Living on the 26th

on Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I've come to embrace, and even enjoy living on the 26th floor. I thought that I would miss being able to take the stairs, but discovered that NOPE! Elevators are really great. Reuben and I always talk about doing a stair workout but who knows when/if that will happen. Probably when pigs fly.

What's also great about living on the 26th? The view, of course. Yesterday was Chinese New Year (Gong Xi Fa Cai!) and there is lots of partying going on, with plenty of fireworks all around the neighborhood for us to watch. There's a big private party down at the pool this evening with a live jazz band that we've been enjoying. The party included fireworks!

I also love to sit and watch traffic. On (the Western calendar) New Years Eve, the police put a road block up right below us and it was very exciting to watch. Yesterday, traffic was wicked going West to Batu Ferringhi. I like to be lazy and sit on my balcony sipping diet coke and thinking about how all of those lame people down there are suffering in traffic (little do they know it's been backed up for 2 hours - good luck, suckers!)

I also like to watch people in the pool. I took this picture this afternoon as Reuben was swimming:

Note: Our pool is NEVER this crowded. In fact, it is hardly ever used, and 90% of the time I have to pool area to myself, except for a few sun-bathing expat retiree couples that don't even swim.

Second note: Everytime I look down at the pool, I think of this:

There are also perils to living on the 26th floor. Some brilliant building planners put a large window right behind our kitchen sink. I lost a fork out the window a couple of weeks ago, which concerns me because I have now idea what lies 26 floors below me. I sincerely apologize to anyone who was impaled by it. Yesterday a sheet took flight as it was drying on our balcony railing and nearly sailed off and away. Luckily it was clung by the lone clothespin that I had placed it with. I always wonder what the flight path of an object thrown off our balcony would be. Would it hit the pool? Would the wind take it? Would it come back and land on a balcony somewhere below us? Soooooo tempting!

Just a thought. We're off to Bangkok tomorrow. We'll be back monday!

Missing Snowmageddon

on Thursday, January 19, 2012

Snowmageddon came back to Washington and I miss it. I miss....when our electricity going out and waking up to a house at 37 degrees (true story). I miss going to the beach and building a snowman....just because we can.

Or going on a walk to the high school track to make some fresh prints in the snow....

Or deciding to go hiking along the Lower Big Quilcene River in the Olympic National Forest.

Or remember when we returned from Yakima after thanksgiving and we had to throw out everything in our fridge and freezer. Fun!

Two days ago it was so hot here that I took 3 showers in one day. "Sticky" is the most common feeling here. Luckily the rain has come and that has cooled things down a bit. A bit as in, I can actually sleep under a sheet at night. Not exactly snowmageddon, but I'll count this one as a victory.

Missing my library.

on Monday, January 16, 2012
One of the things that I miss most about home is the library. I love the library. I would even daresay that it's probably my favorite public service. There are no libraries here. At least ones that I have access to. I brought a very small number of books here with me, mostly only mildly-interesting books that have been on my list and then give away. Those and then the few books that I reference often.

I started a wish-list on years ago, not to give to Santa but to take note of the books that I want to remember, read eventually, or learn more about. Here's a sampler:

A very random list, I'd say.

Our trash house

on Saturday, January 14, 2012
Without anything that bears resemblance to a craft store, I have resorted to using trash to decorate our apt. Or, as these people call it, "crafting with recycled materials." I guess that sounds better.
I have surprised myself with this resourcefulness.

One day when I was at the pool, I discovered that the bamboo was being trimmed. I made Reuben run around like a mad man trying to find the landscaper to see if we could take some. He was successful. It turned into this project:

One day while I was browsing through the endless Alpha-Mart, I spied some large sheets of brown craft paper. That became this:

Note: This was not recycled. I paid 50sen a sheet, and I bought 5. So it cost me 2.50rm, or about 75 US cents.

Toilet paper is lousyf here. The toilet paper packs 'boast' of 250 sheets per roll. Needless to say, we go through a lot of rolls. I have been stashing them away, and the other day I gathered them all together to make this:

This is actually one of my favorite things! Give us a few weeks and I'll have enough rolls to make another one.

I found some old newspapers and used white glue to decoupage it to a plastic sheet, which I then painted like this:

And this is what became of the pallet that I found on the side of the road. I actually tried several things on it before I found something I liked.

We got the bookcase used from someone who was moving, and I had purchased some inexpensive fabric that I used to make the yellow mat for our wedding pictures. The small vases below I found in the Leader Garden recycling room, which I then transformed with some glue, rope and twine.

Now I live in a house full of random trashed/recycled things. I wonder what will become of it all when we leave!

Bread & Virtual pets

on Tuesday, January 10, 2012
I don't remember when this phenomenon occurred (middle school? Dare I say high school?), but I remember a time in my life dedicated to my Tamagotchi pet. My life revolved around hourly feedings and cleaning up its poo. At school, we couldn't wait for break so that we could wake it up and take care of it. Just like any good parent, the challenge was to see how long I could keep it alive. But when it got old after awhile, the challenge became to see how fast you could kill it. I remember my brother and I got a set that we would have to raise and train to fight each other. Then we would put our little guys together and they would fight to the death. As always, my brother always won.

(note: I found this picture on someone's "tamagotchi collection" website. They had one in every color. Haha!)

I found myself thinking of my Tamagotchi pet this past week. I began a sourdough starter. To those of you who do not know what a sourdough starter is (like me one week ago), it is the secret to making bread have that yummy sourdough taste. It begins with either just flour and water, or in my case, flour, water, and yeast. You let it sit on the counter for days and days and what seems like years, and the bacteria and the yeast grow and eat and begin to ferment. Then when you want to make sourdough, you take part of it out and make your bread it with it. Then to the starter, you feed it flour and water and save it in the fridge for next time. You can keep it forever.

