29 Dec 2012

Family trip to Sabah and Family Day

On 21 December 2012 some members of the Haji Tahir Family took a break in Sabah. The whole trip was the brainchild of my younger sister Sabariah or Sabar for short. She planned and organized it and for some who could not afford it, she ended up paying for them too! It was a 4 day 3 night break in Kota Kinabalu and Repin and I decided to join the fun. We stayed at the Marina Condominium - all together there were about 6 families so Sabar had booked 4 condominium units each with 3 bedrooms. I was together with my sister Laila and Haziza and my brother Borhan and his wife.

View from the plane!
We travelled by AirAsia of course, since it was cheaper. It took about 1 hour 45 minutes to reach KK

My sisters
   Waiting for our rooms to be ready - it was a long wait and some of us began to be impatient and started asking too many questions.






Repin and I infront of the Sabah Museum



At the foot of Mount Kinabalu
Visit to the Poring Hotspring deep in the jungle of Sabah
Repin




The whole bunch of us at Pulau Sapi (Sapi Island) 






29 Nov 2012

November round up

November Reads
 November was a fairly busy month for me - mostly because my house was again under renovation. This time however we only expanded my mother-in law's room, which faced the fish pond. Then we decided to add a cattery for the cats and expand Sarah's room while we were at it. Sarah's room had become a bit too small for her - she had very little space to put her books and so we decided to take down the balcony and expand the room from there.

But it didn't stop there of course - since the wall paper was spoilt by all the cement and the dust we also had to change the wall paper but I think it was all worth it in the end. Sarah got her room enlarged and a lovely pink wall paper and mum's room too was so much bigger. One could see the fish pond just standing at the window and it was more airy and roomy too.



The whole renovation took up more than a month - we had to suffer through the noise and the dust especially in the initial stages of knocking down walls and with all that going on and Shasha's  graduation for her Masters degree in English Literature I didn't really have enough time to do all the things I wanted. Reading too suffered though I did manage to pick up some good reads. I had already finished reading  GeorgetteHeyer's  The Grand Sophy by then and also had with me some new books :

1. Another Piece of My Heart by Jane Green, a first time for me though my daughters, Sarah and Marisa swear by her. I enjoyed it although I felt it was a bit slow in the beginning. About Andi who has found the perfect man but the perfect man came with two daughters, one of whom takes an instant dislike to her father's girlfriend and later wife. Emily, the older girl tries to make Andi's life as miserable as she can make it, hoping it will destroy her father's marriage. The ending is slightly cliched though generally the book is charming.
2. The Bracelet by Roberta Gately
3. Wake by Amanda Hocking , the first book in the series about Gemma, a sixteen year old who discovers a strange world under water
4. The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James ( a lovely read which I enjoyed)
5. What's Right about Islam by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf - a book I feel everyone should read irregardless of faith but more because most Americans do not really understand Islam and this is a book which explains the faith in a simple way.



17 Nov 2012

faithful companions - Mulan and Ginger

My constant companions wherever I sit - be it in the kitchen or upstairs at the computer, these two will sit with me for hours on end, never bored. But the moment I stand up to go downstairs they are alert and ready to move! Like faithful dogs, they follow me downstairs and wait there - if I am sitting at the kitchen table, they will just curl up on the carpet and sleep or like Mulan, above, stretch herself and see what happens.

Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

a great book for Shakespeare lovers 
 Miranda is an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent - she loves acting and is actually quite good at it. She also loves anything Shakespearean and hopes one day to be a stage actor like her parents, until that is her opening night at her school play when she was playing Katherine from Taming of the Shrew. She thinks that she had humiliated herself disastrously and flees backstage to think about it.While berating herself about her acting ability, along comes a school mate and fellow actor Stephen Langford who asks her  whether she wants to meet Shakespeare in person.
Thinking it a big joke, Miranda follows him to the rooftop of the building and Stephen who is actually a time traveller from the 16th 
century whisks her off to Shakespearean England! When they arrived Stephen tells Miranda that he actually needs her help to get Shakespeare away from the persuasions of a Jesuit priest, intent on converting the young Will into a Jesuit priest.

Miranda agrees and gets into the biggest role of her life - that of Stephen's younger sister who is falling in love with the young Shakespeare and is trying to seduce him. According to Stephen, if Shakespeare were to become a Jesuit priest the world would lose the greatest writer and dramatist ever known in the English language and the world would be different all together. So Miranda must try to get Will to follow his dreams of being a writer and poet and away from religion. Dangers abound - Elizabethan England has outlawed Catholicism and Jesuit priests if caught are hanged or even burned as traitors. In fact Will Shakespeare is being betrayed by one of the women he thinks is a friend and the county sheriff is looking for him as well as a Jesuit priest he is friendly with. Will Miranda be able to save him? As for Miranda herself she finds her true love but is love enough to keep them together?

This is a really good read by Pamela Mingle, one I enjoyed reading late into the night.

8 Nov 2012

Friendships and misunderstandings

Have you ever had misunderstandings with a dear close friend and for some reason or other allowed it to fester, and it gets bloated out of all recognition and instead of a misunderstanding it becomes a full blown quarrel? Well in my younger days I  did have some of these misunderstandings, but normally with my closest friend, that is my sister Laila, a year younger than me. Most of the time it would be over something I said - me and my blabber mouth - and it would have hurt her, something I never intended to happen. The word "sorry" is like glue in my mouth - even though I knew it was my fault, I found it hard to say "I'm sorry". It's the same thing with her - she never says "I'm sorry" too. So we'd just stare daggers at each other and look the other way. 
But that was a long time ago and I suppose can be forgiven because both of us were very young and very proud. 

