Monday, May 4, 2015

Labor Day Roadtrip

One more off the list of nearby places I had wanted to explore - Pulau Ketam.

Road trips are so much nicer when you have like minded people to go with you.

At any rate, after a 2-car-or-1-car debate, we made our way to Crabby Island in 1 car. We had Mrs mum with us, so girl had to sit on my lap throughout. Which was fine considering it was 'just Klang'. But Mrs sitting in the middle had a hard time balancing herself too.

The air-con, with a TV boat to the island cost RM7 per way, per adult. Kids cost RM 4 (or was it 5) per way, per ticket. We bought a 2-way ticket and went to line up. While lining up, we saw many people moving ahead of us and we were wondering why. We deduced those without tickets probably got to go ahead since they had to buy the tickets on board, which could be more expensive. And thus they were allowed to go ahead first. If our deduction proved right, this would only happen in Malaysia. It was not in our best interest to find out if we were right. At any rate I was too busy trying not to be thrown overboard by a group of jostlers!

I loved the first feeling getting off the boat into the island. It's a moment of 'going back' to era-s of the past, you either love it or not. But not having to fully experience the lack of hygiene, lack of water or electricity or the hard work that came from my the island's older citizens, going back for me only carries no resemblance of simple, care-free, lazy days of reading and playing.

What is it about an old sundry shop or several planks joined together to form a walkway or houses selling produce in their front porch that attracts city dwellers like me? And to walk along a rickety road sometimes onto the porch of a house. Half my mind asks myself 'Don't the house owners mind?', the intrusion into their sanctuary. But unlike us city dwellers who lock our gates and close our doors, people on the island have their doors wide open, their porches free for us tourists to stand away from the mid-day sun.

So, Crabby stays true to its name. We saw many little crabs at low tide. And apart from sea produce being sold by almost every other household, eateries seem to be the main source of income. There was one rather nice hotel, and I reckon a little further from the maddening main street, a few more home stays. The community on this island are mainly Chinese, we saw 3 temples in itself along the long main street and further up the main housing street. And I reckon karaoke would be the main source of entertainment. Bet you fishing does not count as recreational activity for them! But we saw a couple of tourists carrying fishing rods for their recreational use. Main mode of transport is the bicycle. But on a holiday like today, feet gets you around faster.

We spent only about 2.5 hours on the island. Eating took up most of our time. We had lunch and then ice-cream.

We had every intention of making this a DAY trip, so back in Klang, we decided to visit GM Klang. I am always lost in GM Klang. Partly coz I have nothing to buy. And even if I did, it takes a while to know which shop to get to. And then I always had to kids to entertain. Walking around and seeing things which have no interest to them in a crowded, haphazard place sure ain't fun to them. That is unless they are in one of those toy shops choosing a toy you are bound to have to buy for them. It's like going to a candy store and denying them candy. I mentally prepare myself for a toy everytime I enter GM Klang. But anyway, this time round, Mrs was with me so she led the way until I lost myself in a garden shop. And the elder girls were with us too, meaning I didn't have to mind the kids all that much.

We finished with GM Klang at 4+ and still being too early for dinner, we decided to choose somewhere further to do for dinner so that the trip there will make up for some time. We are ridiculously crazy that way!!!

At any rate, we arrived at Bagan Hailam at a respectable time for dinner. Dinner was good, music was great. And by the time we were done, the sun hadn't even set yet. But we were almost done with Klang. So, we made our way home. Stopped by for desert (always!!) at Soft Serve. I have NO IDEA what the fuss is all about. It was not great and too expensive.

By the time we went home, it was close to 8 perhaps coz after settling everyone in, I took a sinus pill and was in bed by 9:30!

Road trips make me sleep so much better!!! Or perhaps it was the sea breeze and the dreams of days from the past....lazy days and hammocks.....

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lost World of Tambun SG Retreat

Our last SG retreat to Avani turned out to be so much of a success doing nothing that we decided to go to another place this year where we could just hang out. It was touch and go a few times but the Yoongs made it happen.

