Saturday, January 29, 2011

studley park boathouse, melbourne

in the winter of 2009 when i visited melbourne, my friend chris took me to one of the parks that adjoins the yarra river. i blogged about the warrandyte suburb here. there are quite a number of parks and parklands that are located along the length of the yarra river. the smaller parks have unsealed paths while the larger parks have sealed pathways suitable for walking as well as cycling. australians are fond of taking their dogs for a walk at the park. at most parks, dogs have to be leashed.

we did not go to walk the dogs. we went to the yarra bend park, near which the studley park boathouse is located, for a picnic. ida had gone to the park the day before, on australia day, and the scene she described was so vastly different. the day before, every corner of the park was taken up by australians celebrating their national day in their traditional way - a picnic and bbq in the park.

the studley park boathouse is the oldest operating boathouse in the state of victoria. it enjoys a nice location, at the bend of the yarra river. it has a restaurant and an indoor/outdoor cafe. row boats, kayaks and canoes are available for hire. the rate for the row boat is about $20 for half an hour. we did not row boats; instead, we fed the ducks and other birds on the bank and in the river.

you can sit at a picnic table and spend a quiet time by the bank of the river. although the sun was out, there was a cool breeze blowing. others were just happy to lie on the grass and be close to nature. now i understand why the australians love the outdoors.

this is the kane's bridge that spans the yarra river. the bridge originally built in 1929 was washed away by the 1934 floods. it was rebuilt in 1935. cyclists were advised to dismount and push the bike across the bridge. of the two cyclists i met, one dutifully got down and pushed his bike while the other cyclist just continued cycling across the bridge.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

conservation buildings quiz

these buildings are found in one of the more than 70 protected areas in singapore. they are considered protected because you cannot demolish the buildings or make any unauthorised alteration to the facade of the buildings.

this area covers five roads and i counted about 127 conserved buildings altogether, mostly for residential use but some for commercial purposes.

1 where is this area?

2 it used to be a residential stronghold for a certain group of people. what was this group?

3 where did this group move to?

(no, i am not back in singapore yet. i am still some 6000km away from home.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

ang koo kueh in melbourne

when my elder daughter was expecting her first child, she had told me that she would like to have ang koo kueh and red eggs for her child's full moon celebration. i thought it would be a piece of cake because i had successfully made ang koo kueh at home in singapore. what i failed to reckon with was that not all asian things are readily available in melbourne. i hunted for the ang koo kueh mould in a number of asian enclaves like clayton, glen waverley and richmond in melbourne but could not find one. i even enlisted the help of my younger daughter, who is also here in melbourne, to try and get me one.

the other thing i had not considered was the cost of some of the requirements for making ang koo kueh. back in singapore i do not remember having to buy banana leaves to use as the base for placing the kueh. even if i had to buy, it would not cost more than a dollar. over here, unless you are in the state of queensland, banana trees are non-existent. so they have to be brought in from queensland or imported from some tropical countries. the packet of banana leaves, cut and folded, cost aus$7.50.

the first lot of ang koo kueh i made was the typical, round and flat type. somebody who saw them commented that they were not appropriate for a boy. we decided to make something more representative of a boy. my mother used to make ang koo kueh of this shape - the hokkien call it 'ang ee' and it did not require a mould. you can also buy this type of ang koo kueh, which is made for special occasions, from the confectioneries and some stalls at the market or food centre.

we made a total of about forty ang koo kueh, with two types of filling. the ones which appear darker (third photograph) were filled with peanut. the filling for the other lot was tau sar (mung bean). the peanut version was more popular with the guests. to make the dough, i used sweet potato and glutinous rice flour.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

ways of keeping cool

kampong days

the cheap and portable way is to use the straw fan (above) or the foldable paper or silk fan that can make a snapping sound, when folded or spread open. in those kampong days, when electricity was in short supply, this was the predominant way. in the past, at chinese funerals, these fans were given out to keep the mourners cool. in the present, at weddings in australia, especially those held in the open, i have seen the straw fans being presented to guests.

singapore today

the electric fan and the air-conditioner appear to be standard items in nearly every home in singapore. despite the widespread use of the air-conditioners, the electric fan still has a place in every home because it consumes less electricity.

in the 70s, the window-type of airconditioner was still the most common. its popularity declined from the 80s when the split and multi-split systems appeared on the scene. today, it is very rare to see the window-type installed in a flat, especially, in bigger flats.

