Friday, November 28, 2014

Breakfast With The Kitty

29 November 2014

I'm revisiting my estimate, I think our kitten is maybe just a week or two old.  Tiny!

I went down for brekkie, had my tea and toast.  On the third cup of tea, I saw the lady from the front of the dining room, and asked about the kitten.  She said he's sleeping, she had him in a box under her desk up front.  She brought me over, and he was wide awake and meowing.  

Of course, I picked him up and cuddled him, because that's what one does with kittens, right?  He snuggled under my chin and started licking me.  So Dining Room Lady made up a new tiny bottle of kitty formula, and gave it to me.  I took the bottle and Tiny Kitty to my table and proceeded to feed him.  People came over to pet him, chat, little kids were fascinated, I ended up with a small crowd at times.  Tiny Kitty would suckle for a while, take a break, drink some more.  And eventually he fell asleep under my chin.

So I read for a while, fed him when he woke up, let him sleep some more.  I suspect he likes being held and kept warm, and feeling another heartbeat.  Just like people babies.

He woke up when I eventually put him back in his box, and Dining Room Lady said she's off work tomorrow so she's taking him home with her for the day.  She'll bring him back to the hotel on Monday.

That's the update on Tiny Kitty Chamell.  He's very sweet, very snuggly, and I wish I had a home to bring him to.  But I suspect he's going to have a very nice life at the hotel.  (The general manager came by when I was holding the kitten, and he said that the dining and kitchen staff like cats very much, so they're all taking good care of this little guy.)

Correction - the correct spelling of his name is Comel - I spelled it phonetically, but Comel is his name in Malaysian spelling.  (Which explains why everything with a "c" or "k" sound is spelled with a "k" not a "c" - apparently the c makes more of a "ch" sound.)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

We Have A Kitten

28 November 2014

I went down to breakfast as usual.  The woman who is the head of the dining room came over to me and asked if I want to see the kitten!!!!  They were able to get him out of the pillar yesterday, and they have him in a box in the kitchen - he was mewing up a storm!  She took me over to meet him - he's teeny tiny, just a wee little kitty, maybe 3 weeks old or so.  Dining Room Lady told me she went out and got formula so they are feeding him.  (I'm not sure if this is kitten formula or baby formula, but it's probably better than plain cow milk.)  He's a grey color, looks like a tiny Russian Blue, just like our sweet Cleo (who I still miss).  And he has a tiny little curled tail - many of the cats we encounter in SE Asia, including in Indonesia, have these short and kinked tails, some strange genetic mutation that the cats inherit.

Anyway, his name is something like Chamel, pronounced CHAH-mell, and it means "cute" in Malaysian.  The ladies are all doting on him, everyone seems to love him already, and they all agreed that he's a pretty color.  (And even though he's just a teeny kitten, I think he's male.)  He's adorable, and I'll get photos tomorrow.

I just hate cliffhanging endings, and wanted to give everyone the update!

A Week in the Life, and More Kitty Drama

27 November 2014

It has been a pretty mellow week, with not much to blog about, just sort of our normal day-to-day kinds of things.  But, since we're in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, well - those normal day-to-day things become adventures.

For example, Richard bought flowers for our anniversary, a lovely light purple rose with the usual greenery and some little berries.  Very pretty.  The people in our restaurant downstairs gave us a beautiful glass to use as a vase.  And it made a really lovely flower arrangement in our hotel room.

But roses don't last long in tropical weather, even with AC, and the rose wilted.  We decided we need more flowers.  Which turned into a night visit to the Petaling Street Market in Chinatown, even crazier and busier than during the day, with mobile stalls and carts crammed into the road and vendors hawking their wares.  We found the flower section, and wandered around.  I finally found the orchid section, and bought two packs of orchids (dendrobiums), each pack having five stems and priced at 5 ringgits.  So for 10 ringgits (about $3.30 US) we ended up with a gorgeous bouquet of orchids!  As I walked back through the market, the same vendors who wanted me to buy their watches/purses/hats/etc. kept asking if the flowers were for them.  (I think they think any kind of conversation will draw in buyers, I'm not sure.)

Another day, I found some great plastic and suede sandals - FitFlops, because supposedly they exercise your feet or legs or something.  I just liked the rosy red color and the girly suede flower embellishment.  Nothing major, but of course it took forever to figure out the size, and to make the transaction, and the guy at the store wanted to hear all about where we're from and where we've been.

So, the salad - isn't that a beautiful presentation?  We found the Trattoria Cucina Italiano, the same great Italian restaurant we enjoyed in Bali.  Had dinner there for our anniversary, and again the following week.  A bed of arugula tossed with olive oil, sliced pecorino cheese triangles, sliced pear drizzled with honey, chopped walnuts, on a platter drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction.  OMG so good!!!!!  

