Tuesday, May 28, 2013

B’day Party @ Ibn Battuta Bowling for Lil Diva Mell

last weekend we joined the adorable little diva Mell and her family to celebrate her 2nd birthday at ibn battuta bowling center inside the ibn battuta mall, jebel ali. thanks to aida and syed for inviting us!

this is my first time at the ibn battuta bowling center (at india court, near the elephant), which is funny because ibn battuta mall is like our kedai runcit haha – the place where we do our weekly grocery shopping. since ibn battuta bowling center is on the other side of the mall, we seldom go there.

turns out to be a pretty cool place. the bowling alley is what you see once you walk in. dark with funky lights. there are stairs on the side that takes you up to the staging area for the birthday party, with a couple of small karaoke rooms on the side.


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birthday girl Mell with abang kazim and abang kahfi


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the kids ogling the bowling area – hoping that mak and bapak let them play later!


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while the grown-ups chat and eat, the kids made noise in the brightly-colored karaoke room (also on the same floor as the staging area of the birthday party) – singing ‘lion sleeps tonight’, among other songs! lagu filipino gile banyak, ye la kat dubai ni ramai pinoy and diorang ni yg terkenal suka gile berkaraoke.


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the delicious spread! seriously my boys’ heaven on earth – spaghetti in marinara sauce, pepperoni pizza, nuggets, crispy potato chips and tuna sandwiches – all their favorite food! good job, aunty aida and uncle syed! next birthday buat menu org tua pulak – kasi le laksa kuale kome pulak ye yeop!


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the pretty little moist chocolate cake for the birthday girl. seriously moist with rich chocolaty taste! yum! terlupa nak bawak balik 1-2 slices! haha


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cute birthday girl mengamuk taknak tiup lilin! haha comel sangat. she really did not want to blow out the candles, struggling to get away from dad! funny when everyone else started singing while she continued to scream! abg kazim on the side showed no reaction at all to her screaming – he’s just glad he’s standing closest to the cake!


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punya la ramai budak-budak yang attend birthday party ni, anak-anak aku jugakkk la yg berderet menunggu kek kat depan-depan tu. haha. memang anak mak!


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maslina, me & hostess aida holding birthday girl


the party was fun (and noisy!) with the karaoke, and the food was awesome especially because it’s so kids-friendly. menu yang budak-budak memang suka! thanks so much again to pretty mommy aida and hubby syed for including us to celebrate mell’s 2nd birthday. knowing we’re both perakian made it so much fun to speak in loghat perghok! haha. mell’s 3rd birthday jangan lupa kitorang lagi ok!

birthday party, gatherings and makan-makan like this is where we catch up with dubai acquaintances; but I also made new friends that day – maslina who happens to be my sister syimot’s old classmate when she was in uitm. it’s a small world! nice to meet you maslina, hope we can hang out sometime soon!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Movie Review - 42, The Best Offer, Safe Haven, Mama

movie time with syigim again. this time it’s ‘42’ a sports movie about baseball in the 50’s, ‘the best offer’ a curious mystery centered around an auctioneer, ‘safe haven’ a romantic drama about turning over a new leaf, and horror drama ‘mama’.


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first, I wish I had known more about the rules of baseball when I watch ‘42’ to enjoy it even more. second, harrison ford looks mighty old in this movie, the oldest I’ve ever seen him.

harrison ford looks even older than sean connery; and sean connery played his dad in ‘indiana jones : the last crusade’! his mellow, raspy voice and that mumbling way that he speaks in the opening scene reminded me even more that he’s really aged. he potrayed the role very well nevertheless, as harrison ford can do – with great gusto and determination to see it through that a black baseball player can finally play in the major league and be accepted for his talent and character.

newcomer chadwick boseman as ‘jackie robinson’ is believable. ready to stand up against the ugly racism thrown against him, but strong-willed enough to stand back and be the bigger man. I cannot imagine the verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse he has to endure everytime he plays a sport dominated by the whites; at a time when racism is rampant.

if you love baseball, and a fan of soul-power movies like ‘django unchained’, ‘remember the titans’ and ‘help’, then this movie might be your cup of tea.


