Saturday, July 30, 2011

Checking Out the Kusuma Agrowisata, Batu, Indonesia

I had my virgin trip to a prime commercialized agrotourism destination in Batu, west of Malang called Kusuma Agrowisata in July last year. My parents brought me, my husband and in-laws there because Batu has long been famous for its apple orchards. I personally always feel that my hometown doesn't offer that many interesting outdoor places nearby to check out. I literally had to scratch my head really hard when my husband tasked me to create a 'Malang Tour' itinerary for our bunch of Malaysian guests last week. In the end, we decided to showcase the same places that we felt worth showing to them such as the Kusuma Agrowisata and Jatim Park II in Batu.

Last year, when we came to this place, we intended to pluck apples right from the trees. However, our timing was no good back then. The apples were already harvested before we came so we're made to pluck oranges instead. When we came over again this year, the apples were not ripe enough for us to pluck just yet. We came there one week earlier than the apples' harvesting schedule. Once bitten, twice shy. Seemingly we were really not that fated with harvesting apples. Too bad, eh? Not really. Last week, we got to harvest strawberries in place of apples, which was quite fun too.

 The massive strawberry farm in Kusuma Agrowisata, Batu.

Nothing much had changed in Kusuma Agrowisata Batu since our visit last year. Nevertheless, we noticed some improvements developed in this relaxing agrotourism spot. With mere Rp. 29,000,- (or about RM 10) entrance ticket per pax, each of us was entitled for a guided group tour around the farms (Strawberry and Apple Farms), a license to pluck 5 strawberries from the plants (free plastic bag was given), a glass of yogurt drink and waffles.

The ripe strawberries lurking around.

Jennifer was busy choosing her next targets.

Lovely day out: Jennifer, my Mom and I.

A tip in harvesting strawberries - choose the mature ones that are hanging from the plant, not those that are laying on the soil as they are likely to be (half) rotten/spoiled.

Pluck the hanging ripe strawberries.

Right after each of us got 5 strawberries in our plastic bag, we could consume the fresh strawberries on the spot. BUT, we have to wash them first. This farm also provides a designated place for us to wash the fruits with mountain water.

 Me and my Auntie: Washing the strawberries from the water coming out from the pipe.

Isn't it cute?
*Photo credit by SYH*

Surprisingly, the strawberries were not sour at all. 
They were so sweet.

Before we moved on with the apple farm tour:
Family photo with my Mom, husband, cousin, auntie and niece.

Moving forward, we also had the chance to briefly walk around the apple farm which was yet due to be harvested. They look as pretty as usual. Oh, I just discovered from my husband that visiting apple farm was quite an appealing activity for our Malaysian guests because people don't or are hardly able to grow apples in Malaysia due to the country's hot climate. Interesting.

 Apple trees covered with limestone to prevent fungus.

Green apples: Not quite ready yet for harvest.
*Photo credit by SYH*

Our guide explained an interesting fact about growing apples - the farmers prune and remove the leaves from the apple trees regularly to create 'Autumn' effects for the trees as Indonesia has no Fall Season. By doing so, the trees would look healthier and respond in growing bigger leaves, new apple blossoms, bigger and luscious fruits.

Trimmed apple tree with apple blossoms on it.

Before we concluded our visit at Kusuma Agrowisata and said Sayonara to this place, our guide led us to a cafe where we claimed our waffles and yogurt drink. Then, we waved goodbye.

By the way, other than growing fruits, Kusuma Agrowisata Batu also keeps various domesticated animals too. I found these two photos taken by my husband and brother-in-law when we were checking out some animals during our visit there. I couldn't help but smiling when looking at them. *funny memories strike*

Photo no. 1: A conversation in front of a rabbit cage. 

Jennifer: "Ini kelinci ya, Ko?" 
Zhi Heng: "这个是 Rabbit."

My niece in Indonesia, Jennifer, was talking in Bahasa Indonesia and Javanese to my nephew from Malaysia, Zhi Heng, who replied her in English and Mandarin. I think their conversation about rabbits ended almost immediately.

 
Baby talks: Lost in translation.

Photo no. 2: An owl that I met in the same place last year. 

