Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grill & Shabu Shabu Restaurant

New eatery in town, the first of its kind in town, they claim. Steamboat and grill, eat all you can. Boil and grill all you want. Shabu shabu in Japanese is supposed to mean hotpot.... in this language - steamboat. This restaurant and Red Thai Village Restaurant at Jalan Stadium have the same owner.

Shabu Shabu

This is the restaurant. It is located near Tesco. Can't miss it cos it's just next to the main road. And it's signboard is really colourful.

But their flyer says it's 'nearly' Tesco. English is atrocious these days and many ads contain silly and funny errors. Anyway, they have a promotion on now.... 4 get 1 free. There is also a special rate for student and senior citizens, for lunch I think. You need to show your IC.

The place was just filling up as we arrived. You have to pay first before you eat, like Seoul Garden. Actually it's whole concept is a bit like Seoul Garden's. They cannot accept payment by credit card yet. The girl at the counter says they'll have it soon.

The first impression was good. They have a conveyor belt system like that you find in Sakae Sushi and Sushi King. They actually tried to separate the different types of food; vegetables, seafood, meat, noodles.... But as the restaurant got busier and plates got emptied from the conveyor belt, the food all got mixed up. They should just let them all be mixed up.

Dessert Glasses

Now the food.... The desserts were okay but who would want to eat curry puffs for dinner? .... well my boy did. I think he took many pieces! LOL! My kids liked the small cups of desserts which they could top up with ice creams. Drink selection is okay but we feel the ice box can easily be 'contaminated' by all the hands that dig in.

Cooked Food

There's also a cooked food section. There weren't many choices but the braised duck wasn't too bad.

Steamboat

Where boiling food was concerned, you have four choices of stock. But the disappointment is in the types of food. Most were processed stuff.... They had prawns and scallops but those came out far and few. We were fortunate that we were seated near the opening where they dished out the food. We managed to hijack 8 scallops in total. 8) So it looks like seating position is very important because of that. Same goes for the prawns but we didn't take many of that cos my kids aren't such great fans of 'em.

Fruit Platter

There was a dessert bar... they had kiwi though you don't get to see many of them.

Conveyor Belt

Also, we noticed that the food on the conveyor belt is not cold. How fast does food turn bad with all the steam that heats up the room, I wonder?

The place is still new but I notice that they didn't really clean our table well. Grilling food means oil get splattered everywhere. And I could see splatters of oil on the wall of the conveyor. Also, the place looked a little dusty. Maybe it's still new. They've just opened a couple of days.

As for returning there? I am not sure. I might, if friends want to go. But if you want to try this place, now is still a good time. The utensils are still new. And they are probably making an effort to give better service. It will probably do okay for now since it's still a novelty.

But it's nice to have a different sort of makan place up here in Alor Setar.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two sides to a coin..

On a morning when everyone is at school and I am off, truly glorious! So I met up with a friend for breakfast, a luxury which rarely presents itself. And I got to pick my gal up from school! 8) Anyway, friend and I had good conversation in between the wait to pick her up.

Two sides to a coin. In every conflict, disagreement, opinion, stand and what have you not, there are always two sides to consider. Yet time and again, I am reminded that we view only one side and that side is usually the one we choose to see. But anger and bitterness often times will make us see more of one side than the other.

Elephants have long memory but people have even longer memories. Long memories if used to remember the good can only bring more good. I remember Other Half's late grandmother who used to tell me again and again the hardship of 4 seasons when she was growing up in China; and how grateful she was that God brought her to Malaya.... a long memory of gratitude. Yet most of us choose to remember the things which we use to remind others of their shortcomings, inadequacies and to keep that upper hand. Her life was exemplary in remembering only what is good. And today I am reminded that I should perhaps try to emulate that.... a truly tall order! There are always 2 sides to a coin.

Words are cheap, actions cost; I guess we all know which one comes freely. And in between excuses, of course, abound. Sometimes we really try to extend our grace only to fall short either because we feel we are under siege or we are full of self righteousness. And so we continue to react from the perspective of our side of the coin. Lives are hurt as a result... both sides. And labeling becomes a way of life. We label a person obnoxious, ruthless, etc, etc... and once that is done, it stays. And whenever something else comes up, labels become a reason. And the other side of the coin becomes totally irrelevant. Disenchantment seeps in. Once that seeps in, it only breeds more disenchantments.

But yesterday when I heard news that a neighbour with whom I used to car pool with passed away suddenly, I am reminded yet again the brevity of this life of mine and how meaningless all these will be when we are called to leave this place. At the prime of one's life, with everything that one can ask for, they come to nought when the lifeless body is left behind and the living to mourn.

So, even though we only see one side of the coin, we must bear in mind that there is another unseen by us side. See that and perhaps life might be freer of hurts. Or perhaps just toss that coin away...8) Then again, who tosses coins away?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Oxygen Absorbers

Oxygen absorbers they call 'em. A colleague of mine bought some peanuts coated with coconut; one of those Thai nuts in a tin snack. Anyway, today she came in all excited asking us what we thought the dessiccant in the tin of nuts... and silica gel is not one of the guesses to be made.