Some 3 weeks after CNY break, you don't really feel the need for a holiday yet. So the 14th of March drew by without much anticipation right until Friday the 13th itself when I brought out the bag to be packed.

From my experience with Avani, I really felt the need to bring out our camping gear this time round. So, I packed my air mattress, sleeping bag as well as a pump. All that in, it really did look like we were going overseas!

My mum came along with us, so we didn't go with the rest of the morning group. There were 7 families going and with the kids growing up many of us could not converge and go at the same times. So most of us met at a later time in the (now) famous Woong Kee Tau Fu Fah shop, and the others caught up with us at the hotel itself.

The hotel was basic but comfortable. We were all given rooms next to each other. So the Yoongs, Lings, Chins and ourselves lucky drew ourselves into our rooms. Glad to say the day bed turned out quite alright for my 8 year old son to sleep in. So, we didn't pump up the air mattress after all. The Lings and the Chins rested in. The Yoongs just couldn't keep still so teamed up with us to make some noise. By this time, the remaining group came trickling in so we could not venture far.

And then it was time for dinner!

We tried a new place - Restoran Huang Ting - this time, as suggested by my mum. Although the internet did not give us a right address and my mum was not great in giving me directions. We thus got lost, was late for our reservation and in fact I got a little anxious. Ipoh to me has always  been 'you-can't-really-get-lost'. I don't always know with certainty if I should turn right or left, especially when I venture in areas I never went to when I was younger. But what is a wrong turn but another right turn home!

But with a crowd of 4 cars following you, well....that's a different matter. And for once I found myself using Waze in Ipoh! And finding roads that I have never seen before!

We arrived at last at our dinner place. I never knew First Garden was so near to Buntong! Dinner was CHEAP! It cost us only RM51 per couple! Cheapest dinner EVER! Taste wise was marginally good. Although we did forget to try the purple cane drink which was so famous there. But after all that stress finding the place, I totally forgot!

After dinner, and a little drama about which car which kid wanted to sit it, we toured the Railway Station. WHAT A CROWD! So, we skipped it and went ahead to Kinta Riverfront. the kids burnt all their calories there running races! Perhaps SL and John also used up many calories there. The rest of us took pics and became maids to the 16 kids.

Back at the hotel, with 16 kids, it was a mad house! I had to knock on 5 doors to find my kid.

The following day was Day In at Tambun Lost World. There was a dim sum rendezvous but we didn't see the likes of anything coming back. The rest of us settled for hotel buffet.

Now, Tambun Lost World is worth going especially when you have school going kids. Any younger perhaps you will need their friend to be with them to enjoy the petting zoo and some of the water areas. But the school going ones will enjoy it the most, if they are of comparable height. The rides in the dry theme park are relatively NON scream stoppers! You know when you are screaming, it means you are still OK!

I spent most of the time talking with the other mums then actually playing with the kids. Because we were 14 adults spread out at different areas, most of the time we would keep an eye on the kids in our area and allow our own kids to be watched by the adult in the other area.

The reason why I was talking most of the time too was because we joined an 'amazing race' and I had burnt my fingers in a zip line activity. So water and burns don't really go well together!

At 6 pm, we were all tanned, tired and in need of a good shower. I mean the adults, not the kids. The kids would have continued playing if we had let them. And with all that activity it is a good thing that food is sold in Lost World and it tastes good and it was not that expensive! Like the Chocolate pancake we had at 5:30 was somewhat AWESOME!!!

We had intended to go to Aneka Selera or dinner. But at 6:30, we were all too tired and we opted for a cool, comfortable sit down dinner instead. We went to East Ocean and paid RM100 per couple for a sumptuous dinner. At least who needed to sleep could sleep while the parents ate!

I could not believe it, but there were some eager for the Hot Springs at night. Perhaps if not for my fingers, I would have went. But as it is, some of us decided to get drunk instead. We retired close to midnight that day. For me, it was a night of minimal sleep with a bandaged hand! Thanks be to SL for the bandage.

