:
  • toilet seat issue
  • bad urinary target
  • cut finger nails left on bed-side table
  • used clothes left in a pile
  • bottle of shaving foam, bottle of hair oil, tube of tooth paste all left lying on the counter top
  • my car keys are in his pocket (don't ask how come) and he has gone to work, so I have to retrieve my spare keys in order to drive out
  • it's ok if he goes out without his wallet (because I have mine) but not the other way round as I get lectured
  • he hates waiting for me and the kids to get ready to go out, but when we're ready it's ok to make us wait while he finishes chatting on his multiple online forums
  • drinks from multiple cups/glasses and leaves them all on display on the counter top
  • different views on education, family/ extended family and spiritual issues
  • who always has to win in arguments

So, those cute little transgressions aren't so cute anymore years later? Right you are.

I will be sure to let my kids know about the checklist when they are considering a serious long-term partner in the (I hope distant!) future.

After a little thought, I have a preliminary checklist for my girl (which I will probably edit and update as the years go by):
  • so you think he's cute and funny and smart. Is he also hardworking, doesn't give up on things easily?
  • is he even tempered and able to share his feelings, rather than the strong silent type?
  • does he like surprises? Does he like giving you surprises?
  • what are his views on finances - does he save, does he think of investing, will he support you and the family willingly should you choose to stop work in the future?
  • does he dream of retiring at age 45? (if he's made his fortune by then, to last till you are both 85, then fine)
  • what are his hobbies and outlets?
  • does he like children? Or does he just want a couple-hood existence forever?
  • will he share in household and family responsibilities and chores?
  • how does he treat his own parents and siblings?
  • is he well mannered?
  • try and gauge the size of his ego (because it only gets larger)
  • observe little things like: does he pick up after himself, level of personal hygiene, toilet habits. Can he cook to save his life??
  • it would be nice if he could change the light bulb or squash a cockroach
 For my boy, my preliminary checklist is:
  • so you think she's pretty, cute when she pouts and sexy. Is there anything else under her fancy clothes and stylish makeup? In her brain and in her heart, I mean.
  • I hope she is sensible as a wife makes up the backbone of the family (and extended family)
  • Is she a shopaholic? 
  • how does she treat her own parents and siblings?
  • Is she well mannered?
  • Are her parents supplementing her income because she can't see that too much expenses and too little revenue lands her in the red?
  • Does she demand gifts and flowers to be reassured of your love and affection? Goes for the latest in makeup, handbags, shoes and pouts when you don't buy them for her? It may be cute when you're dating, but consider her pouting for the next 10 years
  • Does she want children (assuming you do too)?

(pictures from http://www.123rf.com/stock-photo/love.html)

05 November 2012

Loreal Revita Lift White

I have to admit, I am on a face cream hunting spree!

Something about the words "lifting", "firming", "revitalise", "V shape" just grab me. Oh no! Is this a sign of an impending mid life crisis?

I actually bought Loreal's Revita Lift before I bought the Bio Essence Face Lifting Cream with ATP.

That in itself probably shows that I wasn't very satisfied with Loreal's cream. I haven't abandoned it completely, but I have now chosen to use more of Bio Essence and every couple of days alternate it with Loreal.

Loreal's Website

I was reading up on the product on Loreal's official website, which then directs you to its brand website, that splits further into countries.

Here, I have a problem with Loreal.

It divides the world into Asia, North America, South America, Europe and Asia. I'm Malaysian, so I click on Asia. The choices I get are: India, China (mainland), Taiwan and Japan (Hong Kong's site is under construction). The pages for China and Taiwan are in Mandarin, and of course Japanese for Japan.

Now I use English, so which part of Asia do I fit into? Obviously India! For some reason, the page for India is in English. I imagine Loreal had some trouble finding translators for Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi and the many hundreds of other mother tongues used in India.

There is something wrong with Loreal's language and geography sector directors. What are they trying to achieve by having such specific country and language splits? Am I to expect Thai for their future Thai Loreal page, and Bahasa Indonesia for Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia for Malaysia? They should look into this.
Revita Lift Anti Wrinkle and Firming Day Cream with SPF 18

Sorry for going off on a tangent there.

Back to Revita Lift. The sales puff promises fewer wrinkles and firmer skin in just 2 weeks. The Indian web page promises fairness, radiance, anti dark spots, hydration and anti wrinkle effects.

