Friday, 28 June 2013

Recipe to beat the haze - 24 June 2013

Everyone's talking about the haze last week. It shrouded KL so suddenly though expectedly cos we've seen it coming from the southern part. This was not as severe as the haze crisis in 1997, but who knows? We're expecting much drier weather for a few more months and the forest fires are still burning in Sumatra. For my boys, this was their 1st experience, the air was thick with haze and the sky was forever gloomy and dull. There's no school for a day, after that, 'it's up to parents to decide', said the ed-ministry! 

The boys picked up a few lessons; some new terms like the API and cloud-seeding; the southwest wind; where's Sumatra; an appreciation of clear blue sky, rainy days and fresh air; it's not nice to stay indoors for so many days and gotta wear a face mask when it's so hot.

We can't tell how this haze is going to develop, but I can tell when my house is gonna turn to a crisis centre if we keep getting in each other's way.  The haze has an effect on our appetite, cos we've so much cooking to do for so many of us, including our visitors. What better way to channel the boys' energy than helping out in meal and snack preparation. 

Brandon was assembling his own birthday cake, he wanted an ice-cream cake (for the 2nd or 3rd year already). The prep was as much fun to him as eating the cake. He helped himself to the extra cookies and marshmallows, licked the ice cream bowl, and made a mess in the kitchen.

Hands on in the kitchen!

We missed the 'Supermoon', which was covered by the haze, so Jin made it up with this perfect round banana pancake!

Preparing baguette for toasting with our homemade herb butter (ie parsley, butter, seasoning and lemon (optional)).

Having a blast making sushi.

Making salad fun for kids - playing/washing with water, cutting into shapes and sizes, taking the salad spinner for a spin, making own dressings and finally, tossing the salad & serve. It's the easiest and a complete lesson in meal prep.

Nothing beats the homemade beef burgers!

Keep the kid busy by sauteing the mushrooms!

Making caramel popcorns for supper at night!! It's the fastest & simplest snack for anytime of the day.

Eating popcorns with pleasure. Don't let this picture fool you - the house was still a war zone the whole week. But it's better than griping over the haze which we have no control.

Happy 7th birthday to Brandon! 'You can have your cake & eat it too!'

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Time is a Tyrant - 22 June 2013

Do you feel like you always have a long ‘to do’ list? Always too rushed? On Saturday, I learnt an important lesson, and I hope it woke me up to some extent the fact that I spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time.

It’s a rare occasion to have my parents and mom-in-law staying for a weekend at my place. So I tried to kill all birds with one stone, planning a flurry of activities, cooking and two birthdays. What-you-call-it? – ‘putting too much on my plate’.

Parent-Teacher Dialogue & Exhibition Day

By late afternoon, there were obviously signs of burning out, but I was too efficient ticking off my ‘to-do’ list to notice them. I read that people who perceive life in a 'time-urgent' way tend to be excessively worried about schedules, keeping overly tight deadlines, rushing when rushing is not necessary, doing several activities at the same time, sometimes forgetting to take time to really enjoy work and play. That described me well, and people like me fall into a greater risk of heart problems cos we constantly keep our bodies at high anxiety and stress levels. There’s a name for it when I was working – ‘multi-tasking’, isn’t it what we’re supposed to do to be productive and efficient?

Making rice dumpling - Never too old to learn & never too young to start!

One consolation though, our city was not shrouded in haze that day, and only the following day, the haze situation worsened. So we’re fortunate to see the blooming flowers and float parade at FLORIA, Putrajaya on the opening day. But I wonder if I notice the roses along the path of life, since my eyes are always on the goal? It’s not a pleasant time for me managing different needs of young and old at an overcrowded FLORIA.

My mom & MIL feasting their eyes on the flowers

Being overly time-oriented is like an itch I can’t resist scratching, even though scratching always makes it worse. Strange that how the concept of time has changed from the earlier societies. To the ancient, time is seen in a process of natural change, the passage from season to season, day and night. Now, time sets the tempo of our lives, turning from a process of nature into a commodity that can be measured and bought and sold. That’s how, with exact time-keeping, industrial capitalism emerged. The clock actually has a bearing on the development of civilisation. 

Time is a useful concept, especially for organising and planning, but it has become a tyrant or boss in our head.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Father's Day - 16 June 2013

A special duet for Father's day from Jin and Wei. Their daddy was overseas but they did this on own initiative. So I think it's very sweet & the first of its kind from them. 

