Ramadhan Al Mubarak 2015

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Ramadhan is here again. It was “just” recently that I felt we celebrated Aidil Fitri and now the fasting month starts tomorrow.

We went out for a family dinner earlier this evening at The Curve. Just something that we try to do every week or so. Ramadhan, to me, is a month of reflection and contemplation about life itself. Somehow, it also brings back my childhood memories. Never fails. Year in, year out.

Fasting month during my childhood days means having to wake up very early. The entire family – my parents, grandparents – will wake up to start preparing a full meal. That means we will see rice, a few types of dishes and dessert. There will be sambal fish, gulai ayam, more sambal, vegetable. Dessert can be anything from bubur to fruit from our own orchard.

In my mind, I could still see my grandmother sitting by the steps after the meal, just resting and waiting for the sun rise.

This will be my 5th Ramadhan with George. It will be a busy month too as we prepare for our second half of the year with business activities.

Michael Buble In Kuala Lumpur!!!!!

Reliable sources says that one of my absolute favourite artistes, the suave looking Canadian singer-writer, Michael Buble will be in Kuala Lumpur.

The date, I was told is 27 January 2017.

Michael Buble

This piece of news, uh, is PRETTY exciting!

The Senior Citizen At Home

We have 26 furkids and roughly 3/4 of them are senior citizens, meaning they are above 7 years old.

The most senior is Rexton, aged 16 which is about 80 years old human age. Her mom, Chomel was a real darling. Rexton’s dad was Tiger, an exotic breed of Persian and LDSH ginger boy.

Rexton

(Rexton, 2013)

As I type this blog, she is just lazying herself next to the netbook, trying to be as quiet as possible although her occasional meows breaks the silence in the room. Her fur has changed somewhat. Her lovely fur now is now greying, with white and silver specks here and there. And, just like human do, she refused to walk up and down the staircase more than she needs to. She has lesser teeth now too. Taking comfort with a mix of kibbles and wet food, she loves her boiled chicken as treat.

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(Rexton, 2006)

She mostly sleeps nowadays, or admiring the quiet street in front of our home. There is not much of activity in the neighbourhood except for the contractors who have been busy renovating the houses near ours. Her usual place is by the glass sliding door where it is quiet and hidden away from the rest of the furkids.  When she gets bored, she will take the effort to climb the stairs and curls up in front of our bedroom door.

At night, she climbs in to bed noisily, usually with some long winded stories and plonks herself next to me or sometimes next to George. I could smell her sweet Rexton scent, so unique to her. I think each of our kids have their own unique scent!

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(Rexton, 2014, on the study table, next to me)

Even at 16 years old, she is still scared of the thunder. She will hide away under the bed or better still, the blanket and promptly fell asleep while the thunder roars outside.

We have been watching her closely for the last couple of months of some subtle changes in her….. There is so much love and care for them in this house. And the furkids have been through a lot for the past many years and hope that we could provide them with the best of their final years with us.

 

The New House

Day 14 at the new house No. 75.

Has it been that long since we moved in? The days just passed by so quickly in the last several weeks. First, the shift itself. Second, shifting all 27 furkids, which will take another blog to tell. Then, last weekend the contractors came to do install the security grills and the curtain rods.

And we are still living out of boxes and suit cases….

We celebrated George’s Big Birthday in the new house too. Emi and Jaja brought this awesome cake and we all had briyani bought from JM Briyani. Very low but I do hope my darling hubby will be patient enough to wait for a good weekend when we both can go out and have a bigger post birthday celebration.

George birthday

(picture from Emi’s FB).

George has also started on his new project with a client since early late February. I have started on one main project with a client too and awaiting for several more in the pipeline. This has been good progress so far, just a few minor hiccups here and there.

Travelling to work or to the city has been….a bit of challenge especially in the morning. The actual drive does not take that long. It is just the traffic is a real nightmare. On some good days, it will take us about 1.5 hours to reach KL Sentral. Last week, it was 3 hours. Returning home via the Sg Buloh road will take us forever. Another option is via Latar which will take us home in about an hour provided we leave early enough.

 

Kuala Lumpur, My City

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur sometime in 1991 after living in Pahang all of my life. My then-husband applied for a transfer back to the city after he decided a transfer to the backwaters of Rompin, Pahang was out of question.

At that time, I was working for a well known travel agency and had no problem to land another equally exciting job in the city. The office, I remember was located in this building right smack in the middle of the city.

The first day of work was exciting. I was all dressed in my new attire and got to work at 8 am. Come lunch hour, I came down to explore lunch places. As I stepped out from that grey building, I literally stopped dead in my track. I was suddenly consumed with anxiety and shock.

The whole surroundings were full of people rushing left and right! The streets were choked with vehicle and I was in an instant culture shock. Never in my life had ever seen so many people walking so fast. The buildings were standing tall.

I felt like an ant.

The city has changed so much by then. The streets are now busier than ever. There are more tall buildings, apartments, LRTs, MRTs and monorails. New developments are all over the city for at least a couple more years.

