Tuesday 30 April 2013

Books I Love: Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat

(CNB 2013)
This book 'Japanese women don't get old or fat' by Naomi Moriyama and co-author husband William Doyle was published in 2005. I had bought this book in 2009 but never really read it properly nor cooked anything from the numerous recipes in it until after I got back from a visit to Japan (in April last year). And I realised then that I should have really read it before going! I would have been more 'aware' of what to look out for in the land of sushi, the rising sun and beautiful cherry blossoms in the Spring.

Moriyama lives in New York but visits her country of birth often and 'rediscovers' the Tokyo kitchen of her mother. She recreates this kitchen in her own NY apartment and gives readers the how to, first laying out the statistics about Japanese women living the longest (they do get old, really old) and having the lowest obesity rate (a few do get fat, after all!). In her words, 'This book is a celebration of Japanese-style home cooking, a grand tour of Japanese food culture, and an exploration of expert opinions on the traditional Japanese diet, a way of eating based largely on fresh vegetables and fruit, rice, soy and fish, all served in modest portions'.

For me, this book serves as a good introduction to Japanese cooking and what Japanese food is all about. If I want to start living like a healthy Japanese woman, I have to begin by practising 'hara hachi bunme - eat until you are 80% full'. (Now where have I heard this before?)

In a way, reading the author's detailed description of forays into Tsukiji Market with her mother Chizuko, makes up for my own missed opportunity to properly experience this very busy, interesting old fish market in downtown Tokyo. But I did get to eat late breakfast brunch at what Moriyama terms 'one of the bustling world's-highest-class sushi restaurants on the edge of the market'.

Ex Libris CNB 1791

Sunday 28 April 2013

Flea Mart in a Mall

Churchill china 'Indian tree-blue' (CNB 2013)

Flea Markets are fascinating because, like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get. Yesterday after a wedding kenduri at the Singgahsana Hotel in Petaling Jaya, B and I stopped at the nearby Amcorp Mall to browse the weekend flea market there. Though Sundays are more meriah (read: more stalls and rather crowded), on Saturdays one can browse better and hopefully find good bargains.

B and I went around looking at the collections available; old record vinyls, books and magazines, black & white photographs, stamps and first day covers, ceramics, handicrafts, jewelry, etc., etc. So in the end, what did we get? I acquired four of the above Churchill china 'Indian tree-blue' plates to add to my blue and white collection. I paid RM... - a price I think that they are worth (to me at least!). B got a turquoise cocktail ring and a KFC memorabilia of a 2010 ceramic coin box based on KFC's pressure cooker.

B and her KFC memorabilia at the Flea mart (CNB 2013)

Note: If you do not find any bargains at the Flea Market, just go up to the top floor of Amcorp Mall and you will get bargains galore at the Book Xcess bookshop. I assure you, this is a definite!

Friday 26 April 2013

Pretty Palm Flora

There are so many types of palms that I cannot identify one of two I have in the garden. But this as yet unidentified palm flowered in January this year and again now in April. Such pretty inflorescence.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

International Day of the Book

@ the Times Bookshop (CNB 2013)

The 23rd of April is celebrated as the International Day of the Book or World Book (and Copyright) Day, a symbolic date for world literature. Also happy 449th birthday to the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare (actually he died on this day; a few other prominent authors were either born or died on the 23rd April too, hence Unesco's choice of date). Happy --th birthday to my sister CY (whose age may not be disclosed here because she is a lady; but she is two years older than me, so now you know!)

... this it is the ideal life (CNB 2013)

My resolve not to buy books for a whole year (starting on 30th August last year) so that I may read/reread the ones from my home library, lasted only four months. In January this year I started on my book buying spree again. I just cannot stay away from the bookshops, although I will give the KLiBF* a miss this year.

* Note: The Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair 2013 will be held 26th April - 5th May at PWTC. This 32nd KLiBF 2013 is organised by the National Book Council of Malaysia.

