Sunday, September 30, 2007

"My Family" by Ihsan

click picture to enlarge

Ihsan saw me tinkling around with photoshop the other day and he wanted to have a go at it. So I let him play around with it, cautioning him though, that it might me a little difficult since the application is more advanced than the average MSPaint that he is so used to using.

Last night he excitingly showed me this drawing he made all on his own. I was quite impressed! Even I didnt know that there were these brushes available. tee hee.

Maybe I should have him design my logo, eh?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta was described as 'cooked cream served with berry sauce' in the menu of the italian restaurant we were having lunch at last July. Attracted by the word 'cream' (arent I always?), I decided to give it a try. My order came with fresh raspberries in sauce. It was yummeh!

When I came home, I googled for the recipe , only to discover that it is actually made using gelatine. erks.... ooops! :p

The recipe looks pretty easy, so I decided to give it a try, but to substitute the gelatine with agar-agar instead.

I had never cooked with agar-agar before in my life, and I heard that it's quite complicated to get right. I was given a few packs of agar-agar by Farah when she was packing to move back to Malaysia in June, so I had plenty to play around with. The instructions on the packet said dissolve 25grams agar-agar in 2.5 litres of water, but I don't have a weighing machine to weigh out 25grams, so I decided to do it by volume instead. I just had to figure out how to measure the right amount of agar-agar and liquid proportions to get the right texture and firmness. Panna cotta has to be smooth, just firm enough to stand, but not so firm to have a bite to it.

My first try resulted in more like milk agar-agar, very hard and not smooth at all, plus I had these stringy bits at the bottom of the mold. I couldn't figure out why. I made raspberry sauce using leftover frozen raspberries, so it was yummeh albeit a little chewy.

My second try was for the Merdeka Makan2. It turned out slightly softer and smoother, but it still had these stringy bits, which I had to strain out before putting the liquid into the serving dish to cool and set. My mom who was around to help, pointed out that I had not cooked the agar-agar thoroughly enough and I added the sugar too soon. Apparently, sugar stops the agar-agar from dissolving properly. Ah... I learn something new everyday! Nevertheless, the panna cotta was a hit, (I think, since a few people asked for some to be packed home), especially since I served it with fresh strawberries cut up and mixed with sugar.

My third try was too soft, when I turned it out of the mold, it was just too mushy. But it was still yummeh, and my kids just ate the dessert out of the individual cups, like dadih (yogurt).

I finally got it right at the fourth try, and I am happy to share the recipe with you:

Easy Peasy Panna Cotta


  • As much agar-agar you can soak in 1/2 cup of water**

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 litre (roughly 4 cups) of whipping cream @room temperature

  • 8-10 tablespoons of sugar

  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

  • 1 tsp lemon zest (optional)


  • Boil agar-agar in water, stirring often, till liquid is clear and no longer cloudy. (If you're not sure, leave it to boil for another 5 minutes)

  • Lower the heat and add in half of the cream, stir till well mixed.

  • Add sugar and stir till well mixed.

  • Add the rest of the cream and vanilla essence.

  • Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest (if using)

  • Ladle into molds or serving dish (strain if necessary, and especially if using lemon zest)

  • Let cool then chill in the fridge to set.

Easy peasy Lemon Squeazy, no?

** So far I discovered that the best method of measuring the agar-agar is to measure water (1/2 cup) in the measuring cup, then to cut up as much agar-agar into small pieces into the water until I could not keep any more agar-agar submerged. This method works almost every time.

Panna cotta with strawberry sauce

The resulting panna cotta was smooth and still a bit wobbly, but had enough firmness to hold its shape when taken out of the mold. I used my silicone muffin pan as a mold, and also served a few of them in coffee cups. I guess you could also use ramekins if you own them. Alternatively, you could also just pour everything into a serving dish and cut/scoop it out to serve.

It can be served with sweetened fresh fruits (cut up strawberries or whole smalll berries mixed with sugar) or fruit/berry sauce (cook berries in equal amount of water and as much sugar as you want, bring to a boil till it is reduced to almost half and thickened). I served my last attempt with strawberry sauce in a squeeze bottle - the kind you pour on ice cream.

The kids, especially Ihsan, really love panna cotta. I brought a huge dish of it to the melayu iftar gathering 2 weeks ago and the kids had eaten it all up by the time the adults were ready for dessert! It is also a good way to sneak milk/calcium into their diet.

I'm already imagining variations to this recipe -

As I mentioned above, reducing the amount of agar-agar would create a dadih-like texture. I am already imagining them in chocolate, or corn flavour.. yum yum.

To get a less 'creamy' texture (read: less fat, whipping cream has 35% fat), you can use plain full cream milk, or low-fat milk if you'd prefer.

I also wonder if I would get tau-fu-fah if I used soy milk instead of whipping cream. :) (and serve with maple syrup or brown sugar dissolved in some water! oooh yummeh!)

Happy trying!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Five Fluff

I was tagged by Elin the cake-meister.

5 things in my bag (sometimes I carry a handbag, but most often I dont, so I will describe the bag I carry around to gatherings, okay?)

  • 2 diapers (izani punya)

  • wet wipes

  • moisturizer

  • telekung (or sometimes just a pair of the sleeve thingy and a pair of socks)

  • spare clothes for izani

5 things in my wallet (I dont have a wallet, I have this small sling bag, I'll describe what's in the side pocket)

  • CTbank credit card

  • a copy of taufik's iqama

  • my myKad

  • some cash

  • grocery list

5 favorite things in my bedroom (my bedroom in KSA)

  • the only working bedside lamp in the house 

  • whatever book I'm currently reading in bed

  • my soft duvet

  • Izani

  • Taufik

5 things I would like to do

  • Go on a road trip to Qatar, UAE and Oman

  • Go on a trip to Lebanon

  • Go on a trip to Jordan

  • Go on a road trip around europe

  • Go on a road trip road trip road trip.

5 things I am doing now

  • doing this tag

  • reading a forwarded email titled "Takziah, Syafaat Anak & Doa Pelindung" by Zaharuddin Abd Rahman

  • Thinking about what to cook for iftar gathering

  • Searching for recipes

  • Listening to the kids watching Big Cook, Little Cook on CBBC.