Day 3 was a real bummer for the kids coz they knew we were all heading home. Good thing no one cried this time round. The lack of a swimming pool in the hotel helped. So there was no over bonding in the morning time. We had buffet breakfast at the hotel which we were supposed to be charged for since some of our kids are tall, but didn't happen! We 'toured' the souvenir shop and bought a few things. Coming home now and trying the 3in1 they provided in the hotel room, I would have bought some if I had known. I will the next time I am in Ipoh though! At 30 gm, it was not too rich nor too light for a white coffee!

We left around 11 for DNS/CTS kacang putih in Buntong, Ching Han Guan, Salted Chicken and Tau Fu Fah. A few of us left for home after that while some of us had lunch. THe group further thinned out after lunch and some went on to buy Swiss rolls.

On the way home, I asked hubby and Christopher which one they preferred - Avani or Tambun. Hubby and I prefer Avani. I reckon Avani had more togetherness and was more relaxing. Christopher loves whatever he can get his hands on!!!

It is for that purpose after all we do this. Not for the adults but that the kids will have memories of each other to draw them closer. That even when the adults are not around, they will have someone close enough to them to turn to. Such is the purpose that we do all this.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Oson korean wok

Yet another pan.

My greatest weakness is shoes, bags and pans!

How long ago was it that I bought my Queen Sense pan? At any rate, I had an accident with it one day. I reckon perhaps to a certain extent I never did the 'conditioning' of the pan well. One day while I was salt baking a fish in the pan, I scrubbed or knocked a point in the pan and there was a chip. As you can imagine, marble or not, the chip is getting bad, it's now a patch.

So, anyways, there I was again looking through some pan brands - ceramic and sorts.

And then one fateful Saturday morning I went to the market and they were having a demonstration of this stainless steel pan. Wow....stainless steel I thought! In actual fact it is a hard-anodized pan. And they were having a promo - i.e. for 388, I get a 38cm wok and a 32cm pan. Now, my mum needs a pan and I need had a wok. So, it seemed a pretty good deal.

I told the lady to treat it for me this time round. And I am still letting the treatment sit. Plan to only 'open' it during CNY.

This is how it looks like. I love the wok cause the lid is curved upwards high, so you can do  decent steaming. And also popcorn and baking. I believe good material makes for good results. And a happy cook added to it means more experimental cooking, more variety. Let's see how this hold up for 2015!

Monday, December 22, 2014

A trip further down south - JPO and JB

Truth be told, I have never been to JB. I have had one foot in to Johor, as far as Tangkak. But other than that, I know nuts about the state further down south.

So, when it was to happen that Mr Yoong and hubby starting planning a visit to JPO and other parts of Johor, I was thrilled. And why shouldn't I....JPO houses Kipling and I was itching to get a Kipling at a good deal. I am such a bag person.

The planning started before I even had my Singapore family holiday so I was very much outside the initial itinerary emails. And then the Yoongs had their family holidays so JB trip was out of our minds for a while. And then the weekend crept up upon us and soon I realised we were 2 days away from the trip.

So, on the fateful morning of 13 December, we made our way to Puchong, petrol station, a jam, Putrajaya and then we were enroute to Johor.

The trip to was alright. It didn't seem that long. Perhaps because we made one pit stop at Tangkak to get allergy drops for Caylee. So it did seem that we were reaching Ayer Keroh and then a short while later, we had reached our 'destination' Tangkak.

We had a little incident of a dog kidnap in Tangkak. The Samsung phone saved the day.
And then we had lunch in the only other famous beef noodles shop there. The beef noddles were so-so. I say that because I love Vietnamese beef noodles and this one was no way close to that. I know I should take it as it is. And as it is, it was pretty good. But....
The little bakery shops in Tangkak were pretty cool though. From a city-girl-who-loves-her-confectionery's perspective where bakeries are mainly air con places, the smell of an open oven emitting baked bread and cookies was lovely.

After lunch it was all the way to JPO. Mrs Yoong let us out when after a turn or 2, we did not find any parking. And then when the whole group was together, like a dog on leash, I was let go.