But of course, while we were at the restaurant it started raining.  As in tropical downpour raining.  And rained.  And rained.  We finished our dinner, enjoyed the complimentary chocolate cream liqueur, waited another hour, and it was still pouring.  We finally went outside, under the overhang, and tried to get the attention of the taxi (teksi) drivers on the road, so that someone would drive up to the front of the restaurant.  I ended up jumping up and down, waving my arms, in sort of a hysterical and disjointed kind of jumping jack, trying to get a taxi to notice us.  Someone finally pulled up, we shared the taxi with a nice French guy, and managed to get back to our hotel without getting soaked.  But seriously, it was crazy.

Then we went up to Genting Highlands again, with the horrible trip on the gondolas, all 4-point-whatever kilometers of hanging in the air and swinging in the breeze.  As we went uphill, it became more and more foggy, or maybe more cloudy since the hills really are that high up.  By the time we got to the hotel and casino complex on top, the valley was filled with clouds and the opposite hill was invisible.  And it was COLD!  Richard spent time in the casino, I wandered around, we had lunch, we headed back in the late afternoon.  I looked for animals from the swinging gondolas, and saw some small bright red and bright yellow birds; I think they may be scarlet minivets (the male being scarlet, the female bright yellow - both with black heads and wings).  I also saw a monkey on our way up, trying to get a coconut that was on the road; and another monkey on our way back, sitting on a rock by a roadside cafĂ©.  I guess a large part of monkey life is spent on food.

Today is Thanksgiving - Richard has his teeth all repaired/replaced, and he really wanted to test out the new teeth.  So Thanksgiving dinner was at a burger place.  (I know.)  Lunch was chicken briyani at the banana leaf place, so I'm thinking of that as our holiday dinner.  The burger, not so much.

So, the latest kitty drama.  At breakfast, I often hear a cat who visits the kitchen, where the chef and crew feed her.  Today, though, I heard a tiny kitten - and with walking back and forth to get my tea refills, I realized the little kitten meows were coming from inside the huge pillar surrounded by banquettes that is in the middle of the dining room.  I talked to a couple of our serving people, and they all said they heard the kitten, it's been living between the floors, there are several cats who seem to live in various openings in the building.  Two of the kitchen ladies sat down on the floor, talking to the kitten through the electric outlet, meowing and talking in Malaysian to little mewing kitty.  Another lady called maintenance, and two guys showed up - after a long discussion, they took off the electric outlets and everyone was jabbering and shining flashlights around, trying to find little kitty, who couldn't be found and had stopped meowing.  I figured little kitty was scared and hiding.  So they eventually closed up the outlets, and maintenance guys left.  The ladies kept tapping on the hollow pillar and meowing, trying to hear if the kitty was still in there.

I checked back in the afternoon, and the guy in charge said if the kitten talks, they'll open the outlets again and try to get it out.  (Really, they called it talking!)  But he reassured me that the mother cats go in and out of the building crawl spaces, and that the mother cat most likely came and saved the kitten.  I explained that I really like cats, so I wanted to make sure this kitty was saved, it sounded so little.  He said he likes cats too, he has a cat at home.

So it seems as if the kitchen, dining room, and maintenance staff are all on top of things, they like kittens and cats, and they'll do their best to make sure this kitty isn't stuck in the pillar.

On a side note, there has been much to-do in the newspapers and TV news about a program someone tried, to introduce Muslim people here in Malaysia to dogs.  Apparently there's a belief amongst the imams here that dogs are unclean.  (They've said this is a Muslim belief, but I've never heard of it elsewhere, so I'm not sure if this is a Malaysian belief or true for all Islamic people.)  Anyway, it has been a huge scandal, with some people calling for the organizer to be punished, others saying it wasn't a big deal since they included ritual handwashing after touching dogs.  The only reason I'm mentioning it here is that after hearing all about the dog issue, I wasn't sure how people felt about cats.  But it seems maybe cats are the house pet of choice, since dogs are considered unclean.

Anyway, it makes me hopeful for little stuck kitty, and I'll try to find out what's going on and keep you posted!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Koala Diplomacy

17 November 2014
Back in July 2013, I had a chance to visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and hold a koala, my little buddy Fitzroy.

Here's the original blog, if you'd like to see it:

Anyway, here's the salient part (how arrogant is it to quote oneself???) - I said the following:

"So, Fitzroy is one of the working koalas.  That's his job, to be cute and cuddly and photogenic.  To melt hearts and be an ambassador to the koala kingdom.  To spread koala world peace.