Today, at this mature age,what do you do when something like that happens? Do you brush it off and pretend it never happened or apologise profusely and hope she or he would be courteous enough to accept your apology and let bygones be bygones? But sometimes, you can apologise and the apology accepted, but the hard feeling still rankles. You can forgive, but forgetting is quite hard, especially if what was said is really hurtful. It is easy to say that at our age what matters is the friendship, but even then there are some dos and don'ts that you just have to follow. Of course one must never allow the ill feeling to fester - the best thing is to  be upfront about it. Tell her that what she said hurts your feelings and then ignore it. Ignoring is not forgetting - you're just sweeping it under the carpet but at least she knows how you feel. The ball is in her court - she can apologise or not. Your act as a friend is after the apology is over, let it be over and forget about it or at least pretend to.

Do you know this verse which I read a long time ago but just can't remember who wrote it? It's called The Poison tree. (Maybe it was Blake)
"I was angry with my friend
I told him so, my wrath did go;
I was angry with my foe
I told him not - my wrath did grow..."

5 Nov 2012

Rainy days

It's only the beginning of November and already the monsoon season has started. Since last week it has rained almost every day of the week, sometimes for a whole day. The first day of the monsoon rains began with a blast - very heavy winds, toppling trees in our neighbourhood, tearing down my letter box, bringing with it a deluge.

The sky is overcast most of the time, we have to start wondering about flooding and on the news we can hear flood updates from some states already - Johor, Malacca (yes my home state and where I am now), and some parts of Selangor. Yesterday the news flashed some scenes of the flooded areas in Johor and mostly the water was not too high - about 2 feet mainly.Yet the drains are full and the waters fast flowing so I dread to hear about accidental deaths of children caused by negligence. And parents don't seem to care that their children play in the flood waters - I shudder at the things that can happen. Maybe I'm just too phobic - whenever I see children as young as 7 or 8 play in flood waters I feel shocked and worried about it. Why can't their parents control them and keep them inside where its safer? I remember the age old saying - "sudah terantok baru tengadah" - you look up only after you have hit your head. Being careful after the fact or after the incident has occurred is not much use.

School boys walking home in the rain


This is also the season for landslides. Last monsoon season there were no serious landslides that occurred along hill slopes but we have had enough of that to last a  while. Every time it rains, those living in landslide prone areas will wonder - will it happen? And yet people never seem to learn - developers will still cut down trees to build high rise condominiums along hill slopes.

Sometimes the sound of the wind rushing through the window panes will give you a shiver - although I live in a tropical country where thunder storms and monsoon rains is the norm, I still cannot like the rain. It dampens my spirit not calms it down. And notwithstanding it is good for our padifields, I still much prefer the picture of a sunny beach drenched in sunshine and coconut palms swaying its slender branches with a soft breeze blowing. No monsoon rains for me... sigh....

1 Nov 2012

Koh Samui weekend

The weekend had been planned for ages, or it seemed like ages anyway. The whole family had been looking forward to this short break because of all kinds of reasons. I haven't been able to see my grand daughter and missed her terribly. Sarah had just finished Ob-gyn and Repin and both the boys were also in need of a break. So when the day came we all looked forward to it. We went by Firefly which meant we flew from Subang Airport and the flight took only about 1hour and 45 minutes. It was mostly smooth going, just a few mild bumps in mid air due to air pockets and the day too promised to be bright and sunny.

We landed shortly after 4.00pm and the pre-arranged transport was already waiting for us. Oh a word about the Koh Samui airport - it may be small but they do have some nice shops!

Koh Samui  town itself is very small - just a few rows of shops - selling mainly touristy stuff and lots of small restaurants, bars and the ever present 7 -11. I noticed too that there are many pharmacies! I counted 11 on just one road! Perhaps they need the pharmacies for the tourists!

Our resort - Chaweng Buri Beach Resort was a group of chalets nestled among huge trees, facing a pretty beach - soft ,white sand and blue blue sea. A real plus is that this is one of the resorts that is very eco-friendly. Instead of chopping the trees to build the chalets, they built the chalets around the trees. And the trees are big and shady with the chalets nestled in between. 

All our chalets were close together, mine facing Rizal and Poh Ling's so the small fry could come over at any time. But her favourite chalet was of course her Aunty Sarah's and Makcik's, which was just next door to hers. 


Sophia and her aunt Sarah in the plane

The walkway connecting the various chalets

Our chalet - No 505!

The 3 girls enjoying themselves
It was a very short break - just 3 nights but it was fun. We had good food (well not so easy to find halal but we made do) and there were lots of seafood places. After all Koh Samui is an island so fish is there a plenty!  Rizal booked a sailing boat or a catamaran and we went for a sail around the islands, dropped anchor at a smaller island not far from Samui and had lunch there. It rained a bit but that was ok too.
There were lots of activities for families - besides swimming, that is. We went for a karaoke session and then bowling, in town. The next day we went on an island tour and stopped at a few interesting places - a waterfall and an elephant sanctuary and visited a few temples and the Golden Buddha, a huge statue of the Buddha, pasted with gold paper.
I went for a massage and even Repin and the boys as well as Poh Ling went for a foot massage which was really relaxing and cheap - only 100 baht which converts to RM10 for us. I think I wouldn't mind coming back for another long weekend.


Koh Samui break in pictures

We were in Koh Samui recently just before the Aidil Adha holiday. It was a family trip, organised solely by my dearest husband Repin, with all my children - the two girls and both the boys plus our only grandchild, Sophia and POh Ling, my daughter in law.

With Sophia at the lookout point on Koh Samui

Grandfather Rock (the one jutting out like a penis)
Rizal helping to hoist the sails on Dream Catcher, our boat for the day
Sophia


Anyone want to ride an elephant?


