Monday, May 30, 2011

i-City


I've been hearing and reading every now and then about i-City, the place with those beautiful LED light sculptures etc that finally yesterday evening, we managed to check it off our 'been there, done that' list.

The tree-lined park

This place is located in Shah Alam and is part a commercial property development. The main attraction of this place is the park where various trees and sculptures made of LED lights turn this otherwise boring place into a wonderland at night.

I can imagine how dead this place is during the day and on weekdays as most of the shoplots and office space are not taken up, save for a number on the ground floor closer to the park where some eateries and a bank are located.  We were rather disappointed with the entire package of the place in fact.

The restaurants were nothing to shout about. There's a steamboat buffet place, a few cafes serving local and western food, a sort-of Middle Eastern restaurant and KFC. There are a few shops selling cheap souvenirs and a few others operating cheap carnival games. I don't mean cheap in terms of pricing but 'cheap' in the tacky, unsophisticated way.

There's a Reptile Exhibition place on the upper floors of one shoplot and the current attraction - The Snowalk - where you pay to enter and enjoy the -5degC man-made snow funhouse.  They charge RM10 per car per entry to i-City. Tickets for the Snowalk cost RM25 for adults and RM15 for kids 3-12 years old, and you can redeem your carpark ticket there. They lend you their winter jackets for free (imagine the jackets having been worn by thousands of other visitors and how they could smell!). Wellingtons are available for rent for a refundable RM20 fee.

If you intend to visit Snowalk, it's best to bring your own winter jackets and wear appropriate shoes. We arrived there before dark, around 7.00pm and chose the safest place, KFC, for dinner. I believe the steamboat place could be relatively good too compared to the other eateries. By the time we finished dinner, it was dark and time to venture out to see the lights. They also have pony rides for RM8 per ride. There's also an amusement place with bumper cars, train rides, arcade games and a karaoke place.

Here are some pictures I managed to catch with my point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix digital camera:

A peacock

Moo... by the way, you cannot touch the sculptures/lights. Security guards are around and will blow their whistles at you telling you to not touch them! 

The crowded Snowalk building

Reindeer

School holidays - mine then and C's now

The school holidays are here again. This time it's for two weeks. The trend these days for upper middle class families with school-going kids are to go on overseas holidays. Some infants, toddlers and children are more well-travelled than me in fact. Every holiday, I'd hear a kid mentioning a holiday to some exotic destination. In school yearbooks, kids write about their Mediterranean cruise or holiday in Europe, no longer about 'A Visit to the Zoo'!

As for ACE, we are not as fortunate as some couples who can afford to take their kids travelling almost every single holiday, even with that popular tagline of  'Now Everyone Can Fly'. The cost of living is high in the city, the cost of raising a family is high too, especially for a single- and average-income family. We try to have one holiday a year, and usually we seldom plan ahead due to E's work schedule and our limited budget.

In the past, my generation of kids were just happy with the simple idea of not having to go to school during the holidays. We were satisfied with entertaining ourselves in various ways at home - playing games, reading, watching the limited children's programes on just two TV channels, playing outside with neighbours and schoolmates who lived nearby. No Astro, Gameboy, Playstation, Nintendo, shopping malls, nice movie theatres with popcorn and other 'canggih' (sophisticated) activities. We knew how to entertain ourselves with the limited stuff around us. As for C, she'd start complaining of boredom and pester me once she's tired of what's readily available.

Those days, if we were lucky enough and our parents could afford it, a holiday meant an outstation trip to a neighbouring state within the country, an outing to a tourist attraction like Batu Caves or a day trip to a nearby beach. Overseas holidays were unheard of, for me at least. It was an activity that was as distant as a dream that I only read about, and saw on TV of celebrities and the rich and famous. The only 'overseas' country I had visited in my childhood was Singapore and that was because we had relatives there. And my first real holiday overseas was to Thailand after I had started working and earning my own money.

I recall the many carefree school holidays I spent in rubber and palm oil plantations where my dad worked, satisfied with cycling around, playing with the dogs, checking out the flora and fauna outside, collecting rubber seeds or the red saga seeds which fell out of their pods from the giant tree in the vast green garden, reading the tons of books I borrowed from friends, and savouring the tasty fried chicken, roti canai, curry and Chinese food my mum taught Saroja, our young Indian girl helper (whom I enjoyed chatting with) to cook. No KFC, Pizza Hut (pizza? what's that?) or McDonald's.


Saga seeds from the Adenanthera pavonina tree

It's a huge difference comparing C's school holidays and mine. She's a city girl whose idea of comfort and fun include airconditioned restaurants, entertainment via electronic stuff, her own brand new story books bought from mega bookstores, and walking about in brightly-lit, loud-music-blaring malls. I was a small town girl, undemanding and happy with what was made available to me, or what I could find to occupy myself with. A short outing to what was called an 'emporium' those days was already adequate.

