Thursday, 27 December 2012

Happy, Happy Holidays

Everyone seems to be in a holiday mood in December, what with the schools being closed till the new year. Most families go 'cuti-cuti Malaysia' or even overseas. Selamat bercuti or Selamat makan angin!!  But we must not forget our friends especially in the east coast states of Kelantan, Trengganu and Pahang where the monsoon now brings floods. Let's pray the situation improves and those in the flood relief centres/shelters can go home.

Since being a pensioner, life seems to be a holiday all the time - mostly at home, of course. So I try to surround myself with things I like; a library of books to read and reread, and a little garden to tend. Didn't Cicero say that "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything"?

Still, I do enjoy travelling and would have loved to go on holidays overseas recently with the family, if I could. But as disclosed earlier, I am medically grounded for now. Hopefully the situation will get better and I can plan to go somewhere in Spring or Summer next year. Wish me luck! Anyway I vicariously enjoyed their holidays through their photos, some of which I have posted here.

This is my last blog post for the year. I will be back in 2013. Joyous holidays and a happy new year!

B & A at the gates of the Buckingham Palace (Dec 2012)

A at the Christmas market in Notting Hill (BB 2012)

B at Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford on Avon (AB 2012)

Eer... to which Scottish clans do A & B belong to? (Dec 2012) 

B on Princes Street, Edinburgh (AB 2012)

B and friend Su 'on' the London Eye (Dec 2012) 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Little Santas at The Curve (CNB 2012)

Here's wishing everyone who celebrate it, a very merry Christmas!

I have always thought that the shopping malls, especially in Kuala Lumpur, go overboard when it comes to celebrating Christmas. But I guess being a year end occasion is an advantage. After all it is the holiday season and the malls are alive with shoppers while the tills sing a lot!

X'mas market Malaysian style (CNB 2012)

Monday, 24 December 2012

A Card from Stella

Every year in December, I look forward to receiving a 'Seasons Greeting' card from Stella, my ex-boss at the Salford College of Technology Library (England), where I used to work in the late 1970's.

'Have a merry Christmas to N & family with love from Stella'

The card above came last week, although this time there is no long letter to accompany it. Stella used to hand write about her year long activities, photocopy the letter (sometimes up to four pages long), and send it to her close friends and family during the festive season, along with her handmade greeting cards.

Then she started to type her letters using a word processor, duplicate and send them out. But since last year she has resorted to e-mail. In her keeping up with technology, we miss the handwritten letters. Even her cards are no longer self made, but at least they are from the Woodland Trust*, like the one above. Such is life ...

* 'protecting the world's forests for the future'

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Raft & Rail at Bukit Merah Lake

On our 'makeshift' raft, ready for a race

During a USM 'PIMPIN' (Leadership) programme sometime in 2003, we were stationed at the Bukit Merah Laketown Resort. One of the trials we had to endure was to co-operate in building a raft, float it on the lake and ride it against other groups in a race to ensure the raft stayed in one piece!

By the way, the Bukit Merah Lake has our KTM railroad passing through it. I recall the numerous times in the 1960's during school term breaks, when we traversed the lake during our rail journeys from Seremban/KL to Butterworth/Pulau Pinang and vice versa. No wonder the trains were going ever so slowly along this narrow ridge with scenic views of Bukit Merah Lake on both sides. A bit scary when you really think about it!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Eating out in SA: Restoran Tunas Rohayu

This very unpretentious restaurant 'Tunas Rohayu' is located in the PKNS complex in the Shah Alam city centre. If I have something to do at the PKNS: Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor/Selangor Development Corporation (like making a complaint about what I think may be a sinkhole developing in front of our gate), then I time it such that I can have an early lunch (11.30 am -12.00 noon) at this restaurant. When the food is freshly cooked and laid out.

My dish of gulai kawah and sayur pucuk paku on white rice
 (CNB 2012)

The owner being from Negri Sembilan, so the food is mainly Minang/Negri Sembilan. My favourite dish is always the gulai kawah (reminiscent of my TKC Seremban days), with luscious lumps of beef fat floating in the kuah (gravy). Yummy! Now you know why one cannot eat here too often. But, as the owner said to me, 'Tak pe, makan lemak tu sekali sekala, lepas rindu makan gulai kawah!'  He knows I eat there often enough.