Little did I know what a beast it would become. Just as you would faithfully care for a Tamagotchi, I had to feed it 3x a day and stir it down often. I had to make an emergency run to Alpha Mart because I ran out of food (aka flour). I ended up dividing it several times and had 4 going at once, taking up most of my kitchen space. I don't know how many times I would go and check on them, to see if the bubbles were forming and how the sourness was developing. I am a woman of no patience, so the hardest part was for me to wait. But the longer you wait, the better it becomes.

Last night, all my hard work paid off. I decided to 'retire' one of my starters and make sourdough rolls. They were FANTASTIC. I still can't believe I made something so delicious. All of my research convinced me that a starter wouldn't make decent sourdough until it has had at least months to age. Sourdough starters, I am told, are handed down for generations.

I've consolidated my starters and now I am left with one white-flour starter and one whole-wheat starter. They are sleeping in the refrigerator, waiting to be taken out and baked into more deliciousness that will only get better with time.

Sorry if all I have been writing about lately is food. This is what excites me these days.

Peanut Butter

on Monday, January 9, 2012
What is the one thing that I have not been able to find here? Natural peanut butter. I'd be perfectly content eating almond butter all the time, but our Costco-size jar of Maranatha almond butter is going empty fast. We must ration. Reuben picked up some raw peanuts at an Indian shop while making a routine trip to Little India to stock up on dates and raisins. I made an attempt to skin some of them first, but after realizing how long that would take I eventually decided to prepare them skins and all. Bonus fiber!

I roasted them in the oven, let them cool and then threw them in the blender with some oil, salt, and honey. The verdict? Delicious! I wasn't able to make it super smooth in the blender, but I like my PB chunky anyway. It was spreadable when I put in in the jar when it was warm, but it became pretty solid once it got cold. But it's the perfect consistency for eating with a spoon!


Market day

on Friday, January 6, 2012
Markets are important here in Malaysia. I've noticed that most refrigerators are tiny here (compared to the U.S.) but it makes sense when you realize that people here shop every day or two here for their fresh produce, so there's no need for a giant fridge to keep things fresh. I went to the market today (I drove there all by myself!) and I thought I'd show you what I bought. All of this cost 21 ringgit, which at today's exchange rate at $1=3.145rm, costed me $6.68. Oh yes, plus the 30 sen for parking. Not too shabby!

I bought spinach. I have a love/hate relationship with this food here in Malaysia. If you currently eat spinach from a bag, then stop for a moment of gratitude right now and thank your local grocer. Although I appreciate such fresh produce, fresh spinach straight from the ground is really annoying to work with. It's super sandy - I have found that I have to wash and soak it 3x (there's a reason the stuff in the bag is triple-washed; 3 seems to be the magic number!) before I can get most of the sand grains out, although often times I nearly chip a tooth in the end, anyway. There's bugs in it. It's not good to eat raw - you could never make a salad or put it on a sandwich. Plus it only lasts a day or two. But I couldn't make my green smoothies with out it, so I will keep on carrying on.

I bought basil. Thus continues my love affair with this herb. Fresh herbs are especially difficult to keep fresh in the refrigerator, and we've learned the hard way that they must be used on the day you purchase them- or the next at the very latest. So today I will likely be making this again. Yum.

I also purchased fresh tofu, coconut milk, eggs, salad greens (which are quite delicious and make up for the spinach), and the usual stock of other veggies. The other day, Reuben bought quail eggs.

We also make occasional trips to the grocery store, where we stock up on things like soy milk, oatmeal, my diet coke, bread (the Adventist Hospital here runs a bakery that makes and distributes the BEST sprouted grain bread!), and all the other boring stuff. But more often than that, we walk to the mini mart just down the street. They know us quite well down there, because it seems that we stop in for something almost every day. They're slightly more expensive than the bigger stores, but the convenience is totally worth it. It never ceases to AMAZE me how much stock they can cram in their tiny stores. Tedjen (creatively named by its owners, Ted and Jen) packs its shelves so close together that I have to walk sideways to get through. Alpha Mart has a little more space, but they're often closed. But I've never needed anything that I couldn't find there. It's like a magic hat - you can pull out anything. One day when Reuben was sick, I walked down to see if I could find some fresh ginger. When the Alpha Mart guy told me he didn't carry it, he walked over to the Chinese restaurant next door and convinced them to sell me some. Now THAT'S customer service.

Wedding and the New Year

on Wednesday, January 4, 2012
We had a crazy new years eve. My friend Etty was getting married (marriage ceremony #2, this one for the groom's side) in Sungai Petani (about an hour from here, on the mainland). About a week ago she texted us asking if we wanted to be best man and bridesmaid in her wedding. We were assured that we would have no responsibilities. We got the real low-down from her mother when we arrived at the boutique where they were getting ready, about how we're supposed to walk in with them, wipe Etty's face with tissues, ceremoniously pull out their chairs as they sit to eat, and fan them as they sit on a big white couch in front of the hall. It also seems that singing Celine Dion during karaoke was part of the responsibility as well, but luckily we averted that one.

I laugh when I look at these pictures. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We had never been to a Malay wedding ceremony before, and there are no customary bridesmaids and groomsmen in Malay weddings anyway!

Reuben getting dressed in his borrowed lime-green Baju Melayu, the Malay traditional dress. He matched me and my baju very well.

Fanning the bride

We stopped by a friend's house on the way home, so we didn't get back until about 10pm. Only then did we realize it was new years eve and we did not have any alcohol at home. So we stopped at the store and found a bottle of rum. We rang in the new year sitting by our 'fireplace' listening to Christmas music and drinking Malibu Cokes. That's more like it.

We had a spectacular view of about 6 fireworks shows from our balcony. The perfect place to be!