30 Aug 2010

Gardening blues

I love gardening. In fact its one of my favourite things to do when I'm in Malacca. I love getting my hands dirty and dig in the soil because after that its such a satisfying feeling to see your garden bloom. If I lived in Malacca full time, maybe that would be what I'd do. Today I cleared the vines near the pond, pruned the bushes near the fence and to my horror found a lot of snails clinging to the wall, and even on the leaves of the hibiscus. I pulled them out one by one and counted easily about 20 snails - all shapes and sizes. I hate snails and would gladly stomp on them if I didn't hate the mess you make after that. Urrggg!

Today I went to the Botanical Garden in Malacca and bought some orchids. Norlee my neighbour told me they were cheap there so off we went and I bought about 10 orchids, mostly red and purple cattleya. She bought another two to add to her already large collection! It was fun - I used not to like orchids, and loved roses. But even though I still love roses I like orchids too now. The flowers last longer and as long as the snails don't get to them they are ok. Most of my roses are gone now - eaten by white grubs. I only have the local pink variety which is sturdier and more tolerant of heat. Maybe next month, after the Id holidays I'll clear up the area near the fence and plant them there. Roses are tougher to plant in hot climates - although there are varieties which seem to adapt well to the heat, you'd have to really take care of them and mulch often, just to get them to grow well.

A view of my orchids

29 Aug 2010

Leaving on a jetplane

I remember that old song - "I'm leaving on a jetplane... don't know when I'll be back again.." In this case I do know she'll be back next year in July, but it still means a long way away and I'm going to miss her like anything. I'm  talking about my youngest, Sara, who's studying in Russia. Sara is now almost 22 years old and since she was 17+ she had been living overseas, all because she could not get a place to study medicine here in Malaysia. Life in Russia is hard - especially for my  little girl. There she has to learn to cope with the harsh winter, learn a new language, cope with studying Medicine (which she says is not hard) cook for herself and overall be independent. These days when I look at her I see a young woman who is very independent, full of initiative, caring and sensitive. Maybe I am a bit biased but I think she has grown to be a really remarkable young woman, and will be a good doctor when she comes back next year.

In April 2005 when Sarah went to Nizhny Novgorod she was still a teenager - full in of  dreams. Today she's more down to earth, in fact more so than myself. She's very practical and has a clnical way of looking at things. Maybe its the training that she's getting as doctor so that she can be objective. In the two months she was here for the summer break we spent a lot of time together. We joined a fitness centre (Celebrity Fitness) and went nearly every day except weekends. We went shopping for her stuff to take back to Russia (mainly spices and other foodstuff that you can't get there), she learned to cook curry and made cookies and pastas. We talked about her and Neville (her Sarawakian boyfriend and a Christian) and discussed about marriage and what it takes to keep a marriage going. She's well read, this daughter of mine yet is not a book snob as my elder girl is. We can talk and laugh about things without her getting uptight if I happen to say something she didn't like. She knows that I love her and want only the best for her. Sigh... I miss her already.

27 Aug 2010

Frisky kittens

Recently went over to  Jasmine's to look at her kittens - there are five  of them and they are all so adorable - all fluffy and cuddly, running around mischievously, even climbing on her curtains and swinging on them. Two of them took after the mother Ariel and were a warm grey colour. The other three must have taken after the papa cat, because they were all white. In fact one was white with bi-coloured eyes - one green and one blue. We were supposed to adopt one but Sara will not let me take even one because "we have too many cats at home". But I'd love to adopt the naughty grey one, with eyes that are slightly slanted  and looks as if  its wearing kohl.

I love most animals but I think the young are specially adorable. Not because they are cute but because of their innocence and playfulness. All of our cats are more or less middle-agers - Karupin and Momo are  both eight years old, Black must be about 6 now and Ginger and Chi Chi both about 4. These days all they ever do is eat and sleep. Even Ginger and Chi chi no longer play much anymore - Chi Chi seems too proud to run and Ginger, well Ginger is just plain fat, and perhaps a tad lazy. She does love to catch things though - just throw her anything round and she'll run after it. Like a dog, she'll even bring it back to you and wait for you to throw it again.

26 Aug 2010

On the laid back track

Lately we've not had time to really stay in Malacca much. It was always a snatched affair - we'd go back late at night on Friday and return to KL early Sunday to avoid the late evening congestion on the North South Highway. However the past few weeks were even worse. We could only go back on Saturday morning. So last Saturday off we went home to Malacca, to spend roughly 24 hours there and back again to KL. This time around though, instead of taking the highway, Repin and I decided to take the coastal road - slower and more scenic.

We took the road to Masjid Tanah (which is fairly new and rather good), drove past sleepy looking villages, gardens bright and colourful with orange, red and purple bourgainevilla and orchards full of ripe rambutans.  For those who don't know, rambutans are a Malaysian fruit - growing in bunches with red, hairy looking skins. They look deliciously ripe and juicy and we passed many stalls selling the ripe fruits. If it were not the fasting month, I'm sure we would have stopped to buy some.

Ripe rambutans hanging in bunches

We passed a few small towns - for example Masjid Tanah (Clay Mosque) on our way to Kuala Sungai Baru.  To go to Kuala Sungai Baru we'd have to take a left turn just after the town of Masjid Tanah.  Here we passed a river full of fishing boats - it seems the fishermen had returned early in the morning - before 8am. We even stopped at a market to look at the fresh fish sold and I bought a few very fresh cencaru and some sea water prawns. Its not easy in these days of fish farming, to get sea water prawns. Most of the prawns you see in the market are actually farmed and reared in fresh water.
Along the way we stopped to look at 1Malaysia in action - a group of Chinese shopkeepers helping a Malay fireman clean or shoot a hose of water into a drain. After some conjecture, we realised that the drain was blocked -  because a python had got stuck inside it and the firemen were trying to flush it out.

