Dinner at Villa Mae

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I recently had the privilege of attending a birthday dinner at a private and exclusive establishment in Shah Alam.

Located in Section 7, Shah Alam, the private residence turned fine-dining establishment oozes understated elegance and and ambience . The owners have indeed taken great pains and put in much thought and effort in designing and decorating the villa. The entire decor reflects the personality of the owner, whom I was told was a prominent Puan Sri . She has presumably used her vast collection of collectibles from her many travels all over the world to create a beautiful and elegant ambience of European taste. No walk-ins please. Patrons have to make prior reservation for lunch, tea or dinner . The Chef only cooks for the exact number of reservations made, so everything is done on a 'made to order' and personal basis. Because of the select nature and exclusiveness, the main entrance gates are locked when the last patron enters. Well dressed waiters hover discreetly for personalised service and bow out when finished. Huh, am I dreaming or what ?! Exquisite designer cutlery and crockery are put in service and the elaborate but refined table arrangements lends an air of olde world charm of days yonder. For our dinner, the decor colour theme was of soft turquoise, silver and aqua . Beautiful crystal butterflies with tiny light bulbs flickered on the elaborately set up dining table. It was like being in a fairy tale. My feet didn't seem to touch the ground, I think I was sort of ,floating in the air(?) throughout the dinner. We were the only patrons that night, all 6 of us, and we had the entire beautiful dining room to ourselves. Would you believe if I told you that the elaborate table set up was just for us and us alone? Talk about exclusivity!

Ah hah, now for the dinner. The first course was a delicious light Caesar Salad, followed by a super-duper delicious full bodied Wild Mushroom Soup with thin slices and I mean, dainty thin slices of buttered crusty baguette ( which kept melting in my mouth and they kept replenishing). It was the best mushroom soup I have had so far and it certainly didn't taste like a remix of Campbells!) My main course was Roast Leg of Chicken with a very nice mushroom sauce , mashed potato, vegetables and a dainty Cheese and Onion Quiche on the side(I think it's a safety precaution in case diners were still hungry !) The last serving was, of course, dainty portions of dessert consisting of fruit, pudding, pastries and local cakes, all served in tiny individual plates placed beautifully on a large plate, which in turn was placed on another platter. We finished off with coffee, of course. Now,that's what I call fine dining with a capital S for service! What an experience, what a feeling...

Goodness gracious!! I forgot to mention the birthday girl whose birthday brought about my invitation in the first place! Aiyo,got carried away as usual la.. That honour belonged to Mary Heng. Celebrating her 60th birthday, the super slim and petite lady who can put all of us to shame with her vigour and zest, defies logic and buzzes about like a busy bee on a sunny day. Dedicated, trustworthy and committed to her vocation as a PA, this sprighty lady is indeed a worthy and invaluable asset to her boss, who in turn, showed her appreciation by lavishing such a fine dining experience for Mary Heng and her friends, which thankfully included yours truly... ! Now, I can't wait to see who else in my circle of friends will be turning 60, hello, anyone I forgot ? .......!

Photographs will be put up after requesting permission from the Birthday Gal and her Boss.

The Festival of Lights

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Started the day at dawn and found myself making tosai after tosai, vadai, chicken curry, ... generally slaving over the stove. The soft approach of waking up the kids with sweet whispers didn't seem to work ( the late night Klang town effect, I guess),so started screaming into their ears and they work up like a jack-in-the-box. The traditional oil bath over, (for those not in the know, smearing gingelly oil, which is made from pure sesame seeds,on their heads and body is a symbolic way of cleansing the body and mind for the start of the auspicious day) a herbal powder called 'shikakai' which is akin to the qualities of the shampoo (it lathers into a soapy foam and leaves just the right amount of moisture in the hair )is used to wash off the oil. Donning on their new clothes -it's a case of out with the old and in with the new - we went to our Section 11 temple for prayers.

Guests started trickling in at around 11am. Since this was a 1 woman show ( okay la, my kids did help) I had to downsize my guest list to only a few close friends and family members and even that was exhausting. The constant rush between the serving, replenishing, washing, entertaining and greetings made we realise thatI was no spring chicken after all... a case of the mind is willing but the flesh is weak . It was exhilarating and joyous to have guests of other faiths joining the Deepavali celebrations but thank God it's only a once in a year affair!

