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America From A Child’s View

June 26, 2015 at 1:02 pm

After every trip to US, I’ll share with the girls what I’d eaten, where I’d been, the people I’d met etc etc, and also go through with them some of the photos I’d snapped.

This is Zaria’s perception of US based on collective information.

Quite accurate I guess.

PS. In Houston particularly, there’s not many pedestrians. Sometimes when my colleagues and I walked to a restaurant, we had to do a 100m dash to cross the road as the roads are very wide and no cars were expecting any pedestrians.

Alpheretta and Atlanta 2015

June 5, 2015 at 5:05 pm

After Paris, it was a week of intensive meeting in Alpheretta, Georgia. Most of the days, we woke up before sun rise and then done for the day only in the night, it was a productive week though.

One of the highlight of the trip is the extended weekend stay, where I’d be meeting my friend from college days whom I’d not met for more than 20years.

These are some memories captured for the trip.

♥Hotel – Courtyard Atlanta Alpheretta♥

We stayed at Courtyard Atlanta Alpheretta by Marriott. It’s near to the office, and at the surrounding area, there are lots of restaurants within walking distant.

Room is spacious and clean.

I like the verandah that came with my room, overlooking the swimming pool. Although it was too cold to hang out at the verandah, it offered a nice view.

I spent almost every morning at the gymn as I woke up almost 5am daily (caused by jetlag) and hence did a morning yoga before breakfast.

I like the complimentary breakfast. We got to choose one item from the menu, and a drink. It’s better than a buffet with the same food served over and over again.

The best is the complimentary use of the washing machine and dryer in the hotel, detergent included.

♥Restaurants and Food♥

Office Food
Hmm.. we got catered food daily, and I didn’t really like them. The worse of the lot, the food served on Tacos Tuesday.
Taco shell with a bit of every thing… eeeyucks, especially the blobs of beans….

Burgerfi
A gourmet burger restaurant, the food in Burgerfi was so good, out of 5 lunches we ate there twice.

Chicken Apple Dog was good.

But their Vegefi Burger was even better. Didn’t taste vegetarian at all, don’t know how they made it, but it was juicy and flavourful.

Onion rings were good, but the portion is so big, after 2 rings, the rest just tasted greasy.

Pappadeux
Papadeux was another restaurant that we went twice. Just to get some seafood.

First dinner, I had the salmon, it was really good.

2nd dinner, I had the Alaskan King Crab, oh well, the crab wasn’t as nice as Japanese snow crab, the flash tougher, and less sweet compared to snow crab. It was just for the experience.

Ghion Cultural Hall

It was Valentine’s day and most restaurants were full. So we found an Ethopian Restaurant which is quite highly rated to dine. Ghion Cultural Hall it was.

It’s a weird place. From a shabby entrance, we had to go through a dodgy hallway before entering a brightly lit hall which is the restaurant.

I have never tasted Ethopian food, so I can’t tell if it’s authentic, but I didn’t like the food. We ordered a chicken and an egg dish with some special rice flour pancakes. It was like a curry dish, spicy but with very little flavour, more like a peppery kind of spicy.

We had the coffee as well, and it came with an incense burner, I don’t know if it enhanced the flavour of the coffee, but it was more like a ‘show’ for us.

Pho Dai Loi
The best meal we’d eaten during this trip is probably Pho Dai Loi in Atlanta, during our extended stay. It was so good we went back twice, although it was quite a distant away.

It’s a canteen like eatery, brightly lit, simple deco, no fuss kind of place.

But the food was good, so far whatever we tried, they were all good.

♥The Extended Stay – Holiday♥
The fun part of the trip besides our stopover in Paris, is the extended stay. Sally, Lesley and I spent a good weekend together. We moved to down town Atlanta for our stay, and we put up at Country Inn & Suites By Carlson.

We went to the North Georgia Outlet Mall for shopping. And this is what it looks like when 3 women spent the weekend together.

It was so cold, and temperature was below 0C that when we went downtown in the evening for a ‘tour’, we didn’t even want to get down of the car.

On Valentine’s Day, which we three spent together, we decided to have a picnic lunch. Went to Wholefoods Market to get some stuff, and then head to Piedmont Park.

Sunny day, but oh so cold. We sat on benches, and had our lunch, slightly shivering.

The park is beautiful though.

Too bad it was so cold, or we could have stayed there longer.