This bird obviously didn't change much since the last time I saw him. This year, he looked a little bit older perhaps but definitely was still smoking hot and dapper as usual. Awwrrr!!

  A handsome wise looking bird domesticated at the Kusuma Agrowisata, Batu.
*Photo credit by SYH*

What a lovely day out! Hope in a one fine day, we could harvest the apples.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Wedding in Indonesia: The Long-Awaited Lifetime Event

The long-awaited moment had finally arrived on last Saturday. Yep, my husband and I had our wedding reception (订婚) in Indonesia last week. Albeit my husband and I were legally married since last year, as the Chinese tradition forbids us to run our wedding celebration twice, we addressed our wedding reception in Indonesia as 订婚, not 结婚 (just yet). There were some hiccups a day or two before the actual event but ultimately, overall we had a successful wedding reception. Both of my husband and I are now very relieved.

Firstly, we had technical meeting led by the Wedding Organizer two nights before our wedding day. The meeting was attended by the wedding organizers, our parents and some other involved wedding suppliers. Basically during the meeting, we discussed the planned flow of the event, made sure everybody knows what would roughly happen during the D-Day and did some 'walking' rehearsal on the stage with both side parents. It was interesting, though.

Now, to share our joyous moment with everyone, here are the main chronicles of our Big Day held at my hometown on last Saturday. *Warning: Long Post*

I arrived at 11.30am to the Bridal House/Salon with my Mom, Mom-in-Law, sister and aunties from Malaysia for make-up, hair-do and changing the wedding gowns. Our initial set appointment was at 11am but the car that my husband rode came late to my parents' house. I got bloody pissed off about this. When I discovered that the make-up and hair-do sessions for seven of us only consumed two hours of time in total, I felt so dumb. I began to comprehend how unnecessary for me being so angry and press my husband on the timing issue as we had plenty of time before the reception. Duh! *bride's irritability*

Once we came back from the Bridal House, my husband and I still had about two hours to kill before the wedding ceremony and event started. Hence, we just chilled in our wedding room at the hotel with some cousins and friends who showed up early.

Our Initials' Ice Carving at the Wedding Reception: Wrong initial though, unfortunately.

Our wedding reception decoration in Indonesia: Dominated by Pink.

At about 5pm, the Wedding Organizer called my husband and I to come out for Tea Ceremony (敬酒) as some relatives already arrived to the venue. Here's the funny thing about Chinese wedding ceremonies in Indonesia, or in my hometown particularly; I do not know why but we seldom use the real Chinese tea for the Tea Ceremony with the elderly, parents and close relatives. Instead, we used Red Fanta or Grape Juice and no alcohol involved. That's why in Indonesia we call this session as 敬酒 instead of 敬茶. 


Husband and I: Ready for the wedding ceremony.

At this session, the bride and groom are supposed to serve the Tea (or rather, Red Fanta) to grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts, and all the way to cousins who are already married. Also, during this ceremony, the bride and groom are also required to address them with the formal titles as part of official introduction in the family. In return, the newlyweds would received red packet (红包) stuffed with money or jewelry from them. By the way, not all relatives would like to do the Tea Ceremony so we must ask them first about this.


 敬酒 to my Maternal Grandmother.

After 敬酒: I received the symbolic jewelries from my Mom. 
My husband received red packet from Dad.

Moving on, after the Tea Ceremony was pretty much done, our parents went to the Ballroom first to greet the guests who already started coming in.

The happy parents: Greeting the guests in the main entrance.

Before the clock showed 7pm, it was the time for my husband and I to come into the Ballroom. Approximately, more than 70% of the invited guests already filled up the seats. The bride and groom entrance procession into the Ballroom was led by fanfare from the usher girls.

Arriving on the stage. My sister was the Bridesmaid.

When the bride and groom were already on the center stage, the MC opened the wedding reception then followed by a Thank You Speech delivered by my Mom's Mandarin Teacher. The Thank You Speech was supposed to be delivered by one of us or a family member. However, since neither of us was comfortable in doing public speaking at our wedding, my Mom's last resort was her Mandarin Teacher, Chen Laoshi. On behalf of us, she gave a beautiful speech in Mandarin. Although I could not fully understand her Mandarin speech but I was overwhelmed and very moved when she gave her speech.