The city is divided into 11 districts and covers an area of 243 km2 (94 sq miles). The city now can boasts of so many parks, several iconic green buildings, top 10 biggest shopping malls and has about 1.6 million population, and climbing at a rate of 1.1%.

The KL Sentral, Malaysia’s largest transit hub connects many of the inter-city trains connecting points in the Peninsular, Singapore and Thailand. A massive city within a city, this RM1.7billion development is still in its building phases and will only complete sometime in 2015.

Kuala Lumpur city at duskThis pix was taken when I was driving along the Elevated Highway or known as AKLEH, a 7.7km elevated highway from Ampang to Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur cityscapeI always feel awe of the sheer vastness of the city. It is so beautiful when seen at dusk like this. The buildings gleam in the fading sun light as the night creeps in.

Flag pole Dataran Merdeka IloveKL Sultan Abdul Samad building Sungai GombakI love this city for its uniqueness.

But, I think it is time to make a move elsewhere to a quieter place where we dont have to fight with constant traffic jam, gadzillion people and high cost of living……

Lanjut beach, RompinThis…my friends…is looking better and better…..

Meaning Of Loyalty

I seriously think that one of the investments that Malaysian government ought to put in place pronto is to send its officers, ministers and whoever else to public speaking programs. They also ought to invest in media crisis and media relationship programs so that whatever statements that come out from those mouths will not offend the poor rakyat further.

My latest rant was inspired after reading this.

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It is so sad and disheartening how some politicians are so confused by the meaning of loyalty to the country vs loyalty to a political party.

I love this country and I feel blessed to be born as a Malaysian. I am not going anywhere and so is my husband who has adopted this country to be his own. None of our 26 furkids will be relocated to some English speaking country anytime soon.

Being blindly loyal to a certain agenda is bad for the morale. My disagreement to a certain plans by the Government does not mean that I am any less of a Malaysian neither that makes me less of a supporter of the governing ruler.

Even with the minimum wage will take place in days to come, it runs in tandem if not more with other rising living costs. Toll hike, electricity hike and other necessities will take a serious toll on low and mid income earners. Me included.

Petrol price was raised up a few months ago. Yearly salary review, on average is between 3% to 5% if you were lucky. Inflation rate, it was said, stayed at 1.9% and unemployment rate stays at around 3%.

Try walking out from the house with a RM50 in your pocket, it will not stretch that far.

Let’s look at the average expenditure of a normal household:

  • Grocery: average RM200.00 per grocery buys and this limits you to normal food such as sugar, rice, oil and no fancy brands or fancy vegetable either. Another pet peeves is the hike in pet food prices too. We used to buy this particular brand of pet food where a 9kg bag will cost just slightly below RM100.00. Now we buy the same bag at around RM120.00. We need four bags of this every month…
  • House rent: average between RM1,200 to RM1,800/month
  • Electricity: average RM100 for an apartment or RM300 to RM500 if you live in a house with one/two units of aircond.
  • Water: RM100 for apartment, lesser if it is a landed property
  • Transportation: If you drive a lot, this will be a real pain for you. Toll costs, petrol and bank loan repayment will easily set you back at least RM1,500 per month. At least and I am talking about a small Malaysian brand cars…Try to look for a cheap parking in the city for less than RM5.00/hour and you will be hard pressed.
  • Personal care: unless you opt to buy the real “rakyat” no-name brands, then you are ok. Otherwise, a good deo spray to make you smell good will be around RM12.00. Standard haircut is about RM50.00 for hair saloon.
  • Eating out: unless you are a real mamak fan and does not mind curry, curry and more curry on a daily basis…

I think the rakyat has been prudent enough in their spending thus so far. We try to limit buying expensive stuff so many times in a month, try buying Made In Malaysia items which is not necessary a cheap way too as some will break after a few times of usage. We use our old vehicle, eat at home, vacationing in the country….sigh sigh sigh…

Maybe, just like Dato Sri Paduka Marina’s “You Walk The Talk”, well, walk the talk first!

Grrrrrrr!!

Sambal Hitam, The Official Sambal Of Pahang

Well, well…look at that… finally this humble sambal called Sambal Hitam is now the official sambal of Pahang, as declared by the HM Tengku Puan Pahang, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah. The black sambal is due to the use of belimbing buluh/Averrhoa bilimbi. This fruit is essential to the making of this spicy sambal. There is no water involved at all when “cooking” the belimbing buluh. The fruit is washed, placed in a pot on top of small fire and left to dehydrate from its own juice for  at least 6 to 7 hours. A kilo of belimbing buluh will only yield about a cup of the dehydrated version. It is indeed a long process and it is not even halfway yet!

The other essential ingredients are dried anchovies, bird’s eye chilis, onions and some oil for frying.

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For me the sambal hitam serves as a base for several kampung dishes that I cook. For instance, the sambal kulat sisir has the sambal hitam used as the base sambal. The add-ons are the kulat sisir and petai (stinky beans). Kulat sisir, by the way is a variety of mushroom/fungus which thrives well on dead rubber tree trunks. Before cooking, you need to wash it thoroughly to get rid of the grit that got trapped in between the “combs”. The effective way I have used is to soak the mushroom in a bowl of salted water for about 15-20 minutes.

