December 25, 2006

A Break in Bangkok

Dh, baby and I had a short break in Bangkok. Initially we wanted to go somewhere in M'sia but thought it would be difficult to get a hotel room at popular destinations like Langkawi, PD etc at short notice. My dad recommended that we go to Bangkok through one of his associate's tour package. I had not been there for years so we thought we'll give it a try. Overall the experience was pretty awesome and dh , baby and I thoroughly enjoyed it, alhamdulillah. Bangkok has grown into a big metropolitan city with a population of 10 million and it was amazing to see the development and difference since I spent a few year there when I was a young kid . In general the Thais are a very friendly lot and they really like babies. Our baby son was very popular amongst the people we met because of his cuteness and his little antics. I'll write about Bangkok when I have more time soon , insha Allah. Today , my kids have to attend their cousin's birthday party at Mac D.

December 19, 2006

Back to hectic KL

I haven't had time to post an entry since now I am back in Kl for a visit. It is rather hectic in KL as I have to do some chores and settle some outstanding bills for my old flat. I even received a summon for illegal parking in PJ written for my car which was normally parked at my in laws house and used occasionally by my youngest and responsible 17 year old brother in law when he goes home for breaks from his pre uni studies. My dad and I went to MBAJ (PJ municipal council) to sort it out. It was an obvious error on the council's part. The description of the car and road tax registration number did not tally with my car's. So we had to sign their petition form to rectify their mistake. I have never received summons or speeding tickets related to my car which was due to my fault (so far). I think I am a law abiding driver insha Allah. A defensive driver (as my dh calls it ) as oppose to all those offensive drivers in KL. Hehehe. Tis hard to be on the defensive whereas many drivers out there just wanna break the rules when they get the chance. However, I aspire to drive with the coolness of my dad's. Dh said that dad remains very cool even when people cut into his lane or queue. The way people drive in KL are a stark contrast with that in Oz. Some drivers in KL think they own the road and they could suddenly turn left or right from their lane without giving the proper indication or signal. Another common offense is that they don't even stop properly at T junctions and look in both directions for oncoming cars. I could write down an endless list of offenses committed by people on the road daily. Double parking, stopping at a yellow line/zone, cutting queues and overtaking in the left lane or at double lines, using a mobile phone while driving etc . These do not include offenses by motorbike riders who are even more prone to accidents if they or others do not abide the road rules.
Pedestrians are the sure losers in KL. Whereas drivers in Oz would sometimes give way to pedestrians at junctions where there are no pedestrian crossings, KL drivers hardly give them a second glance. I was honed at by a driver behind me a couple of times after I decided to give way to some scared looking young pedestrians who wanted to cross over to their car at One Utama's carpark (a very popular, busy suburban mall during the weekend and public hols). Drivers would only slow down in carparks if they think your gonna vacate a parking lot. Why are KL drivers so impatient, selfish and stressed up??? Big question. Can there be a day in KL when people drive and abide by the law for their own safety and ours? Well, at this rate, I guess not in the foreseeable future. One can only dream.

December 08, 2006

Dd won an award!

Dd won the high achiever trophy for grade 2. I missed it when she went up to get the prize. A mommy friend said that she won and that I was late by one minute. I have to take her word for it and I did see dd holding a lil trophy after the ceremony. We were a bit late as ds was making a fuss and refused to budge on the sidewalk , insisting his shirt was too big and he wanna go back home and change. Anyway, I am glad she won something as she missed her kindergarten's presentation ceremony last year because we had to move to Oz. She also missed the preschool photo session when she and her classmates were supposed to wear graduation robes. The school didn't inform me early and we had already gone to my mum's house as I was due to deliver at the time. (I didn't get to wear a robe til I got a degree. Lucky preschoolers!)

December 06, 2006

The mystery fruit..

