Presents for each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas!

christmas advent calendar

That’s the modern adaptation of the advent calendar and I think it’s a wonderful concept! It’s basically a countdown to Christmas and having small gifts for each days leading up to the final big present on Christmas Eve. You can make one that gives out:

ice cream

A nice bowl of ice cream on the first day

theatre

Tickets to the theatre for the second day

dinner

A nice dinner outside for the third day

theme park

A trip to a theme park for the fourth day

iberico ham

A nice leg of Iberico Ham for the fifth day

romantic hotel

A night’s stay at a romantic hotel for the sixth day

nature

A day trip getting reacquainted with nature for the seventh day

parfait

Back to a nice parfait for dessert on the eighth day

…and so on up till the 24th day which would be Christmas Eve!

It’s a really fun way to get into the spirit of Christmas and get the holiday festivities going.

It’s also the time to get gifts for loved ones – your friends, family and maybe even yourself. ;)

ikea table

One of the pieces of furniture I kept when I moved to this studio is a small table I bought from IKEA that my friend Jamie kindly painted for me. It has since been sitting at a corner of my living room, accumulating all sorts of stuff (which I have unceremoniously dumped under to take this photo).

I moved into a fully furnished studio but you still need the little touches that will personalize it and make it truly your own.

dali

Well, not the trippy stuff that Salvador Dali dreamt up (although tickets to see them would make a great addition to your own advent calendar). For more practical items (that is, things rooted in the real world) IKEA has introduced advent calendar to Malaysia – a tradition that is celebrated in a lot of Nordic countries like Sweden.

advent calendar

It has great bargains for the 24 days leading up to Christmas Eve – the awesome thing about The 2012 IKEA Advent Calendar is that you can see the deals that are coming up by hovering over the day. Keep in mind that the deal is only valid on that day itself so it’s a great way to buy gifts for loved ones at a good deal.

The best thing about the IKEA Advent Calendar is that you can actually peek at deals in advance so you’ll know what the promotions are on a certain date. The deals are really good too – you know that IKEA already operates at a low profit margin so that you can get quality products at the best deals ever.

trofast frame

I’m personally waiting for their TROFAST pine frame at RM 169 (discounted from RM 249) on the 23rd December. It’s actually categorized as toy storage for children but you can use it to store a wide variety of things – I’ve mentioned that my condo lacks space so all my stuff (various personal souvenirs from travels) can go right into this – it’s a great way to save space! :D

However, for this, some of the prices on furniture are marked down as much as RM 100 – like this queen size Sultan Tarsta mattress pad:

mattress share

…also if there’s something that catches your eye you can always hint to your friends by sharing the deal on your Facebook Wall. ;)

Here’s the link to The 2012 IKEA Advent Calendar so you can help ease your friends Christmas shopping. Heh.

Ril’s Steakhouse and the fabled Gemas Gold steak

gemas gold

I was dragged to this place at Jalan Tun HS Lee at the promise of some really good meat one night. Yeah, I know how that came out. Heh. It’s located in a quite secluded area of KL – Ril’s Steakhouse is at one of those 100 year-old buildings in town, complete with a chic art gallery called thewarehouse cafe.art (complete with chic font) at the bottom.

rils steakhouse gallery

It’s actually one unit and there are a couple of paintings there but only two other groups of diners – a bunch that looks like a lawyer and another that looks like a tourist family from some country which has oil as its prime export (and loads of it).

rils steakhouse

On to the food, I was told by the waiter (and my dining companion, who has been here previously) that they serve either Australian Angus Steaks or a type of Malaysian-reared breed called Gemas Gold.

thewarehouse cafe art

They also serve a good platter of warm bread with a variety of spreads that I really liked before your meal. However, there were only one small bun for each diner, and no one going around for refills which I thought was a bit off for a place like this.

thai bloody mary
Thai Bloody Mary (RM 28)
Vodka, tomato, chilli, fish sauce, coriander

I think this is the best part of the meal – the cocktails. It’s like an East-meets-West cocktail with gnarly ingredients thrown in just for the heck of it. It’s like something I would do as my projects! I loved it. The bird’s eye chilli (cili padi) is enough to make your eyes water and clear your sinus right up! They have others in a similar vein too.

truffled egg
KC’s Truffled Egg & Asparagus Soldiers (RM 28)
Soft boiled egg caramelized with a sweet chilli glaze and served with crunchy breaded asparagus solders and a spicy salt dip.