"Seriously, if someone could gather together all the world leaders who are fighting, bring them to Australia, and have each one hold a koala for a while, they'd absorb the zen of koala Nirvana and quit fighting.  There is something so sweet and calming and peaceful about the world of the koala, a vegetarian animal who wants nothing but leaves and sleep and a tree branch to hold.  How can life be bad when those are your only needs?  When you have a naturally cute face, and everyone expects you to be roly-poly round, with a heavy tush?  Other than natural enemies like dingoes and dogs, and humans taking away their habitat, they have a fairly simple and mellow life."

Well, apparently someone listened to me.  (I'm being facetious.)  

Seriously though, look at these photos.  The G-20 Summit leaders, all gathered in Brisbane, Australia, had a chance to hold koalas.  And look at the smiles on the faces of these world leaders - are they not delighted to hold the little koalas?  Do they not look thrilled and melting inside from all that cuddly cuteness?  How can anyone fight another country when they've held koalas together?  Not to mention the kissing koalas???

Seriously adorable.  

Plus the spouses went to Lone Pine and had their own koala holding spree, probably holding my little guy Fitzroy, who is a world class cuddler.

So apparently I've started a trend with my concept of koala diplomacy.  I just didn't give it that trendy title.  But I did have the idea, right?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My Own Lion Dancers

15 November 2014

I've created several projects to keep me busy while we're in KL - Richard has been busy with his dental stuff, I was busy with writing the various travel fashion articles, and I decided I needed to add in an art project as well. 

Some of you might remember that I did several batiks at a place in the Central Market - the staff at this shop draw items in wax resist on fabric, and people can pay for a square which they then fill in with dye.  Great fun, and a wonderful souvenir that you make yourself.

I asked the last time we were in KL if they had any lion dance designs.  No, the young man who does the wax resist said, they don't.  Well, of course, I would just have to make my own.

So using the photos I took at the International Lion Dance on Stilts competition in Penang, back in the spring, I sketched a few lion dancers.  Or maybe lions, since each lion is made of two people in costume.

Finally, I had to lions I liked, looking fierce and lionish.  And Asian.

I walked over to the market and chatted with Mr Drawing Guy.  Showed him my two drawings, and his face lit up.  I suspect he wasn't expecting them to look good.  (I think they look quite good, if I do say so myself.  Most art teachers can draw just about anything.  It's why we went into art as a subject area.)

I explained that I probably drew them too big to go side by side, I tend to fill paper.  So I suggested that they sort of overlap, as if they're two lion cubs playing, or one is ready to pounce on the other one.  And I gave him a layout sketch, with some wavy lines in the background, saying I wasn't sure what to do with the background, maybe just some simple lines, but he was free to do whatever he thought would look good.

So we settled on a day, and I went back to paint in the dye.  And WOW, he did an amazing job!  Looks great!  With a phenomenal background that shows Malaysia's cultural blend of Chinese and Indian traditions.  It probably is busy for western tastes, but I love it, it's so wild and tropical and exuberant and typical of the batiks in this part of the world!

I meant to take a photo of the white fabric with the wax drawing, but I was so excited about the background, I just went ahead and painted on the dye.  Had a fabulous afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed my two hours in the studio.  People came and went, the afternoon storm came and went, thunder boomed and roared and torrents of rain came down outside.  But I was in my creative zen state of mind, and it was all just background sound.  Even sudden crashes of thunder didn't make my hand jump or tremble.

So.  Much.  Fun.

Of course, I told the staff that they can keep the sketches and use them for the shop.  Then I suggested they needed to add my name to them, and everyone laughed.

It was a great afternoon.  I think I need to go back again.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

From Roti to Rachmaninoff

9 November 2014

 We've had a pretty low-key week, with Richard having a few dental visits and both of us getting around KL despite the daily rain.  Nothing major going on, just the usual stuff one does in a city - shopping, walking, reading, trying new places to eat, all that.

On Saturday, there was what the hotel staff called a "carnival" right outside the hotel, in the parking lot.  There were a variety of stalls (a table under a party tent) with food, and some people doing gymnastics on metal bars they put up - again, under a tent because it was raining most of the morning.

So I tried a new food item, roti jala.  Which comes with a nice spicy chicken curry.  The roti part, the bread, was sort of a spongy pancake thing - I watched the women making it, and they use a cup with spouts on the bottom to pour multiple drizzles of batter on a griddle, in a big circle; after one side is cooked, the thing is rolled up into a sort of lacy pancake cigar thing.  Pretty tasty.  Some people ate the roti jala mixed in the chicken curry, but I like my bread dry.

There was also a stage with local celebrities singing along with what was essentially a karaoke machine.  Everyone except us seemed to know who the guy was, and they sang along with him.  The two of us especially liked when he had a few guys join him on the stage, two with soccer balls and one doing yoyo tricks.  No idea if the song was about soccer or what.  It was just rather bizarre.

But the absolute best were these two guys who were selling home-made tie dyed tee shirts that were riffs on the Malaysian flag - just really great designs!  They were happy to pose for me, along with their cardboard cutout model friend.  I loved it!