When I went to pick up my children from school, I came across two women of South East Asian descent (possibly from the Philippines). One woman was using a long pole to pound the branches of a tree repetitively so that the ripe fruits would give way and fall to the ground, and another had a black refuse bag to collect them. I crossed the street to them as it was the route I normally take to the school. I gestured to them and asked "Is the fruit edible to eat?" "Yes" she replied and added something that I did not quite hear as I was walking away from them in the direction of the school. Hmm.. Edible fruits. I wonder what they are? The neighbourhood street is dotted with trees which I can recall seeing back in M'sia, of which one tree had long outreached branches with fern like leaves, vibrant red flowers and huge black pods.
Anyway, I came across a similar leafless tree that looked like it was hit with a long pole by the same women earlier on! Though the pods were dangling from its branches in abundance, they were not within easy reach. I picked one of the bean pods that had fallen to the ground and broke the crumbly brown exterior shell apart. Inside was a guey brown substance. The consistency reminded me of tamarind or asam jawa as the Malays call it. (I am not sure what the people in Java would call tamarind but definitely not asam jawa). It tastes soury sweet and is usually used in South East Asian cuisine. Malaysians used them a lot for asam pedas (usually fish in chilli flavoured soup) or in fish curry or laksa. Any dish with fish in it will taste better with tamarinds added. I never really got to taste dishes with tamarinds from the Philippines. However, I do recall going to dinner to a restaurant called Tamarind Springs in KL and which specialises in Indochinese cuisines (think Laos, Khmer and Vietnam) and they presumably used a lot of tamarind as the food was not spicy hot by KL standard.
When I came back home, I had to investigate and check in the wild plant book that I recently purchased last weekend. There I found some facts about native tamarind trees but the the description and pics of the fruits/flowers do not really resemble the pods in the backstreet. Maybe it was another variety or the pics were photographed earlier in the season. My deduction was inconclusive at that point but in the evening, I came across a tamarind wrapper I brought from KL and it had a picture of a bunch of tamarind pods. They looked identicle to the pods on the tree in the street . Thereon, I can safely deduce that they were indeed from a native type of tamarind tree. Well, what da ya know, one of my favourite cooking ingredients is actually growing on the trees along my ally. I better find a nice stick to poke the ripe tamarind pods on the branches so they will fall and then gather them up for my cooking pot!
*Update - I brought some of them home and showed dh and he confirmed that they were tamarinds. He was a bit puzzled by my question and asked me haven't I seen a tamarind tree before??? That's what I would like to know ie whether he has seen one across the street from us.


[Great ! The post editor is functioning now.]
Dd's read 90 pages of her book "Charlotte's Web" which she got yesterday. Amazing! Considering she only attempted to read 1 page a day from another book she is supposed to read from her school's reading file.
I also bought some books for me to read last weekend, mainly non-fiction books about nature or parenting tips. With a baby that suffers separation anxiety if more than 2cm away from me, it is not possible for me to be engrossed in a fiction. Though I bought the classic "The Count of Monte Cristo" (abridged) by Alexander Dumas last month, hoping I could spend some time on it. (I am still hoping...)
I am quite interested in the natural habitat of the city I live in so I bought 2 wildlife guides of plants and animals of the greater city area at the quaint lil corner shop cum gallery at the Botanical Gardens. It was good to be in there at the very least as it was very hot that day. (It rained eventually in the evening.) The shop owner even put up a sign to entice customers to her air-conditioned shop. While chatting about some books at the shop, she told me I could find a great deal of facts from the nearby library but alas, it was not possible for me to go there with 3 hyper active children and a dh to boot. So 2 reference books it is then. I managed to ask her the pressing question in my mind "Is a gum tree the same as a rubber tree". No was the answer. "Is it the same as the eucalyptus tree? "Yes was the answer. Oohh... So the kookaburra sitting on the old gum tree from the Aussie song was actually sitting on a eucalyptus tree which is a very common tree in the woods and parks here. Sometimes, I could hear a kookaburra's distinct laughter erupting in the suburb I live but I could not pinpoint which tree it was on.
The helpful shopowner assisted me further when she learnt I had children waiting outside her shop, by recommending some activities early next year which I might consider for them like the guided walks , dragonfly tours or print making/book reading workshop, insha Allah.

December 03, 2006

Souvenir Shopping!

We went to the CBD yesterday to do some shopping for books and souvenirs as we are planning to go back to KL by mid December insha Allah. I didn't buy anymore tissue box holders decorated with a koala or kangaroo head, mind you. We are trying to cut down on souvenirs this time as we bought heaps on the last trip and we're only planning to bring one luggage on this trip. Dh hates bringing too many carry-on luggage as he says it is cumbersome to look after the luggages and the kids simultaneously.
My dh bought Australian themed calendars for the inlaws and I got some Tees for my mum as she commented that she would like T-Shirts last time we met. I also bought her a DVD of Steve Irwin's memorial tribute. She phoned me twice the day after he passed away as it was a real shocker when she found out. My parents are big fans of his wildlife series on the discovery/animal planet channel.
I also bought some bird calls CDs mainly for myself (well, who else would be interested in them?) from ABC shop and Australia Geographic but today I have to go back to the latter as they gave me the display set with no CDs in them.. Hmm.. What a waste of time as I need to pack and do some other things today you know. Well, that is life and you have to fix things for people when it needs fixing.
[For instance, this beta-blogger post editor is getting weirder today with the special features going all awry and disappearing into thin air. I hope the blog admin can raise their magic wand soon and fix this problem on their side as I have no time to follow up on this. Heck, I spent hours this morning trying to figure out why? Never mind.]