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‘the best offer’ is a little gem that I happened to stumble upon while googling. I gave it a try because geoffrey rush (you might now him best as capt. barbossa) is in it, and jim sturgess is cute.

‘the best offer’ centers around a rich, eccentric auctioneer who was asked by a mysterious client to evaluate the antique belongings of her recently deceased parents. she talks to him thru phone, never appears to meet him, and nobody even knows what she looks like; even the caretaker of her parents’ old mansion.

the auctioneer, who is depicted as being lonely and socially awkward, grew curious of this mysterious caller. geoffrey rush as the auctioneer is a fantastic actor, in yet another role showing how versatile he is.

‘the best offer’ is unexpectedly charming, and the mystery draws you in to the movie to know what’s next. even the cinematography and editing prepares viewers that something interesting but strange is going to happen to the seemingly dull and predictable life of this auctioneer. as the story unfolds we know more about the auctioneer who also collects expensive portraits, his old friend who pretends to be a buyer during his auctions to help him buy these old paintings; and a young repairman whom he confided in. 

give ‘the best offer’ a try, you’d be pleasantly surprised.


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I have to confess, I find nicholas sparks sickeningly sweet. I didn’t like ‘the notebook’, ‘p/s I love you’ was okay, and ‘dear john’ was completely sappy.

so I wasn’t sure why I gave ‘safe haven’ a try since it’s also based on a book by nicholas sparks, and he also directs.

a mystery-romance movie, ‘safe haven’ has an interesting storyline, really. the movie opens with a bang – literally – as a woman is shown being on the run, hiding a dark secret. starting over at a quaint little fishing town. meets a handsome widower with a heart-wrenching back story. a premise of a cliché love story – but the way it is presented makes you want to know more – what is that secret? who is she really? what is she running from? who is that friendly neighbour and is she important to the plot of the movie? and why is his 5 year old daughter left to take care of the shop and cash register? hello, kidnappers?

the two leads are gorgeous and their love story (predictable as it may) is really sweet. cammon, a new sexy stranger in town, and a lonely handsome widower – you know that they would end up together!

cliché as it may; predictable or not, the ending would leave you crying buckets of tears. sob sob. there’s something incredibly sexy and desirable about a man that vows to keep you safe no matter what!

highly recommended to all you hopeless romantic out there!


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I’ve seen ‘mama’ like, eons ago but I don’t know why I forgot to include it in my previous movie reviews. ‘mama’ is one of those outstanding ghost stories that comes once in every 10 crappy b-grade horror flicks.

two girls were left in a small house in the woods, discovered only after a few years had passed. psychotherapy is highly needed, as the girls developed animal-like behavior during their survivor in all those years by themselves in the woods. or were they really alone?

now under the care of their uncle, the girls soon showed strange attachment to an invisible personal they simply called ‘mama’. as a fan of horror books, I’m always more interested in the storyline of a horror movie rather than the whole CGI kaboodle. the storyline of ‘mama’ is deliciously haunting, and it was creepier because the girls are such good actors!

I don’t agree with the ending, but I guess that’s where ‘mama’ proves it’s NOT a cliché horror movie – where the dead has unfinished business, the living helps them solve it, and then the dead goes away. in ‘mama’, the dead did not make it too easy for the living, as the ending would leave you breathless, in shock.

I highly recommend ‘mama’. horror movie fans, this is a must-see!


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alright people, I have an old 2002 french movie waiting. au re·voir!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What is That Leaf We Eat With Mandi Rice? Jarjeer or Jerjer Leaf

it’s called ‘jerjer’ or ‘jarjeer’ (جرجير) leaves.

yes, after almost 5 years in dubai, being addicted to this awesome middle eastern dish ‘mandi rice’, I finally found out the name of that leaf or salad or ulam that accompanied the dish – it’s also called ‘arugula’ in the states, or simply ‘rocket leaf’.

it’s said to have a peppery taste, but can be bitter. to me it’s just SO delicious when eaten with mandi rice!



this is at one of our favorite mandi rice restaurants – ‘maraheb madfoon & mandi restaurant’ in nad al hammar deira. notice the plate of jerjer/jarjeer leaves


in most mandi rice restaurants in dubai that I’ve been to, the mandi rice dish would be served with a small bowl of chilli-tomato condiment and a plate of fresh jerjer or jarjeer leaves, like in the picture above.