5 people i want to tag:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Easy Peasy Kuih Cara

'Kuih' (Coo-ayh) is any small bite sized dish normally eaten as a snack. It can be savoury or sweet.

'Cara' (Cha-rah) literally means 'way', but actually I don't know why this particular dish is called such. Perhaps it's actually short for 'Acara', which means 'event' and this dish was originally created for a special event? *shrug*

This is a particularly easy dish to make, if you have the right tools. The only tedious bit is pouring the batter into the mold and waiting for it to cook and then taking the individual pieces out. The mold is often made of copper or steel for even heat transfer (it has to be set on your stove top), and consist of oval indentations where you'd have to pour the batter in to cook it. What comes out would be oval shaped individual kuihs (cakes). The easiest I could describe it is like a small, fat, oval pancake with filling, either sugar or savoury minced meat.

I was inspired to make this dish when I had a chat with Jeni and Nurique the other day. Jeni, the culinary goddess that she is, mentioned that she was going to make this dish using her muffin pans. She shared with us the recipe, and instructed that to make it in a muffin pan, we'd have to pour the batter, then cover with tin-foil, then bake in a 185°C oven for 30 minutes.

I was thinking, 30minutes?? That's quite a long cycle. So the next time I was at an Indian grocery store, I looked out for a proper steel pan that I could use, and I found one for SR16! yay! I just set the pan on my electric stove top and used one of my existing pot lid to cover it. It has round molds instead of oval, but the result is similar to the kuih cara my mom makes ;)

The Kuih Cara Pan

Well, on to the recipe:

Easy Peasy Kuih Cara


  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1 cup coconut milk

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 egg

  • salt and sugar to taste (I used 1/4tsp and 1tbsp respectively)

  • yellow/green food coloring


  • In your blender, mix all wet ingredients and then mix in the flour bit by bit to prevent clumping. Make sure batter is smooth. If your blender has some kind of spout, you can use your blender container to pour the batter into the molds. Else, you can pour into a jug with a spout.

  • To cook the cakes, heat up the pan under medium heat. Brush the molds with some cooking oil (traditionally, the brush is made using screwpine (pandan) leaves, but I just used a clean paper towel).

  • Pour the batter into the molds halfway, spoon in the filling (sugar or spicy minced meat), then cover with more batter. Cover with a pot lid to let cook. 

  • You can press the tops of the cakes with the flat side of a fork to test whether it's done (cake tops should be even colored and firm to the touch). It should come out of the mold easily with just a push of the fork at the edges when it's done.

  • Makes roughly 3 dozen. 

Easy Peasy Minced Meat Filling


  • 500grams minced meat

  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce

  • 1 large onion chopped finely

  • 1 pip garlic, minced

  • 2 tbsp curry/korma spice powder

  • 2 tbsp cooking oil

  • salt&pepper to taste


  • Marinate mince meat with oyster sauce

  • Saute onions and garlic in oil till fragrant

  • Add spice powder with a little bit of water and let it simmer till pecah minyak (a thin film of oil surfaces)

  • Add in the mince meat, breaking it up as you cook. Season to taste.

You can also decorate the savoury cakes with slices of fresh chillies and scallions, adding them in together with the filling. The filling can also be used in samosas or egg rolls.

Easy Peasy Kuih Cara


Happy trying, and remember - If I can do it, You can do it, too!

(or as they say in Ratatouille, "Anyone can cook!")



just when I was in the mood to blog, my ISP's proxy server was down for two days!

watch out. Lots of Culinary Jams coming up!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fears and wishes of a mother

I can't even begin to tell you how news like this affect my feelings as a mother.

I have learnt from a very young age that there are very bad people out there. People who would think nothing of hurting an innocent little child in un-imaginable ways.
But still, you hope (or maybe you put yourself in denial) that it will not happen to your child. Perhaps that's the way mothers survive. If we give in to the fear, then we would not give birth. Or we wouldnt let our kids out of the house. We'd be sitting outside their classrooms, follow them wherever they go. In short, we'd prolly give them lives, but not give them a life.

So what can we do to protect our kids, aside from putting a leash on them until they're so old, they're not considered as easy prey anymore?
I teach my kids to never trust a stranger, irregardless of what the stranger say. Not even a stranger in uniform. Not even the security guards. (remember what happened to that little girl?). Trust only your parents. Trust that if you are lost, you can stay put or go to the last place we went and we will come look for you.
I teach my kids to stick together. You are not totally lost if you are not alone.
I teach my kids to put up a fight if somebody bad grabs hold of them. Scream, shout, kick, bite, roll or jump around, call for help in all the languages you know. Say "This is not my parent!" loudly and clearly. Never ever let them bring you to a second site.

Still, I am often afraid.
I mean, they are kids. They don't remember instructions. They get distracted. They want to play. And they are oh so so small and so so easy to be picked up and shut up and bundled away.
Trips out to the mall or places where there are a lot of people become a stressful situation for me. Instead of enjoying their company, I worry and fret. If you see a mom with 4 kids who keeps shouting "stick together!" at their kids, that's me.
When the boys go to the public toilets on their own, my stomach stays in knots until I see them return safely to me. Once I even contemplated going into the men's toilet coz Ilham took so long to do his business.
If one of my kids were to be out of my sight for more than five minutes and I don't know exactly where they are, I'd go frantic. The phrase "I thought he was with you" makes me go ballistic. My sister-who-doesnt-blog was once a witness to my handling of Ilham who went missing on his own for 15 minutes. She said the way I jumped on Ilham when he finally appeared was like a rottweiler going for the jugular.
Well, I'd rather be a rottweiler than a mom lamenting the loss of a child. Or worse, a mother who discovers that your child had been tortured and molested, to death.