Thank You Speech by Chen Laoshi who represented us.

Done with the formal greetings, the MC asked my husband and I to pour two bottles of Red Fanta into the Pyramid Fountain, placed near the Wedding Cake. Pyramid Fountain is usually prepared from wine glasses stacked in a pyramid shape. However, for our wedding we chose a Double Happiness  (双喜) Glass for the Pyramid Fountain.

The Double Happiness  (双喜) Glass for our Pyramid Fountain.

Our Wedding Organizer once told us that there is this belief of whoever finishes first the Red Fanta from the bottle when pouring it into the glass(es) during Pyramid Fountain means that person is more extravagant in spending money in his/her marriage life. Realizing this, my husband and I poured the Red Fanta into the glass real slowly and carefully. None of us wished to be crowned with the title of big-spender husband or wife so soon.

The Pyramid Fountain.

Post the Pyramid Fountain, the Wedding Organizer handed glasses of Red Fanta to us and our parents on the stage. The MC then asked everyone in the room to stand up and make a Wedding Toast for the newlyweds.

After the Toast, the MC asked my Dad to sing a song but my Dad politely declined.

Going forward, it's time for the Food Parade and we all could sit down in the VIP Table for a while (Yay!). The Food Parade was marked by the arrival of Chinese Cold Platter as the dinner appetizer on each table. To make the wedding reception more happening, my Sister, Uncle and some of my parents' friends sang some love songs, dedicated to the newlyweds. Sometimes Chinese weddings in Indonesia act as singing/karaoke arenas for friends and family. In addition, the Wedding Organizer also prepared three choreographies to entertain the guests during the 'idle' period.

My Sister sang two love songs in Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu.

 Impromptu contribution: My Uncle sang one of Andy Lau's Mandarin hit songs.

One of the presented dances.

Subsequent the serving of the first dish, the bride and groom were asked to come up to the stage again for Wedding Cake Cutting Ceremony. This procession was then superseded by feeding cake slices to both side parents. In the meantime, the hotel banquet staff kept on serving the remaining dishes to the guests.

Wedding Cake Cutting Ceremony.

 Feeding the cake to our parents.

On top of this, we were asked to present two boxes of whole tart cakes to my Grandmothers as well.

Presenting a box of cake to my Paternal Grandmother.

Now came the embarrassing episode, my husband and I were made to do a slow dance before the Wedding Kiss. Although we briefly practiced this simple dance during the wedding rehearsal, I still didn't have the gut to look at the guests and was literally praying to God to make the Wedding Kiss's song quickly end so we both could get over with this dancing misery ASAP.

Slow Dance before the Wedding Kiss.

Alright, so about two and a half hours later, we came to the end of the wedding reception. It's time for Photo Sessions with family and friends. Photo sessions were such daunting yet fun tasks for us as we got to greet some guests personally. My husband and I had to stand up and smiled big (and wide) for a pretty long time. I could still reminisce how stiff my jaws became after smiling a lot that night. Furthermore, by then my eyes were so uncomfortable, the three false eyelashes applied on each of my eye were getting heavier. (By the way, my brother and cousin had to help me remove the triple false eyelashes from my eyes after the reception. Removing them was equally painful as putting them on).

Family Portrait at the end of the event. 

Us and our cutest guest, Baby Jennifer.

That's about it. Wedding Part I is officially over now.

Big thanks to our parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and family friends who took part in our wedding day, the Wedding Organizer and other involved parties and also all my best friends who spared their busy time to witness our Wedding Celebration. I would also like to personally thank my IPA Singapore friends, Irena and Utari, who flew all the way from Jakarta for our wedding in Malang. You guys are the best!

OK, one wedding celebration is down. One more to come in Malaysia this September.