9 Oct 2012

Georgette Heyer's The Foundling

Georgette Heyer is always one of my favourite writers - I enjoy her characters and her stories and this one The Foundling is another of her well written books.
Gilly is a Duke, no less and a very rich one too but he is also shy and slightly lacking in confidence. He is sheltered by everyone around him - his kind though strict uncle, his valet and his personal footman and even his older cousin. One day though he feels enough is enough and he escapes gleefully into the unknown as Mr Dash, from nowhere. He wants to try and see the world on his own without being kept under wraps by his minders. He finds out that one of his cousins is being blackmailed by a beautiful foundling's so called "uncle" and promises to help his young cousin out of the problem. However it is no simple matter - the young Duke has plunged into a different world - one of intrigue and even murderers. He manages to escape using his own sense of self worth, helps a young boy out of a scrape and even outwits his kidnappers.

Gilly discovers that he is capable and strong enough to outwit robbers and murderers and that he is indeed "a man, not just a Duke" and as readers we spend a delightful day following him on his adventures and win his bride.


Cats

Mulan loves her vitamins - she'll stand up to eat them!

Chibi, in his new shirt
Mulan taking a vitamin
And this is the handsome Bear Bear from Russia

26 Sep 2012

Rainy day blues

The weather is really dismal today and I feel quite wretched in fact. There was a thunder storm last night and the lights went out at about 2 am. I think the pond filter must have tripped again. I woke up all sweaty to realise that the fan and the air con had stopped and it was pitch dark outside. Groping for the torch light I keep on my bedside table I went out to check the switches. Yatie was outside my room with a candle - she had apparently woken up with the same idea. When I opened the upstairs switch box, all the switches were in place so I looked downstairs. Sure enough there was a trip so I corrected that and told Yatie to go back to bed.

But I was already wide awake and could not sleep so took out my iphone to check the time. There was a beep the moment I took it and saw that my opponent for the word game I'm playing has answered and now it's my turn. Not easy to form a good word when you don't have any vowels to form words with but I managed to send one - only 8 points and he or she is already winning. Oh well, can't be helped. I love this word game - just like scrabble but you can play online with opponents that you don't know. It's called Words with Friends and I'm quite addicted to it I think. I play the game all the time, with sometimes 4 or 5 people from all over the world. Sometimes we chat and through the chat we get to know each other. It can be fun and challenging too.

But by 3 am I feel sleepy and must have dozed off. The next thing I know it's morning and the sound of the Azan can be heard, calling  the faithful to prayer.  My daughter will be working the morning shift so I get out of bed and pray before going down for breakfast. 

It's a morning like most of my mornings are - there are books to be read on my bedside table but I had just finished reading The Foundling by Georgette Heyer,  so I thought I might as well go downstairs and read the papers instead!

31 Aug 2012

Popular Book Fest

Last weekend I managed to visit the Popular book fest at the KL Convention centre in spite of thinking that I'd miss it and this is my loot! In actual fact I bought quite a number of children's books - gifts for Family Day in December but I also managed to get in some of my particular favourites. As you can see I have more than one YA books in my collection - something I'm beginnning to realise I enjoy reading, especially the ones  with paranormal themes. One good example is Switched by Amanda Hocking which tells the story of Wendy, a young Trylle princess who had lived all her life thinking she was different but never knowing why until she finds out that she was not even human and that she had been switched at birth to live with humans. 
The funny thing is I've always been fascinated by stories of fairies and anything magical and at the book fest I got all three books - the sequels being Torn and finally Ascend, the last in the series. Hopefully this will keep me entertained for some time.

I've never read Cathy Kelly before but since the books were too cheap to resist I decided to get them and try to read them later. But I did manage to find one Mary Balogh and one Georgette Heyer, both of which were way way  below the normal price.  The Georgette Heyer was only RM14.90, which was a real bargain because normally her books cost more than RM40. I got the Terry Prachett also at a big discount and felt good about it. And biggest find of all are the Mr Men books which I used to read to Rizal when he was two! I'll keep that for Wan's children later.


24 Aug 2012

Eid Fitri festivities

My brother and nephews Ainal and Iskandar
Its been some time since I last wrote - middle of Ramadan I think. Now its already oneweek after Eidul Fitr and yet people are still inviting us for open house and all. Our "Open house" as usual was on the first day of Shawal and as usual the house was "invaded" by all my brothers and sisters as well as relatives and friends. Also for the second time in a long while Sarah my youngest is with us. No more trips back to Russia for her classes, although she says she misses Russia and its winters!

Sarah and Sophie on Eid morning


Family photo taken on Eid morning August 2012
This past week I've eaten more than I normally would - what with invitations for open house at all my siblings' houses and visiting friends too. Tomorrow I will go up to KL to the Kelang lama house with Repin and then there's a wedding to attend and Maziyan's house too. More food...

25 Jul 2012

Ramadan

Its already 5 days of fasting - time really flies and before we know it, Ramadan will be over and it's already Syawal and Eid. But this year I'm spending all or almost all my Ramadan days in Malacca - so I can easily go over for Taraweeh prayers.
Its a bit lonely though this year because Repin is in KL and I am in Malacca accompanying  my youngest daughter, who has been posted as a houseman at our General Hospital. I wonder about him and worry that he is not eating well and healthily but he says its only for another 9 months. Its the longest 9 months I've ever experienced though.
Yesterday we had a very simple iftar - just rice and some chicken curry and tom yam soup ( a Thai dish). Sarah loved it though. I  went to the Ramadan bazaar hoping to find something delicious to add to our meal but everything looked the same - sweet cakes, fried chicken, grilled fish and all kinds of sweet desserts. I dared not buy anything though because the other day we felt cheated. I had bought some popiah or spring rolls to add to our iftar feast but when it was time to eat them we found that all the vegetables were totally raw! How to eat? We just threw them away and I vowed I would be more careful selecting the food next time I buy at the bazaar.

