From Malaysia to Melbourne and now Michigan, sharing my experiences, tales and passions with anyone who will listen (or read)!

Month: August, 2014

Am I biased?

O.M.G. I am IN LOVE. And it’s completely unexpected. It’s not what you think…

Through most of my schooling in Malaysia, there was a subject called (loosely translated) Living Skills or Life Skills. It was a mandatory subject for every student and covered things like woodwork, wiring, gardening, and sewing. I took to the first 2 with gusto, and the 3rd I managed to pass on the goodwill of my friends because I didn’t (and still don’t) don’t have a green thumb. As for sewing, well, my tomboy rebellious teenaged self in an all girls’ school thought, ‘I’m not doing that. Why would I need to sew? They’re just trying to domesticate me and I won’t fall for that!’. Clearly, I didn’t see it that way when it came to cooking! Do you see the flawed logic of that teenager? 🙂

Fast forward 15 years and not only have I learnt to sew, I actually enjoy it. I’m still at a beginner level but I love having a physical final product.

But back then, it was a different story altogether and this memory illustrates it perfectly. I remember the scene like it was yesterday: our assignment for the term was to make an apron. Now, this shouldn’t have been hard – the whole class was doing it / mainly straight lines / finished off with bias binding – but my care/interest factor: ZERO. Nada. Zilch. It didn’t help that the fabric was this horrible orange-bright pink-yellow flowery polyester blend thing and the bias trim was, from memory, an equally horrendous pink. I wore clothes that were predominantly navy blue, black, and white, thank you very much. We were also in the afternoon session so some of these classes were late in the evening in a poorly lit room, sometimes with the tropical monsoon rain banging down on the tin roofs bringing relief from the humidity…great time to doze off especially when you can’t hear the teacher over the rain… really old Singer sewing machines and slide-in bobbins that I could never work out… the thread would bundle up and jam on me… oh, it just wasn’t working. At all.

Days before I was due to hand in the assignment, I asked my mum if we could get some help with the apron. I still had my main apron piece, the front center pocket and the bias completely detached from each other. (Whoops.) We didn’t have a sewing machine at home at the time, so even though mum knew how to sew, she couldn’t help in that way. She did however pick up the phone to phone a friend (get it?) who was an interior designer and we drove over to this friend’s shop. We chatted with her for the next hour, while one of her workers SEWED THE APRON FOR ME. That’s right. I cheated and got an A! Thanks Mum! 😉

Earlier this week, I watched a video by the supertalented Dana at danamadeit about making bias binding. Bias binding is kind of like a strip of fabric you use to add a trim to clothes (like here and here). There are other great uses for it, but this is one of the most obvious examples if you don’t sew. You can easily buy them pre-packaged in a store, but these may not necessarily match your fabric, so an alternative is to make it yourself. I have read tutorials online on how to DIY-it but it always seemed too complicated. Until I watched this video. Dana made it look SO EASY I just had to give it a go! So off I went to buy me a bias tape maker. I also found some cute fat quarter fabric on sale. And this morning I attempted it and that, my friends, is when MY LIFE CHANGED.


Can you belive this? CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?? I can’t.

Ok, let’s be honest. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. I started off with seams like these:


And my perfectionist side went, ARGH!!! That’s not acceptable.

Then my other, more rationale side said, You dufus. It’s going to be folded in anyway so WHO CARES? (See, I have developed a more rationalse side in the last 15 years. Still developing, though). I tried to get it as close to lined up as possible, but relaxed my standards a bit. I’m sure I’ll get better at it… *Fingers crossed*!


You know what’s crazier? This fabric has pink in it. PINK!!


The Woodward Dream Cruise

I’m not a big ‘cars’ person. Sure, I love looking at nice cars, and I have my opinions on what I like the look of, and what I don’t. But ask me what (classic) car model something is, or what’s so special about it, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Which doesn’t help when you live in Motor City! I wish I could say all that changed when we saw all these beautiful cars at the Woodward Dream Cruise last weekend, but alas, I can’t!

But I will say this, there were some awesome cars there and I can’t believe the fantastic condition that some of those were in. Some ran so quietly, others had beautiful upholstery (I’m guessing some had been upholstered). There was a lot to see and admire that weekend. Not just the cars, but the dedication with which their owners approached the restoration/preservation of the vehicles. I could also imagine that some of the older couples were in cars that they probably went on their first date in or which were their first family cars. Very cute.

I’m sure many visitors to the Cruise were also dreaming of owning one of these babies!