My initial opinion of JPO was that although they try to make it look (although in such a smaller scale) like the US outlets, the shopping satisfaction is so different. The thing is in US, store prices equates to just about Malaysia equivalent price, and sometimes even cheaper. So, when you get to the Premium Outlets and everything is 50% off, it becomes too good a deal not to get it. But here, I go to Kipling for example and there are only 2 shelves 50% off with thus limited color and style. And then I start converted it to the US equivalent and trying to remember if I were to purchase it in US, will I be able to get it? And the sad thing is, I would. Perhaps even cheaper if I get it from US. The only thing about buying from US is that I will have to wait for someone to bring it back for me. But in the few months to come I have plenty coming. It was an unfortunate fact for me that I was looking forward so much to buying a Kipling in JPO that I felt so dejected.

At any rate, I continued walking. Bought some dresses and clothes for my daughter from Cotton On. At that price I would not even say it was a good deal. But hubby exclaimed 'Cotton On woh'!

I would say the Sacoor shop perhaps had the best deals. At 75% (was it?) off, hubby bought 2 working shirts. And while we were waiting for the long queue to pay, I did buy a Kipling in the end. Just for the joy of paying for it and holding it in my hands. But I love my Kipling at any rate. Pink and beige and typical Kipling look and feel.

We were dead tired and terribly hungry after JPO. Now for the life of me, I don't know anything about the geography of Johor. So when we ended up in Skudai for dinner, I was like ok. I know Skudai town only as a name of a town in Johor, but given we were just in Kulai, how was it that I never felt I left a town to reenter another?

And that is my greatest impression of Johor. That once you reach the southern part, the smaller towns all merge together. So, I don't really know when I left one small town and when I have reached another. It reminded me of the Federal Highway linking KL to PJ and then to other towns. Very different from Kampar to Tapah to Bidor. You definitely know when you leave Kampar and wait patiently for Bidor to arrive.

We had a down-the-memory-lane drive with Mr Yoong and were then taken to the famous Skudai duck rice. It was good. Better than the PJ old town duck and much cleaner, less crowded. After dinner, it was a pit stop to take petrol, buy drinks and junk and etc. No ice cream lest you have to walk alone to the hotel.

The hotel, Le Grandeur....was the most welcoming sight after such a long day. Now, the thing about reaching a hotel late at night is that all you want to do is check in and wash up. Different from when you reach a hotel in the afternoon, then you are eager to check in and then check out the hotel. And maybe also jump into the pool. So, after checking in and getting our extra bed (which we got free thanks to John and the work he is doing), to soften the blow of unable to go swimming, the kids had tub time. And from the room, the night view of the pool looked too welcoming that we did not leave the hotel without jumping into it.

And that was what we did the next morning. After a crowded, fight for food at the breakfast buffet, the kids and I had a swim. The 2 Mr-s and Mrs Yoong relaxed, took pics. I could not resist a dip in the pool. We checked out at the appointed time to check out and then headed to Danga Bay and JB town. But before that, for all the simple pleasures in life, the Yoongs had to do an imaginary just-arriving 'wah' exclaim, just for the sake of it! Hilarious bunch!

Danga Bay. What can I say about this place.  First, it would have been better if we had seen this at night. In the heat of the afternoon and without the magic of lighting, I reckon none of us were all too keen to take any pics. Also the walkway supposedly next to the sea was ruined because there wasn't anymore sea next to it. I blame it on poor planning. We have so much land, yet we choose to reclaim and reclaim. The same sorry state of Malacca. We left after perhaps 30 minutes or less.

Now, JB is another story. As we were entering JB, there were this whole row of heritage administrative buildings. It reminded me of Penang with the historical buildings and canopy like trees facing the sea front. But as I moved along slowly in the car, the feeling of JB benig similar to Penang faded. In fact there is no town that I can even say JB reminds me of. Although why I tried, I don't even know. It was narrow streets in the circle within. And then when you reach the outer loop, it was like broader roads going somewhere else. It was also unique in that the town center was established around such a hilly area. I don't think any other town, apart from Kuching has that many hilly roads in the town proper.