This is an amazing appetizer that was recommended by the waiter and it comes highly recommended from me too. It was much better than the steak I had – the breaded asparagus is supposed to be dipped first into the salt you see on the cracked shell at the side and then into the egg. Lovely stuff, and immaculate plating.

Classic Fish Pie (RM 48)

classic fish pie

This is described as a mouthwatering selection of fresh fish and seafood, cooked with creamy leeks and onions in a dill and mustard white sauce, baked with a buttery, crispy golden mashed potato topping. My dining companion had this for the mains. It was serviceable but I wasn’t too impressed by it. There was nothing in it that stood out.

Australian Augus Rib-eye (RM 128)

rils steak

I went for this 300 gram steak because my dining companion does not eat beef. I thought that was rather ironic, bringing me here, but she knows I love the stuff. I ordered it extra-rare, basically a blue steak and it turned out wonderfully. This place knows how to cook their steaks, that’s for sure – just slightly cooked on the outside, with a wonderful cold center. However, it wasn’t as fresh as I was hoping for.

I should have gone with the local Gemas Gold Rib-Eye 700 gram monster for just RM 10 more and tried to finish that. Heh.

roasted garlic bulbs

They also have sides ranging from chunky skin-on steak fries (RM 14) to whole roasted garlic heads (RM 10), the latter of which I ordered. I liked it, it was done perfectly. It doesn’t do your breath much good but it tastes wonderful.

rils steakhouse kl

I was really unimpressed by the Australian Angus steak that I ordered and steaks are supposed to be the forte of the place. It wasn’t fresh enough to be cooked extra rare. I’ll like to go again just to try the Malaysian-bread Gemas Gold though – it’s local, with lower food miles and bound to be better. It comes in a huge 700 gram rib-eye at just RM 132 and I saw the tourist family eating it.

extra rare bluesteak

I’ll need to be especially hungry to tackle it on my own though – but it was beautifully presented and I’ll love to taste this Gemas Gold that I haven’t heard of before.

Bak kut teh for breakfast in Klang and KEN Rimba

teluk pulai klang

It started with one of the best bak but teh sessions in Klang. Sam wanted to bring us to this great BKT place he knew but unfortunately they had sold out (at 11 am in the morning!) so we headed to the popular fallback – Teluk Pulai Clay Pot Ba Kut Teh.

bak kut teh klang

There’s just something about eating bak kut teh in Klang – it’s the real thing, it’s what it’s famous for, and nothing quite beats plate of lard enhanced rice with various cuts of pork simmering in herbal soup. They do an excellent dry BKT as well.

pork innards soup

There’s even a healthy order or stomach, intestines and other innards.

How awesome is that? I had two plates of rice, and with that awesome start to the day we headed to KEN Rimba, which is surprisingly just minutes away.

living area

KEN Rimba is Malaysia’s first green township in Shah Alam, but don’t let the address scare you off – it’s not that remote. Despite it’s Shah Alam postcode, it’s actually a stone’s throw away from Klang…

ken rimba klang

…and I mean that literally. I could probably throw a stone from the eco-friendly development and hit Klang. I think. Heh.

ken rimba legian

The concept of KEN Rimba is inspirational – it’s a 60 acre freehold development that is built on environmentally sound practices. We were shown around the still-building JIMBARAN Residences (168 units) as well as the completed LEGIAN Residences (328 units). There will also be two phases of condominiums in this township and the streets are split up by rain trees in mini-roundabouts.

legian

The former is a scaled up and larger version of the latter, and it brings the concept of ecologically friendly houses to life. The basics are all there like building houses in a north-south orientation. It helps prevent the worst of the glare from the sun to come in and the consequent build up in heat while roof tiles that removes heat and proper ventilation meant to catch the natural wind is installed.

green alleys

The back lanes and turfed walkways running along the each carefully planned terrace house blocks has Palawan trees for shade (and good ol’ CO2 to oxygen conversion) – little oases that you can walk through that provides a burst of green that’s quite soothing to the eyes.