I wish that we could change the way we function in our environment. I wish that we are less self absorbed and more aware of the things around us. As a mother of 4 kids, I know how difficult it is to keep an eye on even 2 kids, let alone 4. There are many times when I wished that strangers don't just look on and help keep an eye out for them as well, instead of just tut-tut-ing me when something bad happens.
I wish that when people see a lost child, they will stay with the child till the parent return. I wish that when people see a child being grabbed into a van, they will intervene. Ask what is going on, or take down the registration, at least.
I wish.
I wish to feel safer in an increasingly dangerous world.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Easy Peasy Apam Balik

(Sorry, I can't help but post this!)

Sweet apam balik

Apam Balik (arr-pump bar-lake) is like a folded pancake with a filling.
In Malaysia, the usual filling is sugar, ground peanuts, cream style sweet corn and a tiny dollop of butter/margarine. Yummeh-ness! If you are ever in a night market in Malaysia, this is one of the few things that you should try.
Reading about other people going to Pasar Ramadhan (special food market set-up only during Ramadhan) drove me to make this myself. I got the recipe from Jeni, and believe you me it is Easy Peasy!
It is so easy, that the other day I made it with the normal malaysian filling, and today I made them with 2 types of filling - sweet, with nuts and chocolate (reminiscent of the ones I had in Jakarta) and savoury, with sambal daging (spicy beef floss).

Here's the recipe for the batter:

Easy Peasy Apam Balik

1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 cups fresh milk
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
a few drops yellow food coloring (optional)
2 cups self-raising flour

Whip eggs and sugar till soft peaks form.
Add milk, bicarbonate soda, baking powder and yellow coloring, and mix well.
Add flour bit by bit and mix well till very very smooth.

To cook, heat up a non-stick pan using medium heat.
Ladle a portion of the batter and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan, as thin or as thick as you like.
Sprinkle filling over half cooked batter.
Cover for a while to let batter cook.
Once edges of the batter is brown and crispy, use a spatula to peel the 'pancake' off, folding it in half before lifting out of the pan to cool.
Best served warm, but not bad even if it's cooled down

Whipping up the eggs and sugar takes a bit of work because you have to really whip them up till its really pale yellow and form droopy peaks when you lift the beaters up, else your pancakes wont be that fluffy. Having a mixer (hand or standing) would really help a lot. (I just dumped sugar and eggs into my sexy red thing and let it whirl on while I go do other stuff). Other than that, everything else is really straight forward.
The batter is similar to that of a belgian waffle, so you will get a crispy edge to it. I like my apam balik to be thin and crispy. I discovered that to achieve this, I have to use low-medium heat, spread the batter as thin as I can and not cover the pan at all while cooking.
I had used a 6-inch pan, so my apams were small and cut in half to serve. If you use a bigger pan, you might want to cut yours into 4.
If you're making the normal apam balik, sprinkle sugar, then grounded peanuts, then spoon a dollop of cream-style sweet corn and a tiny pinch of butter, in that order. For my nut+chocolate apam balik, I had used sugar, ground almonds and spooned a dollop of nutella (chocolate spread). For the sambal daging ones, I just sprinkled ready-made sambal daging :)(Now I'm wondering if it'd work with spiced mince meat, just like in kuih cara berlauk?).
In Jakarta, they even have apam balik with cream cheese! So Yummeh!

savoury apam balik

Give it a try! If I can do it, I'm sure you could too!

Love in the Time of Fever

I do not know what's wrong with my kids.
Last week Ihsan caught some kinda bug that made him feverish.
Over the weekend he got better, and he went to school on saturday albeit witha bit of a cough, but then Anis didnt coz then she was feverish. On Sunday, Ihsan's cough got worse, so he was kept from school, and I had him and Anis at home. Yesterday only Ihsan was at home nursing a cough, Anis and Ilham went to school.
Today everyone went to school, and I thought, *phew*, at last! I did not have to cook lunch for anyone! But at 10am Taufik had to go pick Ilham up from school and bring him home, coz he was sick.

So for the past four days, I have had at least one child home with me (on top of Izani).
I thought Ramadhan would give me a respite from having to think about what to cook for lunch, but I guessed wrong.

I have been cooking all sorts of porridge for the past few days. Chicken rice porridge, Plain porridge sprinkled with ikan bilis (fired and then ground), Chicken soup with rice, Chicken soup with oats...
I told Ilham we have some leftover white rice with beef curry so that's what he's going to have for lunch, coz I'm done making porridge. I had had a craving for bubur lambuk (creamy savoury rice porridge with lotsa stuff thrown in) earlier in the week, but now I'm just sick of gooey rice.
(by the way, kak teh's recipe for bubur lambuk looks so yummeh!)

On top of cooking lunch, I also have to keep track of who's taking what medicine and when. That's a blessing though, coz looking at all those bitter smelling medicines makes me lose my appetite, an advantage when you're fasting and have been looking at pictures of lemon zested drinks, assortments of delectable looking cakes and a myriad of lauks.
tee hee.

I'm sorry if I sound like I'm complaining. I'm actually not.
I love that I have company.
At least someone can play with Izani while I blog do housework.
tee hee.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Love in the Time of Cholera

As with other works by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I found the book hard to read at first. It took me 3 tries over a period of a few months to read, re-read and finish just the first 10 pages. But after that, the book was a joy to read.
Marquez has this way of weaving his stories in such a way that it seems seamless, and that makes it really difficult to put down (coz I wouldnt know where to put my bookmark). Once I got past the first 10 pages though, I finished the book within 5 days, reading it before bedtime and in between housework.
I found this 'love story' to be romantic yet vulgar, corny yet real, funny yet sad, outrageous yet down to earth , extremely entertaining and slightly confusing.
There were times when I wanted to strangle the protagonist (Florentina) for his idiotic persistence in pursuing his love, but there are times when I understood his obsession. The love shared between married couples potrayed in the story really touched my heart, especially the emotions felt when you lose a loved one.
I was a little put off by an obvious pa3dophiliac incident towards the end of the book and I am thankful that Marquez did not linger longer on that subject.
In between depressing lamentations of pining for love, there were very comedic bits that got me guffawing out loud. Like, what's with the pacifier?
I didn't really fancy the ending though. Too .. fairytale like.
I could definitely see this book being made into a movie. I'm sure Hollywood would revell in showing off the nude scenes.

