Monday, March 12, 2012

Indonesian Coconut Shell Carving

When R and I were in Bali we saw some carved coconut shell lights in the markets, most of the designs were fairly simple. But when we went on a sightseeing trip to a temple outside of Ubud, we found this old man who had been carving coconut shells for his whole life. His designs (in the photo above) are quite elaborate and magical. We zeroed in on one that was really cool with monkeys carved in it, he said we picked his favorite work and wouldn't sell it, but showed us another that was similar. ...

The design also has monkeys, if you look hard you can see their bodies and arms and tails. It sits on another carved shell base.

Sometimes these lights are lit by candle, but we put a electric bulb in ours when we got back to Malaysia. It looks pretty cool at night as our master bedroom is dark brown so the light makes the room very moody. I tried to search more on Indonesian coconut shell carving, not much out there on the web.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

POS Malaysia

Here's a shot of the main Seremban Post Office I snapped while waiting for R to pick up a package. In Malaysia the postal system is known simply as POS.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lobster Claw Plants

It's been awhile since I've posted. This year has been a busy one already! I recently found some HUGE Lobster Claw plants (Heliconia family) that were blooming. I've never seen the plants so large, in fact, I've only seen small plants available once in Seremban. So I bought these three plants and planted them at the side of the house between our property and our neighbors. The Lobster Claw plants are quite popular in my neighborhood and around Seremban. I love them and have wanted a few for our yard. They have been doing well. There's not too much sun in the area as it is below a giant mango tree, but still these plants seem fine when watered once a day.

As I added the photo to Blogger, I remembered I had seen a number of Lobster Claw and Lobster Claw-like plants on my trip last year to Ubud in Bali (see the post here).

So I pulled up some photos I took in the gardens of the Rudana Fine Art Gallery. I guess I only took one of a Heliconia, where the claws go up instead of hang down like the ones I aquired. The garden was so pretty. . .

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


A Malaysia resident wrote and asked me for some current photos of the kitchen because he and his wife are embarking on a kitchen remodel at their home in Penang. So here are some photos.

A search of 'kitchen' on the right sidebar will provide you with links of all the posts of when ours was being designed and installed. We do love cooking in it and working together to prepare meals, there's enough space for us to move around and it's designed functionally. Our favorite part is perhaps the wood shelves where we put dishes out. I like to pull various dishes right from the ledge while cooking.

We are also very happy about the real Corian we spent the extra money on. It was a much better choice then marble because we didn't have to deal with seams.

The one thing we aren't thrilled about is the Stainless Steel table. While it looks fantastic and fills the space, it gets rusty if you don't wipe off the water. Actually all the stainless steel items (except the refrigerator which isn't really stainless steel but some kind of stainless looking material) get rusty if you don't keep them up. I never had this problem with my stainless steel appliances in New York.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays from Malaysia

A few readers have asked me what I'm going to do for Christmas here in Malaysia and so it got me thinking...

2005 Christmas in New York

I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota where it was always a white Christmas. Snow outside, fires going inside. Christmas decorations throughout the house that had been collected over the years and every house had a tree sparkling through the front window. Growing up in the 70s was a different time, older generations of midwest women would still bake for the holidays. And it wasn't just one or two types of treats. They would bake cookies, bars, candies... basically in the midwest back then, there was pretty much a non-stop flow of sugar during the holidays.

My family had a tradition that every year we would go together an buy our Christmas ornaments for the year, my mom and dad and sister and I would get one, they would all be the same kind but slightly different. Every year was a different theme reflecting something we did that year. So over they years I have collected an ornament for every year. When I left home and moved to New York these ornaments followed me and every year I'd continue to get a new one. Putting up the tree, I'd start with my first baby ornaments and proceed year by year putting them on the tree up to the current year. This was what my family did, and it is what I did as an adult.