I always have a vegetable dish to go with my gulai kawah and there are a variety to choose from - pucuk paku, pucuk manis, rebung, taugeh, sawi, bayam, ubi, terung, tempe etc., etc. The vegetable dishes may be masak lemak, masak air, or goreng cabai. (Is tempe a vegetable? Are soya beans that it is made of, vegetables? I guess so.)

Other than the beef gulai kawah that I have gushed about, there are a variety of chicken and fish dishes. All delicious!

The array of food at Tunas Rohayu (CNB 2013)
*Update September 2014: This eatery was recently renovated and renamed Restoran Rohayu. The food remains the same - good!

Monday, 17 December 2012

SA Garden Catalogue: Chinese Gardenia

It's December and the rain falls everyday, making it quite wet always. As usual at this time of year, the garden thrives well, and I have not needed to water it for some time already (except of course for the plants under the porch or indoors).

The Gardenia is a shrub 2-3 metres tall, bearing large white fragrant flowers throughout the year. The flower may be single or double, and has a rich 'tropical' scent. It soon turns black in the centre and the petals become yellow. Its dried corollas are used to flavour tea.

The everflowering Gardenia (CNB 2012)

Common name: Chinese gardenia; Cape jasmine
Malay name: Bunga Cina
Scientific name: Gardenia jasminoides/G. augusta/G. florida
Family: Rubiaceae/Coffee family
Origin: China, Japan

I have the common garden form, the double variety, in my garden, grown on the ground. They may also be grown in containers. This plant likes full or partial sun and are easily propagated by cuttings. The plants I have now, have been grown from cuttings taken from plants I had grown in Pulau Pinang.

Gardenia grown in a container (CNB 2009)

Other Gardenias are the Gardenia carinata or Kedah gardenia, and Gardenia tubifera or Trumpet gardenia which have yellow flowers and their origin is Malaysia and Indonesia. Another is the Gardenia sp. with white six-petalled flowers, possibly the original single-flowered form of Gardenia jasminoides.

The gardenia shrub growing in full sun (CNB 2012)

With the daily rains, the neighbourhood cats have taken to pooping in the garden containers wherever there are soil spaces to do so. As recommended, I tried putting chili flakes/used tea leaves/orange rind in the containers, but to no avail. They still come. Maybe I should buy some tiger/lion poop pellets as also recommended, because the cats are supposed to be afraid of any other bigger cat in their area.

On a happier note, this morning as I was driving out to the city centre, I saw a huge crane flying circles up in the sky. I guess the birds escaping the northern hemisphere winter are now arriving on our shores. Welcome!

Ref: 1. Tropical horticulture & gardening/Ng   2. Plants and flowers of Malaysia/Polunin

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Lake Club Luncheon

Part of the luncheon party. Front L-R: Kazi, Ling, TS Asiah, Aki, Ju.
Back L-R: Rod, Nik Mun, Pah, Rohani, Rosmah, Ajit, moi, Tiffy, Emah, Karimah  

Last Friday, the 14th December, our TKC batch of 1964-1970, had afternoon lunch at the Kelab Taman Perdana Diraja KL (The Royal Lake Club) to celebrate our friendship over the years, with our special guest being Ling, back home for her year end holidays. The other special presence was that of our ex-Principal, Tan Sri Asiah Abu Samah.

With Ling & TS Asiah

The turnout was good, with friends from outstation as well, including Ijan from Trengganu, Che Ah from Alor Star, and Amah & Ain from Seremban.

L-R: Ijan, Zaleha, Shahid, Rosmah, Nik Mun & Ajit (CNB 2012)

Rohani & Che Ah (CNB 2012)

Amah & Ain, both from Seremban (CNB 2012)

Others from around KL/Selangor who came were Shahid & Rod (our able organisers always), Rohani, Raja, Kazi, Aki, Ras, Nik Esah, Nik Mun, Ajit, Pah, Zaleha, Rosmah, Karimah, Emah, Tiffy, Ju and moi.