Because of the cold weather, there’s not much we could do outdoor, hence it was more shopping. Went to an upscale shopping mall, Lenox Square Mall. We experienced the bad traffic which Atlanta is famous for, so bad, a few kilometers took us more than an hour to cover.

Heard so much about Athleta, I was glad there was a store there for me to grab a couple of yoga pants.

Best part of the weekend was that I was able to catch up with my friend, and also got to know my colleague better. It was a good weekend spent together, eating, chatting. Don’t know when we can do this again.

Paris In A Day

May 5, 2015 at 1:31 pm

(Back dated)

I had another opportunity to go to US for work in Feb. As this round, I was going with a colleague, Sally, we made plans to take Air France, then spend a day in Paris, before flying to Atlanta for work.

My French colleague provided us the necessary information to maximise our stay there, so that we can see the key sights within a day.

So here is what we did on our 1D1N trip in Paris.

We stayed in Ibis Gare du Nord TGV near the city; the hotel is about 200m from Gare du Nord, station along the RER B train to the city from the airport. We got a day pass at the airport station (Euro23.50) when we arrived in the morning, which allowed us to travel on RER and Metro (and I believe bus too although we didn’t take the bus). And from Gare Du Nord, it was easy to get to the city centre via the metro.

Gare Du Nord is a big station, and we had to ask for direction before we could even get to the exit.

Gare du Nord viewed from across the road.

There are a lot of Ibis hotels around Gare du Nord, the one we stayed in, i.e. Ibis Gare du Nord TGV is along the road on the right of Gare du Nord, about 1minute walk away. This is the view from across our hotel entrance.

The hotel is a small hotel, with narrow walkway between rooms.

However, the room is of moderate size and very clean. We booked a triple room, which came with a queen bed and a single pull out bed.

After we’re done with our check in, we started our tour.

♥Eiffel Tower♥
We took the subway from Gare du Nord (RER Line B + Line C) to Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel. The Eiffel Tower is not far from the station. It was a beautiful day, but oh, so cold.

It was below 0C that day. My teeth were chattering, and my bones were aching, this was the closest we got to the tower.

♥Arc de Triomphe♥

My French colleague actually asked us to walk to Trocadéro (which is across the River Seine or La Sein from Eiffel Tower) to take a bus from there, but we couldn’t find the bus station, so instead we went to the nearest Metro station and found our way to Charles de Gaulle Étoile.

Right above the station, is Arc de Triomphe.

This is where the Champs-élysées Avenue begins, and so did our shopping.

We had something to eat at Publicis Drugstore, and it was my first time trying out Pierre Hermé macarons. Oh my goodness! It was much much much much more nicer than Ladurée. For Euro2 per macaron, I bought 8! They seemed to be less sweet, the shells were softer, and the filling much creamier and flavourful.

Later when we went passed Ladurée, I wasn’t even compelled to go in.

We entered a couple of shops, and spend most time in Loius Vuitton, Sally got herself a bag, while I was tempted, my frugality got the better of me.

We found it really nice that in all the shops, pets are welcome, even in Louis Vuitton, you can stroll in with your dog and no one will stop you.

♥Louvre♥
We took the metro from Charles de Gaulle Étoile to (actually, any metro station along the Champs-élysées Avenue which is on Metro Line 1 will do) Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre. From there, we walked Musée du Lourve.

I’d been to the museum more than 12 years back, and since we have limited time in Paris, we have no intentions of visiting the museum, but more to just take some photos around there.

♥Notre-Dame♥
In the afternoon, the weather has turned slightly warmer, so it was more comfortable to walk around. From the Lourve, we walked back to the Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre, and took the Metro Line 1 to L’Hôtel de Ville, and then walked towards Notre Dame.

We walked pass an outdoor skating rink near Hôtel de Ville. My first time seeing an outdoor skating rink. Later I realised this is Patinoire de L’Hôtel de Ville, the most popular seasonal ice skating venue in Paris. Aah, if only the girls were here, I’m sure they would enjoy skating there.

It was a short walk across the River Seine to Notre-Dame.

There was a big crowd in front of the cathedral, some just to take photos of the facade, some were queuing to get into the cathedral. For us, we just walked around the cathedral, trying to spot the gargoyles.