We didn't get to eat sahur last night! Both Yatie, my maid and I didnt wake up. I don't know why. I was so tired - though I truly didn't do much work - and forgot to put on the alarm. We all woke up at 5.30 am - no time to eat but  did manage a drink of plain water and take my meds. I surely will not forget to put on the alarm next time!

18 Jul 2012

Just thinking

I can't believe that almost half the year is gone - there's only a few more days before we reach Ramadan and then it will be Eidil Fitr. Then the Haj season and before  you know it another year would have passed. So many things have been happening here too in my life that I hardly have time to blog anymore. Of course part of it is just pure laziness... ehem!
First - a few major upheavals in my neighbourhood. Late in December last year my neighbour's house was on fire. It happened in the middle of the night or maybe early morning - around 3.00 am. Part of their kitchen and a store room was destroyed by the fire but what we discovered later was even more horrifying than the fire itself. The fire had been deliberately started by someone our neighbour suspected was another neighbour! The fire inspector who came to investigate said there were signs of a break in and that it looked more like arson than a fire accidentally started by faulty wiring. We were all shocked to the core and quite frightened too. What if someone had died in the fire? Luckily Nadiah, the neighbour's youngest girl was woken up by noises which she thought to be little explosions. It turned out to be the glass of the downstairs storeroom window breaking because of the intense heat. She alerted her family and they all ran out after calling the fire brigade. At that time my maid was also up - she too had heard the sound and on looking out her window saw the neighbour's house on fire.

This brought on a series of security concerns for all of us - I had my house fixed with an auto -gate and an alarm system and for the first few days after the fire, both my maid and I could not sleep peacefully. We woke up many times during the night - the slightest noise and I would sit up in bed wondering. But worse of all, my neighbour, the kindly lady who would pass us some bubur durian or durians or rambutans during the fruit season became ill after the incident. First she had lost her appetite, then she started having nausea and vomiting which she assumed was caused by her loss of appetite and maybe gas in the stomach. She lost quite a bit of weight and concerned by it her family took her to a private hospital for checks. It turned out to be a kind of intestinal cancer. Within a week she was warded at the GH in Malacca but they didn't have a specialist so she was sent to Sungai Buloh instead for the operation. There she was too weak to have an immediate operation so they kept her to strengthen her immune system and enable them to have the operation when she was stronger. Sadly before they could do anything she died - and it happened within 2 weeks of the discovery. One day after her death, another neighbour also succumbed - he was a heavy smoker and was admitted to hospital because of a prolonged cough. While undergoing checks for cancer he had a heart attack and died without even regaining consciousness!  That was on Thursday evening. On Friday morning I had a call from a close friend to tell me that my former CEO, Encik Omar, who had retired in December, had also died of a heart attack/ stroke while waiting to fetch his wife from work! 

Three deaths in one week. It was a bit much. I still miss Kak Rohayah my neighbour who used to send over durians during the durian season. This year in fact I received more durians than before - from her husband.Sometimes while watering the garden I'd remember how we used to exchange gardening tips over the fence and that many of my flowers were  given  by her. She was always so generous - with her flowers and even with her time. Once when I admired her lovely beaded shoes she said she made them herself and that if I liked them she'd make a pair for me. That was more than 5 years ago but I still have them. They are so beautiful I felt loth to wear them for everyday and now they are precious memories of a loving neighbour.

Beautifully sewn beaded shoes made by my neighbor


A month after my neighbour's death a favourite aunt passed away.She was my father's eldest sister in law and had always been kind and patient with me. Then not even a week later, her younger brother also died - making him the last of my relatives on my father's side. They were cousins - in those days cousins often married each other and my uncle had married his cousin. So of my father's relatives, none remains now. His brothers and sister had all died in previous years, with my father one of the first to go  more than 20 years before.

Last week one of my nieces got married and yesterday another niece gave birth to twin boys! Both good news after a spate of bad. Life goes on...

10 Jul 2012

Books galore

Hurray! I finally finished three of my books at last! With Nora Roberts' O 'Hurley's Return I would have finished the ones I ordered from Fishpond.com but I still have at least 5 more waiting. Right now I just started reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown .Three sisters - Cordelia, Bianca and Rosalind have come home after years of being away. They each tell themselves that they have returned because of their parents, of which their mother is now down with cancer. But the real reason is that they have come back because they have all failed in life - their careers have floundered and they feel the need to come back and re evaluate themselves and what they wanted from life. I'm not sure I will like this book but the blurp was interesting and it is about relationships.

 Of course nobody writes about relationships as well as Nora Roberts - I did enjoy her books on the Quinn brothers and the Concannon sisters from Ireland (the Born in ... series) I have also just finished reading her latest book on the Inn Boonsboro trilogy - The Last Boyfriend. A warm and pleasurable book for a cool wet day - very pleasant reading. I have always loved the male protagonists in Nora Roberts tales - they are usually good looking though not too handsome, very kind and gentle though present a rugged exterior and are very family oriented men. Hard to find such species in these days of materialism and self centredness. I cant say this of the men only - women too are like that.

These days I seem to have too many books and too little time - there is hardly any time left for blogging. I thought staying in Malacca I'd have plenty of time to read but it seems not. Anyway right now I'm reading - Swift, by RJ Anderson and another book by her is waiting for me - Knife. Both these books are a departure for me - Swift is about a fairy who does not realise she is one and only found out about it accidentally. Living all her life underground with people she thought of as her kin, she only found out about her powers and her ability to change into a bird when she had to escape the very people who had brought her up - the gnomes. She manages to escape but badly injures herself doing it and gets the help of a human girl. 

