over the hill

Now, that phrase can be rather misleading.

And this is something I had come to learn last November 2013 as I made my way by foot from the junction of South Terrace and South Street where the free Fremantle Blue CAT bus service had let me off (bus stop #7) towards the Challenger Institute of Technology.

Stopping every 500 metres or so, I was greeted with the same response, “over the hill. To your right, across the oval”.

Well, what would have been helpful was if I had been told that it’s a BIG hill – somehow the art of describing how strenuous and challenging the different hills one has to encounter on foot is something only the residents of San Francisco has it refined to the ‘t’.

What’s interesting is my mother has over the course of 5 years or so been trying to make the ‘perfect’ San Francisco sourdough bread.

Having left the ‘brick’ stage some time back with the help of online forums, countless of hours spent on YouTube videos, and many, many guinea pigs who has been or lived in San Francisco as testers, the phase of inconsistent results of ‘blisters’, ‘open crumbs’ and ‘ears’ continues to haunt her.

This resulted first with amassing a collection of sourdough or levain publications by the “who’s of who” of baking, followed by stalking self-proclaimed local artisan bakers, to eventually combing farmers markets of Europe and begging strange Swiss, Italian and French men covered in powdery white substances to Pilates professional moonlighting as organic artisan bakers for private lessons.

Almost giving up hope, a lovely Australian man – Derek – responded to her email queries, agreeing to provide her with some lessons one fine day.

The respond was timely with a last minute visit I had planned for after receiving news of an old family friend who is terminally ill in Perth.

Needless to say our laborious hike up South Street was well worth the visit and the very fact that we had traveled all the way from Kuala Lumpur gave us not only automatic access to the Challenger Institute of Technology premises after hours but an escorted tour around by the security personnel on duty.

Derek on first impression was unassuming and friendly.

While waiting for the rest of the ‘friends and family’ who would be joining the baking session that evening, I went about taking the roots off some onions that would be used later, while he went about answering my mothers ‘technical’ questions.

With the party ensemble at the agreed upon time, class started with Derek explaining the lesson plan for the night and put a batch of flour, sourdough starter and other base ingredients for the white bread with tumeric, feta and onion sourdough; one of three breads that we would make that evening, into a larger mixing bowl.

As the dough was getting a good workout in the industrial sized stand mixer, Derek produced loaves of risen 50% wholemeal with home brewed stout and torrified wheat that he had made earlier in the day, and went about describing the technique of slashing. Once we had all had our rounds of slashing 2 to 3 loaves each, Derek went about preparing the loaves with a glaze before baking them.

Between sips of the left over home brewed stout, the feta cubes and diced onions were folded into the tumeric dough over three intervals of stretch and bench rests before being shaped and dropped into foil tins that allows easy transportation, as they were to be baked on our own the next day.

With drinks drained very quickly from the plastic cups, Derek then got us busy with a quick rise white bread with black sesame which were eventually shaped into numerous shapes and sprinkled with not only black sesame but white sesame and poppy seeds.

Smelling of earthy fresh baked bread, we returned to the hotel renewed with energy and hope.

Here’s a BIG thanks to Derek for his generosity and kindness.

But more importantly for showing that when it comes to sourdough, you can’t seem to be over-the-hill – it takes little strength and effort, and it can be one of the most forgiving bread to make.




why i love plane rides

My day-to-day 6am to 12am life is hectic. This includes the weekends where time is split between family, passion and giving.

I don’t hang-out (for the heck of it). I don’t space out (you get to do that when dementia sets in). I don’t watch the idiot box or the big silver screens. I don’t admire the work of visual merchandisers – I shop only when I absolutely need to. I don’t read novels or newspapers, and almost never leaf through coffee table books and leisure/ hobbyist/ fashion magazines.

Everything for me is delivered in summaries – ESPN highlights, TIME/ Newsweek (which is presently on the back burner due to their pro-US news and nothing else – much the same case as National Geography which I have stopped over the last 3 years when I was fed-up of reading the 50th version of the Pharoah in Egypt over the last 20 years of my life), RSS feeds of all news channels and Tweets of select authors, economists and anyone who has something useful to say. If I need to know more if something intrigues me, I deep dive.