After a short tour, the traffic jams were horrendous, we left JB to have lunch. Convenient and simple, we had McDs on the way back home. After all that swimming, I was so ready for a grease filled lunch. The journey home was too long. Seremban and Sunday ain't a good match. And the alternate route was equally jammed. So at 7:30, we stopped by Kajang and had dinner before heading home.

Was it a good trip? Definitely, except for the leg home. I got to go to JB and it was nicer visiting a new state with Mr Yoong who has memories of the place. I love looking at the past sometimes, imagining how life used to be. And as always Mr and Mrs are always very accommodating. And their kids are the best examples my kids can have. I think half the fun would be lost without their kids. They help ever so much to keep my little ones entertained. Road trips are always good because they give you a chance to get to know someone better. And with the Yoongs, I get some time to myself too - either to be alone to rest or to engage in proper adult conversation.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Swimming Update

I woke up with a start at 3.05 am this morning asking myself "What the heck have I done?"

"RM560 a month for my 2 kids swimming lessons! I must be out of my mind!"

And then I did a mental summation of how much I need to spend a month on both my kids activities. And you can guess that I never fell back asleep after that.

So, how is it that I came to this point and will I turn back the clock if I could?

It all started with the fact that Swimcube was to close down. With Uncle Ivan whom Christopher loved to learn with and at RM150 a month, I was pretty devastated.

So anyways, I went again on my search for swimming lessons and boiled it down to either Advanced Aquatics in the Bukit Utama club or Swimin12.

I called Advanced Aquatics and at a member rate, we would need to pay about RM 154 a month a kid. I hear weekend classes are pretty full and you have to be a member before you can enter the club on the weekends. But the weekday classes were from 6-7 pm which to me felt a little late.

So, I tried Swimin12 as well. The first time I messaged EJ, he had already added me as a friend in FB, which kind of makes rejection a little bit harder. But I was also impressed with the character and motivation behind Swimin 12. So, I decided to bring the kiddos for a trial class on the fateful day 11th Dec.

When we arrived there, I was bombarded with a parking fee of RM5 since it was drizzling and we parked at the club parking lot. OK....not good. Then when we arrived at PJ Palm Sports, I saw no sign of EJ and had to search for him. When we made contact and he went out to meet the coaches, they were sleeping and resting. OK....hmmm....

Then I was surprised when one by one all the coaches got ready and jumped into the pool. We are talking 1 main coach and 4 sub coaches. All of them stretched up and jumped into the pool. I was cautious if they could manage my 2 kiddos since none of them had as yet made contact with my 2 kids. But I was pleasantly surprised.

So Coach Ram, hubby told me he from Philippines later, called the kids over and had them repeat their names again. And then they were led to wear flippers and sit by the pool.

In that one hour, I loved what I saw.
There were time when my daughter cried when they asked her to do something she was afraid to do. But they  managed to help her conquer her fear and she stopped crying instantly. And I could see her listening to their instructions carefully and following what they told her to do.
I was so glad I could have cried.
For a girl who 6 months ago cried the entire 45 minutes in her first trial lesson.
And then adamantly refused swimming lessons for the next 5 months after that.
But who then after 2 times in the pool - Avani and YWCA - now knows she better learn if she wants to keep up with kor kor.
This same girl doggie paddled 1 m all on her own from the coach to the wall.
My heart was doing cheers for her all the while I was sitting down trying to keep my composure.

As for Christopher, he has already conquered his fear of water but I saw him jump into the deep end of the pool, also following their instructions. They were teaching him to dive in the water on the 1st lesson itself. And I reckon they will be able to help him slow down in his strokes and take the lap more leisurely.

The kids were made to do laps and laps of the pool and I could hear Christopher complaining. But he can't stand in this pool and thus had no choice but to push on. He did it in the end!!! I was so proud of him.

So, all this led up to the fact that 1 hour later, I was signing on the dotted line committing myself to RM560 a month.

It will be worth every ringgit in the end. I am sure of it.
I shall put aside every negative thought or comment.
They will have a happy learning experience.