Sunday, April 24, 2011

Let It Snow!

Janneke in her 'fiery' coat while I was the 'cool' lady in a subdued cream coat.  We met a couple of townfolk walking their dogs. I asked a passer -by to snap our happy moments, out in the cold, warm in each other's company:) 

Shiver me  -  playful moments in Janneke's  Zen garden  before  we headed for  a a jaunt to town. We threw snowballs at each other! 

Snowed over! That's how I remember my holiday in the Netherlands. But don't get me wrong. The white landscape did nothing to spoil a hugely warm, bonding time with my Dutch friend, Janneke. Sure, it was a real wintry December through to January and the months ahead.The unusually cold, heavy snowfall with record low temperatures swept Europe. In fact,  it followed our family to Portugal and  the UK. Trotter, my blogging pal in Lisbon  was disappointed, even the sunshine tagged to my name didn't help at all!

However the snow and cold did not put dampers on us. Janneke was keen to show me the beauty of Gouda, though shrouded in snow. Warmly attired  we walked  hand in hand to negotiate  paths. On the way to the city centre, we turned on  each other and started a snow ball fight. I tried hopelessly  to knock Janneke down like a ninepin.  Ouch! the snowballs she made seemed bigger  and more solid.. It was hard work - making balls and tumbling in the snow. It just got us rosy in the cheeks and very energised for the rest of the day.

We toyed with the idea of cycling. That sounded really inviting for how can one not join  the Dutch in  pedalling about - their leg power  is so iconic, so eco-friendly too. Alas, the thought of me slipping and sliding and swerving  in the snow was too risky. So Janneke's bicycles in her garage were left  standing.

Hey, good looking and more ! When Janneke sings, she makes your spirits soar

By the side of St John's Church, the main church in Gouda, famous for its stained glass  and the longest in the Netherlands. The church is consecrated to John the Baptist. 

All good things, the enjoyment of having visited  Leiden, Dan Haag, Delft, Amsterdam, and being  Janneke and her dear husband, Eduard's guest in their lovely home in Gouda,  had to end . It was time to fly back to Kuala Lumpur. Well, perhaps Gouda in springtime, another time. Yes,when the tulips will steal my heart away.

I'm singing in the snow...  No crowds - how nice  to have the  roads to ourselves.

Nobody's about. All very quiet . Where are the robins with the redbreasts? 

Who treads there so softly?

Such fun just watching  the young and old  skating in the rink  in the market square. It was certainly family time out too. How I wish I could skate.

Cheese Maiden - kaasmeisje in Dutch. In Gouda, one can never tire of saying 'CHEESE!'  Alamak! I don't think I said it  'cheesy' enough!!

Gouda City Hall, the unmistakeable 15th  century  city hall, one of the oldest in the Netherlands in the Market  Square. The peals of laughter and voices rang through the icy air. 

A shop was open and peeping in, I was fascinated by the clay works. This artisan obligingly allowed us in . In his small space,  we were careful not to topple nor break anything.

No cows in sight but certainly lots and lots of cheeses. I bought GOUDA to take home .

Just the right dish  for a cold winter - we enjoyed a lovely fondue in the evening at a restaurant

My view from inside the living room of my  gracious hosts, Janneke and Eduard. The sun was out  a bit and before long ,we were ready to hit the town.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Art Preview/ Art Auction Malaysia 2011

PAGO - PAGO, 1968 graced the invitation card

What does an art enthusiast look for at an art exhibition?  The last time we viewed art was at the Malaysian Art Friends at Istana Art Gallery and the Art Expo Malaysia 2010 at MATRADE Exhibition and Convention Centre. Yesterday, we attended  the preview of Art Auction Malaysia 2011 at MAP @ Publika, Solaris Dutamas.

Well, to answer my own question, it is to learn more about art and  try to capture the artist's soul on the canvas, so to speak. Once in a while a piece resonates with me right  away, it's love at first sight!. Often times I flounder as not necessarily do I like what I see and not knowing how to make a well - informed opinion.

I tagged along my hubby to this event. We are not art collectors; only the odd pieces which we dearly love to hold and cherish are in our house. True enough, buying art is not for the faint hearted nor when priorities in life  take precedence over  making  an investment in art.

Just like we learn to appreciate  the art of tasting our wines, one can say, appreciating art is  the same. Find out more about the artists, their techniques, educate ourselves  more about art by talking to people  to form an informed opinion, going to art exhibitions,  I believe can appreciate art better.

With more awareness being created by Malaysian Art Friends  and this exhibition and  others cropping up in the local scene, it augurs well  for  the development of  the art scene. Through the seminars offered to the public on a wide range of pertinent art topics - art collecting and investing, critique, conservation, restoration etc,  appreciation of art  can be forged through keen interest. These exhibitions are not only about  appreciation and art collectors. There is abundant untapped talent  among our young and exposing them to the art world, a more vibrant art environment will hopefully develop.  