Turned out, it was iron filings. Only that they have repackaged it and call it Oxygen Absorbers... iron absorbs oxygen and becomes rust???
Oxygen Absorber
Now I don't know whether iron filings are used as desiccant as a general rule since my little knowledge of what remains of my Chemistry is that iron filings are generally waste products. We use it to teach the direction of magnetic fields. My check with Wiki confirmed that.
Iron Filings
We did our own little experiment to confirm that it was iron filings. The green stick is a magnet and those coarse and powdery black stuff literally flew to the magnet and clung there... totally confirmed it.

I don't know how safe iron filings are as desiccant but I did a read up. Turns out that if you smash your cornflakes, (Yup! your Kellog's Cornflakes!) and stir it with a magnet, you'll be drawing out iron filings. LOL! They really fortify our cornflakes with iron, the real one! LOL!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

TGIF Revisited...

Keladi
My keladi plant flowered!!! 8) It was very unobtrusive. I'd have missed it if I hadn't been giving it a close look. And the flower only lasted about a day!
Braised Beef
Braised beef! The portion was too big for one. I wonder why TGIF don't make smaller portions. If 2 people go there, they must be of the same mind and heart cos one order is more than enough for 2! Anyway, the meat was tender but the sauce was too salty because of the cheese... there is a layer of cheese under all that sauce! The mashed potato in the sauce didn't do much to dilute the saltiness. We teased our gal about bringing the bones back for Barrels but she said Barrels doesn't 'eat' bones. He only takes meat. LOL!
Small Plate
Small plates! Small plates are have really small portions. Pricey for 3 mushrooms stuffed with beef! The mushrooms were way too small to stuff anything into them. But the gravy was nice with the musrooms. We were at Queensbay and ended up here cos our gal requested it.... been a while since our last visit here. TGIF! I remember how excited wewere to go there the first time. The menu has changed somewhat since our last visit.
Boneless Wings
Boneless wings... not real wings really. I was wondering how one can debone the wings. LOL! This was so-so. The sauce for the free kiddy meal was nicer than the one in the pic. Kids eat free for every main meal there. So our gal took their fish and chips.
Desserts
Desserts! Served in tiny glasses which was an okay size. A full glass would probably mean an overdose of sugar and everything sweet! I took the lightest colour of the lot.

In between food binges, we spent the day mainly at the new hardware store, ACE at Queensbay. They have a wide range of hardware stuff there; many imported stuff which one doesn't get to see in our normal hardware shops. We especially like the fittings for the garden watering system which are available there.
Pots
This is our latest project; using the pond water to 'irrigate' the pots. ACE sells Claber products. And they have drippers, sprinklers, all the different types of joints to connect the pipes. One of my pots is planted with mint and it seems to be growing okay. The other two has vegetable seeds in them. There seem to be some seedlings but I won't know for sure whether they'll thrive. Being pond water, the drippers sometimes get clogged up. Excess water goes back to the pond via a hole by the side of the planter box. If this works, I think we'll probably try to plant more types of vegetables.... 8)

Anyway, we went to Sakae Sushi to finish up our free voucher before going back... kiasu!!! LOL! Actually it was more for our gal to have her pineapple sorbet. I ended up taking their nabeyaki udon with teriyaki chicken, and Other Half had his fix of moshi. 8) We walked and walked but good thing the daily trips to the gymn has given us a little bit more endurance.

Some observations here though! Toilet users at Queensbay (and probably the whole country as a whole) have problems with accuracy when using the toilets, making our toilets smelly and wet. And when we wash hands, we have this habit of splaying water onto the floor after washing our hands. The poor janitors have to keep mopping the floors to keep it clean.

Malls like Queensbay are not meant for the elderly... how to go shopping in such a huge place. Walking from one end to another proves to be a great challenge even for able bodied people. And for that reason, I think our neighbourhood sundry shops or minimarts will survive.

Daughter and I went to Daiso to look see and we got ourselves some goodies from there too!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Quickie ...by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Patterson's books are entertaining and this one is not excluded; entertaining light reading.

Lauren is a smart and tough cop. After suspecting that Paul, her husband is having an affair she falls into one herself. Only thing is there is more than what meets the eye. She falls for a sweet talking cop, Scott. Paul kills Scott, not for the reason Lauren thinks. She goes through great lengths to cover up Paul's tracks. But Paul leads more than just the life she knows. He turns out to be a great act of a conman.

This is one cop story where cops do the vague area things and get away from it. Heroes (and heroines) don't necessarily do right. In some ways, it's a reminder that we do have to grapple with gray areas in our daily lives. Sometimes we bend even though we know we should not because we react instinctively. Then our conscience hurt us and we try to do right but somehow it just gets muddled up. This is the issue what the novel deals with mostly... good people twisting the gray shades in their lives because of so many reasons.

What quickies had to do with all the problems? They all began with a quickie and one thing led to another. No lurid details in the book though. All ends well for Lauren, who finally has a kid of her own and Paul's money... yup! He dies!

Sex and money.... and power too! The things that make our world spin, in different directions they bring us.

Book 21.... done amidst a crazy time of sports at school.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More iPad Apps

And it's awesome! It's 9.7" screen is just nice for viewing videos, pics, pdfs... not forgetting too more words fit into that one screen compared to my iPod and the rest of the smart phones.

