Friday, July 21, 2017

Aiden and Ian Takes Europe: Delft



(Apologies, this was written while we were still in Paris, but only posted today!)

Hello peeps! We're finally in Paris!

So the last time I wrote, I was excited about having my team building event in Delft. Delft is just 20 mins away by train from The Hague. It is a quaint little town which looks very much like a mini Amsterdam; buildings and canals wise.

As soon as I got off the train, I saw an actual functioning windmill. It was quite a walk away, hence I didn't get the chance to explore. Walked with my team mates towards the town square, which is also where William of Orange was buried, in the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) of Delft. Every member of the Dutch Royal Family since then has been laid to rest in the same place. The town square was hosting their weekly Saturday market sale, so we managed to get some coffee and Stroopwafel muffins for breakfast. Incidentally, it was one of the coldest mornings I've experienced since we arrived (reminded me soooo much of Sakhalin), so my fingers and ears were freezing from the outdoor experience.

Stroopwafels but in the form of muffins!

Delft is a canal-ringed city and home to the Delft University of Technology. Apparently, whenever one graduates from the university here, there is a ritual where you throw away your bike into the canal, as a symbol that you are now allowed to buy a car. The Delft municipal council has had to dredge several of these bikes out!

I was notably charmed with Delft, so I quickly texted Hubby to bring the kids over. They had no plans that day anyway, since I was going to occupied with my colleagues for at least half of the day.


Charming buildings.

The boat we boarded to tour the canals.

My team and I then took a quick boat ride around the canals, and mid-way we got out and walked to Royal Delft. Royal Delft is the official manufacturer of Delft Blue. We started with the Royal Delft experience - a guided tour around which included a painting demonstration and a wander through their museum collection. We then ended our team building session by attending a Delft Blue workshop, where we were given the opportunity to paint our own Delft Blue tiles!


From far left, a basic vase, then painted in a 'secret' cobalt mixture, and lastly fired under extreme heat to produce the final product. As I mentioned in my previous post, the intensity of blue depends on the darkness of the cobalt paint.

I was amazed by the level of detail in this painting. It's not like painting in true colours, but instead, you really have to use your imagination to predict how it's going to look like since you're actually painting your masterpiece in (50?) shades of grey.

Delft Blue dining ware.

You can read the description in the photo for a better explanation, but in short this is a tear bottle. Sailors would bring some of their wives' tears in this bottle to remind them of their loved ones at home.

We were given a short practice session at the start of our Delft Blue workshop. We were allowed to try out our fine brush and thick brush on a broken piece of tile; just to get familiarity with the amount of pressure you need to exert to get the desired effect. After that, we were asked to choose a design to attempt. I chose to paint a typical street building of Delft. *ambitious much* You can also choose to paint your own design too. As soon as I made my choice, the workshop coordinator took an empty tile and rubbed charcoal dust on the stencil sheet, which in turn provides a basic sketch on the tile. Charcoal is used to sketch because it easily burns off during the firing. (So if you don't paint over the charcoal, it will disappear in the end product.) Using the sketch as a guide, I then painted the tile with the black cobalt paint. Since I am not artistic and have literally zero imagination (*chuckles*), I made sure I followed the intensity as depicted in the sample picture.

The charcoal sketch on the 13cm x 13cm tile. Not really visible, so you have to depend much on the sample picture. 

My masterpiece! What do you think?

The painted product is not ready to be taken home immediately as they must first be fired. Hence we made arrangements for it to be shipped to our local office, and then posted to Malaysia. So... no final masterpiece photos just yet! But what happens behind the scene, is that glaze is applied to the tile and then fired. During the firing, the glaze melts and become all shiny and transparent, while the chemical reaction between the glaze and the cobalt paint, changes the colour from black to blue.

After that, I joined Hubby and the kids who had arrived safely and were having fish and chips at the town square. Apparently while waiting for me, they went gallivanting across town to visit the functional windmill that I saw from the train station that morning. They had to take quite a number of steep steps to get to the top, and when they arrived, Aiden refused to step outside. Ian on the other hand, ran everywhere so confidently, that Hubby had to pull him back.