melbourne, australia

i have seen this (above photo) on the roof-top of quite a number of homes here in melbourne. i had often wondered if it was meant for ventilation or it was some form of air-conditioning. i found out sometime ago that it is an alternative for air-conditioning. it is called an evaporative cooler.

an evaporative cooler is best suited for an environment with low humidity. so that rules out its use in humid singapore. its installation is relatively cheap compared to the traditional air-conditioners. it also costs much less to operate. the evaporative system is based simply on a water-pump and a fan.

so if it is cheaper to install and operate, why is there no rush to have it fixed in more homes? unlike air-conditioners which can be effective regardless of the level of humidity, the evaporative cooler depends on dry air to be effective. if humidity remains high for a few days, the moist pads (that make the evaporative coooler work) can begin to smell.

despite the fact that air-conditioners are not as environmentally friendly as the evaporative coolers, just as many people have opted to use them to keep themselves cool.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

stroller, then and now
this picture of a vintage stroller was sent to me by my blogger friend peter after he had read my blog posting on the birth of my grandson. i cannot recall seeing babies on strollers when i was young. however, seeing this photograph triggered my memory. i remember a movie in the 60s - a horror one, i believe - where a stroller or pram was prominently featured. can anyone remember the title of that movie?

if you compare today's stroller with the 1930 stroller, you will find that the modern stroller is made mainly of light-weight material. it may have more parts and more features but the weight may be lighter than the simple old stroller. the old stroller appears to be made mainly of metal and wood.

the modern stroller is collapsible; it can be folded with one hand for quick closing, so that it can be stored in the boot of a car for easy transportation. it is equipped with all-wheel suspension with a one-touch brake, just like central locking. the swivel front wheels make for better manoeuvrability. for the comfort of the baby, there is a four-position back-rest and two-position footrest. the stroller also comes with a multi-position hood with a storage pocket and a hinged front tray.

this baby car-seat which doubles as a carrier is sold as an optional item but it had to be bought because without a carrier, the baby could not be discharged from the hospital (in melbourne). just telling the hospital staff that you had a carrier in your car was not enough. you had to take it from your car and show it to the hospital adminsitration staff member. this carrier can be attached to the stroller. besides australia, i know of another country - the united states of america - where this is a requirement.

Friday, January 14, 2011

something i learnt about dandelions

one of the reasons i enjoy blogging is that i am learning new things and re-learning old things all the time. blogging is not just about sharing experiences, knowledge and any information; it is about sharing the correct information. therefore, it is important to have the information we have gathered properly verified so that we do not perpetuate some inaccurate or wrong information.

for this blog posting, i got some help from my blogger friend john harper. i had not been sure if the picture below shows the flower or the seed head.

this is what john wrote: dandelion seed heads. the seed is carried on a puff of wind a long distance from the parent plant. the name dandelion derives from the french word 'dent te lion' meaning tooth of the lion. as is usual with words taken into english, the word starts to undergo a metamorphosis through slurring, laziness and mispronounciation. hence the transformation from dent de lion in french to dandelion in english. dandelions are considered a pernicious weed in the uk despite the flower being fairly attractive. it has a long tap root that breaks when you try to dig it up. it also exudes a milky white latex like fluid that stains your hand grey. as a child we called the seed heads dandelion clocks. you blew at the seed head and counted off the times as one o'clock for one puff, two o'clock for two, etc.

i have always been fascinated by the dandelion. it was featured in one of my primary school reading texts and mentioned more than once in more than one of the many enid blyton books that i devoured when i entered secondary school. when i was in primary school, i hardly read any book other than the text books. when i was in secondary one, i was told to read more to improve my english language.

on one of our travel trips overseas - i think it was on our first trip to new zealand, we came across some dandelions by the roadside. excitedly, i picked one and blew on it to show my daughters how the tiny 'parachutes' fly in the wind. i was just doing what i had seen in an illustration in my text-book many years ago.

i always thought that the globular seed head was the flower of the plant. although i often saw the yellow flowers together with the seed heads, i did not realise the connection until i started to read up about the dandelion and checked with john. the dandelion (the seed head) actually comes from the flower of the dandelion plant. i also found out that there are false dandelions. according to john, these are called catsears.

like the cherries which i blogged about earlier, the dandelion is also a harbinger of summer. they are to be found in abundance everywhere in summer although you do see them at other times of the year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

grandson nathaniel song

of my over 20 trips to melbourne, this will be one when i will stay longest - from dec 13 2010 to jan 30 2011. i had come over on airasia, first flying to kuala lumpur low cost carrier terminal (lcct) and then connecting a flight on an airbus a330 to melbourne. it was a much more pleasant experience than the one i had on tiger airways, when i flew from singapore to darwin and from thence to melbourne. i am here for the birth of our first grandson. it is also the first grandson in the song family.