New discoveries (for me) for free apps!
Kayak
Kayak... this is great for those who fly. Just type in the point of origin and destination and the app will list the airlines for you; from the cheapest to the whole nine yards! And there's even a map just to make sure that you are departing from the right place and landing at your right destination!
Qwiki
Qwiki... Nah! Don't go thinking about the other quickie. 8) This Qwiki is a documentary on the go, cos you get video and pictorial descriptions. It's a great tool for teaching. Good research, vivid pictures. Its narration sounds robotic but it's very comprehensible. And the best thing is, it's short. Caters for the short attention span of kids. I have used it to give my gal background info on certain stuff. Other Half and Daughter have Qwiki as bedtime stories now... yesterday night, they learned about ABBA, as in the Swedish band... introducing the band responsible for the songs in the Mama, Mama Mia movie.
Historical Collection
19th Century Historical Collection... and they're free. If you are a 'the-other-older-century' buff for its lit stuff, this one is not bad. I'm currently reading "Fables For the Female Sex" by Edward Moore but do not know when I will be able to finish it as this one I read in between lots of things.

Twitter for iPad... I've been using this for sometimes, mainly to keep track of what's happening in the politicians' realms, the issues of the day, etc. I'm not much of a tweeter though. Twitter is a rave among the young, I know. Somehow, they seem to want people to know where they are, what they are doing, etc, etc.

And those 'talk-back' silly apps, like Talking Tom (the cat). They've a whole range of talking animals now. But I also see great educational value there. The kid actually gets to listen to himself talk. It's provides an alternative to teaching pronunciation! LOL! Another plus point for us adults is you can talk yourself silly to the silly animal on screen. I think it's not uncommon to find adults talking silly stuff to em, you know, the kind of talk that we usually reserve for the babies??? Whatever it is, I think it's a great way to destress also!

But my top App remains Numbers... it is so handy to have a spreadsheet at hand, it affords me the convenience to organize my data in ways never imagined before.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The More the Better??

For years we've been sending my cars to Nissan Service Centre for service and repairs... partly because we were happy with their service and we trusted them. During that time we also became comfortable with the familiar faces there.

That is, till recently. I notice that of late they've more staff to serve the customers and they are trying to tweak and make better their service. I guess everyone is trying to be more service oriented these days. But more does not necessarily mean better... as I've learned.

We thought we'd make a booking since their centre seems so busy these days. Other Half sent the car in after making the booking a day earlier. There were 5 people at the centre when he arrived and he was number 4. The funny thing is the fifth person got served first even though he did not make a booking. We had apparently been assigned to one of their staff but he wasn't there yet... so we had to wait.

Then near to 1 p.m. the guy called to say our car was ready. I think we were there within half an hour to collect our car. There were 2 other customers ahead of me. So I sat and waited. The lady there told me that she'd see to me after them, even though the guy who was in charge of my car had gone out. I told her I was fine with it. Then the other lady came and took my bill and told me that I could pay. I signed the form and passed her my credit card. That was when she had a change of heart... she said perhaps it was better if I waited for the guy to come back.

That, of course agitated me cos I was all ready to pay, collect my car and leave. She called him and told me that he was on his way back from lunch. I had to wait approximately another 10 minutes. By then I was fuming. Imagine having to wait to pay... these people don't want my business I supposed. And can't they just have someone do the collection at all times. There is always the courtesy call if a problem surfaces. Unless the courtesy call is just another one of those things to give a semblance of good service. Suffice to say, I paid and left. But the actions of the Nissan staff also jolted me somewhat... I pay a slight premium to have my car service and get agitated... Perhaps, it's time to go somewhere else and pay less. Just no brainer... LOL!

More does not necessarily mean better. Sometimes we get bogged down by bureaucracy and office politics; they have more people at their office now and maybe some are disgruntled, hence the tolak-tolak. More also does not mean hassle free either. And thumbs down, Nissan Service Centre up north here! After 2 cars and 10 years of continuous sending of both cars, I should thank the Nissan staff for making me realize that I could probably save more by sending my car elsewhere.....

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lighthouse

Most of us are familiar with lighthouses. My hometown is near the sea. I grew up by the sea but lighthouses weren't that common where I was. I think there was an old lighthouse in Lumut but I can't remember for sure. Dad used to tell us stories about lighthouses very often when we visited Lumut in the evenings. We always enjoyed the sea breeze there in the evening and weekends. For us those evening trips were treats and they'd send us into an excited frenzy, LOL!!

A lighthouse warns a sailor of impending dangers. Sometimes it is a welcomed sight to a castaway drifting at sea. To see a lighthouse means that you are near land.... saved!

I had a conversation with a friend recently. And it got me thinking about it. You know how it is that some of us turn out all right, and how some just screw up their lives. Sometimes we might think that some of us are unfortunate, somehow things just got skewed up in our lives; our dumb luck or fate as how some might call it. But I disagree. I think along life's journey, many lighthouses appear at different points of our journey. They give us warning, even beckon us sometimes to head for safe harbour. It's just sometimes we just don't seem able to take heed, sometimes we're like a ship without power, helplessly dragged by the currrents towards the cliffs or rocks, sometimes we just don't want to. Yet sometimes, there are currents which drag us away from the safety promised by the sighting of the lighthouse. And sometimes lighthouses fail too.