Zaleha & Shahid (CNB 2012)

Ras, Nik Esah & Raja (CNB 2012)

It was Ling's birthday a few days earlier so we had a birthday cake for her. 'A very happy birthday and many more to come'. Anyway, she was positively glowing and loving her life & work in Vienna, Austria. We were all very glad for her indeed.

Ling cuts her birthday cake (CNB 2012)

A pose before adieu 

All good gatherings must come to an end, so after nearly three hours of food and banter, we had to say our farewells and adieus - till we meet again in the near future.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

David's Profile

Michelangelo's David is the main attraction at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Firenze/Florence, Italy.
Perhaps the world's most famous, this colossal statue was carved from a single block of marble when Michelangelo was 29 years old.

The magnificent statue was originally in the Piazza della Signoria, but moved into the Galleria for obvious reasons. A copy stands in the Piazza now. You may photograph the copy, but never the original. We cowered at the sight of hawked eyed guards at the Galleria who ensure no one does so.

So as promised a year ago, here is a photo of a postcard of David bought at the Galleria. There are tons of images of David in his full glory out there in the Internet, but here you may only ogle at the sheer beauty of his profile. Enjoy!

Ref: Lonely Planet's "Italy" 2006

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

12.12.12 at Perpustakaan Raja Tun Uda, PPAS

(CNB 12.12.12)

I decided to renew my membership at the still quite new Raja Tun Uda Library of the Selangor Public Library Corporation/PPAS - Perbadanan Perpustakaan Awam Selangor) on the 12th day of the 12th month of the 12th year of 2000. Just to remember this special day of this century in, where else but a Library. (Also, you can retire a person from the Library, but you cannot keep her away from Libraries!)

On moving to Shah Alam, I immediately joined the Selangor Public Library in the Shah Alam city centre, next door to the Selangor State Museum. After a while I stopped going because I found the books there old and tired. So I let my membership lapse in 2009. Meanwhile the Library moved to a brand new building and location opposite the KGSAAS (Kelab Golf Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah) in Section 13, in July last year.

The Library facade facing the lake (CNB 2012)

What can I say? I am impressed because the Library is sited near a lake, a site especially chosen by the Sultan of Selangor. Although the front facade looks like that of a factory building to me, the other side facing the lake is all glass and modern.

View of the lake from the main lobby area (CNB 2012)

Be dazzled when looking up the various floors (CNB 2012)

Inside, the six storeys of services/facilities are also very modern and quite attractive. There are levels for Reference, Adults, Juvenile/Youth and Children. It is 'shoes off' on the various floors to ensure the wall to wall carpeting is kept almost dust-free and clean. But there are bags to put your shoes in to take with you while you use the library.

The sofas on the reference/reading floors are plush and very inviting to sit and browse the books awhile. The bookshelves are well signposted, though I did not really browse around to check the titles available. Yes, I prefer to physically find a book I like on the shelf rather than check the online catalogue. So the three books I borrowed this time were those I found on the new acquisitions exhibit shelves.

The second floor reading/viewing area (CNB 2012)

Perhaps the shelves need more books? (CNB 2012)

The XD theatre (CNB 2012)
As a Selangor resident, membership is free, but you do have to pay for some services, like the XD/3D  theatre experience. Facilities include prayer rooms and gyms, as well as the cafeteria/eateries. So you can spend a whole day at the Library if you really want to!

I left after having lunch of nasi campur at the cafeteria area, a cantilevered extension of the Library building, also overlooking the lake. My next visit will be in three weeks time, to return the three books borrowed and get new ones, and to linger awhile at the Library and its beautiful environs.

My lunch at the cafeteria area (CNB 2012)

12.12.12 (Photos in the Library taken with kind permission)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Tea at the Padang Mahkota, IAS, Klang

Majlis Jamuan Teh Diraja Bersama-sama Pesara Kerajaan Sempena Sambutan Ulang Tahun Hari Keputeraan Yang Ke 67 Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan Selangor 
Sunday, 9 December 2012, 3.00 pm

1. Storm clouds loom over the venue, the Padang Mahkota at Istana Alam Shah, as guests arrive. It did rain when we were under the tents. It is December after all.