That was our last stop for the Paris tour. We were kind of tired, and wanted to go back to the hotel for a rest. From Notre-Dame, we walked towards Saint-Michel (the Latin quarters) and then took the metro (line 4) back to Gare Du Nord.

After a short rest, we were out again, to go to Hard Rock Cafe Paris as Sally is a Hard Rock Cafe merchandise collector. We took the metro (line 4 then 8 or 9) from Gare du Nord to Grands Boulevards, then walked there.

We wanted to have a good French dinner around Grands Boulevards, chose a restaurant which we thought was decent, but the food turned out pretty disappointing.

If it wasn’t so cold, we probably would have gone back to Eiffel Tower area to enjoy the night scene. But it was bone chilling cold! So instead, we went back to the hotel to have an early night.

The following day, we had to check out early to go to the airport for our flight to Atlanta. I was actually loosing hope of having a good meal before we leave, but good thing was Sally spotted this cafe, Cafe la Chaufferie, just behind our hotel; and we had a scrumptious breakfast there.

Bread with crispy crust and chewy inside, and the crumbly croissant were freshly baked. I had a chunky piece of cheese that came with my breakfast and it was good cheese.

Now we can leave Paris happy and satisfied.

Remedy for Dengue 治疗骨痛热症的方式

April 23, 2015 at 10:56 am

A couple of weeks back, a friend I know from blogsphere passed away due to Dengue. A shock to most of us who knew him, as he was still joking away when he was admitted to the hospital, most of us didn’t take his hospital stay seriously, thinking he would come out in no time.

2 weeks ago, a teacher Zara likes and admires tremendously from school contracted Dengue and was admitted into a hospital with a platelet count of less than 50, we thought we’ll help out as she was from outstation with no family to care for her here. After asking around and googling, we found 2 remedies which will help to increase platelet count.

The 1st one Papaya Leave Juice and the other Double Boiled Frogs with Small Bitter Gourd.

There’s nothing the doctor can administer for Dengue besides putting the patient on drip and feeding Paracetamol to the patient for fever, hence most people depended on this natural cure.

Here is how it’s prepared.

♥Papaya Leaf Juice♥

Ingredients
5, 6 papaya leaves from young papaya trees, best if it’s from trees that never borne fruits.

Method
Wash, clean and cut the leaves up and then juice them a slow juicer to extract out the juice.
Or use a mortar and pestle to pound the leave till a pulp and squeeze out the juice.

5~6 papaya leaves will only extract out half a cup of juice.
As the juice is extremely bitter, mix the juice with 1 or 2 tsp of honey. Take 2 tbs of juice 3 times a day.

♥Double Boiled Frog Legs with Small Bitter Gourd♥
Ingredients
5 frogs (the people selling the frogs will skin the frogs)
5 small bitter gourd

Method
1. Clean the frogs
2. Slice the small bitter gourds into half, remove the seeds, and slice the bitter gourd
3. Place frogs and bitter gourd into the double boiler (do not add any water)
4. Double boil for 4hrs
5. Remove the frogs and bitter gourd, and you’ll get about 1 bowl of soup.
6. Serve warm

This is another extremely bitter soup, but as the popular Chinese phrase 苦口良药 says, a bitter medicine cures the disease.

We made this and sent to Zara’s teacher for the first few days she’s in the hospital, we are glad that her teacher is well after a few days and now fully recovered.

Escape From Locked Toilet

April 16, 2015 at 10:53 am

When I picked Zaria up from her enrichment class, she told me she went to the toilet middle of her class and locked herself in the cubicle.

Not able to open the door, she shouted for help and no one came, guess what this survivor did?

She climbed over to the next cubicle (stepping on the toilet bowl, water tank) and got out!

This is her own account of the incident.

What a cool calm girl she is at times like this.

Houston 2015 – January

April 3, 2015 at 2:16 pm

In January, I went to Houston for a work trip for a week (10th Jan to 18th Jan). Making this my 3rd trip to Houston, the 1st was in 2008, the 2nd in 2013. It was a pretty last minute trip, so I didn’t have much planning done.

Flying to East of USA is a pain. The flight time is looong, 13hrs from KL to Amsterdam, transit for 4hrs, and then another 10.5hrs from Amsterdam to Houston, worse still if you go with an airline like KLM, which I did, where the seats are smaller, and the space between rows of seats are narrower. It was quite torturous in my opinion. Luckily the food served was pretty decent, and they have quite good in flight entertainment.