But sometimes, for some reasons, like the resolute captains who fought the elements which tried to swallow them, we draw on strengths and determination and come out of a peril, scarred but alive and stronger. We stay focus on the light from the lighthouse and steer into safety and another lease of life.

I thank God for those lighthouses in my life - my family, friends, teachers and even those whom I came into contact briefly, for providing that beacon at a times even when I sometimes don't realize I needed it.

I look back into my past, the friends that I made, those who stayed by me, guided me with their words of wisdom, inspired me through their actions, empowered me with their words of encouragement, prodded me and even held my hands in my difficult times, those times which weighed so heavily on me, and I am glad for they were the lighthouses in my life.

And I have seen too how so many of the MYFers of my youth being guided by the ever faithful older ones. They guided us, showed us possibilities, helped us in our lessons.... and it resulted in many unimaginable 'successes'. Lighthouses.... They dot our life though sometimes we miss them and still get strayed.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sukantara...

For some reason, the English equivalent of the term slips my mind and seems no where near grasp. It's Sukantara season now. For the uninitiated, Sukantara is made up of compulsory field and track events for all students to participate. Time or distance is set and if a student clears those set goals, they score a point for their Sports Houses.


Sports Day used to be held early part of the year, end of February or early March; which is too early for my liking. I think April or end of March would be ideal as it would give enough time for students to trains and not disrupt the getting-into-the-exam-mood phase after mid-year exams.

This year, Sports Day has been pushed to June! This after some study tour by the officers from our Edu Department to Australia; so I heard. They have their reasons for pushing the sports to June - more time to practise, sports to be a 'whole year' affair, etc, etc... But somehow, due to various reasons, sports has gotten a worse deal. Instead of being super prepared given the longer period, the students (and staff) seem even more ill-prepared. You'd think that after 5 months of training, most students will be able to clear their Sukantara marks. To my dismay, many of the older girls can't seem to even throw far enough to secure 1 point for their respective sports houses where shot putt is concerned.

One could squirm at the sight of the girls doing their shot putt. Instead of thrusting and punching it upward and forward, almost all attempted to throw the 'metal ball'! Suffice to say, a few sprained something here and there! The younger girls were doing better. It seems like the older the girls got, the slower, weaker and 'siu-chia' they got. Of course it doesn't help to have some teachers keep harping on them about boys watching, etc, etc. Does no good some of these girls who are already very conscious about their physical changes that they are going through.

Next week we're going to have our Sports; and many other schools too. Is it going to be a better sports? I doubt it. Does it produce better athletes? I don't know. Sports practices have been languishing since the beginning of the year. It lost steam some time in February when the weight of the paper work got to us... Headcount, Observations (class and work), etc, etc... Most of us got bogged down and while we didn't totally sink into the quicksand, neither did we get out. So we wallowed in it, getting tired and disheartened and in the mean time, changes in the admin brought about worse discipline and whatever energy left free got entangled in class, trying to keep the class disciplined....

Changes, wrong people or people without the proper work ethics... more chaos, energy sapped, morale left with a hole...

And the Sukantara?? I think many of the students are not bothered about whether they get points for their sports houses. We talk about instilling patriotism, loyalty.... these are the early lessons for them. And in our chase for better academic results we forget these practical aspects of education. Sports does help in the creation of a holistic person. The determination, discipline, persistence, pain.... all those help in toughening us! And sad to say, there're more kids 'lembik' than not these days. As for our sports, I can't help but feel that perhaps it's better off held early in the year. After all our obsession is not with athletic prowess but academic one.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A For Alibi ...by Sue Grafton

Been having a busy and tiring last few days. Many things go through my mind but I don't seem to have the time to sit down and actually organize them into words.

This is another Kinsey Milhone Series. An old murder investigation is resurrected when Nikki comes out from jailed for a murder she didn't commit. She employs Kinsey to find out the truth. The early part of the book was interesting enough made complicated by the complex relationships. The author navigated my suspicion to the wrong guy. Anyway, Kinsey 'falls' for the murderer and they had a romantic fling.

Towards the end, the story got a big draggy when and lost its grip somewhat when it became clear that Kinsey was going to survive the ordeal. After all the book started with Kinsey saying that she had just shot some one.

I have been feeling rather tired of late and wanted something light to read. Didn't have other books at hand and so I settled for Grafton book, tested and tried where entertainment is concerned. This is a so-so book.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Too Much of Psychology

It never ceases to amaze me how 'suicidal' many kids (especially boys) are where their own education is concerned. I recently took over a Form 4 class. Right from the start, I noticed a sizable number of them, showing no interest whatsoever in their lessons. By my second lesson with them, 7 of them didn't enter. Names were written in the Buku Ponteng but it doesn't seem to make much difference. Lack of immediate action is the culprit.

