Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Blooming Tabebuia

Tabebuia at the Tasek Bestari (CNB 2013)

July sees the blooming of flowers on many of our roadside trees and also trees in the parks. Among the most beautiful and colourful are the Tabebuia or 'trumpet' trees. We were passing by the Bestari Lake in Shah Alam and noticed that some of the Tabebuia trees had pretty blossoms of yellow, pink, purple or white and the area looked like a natural wonderland. Unfortunately the Tabebuia blossoms do not last long and after only 2-3 days, the flowers are all gone. C'est la vie!

Plant facts: Family Bignoniceae, Origin: American tropics and subtropics from Mexico and Caribbean to Argentina. In 1992 Gentry listed 99 species + 1 hybrid, but in 2007 were revised into 3 separate genera: Tabebuia (67 species), Primavera & Roseodendron.

(Pic: Tabebuia in USM)
(In progress)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Books I Love: By Judy Blume

Judy Blume is one of the most honoured yet most censored authors of books for children and young adults. We had started reading Judy Blume at about the same time that we did Roald Dahl (in the late 80s). Like Dahl, she is known for her children's books rather than her adult novels, and between B, A, and I, we have read and reread most, if not all of them.

Our collection of Judy Blume books (CNB)

The One in the Middle is a Green Kangaroo, Blume's first published book, is about Freddy, a middle child between an older brother and a younger sister, out to prove he is special despite feeling like "the peanut butter part of a sandwich". The Pain and the Great One,  is another picture book about sibling rivalry between an eight-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother. A story book for very young readers is Freckle Juice, about the small-boy adventure of Andrew.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is about Peter Hatcher and his terrible problem - a little brother called Fudge! (This is a first in a five book series "The Fudge Books", of which we only have, and read four). Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great is about Peter's nemesis, the capable Sheila who also has her secret fears. Superfudge has 11-year old Peter who has to deal with his little brother Fudge going to kindergarten in his same school. Fudge-a-mania, sees Peter spending a Summer stuck with his five year old 'human hurricane' of a brother Fudge and Sheila 'the Cootie Queen'. Double Fudge, which we do not have and have yet to read, sees the sibling rivalry between Peter and Fudge continue into a new school year.

Blume has written nine books for the Middle Grade, and I think these are her best stories. 1. Iggie's House is set in the late 60s and Winnie welcomes the first black family at her all-white neighbourhood of Grove Street. 2. Blubber is about under-twelve social dynamics in school; about bullies in 5th grade. 3. Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself is about a 5th grader in Miami Beach, 1947. 4. It's not the end of the World is about Karen trying to reconcile her fighting and 'talking about divorce' parents. 5. Are You There God? It's Me Margaret seems to be a favourite of most adolescent girls. 6th grader Margaret talks to God often, about her adolescence and boys. 6. Then Again, Maybe I Won't is about the life of twelve-year old Tony and his newly rich family and their move to an affluent Long Island neighbourhood. 7. Deenie deals with scoliosis and the protagonist Deenie's handle on the brace that she has to wear and her adjustments dealing with friends, including boys. 8. Just as Long as We are Together is the companion book to Here's to You, Rachel Robinson. It is about the two best friends Rachel and Stephanie and a new girl who has moved in. 9. Here's to You, Rachel Robinson is about 7th grade Rachel and her friends Stephanie and Alison. Rachel who strives for perfection in everything she does, needs their help to lighten up.

For what is now categorised as YA or Young Adult books, Blume wrote Forever (1975), a story dealing with first love and teenage sexuality. Despite being the target of censorship, this book won the 1966 ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults. While many of Dahl's books were translated into films, Blume's were mostly failed projects until only recently, when her only other young adult book, Tiger Eyes was made into a movie by her own son. Tiger Eyes is about Davey, who's father was killed, and her friendship with a young man in New Mexico who helps her find the strength to move on.

We have all three of Blume's books for adult readers, which B brought back from the US of A some time ago. I must admit that I have only read one, Wifey. The other two that I have not yet read are Smart Women, (the story of two divorced friends and their two teenaged daughters, and the complex triangle when one falls in love with the other's ex) and Summer Sisters, a novel covering nearly twenty summers in the lives of two friends. I will put them on my list of books to read 2014, because my 2013 list is already full!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Colours of My Life: Red

I was checking out Life in Color; National Geographic Photographs, and was inspired to do my own series of photographs I have taken, based on colours too, beginning with RED.