Saturday 20 April 2013

A Squash Final & Nicole

The Women's final between Massaro & Waters  

I know nuts about squash (the sport, not the fruit), but then I also know nuts about so many other sports. By chance I found myself at Berjaya Times Square on the 31st March, when B asked me to accompany her for an event there. She was representing her boss/company to receive a token souvenir for their sponsorship of the squash court of the KL Open Squash Championships 2013.

I had not bought a ticket (RM30, I think), but then to fill up the venue, hoi polloi including moi were invited to sit in. So I got to watch the exciting finals, not really understanding the rules of the game. I really have to get on with Squash 101. Our own Nicole David had been ousted in the semi-finals by Laura Massaro, so it was an all-English affair for women and for the men, all-Egyptian (no Malaysians, so sad). But Nicole was there to watch Massaro triumph over her compatriot Alison Waters. Nicole gamely posed for my phone camera while in the company of the Squash officials. Tqvm, love.

World no. 1 Nicole David (CNB 2013)

For Squash to be in the Olympics, I am guessing that we all back the bid. B does, do you?

B: Yes, I am backing the bid. (CNB 2013)

31 March 2013

Friday 19 April 2013

A Very Simple Fruit Jam

Apple jam, simply made (CNB 2013)

A good friend passed on to me this very simple recipe to make jam with carrots or apples. Enjoy it with your bread and butter not only for breakfast but for any time of day. 'Fresh' and delicious, this jam saves you money. Seriously! It costs far, far less than the imported jams on the supermarket shelves. Halve the ingredients if you like to make less, or reduce the sugar if you dread diabetes (I do too).

1 kilo fruit (apple/carrot)
1 kilo sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Vanilla/rose & cardamom (optional)

1. Peel fruits, then chop or grate as preferred.
2. Boil sugar in water for 7-10 minutes. (Use less water for carrot.)
3. Add the fruit.
4. Add vanilla/rose & cardamom (optional)
5. Lower the heat. Add lemon juice.
6. When fruit is transparent and syrup is no longer thin, the jam is ready. Enjoy!

Wednesday 17 April 2013

A Railway Station that was: Tanjong Pagar

 Tanjong Pagar Railway Station (CNB 2011)

On 30th June 2011, the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was closed and ceased to operate after nearly 80 years. Also known as the Singapura, or Keppel Road Railway Station, it was Malaysian (on a 999 year lease), run by the KTM (Keretapi Tanah Melayu) as an intercity station. But new Points of Agreement between Malaysia and Singapore moved the KTM terminus to Woodlands instead.

Architecturally, Tanjong Pagar is a beauty in the art deco style built in 1932, by Swan & Maclaren. The station has two long platforms, covered by umbrella reinforced concrete roofs.

The ticket counter (2011)

The main building has a barrel vault roof with the main public hall decorated with panels displaying batik styled mosaic murals depicting Malaysian scenes of rice planting, rubber tapping, and activities of shipping, tin mining, etc.

FMSR inside CNB 2011)

Murals on the station walls in the interior  hall (CNB 2011)

The facade of Tanjong Pagar Railway Station (NA 2011)

The decorative features on the facade include the letters F, M, S, R, to stand for the Federated Malay States Railway and four marble relief figures - representing Agriculture, Commerce, Transport and Industry (allegories of then Malaysia's economic pillars). They are works by Alfredo Nolli.

F and Agriculture (CNB 2011)

On 9 April 2011 the main building of the station was gazetted a national monument. So is it being converted into a railway museum now, I wonder?

Visited: 4 Feb & June 2011

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Clogs of Jonker Street

On a visit to Melaka in 2009, I took the above picture of some colourful wooden clogs at Jonker Street/Jalan Hang Jebat. These traditional footwear are still used to this day, though the fancy ones are really tourist magnets, much like the clogs of Holland/Netherlands.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Eating out in SA: Serai

Just some of the dishes served here (CNB)
When in Shah Alam, if you like Thai (food, I mean), go to Serai. Serai Thai Restaurant is in Section 3 and serves pretty delicious Thai cuisine. All the usual Thai dishes are available and they are mostly good. Although I don't care much for spicy hot and sour tom yam kung, most people I know do. I wish though they would not serve it in a metal bowl, as they do here.