16 May 2012

Sophia

This week end we decided to take a bus to Singapore to visit our grand daughter who Repin has not seen since last month. The journey was uneventful - we both slept like logs along the way , woken up once at the rest area for a 20 minute toilet break and then off again. Sophie had grown almost an inch since we last saw her -she's all legs now. She had never been plump except as a tiny infant and now as a little 4+ she's even skinnier. A rather picky eater,she loves Japanese food - sushi and seaweed being her favorites. Yesterday, the first thing she said when she saw us was "how long will you stay?" It makes me feel so sad because I think she wants to see more of us but because of Repin's and my busy schedule, we cannot do that.
Sophie is now learning the piano and can play a few tunes - Twinkle twinkle little star and Three Blind Mice as well as another piece I don't even know the title of. She was excited when I gave her the sticker book I had got her in London as well as some dresses and a Kath Kidston bag. In fact the sticker book was a great hit- I wish I had bought more. We immediately got to play with it and started doing the stickers as soon as I unpacked it.

We went to the Botanical Gardens the next evening - another example of Singapore's real love and appreciation for nature, as opposed to our Government's attitude of oh its okay to cut a few trees - after all what are trees compared to buildings? The Singapore Botanical Gardens is not just a place where you can actually learn and wonder and be fascinated - it's a beauty and it's so appreciated.There are so many people - walking their dogs, playing with children, just walking and enjoying the beauty of nature and also appreciate the fine arts - the Chinese Symphony Orchestra was giving a free concert and a lot of people were sitting there, just enjoying the music. How I wish we had such things here in Malaysia. Sometimes I feel that we are really such apes - philistines really.


Sophia with her grand dad



the Chinese Symphony orchestra at the gardens
After about an hour of walking and admiring the different plants they had we decided to call it a day and went off for tea at the nearby cafe. There are a number of eating places here catering to different styles and appetites - fine dining, canteen style and fast food. There are also places where we can have picnics as I can see some families having fun picnicking under the trees! A good day for all.


25 Apr 2012

Spring break in London

After two weeks in London I'm back again in Malacca to be with my beloved cats and my garden, which is looking a bit of a mess nowadays since I wasn't around to weed it. Spring in London was great, in spite of the uncertain British weather - sunny for a while then cloudy, drizzle a bit then half an hour later sunshine again...
We stayed at a Malaysian owned hotel in Bayswater - the Holiday Villa, which is fairly near to all the places I love - Hyde park, Oxford Street, Shepperd's Bush, the museums and even Buckingham Palace! Everything within easy walking distance or tube. The first day we just lazed around in the hotel, since it's all about taking a breather - I had brought two novels for my reading, one of which I finished in the plane - so I ended up reading the second book. At 2.00 pm Repin said he was hungry so off we went to look for food and found a lovely Arab restaurant just a few doors away. The portions were huge though and since we didn't know, had ordered too much so we told  them to pack us the rest of the food for dinner.

That night it rained quite heavily and temperatures went as low as 3 degrees celsius - luckily for us the hotel had central  heating so we were quite cozy wrapped in blankets and watched the telly.

The next day we had already pre booked a Cotswold tour and Norul our niece came along with us. Last year we had gone for a tour of the Cotswolds but it was too fleeting - just a drive around the lanes and a short stop at  Stow, so this time we decided to have a proper tour. On the way we also visited Blenheim Palace, the home of Sir Winston Churchill, of the Malborough family. This is his family home - but it is literally a palace - so huge and filled with ancient portraits of the family. His grandfather had fought in the Napoleonic Wars and Churchill himself served in the army as a young man - he was in the African continent fighting the Boers.

The Cotswolds in Spring is a delight - green fields, rushing streams, flowers everywhere. I just love the serene beauty of the countryside with its quaint looking cottages and shops. Although when we started the weather didn't look promising, it improved as we got nearer to our destination and the day was quite sunny when we were there.


the serene beauty of the English countryside


29 Mar 2012

Books again!

Oh yes... how I miss my books. Staying in Malacca, being away from Repin and the best bookshop in Malaysia is hard indeed.Here we only have Popular Bookstores and MPH which are actually not real bookshops (according to my bookaholic daughter Shasha) but beggars can't be choosers can they? So anyway yesterday being an off day for Sarah my other girl, we decided to browse Popular's book shelves. And decided to become a member as well, so that we could get the 20% discount they offer to members. Let me tell you, books are very expensive here in Malaysia, which is one reason why few people can afford to read. And unlike our Singaporian counterparts, we can't rely on the library. Do we even have one in Malacca? I have seen one anyway - in the mall in town. It's quite popular among school students because most of their books are school references and exam papers. But there was nothing worth reading on the fiction shelves and even the magazines were years old! Maybe I should donate some of my books to them.

So I came home with this lot to read - at least it will keep me in books for the next week or two!
New books for this week

I'll keep the J.D Robb for last - because I love Roarke, Eve Dallas' dishy husband! First on my list to read is Sleeping Helena, a spin off from Sleeping Beauty but very very different.I've already started on this book and is half way through... and  oh yes, there are curses and a sleeping beauty but this sleeping beauty is no fairy princess full of love and kindness, because when her aunts gave her the gifts of beauty, intelligence, etc everyone forgot to give her kindness. And she can kill without remorse or pity.

Next to be read will be The Duke is Mine, by Eloisa James. I've never read her yet so will find out whether I like her books or not. But the blurp at the back of the book sounds interesting. I've looked for some fantasy books - but the only ones that can be found here in Malacca are by Rick Riordan and George Martin. So maybe I have to drive to KL one day for books.