fish

There are even water features there that are being seeded with marine life. It all makes me feel like I’m in Bali, which is why I suppose the names of the residences are chosen. Heh. I like how this both works as a carbon sink and aesthetic feature.

ken rimba shah alam

The terraced units utilize some of the same green features incorporated in the high end KEN Bangsar luxury condominium – which goes to show that building green does not necessarily have to be limited to expensive developments.

ken rimba ecological

The bit I love most is how the homes are illuminated by a skylight – it allows natural light to shine down straight from the roof and reaches down to a small plot of open garden right in your living room!

living room earth plot

It’s dubbed an in-house green planter for internal landscaping in the industry. This is what it looks like in an unfurnished unit – you can do whatever you want with it, even tile it up, but that’ll be a shame considering the novelty of the area.

plot

Here’s what the potential of that (relatively) little plot can do. This is the show room and I thought that having real plants inside your living room would be something different, a real area you can put your green thumb to and introduce some greenery into your daily life, right where you can see it all the time.

breakfast bar

The terraced units looked small in the unfurnished lot that we went to but it was just a question of scale – without furniture inside, it’s hard to tell how space can be utilized and I was amazed when the show room provided a visual example.

living room

The living and dining areas are huge and can easily fit a family of four with rooms for everyone, including a maid if you’re so inclined.

master bedroom

The second level contains the master bedroom with its own en-suite bathroom and toilet while the other two rooms are spacious enough for future developments of your own. ;)

master

They can be your kid’s bedrooms or a study and library, depending on how you want your lifestyle to be. JIMBARAN Residences has a slightly larger lot size of 22′ x 65′ while LEGIAN Residences is a standard 20′ x 65′ but it’s what you do with the area that matters! The latter has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and the photos are from that showroom. It has a built up area from 1,800-2,200 sq ft.

rainwater

Sam also showed us how rainwater can be filtered and recycled with the rainwater harvesting tanks provided at the back, which you can reuse to water your lawn or wash your car.

ken rimba showroom

KEN Rimba has the 328 units in Legian Residences ready to live in (although it’s almost sold out) and the upcoming Jimbaran Residences is going to be built with a loft, which increases the area of space available (from 2,100 – 2,500 sq ft). That makes a total of 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and an attic/loft. I think the loft would be great for a teenager to live in, at least I’ve always wanted that growing up. :)

rooms

There is also a commercial area which will have F&B outlets (so you don’t have to drive to Klang if you don’t want to), an existing playground and other thoughtful conveniences like the covered walkway to the nearest KTM station. Both JIMBARAN and LEGIAN Residences are guarded communities and the security is awesome – it’s a place where you’ll feel safe having your kids play outside.

corner terrace pool

It’s easy to lose yourself in the greenery that is KEN Rimba – the trees planted to flank the area not only shuts out the surrounding enterprises, but also reinforces the feeling that you’re walking into a green township. It’s won several prestigious awards like the BCA Green Mark GOLD and GOLD PLUS (Provisional for JIMBARAN) as recognition of it’s ecologically friendly status.

ken rimba pool

The corner terraces all have a swimming pool! I think that’s awesome – a place to cool down after the stresses of the day.

ken rimba homes

The terrace homes are not just green, it’s affordable too and has all the nice touches that makes it desirable. You can find out more information at the KEN Rimba website.

Green Awards:
green logos

Facebook: https://facebook.com/KEN.Greenbook
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SamCS10
Email: contact@kenholdings.com.my
Sales enquiries: 1300-22-9933

bicycles

I really liked how there are bicycles available for residents to use free of charge.

Great concept, eh? :)

3 survival meals made with leftovers and bread

I call this slightly tongue-in-cheek post the Vagabond Edition of my continuing bread story. smirk

Anyway, if you’re in strict budget mode these are some meals with bread that you can go with and it’s still quite tasty…in it’s own way. ;)

1. Bread with ketchup / chilli sauce

bread ketchup

I read Roald Dahl’s first biography – Boy as a kid and there’s an anecdote about his growing years inside. He and his mates ate sandwiches with just a dash of ketchup to give it a bit of flavor while one greedy individual had his full of pork and wouldn’t share. I distinctly remember the meat being bigger than the sandwich.

I did this with those small leftover single serve packages of chilli sauce I found at home. You can eat it with the same packets of ketchup too. It tastes rather good actually, especially if you have an egg to nibble on.