The directions are to apply the day cream on the face and neck and allow it to settle. When the white pearly smooth cream is absorbed by the skin, it has an instant natural whitening-look effect, leaving a thin and fresh protective layer, with micro-particles, which can evenly reflect light.

The cream comes in a nice, round and heavy tub.

My experience

I don't have wrinkles, but it has been more than 2 weeks. My skin does not feel any firmer, nor do I see any other physical alteration to the skin, except for some small pimples breaking out!

The cream is very heavy. It is sticky to the touch and you really do need to give it quite a lot of time to "settle" into your skin. It did not feel refreshing on my skin at all. The whiteness of the cream on my face is, in my opinion, too white and unnatural. Protective perhaps, natural no.

I will try to finish this one tub of Revita Lift White and see if there are any further results. I doubt I will buy this particular cream of Loreal's again.
(pictures courtesy of Loreal and allthevanity.com)

31 October 2012

Bio Essence Face Lifting Cream

Not being a cosmetics or skin care fanatic, I don't regularly check out new products or run screaming to cosmetics promotions at malls. But like any other lady, I do take pains to care for my skin, hoping to find THE right cleanser, toner, moisturiser, face-preserving miracle cream....

I've been seeing a lot of ads on Bio Essence products and my friendly neighborhood Guardian sales staff always guides me to their skin care aisles whenever I am at the store. And it happened to be on special, so I thought, why not?

The Product

Bio Essence Face Lifting Cream with ATP is part of the ATP V Face Series.

According to the Bio Essence official webpage, Adenosine Tri-phosphate (ATP) is a coenzyme that stores the energy to support metabolism in our cells and is known as the “energy currency of life”. It improves micro circulation to facilitate the renewal and repair of our skin cells while restoring suppleness, radiance and firmness to the skin.

Bio Essence explains that as the skin is the largest organ of the body, huge amounts of ATP are necessary to allow it to thrive, regenerate and renew itself. ATP is literally required for all processes that take place in the body, from DNA replication and skin regeneration to muscle contraction and collagen synthesis.

Another skin therapy specialist, Bio Therapeutic, similarly states that the skin requires an enormous amount of the most vital form of energy that makes life itself possible, that is ATP. It goes on to explain that although there are many factors associated with aging, energy in the form of ATP is the epicenter of cellular life, and has everything to do with the way that we function, the way that we feel, and of course the appearance of our skin.

However, the natural production of ATP by the body dwindles with age. By the time we reach age 60, the amount of ATP produced by the body would have almost halved, compared to when we were in our 20s. A lack of ATP also means that the body functions less efficiently – and this applies to your skin’s metabolism too. Without sufficient ATP in the body, the skin ages more rapidly too. 

Well, now that we have learned some science, I guess Bio Essence is selling the V Face Series based on the importance of ATP to skin health and appearance.


The description is a breathtaking sales puff claiming 8 Marvelous Benefits:
  1. Contracts pores and refines skin
  2. Reduces visible fine lines & wrinkles
  3. Fades spots & whitens skin
  4. Firms sagging skin
  5. Reduces double chin
  6. Reduces visible aging lines
  7. Lifts facial contours
  8. More moisturizing, shapes V face & look younger
Directions :
Apply day and night on face after essence. Massage gently onto face and neck area in upward lifting motion until fully absorbed. When the product works to firm facial contours, a slight tingling sensation would be felt.

My experience

The white rich cream comes in a heavy circular container. It does not come in a pump format. I actually prefer my creams in tubs like this. I know some people may have concerns about having to dip their finger into the cream but I think there is little to worry about contaminating your cream. After all, when you are applying your facial care products, you would have ensured your hands are clean. I don't like lotions and creams that are delivered via pump as I find there is a lot of wastage towards the end, not to mention frustration if the pump fails to work!

The cream is cool and sticky to the touch. I find the fragrance pleasant and not overpowering. It is rather rich, and I find that it requires some time for me to gently rub the cream in circular motion and upward strokes before it fully penetrates into the skin.

The first time I used the cream, I felt a tingling sensation. After several days, a couple of pimples appeared. I worried whether the cream was too heavy for my combination skin. But I persevered, and after a couple of weeks, my skin has cleared up. I notice that the cream refines and reduces pore size, leading to a more even skin tone and smoother, dewy appearance. Even just going out with the Bio Essence Face Lifting Cream and a layer of Clinique City Block is sufficient, without any foundation or powder.