So you can see that in 2005, my last Christmas in New York, I had accumulated quite a few ornaments. Some on the tree were also antique ones I found around at garage sales around my house. Anyway, this is what my Christmas was like in the US. When I moved to the middle-east in 2006 there was no Christmas, no trees, and the desert heat did not feel like the December cold that I knew the holidays to be. So I adapted. No tree, but still Holiday gifts with family and friends and other ways to celebrate.

When R and I moved to Malaysia, we noticed more Christmas celebrations. We saw the malls were decorated in holiday decorations and a general sense of Christmas. There was actually Christmas wrapping paper and bows! Holiday cards!

Mid Valley Mall Malaysia

The Christmas tree situation is this: not really any fresh cut trees (although I'm not sure I'd buy a fresh tree anymore thinking about it from an environmental perspective), there are small potted trees that people buy. The other option is an artificial tree from Tesco or Jusco. The ones I have seen have been smallish and not really full, pretty 'fake'. So as of yet I haven't had a tree in Malaysia. My ornaments are in storage in the US as I'm afraid they will break in transit. Maybe next year I'll sort the tree thing out. Not sure.

I did get a Time Out email yesterday with suggestions of what to do around Kuala Lumpur for Christmas. There are plenty of places serving Christmas meals listed and even places that will make Turkey for you to take home. It all looks quite festive.
What I learned about Christmas is it's not only the decorations, it's the spirit and being with loved ones. A Tropical Christmas is starting to grow on me, although I'll always have a soft spot for a white christmas. This year I don't think we will head to KL, R and I will stay home, break open a bottle of special Chardonnay and open our gifts to celebrate.

I wish all my readers Happy Holidays!!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Patio Plant: Euphorbia

I've seen these cool spiky plants around and found one at one of the nurseries in Seremban. It's a Euphorbia milii Des Moulins, I think. Euphorbiaceae. CN: [Malay - Pokok raja], Crown of thorns. Native of Madagsacar and panted worldwide as ornamental plant. Doesn't seem to like to much water.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Baby Back Pork Ribs and American-type Barbeque Sauces

I was at Tesco awhile back and was in the separate section they have for the pork and other non-Halal items (you have to pay separately for these items including alcohol so when we are at the grocery stores and go into these sections we have to be rung up in two separate places so as to keep the Halal separate from the non-Halal in the grocery stores. It is a bit of a hassle because the act of being rung up at the register in Malaysia sometimes is a slow process!). Anyway, there was actually some ok looking Baby Back Pork Ribs so I picked them up. I don’t remember seeing them before and thought R might like me to make some barbequed ribs.

Pork Baby Back Ribs from Tesco Seremban 23.83RM

American-type Barbeque Sauces that come in bottles here are fairly limited to Heinz and a few other basic BBQ sauces that have a generic BBQ taste. No fancy gourmet BBQ’s in Seremban although I have seen a slightly better selection before at a grocery store called Cold Storage which has a few locations around KL, Selangor and Mid Valley. But even there, they are overpriced and limited.

So a number of months ago I decided to try making my own BBQ sauce, I was trying to get a good American BBQ sauce taste using ingredients available here in Malaysia. The sauce I’ve been making tastes great, rich flavor and just spicy enough for our taste. And because of the special ingredients like the SOS chili sauce there is a very faint Asian taste that I think makes it a special layered sauce.

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it. I use it mainly on oven baked chicken, but I also used it on the oven baked baby back ribs and it was very tasty. I usually cook the meat awhile and then add the sauce towards the second half of cooking so it doesn’t burn.

BBQ Sauce

1 cup Tomato Sauce

1 cup SOS Chili Sauce

1/4 cup Distilled Vinegar

1/4 cup Dark Soy Sauce

1/4 cup Brown Sugar

1 tablespoon Yellow Mustard, like Heinz not dry

1 tablespoon Tabasco Sauce

1/4 tablespoon of Mexican Chili Powder*

1/4 tablespoon of Asian Chili Powder*

1/4 tablespoon of Red Chili Pepper Flakes**

1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

Mix all of the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan and slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir regularly. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer until it turns dark and thick (about 10 to 15 minutes). Transfer the sauce to a sealable container and store in the refrigerator. It should keep for a month.