*Photos credits by my Brother-in-Law, SYH. I still have yet to receive the photo soft-copies from our official wedding photographer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Evening Stroll and Photography Lesson

It was raining this whole afternoon. My husband just recovered from severe food poisoning post our wedding trip in Indonesia (which I have yet to blog) but he didn't want to rest anymore. With slight dizziness after total bed rest (read: too much sleep) in the past two days, my husband felt like taking an evening stroll around the neighborhood and smelling the after-rain air whilst teaching me some basic photography lessons to spice up our monotone evening stroll. I didn't mind. It's always good thing not to be stuck in the house the whole day.

The objects of our photography lesson today were blooming flowers in front of my house and other people's houses. At first, my husband handed me his brother's DSLR camera. He taught me some basic technicalities on holding DSLR in the right way, capturing photos with good angle by adjusting various focus systems in the camera, etc. Not long, I got confused, not focused and felt the DLSR camera body on my hand was getting heavier and heavier.

I gave up.

I decided to use my husband's smaller and lighter camera, Panasonic Lumix LX3. Easier but still quite problematic for me. As expected, I received minor scoldings from my husband as I partially listened to his instructions in taking good photos. Sometimes, I am such a ding dong when hearing theories. I tend to ignore and hear stuff partially. I wanted to just jump straight to practicing the theory, thus, am not able to practice the lesson properly. Bad habit.

Anyway, here are some flowers that I shot today. Not sure if they pass the test or not.

Shoot no. 1: Flowers in our house.

Shoot no. 2: Flowers in front of the public playground.

Shoot no. 3: Flowers in front of someone's house.

The above may not be so good photos. I might have taken the wrong angles of the flowers and focused on the wrong part of the objects in the photos. But thanks to my husband/photography mentor, at least, as a beginner in photography world, I learned something new today. More to come.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Making Fruit Cake

Today is Sunday so this morning I casually asked my husband this morning to give me an idea on what cake to bake today. He said, he'd like to have some Fruit Cake today. In fact, he told me that his favorite cake is Fruit Cake. Hmm. How come after all this time I only knew this today?

After breakfast, we took a stroll at Tesco where I replenished my baking ingredients and bought a box of fruit mix for my Fruit Cake. When I was back at home, I quickly browsed some simple Fruit Cakes recipe and decided to go ahead with Kue Mungil's Fruit Cake recipe. The rest of the Fruit Cake recipes that I found in the internet seemed to produce final results with very dark exterior and pretty brown interior. I didn't want that.

Today's baking was such an impromptu baking attempt and I obviously didn't have enough time nor planned to soak the dried fruit mix in rum /orange juice/ apple juice overnight to soften the fruits' texture. What I did instead was boiling the fruit mix with a half cup of dark rum in a saucepan then drain the fruits. In any case where we don't fancy the rum's smell or would prefer to avoid using liquor in baking, substituting the rum with orange juice or apple juice will do just fine.

Again, today I utilized half of the original Fruit Cake recipe above (to avoid too much leftover) and slightly adapted some of the stated ingredients too.

Fruit Cake.

Here's my version of Fruit Cake recipe.

Fruit Cake

Ingredients:

Group A: 
150 gr Dried fruit mix
1/2 cup Rum/orange juice/apple juice
2 tbs Flour

Group B:
125 gr Flour
1 tsp Baking powder
2 tbs Milk powder

Group C:
110 gr Fine sugar (I used brown sugar today)
75 gr Margarine
100gr Butter (in room temperature)
1 tbs Sour cream (in room temperature), optional
3 Egg Yolks
1 tsp Vanilla Essence

Group D:
3 Egg whites
1/2 tsp Cream of tar-tar

Tutorial:

1. Bring to boil the dried fruit mix and rum in a sauce pan. Let them cool for a while. Drain the dried fruits then coat them with flour (Group A). Set aside.

2. Mix together Group B in a dry container. Set aside.

3. Cream Group C by using a high-speed electric mixer until light and fluffy.

4. Slowly add Group B into Group C by using spatula. Mix well then set aside.

5. Beat Group D by using a high-speed electric mixer to form stiff, firm peaks.

6. Combine Group D into the mixture of Group B and C.

7. Add in Group A into the cake batter and mix well slowly by using spatula.

8. Pour the cake batter into a loaf mold which is already lined with parchment paper.

9. Bake for about 1 hour on a small fire.

This Fruit Cake tasted tangy and very soft. Some Fruit Cake recipes use mixed spice, nutmeg powder or cinnamon powder in the cake batter but I purposely didn't include any cinnamon or sweet spices in my cake today. I think I just had enough of cinnamon sensation from consuming my Cinnamon Rolls in the past few days.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review: Doraemon Manga in Malaysia

Who doesn't know Doraemon, the ear-less blue robotic cat from the future?