As I don't have a double chin, sagging skin or visible aging lines, I cannot vouch for Bio Essence's claims in those areas.

The cream is definitely on the richer side and may not lend itself too well to younger skin for people in their early 20s. I read some blogs where the bloggers commented that they had breakouts with the cream.

While the cream has not noticeably slimmed down my face, I would recommend this cream as a moisturiser for those aged 30+ and above. If we can't slim down our faces, at least we can maintain its suppleness and keep it well moisturized!
(pictures courtesy of nerdy-aya.blogspot.com, bioessence.com.sg)

10 October 2012

Malaysian fruits: Sukun or Breadfruit

Coming to Ipoh and having the blessing of a large garden have certainly enhanced my botanical senses.

I spotted a large tree with torn-looking leaves next to a kampung house on the way home from servicing my car. What attracted my attention were the light green, round fruits the size of small pomelos hanging abundantly on the branches.

Some old memory flickered in me. Could it be? I remembered eating fried sukun from the pisang goreng vendor who used to ply his trade opposite the Government/ immigration complex at Damansara Heights. I haven't had that in years! When I told my maid about it, she was surprised that I even knew about the fruit, which is called breadfruit in English.

My maid then informed me that there were several breadfruit trees growing along the road shoulders not far from our house, and also in several neighbouring compounds. Indeed! When I specifically sought them out while driving, I saw 2 such trees on our main road, and a heavily fruiting one in my neighbour's garden. They look so cute, these green balls hanging down from the branches. And there is a long row of breadfruit trees along the road in front of Kolej Ungku Omar near Taman Cempaka.

What bounty nature provides, as the ground was littered with freshly dropped sukun! We picked up 2, and brought them home to make battered-and-fried sukun. Yummy.

I read on some blogs that it is not common to find sukun these days in KL. Well, isn't it wonderful that Ipoh is still so green and abundant with nature's gifts?

Now, I need to get a breadfruit sapling.

24 September 2012

Cat's Whiskers Tea

I have recently been adding "useful" plants to my garden, such as herbs and fruit trees.

One such plant to join my garden is the misai kucing/ cat's whiskers. It has delicate white flowers with protruding stamens giving it a distinctive look. I first saw the plant at a nursery and read about it, and that its leaves may be brewed as a tea to relieve urinary problems and possibly kidney stones.

Well that piqued my interest so I bought a little bag of the plant and grew it alongside my pandan (screwpine) and serai (lemon grass). It took a few days to settle in, and didn't look very well. I continued to tend it, made sure it didn't dry out and added some rich black soil. It is doing well now and has given me pretty blossoms.

I picked about 15 leaves last weekend and put it into a little pot with 2 cups of water. I boiled it for about 10 minutes - the leaves released a mild yet pleasant fragrance, vaguely hinting of chamomile. I drank the tea plain, with no added sugar. I gave some to hubs to try too, and he agreed it was pleasant-tasting. As for the health benefits, we'll just have to see.

Mid-Autumn Festival and making Moon Cakes at home...

... for the first time.

Actually, everything was done for me by Intrico, my local baking supplies vendor in Ipoh Garden. The flour for the skin was premixed and the lotus paste was already ground and nicely packed.

All I had to do was to roll out the flour, knead it, thin it out with a rolling pin and place the requisite amount of lotus paste onto the dough. Then I inserted a salted egg yolk and rolled it all into a neat ball, placed it into a plastic mould (not the traditional wooden moon cake mould), gave it an energetic pump-down and voila! A perfectly square moon cake complete with flower motif on the top.

Pop into the oven for about 8 minutes, remove for glazing with egg yolk, and bake for another 8 minutes. My maiden batch of home-made-with-help-from Intrico-moon cakes was ready, and looked marvellous!

Intrico is really wonderful for the amateur baker or those baking-challenged ones such as myself.

The mid autumn festival falls on 30 September this year, 2012. For this season's moon cake delights, Intrico has a variety of fillings - lotus, white lotus, green tea lotus, pandan lotus, mocha lotus, mung bean, chocolate etc. I found that the white lotus paste tastes better than the pure lotus paste.

In our hurried and busy lives in this era, many activities, processes and experiences have melted away and disappeared from our lives due to the sheer pressures of work, school and time spent commuting to and from places.

I'm just glad my children get to see some traditional Chinese foods being made at home, where they too get to participate in the process. I hope it all makes for a cherished childhood and harmonious family life.