We then spent the afternoon browsing in the shops within the square. We bought Delft Blue ceramic plates (of course!) and cheese. Particularly flavoured cheese, such as red pesto, green pesto and even blue lavender cheese. Henri Willig is a particularly established brand for cheese.

Hubby and Ian at the top of the windmill.

Delft Blue souvenirs.

Posing in a giant clog.

Say cheese!!!

Cheese making machine.

Us at the market square.

The beautiful canals of Delft.

Back in The Hague.

I think this post is getting too long so I shall stop here. Next post, Amsterdam!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Aiden and Ian Takes Europe: The Hague and Madurodam

(Apologies, this was written while we were still in The Hague, but only posted today!)

Salam Raya ke-5! (Or issit Raya ke-6 due to the time difference?)

Anyway, this is our 3rd day in Netherlands. The Hague to be exact. Slight drama at arrival; my travel agent provided the wrong hotel name to the Emirates chauffeur, and in turn, we were dropped off at an incorrect location. Fortunately (or issit unfortunately), we had plenty of luggage so our chauffeur was still unloading our bags from the boot when I ran out from reception, exclaiming "Wrong hotel, wrong hotel!" Poor him, he had to reload all our bags and graciously agreed to drop us off at the correct hotel (two streets away). We tipped him generously in return. *chuckles*

Check out who crashed into business class? Siap ade his own cup of hot chocolate and a plate of peanuts!

My travelling companion.

We arrived at 930pm at the hotel. It was still bright outside! Turns out, Maghrib was at 10am (and Subuh at 3am). That's European summer for you. Nasib baik we didn't have to puasa here! We dragged the kids to bed and they slept even before their heads touched the pillows, still decked in travel clothing and all.

In return, they woke up at 5am. (Jet lagged much!) The kids were famished so we fed the kids nasi lemak and nasi goreng (from our Brahim stash). Ian's first nasi! (We threatened no Disneyland if he didn't eat his rice.) We then spent the first half of our 'proper' first day, exploring the grounds of our hotel. Our hotel is in Den Haag Centraal... right smack in the middle of a shopping street! I literally have a Primark right outside my doorstep. Shopping heaven!

First time in black leather jackets and all.

We spent the second half of our day at Madurodam Miniature Park. It houses huge scale model representation of various parts of the Netherlands. Everything is recreated to a 1:25 scale with an unbelievable amount of detail. I've heard about this place ever since I was a child, and it was quite surreal to finally be stepping foot in it, in my mid thirties. Anyway, here are some pictures we took... we literally felt like giants who came to invade a country!



Cute giants.

Which building should we step on first?

Ian exclaimed, "Mummy office! Mummy office!"


Aiden forcing a smile because we didn't allow him to slot in 1 euro for some souvenir clogs.





Aiden and Ian enjoying their first stroopwafel. If you try one Dutch sweet treat, make it the stroopwafel! Two thin waffles stuck together with a layer of sweet syrup. These delectable delicacies are best enjoyed when placed on top of a cup of tea, and the heat from the tea will make the syrup all hot and gooey. Yumm!!!











It rained mid-way through the day so excuse our wet hairs at the tail end of the photos. We also took the opportunity to have Poffertjes (PO-fer-jus) - clouds of buttery goodness sprinkled with powdered sugar. Sooooo good! The kids gobbled up like 20 of these, in under 5 minutes, tops!




The second day, I had to start work so Hubby and the kids explored The Hague on their own. My office is in Rijswijk, about 30 minutes tram ride from the hotel. In fact, I'm actually writing this on the tram! While I was at work, Hubby brought the kids to a park near Den Haag Centraal Station to see reindeers and swans. They then explored the streets around our hotel, in the hunt for a pair of clogs, as Aiden wanted to bring one home as a souvenir. Aiden had his first kebab too! (Ian makan fries jer lah.) They also did a fair bit of shopping; everywhere we look there is a Sale sign up! And tonight, there will be a midnight sale happening everywhere in The Hague, so all stores will be open till midnight (instead of closing at 7 or 8pm). No prizes for guessing where I'll be tonight. *giggles*

The Dutch are really proud of their language. I mean, they speak English and all no problem, but there are rarely signs in English. Everything in Dutch so we picked out a couple of interesting words along our journey... Such as "Dames" means women, "Peskamers" is fitting room, "Danke" is thank you, "Patat" is fries. And "Volgendehalte" means next (tram/train) stop. We laughed our head off when Aiden said, "Ooo, mummy! Yummy Patat!" (Sounded so vulgar! *giggles*)

The weather is quite a see saw around here. Although it is summer, it is still quite chilly. It rains quite frequently too! We got caught in the rain in Madurodam, and I got caught in a surprise heavy downpour on my way to the tram station on the way home. Soaked my loafers right through. Never trust European summers!

