Hot days and cool drinks…. excuses, excuses…

We’re now coming up to our second Christmas in Malaysia and I realised that I had hardly written anything this year. There are so many reasons why… time seems to slip by and we’ve been busy

Pantai Cenang, Langkawi
Pantai Cenang, Langkawi

We’ve been travelling around Malaysia… exploring beautiful beaches

Kuala Selangor
Kuala Selangor

and being punted down the river at night to watch fireflies...

Singapore - Marina Bay
Singapore – Marina Bay

I drive to Singapore every few weeks to see my best friend from my teenage years and we try out roof top bars to see where we get the best view

Elephant sanctuary at Kuala Gandah
Elephant sanctuary at Kuala Gandah

We’ve taken our friends to the elephant sanctuary, where you can help bathe baby elephants in the river

Batik painting
Batik painting

and I’ve taken up batik painting at the Kraf Kompleks in the centre of KL

Mei King Fatt crabs, Ampang
Mei Keng Fatt crabs, Ampang

We’ve gorged on amazing crabs

Jalan Alor
Jalan Alor

and we always take our visitors to Sun Chui Yuen on Jalan Alor, the famous street of food off Bukit Bintang, where you eat outside at plastic tables, using melamine tableware… but the food is five star.


.. we breakfast at Raju’s, where roti canai, chicken and squid are eaten from banana leaves.

It’s not all eating out. I have cooked at home

Eating in
Eating in

where we can relax

Night view from the balcony, looking at the Petronas Towers
Night view from our balcony, looking  over the city towards the Petronas Towers

and enjoy the view with our after dinner drinks.

But cooking at home has taken a back seat really,  with all of the other things we do.

And it’s so hot! My kitchen is always over 85 degrees. All I want to do is relax and drink cold drinks. I bought a day bed so I can keep cool under the fan…

Day bed... for thinking on
Day bed… for thinking on

… it’s where I relax and read and think about writing things up, but mainly, I have to say,  it’s where I just relax.

I was there one day when I read about  Cakeyboi’s delicious Vanilla Bean Lemonade and realised that would be perfect, just perfect, for drinking as I idled an afternoon away. When he described it as “almost like drinking lemon meringue pie’  I knew I had to make it.


I had four beautifully juicy, organic and unwaxed lemons that squeezed out at least 125ml of sharp and aromatic juice

90g of sugar
90g of sugar

Sweetness was needed, so 90g of sugar was weighed out

90ml of water with the sugar added
90ml of water with the sugar added

… and heated with 90ml of water to make a simple, pure syrup, which once everything was dissolved and the mix was clear,  was left to cool completely.

Lemon juice...and vanilla bean paste
Lemon juice…and vanilla bean paste

I have a beautiful, old glass water jug that was perfect for this – the lemon juice was added and two teaspoons of vanilla bean paste was added to that

Whisking in the vanilla
Whisking in the vanilla

and then the  vanilla was whisked into the lemon juice

Adding the syrup
Adding the syrup

… then the cooled, clear syrup added…

...topping up with sparkling water
…topping up with sparkling water

When you’re ready to drink it, top up with sparkling water…

Vanilla bean lemonade
Vanilla bean lemonade

… and you’re ready to serve.

Vanilla seeds fleck the surface
Vanilla seeds fleck the surface

It’s so beautiful… the vanilla seeds fleck the drink

Vanilla bean lemonade
Vanilla bean lemonade

And the taste? Sweet and sharp, deep and rich… perfect for a hot day.

Perfect to serve to our guests who don’t drink alcohol but who need something more exciting than a glass of water.





… and perfect for me to drink as I read and laze about. One more reason why I haven’t been into the kitchen really….



Thanks, Cakeyboi! A great idea and a great drink.

Now all I have to do is start cooking again.

Merry Christmas!

The big move – Part 2

We’re here… and we are almost sorted. They say (well, Lao-tzu said, anyway) that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. A journey of 6,570 miles must also begin with a single step then… and an awful lot of boxes in the container and a car full of bags and suitcases to drag with us.

It was odd, driving through the night to Heathrow and knowing it would be months before we would be back in the UK. Odd and strangely sad. All we had, as we walked into Departures, was each other and those few bags.

The glass of champagne that the Bear insisted we started the journey to our new life with, took the edge of the sadness though and we raised a glass to each other, toasting the start of our biggest adventure yet.

Then, after many hours of flying, there was Malaysia below us. That was where we were going to live… how strange it seemed. We looked at each other and laughed. Our new country!