I had sandwiches with a fried egg and chilli sauce when I was in primary school and those were my absolute favorite! This reminds me a bit of that. ;)

2. Bread heaped with Milo / Ovaltine / any powdered malt drink

This is again another one from my childhood…and it tastes fabulous, but rather messy.

bread milo

It’s for those times when you’re sick of dunking it in a hot malt drink and wants a different texture. The trick we used to make the powdered drink “stick” to the sandwich is sweetened condensed milk as a kid.

However, I found that kaya works too and the grainy texture of the powdered malt drink is delicious on bread! :)

3. Bread with wine

People have been eating this for well over at least two thousand years…B.C. time. Jesus himself gave the last supper with bread and wine (albeit his was unleavened bread to conform with Jewish traditions at that time).

bread wine

Just generously anoint the bread with wine and savor it.

It’s surprisingly delicious! The wine is one I haven’t even tasted myself, it was opened ages ago and I was half afraid it had turned into vinegar! It hasn’t. It works best with red wine, chilled. The dates are correct, Anno Domini means Year of our Lord but He was born long after 1 A.D. – there’s a dating mistake somewhere along the line during the switch from Before Christ to AD, it’s 6-7 years off.

I reckon it’s a fitting one for Sunday too with the Eucharist and all that. :D

8 features I love about Windows 8

windows 8

Yup, I’ve installed Windows 8 to replace the Windows 7 Home Premium Edition I’m running on my main workhorse.

windows versions

I’ve upgraded my notebook several times in terms on hardware (RAM, HDD etc) and I’m always excited when a new OS comes out. Windows 8 Pro 64-bit (my notebook runs 64 bit natively, though there’s a 32-bit version of Windows 8) has a lot of things that I like and having spent a couple of weeks with it, I’ve managed to single out 8 features that I love.

windows 8 install

It’s hard to go with just 8 since there are a lot of new additions to enrich your experience. Some are essential and some are just stuff that are just plain fun.

I write a lot, love to travel and have been blogging since April 2002 so I’ll keep my experiences on that personal level.

1. Start Screen

This is the much anticipated feature (in addition to Live Tiles) of Windows 8 and it takes some getting used to, but there’s no going back after that.

windows 8 start

This displays my most commonly used apps and I can see various messages flood in via Live Tiles in the People and Messaging apps, which I use the most. This way, I just have to synchronize my email, Facebook, Twitter, IM clients and it’ll all be integrated into one place.

I like to travel pretty randomly (without any plans and flying by the seat of my pants) and this feature allows me to just see what’s going on in Travel, check the Wikipedia app (stating local customs and faux pas e.g. not eating the doughy tops of khinkali, a type of Georgian dumpling and also pronunciation), pull out Internet Explorer 10 for bus/train schedules and all that while talking to people who’re there so I can maybe couchsurf.

That’s taking “keeping in touch” to a whole new level.

2. Enhanced Search

I love this feature coz it’s perfect for lazy people like me. Heh.

windows 8 search

Just type anything directly from the Start Screen and it’ll appear. I typed “Sky” in this case and SkyDrive pops up as one of the features so I don’t have to go rooting about for it. It’s really a time saver.

I can also expand the search to various areas (which is customizable) for it to trawl anything from Windows Store to the entire Internet. Nifty, this one, and handy for finding facts online by just starting to type on the Start Screen.

3. Snap apps

This is a godsend for blogging!

windows 8 blogging

Just hover your mouse to the left and out pops a list of currently running apps. You can actually drag one of those apps out so you have two apps on your screen. This can be resized as you wish so I can dedicate 3/4 of my screen to Photoshop for photo editing and the other 1/4 to WordPress on IE 10 to add the photos to my blog or reply comments.

…and yes, both of the apps work at the same time. :D

4. Easy Screenshots

This is just amazing and it’s how I took most of the screenshots you see in this post. Windows 8 nullifies the need for external apps or the old method of Alt+Print Screen -> Open Paint -> Ctrl+V to take and paste a screenshot.

windows 8 pro

Now I just have to press Win+Print Screen.