My soaked loafers on the tram.

Tomorrow I will be having a team building session with my colleagues in Delft. Apparently we'll be doing a cheese tour and then some pottery painting, the classic Delft way. Did you know that the ceramics that are typically painted in blue, are actually made from painting using cobalt and the blue comes out only after it is baked? The intensity of the blue varies depending on the amount of cobalt you use. Hence the blue, is aptly called Delft blue!

Anyway, till next time!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Saya Dah Raya!

Raya came early for me this year! *shakes head in dismay*

My goals for this Ramadhan were to practice on my hijab skills (check!), not miss terawih (of course) and to do terawih berjemaah at the mosque or surau for the final 10 nights. Aunty Flo allowed me to do only two nights out of the ten. Le sigh.

The kids marked a few interesting milestones during this Ramadhan. Aiden cultivated an interest in local food; dodol, semperit and even mee kari. Also, he used to get disgusted with squid (tentacles and all) but one day I made him try salted egg squid and he loved it. Siap mintak masak lagi the next day. And since then, he's been asking for squid cooked in any form or matter. Latest craze? Sotong goreng Bob, the ones always sold at the bazaar Ramadhan.

Ian on the other hand, can stand still during a full solat jemaah at home. He used to last for one, maximum two rakaats. But this time he can even do the finger thing at tahiyat akhir! I haven't had the guts to try this at the surau though, so he's been playing with his toys and colouring his books quietly at the back of the saf during terawih. Good boy!

Anyway, since I dah officially Raya, I might as well share photos of us during our photo shoot Raya which we took about two weeks ago. Spoiler alert... these are our outfits for the first day. I'll be bombarding my Instagram timeline with photos of us in these very same clothes, come Hari Raya!

Definitely our official Eid family photo for 2017!

Aiden telling Ian to salam him.

Where are the Eid Raya money packets???

Cheeky faces.
Mummy and Daddy pun nak posing jugak.

Thanks Hubby, for putting up with me in my dramatic moments, trying to get this outfit online.

I'll pause the barrage of photos, with a candid story about my outfit from Kree. I saw this beauty on Zalora, and as I was busy trying to purchase it (it was the last piece), it got snatched out of my cart. I was devastated. A week later, the very same piece came back online (I think the person who snatched it from my cart eventually returned it), so I attempted to buy it again. In my excitement, I forgot to include the discount code so I pressed the back button. Silap besar... terus transaction cancelled and it showed up as sold out. OMG I felt like throwing my laptop to the wall. I was soooo close to tears. Hubby was such a good sport; even though he didn't understand why I was being so overly dramatic, he did not get angry... he even offered to buy it for me on pre-order! *awwww* An hour later, the system released it and I finally bought it. Longest one hour of my life!!! But, so worth it! :)

Sporting kiddos.

My adorable two boys. Baju Melayu from Omar Ali and matching loafers from Mini by Dhea.

I loveeeeee this adorable photo of Ian, and of course - this handsome photo of Aiden.

Posing with the boys.

Amazingly, Ian cooperated well that morning. Aiden, memang a natural at posing, so no problem.

The boys in my life.

Anyway, in case I don't get a chance to get to my blog before Eid rolls in, Selamat Hari Raya and Maaf Zahir dan Batin to all my readers. Let's count our blessings this Eid ul' Fitri, and make it a time to cherish our loved ones, both young and old.

InsyaAllah, we will be celebrating Hari Raya in Teluk Intan (Hubby's grandmother's home) as usual, before flying out on the third day of Eid. If you happen to be in Teluk Intan (or even the airport on Tuesday morning), do come by to say Hello! :)
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