Friday 31 January 2014

My Germany: Day 1 Frankfurt

We flew into Germany's Frankfurt Airport Terminal 2 very early in the morning of today, 31st January and took the shuttle bus to the main Terminal 1.

While wandering around the terminal looking for the best way to get to our hotel in the city, we came across the famed German literary figure Goethe at the Frankfurt Airport, who said "Alles ist aus dem Wasser entsprungen! Alles wird durch das Wasser erhalten!" That translates as 'Water its living strength first shows, when obstacles its course oppose'.* Get it? I am a little clueless too! Nah ... I think we all get it.

From the airport, it was a very short train ride into Frankfurt city. Here we are on arrival at the Frankfurt main train station or hauptbahnhof.

Our hotel was just a 15 minute walk from the station (though we did get lost for a while). After a fresh up, we began our walking tour of Frankfurt, starting with the Mainuferpark by the River Main. The park is quite full of life - people walking, jogging, cycling. Birds and ducks rather plentiful. Then there was the Nizza Mediterranean Garden with its palms and even banana trees (not doing well of course in winter time).

We encountered the Judisches Museum, checked it out but did not go in to see the exhibits. The pompous security lady put us off, I think.

We walked across the Untermainbruke and on the other side we came across a friendly German lady and her shy child. The mom, A and I could not coax the little girl to look at the camera.

Further along we came across a tree bearing so many fruits. The red berries were a real delight to photograph.

We crossed the River Main again - this time over the Holbeinsteg - a pedestrian bridge.

All the walking we did deserved to be rewarded, don't you think? So we ended the day with a sumptuous Persian dinner of kebabs, rice, flat bread, lentil broth and salad at the Rendezvous Cafe/Restaurant. A serendipitous find indeed on our first day here.


Monday 27 January 2014

Felicitations Farouk & Badreen

Last Saturday, 25 January 2014, saw one of the twin sons of our good neighbour celebrate his marriage with a reception held at the Dewan Jenjarum (MBSA) in Section 11, Shah Alam. Farouk and Badreen, our heartfelt felicitations and all good wishes on a new life together.

Mother of the groom, Farouk, Badreen & I

Sunday 26 January 2014

Books I Love: Peter Mayle's Provencal Trilogy

My copies of Peter Mayle's Provencal trilogy 

I love travel memoirs and have quite a number of books in this genre. Peter Mayle's trilogy of his life lived in Provence, France, I acquired and first read in 2000. I am rereading them now because of a renewed interest to travel to France, and moreover, Mayle's storytelling is rather delightful.

I started with the first (of course), A Year in Provence (1989). Mayle and his wife left England to live abroad where they bought a 200 year-old farmhouse in the Luberon Valley. He regales us with the sights, sounds and smells of their year in rural France with lots of wit and great humour. This book won Mayle the British Book Awards' "Best travel book of the year" in 1989.

Toujours Provence (1991), the second book in the trilogy, I had to have a friend (Wan Fong) buy for me when she was holidaying in England because I could not find it in the bookshops here. As with the first (and third) book, we get witty accounts of the gastronomic delights savoured and here, even of  'buying truffles from Monsieur X'.

Mayle wrote his third book after going back to Provence, having left earlier (for the USA) to get away from fans and curious visitors to his rural home. Encore Provence (1999) completes this trilogy on the delights and curiosities of Provencal life.

1. A Year in Provence (1989). Ex Libris CNB 61    2. Toujours Provence (1991). Ex Libris CNB 62
3. Encore Provence (1999). Ex Libris CNB 63

Saturday 25 January 2014

SA Garden Catalogue: ZZ Plant

ZZ in my garden (CNB 2012)
Scientific name: Zamioculcas zamiifolia
Common name: ZZ plant
Origin: Tanzania

The ZZ plant is 'a rosette herb with fleshy pinnate leaves, and leaf stalks thickly swollen at their bases. The leaflets are glossy, fleshy, and arranged in two rows. This is an excellent indoor plant because of its ability to thrive under shade, but it will grow equally well in the sun on well-drained soil. Plants may be propagated by division of clumps, as well as by leaf and leaflet cuttings'.

I have four containers of this ZZ plant, considered lucky especially as a Chinese New Year decorative indoor plant. But I leave all mine outside where they do thrive well. The very first plant A bought, and grew it indoors at her rented apartment. Later when we moved to Shah Alam, I had it repotted into a bigger container where it now lives. From this plant, I propagated three more from leaf stalk cuttings. They took a long time to grow but are now doing quite well.