*goes off to search imdb*

oh, guess what?
The movie is actually in production!!
Javier Bardem is playing Florentino and Benjamin Bratt is playing Dr. Juvenal Urbino and John Leguizamo is Lorenzo Daza.
ooooh yumminess!
Though I would've imagined it the other way round since Benjamin Bratt is sorta thin, and wasnt Dr. Juvenal kinda stout?
aaanyways. This would be interesting indeed...

Tam@n Neg@ra, P@hang, M@laysia

For 15 years, my husband has been bugging me to go to T@man Neg@ra with him. I had always been reluctant to go, because I have this uncanny ability to attract mosquitoes and my skin react harshly to their bites. I rarely get one bite, I'd almost always get more than 5 bites, at least, and that was indoors, in a house in the middle of the city. I shuddered thinking how it would be in the middle of a large and old (the oldest in the world, if I'm not mistaken) virgin forest, where it would be festering with mosquitoes. Furthermore, I imagined it must be a very hostile place where people are forced to rough it out. I imagined having to camp out in the dark, amongst the wildlife (including mosquitoes and leeches) and knowing Malaysian weather, it will probably rain, and I will end up sleeping on a hard surface in a wet tent.
Then when I got kids, my apprehension increased and I had more excuses not to go. How can I bring small kids into the jungle? Only God knows what unseen beings lurk and live in those places... What if they got attracted to my cute little baby and decide to follow us home, or worse, take my baby home with them? haiyoooo tak nak pegi...!!
Don't get me wrong. I love nature and the outdoors, but I draw the line at endangering my life or sanity. I want to enjoy it, not fear it.

Well, a few weeks before we were scheduled to go back to Malaysia, Taufik brought up the subject of visiting Tam@n Neg@ra again. This time, though, he was so adamant, he almost threw a tantrum and threatened to go without me if need be.
So we browsed the tripledoubleyew for accomodations. Muti@ra was fully booked (and dayyyyuuum expensive) so we finally settled for W00dland Resorts. We read up on the activities available there, travelling tips and what to pack and planned out our trip as much as possible.
The first day we got back home, we headed for Gi@nt KJ and bought cheap walking shoes (RM15.99 sahaja babe), track pants, long sleeved t-shirts and insect repellents of all kinds (lotions and sticks and sprays, you name it, we bought it!).

Day 1

We waited for my in-laws to drive down, then we drove together to Kuala T@han. We decided to drive to the resort instead of parking our cars in Kuala Tembel1ng and then take a 2-hour boat ride to Kuala T@han. We figured it was more cost effective since a boat ride costs about RM50 per person and there were 6 adults and 4 kids in our group. A car ride takes slightly less than an hour from roughly the same spot and consumed roughly RM30 of fuel (cost may vary depending of the fuel price.. heh heh)
Our hotel was across the river from the border of the park. To get to T@man Neg@ra, we had to only take a boat to cross the river. Each ride costs RM1 per person. There were many floating restaurants that double as jetties and also offer touring services as well as food.
Since this was our first time, we decided to take the 4days/3night package offered by the hotel. It included 5 activities (guide and entrance+transportation fees covered), room and all meals. I'm sure you could just pay for the room at the hotel and seek touring facilities elsewhere. Though most of the hotel guests took the package deal, we did see a few people who went on their own.

The first night we were there, we had a Night Walk, where our tour guide Sabri took us on a walk into T@man Neg@ra at night.
Did I mention this was at night?
My mom-in-law, Anis, Izani and I did not join this activity, so we stayed in the room and watched a B-grade movie called 'Basilisk' on one of the 4 available 'satelite TV' channels. (I did not say the resort was 5-star).
The boys came back and said they saw a cricket, a spider, a bird and a deer. Or at least one of the eyes of the deer. Taufik said it could've been an eye of a goat for all he knew, but the guide said it was a deer. :laugh:
We ate some mata kucing and turned in early in anticipation of the activity the next morning ...
(The picture you see is of Anis in the park, next to the biggest Yam plant we've ever seen!)

Day 2

After breakfast, we met up with Sabri and he brought us across the river for jungle trekking and canopy walk. We carried Izani in a baby carrier so that our hands are free to hold on to trees while trekking and such, but actually he didnt stay in the carrier for long. We ended up taking turns carrying him in our arms. I am thankful that there were 6 willing adults with us :).

Along the way, our guide would point out trees and plants, telling us their names and uses. It was really amazing to see how huge some trees can grow if you just leave them alone. I'm sure loggers would prolly drool looking at the size of trees there. It was also amazing to find out how many useful and precious natural treasures we have in our forest. Only God knows what other uses are hidden among the plants there.
And having just come back from a place where there are more brown than green, all the foliage was extremely refreshing to my eyes!

The trek wasn't really difficult. The kids took it with stride and even my 60-plus mom-in-law thought it was bearable. The path is well marked and it didnt rain, so it was not slippery or mucky. There are steep bits, but the paths are so well worn that steps are carved out so it's not really dangerous.
Half of our group gave up halfway though, we didnt go right up to Terasek Hill, deciding to wait at the junction to the canopy walk instead. (yeah.. we're whimps.. what to do). We heard that the view from the top of Terasek Hill was spectacular, though. I can't tell from the pictures that was taken though, because it was all very foggy..