It takes the entire screen and automatically saves it in the Pictures folder. You can also use Alt to take the current window but the shortcut where you can just automatically screenshot the entire screen is a lifesaver (or at least a time saver) to me – I do it a lot when blogging, writing and emailing someone about a travel deal. :)

5. Picture Password

This is one of the things which I’ll put under fun to use. Heh.

picturepassword

You can choose your best vacation/clubbing/adventure photos as a Picture Password and draw gestures around it to enter your computer. It not only acts as a password, it also shows my favorite photo while I’m logged out.

6. Windows Store

You can download a lot of free and paid games and apps in here – anything from Angry Birds to Wikipedia. I also found a fun and free game called Ball Strike when I was in Singapore courtesy of Jim Saret (of Biggest Loser Philippines fame).

windows store

It just requires a Windows 8 device with a camera – which is common enough, even my older notebook has a built-in webcam. This is an augmented reality game that gives me a bit of exercise while I’m at home.

I can see it being a hugely popular house party game too. Heh.

7. Charms Bar

This is the uber sidebar that allows you access to everything from the classic Desktop that traditional users would instantly recognize:

windows 8 charms

…to instant share which I use to quickly share travel itinerary PDFs, photos and such via Tweetro (a Twitter client) or email.

It’s awesome and you just have to go to the right of the screen to activate it.

8. SkyDrive

I have personal experience of having my camera stolen while travelling before – all my photos from the trip were lost! Integration with SkyDrive, especially for my photo backups, is essential to me.

The cloud-connectivity that Skydrive offers is wonderful because I like to travel in places that are not necessarily tourist friendly.

skydrive

I’ve also had my HDD crash two times before – and some of my precious photos were lost forever! Now with SkyDrive, I’ll make it a point to do auto backups when I’m done for the day and leave it uploading while I sleep.

It works beautifully for documents too e.g. the blog posts that I write every day.

You know how important photos are to travellers and bloggers – it’s a pictorial chronological memory for me and I can’t stand losing it.

Now I won’t have to. :)

Do I need Windows RT, Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro?

which windows 8
Here’s a chart to help you decide.

Windows RT
Windows RT is for people who wants a tablet-style easy to use OS where you don’t need new and existing Windows desktop software to work. It’s great with tablets and PCs where you want a user friendly experience – the new Start Screen is where you work from and all apps comes from Windows Store. As an added bonus, it comes with Office Home & Student 2013 Preview!

windows rt

Windows 8
Windows 8 is what most casual users will need – you’ll get all the new features in the Start Screen (actually all of the versions do) but you don’t have to work exclusively with Windows Store apps. The only thing you’ll miss out on is BitLocker. You can still use new and existing Windows desktop software as well as the apps from Windows Store – it’s the best of both worlds!

windows 8 versions

Windows 8 Pro
Windows 8 Pro is basically Windows 8 for power users or enterprise users. You get all the functionality in Windows 8 (like existing and new Windows Desktop software compatibility) and BitLocker for data protection as well as a host of networking features like Domain Join and Remote Desktop Connection.

windows 8 singapore

Windows 8 special promo info:
If you’ve bought Windows 7 PC from June 2 onwards, you can upgrade to Windows 8 for just USD 14.99 (RM 49.92). Login to www.windowsupgradeoffer.com (yes, this is a real Microsoft link, not some dodgy website) for more details.

Otherwise, if you have a PC and would like to install or upgrade to Windows 8, you can purchase it at USD 39.99 (RM 122). Login to windows.my for more details.

The offers end on 31st January 2013 so get your upgrade today to take advantage of the promo prices! :D

Petronas Switch for XTRA Road Challenge

massage

I’ve been following this online – it’s a very fun concept where a 3 local personalities (Awal Ashaari, Scha Alyahya and Faizal Ismail) and our very own blogger Hanis Zalikha goes on a roadtrip where they complete challenges across the nation.

scha alyahya

It’s a lot like watching TV, which I’ve been doing a bit lately, usually while waiting for hotel checkout time…except this is all available online on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. :)

pump gas

The basic concept of the Petronas Switch for XTRA Road Challenge is where the above-mentioned 4 celebrities form a group with 2 other supporters. These two supporters are culled from the top 15 winners from the Switch for XTRA Race (the first phase of the #Switch4XTRA Road Challenge – yup, that’s the Twitter hashtag – campaign).