The weather this January has been mild, though it did rain sometimes and there are hot days. Usually the days leading to the Lunar New Year are hot but this year less so. The harsh northern hemisphere winter and the North-East monsoon affects us. In fact as reported in the newspapers, Kuala Krai in Kelantan has recently experienced low temperatures of 16-17 degrees Celcius, and Cameron Highlands 12. Brrr...

Ref: Tropical horticulture and gardening/Francis S. P. Ng
(Ex Libris CNB 1866)

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Eat Well, Travel Often

Just maybe, I will! Eat well, I mean healthy really, and travel often, especially in our own backyard in Malaysia. Now I feel like making a list for 2014 because we all love lists. My local 'travel often' list will include places I have never been to, and places I would like to revisit. Starting with the state of Selangor where I live.

# 1. Pulau Carey
# 2. Pulau Ketam
# 3. Tanjung Karang
# 4. Jugra/Bandar
# 5. Kuala Kubu Baru
# 6. Semenyih
# 7. Kuala Selangor     That's it for now. But this post is in progress ... 

Now about eating well/healthy; here is a list of super foods as a reminder ...
beans, carrots, nuts, cabbage, citrus fruits, garlic, fish, ginger, cheese, yogurt, milk, onions, tomato, honey, greens.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Colours of My Life: Blue

The second in my 'Colours of Life series' is BLUE. National Geographic celebrates blue mostly naturally. "The sweeping colour of sea and sky, blue is a common thread in nature, seen in the cerulean of a whale shark, the indigo of a stormy night and the cobalt of a peacock's feathers. Over the centuries, the hue has come to represent calm, cold, mysticism, and sadness".

For me blue seems everywhere and is a calming colour, whether in nature or in the man-made world - on buildings, people, even food!

1. This picture of kompang players in blue I captured at a blue themed wedding in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan. The little boy was the main attraction. He was terribly shy though. The bride and groom wore blue, and I remember even the dais was the same colour.

2. When we were in Melaka in November last year, we walked around and came across this beautiful blue hued bead shop. We couldn't help posing at the 'potholes' on both sides of the building.

3. The cerulean blue skies and wispy white clouds over horse riders on the beach at Nusa Dua, Bali was just calming. It made us forget about all the wild dogs loitering around the approach to the beach.

4. The blue locomotive of a DSVN (Duong Sat Viet Nam) train we saw when travelling from Hanoi to Halong Bay. Pity we did not have too many days in Vietnam to ride on any trains of the Vietnamese Railways.

5. Christmas colours are usually red and green, so this festive plate being blue was quite unusual. I found it at a knock down sale section of a ceramic shop in Plaza Alam Sentral, Shah Alam.

6. B and a mannequin 'twin' at the Shah Alam Pasar Tani Mega one Sunday morning. She was trying on the blue baju kurung before deciding whether to buy it or not. I can't remember if she did. Wait a minute, she did buy after all, albeit a green one. Anyway, it may be a farmers' market but you can really get everything under the sun at the SAPTM.

7. Blue hour at the Straits Quay in Pulau Pinang. The time in between day and night. A photographer's delight, I mean sweet light!

8. A speedboat skimming over the indigo blue waters of the Sulawesi Sea near Sabah during the blue hour again. A magical hour indeed.

9. Beautiful purplish blue hydrangea my friends and I came across at the Jurong Bird Park, Singapore. I love hydrangeas, they are my favourite flowers. I have a plant in my garden and it has been blooming for some time already.

10. These blue souvenirs we brought back from Italy. The dish shows the countryside in Tuscany and was hand painted by a local artist. The frame is Murano glass, bought in Venice. Unfortunately we never made it to the island of Murano or even Burano. Maybe someday ...

All photos by CNB

Saturday 18 January 2014

Va Va Voom! With the MPO

Va va voom! with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS on the 12th of January 2014, featured music "from Vienna to Broadway". On offer were Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld Overture, La Belle Hellene: Invocation a Venus' (Act 2, No.11), La Perichole: Ah! Quel diner je viens de faire' (Act 1, Scene 8b) and Gaite parisienne; Messager's Fortunio: 'Si vous croyez' and L'Amour masque: 'J'ai deux amants'; Thomas' Mignon Overture; Lehar's Das Land des Lachelns Overture, Die lustigen Witwe: 'Vilja-Lied', Ballsirenen, Walzer uber Themen lustigen Witwe, and Giuditta: 'Meine Lippen sie kussen so heiss; Strauss' Lob der Frauen, Polka francaise, Op.315; Romberg's The New Moon: 'One Kiss'; Gershwin's Girl Crazy Overture; Bernstein's West Side Story: 'I Feel Pretty' and Loewe's My Fair Lady: 'I Could Have Danced All Night'.