What about your holidays during your schooldays? How different were they from the ones your children have now?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rojak


For those who don't know, rojak is a type of Malaysian vegetable 'salad' of bean sprouts, water convolvulus (kangkong in Malay), pineapple, turnip, cucumber, sometimes other fruits like starfruit, guava and mango, tofu, deep fried crackers and/or cruellers, mixed with some sugar, prawn paste and ground peanuts. Chilli paste is optional.

I came across this picture I took of a bowl of rojak I had some time ago. Remember the movie Forrest Gump? I believe we all do, especially his quote "My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get'." But what has rojak got to do with chocolates?

When I saw this picture, it got me thinking that life can be a bowl of rojak too. You get a bit of this and that, the good and bad, the sweet, the sour, the soft, the crunchy, all mixed up, and the end result is something palatable, that's if you like the taste of rojak! I like rojak, yum yum.



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Audio books

Audio books are a great way for busy people who are always on the go to 'read'. I've never bought any audio books in the past because these CD sets are pretty expensive, more expensive than the actual books. However, I came across some which were selling at a great bargain recently, and am now enjoying listening to a book while I drive around in my car running errands.

For me, it's easier and faster to finish a book this way instead of sitting down and holding a book in my hand to read as I don't have the time to do that. Reading the conventional way does not allow me to multitask, and I don't have the ability to absorb what I'm reading as my mind is always distracted with the 'what' and 'when' of the many things I need to do daily.

So currently, I'm halfway through The Art of Racing in the Rain, a fiction story that touches on life's issues surrounding a racing driver - his ups and downs as a racing driver, his family life, losing his wife to illness...and I'll know the rest after I finish listening to the story. And all these are told by his pet dog Enzo who narrates and analyses the ways of humans from his viewpoint, with interesting insight, wit and wisdom, and drawing analogies from his knowledge of his master's art of car racing.  You can read the synopsis of the book here.

It's a good change 'reading' a book with an audio book right now for me.

Parenting and school exams

It is the season for school mid-year exams here in Malaysia. Some schools have started their exams one to two weeks ago especially Chinese schools that have more papers to cover, while others will probably hold theirs next or the following week, which is the week before school is out for a two-week break. C's school is having their exam next week from Monday to Friday, with Tuesday a public holiday.

As usual, C is not afraid of exams and does not like to do any revision. We've tried many ways to get her to at least prepare a little but no way, Miss "What, Me Worry?" will leave it to the very last minute before she starts taking out her books. She's only four days away from Monday's exam but is still more interested in reading her storybooks or doing other fun stuff. As I'm typing here right now, she is creating a comic of her own, drawing the pictures in boxes and writing in speech balloons.... Her definition of 'last minute' is very precise i.e. study only the night before or morning of the day of the exam, if she studies at all.....sigh.....It sure sounds like mummy is the one getting exam fever.

As the Cantonese say, "mo ngan thai" or "no eyes to see" if translated literally. That's what comes to mind when I feel my blood pressure rising, my chest tightening with a dull ache, followed by strains of "Que Sera Sera" playing in my head.....

And people tell me I have it so easy because I have only one child. They fail to realise that parenting only one child may be much more difficult than parenting multiple children.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cakes and baking

Baking and decorating cakes and cookies for sale has become a popular home-based business for many women here in Malaysia of late. Specially decorated and personalised cakes of all shapes and sizes are in great demand these days for all occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and festivals. And during festive seasons like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali or Christmas, you can earn quite a bit by making the various festive cookies and delights for sale.

The cost of making a cake from scratch at home is way lower than from buying a ready-made one from the shop. So if you're good at baking, it's cheaper and healthier to make your own cakes. And if you turn around to sell the low-cost but delicious and beautiful cake to others, you can make quite some money. It is, however, a time-consuming activity, especially the decorating part.

And usually, if you want your cakes to look 'professional', you need to learn the finer points of decorating from the experts and enrol for some classes, and practise, practise, practise.

If you are interested in food, cooking and baking, taking up baking and cake decorating classes could be a fun and rewarding hobby. It gets bored housewives out of the house and gives them some 'me' time to be away from the daily routine of household chores and demanding toddlers and kids.

But in order to do so, some planning is required. You need to have the means to pay for such classes and manage your time well to squeeze it into your busy schedule. You'll need support from your spouse or family members to 'hold the fort' and keep an eye on those active kids while you are away for those few hours.

Once you're comfortable and confident with your ability to churn out your creations for an audience outside of your family, it's time to consider marketing your skills and products. Many do it by word-of-mouth and set up websites with photos of their cakes and even provide online order service.

Kudos to those mothers who have managed to do so!

Cakes that my sis-in-law made for her daughter's birthdays.