Now that they’ve move on to the second phase, you can watch video snippets like the one above from each of the 4 teams. It’s quite entertaining to see a reality show online which combines videos from YouTube, photo galleries in Facebook and various tweets from Twitter to form a cohesive whole.

mesra drivethru

Each team is sent on a roadtrip to a location in Malaysia, where they complete challenges which can only be done with the help of the public. That’s done in a large part via social media – when the teams gets the challenges, they send out word through their social media assets to their fans and supporters to chip in and help out.

sell stuff

The interesting part about this is that you get a large part in determining who wins. It’s like a reality show where you’re the judge. :)

The videos from each of the 4 teams are posted online and the winning team will be the one with the highest number of collective video views.

The winning team takes home RM 10,000 but it doesn’t go to the celebrity – it’s split into RM 5,000 chunks for the 2 supporters in their team.

tiny bike

I found myself using a lot of bandwidth to watch the show. It’s a bit of a cross between a locally produced travel reality show and a competition reality show (like Supermarket Sweep from my youth – remember that?).

seller helper
Scha Alyahya helping sell..

You can watch all the videos at the PETRONAS Switch 4 XTRA Road Challenge YouTube page.

I’m going to support Team Hanis Zalikha coz I like her on-screen personality – it’s pretty much the same as her real persona. Which team do you support? :D

seller
kueh (local pastries) for a stall!

It’s quite entertaining really, after all the locally produced travel shows I’ve been watching on TV. Go check it out, particularly if you’re studying overseas and missing a bit of home. I wish stuff like this was available when I was studying in Melbourne. :)

Chicharon (deep fried pork rinds) in Philippines

pork chicharon

Chicharon is pork crackling or deep fried pork rinds in Tagalog. I got this pack in Manila for 30 Philippine pesos (about RM 2). This is sold as a snack in ’90s style popcorn packaging. Well, at least popcorn was packaged that way in my hometown of Sibu at that time and sold in bakeries (!!!).

The price for chicharon can range from 10 PHP to either side, depending on the brand. Also, the price can change from vendor to vendor for the same thing depending on how much they reckon they can rip you off for. The different brands mostly looks the same, with the manufacturer slipping in a small paper insert to differentiate their products.

chicharon

This one is called Angelo Special Pork Chicharon and comes with a smiling pig, very much oblivious to what he’s about to become by the looks of it. smirk

You can see that it’s slightly wet – the street vendors in Manila will offer to open and douse the packet of chicharon generously with vinegar from a dodgy recycled bottle with a hole at the top. It’s apparently the local way to eat it. I found it quite nice but there’s only so much pork crackling you can eat before you get sick of it.

7fresh

7-Eleven in the Philippines also sells a microwavable chicharon under their 7Fresh store brand. The price is heavily inflated but you can actually bring it back home – I brought back 2 packs, one for my family and one for a friend of mine. I think some people actually do eat it like popcorn!

The fresh ones packaged like the one I had in Manila doesn’t keep too long though – it’ll start to become stale after a couple of hours. You can usually find it where they sell balut. It’s quite tasty though but very, very oily, so if you don’t adore pork, this is probably not for you. :)

Jisan and Kwan Yeow’s themed wedding

Chariot of Fire

wedding banquet

That is the first dish that came out, complete with a rather dramatic presentation. It’s visually appealing and delicious to boot. You just can’t argue with lobster…and scallops…and abalone…well, you get the idea. Heh.

wedding reception

Anyway, I was at Jisan and Kwan Yeow’s wedding which occupied a couple of ballrooms at the 15th floor of Sunway Resort Hotel. I’ve been there for the second time in as many weeks. The cocktail reception was at 6 pm but I only managed to get there slightly past 7 pm – and even then, I had to rush from church.

bride groom table

I didn’t realize that my face was sunburnt and peeling too – been swimming a lot lately but it’s always at night so how I got that is a mystery…but it’s not my wedding so here’s one of the best themed weddings I had the pleasure to attend this year.

jisan wedding

The wedding invitation came in an old school record (as LPs – the CDs before cassettes). Dress code is Retro Glam but I decided to wear the bespoke suit (new word from Shah) that I got in Phuket, during the Club Med Phuket trip that Jisan took us on.

beer wine

The cocktail reception area had wine, beer and a variety of sodas. I haven’t had much to eat so I went with the latter.