During my childhood and teen years, I hardly missed Doraemon Anime aired in a local TV Channel on every Sunday at 8am. Somehow, I could not rise and shine early on school days but automatically woke up at 7am on Sunday. Not to mention that I skipped so many Sunday Schools since I just could not bear the misery of not watching the weekly Sunday Japanese Cartoons on TV. Sunday cartoons are demonic, huh? Perhaps.

Doraemon and Nobita: Familiar figures in my life.

My brother has almost all Doraemon's popular and long-series manga collections in Bahasa Indonesia. I read the comic books repeatedly over the years (never get bored!) and I feel like we're all family with Doraemon, Nobita, Suneo, Shizuka and Giant. We were that close.

I wish I had Doraemon's magic pouch where he keeps all his gadgets, medicines and tools from the future to solve all my problems. I'd very much like to have or occasionally borrow his time machine as well so I can fix my mistakes in the past, prevent bad things to happen or probably visit the future too! I think the Doraemon's creator, Fujiko F. Fujio, is a true genius! His works for children now and then are simply precious. His Doraemon episodes are not just comedies on print cartoons but also nutritiously packed with lessons, life values and quite a bit of noteworthy ancient history and environmental issues too. As a little girl, I could not be bothered so much on Dinosaurs' facts and stories if they were not introduced by Doraemon.

Yesterday when I was browsing some magazines in Carrefour's magazine stall, I came accross Doraemon manga in Bahasa Melayu. All of sudden, I missed Doraemon so much that I decided to just purchase one manga of his to rekindle my old romance with him and his entourage. Doraemon manga here costs RM 4.90 per book.

My new Doraemon manga in Bahasa Melayu.

The list of content.
Page one starts from behind. We read backwards.

Sneak-peek of the content: Conversations in Bahasa Melayu.

I confidently thought the similarities between Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu would not give me much troubles in reading this manga. Too bad, I was quite in a struggle trying to read the manga, much less understand it. In the end, last night I skipped so much words and just flipped through the pages. I 'read' this manga predominantly by looking at the pictures.

Anyway, this coming Monday, I plan to give this manga to my brother back home. Pessimistically, I hope he can enjoy it more than I do.

*Photos taken from Doraemon dan Rakan-Rakan 7. Publisher: Penerbit Majalah Tora Aman.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Making Cinnamon Rolls

I thought I won't be baking anything this week since I reckoned that I'd be busy with clearing up my work, preparing my upcoming wedding next week and packing for my trip to Indonesia. When I saw Bing's status updates about her fluffy Cinnamon Rolls, I immediately got interested. Inspired by her Cinnamon Rolls recipe I decided to make some as well yesterday.

I studied her recipe since morning, contemplated a lot whether I should bake or not the whole afternoon then asked my husband to take me to a nearby grocery shop to buy pecan nuts and fresh cream. Turned out the shop didn't sell pecan nuts and their fresh cream on the shelf was already expired a month ago. Darn!

When I found out that I was lacking of these two ingredients, I told myself to just drop the idea of baking Cinnamon Rolls this time around. At about 4.30pm, when I was pretty much done with my day work, somehow my feet dragged me down to the kitchen and my hands started taking my baking utensils out from the cabinet. So there I was, started baking Cinnamon Rolls with whatever available baking ingredients at home.

Since my husband was still at work, I didn't take photos of how I made the dough for the Cinnamon Rolls. Only when he finally got home at night, he helped me snap some pictures on the remaining baking process of my Cinnamon Rolls. Therefore, for complete pictures and tips in successfully making Cinnamon Rolls, I guess it's better still to refer to Bing's original recipe above to see her step-by-step tutorials. Bing is a wonderful cook and baker. Her personal blog and cooking/baking diary are so inspirational. And by the way, I'd like to thank her personally too on her valuable tips in making these Cinnamon Rolls. She responded to my questions on her Facebook wall and blog several times yesterday when I raised some inquiries about baking Cinnamon Rolls. She is such a darling!