I was touched by an elderly lady's remark to me today when a group of us ladies at school happened to be discussing moon cakes. On hearing that I had made moon cakes, even with this short-cut method, she said in Cantonese, "You are a good and diligent mother. Your children will know your love in your efforts." That was a really nice comment. [thank you :)]

Moon Festival Legends

I grew up listening to the story my mother told me that moon cakes were the instruments used to place instructions and plans by the Chinese to overthrow their Mongol rulers. Overrun by the Mongols in the thirteenth century, the Chinese threw off their oppressors in 1368 AD. It is said that mooncakes - which the Mongols did not eat - were the perfect vehicle for hiding and passing along plans for the rebellion. Families were instructed not to eat the mooncakes until the day of the moon festival, which is when the rebellion took place.

A more romantic legend is that of the "lady living in the moon" dating back to ancient times, to a day when ten suns appeared at once in the sky. The Emperor ordered a famous archer to shoot down the nine extra suns. Once the task was accomplished, the Goddess of Western Heaven rewarded the archer with a pill that would make him immortal. However, following a series of events, his beautiful wife found the pill, took it, and floated upwards to the sky and settled on the moon as a result. Legend says that her beauty is greatest on the day of the Moon festival.
(picture from http://www.ebeijing.gov.cn/Culture/EnjoyBJ/t950624.htm)

19 September 2012

Dog tales: torn paw pads and broken toe nails

Sounds painful doesn't it?

And it was, by the way our poor Rottweiler was limping. And it was all in the name of fun.

Hubs had gotten a new remote  controlled buggy (more for him and the Rottie to play with, rather than for the kids!) and Rottie was having a marvelous time chasing it up and down the driveway and all around the garden. Her hunting instincts were fully turned on!

Then my little girl exclaimed that the Rottie's paws were bleeding, and indeed there were red swirls all over the driveway and car porch. Not that the Rottie noticed, while she was having so much fun.

But later, the pain set in.

I examined her paws and found that all 4 paw pads were torn and cracked, with some of the black spongy padding dangling loosely. And several of her toe nails were broken too.

Well, the poor Rottie didn't move much for a day or two after. She was clearly in pain, and only got up and moved when she needed to relieve herself.

I had never experienced this with any of my dogs before. Some reading-up on the net turned up lots of discussions on what to do about this not-uncommon problem. Here are pictures of other dogs who have the same problem.

Fortunately, I had done most of the recommended stuff - cleaned her paws, disinfected them with Betadine and kept her off her feet. If it had been any of my other dogs, I would have let them heal by themselves, with some pampering.

But with the Rottie, we spoil her rotten, so the vet was called in. He said it wasn't anything serious, but gave her a jab to safeguard against maggots and gave her some painkiller and antibiotics.

Well, another experience with the Rottie...

My garden in Ipoh

Three years on in Ipoh, my garden reflects the blossoming life that we have adapted to in our new town. Well, not so new now.

We have come to love our house and our life here.

I am happy to share the fruits and flowers of my labour.

The light blue plumbago bloom profusely, especially in the drier months. They are hardy and maintenance-free, save for the occasional trim.

 The heliconias were painstakingly planted by yours truly next to the filtering station for our fish pond. It is another species of hardy flowering plants, well suited to our tropical climate.

The anthuriums are a new addition, which I added to a shaded sandy patch that Bonnie my dog kept digging up. She stays away now that the anthuriums have taken up residence there.

These lantanas are also relatively new to the garden. I was looking for something to brighten up the lawn area on the front left portion and read that lantanas provide colour with little care. They sure do brighten up the garden! But when you bend down close to the flowers, they don't smell like roses! They give out a slightly offending smell, probably for its self defence.

The periwinkles are doing fine, and I especially love the bright pink ones. Really easy to grow.

I wasn't too sure about the pentas (star-flowers) as they looked quite delicate. But they too have flourished.

Of course the white spider lillies, the first to be planted into our garden, have proven sturdy and reliable bloomers.

My umbra (kedondong) have been a joy. They produced fruit 9 months into the ground, just as the lady who sold the plant to me said it would, and hasn't stopped since. I've juiced it and enjoyed them as rojak.

My little mango tree with its flower buds, ready to give another crop of fruit.

This custard apple tree (nona) came with us from KL, from my mother's garden. It gives succulent and sweet apples.

I hunted around for this butterfly pea flower, so that we may use its blooms as natural colouring for desserts.