*Chili powder here is usually Asian chili powder, a bright red finely crushed powder. Mexican chili powder or what in the US we just call Chili Powder is browner and has a different taste so it is important for the recipe to use some Mexican Chili Powder in addition to Asian Chili Powder. MasterFoods Brand Spices from Australia makes a Mexican Chili Powder available here in Malaysia in the spice section of stores like Tesco or Jusco.

**I think I mentioned before Red Chili Pepper Flakes are hard to buy here, so I get mine from the extra packets that are delivered with Dominos Pizzas. Then later use the packets of Red Chili Pepper Flakes for cooking because cooking with out Red Chili Pepper Flakes at times is nearly impossible! OK Dominos Pizza isn’t great at all but thank goodness they do deliver to my house in seremban when I can’t cook for whatever reason and thank goodness for those pepper flake packets they are like gold in my house!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Orange Berry Palm

I snapped these shots at the Sri Menanti Royal Museum (I wrote about the place here). Not sure what kind of Palms these are but the berries are beautiful and would look great in my garden as I am trying to include as much orange as possible.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Taugeh Hijau

I was at Family Store buying my vegetables for the week, there wasn't a great selection because it was Sunday and the Family Store by my house gets really busy on Saturday and to a lesser degree Sunday morning. So by the time I rolled in there, the selection was pretty grim. I got what I could and looked for anything else that might be worth buying. I saw this small packet of some cute little greens called Taugeh Hijau so I put it in my basket.

The Taugeh Hijau sat in my crisper for a day or two and then I noticed it and thought I better do something with it before it spoiled. I looked online and found "green bean sprouts" for one translation and on a blog another suggestion that Taugeh Hijau might also mean snow pea sprouts or pea sprouts, that they are the greens for peas. The Taugeh Hijau I bought looked kind of like other pea sprouts images. It seems they are usually cooked in Asia. I didn’t need to look at the recipes, I could tell by the finished products that it’s more of that stirfry-lightly or blanch them type of preparation done here so often in Asia especially Malaysia... similar to the preparation the baby ferns I recently prepared and other greens.

But I was serving cold chicken and vegetable pasta for dinner and so cooking these didn’t appeal to me, I thought maybe I could add the sprouts to the top of the salad raw. I found one entry online that said they could be both cooked or served raw and that raw they tasted good. So I tried a stem. Sure enough, it tasted good. In fact it tasted an awful lot like alfalfa sprouts which I love and aren’t available at family store and are quite expensive when they are available at Jusco. So here I have another sprout alternative! R was skeptical but I cleaned them and placed them on top of the pasta salad. Guess what, he liked them and I did too. Very nice taste and cool texture- a crisp bite in the mouth and it made the salad look pretty fancy.

I’m going to have to get them again and try cooking them too.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wall Lighting in Living Room

The wall lighting for the Living Room was proving to be the hardest fixtures to buy. I really had been looking for something over the past few months because I was tired of seeing the dangling wires when we watched films on our TV. But, in Malaysia generally there are two types of wall sconces. The very dated frosted glass dome type lighting or weird designs with colors or ... I can't even explain them, but imagine some really ugly fixtures.

I contacted the Malaysian furniture store Linds Furniture via email back in April and asked about some wall fixtures on their website that I thought were passable, I didn't love them but at least they looked contemporary and white would blend into the wall, right?

Wrong. Here was the response from Linds: "The name of the Foscarini lights is Fields. They come in two different colours, White and Orange. Price is listed as below (stock as listed):

Fields 1: RM 4,400 (1 in orange)
Fields 2: RM 5,200 (1 in white)
Fields 3: RM 4,900 (1 in orange)

The big light in the middle (of the picture) is a combination of all three fields.

For those not in stock, we can order them, with a waiting period of not more than 3 months. Attached is a pdf document with details of the lights."