These are just some photos captured during the trip for memory keep sake.

♥Amsterdam Airport Schiphol♥
(photos are all taken from mobile, hence the quality is not as good)

It’s a nice airport, with lots of cafes, but I like the Dutch Kitchen the best.

The Gevulde Koeken, which is an Almond Paste filled Cookie was so delicious, I had it again on my transit to go back home.

The are quite a number of shops there to keep me occupied; and of course, most of the souvenir shops sell cheeses. I didn’t buy any, didn’t know what was good.

I was attracted to the Meditation Centre, and went there to check out, I think it was meant to be a surau (Muslim prayer room), so I saw some people praying there, but also a few taking a nap in the quiet room.

4hours transit isn’t that bad.

♥Houston Shopping♥

When in the US, of course, we have to do some shopping. I really really love the variety of items available there.

At Sports Authority.

At REI.

Of course, can’t miss a visit to the Outlets.

I was so tempted to get the Samsonite Cosmolite (check out the price!), but buying it would mean incurring additional baggage charge on the KLM flight, which only allows 1x23kg checked suitcase. Sigh.

I always love to visit supermarkets wherever I am. And I just realised on this trip, there’s a Wholefoods Market just near the office.

The variety of organic and natural product is just amazing. This is where I purchased my very first set of natural skin care product from, many many years ago, in the Wholefoods Market in California.

Hilton Garden Inn
This is the hotel we always stay in when we’re in Houston. Nice room, but electrical appliances in my room were noisy, so I had to turn off the air-condition (heater actually since it was winter), pull out the plug for the fridge before I could have a good sleep.

Breakfast was included, and they were pretty delicious although not many choices to choose from.

For dinner, usually we went out in a group, only a couple of times I had to eat on my own.

At PF Changs near the hotel, having a romantic dinner all by myself.

At BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.

I managed to meet up with my Texas BFF Jerry, who drove 45mins to meet up with me at a Vietnamese Restaurant, Mekong Grill. Food wasn’t great, and we joked about how authentic a Pho can be if it’s served with crab sticks, but it was nice to just have a catch up with him.

The best dinner I’d had on this trip is at Mia Bella. This is another restaurant that our colleagues like to frequent, as the food is always so delicious. I had a Pan Seared Sesame Crusted Salmon, it was heavenly. The sesame gave the salmon a nice flavourful crunch. Oh boy, if I were to go to Houston again, I have to go back to this restaurant for another of this heavenly dish.
It really really tasted nicer than it looked.

My favourite meal of the day is lunch, as I love the variety of delicious food served in the company’s cafe.
Check out the Asian section – pot stickers, sushi, Vietnamese rice rolls.

The Italian Station have super delicious looking pizzas, and flat bread pizzas.

The salad bar has such nice raw vegetable and delicious toppings that I actually have salad for lunch for a couple of days.

My lunches.
Salad with over the top toppings.

Chicken Pot Stickers, so yummy.

Turkey Burger, which was so juicy and well grilled.

After a week in Houston, I put on weight, of course.

I drove in Houston to get to the office and to go to the shops. Actually, you rarely see people walking. I did walk to restaurants a couple of times with my colleagues, and we can see that Houston roads are not meant for pedestrians. There is no pavement for one. And the roads were so wide you have to do a hundred meters dash every time you cross a road.

While driving, I have to remind myself to keep the right all the time, just so I don’t make any mistakes, since in Malaysia we drive on the left.

Unfortunately, this trip was so last minute and short for any sight seeing. This was the scenery I saw daily, while walking to the car to get to the office. This one was on a day when it got really foggy.

Temper Cancer

April 2, 2015 at 10:50 am

The little one has been extremely difficult, even though she gave us her promise, she still has tantrums and fit of anger triggered by the smallest thing.

Me: You know, you really should control your temper.
Zaria : I try to ma, but sometimes I cannot control it
Me: What you have is like a temper cancer you know. We try to help you but if it doesn’t work, we’ll have to send you to Monfort Boy School, they are like a hospital for all the temper cancer patient
Zaria : Then when can I come back?
Me: Until you are fully healed from temper cancer, and you can control your temper so you don’t get angry so easily
Zaria : But cancer cannot be cured right?
o.O”

Anyone has any suggestion on how to cure Temper Cancer?