So plane rides are liberating experiences for me. It’s the only time I sit back and catch up on movies.

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I’ve had this Yann Martel‘s book for a few years now. One of those RM14.99 bargain bin finds. Flipped a few pages and thought, yes, I could read this, not knowing whether it was more Indian, British or French judging by the author’s name and the story of a boy from Pondicherry.

Speaking of names, just so you know Piscine Molitor exist for real – it is an abandoned swimming pool complex located in Porte Molitor, 16th arrondissement of Paris, Île-de-France. And Richard Parker is by far the most famous (as in frequently adopted) name by authors in shipwreck related stories; victims mostly.

I never got around completing the Life of Pi, even on long road trips or train trips, simply because I’ve taken on the bizarre (by my own standards) taste for Robert Ludlum‘s thriller novels, day dreaming of a career as a spy. In addition, (and if I could say more inline with my character of being a  masochist) I’d bring along boring, outdated classical literature by the likes of Leo Tolstoy, J.D. Salinger, Emily Brontë,  Fyodor Dostoevsky, F. Scott Fitzgerald,  Charles Dickens, Anton Chekhov … trudging along in most cases, determine to complete the books before the trip is done and dusted.

It also never crossed my mind once to even watch the movie; figuring it will be in the same league as the Flight Plan (although, I’ve not watched Flight Plan either) from the perspective that one involves being film on an airplane and another on a lifeboat floating adrift.

But with nothing really exciting to watch – I typically go for drama (if audio is good), romantic comedy (coz is fluffy and entertaining) and action (only if there’s a Gerard Butler, Vin Diesel, Robert Downey Jr, Hugh Jackman, Matt Damon, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino …) – the Life of Pi was a no brainer choice.

Ang Lee did a good job injecting surrealism along the way by means of projecting Pi’s thoughts that otherwise would not have been possible. Since it’s really a story of questionable realism with heavy theological undertones throughout the length of the story – I can’t tell if “god” was said more than “Richard Parker”  though this seems academic as Richard Parker symbolically represents something larger than life, and definitely more than a Bengal tiger.

In any case, I somehow felt that M. Night Shyamalan had a hand in creating the twist at the end of the movie; perhaps as a creative director/ consultant. This is me and my own obsession with M.Night Shyamalan of course, that brought me to Pondicherry pondering what’s so cheery about a place with some remnants of French architecture on one side of a typical Indian town divided by a huge garbage choked monsoon-like-looking-drain, some years back.  Without digressing further, I took it upon myself to find a copy of the Life of Pi in a bookshop in Subiaco, plonked my ass down and read the last bit. The end, was not a Yann Martel thing. And definitely not an Ang Lee movie director thing – from as far as I can tell.

Being the geek I am (and thanks to free wifi), I promptly google-d reviews which appears to be like me, fixated with the ending. However, unlike me, the fixation is a tat different, taking on the theology course, daring us humans to make a choice that has a direct reflection on how we as individuals view the world, our lives and issues that are larger than life.

The end for me on a personal level was when Richard Parker proceeded on without even a backwards glance or an ear twitch when they both landed on the Mexican beach. By then, I’ve had my glasses down on my lap, shamelessly wiping my uncontrollable tears with the back of both my hands!

I started crying (not sobbing) publicly when Richard Parker laid limp on Pi’s lap as he coax the poor furry bugger to have a drink of fresh water.

I have to say I quite like how the end ended, save to the point where Pi’s woman (of his dreams) appears with their children! which by the way I don’t recall him having a love interest in the book before his family set sail.

Oh well, it was a good break from my normal routine. As for the movie, I won’t necessarily rank it high. It really doesn’t matter since it’s moons now and most would have watched it.

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courtesy MAS inflight entertainment KUL-PERTH

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Travel Tips 101: Victoria {my 2nd Home} in a Rush …

{in a ‘RUSH’ because: I am juggling this request – ahem! yes, feel guilty – with work work work and a bad bad flu that has lingered on way too long … sapping my energy … and also in a ‘RUSH’ because … (read below)}

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Ok. I thought I had better start this off with a big RED BLAZING WARNING!!! 
You have to be absolutely MAD (institutionalized insane mad) to do this itinerary … or unless you are ‘married to the brand’ like we are in the Bank*!

