Friday, October 31, 2014

:: japan trip (part 1) ::

Two weeks ago our little family went to Japan for 6 days vacation. The flight tickets were bought earlier this year during one of many Air Asia promos and after many months, Sunday, October 12th finally arrived.

PREP
Despite the early bought tickets the real preparation only started a month away. We did not engage with any travel agent so I was the self-appointed-agent-in-charge. The next item bought was the 7-days tourist train pass or known as the JR (Japan Rail) Pass. The pass is only sold to tourists and allow us to ride any JR line train including selected shinkansen bullet trains, JR bus services and JR Miyajima ferry. We bought return tickets to / from Kansai Aiport, Osaka as it was cheaper than arriving / departing Tokyo; and with JR Pass we still have a good option to travel to Tokyo. My BFF, Nor was kind enough to help buying our pass (and also went through slight trouble) during the previous Matta Fair. Each pass cost Y29,110 for adult and at other times it can be bought from Japan Travel Bureau at Amoda Building KL located opposite Berjaya Times Square, in between Melia Hotel and Imbi Plaza.

One reason why we chose Japan as destination was to bring Ady to the Disneyland, as he was very happy with his visit to Legoland in January this year. We already went to Hong Kong Disneyland last year but Ady was nearly two years old back then and has not learn to appreciate theme park, so the next nearest Disneyland is Tokyo. Being the 'tour agent' I planned the entire itinerary, before proposing to my other half. The itinerary is purely for family (with a little, active kiddo ^_^).

Outline of the itinerary is below. There were two options actually; whether going straight to Tokyo after arriving Osaka or start at Osaka then go to Tokyo. We chose the latter one bearing in mind it is a 6 hours flight + 3 hours journey between Osaka and Tokyo.

Day 1
- Depart from KLIA2 - Arrive Kansai Aiport - Check-in hotel at Namba, Osaka - Tour around Dotonbori / Shinsaibashi area

Day 2
- Trip to Universal Studio Osaka

Day 3
- Check-out hotel - Travel to Tokyo via Shinkansen - Check-in hotel at Shinjuku, Tokyo - Tour around Shinjuku

Day 4
- Trip to Tokyo Disneyland

Day 5
- Check-out hotel - Tour around Harajuku & Shibuya - Travel to Rinku Town, Osaka - Check-in hotel at Rinku Town

Day 6
- Depart from Kansai Airport - Arrive KLIA 2


Thanks to the internet, I just Googled any info I wanted, bought our hotel rooms via Expedia & Agoda and also bought the Disneyland tickets from their website. Universal Studio does not sell any online ticket so it has to be bought from the counter or their affiliate hotels.


D-DAY
Sunday, October 12th: we departed home for KLIA 2 at 5:00 am and my parents-in-law was kind enough to send us. Our flight was scheduled at 8:00 am and I'm telling you, don't mess with KLIA 2 yo! Not counting the time since we stepped our feet at the building but time taken from the moment we entered the departure hall to the boarding gate was not less than 45 minutes. It was a very long walk *phew*.

The 6 hours plus flight would be less boring if we travelled via non-low cost airline (obviously) but  we had no problem with Ady because he loves transportation and loves being inside an airplane so he behaved really well. Arrived Kansai Airport (KIX) around 3:30 pm but finally out of the airport building about an hour after that.
*Note: Japan time is 1 hour advance from Malaysia. Example: 4:00 pm in Japan = 3:00 pm in Malaysia.

First task we had to do was to change our receipt with the official JR Pass. The JR office is located at the 3rd floor of the building opposite, connected to the airport and this is what we got in return:

From KIX we utilised our JR Pass for the first time to JR Namba station. The lady who gave us the pass printed out the stations we need to change train so we just followed it, being newbies. It took us 45 minutes to reach Namba and after long travelling hours we really look forward to settle down.

We checked in the Monterey Grasmere Osaka hotel. It has the perfect location, above the JR Namba station. The main key of my research for this trip in Google Map is "hotels nearby XXX station". Thinking of the train ride, our luggage and Ady Rifqi, we really have to settle down as fastest as possible at one place. Monterey Grasmere is a nice, comfortable hotel. Although the room was not as huge as the usual hotel room in Malaysia but apparently it was the largest among all hotels we stayed throughout the trip. Our room was at 29th floor and we got to see clear view of the city.