The roselle, has provided its calyx from which we made natural "Ribena"! I have half a dozen more seedlings soon to be transplanted.

My lush basil, superb for garnishing, as a clear soup, for making pesto. So wonderful to walk alongside the basil patch as its aroma fills the air. And my Rottie dashes in and out of them to catch butterflies.

Bayam kampung, and my brinjal plants.

Cat's whiskers (misai kucing) look delicate and bright. Will read up on how to use its leaves for tea.


The jatropha and costas are doing well.

My limau purut (kaffir lime), with fragrant leaves, perfect for curries. The fruits are plentiful and it is such a pity to waste them, but I have found no recipe for them. I tried making  juice from the kaffir lime, but my advice is please don't! The juice smells pleasant and fragrant, but it has a powerful bitter aftertaste. So, looks like the fruit will just adorn the tree with no use in the kitchen.

23 August 2012

Kidzania, Kuala Lumpur

Children everywhere, lights, noise, excitement......greeted us the moment we entered the 5th floor of Kidzania in Mutiara Damansara.

I was pretty excited myself.

We were somewhat confused when we first arrived to find ourselves at what appeared to be AirAsia check-in counters! They had made the registration counters a mimic of AirAsia, and the kids couldn't wait to go upstairs.

Kidzania  is a theme park for kids with a twist - children get to role-play adult professions. Children perform "jobs" and are either paid for their work (as a fireman, doctor, police officer, journalist, shopkeeper, etc.) or pay to shop or to be entertained. There is Kidzania currency, which teaches children about earning, spending and saving.

A key component of the KidZania experience is the integration of real-world brands to sponsor the "city's" business and activities. Sponsors comprise major local brands across industries such as airlines, banking, fast food, utilities, mobile phone operators, car makers etc. Brands and companies that children can recognize and relate to.

Kidzania in Malaysia is one of 11 Kidzania chapters (currently). Hey! It's rare that KL got picked ahead of Singapore for any major franchise.....it's a good thing that Malaysians are multi-lingual as tourists can bring their kids here since English is used. Singapore will get its own Kidzania in 2014.

My son homed into the secret agent station, while my little girl seemed lost and confused. She didn't quite understand the concept at first and said she didn't want to work, she wanted to "play".

We spent a long time waiting for my son to get his turn at playing secret agent and in the end we left him there. I took my little girl to the Pos Laju job station and she donned the uniform and teamed up with 2 other "work mates" and off they went with their instructions to pick up 3 packages. Of course moms were hot on their heels, and when the "nagivator" got lost, the dads stepped in to tell the kids which way to go to CIMB bank and TNB for their pickups. For their efforts, they were paid 10 Kidzania dollars each. My little girl now understood the concept and wanted to work more!

My son finally got his turn to be secret agent and had a lot of fun. He also scaled the 100+ wall to ring the bell at the top, surprising me with his success as the climb didn't look very easy and he isn't exactly the McGyver-type! Well done, son!

My girl also had a makeup session that she had to pay for, and brother-and-sister worked together at the BHP station as well as had a cooking class at the Ayam Brand shop. My advice - SKIP the Ayam Brand cooking class. It was a waste of time, boring, and a waste of Kidzania money! We will go for the Marry Brown burger cooking class next time.

There are still many many more professions that we didn't have time to try. Looks like repeat visits are inevitable. I should let them open Kidzania CIMB accounts the next time we are there......

Food Foundry, Section 17, PJ.

It's not a place you would imagine you would go to for coffee, some Asian-Western fusion food, and cakes. After all, it's not your swanky Bangsar or Mont Kiara.

Section 17 PJ is well located and well known as an old neighbourhood, just off the Sprint Highway. There are many coffee shops here offering good local fare, many of which have been covered by food bloggers.

The Food Foundry is located on the ground floor of the Happy Mansion Flats on Jalan 17/13. The middle block to be exact and you have to take a left and drive round to the back. Its popularity has been high and appears to be sustaining, judging by the number of bloggers writing about it, and also its expansion. The last time I was there, it was still a single shoplot. Now, it has taken over the adjacent 3 shop lots!

My daughter has developed a taste for the Food Foundry's vanilla mille crepe cake. So this school holidays, whilst visiting gran and gramps, we ordered a 1kg crepe cake to take home to Ipoh (RM85). Was she pleased!