So, being completely useless at knowing what the cars are, I’ll just post some of the best photos that I have from the weekend. Enjoy!



This move has brought many changes to our lives (duh, picking up our lives and moving to the furthest point of the world possible) and granted, not all these changes are easy – leaving friends and family behind, established relationships, careers, selling the beautiful home we had only recently bought – but I shouldn’t complain. Yes, the move has had its challenges, but we are lucky in that we have essentially been given the opportunity to live in a different country, and it was essentially a lifeline. Without this opportunity, it is likely that we would have been down to one income with a large mortgage, and my husband would probably have had to retrain in a different field in order for us to stay in Melbourne. But here we are instead, with a great group of people that we like, who are going through a similar experience, and we are not as alone as some other families who move to a new country may be.

I say this because I recently came across an article that reminded me how lucky we are. Read it here.

Yes, we are lucky. We moved to Detroit, found a house that we liked within a week, and bought it. 5 days after moving in, Michigan had its heaviest ever rainfall in one day, causing flooding everywhere and chaos. Some photos from the Detroit Free Press can be seen here (whether they are in fact the ’10 most astounding photos’ of the floods, I’m not really convinced but it does give you a good idea of what happened). We arrived home to find a leak in our basement, water seeping out from one of the beams, and best of all, water coming into the main power box in our basement, via an insulation tube that was connected to something outside the house. Dangerous, much?! That discovery was really scary. As we carried our belongings (still in boxes) upstairs, I felt bummed, thinking, how could this happen? Has it happened before? If so, why didn’t the previous owners fix it? Why would they sell the house with such a dangerous situation for someone else to deal with?

IMG_20140815_104325The next day, driving around the neighbourhood, I realised that other people had it far worse than we did. Furniture, black garbage bags full of belongings, were being disposed of, damaged by the water in their basements. Here are some ways we were lucky that night:

My husband had to return our rental car that night. He left work at 5 pm as roads began to flood in certain areas. He managed to get return the rental car just on time, despite the traffic and making a couple of detours to get around badly flooded roads. Had he not had to do this errand, he may have stayed at work later and not been able to get home. We didn’t lose the rental car or our brand new car in the flood, as many people did 😦

Other basements actually flooded. In ours, I think the water wasn’t able to pool due to 2 drainage holes in the floor that had been left uncovered. Any water that came through made its way via the sloping floors towards these 2 drainage holes. The uneven floor had previously bothered my husband and he had planned to seal them up. I don’t think we will anymore…

Our belongings were still in the boxes they were shipped in, so all we needed to do was pick those boxes up and move them to higher ground, whereas if we had unpacked and had an ‘occupied’ basement, as most families do, we might not have been able to clear our belongings out quickly enough.

The water coming through the mains power board didn’t short circuit our house, a fact that I find REMARKABLE considering how much water was dripping out of that box!

SO. I am grateful. Back to our new house in general, the next time I think that our kitchen is too small, I will remind myself at least I HAVE a working kitchen and a roof over our heads. That that leaky mains didn’t spark and cause greater damage. That we found out about the leaks before embarking on a big project of refurbishing the basement. Imagine if we had done that and then having it flooded or rained out afterwards. And that this has given us the nudge that we needed to work on the basement sooner rather than later. 

More broadly, it was a timely reminder to look at the positives and not dwell on the negatives, which is sometimes easier to do.

Positives so far today: 4 people said hi or smiled as I walked past them this morning. 2 were kids with their backs to me as they were playing. I walked past them without a word but they looked up when they heard footsteps and called out ‘hi!’ as I walked past. What a friendly bunch. I think I’m going to like our new neighbourhood.

2nd positive: Found Bundaberg Ginger Beer in a store less than 10 minutes from home. Score!

Have a great weekend everyone! Hope YOU find lots of things to smile about. I’m looking forward to the Woodward Cruise tomorrow!


Dine: Satay House

For me, no process of exploring a new city and country would be complete without sampling the local fare. Since arriving in the US and Michigan 2 months ago, we have been out trying many cafes and restaurants, particularly on weekends. There have been memorable meals, and there have been some we’d like to forget more quickly than our brains would let us. Yet there is one place that we have returned to time and again in the short time that we have been here.

It seemed both ironic and fitting that my first review should be about a Malaysian cafe – ironic because I am in the US; in some ways I am almost as far from my parents as I could be. Fitting because I am, after all, Malaysian, and if there is one cuisine that I feel passionate about, it is Malaysian food. And while I get my head around what constitutes great ‘American’ food, I thought this would be a good place to write about. Because I think Satay House deserves the attention.

