Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Market Fresh

It was just a casual stroll through a market in the Central District in Hong Kong. We took the Turbojet from Macau to have a look-see to finish off our short holiday.

Market places never fail to engage any onlooker. For us, it was just like home to walk through an open air market. The place pulsates with human energy. Everything is happening at the same time - bargaining, picking the choicest of produce, the unrestrained calls of the vendors and the free banter among themselves,... the list goes on.
Hong Kong is famous for its gastronomic delights and looking at the array of variety in the sea food on display, I could only think of scrumptious prawn and fish dishes - garoupa, pomfret, king prawns, abalone, carp , mussels, clams - all cooked in delectable ways.

There were quite a number of vegetables which I have not seen back home. I guess they come from mainland China. I didn't have the time to take many pictures nor was I brave enough to speak the Cantonese dialect which I falter and slip at every word !! So, I just clicked away. I wasn't sure if the vendors would mind.

And I found it out all too soon. I came across a woman selling all kinds of bean curd produce - soft, hard towfoo, dried bean curd sticks , fried towfoo. Hmmm, interesting, I thought. Towfoo dishes cooked in so many ways is also an all time favourite of mine. Instinct told me she'd be a 'poor candidate' for the odd shot. Sure enough, a loud , angry ' HEYYYY!' stunned her customer. I jumped out of my skin (a little!) though I was half expecting it but went ahead. Well, just trying my luck!

Anyway,it was a pleasant walk through the market. It's no easy life out there as I saw these hard working people earning their honest way. It's long hours minding their own trade.

And daily they are there for the people who come for the freshest to cook the lovely meals for their dinner tables.To complete it all, there's fresh flowers to add gaiety to their table setting. So, grab some and hurry home. Dinner's cooking! Bon appetit!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Secret Garden

Osmoxylum ( Philippines)

White calathea (
Tropical America)

Elephant Vine / Largyreia nervosa (India)

Clock Vine / Thunbergia grandiflora (India)


Asystasia Hort

Episcia cupreata (Tropical America)

So, the secret's out! I had to find out for myself at the 1 Utama Shopping complex.

When I first heard of 'The Secret Garden', I liked it straight off, just like that! The brochure in my hand got me thrilled. Wow! such a unique name and instantly reminds me of Frances Hodgson Burnett's timeless classic, The Secret Garden. I only read the Ladybird version as that's what the children read! Still, what a story when the lives of the children, Mary Lennox, Dickon, Colin and the adults intertwined and amid some of life's complexities, a secret garden blossomed and finally, family relationships.

I told my daughter, 'Hey! we've got all these under one roof in the sky!' All these as the brochure says:

'The Secret Garden of 1 Utama is an experimental garden using novel technologies to grow 500 species of interesting, rare and unusual plants in an open tropical roof -top environment. The soil medium is based on granulated horticultural carbon (a form of charcoal). Chilled water is provided by sprinklers at night.

The plants in the garden fall under several themes and this guide indicates where the representative theme plants may be found. The name of the plants are provided in small black labels at the base of the plants.

You are welcome to take photographs but please observe that this is a NO SMOKING area.

Visiting Hours : 10am - 6pm. Weekends only. '

So, naturally I armed myself with a camera, stepped out of the lift - a 9 storeys -high. There's a guard house and I signed in.

I resisted clicking right away. Just looked around to soak in the astounding beauty all round me. Such a profusion of colours! Everywhere I looked, my eyes caught something different and beautiful. The senses feast, well aware that 'Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty' - John Ruskin.

It was quiet. And I enjoyed the serenity, knowing that way down below, I had just left the madness of shopping myself!

Pathways meander and are disabled- friendly. Cool misty sprays at different vantage points above took the edge off the humididty. A waterfall cascades behind the osmoxylum and other plants and the little ponds and streams add interest to the entire garden.

Firecracker / Crossandra infundibuliformis ( India and Sri Lanka)

India blue bells / Strobilanthes hamiltoniana (India)

I liked the vines/creepers that formed the pergolas. If I had a book on me, I'd probably had plonked myself on one of the benches and enjoy a quiet read. In fact, the BookCrossing people could do with this as an alternative location instead of being located on the Ground Floor, High Street where there's the noise that doesn't allow one's thoughts to function!