Here is the Cinnamon Rolls (half) recipe that I used yesterday. I slightly adapted the recipe from Bing's original recipe since I didn't have all the stated ingredients.

Warning: There would be a lot of waiting time needed in making Cinnamon Rolls as we need to make the dough rise perfectly before baking them.

Cinnamon Rolls.

Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients:
  • 500ml Liquid Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar 
  • 1/2 Tsp Vanilla Essence
  • 1 Pack (11gr) Dry Yeast 
  • 4.5 Cups Flour -- Separate the flour into 3.5 Cups and 1 Cup
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 Cup Melted Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Castor Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/8 Cup Cinnamon Powder
Tutorials:

1. Pour the milk, vegetable oil, sugar and vanilla essence into a cooking pot.

2. Stir the liquid mix and dissolve the sugar over a medium heat. Do not boil.

3. Once the sugar in the liquid mix is dissolved, wait until the mix is lukewarm. Add in the dry yeast into the mix. Leave it for few minutes until tiny bubbles of gas are seen in the mix.

4. Add in 3.5 cups of flour into the mix. Stir well with a wooden spoon but do not over mix.

5. Cover the dough with clean table cloth for 1 hour. *Waiting Time 1*

6. An hour later, the dough would rise about twice its size. Punch the dough down to get the air out of the dough.

7. Add the remaining 1 cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the dough. Mix well again.

8. Cover the dough again with clean table cloth for 1-3 hours, best to leave it in the fridge so the dough would be harder and much easier to knead later on. *Waiting Time 2*

9. Once the waiting time is up, the dough would rise twice its size again. Punch the dough down again to release the gas.

10. Knead the dough for a moment. The dough would be quite wet and sticky but just try to knead it slowly.

11. Transfer the dough to the lightly floured working table or large cutting board. Cover the rolling pin with flour too.

12. Start rolling the dough into a rectangle shape. Since my cutting board was not big enough, I split the dough into two smaller parts and worked on them separately.

It's a wet and sticky dough.
 Expect the dough sticking to your fingers and rolling pin.

13. Evenly pour 1 cup of melted butter into the rolled out dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon powder, castor sugar and brown sugar into the dough.

Evenly distribute the melted butter and sprinkle the cinnamon powder and sugar on the dough.

14. Start rolling the dough lengthwise. If the dough is very wet and sticky when rolling it, add more flour to the surfaces and roll slowly.

Roll the dough carefully. Be gentle.

15. Cut the dough into 1 inch thick rolls with a sharp knife gently.

Cut gently.

16. Place the rolls in a baking tray/pan comfortably. Do not squeeze them too much in one pan. They need to breath and grow some more.

Place the rolls comfortably in a baking pan.

17. Pour the remaining melted butter over the rolls.

The rolls with extra melted butter on top.

18.  Set them aside for about one hour and let them rise slightly bigger again. *Waiting Time 3*

19.  Bake them in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Cinnamon Rolls: Fresh from the Oven.

20. Make some icing and pour the icing over the hot rolls. *Optional*

Actually I did try making the icing as per Bing's original recipe but since I didn't have fresh cream and replaced it with normal liquid milk, my icing was not thick at all. But I still poured some of it on top of my Cinnamon Rolls.

I reduced the sugar sprinkled in the rolled dough last night so my rolls turned out not to be not that sweet. Mistake. Should have followed the recipe religiously. The rolls would have been just nice if they were sweet enough!

It's indeed a long process in making Cinnamon Rolls. I think I spent more than five hours yesterday in making them. I had backaches last night. However, but the results were quite rewarding. I had soft Cinnamon Rolls and half recipe made about three trays of Cinnamon Rolls. I thought with minimum kneading that I did for the dough, I'd have a dry bread. But I didn't. The rolls were really soft. I heated them in the microwave this morning before eating them as breakfast. They still tasted good.