I was spared cooking the evening dinner as one of my sister-in-law's birthday happened to fall on Deepavali too, so we all had dinner at the Zen Korean Restaurant in Bangsar. Being a vegetarian for the day and being quite exhausted, I had a small variety of pickles and kimchi with miso soup whilst the others had barbequed lamb,chicken, prawns, squids....the whole works.

It was sweet revenge when all of them groaned and moaned about a bloated stomach after stuffing themselves whilst I felt quite fine and dandy with just a little.

Prelude to Deepavali

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Deepavali eve was spent baking cakes after cakes. The problem with me is that once I start something, I can't seem to stop until I am doggone tired. And so it was on baking day - I baked a Cinnamon and Coffee Bundt Cake which turned out pretty impressive,3 Almond Butter cakes, a moist carrot cake ( would you believe if the cake was actually called 'To die for carrot cake'?)a batch of blueberry muffins,a sugee cake, mango pudding abd sago with coconut milk and black sugar syrup (gula melaka). I did prepare a sweet pastry for the apple pie but I had put it the 'fridge to chill and completely forgot about it.

Afternoon was spent cleaning,cleaning and cleaning. Period.

The best part was towards the late evening. Our annual trips to Klang Town's 'Little India' was something we looked forward to. Driving and parking was,of course,a nightmare but it's on these rare occasions I'm pretty grateful for my Kancil.

Now, imagine this scene - streets filled with a sea of people, milling and jostling about, each trying to do last minute purchases with hardly any space for breathing, the heady scent of jasmine and rose permeating the air, stall holders and pedlars selling a plethora of costumes,accessories, flower garlands, a cornucopia of traditional sweetmeats, cakes and cookies fighting for space among huge bags of murruku, shopkeepers screaming into their microphones trying to auction off their stocks amidst loud music blarring from the speakers, drowning all conversations, makeshift booths providing henna hand decorating service,florist trying to dispose off their flowers in bundles ...the list is not exhaustive ..and this frenzied atmosphere was all part and parcel of the exuberance of Deepavali. To the uninitiated, it might look like a town gone mad but to the celebrants, it was a once a year 'feel good' time.

The highlight and real reason for our jaunt was to see the spectacular display of fireworks at the stroke of midnight, ushering in the Festival of Lights with a big bang right up to the heavens. The whole street and sky was a riot of breathtaking and vibrant display of fireworks with a myriad of colours and shapes. It was like the stars were raining down on you. 'Oh my God, oh my God' was all I could keep saying while straining to see all of them from all angles, so much so that I had a bad neck pain. What a sight to behold and how thoroughly appropriate to start Deepavali, the Festival of Lights indeed.. By now, I was fully invigorated with the Deepavali mood but with two tired kids in tow and having a full day ahead,we finally trudged back to our car.

Driving into Shah Alam was a breeze. The town was as quiet as a churchmouse and as dead as a doornail.

Armchair Makeover

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I had recently re-arranged my living hall and decided to include an armchair. It was part of the new look for Deepavali... Not wanting to buy an expensive one ( it costs about $400 and above and they don't sell in singles) I scouted around for a second-hand one. My friend, Coral, whom I had the good fortune to know through my art lessons, was kind enough to drive me around Puchong. Several zig-zags later, we managed to get a single armchair with green upholstery to match my green sofa. Perfect. From a price of $260 I managed to bring it down to $160 with a little guidance from Coral. I thought it was a good bargain and Coral thought so too. Although the chair frame had a few scratches and the colour was an awful red, I could see its potential.

Back home, I stripped and sanded and sealed the frame, covered the upholster and primed it with several basecoats. The tedious part over, the fun part began. After attempting several test colours and using my cinnammon red wall and my existing furnishing as my colour guide, I then repainted it .

I think it looks great now, sort of blends with my surroundings and I'm very happy that I can now do it my own way, without costing and arm and a leg!

If you're reading this, Coral, my sincere appreciation and thanks for showing me Puchong town and that's the first time I had been to that part of town!!