We did not take long break. It was already 7 something and it was already dark... and we were hungry so as planned we went 'jalan-jalan' to the Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi area; almost 15 minutes walk from the hotel. It was windy and quite chilly. We stopped by at one of the bridge there watching the colourful lights and hundreds of people around us. A Japanese guy who was probably drunk suddenly came and vented out his anger at a homeless uncle who was sitting on the bridge. As he was cursing in Japanese he then opened his pants' zipper and peed the uncle! I was disgusted with the scene. Was that a "warm welcome" from the land that is well-known with courtesy and culture? Hrmmm...



Well anyway we went off walking along the alley full of restaurants with gigantic models such as crab and sushi, and finally found a halal indian restaurant for dinner. We continued strolling around the area. There were lots of eateries, drug stores, shops selling clothes and shoes, karaoke and shops that could not be defined. We returned to the hotel empty ended and called it a day.


Monday, October 13th: It should be a day spent at USJ (not our housing area but Universal Studio Japan) but we were informed by the hotel during check in that a big typhoon is coming to town so USJ might not open for business. We were quite frustrated but that morning I woke up to this view:

A beautiful, bright day - no sign of typhoon coming. We decided to follow our plan and went to the USJ. From JR Namba we had to change train at Shin Imamiya for Nishikujo and changed to another train for the Universal City station, almost 30 minutes journey in total. We were informed by the staff at the station that JR line train will stop its operation at 4:00 pm due to the typhoon.

Entrance fee for an adult is Y6,980. We were so excited we still managed to arrive Universal Studio Japan and the first ride we went on was the famous JAWS ride. Ady likes watching shark videos on youtube so he was not afraid of the shark. We thought of experiencing the Jurassic Park ride but it was not suitable for young kids and by that time Ady has started nagging us to visit Elmo and Cookie Monster, whom he called "Am Nyam Nyam". We spent few hours at the Sesame Street indoor area as it has started raining.

 
Raining was on and off. When it stopped we went to the Harry Porter area, which is the latest attraction at the USJ. I am not a Harry Porter fan and I only watched the first movie but I was impressed. The area was like a set from the movie with the huge Hogwarts School castle, row of shops selling weird stuff and even the Hogwarts Express train.

Lesson #01: when travelling with kid/s it is quite challenging to have camera in hand all the time, hence the best option is to rely and snap photos with mobile phone's camera. Ensure the battery is always sufficient and set the photo quality at high megapixels.

 

At 4:00 pm the day was getting darker, windy and wet but we did not bother much as the park was still open so we strolled around and even watched the Terminator 3D show. We were informed that the park is closing at 5:00 pm so at 4:40 pm we left the park as the rain was continuous. We reached the Universal City station looking at sealed barriers. Ok that happened because we did not take the announcement seriously. JR line already ended their operation at 4:00 pm and we were stucked. We walked around that area in the rain finding taxi but all taxis were reserved via phone calls. There were many of "us" around there, finding solutions to go back. It was cold and very windy. The area is next to the sea and we came across two tv station vans with satellites (just like what we normally see in Hollywood movies) setting up to capture the typhoon coming. We walked to the nearest hotel drop-off area and asked the concierge to call for taxi. Few people have started to ask the same thing and from the call we were told that no taxi is available. We were stuck.

Hubby went smoking to find a solution. As I stood near the concierge I have been observing and listening to people around me. When hubby returned a taxi arrived and appparently it was for a guy and his son. Actually I overheard him wanted to go to the Nishikujo station and Namba, which were similar to our destinations so when he was about to enter the car I asked him to consider the three of us too. Luckily he was kind enough to allow us in the taxi. What a big relief! Apparently they came from Korea and stranded because their flight was cancelled due to the typhoon. They had to find a hotel to spend another night and since his wife was waiting for him in Namba we told the taxi driver to drive us straight to the JR Namba station. Alhamdulillah, thank God for the assistance. It was a win-win situation for two parties as later we brought the Koreans to our hotel and they got a room for a night there.

Lesson #02: when travelling to other country, do not take for granted any local announcement and keep updated on their weather condition.