Anyway, never mind my grouse. This place does get quite busy in the evening, so the food must be the attraction, what else?

(7.33 pm)

Saturday 13 April 2013

SA Garden Catalogue: Periwinkle

We are in the inter-monsoon period and the weather forecast says we will have rains/thunderstorms every so often. The humidity is very high and most plants are doing very well. As the rhyme goes, 'April showers bring May flowers' ... indeed also April flowers. Some roadside trees including the Tamalan are in bloom. The perennial Periwinkle are especially doing well now, flowering quite profusely.

Common name: Madagascar periwinkle/Periwinkle
Scientific name: Catharanthus roseus/Vinca rosea
Malay name: Kemunting Cina
Family: Periwinkle
Origin: Madagascar

Periwinkles love the full sun and they are quite hardy and will even grow (as weeds?) in cracks of outdoor floor tiles and walls. Propagation is by seeds, although if you already have the Periwinkles in your garden, seedlings may sprout anywhere and you can transfer them to the exact place you want them to be. Pruning will make shoots of this shrub grow and flower continuously. Many floral colours are available, especially of the new varieties which are small and compact. Just check out the garden centres and you will be spoilt for choice of the pretty colours to take home.

Cheerful Periwinkles in a container (CNB)

I only have the common purple variety now in my garden, the seedlings originally obtained from Port Dickson. I used to have one white, but it died on me. By the way, medicinally, the Periwinkle is a source of vincristine for the treatment of leukemia. In Pulau Langkawi it is said to be called Bunga jalang kampung because it is a weed growing wild. But pretty useful jalangs, as you will agree.

When there were white periwinkles ...

Thursday 11 April 2013

An April Wedding Reception

The happy couple (CNB 2013)

Recently in early April we were invited to the wedding reception of the only son of an old friend from my USM days. So for me it was also a reunion of sorts with some other friends from my old workplace up  north. Dr Luqman and Razlin Dawina's marriage was celebrated at DoubleTree by Hilton @ The Intermark. Our congratulations and best wishes always!

B, A, Sarah & the groom's mum Orasa (CNB 2013)

The table setting (CNB 2013)

Part of the beautiful decor (CNB 2013)

With Dr Aniswal (BB 2013)

Tuesday 9 April 2013

An Eclectic Music Collection

The other day I went through our music collection, housed in one cupboard in the sitting room, to do a spot of spring cleaning. Admittedly, it is a very, very eclectic collection. Some of this and that and the other. And apart from compact discs (CDs), I still have some 45 rpm vinyl records and many cassette tapes! Very old technology, but will still be hoarded for sentimental reasons. And I am supposedly spring cleaning? Tsk, tsk!

Some of the vinyls (CNB 2012)

Anyway this eclectic collection can still be roughly classified. Beginning with Classical music,  familiarised and appreciated since being a member of the Philharmonic Society during TKC Seremban school days in the 60s. There are more than 100 CDs, mostly a series collection published by Orbis Publishing (1992-95). Among my favourites are Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto no. 1 and his music for ballets, Chopin's piano concertos, Strauss' waltzes, Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and Ravel's Bolero.

Then there is the Pop/Rock music of the 60s and 70s. Especially favoured were (still are) the ballads of the Bachelor Boy Cliff Richard, also of Andy Williams (and the most beautiful Almost there), Carpenters, Simon & Garfunkel, The R'n'R King (I mean Elvis Presley), The Beatles, and compilations of the evergreen music of this era. The music of the 80s and 90s run the gamut from Cat Stevens, Scorpions, Carole King (sing: I feel the earth move under my feet ...), Boney M, Abba, Kate Bush, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, to Enya, etc., etc.

Slam 'Kesan terbukti' album

For Malay music, we have the ever familiar P. Ramlee, Saloma of the buluh perindu voice, Sharifah Aini (sing: Ooooh kuda ku lari ...), and M. Nasir. During a specially 'Malay phase' for us in the 90s, we bought and listened to the songs of Jamal Abdillah (eight albums 1992-2009), Zamani & Slam (nine albums 1994-99, and that melancholic 'Gerimis mengundang'), KRU (ten albums 1992-2001, why?) Amy Mastura (four albums 1994-2003), etc., etc..