25 Mar 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Last week was Mother's Day in the UK I think, and some time in early April it will be Mother's Day over here in Malaysia. Not that we celebrate it as many do, both here and overseas. For me, Mother's Day should be every day. One should remember one's mum all the time and respect her, love her and cherish her. I always tell my friends this, especially when they complain about their ailing and often forgetful mothers. It's not easy I understand - we are busy working people and if we also have to look after an older person who depends a lot on us for everything, then it is hard indeed. Often at this age they are also very forgetful and can be quite demanding. I lost my mum when she was only 58 years old - an age when she should be happy with her grandchildren growing up and her own children all working. But that was not to be. My mum was diagnosed with acute myloid leukemia and just when we were still trying to find out what it was and how to give her enough blood for transfusions, she passed away - exactly one week after she was diagnosed. It seemed that she had the disease for more than 3 months - the fever that would not go away and the lack of appetite were indications that we thought was caused by tiredness and overwork. After her death we all realised how much we depended on her. She was the "glue" that cemented our family together, the reason for coming home to Malacca every week.

Throughout my growing up years my relationship with my mum was very ambivalent. There were times in my teen years when I felt that she was too harsh and strict with me, that I almost hated her. My dad on the other hand was always more understanding, kinder, always praising me for my academic achievements. So I always loved my dad more than my mum and had a closer relationship with him than with her. I could talk to him and joke with him - about so many things - religion, books, astrology, even love. But with my mum our talk mainly extended to what's cooking, what to cook and how to cook it.

However when I got married and moved out of the family home we became closer in a way.  I could ask her about men, about marriage life, about kids. But we seldom had time to actually talk - I was always too busy - forever having workshops that took me away for days on end. I can stil hear her asking me, "When are you coming back to malacca?" And my answer, impatiently, "I'm too busy Mak..."
Then one day she was no longer there and when you call home, there is no voice on the other end asking you how you are, how the children are... and you suddenly realise that you will never again see her... hear her ...and you wish with all your might that you could see her just once more. I would give anything, anything at all to go back to those days and live it all over again and not make the same mistakes.

So I'm telling all this so that my readers, wherever you are, will treat your mothers with the love and care that they deserve so that you will not regret what you did not do for them when they were alive.



my mother in law who was in hospital last month

I am lucky that at least I have a mother in law who loves me. When I gave birth to my children she was the one who stayed at the hospital with me. At that time my own mother was busy looking after my younger sisters so could not leave them behind to look after me. I am the eldest in a family of 14 children! So when I got married at the early age of 21, my sisters were still very young - the youngest was only 4 years old!

Today my mother in law is 82 years old. She can't walk without us helping her and is fast losing her memory too. She will ask the same questions again and again. Sometimes when she loses her things she blames everybody but herself. She calls me whenever she's lonely and asks querilously what day it is. And  I think back to my early marriage days when she was only 40 years old and so capable  that she did everything in the house -  cooked, cleaned, sewed and even accompanied my father in law to work when he was on night duty. A friend once asked me how I can look after her without complaining - and I just say " She looked after me when she was younger; now its my turn."

So Happy Mother's Day Mak. I love you in spite of everything or maybe because of everything. You were always there when I needed help with the kids and you always made sure that my favourite kuih is there when I come home to Malacca. I hope that one day I can be like you.

15 Mar 2012

Long distance relationships

Its not easy maintaining a long distance relationship - with anybody - least of all with family. Our family is in three parts lately - three in Kuala Lumpur ( my husband, eldest girl and second boy); my youngest daughter and I are in Malacca and the third part - sometimes quite painful for me - my eldest boy, his wife and their little girl Sophie who are in Singapore. I have written about Sophie a number of times, about how proud I am of her, how much I miss her and wish I can see her more often. Yes, I miss my husband too - and my eldest girl but at least I see them every week or two. I have not seen Sophia for at least a month now. Singapore may not be far, it is only 4 hours away by road after all. However, distance is not what matters but time, for I am tied down by other considerations, namely Sarah my girl who is now a fresh houseman at the General Hospital in Malacca - seeing to her safety, her food and generally taking care of her. I've missed out on that when she was away studying in Russia for 6 years, so I want to be with her for a while, just mothering her.

As for Sophia, my grand daughter - it just breaks my heart when the last time I visited them in Singapore, she hugged me like she'd never let go and then asked, " Nenek, when are you going back?" So I told her, Monday and she said, counting her fingers, "We only got 3 days nenek!" Quickly her father told her - "But we are visiting nenek in March so we'll see her again,ok?"

Sophie with Pixel

then the impish smile came on and she said happily, "Today for dinner I'm going to sit between Nenek and Auntie Sarah!"

The next day we went to the Universal Studios where she insisted she only sat next to Auntie Sarah.

Here you can see her eating with chopsticks
( "Nenek, don't you know how to eat with chopsticks?" was her comment when I asked for a spoon and fork!)

Her imagination is boundless - her favourite topic is still Totoro, the imaginary cartoon character from a Japanese children's anime. At the Universal Studios store she was eyeing a stationary set and when I asked her whether she wanted it, said " Totoro already bought it for me! But he didn't buy me the Woody Woodpecker." She never said she wanted it, but we all knew that she did.


and a cheeky smile says it all
I try to keep in touch by phone but its a media that Sophie is not really in favor of - she has her moods - sometimes she'll talk and most times she'll just say "No," very decidely. I know that she's not being rude, just a child's way of saying, I guess. when are you visiting me!

I look forward to meeting her again next weekend when Rizal comes over to Malacca. It is just fascinating listening to her talk - better than an adult at times.
" Troy was supposed to come today you know, but he didn't manage to come at the last minute!"
Even my university students wouldn't be able to put together such words - didn't manage to come at the last minute! Where on earth did she pick up such sophisticated language I wonder. From her mum probably. And lastly here is a picture of her drawing - sent to us by her mum via Fb:


Sophia's masterpiece

Explanation for the above - "That's daddy with me, and the  centre one is our apartment. The two cats are not ours - Pixel is too fat so I put him behind . The two women is Jonah and her friend"
"Where's mummy in the picture?"
"Mummy is not in the picture - you are in the office. Today Daddy is with me."