It's the only song they learnt to play duet. Hope they'll not be mad at me for putting it in the blog for memory's sake. :)

Plug into Nature - 1-8 June 2013

A stream of cool, clear water strewn with boulders above the hidden Tanglir waterfall at Bukit Tinggi. No wonder there's a saying that the best things in life are free. 

Simple pleasures.....

Drawing on the sand

Weight-lifting for a cause.

Building a toilet!

The hilly location that was covered with trees, now dotted with cultivated vegetable farms drawing fresh water supply from the stream.

Few swiftlets were seen in the nests on the walls of the apartment buildings.

The find - a millipede, curled up

Amazing shades of colours.

This is the fruit of the Luffa before processing that we use as scrubbing sponge in the kitchen.

All-time favourite - the Kow Po Homemade Ice-cream, a well-known joint in Bentong town. Must try their coconut ice-cream (though I'm not a fan of coconut). There're also other flavours like pandan, peanut, corn, banana and the seasonal "durian". The boys preferred the safe ones - vanilla & chocolate. Very creamy and dense texture and not too sweet.

Crowded with fan support from all over especially KL folks. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A Potter Village in Sayong - 30 May 2013

Pit Stop at the Perak royal town, Kuala Kangsar. The 1st rubber tree in Malaysia was planted in this town. That's about all I knew about this place.

Labu Sayong or water pitcher from Sayong village, known for its health value to help migraine, lower blood pressure etc due to the special properties inherent in the local clay.

Before this, we didn't know much of labu sayong.  We didn't go to the village or plan this visit. Out of curiousity, we bumped into this unassuming workshop at No. 3, Kg Setia, Enggor, run by Mohd bin Harun. 

Pakcik was very open and gave us a tour of his workshop and how he makes labu sayong. His warm, friendly welcoming people made a lasting impression on all of us - a trait that we've lost in the big cities.

The traditional way of making labu sayong uses hands to mould the clay into the shape of a 'labu' (gourd-like vase) but this is too slow. Now, the clay mixture is poured into standard mould blocks. It's still a very labourious and tedious job.

The clay used to make labu sayong comes from streams, riverbanks and paddy fields, coated with river silt with high iron content. This special local clay is semi-permeable porous but yet does not leak when storing water. Another amazing thing is that the water in labu sayong will stay cool, about 19C, making it ideal in a hot country.

After shaping and drying these pots, they are smoothed and polished with simply "pebbles". The artisan is free to use his creativity to engrave and design the pots. The crafting process is tedious and time-consuming like a piece of art. No wonder it's a dying trade. It's good training for youngsters these days who seek immediate gratification in everything.

Upon completion, it is allowed to air dry for a week before firing it in a small kiln at above 1,000 Celcius for 6-8 hours. Pakcik even made his own kiln like the one above. While it is red-hot, Pakcik will pour dried paddy husks over it so that it will catch fire to create a black sheen coloured labu sayong.  Without the paddy husks, the finished labu will have a natural red to brown shade, the colours will depend on the clay properties.

Guess how much is the cost of a labu sayong after such a labourious process? Between RM8 to RM10 each for about a litre plus capacity.

Pakcik took the trouble to demonstrate to the boys the art of traditional pottery using a tabletop potter's wheel.  It looked very simple. 

And the result? Not difficult to guess which ones were from Pakcik and from Jin.

Other product variations from Pakcik. He has a craft shop in Kuala Kangsar and sells most of his products to KL and other big cities. He could not cater to export market cos he didn't want to machinise the process too much. And it's most difficult to get experienced artisans for the design on the surface of the labu sayong. 

I felt moved to support this traditional craft, and bought two labu sayong, and the water is always cool - in a natural way, better than storing in the fridge.

 A visit to the royal town would not be complete without visiting the Perak Royal Museum, famous for its traditional Malay architecture built of wood without the use of nails. Originally built as a palace in the 1920s, it's located on a hilly landscape, near to the current palace.

Fine wooden carvings and woven wall-mats enhance the uniqueness of the building. It's closed for renovation, so we managed to see only from the outside. 

A much deserved dim sum feast at Foh San, Ipoh at the end of our trip. The charcoal bun with light yam filling was very yummy.
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