Most of the shops were already closed so that evening we just stayed in the hotel room watching tv. A bit later we decided to try our luck to find any covenient store that may still open and we were amazed that the supermarket at the JR station was not closed. We spent time at the groceries area shopping for food, fruits and since we were in the land where sushi belongs, I insisted to 'tapau' local nigiri sushi for dinner (they tasted good I tell you!). We left when the supermarket was almost closed and outside, it was raining with heavy wind. That ends our adventurous Day 2 in Osaka.

...to be continued.


*keywords: what to do in osaka, where to go in osaka

Saturday, October 25, 2014

:: homemade jeruk mangga asam boi ::

Jeruk mangga asam boi (preserved mango with plum) has been trending on my Facebook wall since a week ago. Friends posted photos of theirs or their friends' and they looked tempting. Those photos intrigued me to find out more about it... and hey it is so easy to make one!

Sharing is caring so here is the recipe for you to try.


Ingredients:

- Unripe mangoes (sliced into thin pieces, wash and dry)
- Coarse sugar
- Preserve plums (asam boi masin)
- Chilli (sliced thinly)
- Salt


Steps:

1. Pour in sugar and a pinch of salt on the sliced mangoes and mix them well together. I actually bought the packed fruit from petrol station nearby, but most probably it was equivalent to 2 small mangoes and I used 8 tablespoons of sugar. It is fine to put in extra sugar, but only a small amout of salt.

2. Add in sliced chilli and preserve plums, according to preference. Mix together with the mangoes and sugar. No need to add any water. Close the container and keep it cold inside the fridge for at least 6 hours. The longer the better as I found it tastier when it was kept overnight.

3. The sugar will transform into water through out time and 'jeruk' is ready to be served.

p/s: Unripe mango can be substituted with green apple, kedondong or other soury fruits.


 
The Verdict:
Sour, sweet, salty with a tinge of 'hot-ness'. Totally addictive.
 
^__^
 
 
*keywords: resipi jeruk mangga asam boi

Sunday, September 7, 2014

:: egg n cheese in d basket ::

I always love checking links that Facebook friends shared on my news feed, especially when they are regarding fashion, architecture or tips & tricks on food and organising stuff. These days among the things I do after waking up from sleep during weekend is checking my Instagram and Facebook updates. So on Sunday a week ago, someone shared photos on creative ways to cook and one of it intrigued me to try for breakfast.

I have weakness for simple breakfast recipes, mainly because (1.) I want to see and eat the end result as fast as possible (2.) I am less keen to spend long time in the kitchen first thing in the morning during weekend - just look forward to chillax with a hot cup of chocolate drink & pleasant food to fill up my tummy before I face the day.

So here is the recipe / tutorial that I am telling you. The actual recipe included a slice of beef salami but I don't normally have that in the fridge so I just proceed with an egg and a slice of cheese... and oh, I just knew from a colleague that this recipe is initally called "egg in the basket". I changed it to "egg and cheese in the basket" because I still want to give credit for the cheese in there.

 
Ingredients:
- a slice of bread (white / brown)
- an egg
- a slice of cheese
- salt & pepper
 
Steps:
1. Cut a square shape in the middle of the bread with a sharp knife.
Heat the pan with a tea spoon of oil and place the bread frame.
 
2. Pour the egg inside the bread frame and leave to cook.
 
3. Add in a pinch of salt & pepper.
 
4. Place the slice of cheese on top of the egg.
 
5. Place the remaining square bread on top of the cheese. Wait for few seconds and flip over the bread. Need to be extra careful if you want to preserve the yolk from breaking.
 
 
...and that's the end of it cuz like I told ya, it's so simple.
 
 
I have been making this for breakfast and also for dinner because I love it so much. Imagining the taste of hot melting cheese and egg will leave me salivating and made me repeat the menu again and again. I always eat it as it is, but I believed it can be eaten with ketchup. Like the original tutorial, we can also add in beef salami or other fillings to try. It's a good breakfast for the kids too. Enjoy!
 
 
*keywords: simple breakfast recipe, bread recipe, simple breakfast for kids, healthy recipe for kids

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

:: my lil craft closet ::

If you are a regular reader you would know how passionate I am with art & craft, especially in making DIY stuff. I got all excited looking at colourful papers and ribbons and beads and neverending craft supplies. Sometimes or to be more honest, most of the time I will just buy fabrics, beads, ribbons and papers just because they are so colourful and pretty. Buy first, think later. I always believe one day they are useful and can be used to create something. I still own threads, ribbons and beads I bought since secondary school so as years passed by the collection grew bigger and bigger. My box containers were overflown with stuff and so I decided to have my own little craft closet to fit in all the supplies.