This place was recommended to us by my husband’s colleague. We looked it up online, read the handful of reviews it had already received, and decided to try it out. We were not disappointed. The menu prices are extremely reasonable, the food pretty authentic, and the service was no-frills but genuine. This review is of one of our recent visits, but I have tried all these dishes on different occasions (greedy? who, me? well, I never!).

Spring Rolls Satay House - Roti CanaiFor appetizers, we had the vegetarian spring rolls – hot, crispy skin with lots of shredded vegetables in them. Beautiful. Make sure you eat them while they are hot. We also had the roti canai – my husband orders this every time we go to Satay House. As you can see in the photo, he couldn’t wait for me to take the photo before he dug in 🙂 Roti canai does not typically come in a cone shape in Malaysia (there is a sweeter variation to roti canai in Malaysia that is served in this way) but this is nonetheless good. It comes with a small bowl of potato curry that could be slightly thicker. Tip: Use your hands to eat the roti. Makes for a much more authentic experience 😉

Salted FFR Nasi Lemak Indian Mee Goreng Curry Mee Yong TauhuI hadn’t had Salted Fish Fried Rice for quite a while and when I saw it on the menu, the thought of the salted fish shredded and spread throughout fried rice made me salivate instantly. Satay House’s version had a healthy dose of salted fish in it – and at $8.50, was a serving large enough for 2-3 people.

We also ordered Achat (alternatively spelt acar or achar), a pickled vegetable dish. This version was not as strong or vinegary as the ones back home, but that suited me just fine. It added a lovely crunch to my dinner.

The Nasi Lemak: lovely coconut-y rice, spicy sambal, and chicken curry. The only thing missing from this dish is the fried anchovies.

The Indian Mee Goreng is a slightly wet noodle dish flavoured with some spices, a generous lashing of vegetables, bean sprouts, potato, tofu and egg. On this ocassion, our dining companion had requested a vegetarian version. The non-vegetarian version has shrimp through it. Make sure you add a good squeeze of the slice of lime that comes with it. Tangy goodness, I tells ya.

Curry Mee Yong Tauhu is probably a lesser-known dish in comparison to most of the above. Yong Tauhu refers to a type of dish where vegetables such as eggplant, okra/lady’s finger, chillies (not peppers) and firm tofu or tofu puffs are stuffed with fish paste or meat paste. It is usually then served in a broth with fishballs and/or beefballs. Alternatively, it can be served with egg noodles in a curry broth such as this. The curry broth is typically thicker than Satay House’s but I’m not a big fan of the thick sort of broth so I was quite happy with this slightly lighter version. So purists of Malaysian food, be warned! Satay House’s version also came with bean curd skins. I’m sure that doesn’t sound very appealing to most of you, but once it soaks up the curry broth, you get curry broth goodness in every mouthful. Makes me hungry just thinking about it!

For all the times that I’ve been to Satay House, I haven’t been able to try the dessert menu. Why? Because I have just been too full from the appetizers and main dishes. The portions here are very generous, and I usually have leftovers for lunch the next day. Even if you have a bigger appettite than I do, you won’t leave Satay House hungry!

They don’t deliver, but you can order online for pickup or even ‘Express Dine In’. How awesome is that!


Satay House | 31101 Dequindre Rd, Madison Heights, MI 48071 | Phone: (248) 588-1738 | Open 10am to 10pm 7 days a week | http://www.satayhousemadisonheights.com/

New home and… our own internet!

We have finally moved into our new home and, although we have yet to unpack quite a few boxes because of a lack of furniture to put our belongings in, it feels fantastic to have a place to call our own after 2 months of living out of a rental.

Here are a couple of choice shots of our home, before all the STUFF got moved in 🙂 I love the booth in the kitchen.


And of the chaos in the yard as the movers unpacked LOL:

Also, we finally have our own internet!! Woot!! It took some work to get comcast to cooperate, but we (or rather, my husband) finally did it. We’ve been on a shared network for the last couple of months and I wasn’t too keen on doing too many things on a shared network, and felt really restricted. Now it’s like I have my freedom back! So, expect more posts in the coming days 🙂

Because we’ve been busy preparing for this move, I haven’t had much time to sew. Or bake. Or exercise. We’ll have to do some work around the house, but hopefully I’ll have some time to do all the things I’ve been missing. So looking forward to getting my Etsy store up and running again!

For this evening however, I’ll write up my next post: my first food review!