The program was full of  "Frivolity, sentiment, romance, glamour, luscious tunes and lots of waltzes" and "takes us to the very heart of operetta-land ... to Paris, then to Vienna, and then across the ocean to the Broadway musical".

This is the third consecutive year that Christian Schulz was conducting the new year MPO performance but I thought this year he was not so much in his element. There was so much less involvement of the audience unlike last year. He also made very few witty remarks, though his conducting, I guess was flawless. Attractive Soprano Kimy McLaren in her lovely red gown sang beautifully though. Her rendition of 'I feel pretty' and 'I could have danced all night' had me humming/lip sync-ing with her because they are such familiar songs.

I noticed that not many of the most expensive (RM250) seats were taken at this afternoon performance, but maybe it was full house the night before. This time around I attended the performance alone because everyone else had their own thing they wanted to do then. I must admit there was an instant I almost nodded off! I blame Christian Schulz not making me stamp my feet and clap my hands more. Naah, not really, it must be the previous late, late night.

Note: 1. The MPO's inaugural performance was in 1998.
2. All pictures are have been rephoto-ed from the programme book.
3. Ref: Programme Notes by Robert Markow.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Celebrating the Culture of Excellence

Two exhibitions to celebrate the culture of excellence began on 12.12.2013 at the Galeri Petronas. One is the Merdeka Award Exhibition 'showcasing portraits of the Merdeka Award recipients by Malaysian portraiture artists'. The other is Sketches of Science: Photo Sessions with Nobel Laureates. Both feature 'portraits of distinguished figures who have contributed significantly in the fields of science and humanity'.

The 22 portraits of the Merdeka Award Exhibition are by renowned artists including Jaafar Taib, Azman Yusof, and Rosli Mat. Awardees are recognised for their achievements that have made remarkable contributions to the country. They include Royal Professor Ungku Abdul Aziz Ungku Abdul Hamid (2008), Professor Dr Harith Ahmad (2010), Professor Datuk Dr Halimaton Hamdan (2009), and Dato' Dr Kenneth Yeang (2011). Perak Regent Raja Dr Nazrin Shah Sultan Azlan Shah who officiated the opening hoped the exhibitions 'will inspire youths to explore their passion in various fields such as arts, science, technology and discoveries'.

When I visited the exhibitions on 12.01.2014, I was really pressed for time, so I literally ran around the gallery, pausing only briefly to read some of the captions of the Merdeka awardees. I found some of the 50 portraits of the Nobel Laureates and their sketches of their discoveries quite amusing. So here I paused longer, long enough to talk to the helpful museum guides/volunteers and take photos! German photographer Volker Steger says "The sketches demonstrate the beauty of intellectual concepts'. Kuala Lumpur is the seventh city the Nobel Museum has brought this 'Sketches of Science' exhibition to, collaborating with the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.

The exhibitions will run until the end of the month.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

An Unexpected Occasion

You could say I was bamboozled into being at the 8TV 10th Anniversary do on a recent evening. 8TV? I don't think I have ever watched this channel before. So I don't really know any of the faces associated with it. But it was all okay because I was with A and her friend Lin who drove us to a place called Talent Lounge in Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya. Completely new to me, which is good because I like being in places I have never been before. Also, I came across some very interesting young people there. Like the actor Jehan Miskin and his Korean wife, and he of the smart jacket and drainpipe trouser fame, fashion icon Wak Doyok.

10 January 2014

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Bon Voyage Mademoiselle NS

The occasion: To celebrate NS going to Paris to continue her studies at PhD level. NS is my sister CY's daughter, my niece and B & A's cousin. We wish her all the best and every success in her studies. Oh la la! Tres bien!

The time: 2.00 pm onwards, on the 14th January 2014
The place: Ali Baba's Kebab Restaurant, Ampang. The Persian food and drinks were good.

Sunday 12 January 2014

A Tropical Forest in a Mall

It was serendipity. Recently I found myself at the One Utama in Damansara. Since I was waiting for A there, I whiled my time looking for boots. Though there were nice ones, I did not find any suitable for me. But I found something better - a forest! I had heard of this rooftop forest before but never 'experienced' it because somehow OU is not my regular cup of tea - its seems too far from where I live. I'm glad I came across this fascinating oasis of green in the midst of so many levels of consumerism in the mall.