This preview  by Henry Butcher, Art Auctioneers  was a relaxed affair. It was graced by H.R.H. Raja Dr.Nazrin Shah Sultan Raja Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah, the Crown Prince of  Perak Darul Ridzuan. People mingled to view  the 22 pieces on display. Illustrious  names were there: Mohd Hoessein Enas, Ibrahim Hussein, Chuah Thean Teng, Tan Choon Ghee, Abdul Latiff  Mohidin. My favourites, Bayu Utomo Radjikin  and Ahmad Zakii Anwar  also made their impact there.

Opening of  An Exclusive Preview, Art Auction Malaysia 2011 by : H.R.H. Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah Ibni Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah, the Crown Prince of Perak Darul Ridzuan

Jalaini Abu Hassan b. Selangor, 1963

We met some some serious art collector friends  and had a chat about art over lovely tea treats and a cuppa. So ended our short and sweet arty affair for the afternoon. I waxed euphoric over  a couple of pieces I  liked - can't say that of the prices though . You know it already - I can't afford it !! Nevertheless, this art enthusiast  will  definitely be back again when the full collection of 105 pieces for the public audience  takes place on 24 May. So come, browse and linger.

Hubby admiring  the oil on canvas piece by Mohd Hoessein Enas, Dato.
` Reputedly one of the only  five from Hoessein Enas' highly sought - after sensuous Morning  Mist Series, it is probably inspired by Rembrandt  van Rijin's (1606 - 1669) The Bather (1651) ' - text by  Mr Ooi Kok Chuen

Peter  Harris b. England, 1923-2009
RELAXING, c. 1970s -1980s

Tan Choon Ghee b.Penang, 1930 - 2010

Chia Yu Chian b. Johor, 1936 - d. Singapore 1991
HAWKER, 1957

Norma Abbas, Puan Sri b.Kuala Lumpur, 1951

Ibrahim Hussein, Datuk  b.Kedah, 1936 - d. Kuala Lumpur 2009

Bayu Utomo Radjikin b.Sabah,1969

Mohd. Hoessein Enas, Dato b. Indonesia, 1924 -1995
 'The series is one of the most erotic in Malaysian art with the water-soaked and slightly hiked -up sarong accentuating the voluptuary of the body. few note the details of the floral motif and patterns of the sarong. This is also a work steeped in the tradition of Indonesian realist painter Basuki Abdullah (1915-1993) who has done similar 'Bathers' theme' - text by Mr Ooi Kok Chuen

Artistic presentation of fruit cocktails to whet our appetite:))

Good mix -  people and art and tea

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beauty in Beads - Peranakan style

Step back into a bygone era of  the Peranakan.

I love things Peranakan - food, culture, clothings.  It was a sheer delight to  walk into the  Malaysia International Shoe Festival 2011 at the PWTC to see a part of Peranakan culture alive.

I joined some curious shoppers  who were gathered round  a lady dressed in nyonya  kebaya working on a 'face' for a nyonya shoe. It is a labour of love and skill , ingredients  necessary to keep this art alive. In the days of old, young nyonya women  were taught to cook, sew and embroider  for them to find suitors. The nubile ladies  were expected to present  several pairs of embroidered slippers  to the groom's family on her wedding day. Love's labour , one might say for the  intricate work  involved months of labour.

Get dressed from top to toe, Peranakan style.  These samples are done and ready to beautify shoes. The tiny colourful beads or manek potong are miniscule Venetian glass faceted beads. See how the motif comes alive with the vibrant designs and colours  .

A lady dressed in a kebaya  was working  on the motif. The beads are picked one by one and stitched  painstakingly. No room for mistakes. The frame holds the cloth firmly to ease the sewing.  

Even to this day, a nyonya lady   takes pride in matching  her shoes with her kebaya.  

Beauty on your feet

Just next to this activity,  a' mystery box' awaited shoppers. What fun it was right inside! I read about the largest Chocolate Nyonya Shoe weighing 130 kg and measuring 3.6 m long, 1.2 m wide and 0.64 m high.  There it was, standing elegant. Talk about fitting into someone's shoes!

Step right in -  a hit with visitors

This nyonya shoe is meant for a 70 foot lady!!

If anyone was tempted to pluck off one of those beads,  beady eyes of a staff were watching his or her every move. I came close just to sniff more of the chocolate.  These beads of chocolate are for real - all of marzipan and black and white chocolate. I just hope some kids  don't throw a tantrum and grab the choc beads ( balls) just like that! For that would really spoil the handiwork of the chief artist  of YTL Hotels, Frankie Lee. It took him a month to accomplish that feat.

See the phoenix design on the big shoe? Designs are inspired by nature and mythical figures. Even this gentleman is charmed by this beautiful shoe.