candy floss

There’s also a cotton candy stand (that really works!) and a woman twisting balloons for kids (and kids at heart). It’s a precursor to what lies inside.

directions

When the doors to the ballroom opened I don’t think anyone went straight to their seats – there’s just too much to absorb at once!

writing wishes

There’s a place for you to write well wishes to the bride and groom on a record (the very same one that came in the wedding invite but with different words) and clip it using a tiny red wooden peg.

wedding wishes

Next to it is a kiosk called Pop Drinks which had mini soda bottles as well as Tora and Ding Dang!

tora ding dang

I heard a lot of entranced mutterings – these are the toy boxes we played with as kids! I was heartened when someone told me to help myself and I got a box. Heh.

pop drinks stand

I guess everything changes over time – Tora is now filled with individually wrapped candy instead of the chocolate balls that all 80’s babies remember (I barely scrape by – born in 1981). There’s also the stuff that you can blow into balloons – exactly the same brand as the ones I played with during primary school.

ding dang

Sweet nostalgia.

marshmellows

There’s also marshmallows (which were fluffy and delicious – ruined a bit of my appetite, this jar), rock candy and lollipops which you can indulge in at Candy Bites while waiting for the photo booth.

photo booth

Now, this photo wall is something that’s worth a bit of your time lining up for. There’s plenty of vintage items like scooters and props for you to fluff up before taking a shot.

props

Each item has a story behind it. This luggage bag is exactly the same one Jisan’s mom used when she studied in Australia way back in the days.

jisan mom luggage

It even has Qantas tags still on it!

group picture

We took a group photo here – there’s two photo booths actually.

retro props

You can also opt for their photographer to take a photo of you, which gets printed out instantly to the side. There’s a copy for you to take back and even an envelope to keep it in.

wedding photo

It’s little touches like this that elevates a standard wedding into something really quite memorable!

wedding photos

I like how the theme is consistent too – it’s always been a theatre production starring Jisan and Kwan Yeow – the movies of the ROM (Registration of Marriage) and the hilarious slides with speech bubbles of their childhood to adult photos inter-spaced throughout the banquet dishes makes it into a cohesive theme.

cake cutting

(BTW, her name is actually spelled Ji San, I just concatenate the two words into one coz that’s how I was introduced when we met each other years ago while working at different agencies in the same building on the same account – long story, I digress)

wedding hall

Back to the banquet, it must seem like a copywriter wrote the names of the dishes coz it was really fanciful and we were trying to work out what the dishes actually were. Heh.

One side has the beverages list and says:
Wine + Hard Liquor + Beer + Soft Drinks + Chinese Tea

…which was easy enough to decipher. No mystery there – I kept to my 3 drink limit (of whisky) which Aza had a hard time believing (most of the people I know here knew me when I was very much the raging alcoholic). The food menu is where it gets interesting.

Chariot of Fire

chariot of fire

This is a wonderful dish which actually deserves its name – there’s even a complicated rein made of links of carrots that’s a work of art in its own right. There’s also a dragon fruit that’s hollowed out and inserted with a candle precariously balanced on the tip. The traditional first dish at a Chinese banquet, this one is full of premium items – lobster chunks, juicy scallops, slices of abalone and a fruit salad with sunflower seeds.

Combination of Love and Blessings

combination of love and blessings

Dried scallops, shiitake mushrooms, kampong (free range) chicken, ginseng and fish maw double boiled into a wonderful clear soup. It seems to be the trend to go this route instead of the traditional shark’s fin soup which gets some PETA/Greenpeace types all worked up and I think it’s a good thing. It tastes even better and it’s good to have a nice double boiled Cantonese clear soup for a change.

Ocean of Love and Passion

ocean of love and passion

This is an entire fish and my favorite dish in wedding banquets. I just love fish cooked in this way – simple, with soy sauce and lots of spring onions on top. It’s delicious, usually my favorite dish but Jisan’s first dish just takes the cake – it blew everything else away. I refer to everything as Jisan coz you know how there’s always a “groom’s side” and a “bride’s side”? I only know the bride and was introduced to the groom today. :)

Hearts United in Love

hearts united in love

Medallions of tender de-boned chicken served with a sweet and spicy sauce and a side of crackers folded like warm bread. The crackers are warm and meant to be eaten with the chicken medallions like so:

chicken medallions crackers

It tastes good but I was really full at this point so I really can’t comment. I was stuffed silly by the good food.