And here’s why I’m saying it’s insane.
First, the base is (1) – Melbourne. The areas that my friend would like to cover in 7-and three quarters days are:
(5) Phillip Island – for the penguins,
(6) Great Ocean Road (GOR),
(9) Mt. Buller – skiing,
(3) Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, and
(1) Melbourne of course.

For me, GOR is best done on an overnight trip with some light trekking involved and Mt. Buller is a 3D/2N (ideal) or (at the very least) a 2D/1N.

Also note that it is CRIMINAL to expose one self to the elements along the GOR and Philip Island, this time of the year … so do this in Spring … and just so you know Australia is Down Under and yes, the weather is up-side-down which means its freaking bone chilling Winter. The winter gets worse along the coastal fronts with chilling winds blowing from the Antarctic. Sure, you’d have the beaches to yourself, but it will be deserted windswept beaches.

{you bet I am enjoying this – coz he is so stubborn!}


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Day 1 (Saturday)
Flight arrives @ Tullamarine Airport 11:10 am

Collect rented car (with GPS!) @ Airport

settle-in Melbourne CBD 
2 hours drive to Phillip Island 
{!!! advance ticket bookings needed. Recommended “Penguin Plus” tickets. Click HERE to buy !!!}



Day 2 (Sunday)
1-day coastal and farmland drive to Great Ocean Road
(stop along this rugged coast line to visit “The Shipwreck Coast”, The Huge Stone Monoliths of the Twelve Apostles, Island Arch, Razorback and Loch Ard Gorge)

{ !!! stop at Gibson´s Steps for stunning view of the Twelve Apostles from the water´s edge !!! }


Day 3 (Monday)
Easy, late drive to Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges 
visit Healesville Sanctuary wildlife park
Ride on the Puffing Billy
Vineyard visit and wine tasting



Day 4 (Tuesday)
Early morning drive to Mt. Buller

Explore Mt Buller Alpine Village
Explore the mountain using sightseeing chair lift
Fun in the Snow

Beginner’s Skiing Lessons

Drive back to Melbourne and return rented car


.Day 5 (Wednesday)
 around Melbourne CBD | Cosmopolitan Sights

Federation Square
Melbourne Cricket Ground (National Sports Museum)
Fitzroy Garden
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Little Bourke Street (Chinatown)
Old Melbourne Goal
Royal Exhibition Building

Lygon Street


. Day 6 (Thursday)

around Melbourne CBD | Waterfront


Eureka Skydeck 88 
 Southbank – Yarra Promenade – Crown Entertainment Complex 
St. Kilda Esplanade – Luna Park – Fitzroy St. (St. Kilda)



 Day 7 (Friday)
 around Melbourne CBD | Shopping & Bargain Hunting!

Individual Branded Warehouse Shopping @  Bridge Road, Richmond
Shoes! Shoes! Shoes! @ Swan Street, Richmond
DFO @ Spencer Street, Melbourne CBD
Sportsware and Quirky shopping @ Smith Street, Fitzroy & Collingwood
Eclectic clothes, bookshops, designer jewelery shops and interesting one-off boutiques @ Brunswick Street, Fitzroy 

{ !!! click on http://www.streetsonline.com.au/ for real life view of streets !!! }


Day 8 (Saturday)
 Flight departs Tullamarine Airport midnight
 around Melbourne CBD | Markets 

Shop at Queen Victoria Market
Bourke Street Mall
Arcades & Lanes

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for {tips} + my POV


click HERE for Melbourne and its surroundings

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Melbourne Victoria Tourism

{a quick and informative guide about Victoria, Australia}


{guide to public transport in Melbourne and Victoria}

{life street views}

{informative and updated events in Melbourne as well as download-able brochures and maps}


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.*(i) totally, insanely committed and devoted to the job, (ii) reports to a pain in the rear boss that is (i)