(CNB 2012)

2. The 'Birthday Boy', the Sultan of Selangor, mingling with the guests. He must have shook at least a thousand hands that afternoon.

(CNB 2012)

3. One of three tents under which the 1,500 guests are seated. The waiters, both male and female, were very efficient. I think they were from the UiTM Hotel Catering and Management School.

(CNB 2012)

4. With some of my table mates; new acquaintances. The food was okay; traditional kuehs, fusion snacks, buffalo chicken wings, lasagna, tuna croissant sandwiches, meatballs, mee goreng, meat & mushroom pie, etc., etc.

(CNB 2012)

5. The Entertainment was fabulous: The Traditional Ensemble;

(CNB 2012)

6. The Brass Band (I cannot remember which school in Klang, or was it the Police Band?);

(CNB 2012)

7. ... and the Jazz Band from UiTM (?) which played beautiful golden oldies; most appropriate for pensioner guests. Some of the music they played just made you want to get up and dance!

(CNB 2012)

Happy 67th birthday, Tuanku. And many more to come.

Note: Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah's actual birth date is the 24th December, but it is officially celebrated on the 11th December, a public holiday for the state of Selangor.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

A House & Garden in Sik

First things first. Sik, the town in the district of the same name in Kedah, is pronounced as in the English 'sake', not 'sick'! This is what the locals there always remind you, if you are not saying it right, as some newscasters are wont to do on national television.

Anyway, about the house and garden in Sik. One of my siblings AE is married to a Sik lass and so lives there with his family of five children. They live in the house her late father bequeathed her, and its pretty big and spacious. (Once I slept in the huge guest room that just had too many shadows in the large spaces - it was just spooky and I did not sleep well all night!)

With Sis CY, nephew NI & Bro AE 

Bro AE has green fingers and grows a fairly nice garden. But as he pointed out to me, except for the pond that had to have the earth dug out, the rest of his garden grows on batas or mounds/beds of earth carefully planned around the driveway, around the peripheries and other spaces in between as necessary. No need for any back breaking digging; just throw some flower seeds on the batas and watch the plants grow. So simple, ah?
Bro AE's son by the pond (CNB 2008)

Posing by a flower bed 

At the back of the house is a river and sometimes you can harvest siput sedut (an edible snail) there. The river did overflow its banks some years ago and the flood waters submerged and destroyed quite a bit of furniture in the house. Hopefully it will not happen again.

When in Sik, there is the Peranginan Sik, Hutan Lipur/Rimba Rekreasi Lata Mengkuang (Recreational Forest) and the man-made Beris Lake. And do not forget Beris Vineyards, for a taste of locally grown grapes.

Hutan Lipur Lata Mengkuang (AE 2008)

Just lepak-ing by Beris Lake
Dec 2008 etc.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Books I Love: As I was Passing

As I was Passing, by Sri Delima, was first published in book form in 1976, from a selection of her series column in the New Straits Times. She writes with wit and humour on the idiosyncrasies of Malaysian life. I acquired this book hot off the Berita Publishing's printers in 1976 at the princely sum of M$4.50! (As I was Passing II published in 2007 retails at RM32.90. Err... this is just to show you how the cost of books have gone up over the years).

If like me, you like looking back, then this book is worth dipping into often. You cannot help chuckling as Adibah Amin (the real name of Sri Delima) describes the 'antics' of the characters in the real world of our multicultural society. Her takes on our festive seasons, our kampung and city lives, etc. are a nostalgic record indeed of life in the good old days. There I go again ...

Ex Libris CNB 0577

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Snapshots: Postcards from Vietnam

A smiling bread vendor

I was sifting through some postcards (another collection!), and I found these very nice postcards that we bought two years ago* in Hanoi. So I rephoto-ed and re-captioned them and voila! Of course all credits go to the photographers, not moi.

A sea of non la (conical hats)

BOBs (boys on buffaloes) in the countryside

Uncle Ho and the Vietnam flags

Fish traps being transported to the market

3 Pigs and 2 humans on a bike

The many faces of water puppets

Note* We were in North Vietnam in November 2010