So if I wanted to buy the light in the middle it would cost 14,500 RM (approximately $4,833 USD) and I would have to wait up to 3 months to get it in white. I just wonder, who in their right mind would spend this much on this fixture? No thanks, I kept looking.

I had nearly given up, but finally found something useable from Avalon Light Fixtures in Senawang not far from Seremban. I liked the curved part and the contemporary look. I wasn't sure R would like them so I took a photo and shared it with him first. Surprisingly, he liked them. I was, at that point, prepared to spend some money on the fixtures, I mean not 14,000 RM, but more than I had initially wanted to as I figured they were in an important room of the house. But to my delight they were with discount only 40 RM each!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

King's Palace

While my parents were here we decided to go to the Sri Menanti Royal Museum or as we have been calling it, the King's Palace, located in the royal state capital about 40km East of Seremban . I listed it in my "Places to Visit and Eat in Seremban and Negeri Sembilan" post awhile back here.

R and I had seen photos of it and were really interested to drive more inland towards the middle of Malaysia to see this place. Trying to find out exactly how to get there from Seremban wasn't that easy, all directions were vague. The best way to go, or the way we went, was to look for signs in Seremban town heading to Kuala Pilah on Federal Route 51 going east. Federal Route 51 East takes you from Seremban to Kuala Pilah. The road quickly leaves Seremban and takes you on a breathtaking climb over some mountains covered with trees and palms... really beautiful. Then, still traveling East on 51 you start to get local. You see local stands selling fruits and some grilling meat right there on the road. It's pretty nice. Before getting to Kuala Pilah you see signs to turn right to Sri Menanti on to N29 (south) which takes you to the royal town and then a roundabout towards the King's Palace. The place is pretty surreal and cool. The drive might be better than the actual 'palace' though. But it is fun to walk through. The building was built from 1902 to 1908, there are supposedly 99 pillars each at 65 feet and there were no nails or screws used to construct the place. Climbing to the top level was a steep ladder climb, fun.

As seen in the photo above and on the outside of the building, the main color theme here is YELLOW. There are tons of yellow bulbs all over the palace, we would have liked to stay into the night to see it lit up, but we decided to go back up to 51 travel further east to Kuala Pilah which on a quick tour produced not much interest and too much traffic. Maybe another day, because there are supposedly many old shophouses to see that haven't been torn down.

The palace is located next to the Sri Menanti Resort. Online I grabbed the following hours, but I am not sure they are accurate, best to check ahead. Hours Weekdays: Daily: 9.30am - 6pm; Fridays: noon - 2.50pm Weekends & Public Holidays: 9.30am - 6pm Thursdays (From 1pm onwards): Closed.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bougainvillea Around the House

The orange Bougainvillea around the house is finally blooming in all wall planters at the same time. Some planters are full of more blooms than others, but they all have flowers!!! Some of the flowers are leaning towards pink. It has been over a year since they were planted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Panasonic MX-900M Blender

So I have been putting off buying a Blender since we moved to Malaysia. Every time I'd see them in the stores I couldn't decide what to get. I was looking for stainless steel to go with the kitchen or black to go with the coffeemaker. But many of the SS models are imported models and just way too expensive. You see I bought a blender back when I lived in New York . It wasn't that expensive maybe $75 USD (but you can get much better quality appliances in the US for less cost than Malaysia). I bought it to mainly make frozen drinks like margaritas, etc. And when I used it, the thing barely could crush the ice to make the drinks, in fact, I don't think the ice ever got that small it was more like shaved ice. This was disappointing. I figured I had to spend a lot more to get something that would do the job but never go around to it.

So being in Malaysia, I immediately thought... oh there are good fruits here, we can make all sorts of frozen drinks!!! Every time I was in a store, I would think about my bad blender in New York and not be sold on any of the Malaysian blender options.