Space is limited because the craft closet is part of the walk-in wardrobe room. I needed a customised system to categorise stuff and keep them separately, so where else can we find nice, affordable furniture if it's not in Ikea. Everything was built from scratch. The single door PAX system, shelves, drawer and magnetic bar were installed in-house with assistance from my hubby. I was so happy and satisfied with the end result. I can just open the door and stare at all those stuff to make me smile.

There are three (3) boxes to keep different categories of stuff, a shelf for my mini sewing machine and I love the magnetic bar that holds my tools. Other accessories were mostly from Ikea too (well if you're a fan of Ikea you would have noticed it ^__^). In the hanging cups are stationaries, craft scissors and Sharpies, meanwhile remnants of ribbons and yarns are kept in glass jars. I also bought stuff from Daiso too. Used a lot of their ziploc bags to organise and segregate small papers, stickers and other small stuff, as well as beads organisers to keep the bits and bobs.

To personalise the closet I labelled the boxes with my own handwriting and framed a so-called inspirational quote that crossed my mind, which is also a self reminder to me.


"Do what you love.
Love what you do."



...last but not least, here is a tour of my lil' craft closet.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
*keywords: how to organise craft supplies, craft organiser, craft storage ideas for small space, diy storage

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

:: recipe: when bok choy meets taucu ::

It all started during the fasting month of Ramadhan, when I hosted an iftar with my girlfriends at home. The menu was rice congee / porridge and I was more than happy to serve it with my all time favourite ikan bilis goreng cili api (spicy fried anchovies). We girls love eating vegetable and to have it as a condiment for that day I somehow got a new idea of cooking chinese cabbage or better known as bok choy, with taucu.

It was a trial but the combination was not bad at all. As a person who loves salty food, I personally love the combo and I have been cooking the same recipe for few times. Here is the super simple recipe and how the result looks like.


p/s: no need to add in salt as the taucu is already salty and bok choy may also be changed to other green, leafy vege.


*keywords: resipi sayur senang, sawi masak taucu

Monday, August 25, 2014

:: ady rifqi's 3rd birthday party ::

 
 
Ady Rifqi turns three (3) on 17th June 2014.
 
 
THE PLAN
Few months before his birthday we have decided to throw a birthday celebration for him. He had his first birthday party when he turned one, but we did not have any celebration when he was two except for cake-cutting. I have been wanting to plan, decorate and host my son's party - it's among one of many things in my bucket list and it made me so excited. The first thing I did was asking Ady what theme he would like for his party. He loved Thomas and Friends and have started playing Lego so I asked his preference between the two. I asked the question once in between few days and even rotated either with Thomas or Lego as the first preference because sometimes kids give answer to the first thing they heard. Being Ady he always knows what he wants, and he answered Thomas every single time, so that's it. He will be having a Thomas-themed birthday party.
 
The party was planned to be held on Saturday, 21st June 2014 at our own crib. I have informed closed family members and friends to save the date earlier and one month before the actual date, an invitation was sent to guests through Facebook calendar of event and mobile messages. The colour code was based on Thomas' main colours - red, blue & white. Party checklist was all in my head and since then I started wearing my party planner hat when ever I had the free time. Until the day arrived, together with my husband we completed everything in the checklist:
 
1. Personalisation is important. With a bit of research I came up with a 'branding' for Ady Rifqi's 3rd Birthday Party. Instead of colourful cartoon design I wanted something that is simple and urban so I played with stripes, polka dots and chevron. After getting approval from the other half (it's a team affair, always remember to consult the co-organiser :-D) then only the actual designing and printing works started.
 
2. Designed and printed out our own party labels for the mineral water. It is an advantage that the company I'm working for produces mineral water in small bottles so I bought them and replaced with our own party labels.
 
3. Using the similar design we printed out stickers and printed materials for other party stuff such as garlands, table decorations, party favours, etc.
 
4. A guest book is a must. Instead of buying a ready-made or producing one with coloured papers (which I did for Ady's first birthday) I made a mini photobook via photobook.com.my. The photobook contains Ady's photos since day one and blank pages for guests to write.
 