We try to speak to her nicely, it doesn’t work.
Taking away privileges, it doesn’t work.
Punishing her, it doesn’t work.
We kept telling her we all love her, she knows it, and starts feeling sorry and sobs, but then it’s easily forgotten, and next day, the cycle repeats.
She’s only like this at home, at school, she’s always conceding, no teachers have ever complained about her except that she day dreams sometimes.

I just hope this is a phase she’s going through, and it’ll be over soon.

My Promise – By Zaria

March 24, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Zaria has been extremely difficult the last week, using foul language, spiting in her sister’s tea just because her sister made tea without telling her (they always brew tea together), using her sharp tongue to talk back, sometimes even telling us she wished we weren’t her family, she wished she was an orphan etc etc.

This little sweetie pie has a sweet sweet sugary filling, but sometimes her temper gets the better of her. After a few ‘counselling’ sessions we had with her, she decided to write us her promise or her ode to her family.

(She even signed it in red to indicate she’s serious).

Sweet Sweet Zaria, we all love you very much, and hope you will be able to control your temper, and outgrown this episode in life, and we hope you will keep all these promises you made to your family.

Homemade Sandwich Bread Loaf

March 17, 2015 at 11:37 pm

I have bought these bread tins from Penang for more than a year and never tried using them before. Few days back, the girls requested for sandwiches for school lunch so I thought why not made a sandwich bread loaf. The girls don’t like sweet bread unless it’s cinnamon buns, so I tweaked the recipe I found in this recipe book, using only 1/3 of the sugar listed on the recipe.

It takes a long time to make produce the loaf because of the ferment, but using a ferment creates a nicer flavour and softer bread, which to me, is worth the wait.

♥Recipe adapted from Carol

Ingredients:
For the ferment:
200g strong white flour
135g water
1/2 tsp yeast

For the dough:
210g strong white flour
90g cake flour
1/4 tsp yeast
20g sugar
3/4 tsp salt
60g extra virgin olive oil
145g water
1 egg

Method :
For the ferment :
1) Mix ingredients for the ferment together (I use hand) for about 5mins until you have a rough dough.
2) Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave it to rest 4hrs~6hrs.

For the dough:
1) Put the flour in a mixing bowl and add in the yeast. Scoop the ferment into the bowl, then add the egg, water, oil, sugar and salt, mixing well until all combined; knead for 4-5mins (I use the Thermomix and knead for 4mins; but you can use hand or a mixer with dough hoook). (Step 1, 2 at the below pix)
2) Remove the dough, and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, forming it to a ball, cover
3) Leave it to rest for 1.5hrs or until double in size. (Step 4 at the below pix)
4) Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and turn the dough out in one piece, deflate the dough slightly. Divide the dough equally into 2 portion (it’s very soft but supple). Roll them into balls, cover and let it rest for 15mins. (Step 5 at the below pix)
5) Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into long flat strips, and then roll each of the strip up into logs. Once again, roll the dough out into long flat strips with the rolling pin, and roll them up again into logs. (Step 6 to 10 at the below pix)
6) Place the 2 pieces of roll up dough in the bread tin. Allow it to proof for an hour. (Step 11 at the below pix)
7) Mean while preheat the oven to 210C. When the rolls are ready (should rise to almost 90% covering the bread tin), place the lid on and put the bread tin into the oven. (Step 12, 13 at the below pix)
8) Bake for 40mins.
9) Once baked, remove the bread from the tin and let it cool on the rack.

Book page from Carol’s 2nd book

And viola, a nice loaf of sandwich bread.

It has a strong crust which holds its shape, and the bread itself is airy and soft.

Note : The bread tin I have is 20cm x 12cm x 11cm. After the dough was rested, I could see that it has risen much bigger than the bread tin, hence I took about 100g dough out and formed them into buns (baked at same temperature for 12mins). It probably would have spilled out of the tin or making the loaf denser if I haven’t done so.

Life Rushes By

February 28, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Since the end of the year, I have been so busy, hence the long absence of new posts in this site.

The 1st few weeks of the year were spent sorting out classes the girls should attend, finding tutors for the girls etc etc and finally a routine is established.

I’m involved in 2 big global projects on top of my normal day job. Every day, besides working the regular hours, we have night calls so all regions can work together for 2 hours. Globalisation and mobility get you sucked into work 24×7 that’s what I think.

Life just rushes by the last couple of months.

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