"Red, the colour of human blood, symbolises passion, fire, love, and anger. In Eastern cultures, it also connotes luck and prosperity. Red occurs throughout nature, from dying stars to dying leaves, and humans have evoked its powers for everything from politics to sports".

Roses are red, my love ... so also are chilies, strawberries, barberries, little fish, Chinese lanterns, Ferraris, etc., etc.

1. I spotted these red cili padi (bird's chili, bird's eye chili) at the Kinarut Tamu (market) in Sabah. But you would be able to find cili padi in most open/wet markets and supermarkets. They are really spicy fiery hot!

2. Delicious red strawberries on my birthday cake baked by Sarah. Most delicious, thank you! We happened to be in Kota Kinabalu on my birthday recently. Penel & family had graciously invited us to dinner (and this surprise birthday treat) at their home.

3. In Persian cuisine, these berries (Berberis/Barberry) called zereshk in Farsi, are used to make zereshk polo (rice pilaf with barberry), also to garnish plain rice. You can buy the juice in a bottle, but the photo below shows a bowlful of the dried berries that have been soaked in hot water. Sugar is added to drink this concoction, said to be rich in vitamin C. Cheers!      Note: Zereshk is also the name of a village in Qazvin, Iran

4. Our ubiquitous drink of the sweet red syrup (air sirap/serbat) is enjoyed at most wedding kenduris, and other festivities. Here the red syrup with biji selasih is served at a Ramadhan buffet at the Concorde Shah Alam.

5. This little red fish in a bowl is our Ghahraman (Champion), shown here in a Haftsin setting on our coffee table during Nowruz of 2010. A red fish is one of the lucky symbols representing life.

6. The Chinese revere the colour red. Especially during the Lunar New Year, red is found every where. Angpow packets are red, lanterns are red, cheongsams too are usually red. This huge lantern was part of the NY decorations at Suria KLCC.

7. "Ferrari masuk kampung".  Like the proverbial 'Rusa masuk kampung' this car looked pretty out of place in the tranquil setting of padi fields in a kampung/village in Kedah. I took this photo when A was shooting in a drama 'Kerana Dia' which required her to ride in a red Ferrari.

8. Red attracts attention, as the coke tin below did when we were out walking on the beach at Nexus Karambunai, Sabah. The almost pristine beach was littered with this solitary and outstanding 'rubbish'.

9. This sculpture of a 'red man', I found at the entrance to a hotel in a shopping mall here (Empire Gallery). There are many sculptures of 'red people' by China's artists. I also saw some in an art gallery in Singapore (see my 18 November 2011 posting).

10. Evoking the power of red in commerce and industry, we have CIMB Bank, Air Asia 'Now everyone can fly', even Coca Cola, to name a few. But here a restaurant outlet in a mall has a red wall and a grandma on wheels to entice you in. Would you dine here?

All photos by CNB.  Ref: National Geographic's 'Life in Color'. 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Landmarks of Selangor: Istana Alam Shah

The Istana Mahkota, 1903

Istana Alam Shah or Alam Shah Palace in Klang was constructed in 1960, in place of the old Istana Mahkota. Istana Mahkota, built for Sultan Suleiman for his installation in 1903, was demolished in the 1950's when work on the present Istana began on the same site. Since its construction, the Palace has undergone enlargement and significant renovation, and was the venue for the installation ceremony of the present Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah in 2003.

The Istana Alam Shah, 1960 -  (CNB 2013)

A central octagonal tower topped by a golden onion dome dominates the palace design with two wings on the side. "The high-pitched blue-tiled roofs on the new wings have been modified at the ends which are two pitched, curved gables typical of east-coast houses, in place of the old hipped roof".

The golden onion dome (CNB 2013)

The Palace is on an elevated location, overlooking the Sultan Sulaiman Mosque (see blog post 6 January 2013) and reached by a flight of stairs. 

(In progress)
Ref: Landmarks of Selangor. Jugra Publicaations. 2003.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Portraits of Sabahans

Sabah is fascinating, not just for being the site of world famous Mt Kinabalu and Sipadan, but for its interesting people. When M and I were in Sabah in March, we observed that Sabahans, no matter their ethnicity or tribe, are mainly most friendly and helpful. Who are the people of Sabah?

"Modern-day Sabah has been shaped by a diverse range of ethnicities, with the majority of Sabahans members of at least one of more than 30 groups. By far the biggest is the Kadazan-Dusun which comprises the Kadazan, people of the plains, and the Dusun, mountain farmers. But it also includes 40 other related tribes. The Sabah coast has long been influenced by outside groups to such an extent that the second biggest ethnic group is the Bajau, descended from nomadic seafarers and emigrants from the Philippines, just a couple of hours to the North" (Niall McIlroy for Sabah Tourism, 2011).