Helpful citizens

Fishing boats  lining up along the river in Kuala Sungai Baru

Driving to Linggi we passed many a sleepy villlage with colourful mosques, cosy looking cottages of which a few are actually seaside resorts,  fishermen drying nets along the shore ,children riding bikes and women gossipping .  Life seems to be slow and very relaxed here in this part of Malacca. Soon we crossed the Linggi River which is the border between Negri Sembilan and Malacca. After driving through till Port Dickson, we found that we had not much time left and decided to take the PD HIghway back to KL. A short diversion but a worthwhile one, and very interesting.

23 Aug 2010

16 Aug 2010

Some new books

 When we were in Singapore last time, Sara bought this book by Nancy Pickard - The Scent of Wind and Lightning. I've never read her before and I'm a bit fussy about my authors. I always want one who writes well, with detailed descriptions and characters who have depth as well as a plot that sizzles. Nancy Pickard's The Scent of Rain and Lightning fulfills my expectations. This novel wraps a plot of twists and turns around characters that are alive with complications and nuances. Her characters are themselves a collection of stories, embodying the good and evil that exists in all of us. The plot weaves its way across the pages dynamically, like  the storms that advance towards Rose, Kansas, bearing with them the heat of passion, the violence of revenge, and the rains of love. I have not read Pickard before, but I'm on the way to the book store for more!

Jody Linder, a young school teacher had lost both her parents when she was a baby - her father was murdered and her mother went missing, presumed dead.The perpetrator  a neighbour,  had been arrested soon after. But  now 26 years later, Billy Cosby the man thought to be the murderer is going to be granted a re-trial. The lawyer doing this is none other than Billy's own son who believed that his father was innocent of the crime. Can Jody go through the torment of seeing her parents' murderer out on bail? What she doesn’t expect are the heated exchanges with Collin. Having grown up practically side by side in this very small town, Jody and Collin have had a long history of carefully avoiding each other’s eyes. Now Jody discovers that underneath their antagonism is a shared sense of loss that no one else could possibly understand. As she revisits old wounds, startling revelations compel her to uncover the dangerous truth about her family’s tragic past.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning

A really great story - one that will keep you glued to the book right till the last page.

13 Aug 2010


Sometimes I cannot believe how time flies.I feel that it was only yesterday that we had our Idil Fitr and now its already one year and Ramadan is here again. Since 2006 I've had a menses free Ramadan which is great for me because it means that I could fast and pray without stopping for the whole month. Its quite liberating actually. No more worries about how many days I have to replace and when I can replace them. Since 2006 also I've had time to go for the Tarawih prayers as well as do the optional 6 days of fasting during the month of Syawal. I guess for those of you who aren't Muslims all this sounds a bit strange. But Ramadan is the month when Muslims all over the world fast from sun -up to sun down. Fasting during Ramadan is not just a physical action but should involve the spiritual too. By this I mean that we should not just fast physically but also spiritually - no losing of tempers, stop ourselves from hurting others in word or deed, no lying, cheating or anything bad. It also means that we should discipline ourselves from all kinds of temptations - whether it is delicious food, expensive clothes or anything that smacks of extravagance. It is a month of prayers and giving charity, helping the poor and generally being kind to those who are weaker than us.

Thus Ramadan is actually a good month for Muslims - if we follow the teachings faithfully that is. However, many Malaysian Muslims I notice indulge themselves even more during this time. There are Ramadan bazaars all over the city - selling food of every kind, all you need is to buy them. For many Malaysians too, this is the time for the other races to taste some great Malaysian food. So just pop into the nearest Ramadan bazaar and you can see Malays mingling with Chinese and Indians - all indulging in the typical Malaysian pastime - buying food.

5 Aug 2010

Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite poets

Browsing through some of Emily Dickinson's poems I came across this one:

A PRECIOUS, mouldering pleasure ’t is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think,
His venerable hand to take,        5
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.
His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold        10
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;
What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty,        15
And Sophocles a man;
When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified.
Facts, centuries before,        20
He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town
And tell you all your dreams were true:
He lived where dreams were born.
His presence is enchantment,        25
You beg him not to go;
Old volumes shake their vellum heads
And tantalize, just so.

2 Aug 2010

Visiting Sophia

We've been in Singapore since Friday last week.  On Friday Sarah and I went to Orchard road, looking for some clothes for Sarah but after looking around we ended up at Marks and Spencer's after all. Repin came on Saturday and we all went to view the fireworks display at the harbour. It was a rehearsal for the Singapore National day. We had a grandstand view of it at Rizal's office. It was a really fantastic display. I think this was the most beautiful fireworks display I had ever seen - there were so many colours - iridescent green, golden yellows and reds and blues.

On Monday we went to Arab Street where Pohlin bought the fabrics for her beautiful cushion covers. I can't sew, but after seeing the cushion covers I thought - " Hmm ...  must learn how to. After all I do have a sewing machine." I was a bit greedy though - bought so many fabrics - can't help myself. They were all cotton and in such bright gorgeous colours! I plan to sew now.