The Secret Garden is the brainchild of the 1 Utama director, Datuk Teo Chiang Kok. Way back in 2000, Datuk Teo had already concieved the idea of a roof -top garden to be integrated with the construction of 1 Utama's new wing. This is to reduce the complex's carbon foot print and to alleviate global warming.

This project was led by distinguished botanist and researcher, Dr Francis Ng who recently was awarded the prestigious David Fairchild medal 2009 ( Plant Exploration) presented by the National Tropical Botanical Garden of the United States.

The garden layout was planned such that heavy trees are located on supporting columns as advised by the structural engineer. The guide was handy as I wandered among the 7 themed sections.

The afternoon sun barely filtered strong through the haze which was still hanging around us. Still, it was noon and the gardeners were taking their break. I spoke to two of them , friendly foreign labour that uphold our workforce. He asked if I had taken enough pictures. I was being watched!! And he showed me the hidden sprinklers among the plants that lessen the workload.

I will definitely revisit The Secret Garden. Verdict - rejuvenating and delightful! What's more, it's hard to keep a secret in when it's so luxuriant!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Tale Of Whiskers

Don't get me wrong, folks. I didn't bring home a pet, cat or dog. Besides,there's already our handsome Robbie in the house.

A visit to a nursery recently renewed my fascination with whiskers, of the herbal kind. The plant - Cat's Whiskers or Misai Kuching, in Malay.

'How about some misai kuching?' said the gardener at the nursery. That struck a chord. 'Yes, please. Let me have 9 of them.' Suddenly I had visions of misai kuching growing bountifully in my garden as I had seen grow in the Lake Garden when I was on an outing with the members of the Selangor and Federal Territory Gardening Soc. Now seems the right time to give them a place in my garden.

The gardener only wanted a token as the plants were not looking their best. So, out of the poly bags and into the ground they went the next day after.

It's growing! And the first flower is out! But they are nowhere near the 1.5 m height that they can be. It's standing at about 1 foot tall with only a few leaves. Have been giving extra attention to all 9 of them. That part of the garden is not the choicest too , mostly of lateritic earth. So I topped it with some good stuff and the signs are good!

What's more exciting besides the colour of the flower showing are the WHISKERS! The flowers are hermaphroditic, bell-shaped, creamy white to bluish in colour. Now, follow the exerted filaments - they extend and look like CAT'S WHISKERS. What an apt name - MISAI KUCHING! And I'd say it's the whiskers that gives the plant the delicate look and beauty.

Now, for the real thing, the cat's whiskers. The cat has about 24 movable vibrissae('whiskers'). There are also some on each cheek, over the eyes, chin and other parts of the body.

The whiskers do the most amazing job. They aid sensation and navigation. They fan out to 'size' up an opening. At the tip of the whiskers are sensory organs called proprioceptors. These receptors are very sensitvie to pressure. If the whiskers touch the opening, then the space is too tight for the cat and it will not try to go through. If the 'signal' is ok, the kitty will go through .

Cats also use their whiskers on their legs to assess their prey - size, shape, position. How the cat holds its whiskers will let you know if it is happy, angry, friendly, threatened. Yes, I've seen the scowls on the face and how the whiskers draw back against the face when the kitty is angry.

My friend, Anya at KARELTJE en ikke !!! will be able to share many wonderful stories 'coz she's a cat lover and knows tons about cats. Do visit her blog and discover more.

This post is not complete though without exalting the goodness of the herb, MISAI KUCHING. The leaves have been used for generations to treat ailments notably:

1. bladder and kidney disease
2. circulatory disorders
3. diabetes.
4. joint stiffness eg. arthritis, gout, rheumatism
5. aids in excretion of toxins from the body

So,should you need a misai kuching herbal drink, get yourself a cuppa. Remember to whisk yourself to the good doctor should you need advice.

Therein lies the beauty of WHISKERS - herbal and animal!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mother Earth is hurting.

I used to love to theme the birthday parties for my children when we celebrated. They were always a hit as I put my heart and soul into the preparation.