When the stronger half of our group got down from the hill, we continued our trek to where the entrance to the canopy walk is.
The 'canopy walk' is basically several stretches of rope bridges that connect the tops of one very tall tree to another very tall tree. The length of bridges vary from one part to another. Some are as short as 50feet, some as long as 100feet. In total, I think there are 500 feet of the rope bridge or something. Unlucky for us (or maybe lucky, depends on how you look at it), half of the canopy walk was closed for maintenance when we were there so we walked on only about 300 feet of it.
They have strict rules for walking on the rope bridges. We're not allowed to stop except at the platforms built around the tree tops. You have to keep within a certain distance from the person in front and behind you. There is a maximum number of persons allowed on the bridge and platforms at a certain time. There are rangers stationed on the platforms to guide you on when it's safe to step on the bridges/platforms. If it rains, the canopy walk would be closed for safety reasons.
All these rules did not help in appeasing my slight fear of heights. Compounded with the subtle swaying of the bridges, the gentle bouncing produced by the weight of other people stepping on it, the result was a very tummy-twisting, armpit-sweating, ketag lutut (knee-wobbling) experience. I did not look down even once during the whole walk, because looking at the size of the tree branches from where I was and knowing how big they really are from the ground was evidence enough of how high I really was.
Just like riding the rollercoaster though, no matter how scared I get during the ride, I always step off feeling like I wanted more :D
Note: Izani was kept in the carrier during the whole walk and God bless him, he slept through the whole thing.

After lunch at the hotel, we then took a sampan (long boat) ride towards Lata Berk0h, a waterfall on the Tembeling river. The scenery along the boat ride was awesome. The water was clear, the forest along the river was obviously unspoilt. With the cool spray of water hitting your face and a warm breeze brushing your cheek now and then, you can't help but feel serene and peaceful. I must say the boat ride was so beautifully surreal that I would not have been suprised to see a group of fairy princesses bathing in the river, ala Putri Gunung Ledang. In fact, at one point the gurgling of water over pebbles actually sounded like singing!
We had to get off the boat and trek in the jungle a bit before reaching the actual waterfall, but after looking at the condition and crowd at the waterfall, we decided to walk back to where the boat was parked and swim there instead.
Dont get me wrong, Lata Berkoh was nice. It had big rocks and deep pools, which is awesome for adults to swim in, but my maternal eyes see as danger spots. Most of the people there were foreign tourists and suffice to say the werent dressed appropriately enough for my mom-in-law's (and my) traditional melayu taste or my kids' innocent eyes. The spot where we end up swimming in was less 'happening' but it was good enough for my kids who had waited what felt like their whole lives to swim in the river. The water was very cool and very clear and very clean. My kids had the time of their lives!

Day 3

The next morning, we were scheduled to go on an expedition into the 'Ear Cave' (Gua Telinga), but since that activity would be dangerous for some of us, we asked Sabri for a more family-friendly activity, a visit to an aborigine settlement.
The visit was uncomfortable at first, because it felt kinda weird to just walk into someone's village and just expect to be entertained, you know. We were told not to go into their houses uninvited, which is of course, a given. I wouldnt like it if anyone came into my house uninvited either, Visit Malaysia year or not.
The aborigines were really shy folks. A few minutes after our presence was acknowledged, I saw all the women walking off with their babies in arms gather under a big tent on the farthest side of the village.
While one of the aboriginal guys prepared materials for a demonstration on making and using a blow-pipe, we mingled about talking to the children who were playing outside their houses.
The blowpipe demonstration was very interesting. They basically used things that they could find in the forest to make the pipe, but make no mistake, making a good working pipe that shoots accurately takes time and skill. We were delighted to recognize some of the plants he mentioned he used, thanks to the guided jungle trekking we did the day before.
The guy then showed us how to use the blowpipe and each one of us had a go at it. I am proud to say that I make quite a good blow-pipe-hunter-woman. I hit the target with just one blow! HA HA :laugh: (It is said that if you fail to hit the target after 3 tries, you are required to spend the night at the village before you are allowed to go home). Even Ilham and Ihsan gave it a go, and my boys would make good monkey hunters one day.
We gave the guy a 'contribution' of RM10 each, bought a few souviners (we bought a small replica of a blow pipe and my sister in law bought a bamboo comb and a rattan bangle) and said our thankyous and goodbyes. It was quite a learning and humbling experience watching how the aborogines live at one with nature.

In the afternoon we went up the T@han river, which was rougher than the Tembel1ng river. There were a few spots with white water, but not that rough that a boat can't go through. They call this 'shooting the rapids' and we were warned it advance that we would get wet, guaranteed. And get wet we did.
The ride was fun! It was mild adventure, safe enough even for the kids and baby izani. The rapids weren't really that rough to the point that you'd fear for your life, but rough enough to be exciting. And as if we didnt get sprayed enough by the rapids, our guide Sabri assisted in spraying us more with the help of his hand in the water and a bucket.
On the way back from shooting the rapids, we stopped by a place called Nus@ Camp, where there is a small river that feeds into the main T@han river, and we got a few hours to play with the water there. The kids had a lot of fun splashing in the cold water again.

We had no further activities later in the afternoon, so we said our goodbyes and thankyous to Sabri, who had been such a wonderful, friendly, understanding and educational guide to us.

Ilham had seen a poster for paintball games at another hotel near ours, so we decided to indulge him just this once. The kids (and their ayah) had fun having a go with the paintball gun. From his stance and actions at the game area, it was really obvious that Ilham was living out his fantasy of being a soldier in a war. I am glad he had fun.
I hope to not hear another request for paintball though, unless someone else is paying for it. This game is dayum expensive!

Day 4

After breakfast, we settled our bills and packed up to leave. We timed our journey just so that we could stop for lunch in Temerloh for Gulai Tempoyak Ikan Patin, then drove back home, tired but satisfied.

All in all, I think our stay in Taman negara was well worth the time and money. It was really nothing like expected nor like I had imagined it would be.
There were not that many mosquitoes and we didnt even see one leech. Perhaps the dry season (June - August) is the reason, because it did not rain even once when we were there.
The place was not as remote or uncivilized as we thought, especially since we were not staying in the park itself, but in a village outside of the park (and crossing the river when we need to, to get into the park). There was even a pasar malam (night market) on the Wednesday night we were there.

The activities within the package offered by the hotel was just nice, we thought. It wasnt too hectic and there were ample time for rest and to perform our spiritual duties in between activities. The activities that we chose were also not too extreme and was do-able by every age group that were with us.
In terms of our hotel, the accomodations were okay. The rooms were comfortable and spacious and the housekeeping was excellent. The food was so-so though. For the amount of money we paid, we think we could've have gotten better food (and choices) from the floating restaurants outside the hotels. Having our meals at the hotel was very convenient, though.
There are of course other accomodations around the Kuala Tahan village, those that offer less (or more) amenities, depending on what you're looking for. From hostel-type accomodations for the backpackers, to 5-star bungalows right smack in the jungle (in Mut1ara Tam@n neg@ra resort) for those who can afford (or dont know better).