how different things are today compared to the time when we were babies. there was hardly any pre-birth purchases. my parents did not have to buy a pram or a car-seat from malaysia and carried it on a plane to melbourne. the only accessory, i can remember, we had as a baby, was the bamboo chair which we were confined in when we were about a few months old onwards.

we did not have a special bed all to ourselves. we slept on the same bed as our parents. the luckier ones might have this privilege. we did not have 'pampers', instead we used cloth diapers. change table? our bed doubled as a change table. nathaniel has 2 change tables. one in his parents' room and one downstairs, attached to the portable cot. there are also a host of other related baby stuff like a warmer for the milk, a steriliser for the bottles, a colourful gym mat, his own laundry bag and a special bath-tub.

then there are these musical mobiles to keep him entertained while he is having his feed, about to fall asleep or when he has to be left on his own for a while. all we had were the dialect lullabies that our mother or grandmother sang to us.

our mothers then did not have any resource to find out if they were pregnant. the sex of the baby was not known to the parents until the 'cart' was in their hands. today's mothers need only to administer a home pregnancy test where the result is known within minutes. a scan, carried out after the 10th week, will show quite distinctly the sex of the baby in the mother's womb.

during our time, as babies, we were confined to the house, together with our mother. nathaniel went with his parents to a shopping complex some 16km away from his home when he was barely 2 weeks old. at 2-week old, he attended his first church service. grandson nanthaniel will take his first plane flight when he is one month old, flying more than 6000km to singapore and then to kuching.

the benefits which my parents' generation did not have include pre-natal sessions for both parents and the many check-ups for the mother before the arrival of the baby. in those days, although we were breast-fed, our mothers did not have a device like the breast-pump to extract the milk, even though the pump had been invented earlier.

nathaniel was born on boxing day. he weighed 3.64kg (8.08lb) at birth.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

the 60s - the most exciting decade

on 12 april 1961, yuri gagarin became the first man to travel in space, orbiting the earth in the russian spaceship vostok 1. major gagarin became a worldwide celebrity after his 108 minute space flight. less than a year later, american astronaut john glenn made three orbits during his space voyage. then in june 1963, russian cosmonaut valentina tereshkova became the first woman to orbit the earth.

1962 saw the first appearance on the screen of the suave and multi-talented james bond. the film was a huge success. sean connery went on to star in four more james bond movies in the 60s: from russia with love (1962); goldfinger (1964); thunderball (1965); and you only live twice (1967).

in 1963, the world followed avidly the newspapers accounts of the profumo affair. the key figures were christine keeler (above picture) and john profumo, the british secretary of state for war. the scandal led to the downfall of the government of the day.

on 22 november 1963, the world was shocked by the news of the assassination of the 35th president of the united states of america, president john f kennedy. his brother robert kennedy suffered the same fate in 1968, shortly after winning the primary in his presidential campaign.

on 25 february 1964, 'the greatest' muhammad ali defeated sonny liston in a world heavyweight title fight held in miami. he was then known as cassius clay. ali described his fighting style in these words: float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. his two other well-known opponents were joe frazier and george foreman.

beatlemania swept the world in 1964. john, paul, george and ringo were mobbed everywhere they went. during their 1964 world tour, the beatles performed in hong kong but not in singapore. they did make a 55-minute stopover at paya lebar airport on 2 july 1964 en-route to london after their australia and new zealand tour.

in 1965, the united states of america sent more troops to vietnam despite mounting discontent at home. by 1968, the number of us troops in vietnam had ballooned to more than half a million.

in 1966, at the age of 73, chairman mao zedong swam in the yangtze river. at that time, he was engaged in a power struggle with lin piao and deng xiaoping. to show that he was still strong enough to lead his people, he performed this feat.

the end of the 60s saw the fulfillment of one of mankind's longest dream - to set foot on the moon. on 20 july 1969, one fifth of the world's population watched as buzz aldrin followed in neil armstrong's "giant leap" footsteps on the moon's sea of tranquility.

looking back, the 60s was indeed an exciting era. other momentous events and happenings of that decade include the march for jobs and freedom led by martin luther king jr, the hippies 'with flowers in their hair' strolling down the roads of san fancisco, the bay of pigs invasion and the woodstock festival. others may remember the death of marilyn monroe, elvis presley's marriage to priscilla beaulieu and twiggy's impact on the fashion scene.