13 Mar 2012

Some laughs

I got this from Merle's Third Try

A Mountain Wings item about 6th graders answers
to questions that I copied and pasted here as it
looked like too much typing. Some are very funny. Kids say (and write) the darndest things! Reading this I amost toppled over with laughter...



-- MountainWings       A MountainWings Moment #3022          Wings Over The Mountains of Life -------------------------------------------------  Sixth Grade Research ===================== 

1. Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies and they all wrote in hydraulics. They lived in the Sarah Dessert. The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere.

2. Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea where they made unleavened bread which is bread made without any ingredients. Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. He died before he ever reached Canada.

3. Solomom had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.

4. The Greeks were a highly sculptured people and without them we wouldn't have history. The Greeks also had myths. A myth is a female moth.

5. Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline.

6. In the Olympic games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled biscuits, and threw the java.

7. Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Dying, he gasped out: "Tee hee, Brutus."

8. Joan of Arc was burnt to a steak and was cannonized by Bernard Shaw.

9. Queen Elizabeth was the "Virgin Queen."  As a queen she was a success. When she exposed herself before her troops they all shouted "hurrah."

10. It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented removable type and the Bible. Another important invention was the circulation of blood. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes and started smoking. Sir Fransis Drake circumcised the world with a 100-foot clipper.

11. The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies, comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and Juliet is an example of a heroic couple. Romeo's last wish was to be laid by Juliet.

12. Writing at the same time as Shakespeare was Miguel Cervantes. He wrote "Donkey Hote."  The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote "Paradise Lost."  Then his wife died and he wrote "Paradise Regained."

13. Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin discovered electricity by rubbing two cats backwards and declared, "A horse divided against itself cannot stand." Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.

14. Abraham Lincoln became America's greatest Precedent. Lincoln's mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. They believe the assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposingly insane actor. This ruined Booth's career.

15. Johann Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large number of children. In between he practiced on an old spinster which he kept up in his attic. Bach died from 1750 to the present. Bach was the most famous composer in the world and so was Handel. Handel was half German, half Italian and half English. He was very large.

16. Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.

17. The nineteenth century was a time of a great many thoughts and inventions. People stopped reproducing by hand and started reproducing by machine. The invention of the steamboat caused a network of rivers to spring up. Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick raper, which did the work of a hundred men. Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis. Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the Organ of the Species. Madman Curie discovered radio. And Karl Marx became one of the Marx Brothers.

Thank you Merle! You really made my day!

6 Mar 2012

Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer

I think I've had this book for almost 2 weeks - sitting on my night stand, night after night , beckoning, but I didn't take the bait. Why you might ask. Just simply - I had little time and normally by the time I get to bed I would be so tired that I'd just go off to cuckoo land without a thought. Finally though I decided to start reading it and am glad that I did - I had read the first chapter but always pushed it aside, trying to "water" my farm before I got too sleepy! So this morning, when my part time helper came to do the cleaning. I finally found myself a bit free.

And once started I couldn't really put the book down. Granted, at first I was rather annoyed at some of the silly things the heroine of the novel did and her bigger ass of a husband too but then I was also tickled by the pair of them and got quite involved with the couple I just had to continue reading.

The novel begins with young Lord Sherrington (Sherry to us) proposing to his favourite girl ,the Incomparable Bella. Bella however is wise to the young Lord's way and refuses him outright and criticising his behaviour as an irresponsible, devil may care, gambler to boot. The angry Lord Sherrington vows to propose to the first lady he meets and who should it be but the young Hero, one of his neighbours and who was crying because she was to be sent to Bath as a governess unless she married a curate, a much older man and who had offered for her. Hero had always hero-worshipped Sherry and was delighted to accept the proposal. The wedding takes place and even this is a masterpiece of comedy - Sherry is waiting for her at the church and she comes with two hackney coaches full of band boxes - her luggage it seems , which she had bought on the way to the wedding. When they were pronounced man and wife, he realsed he had forgotten the ring and she had to make do with his best man's signet ring. At first she does come across as a flighty, shallow person but further reading shows us that she does have a character and that that she is caring, warm and intelligent, in spite of Sherry's total lack of love (at first) and also other obstacles. She tries to win his love, at first by copying his actions - yes she did - she went to a gaming room, she visited a bachelor in his house and she parties till the wee hours of the morning, just to get his attention.  

Georgette Heyer again charmed me and I enjoyed reading about the escapades of the young lady Sherrington.Often I was caught smiling and sometimes breaking into laughter at some of her exploits. When will Sherry realise that he actually loves her, I wonder?  And of course he realises it later - only to be faced with the idea of losing her completely. The title of the book is so suitable  Friday's child is loving and giving, which Hero is.

This book is totally charming and totally funny. I admit there are times when I thought Sherry a bit of a nitwit and felt like shaking him but I think Hero does that very well - gave his heart a real shake so that he finally woke up to find that he may lose his wife if he didn't take her back.
 A thoroughly enjoyable book suitable for a rainy day, which it was today! Or not so rainy ones either. But then I've always enjoyed Georgette Heyer.

4 Mar 2012

I think I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree

Today when I passed by Jalan Sultan Ismail in Kuala Lumpur I was shocked and blinked in surprise at the changed landscape - barren of trees, forlorn looking. These were huge old rain rees that took decades to grow. Those trees must have been at least as old as Kuala Lumpur itself - about 50+ years. Whose dastardly idea it was to cut down the trees I wish I knew - I'd send him a really nasty email condemning his action!

We Malaysians don't seem to hold trees in much respect, even though its been commented upon and cries of outrage over tree cutting has been going on for years. What is it about the Malaysian mentality that looks at trees as a nuisance I wonder. Unlike Singaporians who look after their trees lovingly and avoid cutting them down as much as possible. Drive through Singapore and you can see the difference - old trees line the roads and highways - all beautifully trimmed and maintained. Here, instead of trimming the branches and maintaining the trees properly, we chop down the huge trees as a first recourse. Look at Jalan Setapak infront of Camp Wadieburn - the roads are now bare of trees. Every time we want to widen the roads the trees are the first to go. And our hills - no wonder that every year we read about landslides that bring down houses and killing people. After uprooting the trees what is there left during a downpour to prevent the soil from sliding downhill? We have so many tragic reminders in KL alone - Highland Towers, Ukay Heights, Ulu Selangor - but do we ever learn?