It is 'cool' that not only do we have a tropical forest in an airport (KLIA) but we also have one in a shopping centre. Now where else can we grow a forest?

10 January 2014

Saturday 11 January 2014

A 'Taman' in Taman Keramat

My sister CY has some interesting plants in her garden in Taman Keramat. Like me, she loves gardening and potters about it almost everyday. We have both taken seeds, seedlings and cuttings from each other and share what little we know about gardening.  Here are some of the plants that are growing in her garden.

1. Beautiful yellow bamboo (Schizostachyum brachycladum)

2. Very fragrant pretty pink roses. (That's CY out of focus in the background).

3. White Asian rosebay (Tabernaemontana divaricata)

CY also has many plants that make up the edible garden. For years I used to pluck green limes from the three trees that grow in her garden, but sadly today they are no more. CY suspects the termites might have gotten to them.

4. Lemuni leaf shoots are used to make a wonderful herbal rice dish, nasi lemuni.

5. This herb (Strobilanthes crispus) with pretty yellow flowers is used to make tea. Touted to be 'traditionally used for improving blood circulation, for relief of flatulence and stomach ache. To improve urination and bowel movement'.

6. Beluntas shoots make very good ulam. Very delicious with sambal belacan.

Note: Pictures taken by CNB in October 2013

Thursday 9 January 2014

A Double Wedding in Puchong

It was good to be able to catch up with family at a double wedding kenduri held on the first Saturday of the year. We had no problems finding our way to Puchong Perdana for the occasion. Only I had problems identifying the hostess, Rahani Ahmad, widow of my late cousin Mohd Alam. I have not met her for a very long time so cannot really remember her face. But it was easy enough to identify one of her sons (one of the grooms in fact) because he looked so much like his grandfather, my uncle Shaari.

Ahmad Faisal & Diana (CNB 2014)

The double wedding grooms are brothers Ahmad Faisal and his bride Diana, and Ahmad Farid and his bride Alvi. (Rahani also has another three sons, Fahmi, Faiz and Fitri).

A poses with Ahmad Farid & his bride Alvi & two
of their friends (CNB 2014)

Enjoying the occasion: B & A, Asma & Safiyah, Hafiz
& Aina (CNB 2014)
4 January 2014

Tuesday 7 January 2014

The National Textile Museum & Zandra Rhodes

The beautiful Moghul-Islamic architecture of the
National Textile Museum building (CNB 2013)

On the last weekend of 2013, B and I decided to go to the Muzium Tekstil Negara (National Textile Museum) at Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, KL. We wanted an update of the exhibitions in the galleries there, and to catch the special exhibition on Zandra Rhodes' 'lifelong love affair with textiles'. The last time we visited the museum building was way back in the 90s (Karyaneka then??). Now it has certainly been well conserved and refurbished as a museum (since 2007) and we were greatly impressed. What we thought was going to be a short hour visit became a whole morning affair.

The exhibitions in the five galleries (Pohon Budi, Pelangi, Teluk Berantai, Ratnasari, Saindera) of the museum were most interesting and we would highly recommend a visit by all culture vultures. The role of this specialised museum is "to collect,conserve and document and display the diverse national textile collection, especially the traditional handwork of the multi-ethnic society of Malaysia ..." So expect to be mesmerised by the rich tapestry of our textile culture and history.

An exhibit at the Galeri Pohon Budi (CNB 2013)

Another exhibit at the Galeri Pohon Budi

Mannequins at the Galeri Ratnasari (CNB 2013)

We toured the 'Zandra Rhodes: A Lifelong Love Affair with Textiles' exhibition in the Saindera Gallery (for thematic exhibitions, etc.). Her textile designs seem as quirky as the shocking pink-haired lady herself. (Sorry, no photography allowed here, so no pictures to show except to say the exhibition was most interesting for us. It enabled us to catch a glimpse of the life of a well-traveled textile and fashion designer).

B and a ZR poster (CNB 2014)

Note: There is no entrance charge for the National Textile Museum, but for the Zandra Rhodes Exhibition (12 Nov 2013 - 12 Jan 2014) it was RM5 for B and RM3 for the OKU (as printed on the ticket, i.e. me, because at my age I am entitled to a discount for being less able to climb the stairs, I guess).
28 December 2013