5. Bookings and orders for cake, desserts, caterer for F&B, clown and photographer. Fila voluntereed to purchase and bring the helium baloons (thank you so much babe!).
 
6. Prepared party favours in goodies bags for the kids. I felt so lucky when I found polka dots paper bags in red and blue at Mydin USJ 1. It was the cutest and the most acceptable design available there. Did candy shopping at their wholesale area too. We had two types of bags. Red bag is for younger kids which contained a tub of mini playdoh and candies (mini chupa chups, mini mentos, mini m&ms and granola bars). Blue bag is for the not-so-young kids which contained a set of colour pencils, customised Thomas colouring sheet, a snack and almost similar candies.
 
7. Designed and printed photo props, but Nor assisted to prepare them on hard papers and sticks (arigato gozaimasu cik Nor!).
 
 
 
 
D-DAY
Hubby and I started arranging furnitures and decorating the corridor since early morning. We turned our dining table to a cake / candy buffet by wrapping it with papers. We placed everything necessary on the table and made paper garlands backdrop. There was a dedicated table for the photo props and guestbook, complete with colourful sharpies and stickers. The caterer arrived early and we had two big round tables for the guests. We ordered roti jala with chicken curry, singapore fried noodle, chicken drummets, nuggets and cordial drink. My mother-in-law voluntereed to prepare teh tarik and my mom brought coconut jelly all the way from Seremban. As for desserts we have the birthday cake, cupcakes, blueberry cheese tarts, mini donuts, 'love letters' and candies.
 
We managed to complete decorating just in time before the scheduled timing, 3:00 pm. Guests started coming followed by clown and photographers. Everything went on according to plan, only that it was such a hot and sunny day. We did not rent any tent so most guests had to mingle and stay inside the house. It was a bit crampy and we really apologise for such inconvenient. The birthday boy on another hand did not take his afternoon nap because he was too excited so he was a bit cranky during the party. He also got very excited accepting gifts which he proudly opened one after another. Note to parents - please accept birthday gifts and keep them in a room during birthday party to avoid similar experience.
 
 
 We had cake cutting, followed by party game led by the clown. The only time Ady happily participated was during dance session because the clown played his favourite tune - Gangnam Style. He danced to that song from beginning to the end.
 
Most guests left home by 6:30 pm. We started packing and cleaning after that. Everybody left except my family members as they spent a night with us (and helped finishing some of the food... haha.)
 
It was a memorable day for us and I have another checked item in my bucket list, Alhamdulillah. I realised I didn't get the chance to have long conversation with all guests, but hopefully they enjoyed each other's company and the experience. To family members, friends, neighbours and colleagues, we THANK YOU for spending your time with us. As the hosts, we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience occured. On behalf of the birthday boy, we appreciate all the gifts. Ady received Thomas & Friends playset and tableware, Hot Wheels playsets, a huge toy truck with cars, educational toys, building blocks, a lot of clothes and even cash (already deposited into his personal account). We did not expect that but thank you, thank you, thank you everyone.
 
  
Here are some of many beautifully captured moments during the day. I am so satisfied with the outcomes, thanks to mister photographers.


 
 
 
To our lil boy Ady Rifqi, you're growing up too fast baby. You have cherished every single day of our life since day one and our prayers are always with you. May you grow up to be a good muslim and continue to be a good son. No word could ever describe how much you mean to both of us and we promise to take care of you as long as we live. 
 
We love you, baby!
 
 
 
*keywords: thomas party ideas, thomas the tank engine birthday party, children party ideas, kids party ideas, third birthday celebration
 

Friday, August 22, 2014

:: welcome home, malaysians ::

Some people are born to be sensitive of the surrounding. It is never a burden to share someone else's grief, to the extend that it may not be someone who he / she knows before. Some people are alienated with that sensitivity, until huge rock falls onto the head then only they realise how difficult it is to go through loss and sadness.

Either way, there is this word named 'respect'. Today, I am proud to see how Malaysians showing respect for the loss of innocent souls in the MH17 tragedy on 17.07.2014.


22.08.2014. The national day of mourning.

Death is inevitable. Let us pray for the souls who have perished in the tragedy to rest in peace.

al-Fatihah.
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