I'd like to share with some readers here about the perpetual problem in Malaysia - we worry about illegal logging, but let's also wory about random cutting of trees within the city itself - just so that more cars can pass through, more roads can be built and more condominiums come up. Lastly here are two poems I've always loved and which reminds me so much why we have to love out trees -


TREES

by: Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

THINK that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;


A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

The Heart of a Tree by Henry Cuylar Bunner
 
WHAT does he plant who plants a tree?
He plants a friend of sun and sky;
He plants the flag of breezes free;
The shaft of beauty, towering high.
He plants a home to heaven anigh
For song and mother-croon of bird
In hushed and happy twilight heard —
The treble of heaven's harmony —
These things he plants who plants a tree.

What does he plant who plants a tree?

He plants cool shade and tender rain,

And seed and bud of days to be,

And years that fade and flush again;

He plants the glory of the plain;

He plants the forest's heritage;
The harvest of a coming age;

They joy that unborn eyes shall see —

These things he plants who plants a tree.

What does he plant who plants a tree?

He plants, in sap and leaf and wood,

In love of home and loyalty

And far-cast thought of civic good —

His blessing on the neighborhood

Who in the hollow of His hand

Holds all the growth of all our land —

A nation's growth from sea to sea

Stirs in his heart who plants a tree.

3 Mar 2012

Eleven things...

It's been a thoroughly busy week - I was up to Kuala Lumpur twice this week and  every day up at 5.00 am and sleep at 1.00 am. Yesterday it was 2.00 am. Why you might ask? Well, first my husband lives in KL and visits me twice a week. He's there because he is still working and his office is there. I was there until last October when my youngest daughter Maisarah  graduated and was posted to the General Hospital in Malacca. As a new houseman, her work hours are horrible - 16 or 18 hours a day! From 6.30 am till 11.45 pm and she says there's so much work they have no time to rest or even eat. So being the concerned and caring mum that I am I stay with her, make sure she at least gets some hot food when she gets home from work and in every way make things as easy for her as I can. After all Malacca is also our home - its our hometown and we have a house here. The place in KL is only an apartment so no place to garden or do anything. Here at least I can do what I like best - garden!

And yesterday while going through the other blogs I saw Izdiher's call for the eleven things to answer. They are the following:


1.You look like ?


2.You live like ?


3.Where are your keys?


4.How much money do you have in your pockets at any moment?


5.You love those places where ......... ?


6.Where is Africa?


7.You are hooked to ?


8.What came first egg or hen?


9.Why Zebra wears striped dress ?


10.Why the sun is yellow?

11.Your dream bf/gf is ?

 
To tell the truth I don't know how to answer those questions!  But I will try...
 
Okay, number 1 - what do I look like? Is it fair to just paste my photo and let others decide? - Hmmm... is it cheating? So okay never mind I look like me - quite fair for a Malay, small sharp nose, normal shaped mouth and not very tall. Brown hair and eyes (natural ), Okay looking for a middle aged woman - a lot of people have thought me 10 years younger than I actually am! ha ha ha
 
How do I live? - Like a queen!  LOL  No... just a thought - if only - but how do queens live anyway? I'm a wife and mother so I guess I live like most of them - I clean and cook and keep house, I go shopping, I play games on the internet with my friends and I read Facebook. (very conservative Izdiher!)
 
My keys? What sort of question is that? They are where they always are - on the cabinet in the living room.
 
Money - that depends... but because I'm a housewife and do all my own shopping and groceries I keep a decent amount in my purse - I hate going to the ATM often.
 
I love places which has the 4 seasons - winter, spring, summer and autumn. Because my country has only 2 seasons - hot and wet and hot and wet - I appreciate any place that has changes in climate. I've lived in the US for a while and enjoyed the changing of the seasons.Even though sometimes I hated the winter months because its always cloudy and cold and it gets dark very early but I still enjy  the cold.
 
Africa? Hmmm how do I answer that? Look at the world map - you'll know then. It's somewhere west of Malaysia but east of America?
 
Oh I'm hooked to so many things - farm Story on the Ipad, blogging, gardening, reading, music of the early 60s...(Does that make me conservative) And I love to dance - only I do it at home...
 
Which comes first - chicken or egg? That's the eternal question Izdiher! One can never be sure! If I knew I'm sure I'd be a millionaire now...
 
Why does the zebra wear striped dress? To go to a party?
 
Why is the sun yellow? It only looks yellow, it's actually not - its just a ball of fire ( I think so anyway)
 
My dream b/f - I'm already married honey, so I have my dream b/f - he's smart (very smart since he's VP in a university), he's still good looking after 4 kids and almost 40 years of marriage, he's kind and loving although quite lazy in doing housework - and he can sing and has a good sense of humour which is very important in any relationship. But maybe I'd love to have Brad Pitt as a b/f (in my dreams of course since I'm no Angelina Jolie).
 
So my questions are:
 
1. What's your idea of a dream wedding?
2. What are your favourite books to read?
3 Who are your favourite heroes (from books, movies etc)
4.What would you do if you could control the world?
5. What is your favourite colour?
6.Why did the chicken cross the road?
7. Do you read all books till the end or do you skip pages and see the ending?
8. If you could be somebody for one day who would you be?
9. Which country do you want to see the most?
10. If you could live your life all over again are there things you would do or not do?
11. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what things (3 only) would want to have with you?
 
Tagged for