The following lesson, 4 were in class when I entered. I asked them what I should do with them. I got nonchalant looks. Such kids stay on and disrupt classes. They are so over their own heads being rebellious; add that to the raging hormones of teenage growth which makes them kinda a little off the world. They think it's a bore coming to school and that the school owes it to them to make sure they stay in class.... *read that as us encouraging irresponsibility*. Counseling makes no difference. The only action that seemed to have an effect was when the school had this policy of expelling such kinds of students. But they say such students then become other schools' problem. I think this policy of making sure that kids stay in school till they are 17 is counter productive in such cases. Kids like these drag other kids down with them.... kerana nila setitik, rosak sebelanga susu. They are better off getting jobs outside. And if at all after a few years they find that they need the education, then by all means have schools for such kind of people. They make better students by then, for sure.

Too much counseling is pointless. Kids wizened up very quickly, in this case sometimes not necessarily to their own good. Sometimes, at that age all these boys understand is just discipline and routines. They should be trained to just follow those routines. Bad behavior is a product of us ignoring the fact that this passing phase in their lives require greater and stricter discipline. We need not try to think that the bad behavior is induced by other reasons because most of the time, they're not. The failure to use discipline on them has allowed whole generations to grow up irresponsible to themselves. And like it or not, the society will have to bear some of the consequences too.

I've a boy of my own. Raising boys tend to be more difficult, I experience, and it's still an ongoing struggle. We're not quite done where our girl is concerned but so far, her level of empathy seems higher; she seems to read situational problems better; in short her EQ part seems to be kicking in and working. I deal less with her behavioral problems. Most problems I face with her are lesson related. With my boy, I had to deal with both sets, and very often plus-plus other things as well. It's the same in class too. Less girls play truant at school. If they come to school, they are more likely to stay in class. Can't say the same for the boys though. The challenge of teaching is not in the good schools. It's schools like mine, where we're up against very often, family backgrounds.

It's barely a week into the term. And I am beginning to miss the hols a great deal.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Makan-Makan With The Gen Before...

Beef Stew
The makan-makan was at Secret Recipe. Other Half wanted to take his mom out and we ended up inviting 2 of his aunties as well; we were working on the adage "the more the merrier'. LOL! One aunty is over 80 years old but she was game. It's good to see her so fit at her age.
Lamb Shank
It was their first time there... well, the first time they ate there! Apparently a group of them had walked in a couple of months back but did not stay to eat. Reason?? The prices of the food at Secret Recipe were deemed too expensive by these ladies! My mother-in-law belongs to a generation with super thrifty practices. Theirs is a generation grown up on the hard toil and sweat of their parents; my grand parents' generation. Many were first generation here. What little (or much) wealth was built on toils and plenty of dangers lurking in the uncleared lands. Hence, thriftiness was always ever present even in my life as I was growing up.

However, many of their parents valued education. I read in a book compiled about the history of Sitiawan how the early settlers built a school while living in makeshift temporary shelters before building their own homes. So it wasn't surprising that many of my parents' generation got educated and many became teachers. And because life as farmers' children was hard and money hard-earned, they were thrifty.

Many were thrifty for another reason too. They were squirreling away money for their children's education. It wasn't surprising back in my days to see a family living in a wooden attap-roofed house able to send their children overseas for education. They worked hard, saved even harder, lived frugal lives so that their children could get a better education. They denied themselves many comforts in life for their children.
Buttered Cod
So my parents' generation (my mother-in-law) grew up frugal. They passed on some of the frugality to us. I still find my mom's incessant reminders ringing in my mind sometimes about wastage.... and I still find it a waste not to finish food on the table or to throw any leftovers out. I am not a picky eater because Mom made sure we ate everything. We planted our own fruit trees, my mother-in-law has her own vegetable plot too... you can even find yam in her garden!... Reared our own chicken and ducks! That was passed on to our parents' generation. And they were super eco-friendly. Theirs was an era where almost everything was recycled. Whatever leftover food (mainly bones) will not be thrown into the rubbish bin. We used to throw it for the chickens and ducks! .. and the occasional strays. Leftover rice became food for the poultry.

My generation still had some hands on experience to that sort of lifestyle. I had to help clean the chicken coop, help my dad inoculate the chickens and even slaughter them! My children will probably squirm at the very sight of live chickens. They only see dressed chicken. But my parents probably find my lifestyle wasteful by their standards. As I find my children wasteful too... which they really are because life has been good for them; the deterioration that comes with every subsequent generation. Recently a friend from Timor came back with tales of inadequacy - from the lack of such abilities; slaughtering chickens, skinning goats, etc.
Chicken Cordon Bleu
I've attempted planting vegetables too; though not so much for the savings that comes with it but these days most commercially planted food are exposed to way too much pesticides and who knows what other stuff they put to make it grow bigger and faster! My parents' generation grew vegetable so that family expenses could be reduced, and to save.
Cuppa
As for the makan-makan... the oldies truly enjoyed the treat. Among the 3 of them, they finished most of the food! 8) Even our 80 plus year old aunty enjoyed the beef stew, lamb shank, buttered cod and chicken cordon bleu accompanied by shared cuppas between them. They still aren't in the habit of wasting! My kids would not have much qualms about eating at such establishments!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Holiday Roundup

Two weeks just flew by so quickly. I had something on almost everyday. Outings, visits, activities, play (everyone needs to play...LOL!)' stuff to do.... I'm glad for them. I think when such things cease in our life, it would be time to to go. Meaning in life comes from time we share and the things we do with others. My sis visited a dear aunt of ours who is in her 80s. She's quite frail now after a surgery. But she was still doing what she does best.... cooking; that's who she is. Growing up, I always remember her generosity with food whenever we visited Grandma. That has not changed. Though they are not well-to-do, I am always reminded of her generosity and willingness to share whatever they have. And she is still at it. Sis says she will continue doing that until she goes. I think that's a good thing... to be able to continue doing what we deem meaningful till we go.