Well, there you go, my review for Taman Neg@ra. I hope that I have inspired you to plan for your next holiday :)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Efx2 reincarnated!!

Oh jubilations!!

If you don't know yet, efx2 has been reincarnated as efx2blogs.
And the best news is, Keith is able to transfer our posts from efx2 over to the new blog.
Please read this post on how you can get your posts restored.
You'd have to create a username on first though, so sign up here.

Keith is using Wordpress MU as the ... erm basic building block? .. of efx2blogs, and he hasn't modified it much, so it's not exactly like efx2. He said he'll get around to it sooner or later.

I'm still unsure as to where to park my posts. I sure hate to move coz people often get confused and then lose me all together, but .. we'll see. If efx2blogs has all the features that efx2 had, I might move there and keep a back-up here or something.
We'll see, we'll see.

Right now I am just so happy I'm gonna get my posts back!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fast Kids

I was reading YgInsaf's post on his son(?) fasting and am reminded of how my kids started fasting.

Fortunately for me, I think they picked up on the fasting habit from Taska Salsaabila, the nursery that they used to go to in Malaysia. Kids as young as 5 years old are taught how to fast for half day, up to lunch time. By the time they were 6, if they could, they could fast for the whole day.
So by the time Ilham was 7, he was already used to fasting.

Fasting in S@udi, however, is different from fasting back home, for kids. In M@laysia, almost everybody else is also fasting along with you, your teachers are prolly fasting as well and it doesnt get as hot as here.

Dh@hran British Grammar School (DBGS), the school my kids goes to now, is quite tolerant and understanding about the practice of sawm (fasting). They have a special room and activities for students who are fasting to sit in (if they choose to) during lunch/snack breaks. They tone down the PE class so that on top of the already water-evaporating heat, these kids did not need to lose anymore water.
The environment is still different though.

Last year when I wrote a note to the teacher about Ihsan starting to fast, I got a note in reply, asking me to reconsider. They said that the understanding is that only children above 10 is required to fast. I actually wrote the note to explain that I still pack Ihsan some lunch even though he wants to fast, and I only wanted to make sure that Ihsan eats if the teacher sees that he's being lethargic or looks weak . I was afraid that Ihsan would insist on continuing to fast because I had promised one riyal for every day he fasts. Well it turns out that Ihsan wuold only last about half a day, so I went ahead and packed him lunch everyday anyway.

Ilham, on the other hand, managed to fast for 20 days last year, when he was 9 years old. I can't remember how many days he fasted the previous year, but I remember his teacher marvelling how a boy his age (he was 8 then) could last a whole day, fasting. I explained to her that Malaysian children are taught to fast at quite an early age. I found out later that some arab children only start fasting at the age of 12.

This year, Ilham has managed to go through 2 full days of fasting (not including today). Ihsan had been sick, so he only strated fasting today. Anis was sick too, so we didnt let her fast, I will probably let her try to fast on weekends.
I'm going to see how they are when they come back from school. It is particularly hot this time of year, and as much as i want them to be strong and observe fasting, I do not want them to faint from dehydration.
Worse comes to worse, I will let them fast in school, but have them drink something once they get home if they feel awfully thirsty.

What do you think? Good plan? Or Not good plan?

Friday, September 14, 2007

cuts and bruises

It's only the second day of ramadhan and I already have cuts on both of my thumbs.
My knife has a very sharp point and sometimes I accidently poke my finger with it. I also sharpen it often because a sharp knife speeds up work. But I have never gotten the hang of 'tucking in my fingers' during chopping, my thumb especially, coz it always gets accidently sliced.
So now both of my thumbs hurt. Imagine I have to rub salt and tumeric on some fish today...
The things I endure for food!

I sent some food to the only other Malaysian family in my compound today.
I sent her some keledek goreng and agar-agar sirap.
She reciprocated with Tauhu Sumbat and Cucur Keria.
*aiyohhh sungguh maluuuuu!!!!!*
suffice to say my ego?pride?self confidence? is a little bit bruised by that.
I know it's not a competition, and I did sincerely send her food just as a sign of friendship, but I somehow feel that I have to redeem myself tomorrow.
Not to show that I can cook, but to repay her generosity for sharing precious tauhu with me. (Tauhu is difficult to find here and quite expensive. At least I think so, because I've never found or bought tauhu here).
Is Apam Balik sufficient?
I mean, I want to give her something special, but I dont want to, like, sweat over it. You know how malas I am.
Malas tapi malu.
The Tauhu Sumbat was yummy by the way.
I'm gonna go crawl away and bury my head in my recipe book now.

first day puasa

What a hectic first day of fasting.
I asked Taufik what he wanted for iftar (buka puasa, breaking of fast) and he told me to google for the recipe for Chicken Handi. So I did. Wrote it down and wrote down the grocery list.
We went grocery shopping at 2pm. Iftar is at 5:47pm, so plenty of time, right?


Coz I felt like eating cucur udang (prawn fritters), so we had to go to the fishmarket to buy prawns first. Then when we finally got to Panda Supermarket, it was asar time (afternoon prayer) and even though they were supposed to close down the cashiers during salah (prayer time) break, they had to keep it open coz there were so so many people in queue. We got our stuff and queued up just as salah break was over.
By the time we got home it was 4:15pm. One and a half hours to breaking fast.
I still had to cut up chicken and prepare the pastes for the handi.

panic panic panic!

ThankGod Taufik helped with the shelling and cleaning of the prawns and fish. ThankGod it takes only 15 minutes to cook rice. ThankGod Ilham was helpful with grinding the peanuts in the mortar and pestle.
Still, 10 minutes to maghrib (dusk prayers, when we are allowed to break fast), and I was still waiting for the oil to heat up to fry the prawn fritters. I was frying fritters and making the peanut sauce to go with it at the same time. Felt quite good that I could multi task.