Photo0378(Top)The uncooked kulat sisir, ready for the pot!

Photo0380(Top)Sambal kulat sisir and petai.

You Can Never Die Out Of Hunger In Malaysia

George and I used to discuss on how lucky Malaysians are. The Malaysians are blessed with generally good weather all year long, no earth quake or other natural calamity such as typhoon or volcano that threatens to wipe out the entire nation every 20 years or so.

And, food is everywhere. If you were a homeless, you can go any of the soup kitchens in the city, or step into any of the worship houses – the mosques, Hindu temples, churches or the Buddhist temples, you will be fed.

If you were travelling over the weekend, you will see plenty of weddings in the kampungs (village). The kampung folks are pretty generous lot. Hungry? Just stop at any of these weddings, give a courteous hello to the host and you will be invited to eat the wedding feast. Now, dont complain about the lack of cutleries as almost everyone will use their fingers. But hey, it is hearty, good delicious food!!

Spoil for choice, you can eat almost anything from any country at almost any time of the day. You want Russian, Swiss, Indian, Thai, Indonesian, Swedish. As long as you are willing to look for these places and pay…

Or,  budget wise, you can have breakfast from as low as RM2.00 (about USD 66 cents) will give you one crispy roti canai with curry on the side and your choice of coffee or tea. Take dinner meal for instance. You can have a decent meal for less than RM10.00 As for me, a simple fried rice and hot tea will be around RM6.00 (about USD2.00).

Recent weekend short trip brought us all the way to the Sekinchan, Selangor. We stopped by at the various stalls selling fruits and local food and was impressed at how entrepreneurial these folks are.

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Honey bbq chicken wings at only RM1.50 per piece.

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Refreshingly sweet cendol – shaved ice with creamy coconut milk topped with brown sugar and preserved fruits. Only RM3.00/bowl.

Do You Remember Your First Road Trip Or Even Your First Trip On A Plane?

PART 1 – The journeys of past

I was inspired to write down my thoughts today after reading a blog by the CEO of Marriott International, Arne Sorenson. He asked a simple question – “Do you remember your first road trip or even your first trip on a plane?”

What a thought provoking question.

I cannot really recall my first ever road trip because I grew up in a family who loved travelling whenever we could especially during school holidays. These trips were all extremely exciting because you just did not know where you will end up at! My parents usually did not tell me about all these plans. Our road trips will usually involving them picking me up after school session ended, usually on the last Friday which was the last day of school. I will see the big travelling bag already in place on the back seat. I was supposed to change from the school uniform into something more comfortable at the back seat of the car and all the while excitement just get built up depending on what I saw in the bag….

Plenty of beach towel, swimming suit, slippers meant we will be heading towards somewhere with PLENTY of water, usually the beach. Sweaters and socks meaning were will be heading towards the mountains.

And mind you, these trips will take days and days and days. My dad with his trusty big camera will snap away plenty of pictures (back then they were in black and white). I usually get confused using his camera because the focus frame will show an upside down image. You can now imagine how many years ago was that….

Big trips to the beach will usually see us ended up in Penang, Port Dickson or Kuantan. The drive took forever as there was still no big highways back then. Those long, winding roads that passed through tiny villages and small towns were interesting. Sometimes we had to over night at some of these tiny places as it was already so late at night and Abah was too tired to drive. Remember, in the old days, the cars had no air cond and power steering.

Accommodation was usually something basic such as government rest houses. We could not afford expensive, fancy hotels although sometimes we ended in some Chinese-owned hotels with names such as Ak Keong Hotel, Excelsior Hotel, Champagne Hotel or whatever, where the bathroom is usually located at the end of the corridor. They will provide you with these basic necessities such as a room with a fan, tiny Lux soap bars and tiny guest towels. The room slippers, if provided at all, will have its back-end snipped away to discourage pilferage.

Meals were simple, usually eaten at simple restaurants or rest houses. No fancy fast food outlets back then. Or, my mom will pack some rice and dishes from home and this will be our journey meals where dad will stop at several places. Sometimes we will stop near a river and this became a mini picnic of sort.

Will keep all of you posted on Second Part of this blog. Will talk about my experience travelling on a plane for the first time…..

For those who wants to read Arne’s blog, click below:

Blog by the CEO of Marriott International

General Election Is Around The Corner

The parliament has been dissolved effective today, 3rd April 2013. And so was the announcement made by the Prime Minister today at 11.30am.

Within the next few weeks, my fellow Malaysians will exercise their rights by going to the voting centers all over the country.

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The last I went for voting was 5 years ago. Have not realized how fast the time flies. A lot of people do not realize that 5 years are just a blink of an eye and today I sat in the car, reflecting on my own life journey for the past 5 years.

As what one of my friends said in his FB status, “Remember to go to the nearest mamak’s or kopitiam to remind ourselves that in the end we are all united by teh tarik, tosai, and roti bakar!”

I would add a few more items there – nasi lemak and roti canai!

Happy Voting, my Fellow Malaysians.