My nephew came for a short stay. Somehow, for some reasons, so far my nephews who come for stays at my place during their hols seem to enjoy their stay here, even though I am quite garang with them. Together with my friend, we took our kids for visits to the Science Centre, swimming, trips... and stuff that kids enjoy. I think my gal enjoyed her hols too.. There were projects.... card making, puzzle assembly, coloring, drawing, gluing.... the usual kiddy stuff.

Today, it's back to work. Can't say that I look forward to it but it's not something I dread either. Work has it's own fun sometimes. Teaching is something I enjoy, though I sometimes rant about it cos I think there is too much crap going around these days. Anyway, I'll leave those rantings when I need to lepas steam.

Hols also means the usual trip back to the kampung, which I find rather short now. I'd like to spend more time with my parents. They are growing older and time with them is becoming a precious commodity by the day.

I also had a friend's son over for some lessons.... He's been having a hard time adjusting at school. He seems to be making some progress finally. Boys and school - somehow it's more difficult for many of them to adjust to today's rigours.

The few mornings that I was able to sit on the swing by the pond, feed the fish, watch them swim, read, have a cuppa, accompanied by the soothing sounds of running water... those moments were priceless, even therapeutic. It makes me appreciate the peace and quiet that very often goes missing from my life during term time.

Ah! Everything has its own time and place.... It's been a good 2 weeks! Nice round of hols. Appreciate the time I had in my hands for the different things.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bukit Mertajam Yam Rice

Bukit Mertajam
Friend took me to this place in 'Tua-Sua-Kar' or Bukit Mertajam to eat as I was supposed to pick Sis up from Butterworth. This is the famous BM Yam Rice Shop. But this kind of identification; via building recognition is only for the locals and those who frequent it. For those on the look out for it, this won't help much.
Yam Rice Card
Then there is printed method for those who are still with the old way of looking up an address. The calling card has a rudimentary location map. I think I'd have trouble finding the place just based on this though. 8)
Yam Rice Location
Finally, there's always this to refer to too... LOL! Coordinates and GPS. This brings you almost right up to the shop! I supposed I could call it up from Google Map too, the view from above.... Ha! Ha! But if the satellites go kaput, people like me who depend on this method will be as blind as a bat.
Yam Rice Restaurant
It was nearly 3 in the afternoon when we got there and this was the crowd that was there. The crowd speaks volumes for the food here.
Meat Everything Soup
We located an empty table right at the back of the shop and proceeded to order. This shop serves the same type of food; everyone had this. Pork belly soup, a mix of all kinds of innards and meat balls. Nothing goes to waste for the Chinese still. I remember how my parents used to tell us that fish head, chicken leg, gizzard, pig's ears, intestines and other parts of the animals which Westerners would discard, as delicacies. But many of our kids snub food like this these days too. For me when I was growing up, our makan table would usually be cleaned up as in only bones would be left or the really non swallow-able parts.... minimal waste cos money was not something we had in abundance. Anyway, back to the soup, it was really nice, soothing and sweet. My gal was game to try everything too....
Stewed Eggs
The stewed eggs. You can't go wrong with stewed eggs. Children love them. I like them too and they're great with rice.
Yam Rice
The yam rice or or-puin (black rice) with yam mashed yam on top of it. The kids didn't quite like it and we adults ended up with more than our little portions of yam. The rice goes well with the soup and its goodies. They also served this great tasting chilly with the rice. Mix it into the soup and you get a spicy version. I enjoyed that too!

We wanted to order their tu-kar-chor or Pig's Trotters in Sweet Vinegar cooked in black sauce but they were out of it. Actually we were very lucky to get the yam rice because we were told that they had only white rice left when our kids wanted a second helping. One of the workers there told us that they usually close at 5 p.m. But as we could see, food finishes quite early.

Price was reasonable. With drinks the meal came up to less than RM40. And even the kids enjoyed it as much as I did.
Kids
We went and hung around a while in Jusco in Bandar Perda after that. Took the kids to Baskin Robbins for an ice-cream treat and then went to pick my sis up. It was a fun trip for everyone, I think.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Storm Island... by Ken Follet

No 19.... This book took a while to finish cos my hands were rather full this hols....

Set during the Second World War, in England during the time of the final push to defeat Hitler, this book brought me back to that era of our history which I used to read a lot about as a kid. The story evolves around Lucy and Die Nadel or The Needle. A remarkable spy and ruthless, he finally met his 'match' in Lucy.

It's quite nice to read something about a different era. World War II, Hitler, Churchill, spies, U2 submarines, Normandy.... My first book on this topic in a long time.

Die Nadel, known by many names had a reel of film (and photos) to send back to his Fuhrer to inform him that the Allied invasion would not be in Calais. He made good escape all the way till a storm threw his boat on Storm Island, inhabited by Lucy, her paraplegic husband and an old shepherd. Some twist of romance and a woman succeeded where the whole spy machinery failed.