I’ve often wondered what is the name of this leafy ‘ulam’, since it was the first time I saw and tasted it here in dubai. and now I know!



my younger sisters (on their visit to dubai last few years) at another one of our favorite mandi rice restaurants, ‘al-tawasol’ in deira. this was where I first tasted mandi rice and jerjer/jarjeer leaves – and got addicted ever since!



fresh, crunchy, tasty – the salad plate at ‘bait al-mandi’, al-barsha which includes cut-up onions, cucumbers, a few lemon slices and of course, jerjer/jarjeer leaves.



this one comes together with cut-up tomatoes at ‘al-yahar modern restaurant’ in abu dhabi


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there are other ways to enjoy ‘jerjer leaves’ or ‘arugula’ other than with mandi rice as I know it!

  • you can eat it raw with other dishes 
  • include it in a bowl of fresh salad
  • with a pasta dish, complete with cheese
  • with steak
  • in a sandwich or with a sandwich
  • sautéed lightly with other vegetables
  • as a pizza topping!


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these are the other salad plate that comes with mandi rice – that does not include the jerjer or jajeer leaves. equally satisfying. because I just love crunchy salad. no matter what.



salad plates from ‘al-muraqabat’, from ‘al-marhabani’, and from ‘aden restaurant’, sharjah


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all the pictures are from my own personal collection. looking back at all the mandi rice pictures from so many mandi restaurants in dubai and abu dhabi that we’ve been to, I’m thinking of writing a blog post where I rank the nasi mandi! watch this space!

nways, thanks to wa tell tells for this information about jerjer leaves or jajeer leaves. I’m so happy that now I know!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My First Desert Safari after 5 Years in Dubai!

I’ve been to the desert many times – for bbq, for picnic, just for photography, and camping too; but this was my first time ever on a desert safari trip after living in dubai for almost 5 years. if you’re visiting dubai, this activity should be top in your list of must-do! dune bashing, henna-painting, camel-riding, belly-dancing & bbq-eatin – all in one place. desert safari yo!

if you’re wondering, actually it IS already summer in dubai – scorching HOT and sticky! haha. but I went for this desert safari around february, when it was still nice and cool. the weather was fantastic for a night out in the desert.

another great thing about my first trip to the desert safari was that I went with my bff – no screaming kids, no husband – just me and my gal pal put. girls day out. it was a blast.

(two of my best friends from school are currently in london doing phd, and last feb, one of them came to dubai en route malaysia-london. hi putri aka put!)

here’s our adventure at the desert safari – just two girls out in the WILD! haha.



me & put on a desert safari!


now that’s the view of the entire area of our desert safari : quad biking at the far back, camel-riding on the right and the square area (that looks like a refugee camp according to my eldest sis) is for the main event – makan-makan and of course the entertainment.

the place is awesome. many fun activities to do including shisha, henna-painting, dressing up like the arabs and souvenir shops. there’s even a playground made of wood!

also, most importantly, very clean toilet. I was thoroughly impressed, and entertained!



here’s put in the 4x4 that took us to the desert safari area



ok mr. khairul hooked us up with this fantastic deal, and you can do the same with so many desert-safari operators in dubai or abu dhabi thru the magic of google.

  1. first, we waited at spinneys near burjuman for pick-up at 3.30pm to board a mini-bus
  2. we checked our names, and went off for a 1-hour bus ride to a desert spot – the ride was comfy and smooth-sailing
  3. arrive by the side of the road along the desert, all passengers got off and onto a four wheel drive
  4. in the four wheel drive for the thrilling dune-bashing! we enjoyed it so much! we sat at the back so it was more bumpy! most suspenseful part was when the four wheel drive went so fast down a steep sand dune that we thought we gonna go turtle! it was like a rollercoaster ride in a well-padded four wheel drive across the desert landscape! oh, did I mention we were shouting like mad? it was fun over-reacting aloud to every bump and sharp cornering!
  5. after a 30-minute ride, we arrived at the place where all the desert safari activity will take place – free activities from then onwards!
  6. the driver reminded us to assemble at this same four wheel drive at 7.30pm to take us back to the mini bus

love it love it love it! and this is just the beginning!