Well, my parents from Virginia were just here to visit R and I for the first time and they thought I really needed a blender so they said they were going to buy me one as an early Christmas present! We went around the shops looking and I was still being fussy. One day we happened in my favorite appliance store in Seremban called Syarikat Hoong Bee (Jalan Tuanku Antah Jalan Rahang) where R and I bought all of our Panasonic products for the house. We have been pretty happy with the Panasonic refrigerator, washing machine, fans etc. we have bought from the guy Jimmy there.

Jimmy said that the best blender is the Panasonic MX-900M Blender (now R said Jimmy just says that because he sales mainly Panasonic, which is probably true), nevertheless, he said it is the model that all the commercial businesses use.

I wasn't crazy about the idea of buying a white blender, but I was trying to be flexible because my parents were buying. But I did like that the model had a plastic container instead of glass because many of the real glass models just seemed way to heavy. He said the blender was made in Malaysia which didn't excite me (although strangely the plug is not a Malaysian plug and needs an adapter?). So I said OK to this blender to put a rest to the whole situation! I bargained him down to 140RM (about $46 USD).

Right after buying the blender we stopped by a fruit stand and picked up some fruit. All the fruit above cost 2oRM (under $7 USD). One Papaya, two mangoes, bananas and some strange small fruits on a stem. Does anyone know what they are called? They have a white fruit and taste pretty nice. I mainly bought them to try with my parents as they were trying all the local fruits (they liked Durian!!!).

So we decided to make some Papaya drinks in the blender using the whole papaya, some ice, sugar and rum. We put all the ingredients in and turned the blender on it blended it in like 2 seconds! It was amazing, there must have been something wrong with that New York blender. I can't wait to blend tons of things like pesto with my Thai basil ...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Monkey Palm

While R's mother was here we went to some of the nurseries. She bought this nice dark grey/black planter for me. I had been looking around since she left to try and find the right plant to put in it. I finally decided on something with a bit of height. The nursery told me it is a "Monkey Palm". More research online and I found its name is most likely Monkey Tail Palm (Synechanthus fibrosus). Have been watering everyday and the plant seems to be doing fine.

The smaller pots are Jasmine I planted awhile ago. They don't seem to be growing much or flowering under the patio. I think they might need more sun or larger containers.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sweet Home Vol. 31

The issue of Sweet Home Magazine featuring our home is available now!

As I mentioned previously, they came to the house to shoot our home and interview R and I about living in Malaysia.

They shot some of the antiques we had out which are mainly Persian items. It's fun to see these items in a magazine!

Pick up a copy if you can. It's in Mandarin, if you can read it. Otherwise, the rest of the magazine is great just to look at the pictures as it features a number of contemporary homes in Malaysia/Southeast Asia.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Main Floor Bathroom Pebbles and Wooden Slats

For Blue main floor bathroom, still my least favorite bathroom in the house, I removed the shower curtain I had put up when we first moved in and added some wood slats to the base of the shower area then filled with asian pebbles in grey. I think it looks better than the shower curtain.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Master Bathroom Pendant Light and Stones

I had bought this pendant light for the Master Bathroom awhile back, now finally it has been installed with the other lighting. By the way, you'd think it would be easy, we could just call one lighting guy and he could install all the fixtures in the house that we needed done (this round was something close to 20 fixtures and even after this we still have something like 7 fixtures left to fully finish the house), but no, in order to get things done before Sweet Home magazine came to do the photoshoot I had to call a number of electricians. Of those who were available, I booked a few and some showed up, some didn't. For the ones that showed up, they would do some fixtures but not others for various reasons (no tall ladder, not their thing, etc, whatever) so I had multiple electricians doing work at the same time to get things done. This, I have found seems to be the best way to handle a situation when you need something to get done fast in Seremban. If you believe someone will come at the scheduled time or be able to do the work when the person gets to the house, you will be disappointed. Double/triple booking seems to be the only option.

For the shower area, we found, actually R found these greenish stones that we added around the wooden slats. They turn a lovely green like the photos above when they are wet.

And are a softer color when dry.