Today, Sunday, we went to the Rachmaninoff Rocks concert at the Petronas Philharmonic Hall.  Really, the concert was publicized as Rachmaninoff Rocks.

Okay, before I get into the concert - first, the concert hall is beautiful.  The lobby area has an inlaid floor with geometric arcing lines making almost a flower pattern, in alternating metal and stone inlay.  The design doesn't even look like it's on the floor!  The various chandeliers are the same shape as the Petronas towers, the interlocking squares forming multi-point stars.

Inside the concert hall, it's all warm teak and soft lighting, with a huge central light fixture that's essentially concentric circles of lights embedded in the ceiling.  The rest of the ceiling has diagonal lines of lights that form geometric constellations criss-crossing their way over the whole hall.

There are the usual seats on the ground level, and boxes along both sides, on three levels.  Along the back of the hall, facing the stage, there are two levels of boxes, and a huge central box reserved for royalty - the Sultan of Malaysia, we presume.

Richard and I splurged on the top circle box, right of center, with two seats in the front row, all the way to the left.  Absolutely wonderful seats, with a great view of the entire stage, and fabulous sound, all for the middle price.  There didn't seem to be any microphones or amplification, just the natural acoustics of the concert hall.  And our whole box, which normally seats maybe about 30 people, only had three of us - Richard, me, and some other guy who sat a few seats down.  That was it.  So it felt almost like a private box.  It was lovely!

Oh, photos of the interior are all lifted from online, since photography is strictly forbidden.  Our sweet little usher had to tell everyone that as they entered.  She and I had a nice chat before the concert started, since she didn't have much to do, with only the three of us in this quadrant of the concert hall.  (And I had the ladies room all to myself, absolutely no line!!!!)

So, the orchestra was heavy on strings, with small wind, brass, and percussion/tympani sections.  The musicians seemed to be maybe half from this part of the world, and half from European ancestry.  They all wore black and white, the string instruments were all warm wood colors similar to the wall panels, and the brass and drum sections were all bright and shiny golden.

The pieces they played were:
The Rock, Opus 7 - composed in 1893 - hence the title of the concert - this is one of Rachmaninoff's earliest works, taking its title from a Russian poem about a little cloud spending the night on a giant mountain crag.  So the music sounds like a dark and stormy night rolling in, with the lilting flute melody sounding more like a bird than the golden cloud of the poem.  Big kettle drum thunder, plucking bass and cello string rain, horns heralding dawn - it was all there.  (The concert notes say that the poem is an allegory taken from Chekhov's story "On The Road," in which crags and clouds symbolize an older man and a younger woman who meet briefly at a roadside inn.)

Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Opus 40 - composed in 1926, so there are parts with Rachmaninoff's signature dissonance, a reminder that he's a relatively modern composer.  Not enough dissonance to make your ears cringe and eyes water, just enough to know that he's not of the same school as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, or Tchaikovsky.  This concerto featured the French pianist Alain Lefevre, who was fabulous on the grand piano and with all the passion and intensity one would expect from a French pianist.  Parts were soft and melodic, other movements clashed and crescendoed, and I swear there was a musical earthquake in the middle of the piece.  Seriously, the piano rumbled like nothing I've heard, the other instruments joined in, and I was convinced the building rattled and there were aftershocks, that's how sudden and intense the music became.  Our friendly pianist, Monsieur Lefevre, said a few words after the concerto, and gave us a little encore of Chopin.

And then the interval, or intermission, where I went for a walk up and down our empty corridor, and then chatted with our usher some more.

Third piece:  Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Opus 44 (1936) - this symphony alternates between Rachmaninoff's dark, melancholic, quintessentially Russian passion and softer, melodic, lyrical passages.  I especially liked one section in the second movement where the violas and cellos were the only instruments playing, enveloping us with their rich warmth; then the French horns came in, brassier but still full-bodied in sound.  Then the violins joined in, taking over the melody like the prima donna sopranos they are.  Each instrument had their own short solo, maybe with the exception of the sad tuba.  And there was a gong in the middle, a big loud gongongong sound, absolutely unexpected and not in keeping with the usual symphonic style, which is rather typical of Rachmaninoff's surprises.

So all in all a wonderful concert, we had a great time, and really enjoyed the quality of sound at our seats.  I also felt rather la-di-da having an almost private box.

And if the dental work takes longer, there's a concert in early December that we'd both like to attend - now that we know where to sit!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fashion for Women Forty and Beyond

3 November 2014

My first article is published!  (Okay, and it's my first paid article, too!)

Along with my new bio picture, from Japan!

SO excited!  SO exciting!!!

I have a few more articles that will come out over the next several months, so I'll keep everyone posted.

Woohooo!!!!  Maybe I'll get a second career going!