One of my favourites and theirs and it was for my son's 6th birthday was ' Back To Nature'. We had so much going :

1. A super badge by big sister for everyone to wear. I love this badge so much, I still have one!
2. Uncle Foo , known to those in MNS circle, thought a showy erythrina glauca would be just right for our garden. So my son did the baptismal watering .The sapling bought from Sg Buloh was planted in full view of 40 pairs of eyes.
3. I prepared a womery and showed the children the burrowings of the hard working worms. There was even a poem Earthworm by Leonard Clarke which goes , 'Do you squirm when you see an earthworm....'
4. An MNS friend brought along his pet python. A brave boy loved the creature outright. But I was 'chicken'. I only touched.
5.We had an MNS member showing the kids the telescope - to see the stars. Only thing the party was in the afternoon, so we looked at other things. Say what you like, we had gone to the moon and back !!
6..We sold some MNS t-shirts
7. We played games that got the kids running free and wild!
8. And not least, there was a poem to say it all, for all to read.

Mother Earth

The earth is our mother
The ground is her skin
Mountains her bones
Trees and plants her living hair
Birds are songs
And the listening stones her ears
Animals her fingers
Frogs and snakes are her sense of smell
Insects her thoughts
Her dreams the sea and all its swimmers
Water her blood
The air her breath
Sunlight and fire the breath of her body
We are her eyes
And we are her children.

To this day, this is one of my favourite nature poems.

But Mother Earth is hurting. Pollution threatens the air we breathe and the water we drink. The land we live on is full of toxic waste and the list of endangered animals grows longer.

I passed by an Eco Week exhibition in One Utama shopping complex. The 'trees' propped with stands had eco -bags dangling from the branches. No one was hanging round the 'trees' and I decided to have a closer look and read. There was no need to read between the lines as the messages/images were direct.

Yeah, can't beat about the bush when Mother Earth is hurting. I decided to click away at some of the images and their messages. Well, am seldom caught without my trusty digital Canon since I started blogging :)

As, you read, do add your own precious thoughts, your feelings in your comments. Give me your passion . Let us reignite the love for Mother Earth and do our bit to save our planet. It's not too late but we must do. NOW!

YES, plastic LASTS! Imagine, it takes 400 -1000 years to break down!! It does not biodegrade instead photodegrades, ie. it breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic bits and contaminates the soil, water in the oceans entering the foodchain when it is ingested by animals.
How are we meeting this challenge? we recycle the bags we get and refuse plastic bags as much as possible. Also, when shopping, I use my own carrier bag. How about you?

Keep swinging, friend! Hang in there!
Will we have our closest living relatives surviving in the near future? Many problems face them - deforestation, slash and burn agriculture, illegal trade, hunting,....

Everyone can identify with a fragrant garden, with the beauty of sunset, with the quiet of nature, with a warm and cozy cottage.
- Thomas Kinkade, landscape artist

Tropical forests of all varieties are disappearing rapidly as humans clear the natural landscape.

ZAP! ZAP! ZAP! - GOne!
I told a story I wrote , Paradise Lost to some children during one of my regular sessions. And we sang about the layers of the forest. We had such an enjoyable session and I know they remember trudging through the forest with me :)

Pandas, the peaceful furry creatures are dying and the main reason is habitat loss. The human population growth, increase in agriculture, mining and logging activities are responsible for the decrease in the population.

No one wants incinerators that burn garbage or garbage dumps in their backyards. When garbage is burned, it releases dangerous gases into the air. Dumped garbage and industrial waste can become deadly when acids , metals and other materials leak out of landfills

Penguins - stay cool. How, if snow is not there? There is a vast increase in the average temperature of the earth. All the warming is attributed to us humans.


Water, water, everywhere
Not a drop to drink
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

We are in troubled waters. By accident, we poison our waters as in the great oil spill by the tanker,Exxon Valdex as far back as 1989. 11 million gallons of oil spilled off the Alaskan coast. And through our thoughtless acts, we poison our lakes,rivers and oceans .

Say 'NO' to ivory poaching
Say 'NO' to bullhooks
Say 'NO' to chaining for long hours

Hope springs eternal in the human breast - Alexander Pope (English poet, 1688-1744).

Things look bad but it's not too late to act. The sooner we do the better. Because Mother Earth can't wait forever.