with the photogenic camel



as soon as we arrived the first thing we spot were the camels.

once there we immediately stayed close to the area, and get ready to hop on any available camel. there were 3 camels held together by a single rope operated by this pak arab. 3 people ride at one go, and the pak arab would lead the camels to walk slowly in a circle, about 2-3 minutes. no extra charges, so you can ride as many times as you want.

however, there was no apparent queue for the camel ride, so people sort off just waited haphazardly around the place where the camel stops; hoping to be the first one on the camels once they come back to the starting point. luckily most people went straight to the quad-biking or climbing the sand dunes so we didn’t need to shove and push to ride camels haha.



on my first camel ride – weeeee!


first putri went on the camel, I took pictures; and then we switched.

it was my first ever camel ride – and it’s funny to think that even my khaleef has been on a camel at dubai bastakiya in 2010, when he was just 5 years old! it was exciting, but I was feeling really nervous as well! hey, the camel is huge!

I was on the camel at the front. I like him. he went down and up gracefully, while the other camels went down with a jerk and thud. gile scary! because as the camel bowed down to sit, the angle is pretty steep and we could fall down if its movement is too jerky and we didn’t hold tight. so be safe, people!

the camel ride? amazing. slow. and gayat! just a short ride in circle, but it was enough to take me back hundreds of years where arab beduoin use camels as transportation across the vast desert. I would definitely do it again!



this is the spot next to the desert safari area for people to golek-golek, take pictures, and sand-boarding too (I would imagine sand boarding is like tobogganing, but on sand!). sadly, what made it NOT authentic were the benches on top. hello? whose bright idea was it to put benches on top of the sand dune? cammon man. duduk je la atas pasir tu! nak duk atas bench pegi la taman bunga!




thinking of quad-biking? RM100 for 20 minutes here, and you can ride it within a compound, or take it round and round the sand dune. man, I’d do it for at least half that price! ok thanks, but no thanks la sheikh, I think I’ll just take a picture sitting on the quad bike if you don’t mind?




me with mr bad-ass falcon, the national bird of UAE, a symbol of fierce and courage! sampai tersenget-senget tudung pegang falcon on my shoulder! nervous, ok! one scratch of its wolverine-claws, abis la!


ok. this is actually a scam disguised as a tourist attraction. I called it a scam because this dude was standing at the entrance with the bird. since most of the activities here are already paid for under our ticket, I assumed this includes taking picture with the falcon – just like riding the camel.

however, when I showed the slightest interest on the bird, the sheikh immediately placed the blind-folded falcon on my arm – and THEN only announced that it would cost me aed10 for pictures. ooookaaaay.

takpe lah. aku niat nak sedekah je lah.

the bird was adorable – blind-folded of course to tame it – and I can see clearly its sharp claws while it perched on my cautious arms. ah, the falcon. symbol of fierce and courage of the arab world!



shisha place. pretty, but me no likey. aku memang tak teringin lansung nak try shisha ni.




this is the center – where the makan-makan takes place, and the entertainment happening in the middle. we came on a weekday, so it was hardly crowded – very relaxed and calming. the seating area is carpeted, with thick cushions – very comfy and welcoming.



anywhere you sit gives you a great view of the performance as the seating area surrounds the stage. we just picked a nice spot and enjoyed our ‘appetizers’. before buffet table was open, we got a plate of snacks - crispy fried potatoes and something like vadai. sedap makan panas-panas in the cold!



we checked out the buffet prep area. the smell of chicken and meat grilling over charcoal were tantalizing! we asked, and the crew said “7.30pm buffet open, maam!” alrite then!




the VIP majlees


the entertainment hasn’t started, food was not ready yet, so we walked around. by this time the weather was already getting COLD!

these huts in the picture above are the ‘VIP majlis’ – which I don’t really get – why do they wanna sit so far from the entertainment? hmm. I think we ‘commoners’ got the better seats! haha.

anyways, we were approached by a staff member, who said we could still get a ‘VIP service’ even if we’re sitting at the normal seating areas. how much? for aed50 per person, a server will bring our food to the table, anything we need, no lining up. hmm, we’ll pass. sanggup lagi beratur daripada bayar extra aed100 for both of us!



ok this, I didn’t know – you can even opt to stay overnight at one of the few ‘deluxe rooms’! wooo~ if I wanna sleep in the desert, I prefer hardcore camping style!