A & B with Norman KRU at PTPM, USM (199?)

During a 'Latin phase', while trying to learn Spanish, I acquired the music of  Iglesias, not of Julio Iglesias, but his son Enrique. I remember playing the albums Vivir (1997) and Cosas del amor (1998) over and over again. But let me be truthful about it, I still do not speak any Spanish beyond "Hola, que tal?"

As for our 'World music' collection, we did buy music CDs as souvenirs of the countries visited. I still have the very first - Canta y se Feliz* - a Spanish music cassette tape from Barcelona (1975) which can no longer be played (not surprisingly). Then there are among others, Persian classical music, Carinosa; Visayan songs from Philippines, Loy Kra Thong from Thailand, Chinese Orchestra Album, Sundanese Music from Western Java, Music of  Sri Lanka, and Shinhwa's State of the Art from South Korea (2006 K-pop).

Music of the 50s, 60s ...

When we were living in  Pulau Pinang, we used to visit the Cahaya Music shop in Komtar nearly every fortnight to shop for our music. Nowadays I do still buy the occasional music CD, mostly compilations of the music of yesteryears ... the most recent, 'The Rock'n'roll Years Juke Box Gems'. Usually I listen to music while lunching but I breakfast with the birds (singing). In the evenings though, I prefer to listen to the sounds of silence, really ...

*Spain's entry in the Eurovision Song  Contest 1974

Monday 8 April 2013

Landmarks of Selangor: Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Often times we pass through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, Selangor without really 'knowing' it. I have always been in awe of this wondrous 'futuristic' structure, one of the last mega-projects of the 20th century in the country, opened in June 1998. Brainchild of Tun Dr Mahathir, it was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa who applied a philosophy of 'symbiosis of nature and architecture'. Hence swathes of tropical forest in a hi-tech airport structure.

KLIA approach for departing travellers (CNB 2012)

The three main components of KLIA are the main terminal building, the adjacent contact pier and a satellite building, linked to the previous two by an automated track transit system. The departure forecourt roof form is "a hyperbolic parabaloid shell structure on conical columns". The airport interiors have a "transparent, ultra-modern, hi-tech look" due to the extensive use of frameless double-glazed walls, exposed steel trusses, shiny aluminium surfaces and polished granite.

Departure Hall, KLIA (CNB 2012)

The KLIA master plan, when fully executed will eventually enable the airport to handle 100 million passengers each year. So ... if you are flying off somewhere soon from KLIA, do observe how beautiful it really is.

On leaving KLIA at dusk (CNB 2012)

Ref: Landmarks of Selangor. Jugra Publications, 2003

Sunday 7 April 2013

A Walk in the Park: Taman Rekreasi Tasik Bestari

Taman Rekreasi Tasik Bestari (CNB 2013)

M loves walking, and on very, very rare occasions I join him (I hate to exercise, really). He has walked around the many lakes of Shah Alam and this time I went with him to the Taman Rekreasi Tasik Bestari (Bestari Lake Recreation Park) in Section 7. With the dew still on the grass, an early morning walk is somehow invigorating. (And ... there's breakfast to look forward to afterwards!).

The rising sun casts long shadows (CNB 2013)

People and pink lamp posts at the Park (CNB 2013)

A bonus on this particular morning walk was the sight of migratory large wading birds near the water. There was a flock of Milky Storks sunning and preening themselves and I got as close as was possible to observe, and take a couple of pictures of course.

Storks in the early morning sun (CNB 2013)

After a round of the lake (two rounds for M), we left the Taman for breakfast of roti canai and tosai with kopi-o at a Mamak restaurant. Cheers!

A pause at the end of the walk (CNB 2013)
16 March 2013

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Spring is in the Air ...

                                                      Spring is in the air
                                                      Blossoms burst forth every where
                                                      I love this season

                                                      Indah sungguh musim bunga
                                                      Mari menikmati kuasa Yang Esa

Note: Pic by CNB April 2012