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)