A fictitious read with many right historical facts, an entertaining read.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Restoran Michelin Star

In Europe they have these Michelin stars awarded to restaurants with outstanding quality.

Sitiawan
This restaurant is not in Europe but in Sitiawan. We had our CNY dinner there earlier this year. Located beside the local retailer Econsave, which is along the road to Lumut; this is non-Foochow dining in 'Foochow-land'.
Bak Kut
This is their pai-kut-ong or king of spareribs, cooked the usual way. They're soft and tender with just about the right flavours.
Tauhu Petola
This is tofu stir fried with black fungus and petola. The petola or luffa tasted slightly deep fried and has this nice smell. I find this rather appetizing. This is one of my favourites for the night. I think this is tasty to eat with white rice.
Sweet Sour Fish
Sweet Sour Star Garoupa. Sis and bro-in-law transported this all the way from Sabah. The restaurant chef didn't do a very good job with this one. The fish tasted a little over-fried and there seemed to be a tardy bit of lime overdose. And it was served an a chipped plate.
Sweet Sour Fish Maw
This is fish maw cooked ala-Sitiawan but didn't quite taste like the original. It was more subtle, more tomato taste with sweet enough broth. It was packed with quite a bit of seafood goodies like crabmeat (you can see one sticking out in the picture), sea cucumber and bite-sized crunchy pieces of all kinds of stuff. Daughter liked this a lot; better than the Sitiawan version. I too found it nice.
Stewed Pork
This was the last order to arrive at the table and by then we were filled to the brim. I only had a piece of it but it was nice. We ta-pau this home cos everyone was too full to stuff anything more in. This is supposed to be one of their popular dishes, I was told.

We ended up here for dinner that night cos all the other places we wanted to go were either closed or had dinners. For people like us who go back occasionally, we'd actually prefer food we grew up on; the local familiar and comforting tastes. But this was quite good though rather expensive according to Mom (dinner was on my parents). Still it was a good time together as a family, something which I appreciate more as my parents grow older.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Timah Tasoh

Timah Tasoh,Perlis
We stopped here for toilet break on our way to our failed Gua Kelam trip. It's been a while since I came here. And this is a view of tranquility. With a book (or iPod/Pad) in hand, a cup of coffee I think I can sit here and just soak this all in.
Timah Tasoh
During my last trip (it has been that many years), I can't remember this viewing platform. There are stalls at the back. The place is called Dataran Terinai.
KFC,Dataran Terinai
Copycat fried chicken.... I never knew that Kelantan had its own special way of frying chicken. LOL! I wonder whether there is infringement of copyright but there is no picture of Colonel Sanders here.
Perlis
On our trip back from our aborted Gua Kelam visit, we saw this signboard and decided to check it out. Tasoh Lake Resort has its own website with all its pricing and packages.
Tasoh Lake Resort & Retreat
There was a guard house at the entrance but it was empty. It didn't look like there is a permanent guard there because the glass windows were already broken. We followed the sign and came to this, Lanai Besar Reception. I think Lanai means patio or veranda; something along that line. Anyway, we decided to take a drive around as we could see that the view was quite nice.
Timah Tasoh Resort
We stopped by for the kids to play.... the kids tried to make the stones skim the water with very little success. It's been years since I did this too.
Timah Tasoh Resort
Kids can just enjoy throwing stones into the water! LOL! They spent more than half an hour doing that and if we had allowed them to continue, I think it would have gone one much longer. Throwing stones can be that fun for them.
Tasoh Lake Resort & Retreat
Tasoh Lake Resort & Retreat is a nice place to relax for some peace and quiet. Excitement comes from outdoor activities. Night life is slightly different minus the loud and deafening music you find at clubs. You probably get entertained by the sounds of insects and night creatures.
Tasoh Lake Resort & Retreat
They have cabanas with barbecue pits dotting the lakeside area. I also saw some kayaking facilities as well. There are halls and big wide spaces for kids (and adults) to run about. Situated among hills, the air is fresh and still unpolluted.
Tasoh Lake Resort
A view from one of the cabanas. I'm not sure who runs this place but there were creepers growing into one of the other guard houses that I saw. The place still looks nice though.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Best Pau in Kaki Bukit, Perlis

It's hols and this hols and my gal has her cousin over for a couple of days. I called up Friend and we made plans to take her kids and mine to Gua Kelam. Unfortunately for us, when we got there, it rained. An added dampener to our plans was when we were told that the Flood last year had damaged the bridge in the cave. So, it was out of bounds now.