Romance and Bloom

romance and bloom

A dish of flavorful Shiitake mushrooms pregnant with juices that practically bursts in your mouth combined with fu chok (a soy bean byproduct). You know how I feel about soy products but the mushrooms were awesome! I had several with the broccoli even though I was so full at this point I had to loosen my belt.

The carved dragon is made of flour. Our table had got into the discussion of what it was made of and I took the head up – it’s really heavy – and tried to get a piece off (salty).

Unity and Commitment

glutinous rice

This is a package of glutinous rice mixed with spring onions, salted egg, lap cheong (waxed sausage) and various other goodies in a wrapped leaf. I found myself eating more and more of it despite being full several dishes back. It’s really good and the presentation of every dish is impeccable – either with nice plating or individually served like this one…

unity and commitment

…with a thoughtful orchid by the side of the plate.

cheesecake

The menu also had an aside that went: Stay tuned for the Celebration of Love “The Sweetness of Marriage”

the sweetness of marriage

It is a veritable buffet of desserts!

chocolate mousse

A smorgasbord of delights sure to please anyone with a sweet tooth.

desserts

Again, I found myself overeating but I couldn’t resist the strawberry mousse and the creamy chocolates.

yum seng

I really liked how they did the traditional yum seng (toast to the couple) in one half of the ballroom. The wedding reception has tables on one side and the other side can be made into anything, depending on the occasion.

table

Jisan and Kwan Yeow got everyone to wear the sunglasses provided as a wedding favor on each table and get to the side to toast the bride and groom. See what I mean by a consistent theme from the movie style invites to the sunnies?

chan wedding

I really enjoyed myself at the wedding – it was a lot of fun I met a lot of old friends too.

jisan kwan yeow

My warmest regards to the newly-weds Chan Ji San and Teh Kwan Yeow!

hb jisan

I managed to get a photo with Jisan, the new Mrs Teh, too!

wedding pavilion

It was a great evening and I wish you both matrimonial bliss and happy endings! Congratulations Mr and Mrs Teh! :)

3 affordable and essential spreads for bread

I eat a lot of bread and this is my Top 3 list of essential bread spreads:

1. Cream cheese

cream cheese

This is a spreadable cream cheese that I’ve grown to love. It retails for about RM 7 for 200 grams – the same weight and price as those “mystery cheese” individually wrapped slices. I can’t say this is 100% real cheese either but it sure tastes a helluva lot better.

It’s creamy and savory! Made in Australia, the best thing about this small tub of cream cheese is that if you don’t consume it within 10 days it turns into sour cream – another *new* spread for your bread. smirk

I’m kidding, I don’t know what it turns into after 10 days coz I love the stuff.

2. Kaya (coconut jam)

kaya

Yup, this is a bread spread that we can count as our very own – made in Malaysia, something to be proud of. The word itself translates to English as “rich” and that’s exactly what the texture feels like. It’s a sweet concoction made of coconut and tastes like custard.

I usually get locally produced original ones (none of the pandan infused flavors for me) for RM 2.50. I also noticed that kaya goes better with softer bread e.g. the bran and wheat-germ types instead of 100% wholegrain.

3. Peanut butter

peanut butter

This is another staple of my fridge. I always go for chunky peanut butter – I’m not a huge fan of the smooth/creamy variety. I don’t like it cloyingly sweet either and I found this brand called Steffi’s Delight that’s made in the United States with no added sugar.

It really makes a lot of difference – it’s almost slightly salty and this brand also has visible chunks of peanuts. It’s cheaper than a lot of local brands too at RM 11 for over 500+ grams.

This kind of peanut butter works well with tougher breads like grain fortified 100% wholemeal/wholegrain. Lovely stuff, the only downside is the slightly disturbing use-by date of 2014…it’s gotta have a lot of preservatives inside for that kind of shelf life. :x

I still eat bread with the stuff in 3 delicious and dirt cheap meals with bread but have bought a couple of spreads to spice things up a little. This is just a continuation of my…er, bread story after the DBKL spectacle.

What spreads do you like and are you a chunky or smooth person? :)

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