I was still in the middle of frying fritters when maghrib came!
Taufik had to feed me dates so that I could break my fast without interrupting cooking.

My peanut sauce didnt turn out right (have to remember to call my mom-in-law and ask for the recipe again), but the fritters were yummy. heh heh.
I had wanted to make sirap bandung but didnt have time.
My chicken handi was so-so, but I have an idea how to make it better next time.
We finished the fritters, prayed maghrib, then watched Malcolm in the middle, then only had our dinner of White Rice and Chicken Handi and Lettuce ulam. I had to fry eggs for the kids coz the handi was slightly spicy for them.

ah well, who said the first buka puasa has to be perfect?

This morning I had prepared the sirap (dissolve lotsa sugar with warm water, add red food coloring and essence of rose), so I think having sirap bandung for iftar is a big possibility. Ilham is so excited by that prospect.
I'm gonna try to fry some sweet potatoes as well for iftar.
For dinner, we're gonna have fried fish, with maybe thai chilli sauce. with rice. and lettuce ulam again.
Pray everything goes well.

Selamat berbuka, everyone! :)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

First 3 words

This cheeky little boy.

This picture was taken at Floria, Putrajaya.
Floria is a flower festival held once a year in malaysia. It's usually held at the end of August to coincide with our independence day.
It has flower arrangement exhibitions and also landscaping exhibition. This was the landscaping exhibition done by the federal territory of labuan. It wasnt particularly stunning, but the background included one of the futuristic looking bridges in Putrajaya.
It was raining and we had Izani put on his hat and this was one of the few moments he had kept it on.

Izani has started using 3 words in context.

Which is what he calls Taufik, my husband, his father. I am jealous, but yes, this is his first word.
Everytime he hears the doorbell and the front door open and close, he'd run to the top of the stairs and yell down "Ayaaaaahhhhhh!!!!". Even if it is not his father at the door.
Whenever he is excited, he'd call out "Ayahhh!!" and point to whatever excites him.
Whenever he's bored, he'd call out "Ayahhh???" and expects someone, anyone to respond.
Whenever he's scared, he'd scream out "Ayahhh...!" and asks to be rescued.
SOmetimes he'd say "Ayah" but comes to me.
I guess that word represents an authority figure that will make everything in his world all right. And he is not far from the truth :)

Is it a suprise that his second word is "No"?
He uses this word in almost every opportunate moment.
When I take off his clothes for a bath. When I say it's time to get out of the bath. When I want to put his diapers on. When I'm trying to feed him his porridge.
And he says it with a weird teletubby-commentator accent. More like an elongated "Nnnoe" than a "No".

Ilham taught him this word.
The first time I heard it, we were wathcing something on TV and he pointed at the screen (I can't remember what it was) and he said "Wow!".
He says this everytime he sees something exciting or different. Or when he sees animals on TV.
Now I use it to distract him. Like when he instists on playing with the stick shift in the car, I hold him up to the window and point to things and say "wow" and he'd say "wow" and forget about the stick shift. For a while.

Do you remember your children's first words?
Ilham's and Ihsan's were "car". Anis's was .. hm.. I think it was "cat".
None of them learnt to say "Bonda" till they were a little older. I've been called "Bobo", "Bomba", "Dede" .. but it took a while to be called "Bonda". And now they can't stop calling me.


I just remembered that I had made a back-up of my posts on efx2 last june (thanx PB). So I am starting to post them here one by one. If you are getting numerous alerts, you can ignore them. Or if you choose too, you can also read them :) You are more than welcomed to read my old posts. :D

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

the fast and the blog

I've done some sprucing up here in the last few days.

I have added blogrolling for my links (Thanx mamarawks!)
I have added a blidget for Pearl Jam news. (which I think, is *so* cool!!)

Havent gotten around to updating logos and layouts (I wish my post column is wider).. will do that later later lah.

Been doing the rounds and spreading the lurrrvvve.
I am starting to feel at home :)

Oh by the way, if I have missed you in my links, please do drop me a note with your url. Then I'll add you in my links.
Since efx2 is down, I've lost some of my links.. :(

Last but not least,
Ramadhan Kareem to all who are observing the fasting month the next 28-30 days!!
(I'll try not to post any food pictures.. but I cannot promise that I wont!)

Easy Peasy Macaroni with Leftover Chicken in Red Sauce

Here's what I decided to make for lunch today.
I made Ayam Masak Merah* for dinner yesterday and had some leftover (3 pieces of wings and about 5 tablespoons of sauce). I looked through my pantry and found some elbow macaroni and a can of cream. In the fridge, I had some tomato paste leftover from making Ayam Masak Merah*. I always have italian Herbs in my seasoning cupboard, so I decided to make macaroni and the leftover chicken.

Macaroni with Leftover Ayam Masak Merah*

150grams macaroni
leftover Ayam Masak Merah*
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
one chicken stock cube
quarter cup of water
1 teaspoon italian herbs
quarter cup of cream
sugar to taste

Cook macaroni per instructions on box, al dente.
Debone and cut leftover chicken into small pieces, put back into leftover sauce.
Heat up a saucepan large enough to hold the macaroni. Pour in the leftover Ayam Masak Merah, water, chicken stock cube and italian herbs. Bring to a boil, add cream and sugar to taste and stir till well mixed.
Toss in the macaroni.
Serve warm with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

My kids loves anything with creamy tomato sauce and they love pasta. They havent tasted this yet, but I think they'll like it, coz Izani loved it.
I'm just happy to have something to eat under 20 minutes and without having to defrost anything. tee hee :)
I think it'd be yummy with some toasted pine nuts and maybe corn niblets or chopped celery or bell peppers.

*Ayam Masak Merah literally means 'Red Chicken'. It's chicken cooked in red sauce that is made with a mixture of chilli paste and onions (I add a bit of tomato paste so that it's still red, but not too spicy for my kids). I had the recipe in efx2. Perhaps when efx2 is up you could look for it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

what's up, blog?

