Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Miniature Garden - 17 July 2012

Making terrarium can be easy, quick and does not have to be expensive.  

This was our first attempt to make a terrarium last year. We used our glass aquarium, or otherwise, any glass containers or jars would be fine. The most tricky part was choosing the small plants that were compatible and could survive indoor with indirect sunlight.

Decorating the terrarium was the most fun part for the boys. Decorative things could be pretty rocks, marbles, figurines, driftwood or anything.

But it was a challenge to ensure the plants could grow with the right amount of water and sunlight. Even though we did our research and followed all the steps diligently, the plants still did not survive long. Perhaps it's more difficult to keep the plants indoor, or it could be the overwatering problem. We're still learning....

We went to FLORIA (Flower & Garden Festival) in Putrajaya recently. The above was the award-winning terrarium. Maybe we can try one with cactus the next round. However, we noticed that the plants in most terrariums there were not very healthy either. Indeed very tricky..

Our family got together and did this terrarium, with ideas from our visits to FLORIA. The boys have so much fun and were proud of their work. This will last a while because it did not have any living plants.

Fun with decoration!! The boys made their own hut with roof, owls, stone well, windmill, eggs, bird's nest, grass (from coloured rice), stone pathway, etc.

These were some of the plants in recycled bottles, an idea we got from a recent visit to Taman Warisan Pertanian. Indeed a very practical use of recycled bottles and also make wonderful gifts. They need very little care - much easier than terrarium. The boys were learning about plants and gardening the whole month, and we've even started a rock garden - still at a very preliminary stage.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Refreshing River Retreat - 6 July 2012

We often drive past the signboard to some waterfall names in Hulu Langat. Yet we have never thought of visiting these places. We can't be too excited about some place that's just half an hour drive away from our house - we can go there any time. But when we do, what a lovely surprise we have! 

Sg. Congkak in Hulu Langat is beside orchards and a tropical rainforest. The weather is pleasantly cooling, with cascading rivers and a rich flora and fauna. We had initially planned for an overnight camp elsewhere with modern facilities, but at the 11th hour, they mixed up our booking. We decided to go to Sg. Congkak because it's available and near to our house. It turned out to be a blessing.

Safety - there were a total of 9 of us including friends and we were concerned about safety. We felt that Sg. Congkak was not too isolated because it's supposed to be a popular picnic spot for locals and surrounded by villages. But we were there on a Friday, and were told that we almost had the place to ourselves, except thankfully there's a couple next to our lodging. 

On our way to Sg Congkak, we saw fruit trees lining the main road and kampung houses. What a sight to see the fruit trees in full blossom - durians, mangosteens, rambutans and honey cempedak were everywhere, on the trees and roadside stalls. 

Simply irresistible icy cold water - see the clear water sample collected from the river. There were six zones in this forest park, and we were in zone 4.

Rest & relax at its best - we did not even need to plan too much for it. Only flaw of this place - lack of clean and functioning "toilets"!! The management tried to maintain the surrounding areas but the toilets were in bad shape. As a result, we rented a chalet - so that we could use the toilets!!!

Fun BBQ by the river! 

A 'Surprise' birthday cake for Jin!!! Even our neighbour joined in the fun. Our dear son turned 12 - indeed time flies when you're raising children.

Our neighbour, a seasoned camper, gave the boys a lesson in starting a campfire!

At the same time, we set up a tent to complete our camping experience.

Toasting marshmallow on the campfire was a favourite for everyone. After the feast, we went for a walk to enjoy the cool breeze. One interesting thing about this place, we're not conscious of any mosquito there!

The fire lasted the whole night.... On our way back, we saw crowds and full car parks - all streaming in to the forest park. We were now thankful we had the place to ourselves.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Grandma's Rice Dumpling - 5 July 2012

Bak Chang or Rice Dumpling Festival is celebrated annually on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This year, it fell on the 23rd of June. We decided to take up the challenge of making our own bak chang. It's timely because my mother-in-law was visiting us at the same time. She has been making bak chang for her extended family since young. 

We went to the wet market and found all the ingredients easily. We bought 2 kg of glutinous rice and have to estimate the portions for the fillings, ie dried Chinese mushrooms, dried chestnuts, salted egg yolks and the black eyed beans. 

We also got the bamboo leaves and bundle of strings (many people prefer to use raffia string but we like the traditional reed string).

It's common to include pork belly in the filling but we decided to make no-meat bak chang this round. We spent the night before getting ready the ingredients and stuff.

Grandma told the boys they had to start learning from stratch the technique of wrapping bamboo leaves (just like the kungfu apprentice). For a start, we used sand as the filling instead of glutinous rice! I think this was as much fun as wrapping the real thing! We couldn't get the triangular-shaped dumplings so guess we gotta keep practising......

Grandma at work.....

Patiently, she taught me step by step how to assemble and wrap the bak chang. It looked like easy but to do it fast and yet secure would require years of training. At this moment, I could only pray hard those that I wrapped would not burst in the test by fire later.

For 2 kg of glutinous rice, we were able to make 43 bak chang!! And best of all, none of them was burst, though not all of them triangular-shaped!!

Garden City in Full Bloom - 3 July 2012

FLORIA 2012 - the Flower & Garden Festival is an annual event in Putrajaya. The theme of this year's event is Bougainvillea - Enduring Beauty. This place is always full of fresh, creative ideas and inspiring designs even for home gardeners like us. And most of all, it educates.

The nightly floral parade accompanied by fireworks display.....

There were a total of 15 floats cruising along the Putrajaya Lake. The best view was to watch from the Millenium Monument, overlooking the Seri Wawasan Bridge, the landmark of Putrajaya city. We also learnt our lesson - we visited the show on a weekday so we could take our time to enjoy the show and the gardens.

The flower & garden show looked different in the morning......

The Grand Flower Bed - which is the centrepiece to the event - in full bloom. Besides, there were also a floral pavillion, showcase gardens by various organisations, garden bazaar, art square and other activities to spice up the show.

On a weekday morning, we saw mainly school children visiting the place, indeed it would be good if more school children could be there. Ming has a fun time getting to know the flowers, and especially to see so much vibrancy in the display of colours and creativity.

Ming burst into energy playing with his new friends at the inflatable football pitch.

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