We got through Immigration with only a few questions, though I have to say I was a bit put out when the Immigration Officer studied my passport, stared at me, studied my passport again and then asked if I was that woman in the photograph. I said I was and she didn’t believe me. Trying to explain that a photograph taken in a booth, when you know that this is the photograph you will be stuck with for ten years, so you’ve taken particular care with makeup, your hair is brushed, you look as good as you are going to get…..well, that photograph is a good one.  It may not, as the Immigration Officer pointed out, look very much like the face that was staring back at her from the other side of the desk. That face, however, did not have the benefit of makeup, the hair had not been freshly blowdried, and travelling from the Saturday night till the Monday morning does wreak its own awful havoc.

Eventually, though, because if I was a criminal I might have made more effort to look like the person in the passport,  she let me in to the country and we grabbed a cab and set off. Our suitcases were jammed in the boot, on the front seat next to the driver and on our laps (Malaysian cabs are quite small) and we started on the trip into Kuala Lumpur.

There’s a smell to Malaysia… a green and sweet smell that makes you smile. The roadsides are green and bursting with shrubs and palm trees. It rains every day so everything grows rapidly and the rain washes the dust away leaving everything clean and fresh. I suppose the smell is rather like a fresh air version of a tropical hothouse, if you can imagine that.

And then we were in the city. We stayed in the rather wonderful Grand Millenium Hotel while we got our bearings and while I started looking for a place to live.

The Bear went straight to work and I spent my time searching the internet and looking for apartments to rent. I sat in the Executive floor lounge, drinking coffee and looking out over the city and wondering where we would end up next.

Each night the Bear would come back to the hotel and we’d sit outside, 20 floors up, with a drink and a snack, talking about what we’d done each day. I’d tell him about the apartments I’d viewed and he would tell me about his work.

One night there was a surprise for him….


It was his birthday and the lovely staff from the Executive Floor and the managers of the hotel came round the corner, bringing him a cake and singing Happy Birthday. If it wasn’t for the fact he is such a shy and retiring Bear, I’d show you a picture of his surprised and beaming face as everyone joined in with the singing.

We went out that night to celebrate, with friends  on Jalan Alor

This is the famous street of food at night in Kuala Lumpur and a must-visit destination if you are ever here. It used to be the red light district but is now the home of what seems like hundreds of restaurants and hawker stalls, where you eat in the street. You get the most delicious food here – there’s so much to see… and eat.

And the best place of all in the street is this restaurant… better known as the restaurant with yellow tablecloths. I think I’ll tell you more about Jalan Alor another time…


When we finally got back to the hotel we thought (briefly) about finishing the night off by going to the nightclub but realised that we were probably too old; too fat;  too full of delicious food and too casually dressed for that. A club where customers routinely have bodyguards was too smart for us. Besides we were exhausted. … and there were going to be many more long days ahead of us as I tried to find us somewhere to live.

We needed to rent somewhere in KL that we’d be happy with for the three years we are going to be here. I had so many things on my wish list and the person that was going to help us was Roopa. Probably the best letting and relocation agent in KL. She spent days with me, rocketing around the city in her car,  showing me condominium after condominium, searching out the best deal possible. The Bear left on a trip to Arizona and it was just me and Roopa. She drove through crowded streets even on Fridays (the worst day to drive in KL) in her attempt to get us the best place to live and we narrowed the search down to one particular condo.


The apartment we were looking at had a large dry kitchen…. in Malaysia it is common to have both wet and dry kitchens. The dry kitchen is usually attached to the living area and this is where the less messy bits of preparing food go on. This one had an induction hob in the central island, a large two door fridge freezer, an oven, microwave, more cupboards than I would have thought possible and a sink.

So far, so good.

Then, behind the sliding glass door was an enormous wet kitchen, with yet another fridge freezer; a dishwasher; a double sink; even more cupboards…and  a waste disposal unit (probably one of my favourite kitchen gadgets – just think how useful that will be at getting rid of peelings and food scraps when the temperature is always over 80 degrees C)


…. and best of all, a gas hob! It was everything I wanted in a kitchen.

And rounf the corner from the wet kitchen was the laundry area and a huge storage room.

It really was perfect.

I could cook and prepare stuff in the wet kitchen and the smell of frying wouldn’t be all over the rest of the apartment. I would have been prepared to sign up for the apartment there and then but Roopa had more to show me….

The living area was huge with windows on two sides and a balcony running the length of the room

There was a massive dressing room, off the master bedroom…


… and the master bathroom had doors that opened onto its own private balcony.

How could we say no to all of that? The kitchen alone swung it for me. And so, the deal was done.

There was one problem though…… we took the apartment unfurnished which meant that we moved in with what I could buy quickly.


Which was a table and a couple of chairs from IKEA and a bed.

All I had in the way of kitchen stuff was what I brought over – two plates; two bowls; two sets of cutlery and two mugs.  I went out and bought the bare minimum of kitchen ware – a pan, a chopping board and a knife – and we settled down to wait for the container.

But I didn’t mind too much…. I had the kitchen I had always longed for.

We were home.