Deepavali deeds

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I had so much to write but simply couldn't find the time these past weeks. Before I could even say bye to the Hari Raya feastings, it was time to clean up my home for Deepavali, the Festival of Lights. Let me see....

I sewed a new set of cream coloured curtains with matching cushion covers, re-upholstered my sofa ( yes,you heard right),repainted my dining hall and added a feature wall of biscuit yellow and cinnamon red ala sponging method. That not being enough, I got carried away, as usual, by painting my stairs too. That was the hardest part, a very laborious job indeed and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The walls looked clean and the sponged wall looked like it was wall-pappered. That's what my guests said... ha ha.. I must have done an excellent job, no? Anyway, it did look very nice. Oh, for the accent, I sewed a few small cushion covers in velvet red. Added an armchair ( arm chair story later ) for good measure and voila, I was mighty pleased with the result.

A feeling of comfort, cosiness and warmth permeates my heart when I sit in my sofa with my kids and have a tumble with them. It's actually a simple double-storey terrace house, but through my passion for painting, I have covered my entire home with my personal touch and that makes it extra special for me and my family.

I simply love my home

4 o'clock tea

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It's close to Deepavali and I've been busy painting away on everything I lay my hands on. I have just painted my old and unusable chinese wok with a lovely tea-pot, cup and saucer motive. Having a cup of tea from a beautiful teapot is just, well, a simple but beautiful act by itself and since I am a great fan of the 4 o'clock tea syndrome, I thought I should honour my tea-time with a painting. It took me a full day to turn the rusty wok to what you see now. A good part of my time was taken to cleaning off the rust and coating it with a primer A few coats of basecoat ( since it was oxidised metal, it took a longer time )gave it a good coverage. The painting of the tea-pot, cup and saucer and cakes was relatively easy. The words were from Rudyard Kipling " Teach us delight in simple things ". How appropriate.....

Trash to Treasures

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For some time now, I have been vigorously focussing my attention into transforming
trash from garage sales and flea markets to treasures. It gives me immense pleasure when I see the transformation, both on the trash and on the face of my trash collector!

Some of my neighbours and friends are now busy poking their heads into their attics and storeroom, looking for the odd table or chair, the aluminium rice pot and the old fashioned metal pail that they don't use anymore( the ones with the tiny holes which can't be used anymore but, oh, so 'sayang' to throw it kind!), old sturdy boxes , wooden chest used by our grandparents...

It's more fun and challenging when re-painting and decorating used items like these. The results are simply amazing and I can't seem to contain the ideas flowing out of my head when I think of ways to re-use the discarded and unwanted stuff.

The one shown here is an old oblong mooncake box with a magnetic strip. A good basecoat with blue stripes for ribbons and a free style painting of roses changed it into a beautiful gift box with my personal touch. Instead of buying fancy wrappings for my Deepavali and Christmas gifts, I'm going to put my stuff in these beautiful boxes and give them away. Neat.. huh!. I'm not only saving money, which, of course is great, but more importantly, doing my tiny bit to the environment friendly cause. Less paper to use and help save more trees. Every bit counts

Post Eid Mubarak

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This year's Eid Mubarak must have been a very very low key affair, I think. Staying in Shah Alam, it would have been expected to be a gala celebration in every nook and cranny of the town, as it had been for the past years. Not surprisingly, this year's celebration was abnormaly quiet. The trees along the roads in the town proper were not lit up with hundreds of decorative lights as it used to be, there was no feeling of gaiety in the air and the festive crowd andd mood was sorely lacking. There were hardly any 'open house' invitations from my Muslim friends, the exception being Tan Sri Syed Yusof and his lovely wife, Puan Sri Sabrina. Come rain or shine, they never fail to celebrate the festival in true open-house tradition on the first day. Replete with sumptious food and sinful desserts, the stunning couple welcomed all their friends from the 'Who's who' list ( since I was in their guest list, I have taken it upon myself to be qualified ..ha ha! that's a good one,isn't it!Deprived of other invitations (real strange that )I sat in my favourite spot, the table next to the dessert counter and gorged myself silly with cookies and cream with the occassional addition of strawberries and marshmallows dunked in the chocolate fountain..... heavenly... the sombre air surrounding the town was blisfully forgotten .....