  It's not Willie Wonka's  Chocolate factory but  The Mystery Box at the  Malaysia International Shoe Festival 2011 at PWTC. A whopper of  marzipan and black and white choc , weighing 130 kg in total.  

Caught in the act? Hands off, Keats!! Well,  just couldn't resist a very close look at the  yummy beads - Malteses, anyone?? 

Astonishing facts to  WALK into the Malaysian  Guiness Book of Records.

I had  some fun finding out my ideal heel height for that well  proportioned look. Well, that afternoon, I was in my flatties. To look great, I have to be wearing 6 cm heels. That seems alright for the odd night  out for an occasion. So I'll keep that in mind and try not to topple over and stride in full confidence!!

Standing tall against a wall chart - 156 cm.   

The assistant punching in my statistics on a handy electronic calculator..  He read my height. When it came to the navel to sole, he said, 'You have to do it yourself!'  What do you think? -  I need a 6 cm  or 2.4 inch heels  to look well - proportioned. !!  

Here's a maths formula for you to crack your pretty head  over it. Discover for yourself how well proportioned you are!  

Good tips to serve you well before buying shoes. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vendor delights on a Sunday

Last Sunday, we could not decide  what lunch would satiate our appetite but short of tossing the coin, we headed to Ampang village opting for yong tau fu. We arrived  there  in a mere 20 minutes. The place was  already a hive of activity . Parking  came without any hassle. Phew! Then it  was decision time - which shop should we pick to  eat the famous yong tau foo when 3  are standing in a row and blogged about so deliciously. Well,  hungry stomachs couldn't  wait and  we settled for Foong Foong.

 In the heartland of Ampang yong tau fu.  Business bustled at the  3 yong tau fu restaurants, one of which is hidden from the view. We were at Foong Foong.  Overall the food was good though I would have liked less oil  in the dishes cooked.

As we  weaved our way among the traffic and people, I heard  a familiar sound - ting, ting ting... I trained my ears to the sound. It rose above the hustle  and bustle of the cars honking . There he was, as expected, chisel in hand and knocking the bits of candy away from the main block in the pan. Excitedly I  reminisced the days when  the ting ting tong  man was a familiar figure in  the town when I was growing up. The main ingredients in this delight are sugar and sticky molasses. 

Chisel away and bits fall away from the main block. Will the ting ting tong man be around for long? - a dying breed  rarely seen.

Ready to be sold, the candy is wrapped in small packets. Wonder who with a sweet tooth will come along?

As we waited for our orders, our table was near  the vendors selling their delights  - just outside the shop and by the roadside juxtaposed among motor bicycles and  cars - a commonplace scene in a village setting. 

Our conversation turned to the nangka/jackfruit  vendor. Somehow, my hubby said it was 'a Ceylonese thing' to relish nangka! We laughed . He was referring fondly  to his late father who was from Sri  Lanka. He  enjoyed the nangka. And there's our neighbour, also Ceylonese. They  have a big tree sporting  huge fruits hanging on the trunk. The fruit is versatile and finds its way in the cuisines of India, Sri Lanka , Indonesia, Vietnam and  Cambodia where the  nangka is grown abundantly. The wood of the tree  is used to make musical instruments.

Selling the nangka/jackfruit  has been his business for the past 50 years since he was 17 - right inside this village! The fruits  are harvested  from Seremban.  It is a challenge to cut the fruit as the sticky latex gums up the hands and knife. To prevent this, the vendor rubs oil to make the job easier.

The exterior of the nangka has a spiky look.  Note the white fibre  clinging round the yellow  fleshy pods. Inside them are   seeds which look like chestnuts. These  can be boiled or steamed.

There's the roasted chestnut vendor  a few yards away. I paid special attention to him as I enjoy roasted chestnuts and later bought some.Seeing him reminded me of  our holiday in Lisbon  in 2009. In the train station behind the closed doors, we cracked  the hard outer hulls and shared some plump, golden  chestnuts, away from the cold wind. My other favourite way of eating chestnuts is to find them soft and moist in a turkey stuffing. Ymmm, they are simply gorgeous.

Can you smell the chestnutss roasting? The man was working hard turning the chestnuts over and over again in the huge wok. Even as I spoke to him to say I was taking a picture of him, he just nodded . Under the shade  and the sun was a scorcher by 1 pm, the heat did not seem to bother him.

A lady was attentively looking after her  pickled  pickled mango and papaya delights. Those who have a penchant for sourish  and sweetish  snacks will find this tantalising.  Occasionally  the pickled  papaya  finds it way at dinner tables as appetisers before the the start of  the meal proper . As for me, to make a choice, I prefer the pickled papaya.

Pickled mango and papaya to whet your tastebuds. I remember the  many stalls  during my childhood days. The full grown but green fruits are sliced and marinated in a mixture of vinegar, sugar and water.