Well, I'm back here, AGAIN. *sigh*

If you're wondering what happened, according to Keith, the guy who takes care of efx2, said that someone was using the site for phishing (go0gle it lah, malas nak letak link) and they had to take the site off-line.

Good news is, the data is not compromised (read: your posts are still there in the database). You just can't access it. Keith is trying to work out a way to take it online by changing the site address, i think. So.. maybe we can go back one day.
Bad news is, the site address will change and it's just like moving house. You'd have to tell everyone what your new address is and that is more difficult than it sounds, especially if you only know these people on-line and not off-line. Suffice to say, you may be losing a few friends. (speaking from my experience of moving from modblog to blgospot to efx2 and now back to blogspot).

I am seriously thinking of moving to blogspot completely.
what's stopping me is:

1. I don't know how to godek the damn thing!! Look at my header. It's ugly!!!! and I dont know how to fix it. I liked efx2 because it was so user-friendly. I didnt need to know html. I didnt need to know objects and classes and what not.

2. Efx2 was small, it's like living in a kampung (small village) where almost everyone knows everyone else. People are friendlier and closer, you are more open and relaxed... You get reminders to check up on your friends, and you can control who reads you. You sorta feel more secure. If anything bad happens, you can always run to the tok penghulu (village chief) and ask him to help.
Blogspot is like living in a condo in the middle of the city. I don't know who the ketua persatuan penduduk (resident leader) is, and even if you can send an email to the mayor, he's so way up there, you don't know who'd be reading your email or WHEN. I don't know who my neighbours are, and I don't know if I can trust them. And lots and lots and lots of people come to blogspot to read. Its too famous. Efx2 was like that town that's not in the map. I don't know who's gonna be reading my posts on blogspot. Will I get nasty comments (like i've seen many others did?).

3. I am malas.
If I move here, i'd have to move all my older posts here.. and there's a LOT.
aiyooohhh so malas.


well, anyways, we'll see how it goes.
Come on, Keith, you can do it!!! Weed out that Phisherman, kick him it out, whatever. I just want to go home!!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My malaysian holiday

As with any vacation, there were things that went as planned and there were things that didnt go as planned. As usual, there were many things that I wished I could've done but didnt (e.g. visit zan and her new baby, go to my dad's house, visit UkS centre in Taipan, etc etc). All in all it was still a good vacation, though. (Coming home always is good). In summary, here was my actual vacation schedule

Aug 4Aug 5Aug 6Aug 7Aug 8Aug 9Aug 10
.Arrive KL
.Slept slept slept
. Went to pasar malam instead of Farah's BBQ
.Ran's meminang
.Met Ery, had yummeh japanese food!
.Sent car for repair
.Stayed at home
.Watched S3 on DVD
.Drove to jerantut
.lunch ikan patin
.Taman negara
.Taman negara
.jungle trekking and canopy walk
.Boat ride to Lata berkoh waterfall, mandi sungai
.Taman negara
.visit aborigine settlement
.shoot rapids and mandi sungai lagi
.balik KL
.did laundry
Aug 11Aug 12Aug 13Aug 14Aug 15Aug 16Aug 17
.Picked up Unser
.Drove up to kedah very slowly
.Pegi dusun
.makan durian
.makan manggis
Pegi dusunPegi dusun.15th Anniversary
.Pegi dusun
.Pegi dusunPegi Kenduri
Aug 18Aug 19Aug 20Aug 21Aug 22Aug 23Aug 24
Cooked lunch for Zura&Che'Wan, Za&Wanik.pegi dusun lagiMuzium padi, kedahpegi dusunpegi dusun and taman darul aman.Drove back to KL. Lunch with girlfriends
Aug 25Aug 26Aug 27Aug 28Aug 29Aug 30Aug 31
. Went to Anbo's
. Went to rumah PakTeh
. Lunch Nasi Ayam hailam
. Shopping @Jln TAR
. Met Famillah, settle business stuff
. Went to Floria@putrajaya
. Went to 'spa' with Has
. Girls' day out with Dolly
. Lunch in KLCC
. Watched Transformers!
. Settled ASB stuff
. Cleaned up house
. packed
.Made Panna cotta
. Merdeka makan2!!
. Packed
Sep 1Sep 2Sep 3Sep 4Sep 5Sep 6Sep 7
.Flew back to Saudi
.Did laundry
. Sent kids to school
. took medicine, slept :(
. Chat with lollies
. Found out lollies can't make it :(
Did groceriesMy birthday! :D
. Made chocolate cake
Lunch at chilli's?

All in all it was still a hectic but fun holiday. More detailed post on the trip to Taman Negara visit later. It was awesome and I would recommend it to anyone who has never been there before!

Happy Birthday to ...

ME!!! :D

I am 36 today.
To tell you the truth, I dont feel that old (despite the sniffles and menstrual cramps)(or perhaps maybe because of the sniffles and menstrual cramps, afflictions I often associated with the young. I dont know where I got the idea that when you get older you'd outgrow colds and cramps.)(aaaanywayyys)
I do feel more matured in ways though. (Perhaps having 4 kids around me helps). Like i think things through before reacting, more often than I used to when I was younger.
My fiery temper is still as heated as ever though.. don't know when that will cool down... *sigh*

This year I got more presents than previous years. A cookbook (thanx Mdm Y!), 2 storybooks (Thanx Famygirl!), 2 'E' pendants (Thanx Auntie Shireen+Mimi and Dolly!).
But the best came in a long box. No prizes for guessing who it was from and what it was.
All I can say is, "Tee hee!" :D

I'm now off to bake myself a chocolate fudge cake with my new fire engine red kenw00d mixer!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I am ...

... back!!
and sick :(

Why is it that we always get sick the moment we get back from vacation?

Tomorrow is my 3 kids' first day at school for the new school year, so i'm gonna send them to school and check out their new classes and teachers.
I still have not fully unpacked, and I still need to clean the guest room for my guests this weekend.

busy busy busy.
Got so much to tell!!!
I hope that I feel better and have more time to blog tomorrow.
till then,
ciao babes.