Here I share some photos of Sabahans who(m) we came across during our trip.
1. Pretty Eliccolina, a Dusun, works at the Jim Thompson outlet at the Nexus Karambunai Resort. She was very gracious when I went into the outlet to buy a tee.

2. Janurin works at the Lagoon Park Karambunai. He is a Bajau Darat from Tuaran and very knowledgeable about the fauna and flora in the area. He also made us aware of  the jelly fish season.

3. These girls and a boy are the very helpful front office staff at the Nexus Karambunai. I jotted down their names in my notebook, but mislaced it somewhere. When I do find it, I will name them.

4. Ever smiling Yana is one of the North Borneo Railway stewards serving on the train we took from Tanjung Aru to Papar and back. Her uniform and the thermos flasks complete the vintage train experience.

5. A fish seller at the Kinarut Tamu shows off a fish to customers. I forgot to ask his name or the name of the large fish!

6. A man selling the wakid (traditional baskets) at the back of a van at the Kinarut Tamu. He was quite happy to pose for this photo.

7. These two boys (brothers) were helping out their mother at the Kota Belud Tamu and gamely posed for this picture.

8. This beautiful old lady reminded me of my grandmother Maimunah. The way she wears her selendang as headgear is also reminiscent of how the Malay women of yore wore theirs. Now the 'tudung' is the norm.

9. This jovial lady sells tobacco and sireh at the Kota Belud Tamu. She'd offered me some sireh to try, which I found too 'sharp' for my taste. She obviously loves her sireh as her almost scarlet tongue testify. She was also one of the very few at the Tamu to sport a native headgear.

10. A young Malay woman at the Kota Kinabalu town centre dry food market. We bought some local snacks from her.

March 2013 (All pics by CNB)

Monday, 22 July 2013

Commuting from SA to KL by Train

RM5 return ticket SA-KL Sentral-SA (CNB 2013)

Sometimes when I need to go to Kuala Lumpur for something or other, I find that rather than driving there, taking the commuter train from Shah Alam is more convenient. Then I never need worry or stress about the parking problem when I get to KL. And I time it such that it is not rush hour to and fro. If I'm lucky, it is a new train and the interior is fine. If not, it is still fine because most of the time I either look out the window or people watch. I also choose to be in the pink 'Ladies only' coach, though some recalcitrant males can always be found here.

The commuter from Port Klang arrives at Shah Alam station
(CNB 2013)

The pink 'coach for ladies only' (CNB 2013)

No, no, no, no, no, no, no! None of these on-board! (CNB 2013)

The journey to KL Sentral takes about 40-45 minutes, with nine stations in between: Batu Tiga, Subang Jaya, Setia Jaya, Seri Setia, Kg Dato' Harun, Jalan Templar, Petaling, Pantai Dalam, and Angkasapuri. Sometimes I go on to Kuala Lumpur Railway Station or Mid Valley, or hop on the LRT or even the Monorail to another destination.

Busy KL Sentral (CNB 2013)

I love train travel, long or short, fast or slow. I have done the KTM North-South route but have yet to do the Gemas/West-East Coast one. It's been on my bucket list for some time now...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Retro: A Langkawi Holiday, 1993

Touchdown at Langkawi Airport (CNB 1993)

It's yesterday once more ... 20 years ago in 1993.  It was a family holiday full of sweet memories and lots of sunburn. After a first visit in 1976 with M, this second visit 17 years later was with two daughters in tow. Flying from Pulau Pinang, it is only a half hour in the air, and the plane is descending into Pulau Langkawi already. My brother AW and his family were already there a few days earlier and they kindly came in a rented van to the airport at Padang Mat Sirat to fetch us and send us to our accommodation at DeLima Resort. Then we went out together to the Air Hangat Cultural Village to have refreshments. I do not remember any cultural activities going on then.

At Air Hangat Village with Bro AW's family (AW 1993)

The next day they had to leave Langkawi and so we took over the van for our tour around the island.

Before starting our round-island tour (CNB 1993)

We did the usual - visiting the historic sites of Mahsuri's Tomb, and the Beras Terbakar (Burnt rice) site at Kg Padang Mat Sirat; the natural wonders of  the black sand beach, and swimming in the sea at Tanjung Rhu, Burau Bay, among other activities.