I kinda love henna painting if it’s not too overdone. just on one small spot, or one small trail – simplicity is pretty! even for my wedding, the henna on my hands were really minimal, yet classy!

here at the desert safari, henna painting is free for a small one, and 10aed for a longer one that trails up your arm. haha you know me so well, of course la amik yg free one haha. the lady who drew the henna pattern said she really went into this whole henna business because she’s genuinely interested in drawing, and always want to try new patterns.

when we went home on dubai metro, we took another photo of the completed henna. so pretty. yes, we left the desert safari adventure with fond memories, and these henna paintings!





when the first show started, we haven’t taken our food yet – the buffet table was still close.

first up was the ‘sufi dance’ or ‘tanura dance’ from turkey. tak paham aku dance ni. spin spin spin. twirl twirl twirl. syok la tu kot. the only thing I applauded him was being able to not throw up or collapse after all that spinning and extreme twirling!

in fact, whenever he stopped to invite someone from the crowd to join him, he appeared to walk straight, without the slightest indication of being disoriented. memang pro!

well we enjoyed the loud arabic music and twirly dance. especially when the lights suddenly went out – his skirt actually lights up, while still spinning! and it looked like UFO! ...and he even lifted his ‘skirt’ up his head, and yes - still spinning. lagi la mcm UFO!



next – most-awaited by both male n female – the seductive belly-dancing! I cannot imagine how this ultra sensual dance could ever originate from a conservative middle eastern world. it’s as sexy as the tango. or salsa. aku pun terbeliak-beliak tengok, inikan pulak mamat-mamat dalam crowd ni kan. sure menyesal bawak bini huhu.




the buffet area, set in a tent


after the belly dancing, there was an announcement that the buffet table is open.

we were the first in line! haha, typical malaysian! haha. tak malaysian la kalau lambat beratur nak amik makanan buffet kan kan kan. everything was so delicious, nicely presented and freshly prepared.

sadly can’t take any pictures because we were the first in line – mengamuk org belakang kang kalo stop-stop amik gamba!



the food was nicely displayed; hot and fresh. fried rice, steamed rice. roti arab, fresh crispy veggies and humus. delicious bbq chicken and tender meat on skewers. mee goreng pun ade. simple dishes but most importantly tasty and HOT!



  the meat on skewers were delicious, mostly because they were so tender, well-marinated, and HOT! so nice to be enjoyed during this COLD weather! fresh fruits are also available, as well as my favorite bread pudding. simple, yet satisfying!




while we eat, the entertainment continued. we're then entertained by this interestingly creepy 'horse dance'. it’s called ‘horse dance’ but it’s not like our beautifully crafty kuda kepang dance. it’s more to chinese lion dance – but with horses. and even so, chinese lion dance is vibrant and fast-paced, but this horse dance is basically men dressed in horse costume, wobbling on the stage with the beat.

the 'horse' mostly just walked around slowly, while stopping next to the crowd every now and then, and sit down like a horse.


our empty long table. right after the horse dance, it's time to leave – 8pm. our driver actually looked for us, recognized us by face and reminded us to look for him outside. sgt efisyen!

well, goodbye desert safari! it’s been a blast!


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the 1-hour drive back to dubai town felt short. it was already dark. putri was nodding off beside me. the bright lights of the city reminded me that I’m back to civilization after that wonderful time in the desert with a good friend. no kids to shout after. no husband to remind me that I’m over 30 and 8 years married.

desert safari with put is one of the best getaways a mother can have, especially a stay-at-home mom like me. mr. khairul takes me to the best makan places to help me unwind –and I appreciate that so much because he knows what I like – but a night out with a gal pal – now that’s something else.

we were giggling schoolgirls gossiping. we were ladies without a care in the world. doctorate thesis and sink full of dirty dishes were far from our minds.

just us, in the moment. good friends enjoying great times.

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