We ended up having lunch at the Food Foundry 2 days in a row, once with friends and once with family. My son and daughter enjoyed the fish chips, steak sandwich and pasta bolognese, while I had the spicy chicken pasta and chicken cordon bleu over the 2 lunches. Hubby had the mixed grill, as did Dad while Mom followed the kids with fish and chips.

It's nice having this little restaurant/ cafe so close by to us in PJ with something to make everyone happy.

14 August 2012

Can a dog get diarrhea from getting its tail pulled?

Now this is the first time I have ever heard that a dog could get diarrhea from having its tail pulled.

I pull at my dog's tail, sometimes.

Before all the dog lovers and animal lovers out there get hysterically upset, can I just tell you that I pull it gently, only very occasionally and never to distress my dog. It's more play and affection, and my dog knows that and likes it. And she has never ever gone to defecate straight after I pull her tail.

So when my brother-in-law's wife saw this rare and unusual form of play the other day, she almost had a fit and practically shouted, "Don't do that! The dog will get diarrhea!"


I have done a cursory search on the net about this statement and also asked friends on FB to comment. All I have turned up is lots of people's comments that it is "mean", "dumb", "bad", "cruel" to pull a dog's tail but no definitive experience of a dog actually being triggered into having a bout of diarrhea.

On one of  Yahoo's pages, a reader responded to a similar question posted there like this "It makes me sick to even think about a dog getting it's tail pulled so much, that it would stress it out enough to cause it to get diarrhea."

This is a very emotional reaction (typical of people besotted with pets I am afraid), without calm thought. The person who had asked the question merely wanted to know if it was possible that a dog could get diarrhea from getting its tail pulled too much? Answer the question; and not frolic off on your own venting about how disgusted you are that a dog might be stressed enough to get diarrhea because it got its tail pulled.This kind of response contributes nothing to the knowledge-sharing purpose of a forum.

So is this a myth, an old wife's tale?

Found this video on youtube while searching for information on this topic. 

07 August 2012

Datuk Lee Chong Wei, our 2012 Olympics Badminton HERO

On Sunday night 5 August 2012, my young family, along with the rest of Malaysia, sat down at 8pm to watch our hero Lee Chong Wei, attempt to win gold in his second and most likely final, Olympics outing, in London.

My children are now just old enough to sit through a whole game, to understand the meaning of victory-defeat, to begin to feel national pride.  And Lee Chong Wei has done a stellar job in uniting all Malaysians in the great spirit of sports and international competition.

Win or lose, DLCW, you are indeed Malaysia's hero and you will be forever remembered in history as our first and to date, only, badminton singles Olympics silver medal winner. Congratulations! 

List of medalists

Medal Name Games Sport Event
 Bronze Razif Sidek & Jalani Sidek Spain 1992 Barcelona Badminton pictogram.svg Badminton Men's doubles
 Silver Cheah Soon Kit & Yap Kim Hock United States 1996 Atlanta Badminton pictogram.svg Badminton Men's doubles
 Bronze Rashid Sidek United States 1996 Atlanta Badminton pictogram.svg Badminton Men's singles
 Silver Lee Chong Wei China 2008 Beijing Badminton pictogram.svg Badminton Men's singles
 Silver Lee Chong Wei United Kingdom 2012 London Badminton pictogram.svg Badminton Men's singles
 Bronze Pandelela Rinong Pamg United Kingdom 2012 London Diving pictogram.svg Diving Women's 10 metre platform

We were all crushed when the gold again went to China's Lin Dan, seemingly unbeatable. It was heartbreaking to see DLCW visibly shattered and struggling to hold back his tears, but he did cry a little. And we cried along with him.

My little girl was very sympathetic. She said DLCW was very brave. She said nobody should laugh at him because no one else in Malaysia could have played as well. She's right! And in her childish mind, she must have imagined the loser being jeered and boo-ed which she declared should not happen to DLCW!

As for my older boy, he was disappointed at the loss and also at the prospect of having lost a possible public holiday. Such is the thinking of kids! He also said some nasty things about LD but I told him that in sport, in any competition, there must be a winner and a loser. And one must uphold that gracious spirit of sportsmanship in accepting the outcome of a challenge. And DLCW could not have been more gracious, more controlled and humble in accepting his defeat.

DLCW, you don't have to apologise. We thank you for being Malaysia's badminton hero, for your tireless and dedicated training, for your courage in facing unimaginable pressure, the expectations of a nation and your own physical injuries and pain. Thank you and well done.
(table of medal tally from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysia_at_the_Olympics)