all the above pictures came from a book i bought myself for christmas. the title of the book is 'the sixties in pictures'.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

collecting lala at venus bay

you do not always have to pay to pick or collect food in melbourne. the other day, 12 of ian's friends drove 160km to venus bay to collect the lala shellfish, which is called pipi by the local people. they came back with about 24 litres of the shellfish. venus bay is about 2 hours' drive from melbourne, heading south-east along the south gippsland highway.

a current recreational fishing licence is required by people taking or attempting to take pipis. you can apply for it on the spot, from a machine. each person is permitted to collect no more than 2 litres of pipi in the shell or half a litre without shells. harvesters have to use only their hands and feet. no form of digging implement is to be used. the pipis collected should be for personal use or consumption. some anglers use the pipi as bait.

owing to the increased levels of harvesting by recreational pipi collectors in the venus bay area, it was necessary to put in place a reduced limit. it used to be 5 litres until 2009; now, it is down to 2 litres per person.

i was told that in the past, some people would go as a group in a van and they would end up loading the van with as many as 5000 pipis or 100 litres (20 x 5l) of pipis.

lala (pipi) can be cooked in a number of ways. you can stir fry it with ginger and garlic or fry it with chilli and tomato sauce. ian's friends prepared it in a simple way - by making ginger soup.

it is advisable to soak the lala in water for sometime (say, about 15 minutes) before cooking them or you may end up eating some sediments (sand). this is especially so if you have collected the lala yourself from the surf beach.

this reminds me of the time - i think it was in the early 70s - when i visited my friend in penang and he took me to batu ferringhi beach to dig for 'siput' on the beach. i wonder if there are still 'siput' to be harvested.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

picking cherries at the farm

summer is cherry picking time and hordes of people descend upon the cherry farms at the mornington peninsula to experience the thrill and joy of picking and eating the ripe fruit off the trees. in temperate countries in the northern hemisphere, cherries ripen in june and july whereas in australia, the fruiting season is the months of november and december.

although i have taken friends and relatives to these cherry farms, i have not been inside one to pick the fruit. maybe it is because i have had enough of picking 'buah cherry' (jamaican cherry)when i was a boy. another reason could be that i am not particularly fond of cherries, sweet or sour. the third reason is the cost of picking.

different farms have different policies with regard to eating the fruit as you pick. some farms have no restriction on the amount consumed while you are on the farm while others advise that "you may taste some but it does not mean that you eat all you can". however, it is also not possible for the owner to deploy workers to check that this ruling is strictly adhered to.

for entry into the enclosed farm, most farms charge adults $10 and children, $5. the rate they charge for the amount you pick and take out depends on the prevailing market rate. at this particular farm, it was $12.90/kilo. before going to the farm to pick cherries, we had bought some at the market for $9.50/kilo. most of the cherry farms are open 7 days a week but there are some that are open for picking only on weekends.

upon payment of the entry fee you are given a pail with a plastic bag. i do not think there is a time limit. you then follow the signs to the trees which are available for picking. if the cherries are high up on the tree and beyond your reach, there are ladders around which you may use. you have to be quite gentle with cherries because they bruise easily.

what you are actually paying is for the novelty experience of picking your own cherries. you will not be likely to recoup your $10 by trying to eat as much as you can while in the process of picking the cherries. still, it makes for a good family outing in summer. anyway, children below 10 years of age are not charged any entry fee.

here are some tips on cherry picking: go to the farm early, before the crowd appears; don't wear a new shirt to go cherry picking because your shirt may get stained; look for heavy, firm cherries with a shiny skin and fresh stem; you should pick one cherry at a time and not pull down a whole bunch; pick those that are dark red or mahogany in colour - the darker the colour, the sweeter the cherry; and if you want the cherry to stay fresh longer, leave the stem intact.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

answers to old thing quiz

i came across this car at level 2 of autocare at sin ming. you can see the signal indicator called the trafficator between the two windows.

as this car was left at the workshop for either servicing or some repair work, i managed to take a picture of the large steering wheel.

this is the back view of the same car. i figure this car must have been manufactured in the late 50s or the beginning of the 60s. the vents at the rear are more the trademark of a volkswagen than a morris minor.

everybody who attempted seems to be able to identify the old thing but only don managed to get the correct term for the signal indicator. this was confirmed by victor.