Kaki Bukit,Pau
Then Friend suggested that we try the supposedly best pau in Kaki Bukit. It is located in town just as you approach Gua Kelam. Take the turning on the right when you see a newly completed (volunteer) Fire Station. Housed in these ramshackle row of shops, the pau shop is inconspicuous and empty when we walked in. But the proprietor was on the phone. I could pick up bits that someone was trying to order pau.
Kaki Bukit,Pau
So Friend and I walked to the back to wait for him so that we could choose our dumplings. As we waited, customers started coming. Some had big orders! The paus seemed very laku. We got different types of paus. But the proprietor said he could only spare us 2 meat paus. Those that were on display were already taken. The paus were indeed very nice; fluffy and light. I managed to take a bite of the chai-pau (vege dumpling) and it was tasty and had a very appetizing smell. The filling was crunchy.
Loh Mai Kai,Kaki Bukit
But for us adults, Friend got us the loh mai kai (steamed glutinous rice with chicken). They pack their loh mai kai like nasi lemak, complete with chopsticks. I guess many people must be buying this to bring for picnic since the Gua Kelam picnic area is just a few hundred metres away. The verdict?? This is definitely one of the better loh mai kai I've eaten. It's soft and seemed to have enough of everything. The chicken pieces were quite big and succulent. I thoroughly enjoyed mine even though we ate ours in the car; in the downpour!

If I do happen to pass by the area, I'll most probably drop by for these paus. But also take note... they finish very quickly. It never ceases to amaze me how people seem to find this shop with no name. Sometimes it might be a good idea to call ahead and book according to my friend, which I think is quite true since it was just after lunch time when we got there and already some type of paus were already 'out of stock'.

Friday, June 3, 2011

That Glazed Look..

Glazed eyes.... that glassy look. I see many glazed eyes these days! Nah! It's not they are high on dope. These eyes... I see them in the young, the teens.

Seeing but not seeing. Hearing but not listening. Behind the glaze is a mind that has walled itself in, a defense mechanism from the onslaught of words and demands. Kids need to be kids. But kids these days have these demands thrusted onto them. It's hols but some schools are running as usual. Extra classes. I hear that there's a school in Padang Sera running for 2 whole weeks! That's the whole duration of the school hols. Some schools run classes only for those in exam classes! Some run it for those from Std 4 - 6. If you asked me, I think that's madness! But one that all of us parents get sucked into.

And that's what I see in many of my students these days. Glazed because they need to be seen as concentrating and paying attention. But when pressed further, not much focus is actually in place. Doing exercises is more of to complete. There is very little interest to learn and soak in the love for learning. It's more of finishing a task than anything.

One day I was teaching a boy something. I detected that glaze look on him. So I asked him whether he understood what I had said. He nodded. But when I asked him to repeat what I had said, I got the blank stare. He didn't know what I had been talking about. The eyes tell so much yet many of us miss the signals they send. Even in its glazed state, the mind nods in response at the right places; only thing is not much registers in it.

I see plenty of kids like this. Unrelenting pursuit of results, the persistent pushes from parents and teachers... the unappeasable chase for success. At some point, for some, there is this need to shield and shy away from all these.... self preservation in the marginal mind. Hence, that glazed look... doped by the incessant bantering of endless work.

So what hides behind the glaze? Boredom, tiredness... but whatever it may be, they indicate one thing about their owners - they lack the focus and clear vision of what they should be doing. The dumbing down of their minds, the loss of the ability to day dream... glazed eyes, blank stares, the mind emptied. The demands from today's generation...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Algal Bloom

Our little pond goes through it's own little cycle of ecological disaster every year, the algal bloom! And it is a consternation to us cos it makes the whole pond green transforming it into a not so appealing experience to the eyes. This year, the bloom was really intense and didn't seem to let up at all. The warmer than usual weather has something to do with it most definitely. Man's folly and the weather is getting cranky.

We've been getting heat wave after heat wave. And just as you thought, one is over and the water begins to show sign of hope, another wave would hit and the pond becomes greener than before. We tried aerating the pond by fixing a stronger air pump. It didn't help much.

Plant Filter

We configured our filtration system to a biological one to remove the nitrates. None seemed to work. The algae, with the 'assistance' from the weather kept winning.

Anyway, after trying the chemical solution to no avail, Other Half finally decided to zap them dead.

UV Light

Enters the UV light. We didn't trust the China made UV lights. So we got ourselves a JBL. It's made in Germany. These days, can't seem to trust the China brands. Yesterday I read in the papers that 1 in 10 toys from China is unsafe! But anything not China made, they cost you an arm and a leg. This particular UV light that we got cost 3 times more!!! Anyway, after less than a week, our pond began to clear up. We can finally see the bottom again! 8) And that was when we realized that our pond was also teeming with guppies! 8)

Filter

This is our filter made up of mainly bamboo and pegaga plants. Both have these really fibrous roots which are excellent for filtering the muck with the bonus of breaking them down. And switching to biological filter has also negated the use of liners, sponges, gravel and ceramic tubes, which means that we don't have to replace the filters, environmentally friendly and save money some more. In fact we've to throw out the roots which grow so fast, which gets buried in the soil and become compost!

I used to have to clean my filters every 2 weeks or it'll overflow. With these, you can leave them untouched for weeks... and probably months. We've only 'cleaned' it twice in the last few months, more of to trim the unwanted growths than to wash away the muck. Anyway, washing is easy cos we just need to lift them the plants from the container and hose it.

Root Filter

These roots are as good if not better than the conventional man made filters. The beauty of these is they break down the wastes. For the combi box, all the plants are in tubes of big round pipes with holes drilled all over. That way, the different plants' roots don't get entangled and if we we didn't like one, it can be easily removed without having to use the scissors much to trim the roots.

Next project is to try a drip system from the pond water for vegetable planting.