M, B, A at Makam Mahsuri (CNB 1993)

Swimming in the sea at Tanjung Rhu (CNB 1993)

One night there we celebrated A's 11th birthday at the Resort restaurant. It was a surprise to discover that we were about the only customers then. Maybe the so-so food was the reason? Or we were the last customers as it was quite late? Whatever ... we did enjoy the ice cream and fruit desserts.

Happy 11th, A! (CNB 1993)
Those were lazy days in Langkawi, at the resort, swimming in the pool, mostly.

A pose while walking around the resort (CNB 1993)

The Langkawi Isles always have a special allure and I have been back a few times, also for work (read seminars/conferences). Definitely a favourite local holiday destination.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Pasar Ramadhan Shah Alam

Nasi ambeng at the Pasar Ramadhan SA (CNB 2013)

The Pasar Ramadhan in Shah Alam (Section 13) is a real feast for the eyes. Despite my resolution to not visit any Ramadhan bazaar/market this year, I still made a visit there on a recent Sunday at 4.30 pm, to err ... take photos! (Yeah, right!?). We thought we were early, but there were already so many people jostling to buy food for iftar/buka puasa and also dinner.

We observed that there were many stalls selling the various states' fare. There are several Nasi ambeng stalls - not surprising because you are in Selangor after all. Then there are the obvious Kelantan attractions of blue Nasi kerabu, golden Ayam percikLaksam, and desserts such as Lompat tikam, Puteri mandi, Akok, etc.; Trengganu associated food - Nasi dagang, and Sata; Pulau Pinang-mari fare of Laksa Penang, Murtabak, Char kway teow; Negri Sembilan Gulai kawah, etc., etc. Of course international fare abound too - kebabs, colourful puddings, Chinese dumplings, all sorts of cakes, etc., etc. (Like Yul Bryner, the "King of Siam", I too love my 'etcetra, etcetra'.)                

Gulai kawah and Nasi ambeng in one stall (CNB 2013)

We got Nasi ambeng from this stall at RM6 (CNB 2013)

Blue Nasi Kerabu stall (CNB 2013)

Ayam golek - contributing to air pollution? (CNB 2013)

Of course when there is food, there must be drink. The drinks come in all colours and hues, of which 'blue lemon' proved outstanding. The Smurfs must be happy, but then we settled for the very safe colour of soya bean.

Blue lemon, yellow oren & brown mata kucing (CNB 2013)

B at the soya bean stall (CNB 2013)

Despite telling ourselves that we must resist buying too much, we still did. (And I thought I only went for the snapshots, ha ha!). We bought Kueh lopis, Lompat tikam, Dim sum, Nasi ambeng, Pulut udang, Sata, Ayam goreng Uncle Bob, and soya bean drink. Hello, indigestion!

Selamat berbuka puasa ... (CNB 2013)
14 July 2013

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Two years, 342 postings

Two years ago on this date I started blogging. This is post number 343, and I have mostly enjoyed the 'journey' so far ... Sometimes I blog about what I have done, and sometimes I do what I want to blog about what I have done ... Go figure!

Monday, 15 July 2013

SA Garden Catalogue: Common Wrightia

The weather in July so far, seems to hover between days that were quite hot and balmy (and air polluted) with periods of cooler rainy intervals. This seems good for the garden (and for me since I do not really have to water it too often, ha ha!). Many more plants are in blossom since our tropical summer started.

The Common Wrightia or Water jasmine (or simply Melati in Malay) has quite a few inflorescence now in the garden. Usually a small  tree 2-5 metres tall, it has small leaves and very fragrant small dangling white flowers, produced all year round. It is a plant that is quite often used for bonsai. It is also a hedge material and widely planted because of its medicinal qualities. I have only one plant in a container and it has grown quite tall. I have not 'bonsai-d' it as I do not favour this form in plants.

Common name: Common wrightia, Water jasmine
Scientific name: Wrightia religiosa
Malay name: Melati
Family: Periwinkle
Origin: Malaysia (Kedah & Perlis) and Thailand

The white flowers of the Common wrightia are more common in the single form than the double flowered form. Propagation is easy, by seed from narrow fruits shaped like a pair of horns, or by stem or root cuttings. No insects seem to have pollinated the flowers so I have never seen any fruits on the plant in my garden. The Common wrightia loves the full sun and so does very well in our tropics. Just do not forget to water often.

Melati buds ready to bloom in the garden (CNB)