Nicely Nala

Nala which means successful in Swahili is the name which  the multi-talented Lisette Scheers picked for her only child. She subsequently named her business – Nala Designs – after her daughter.

Nala the enterprise is a product line which draws from the wealth of inspiration of Malaysia’s melting pot of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures.

The range of merchandise includes stationery, home decorating items, clothing, bags and other accessories.

The items pay tribute to the country’s rich heritage and reflected in some of the design lines which carry names like ‘Pretty in Peranakan’ and ‘My Kuih or Highway.’

Lisette is also the creative force of L.inc (a design and art studio) located along the leafy corner of Old Bangsar’s Jalan Kemuja in Kuala Lumpur.  The space is also home to DR.Inc (pronounced ‘drink’) a little coffee shop where    the L.inc-owned design shop nala is located.

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The design and decor of the cafe (above) carried out by Lisette and her team, has Nala merchandise littered in strategic spots and the decor even includes Nala-inspired wallpaper.

Her past collaborations with Isetan KLCC via pop-up stores, have now resulted in a full store featuring a permanent location for all things Nala (pictured below)

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In Penang, a selection of Nala items is found at Bon Ton, The Shop (Armenian Street) the Eastern & Oriental Hotel’s Bombay Shop (Farqhuar Street) and the Tropical Spice Garden at Teluk Bahang on the island.

Locations of other stores around the world stocking Nala items and an online store are found at naladesigns.com

Photos courtesy of Nala Designs

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Secret (tropical) Garden

The drive up the Batu Ferringhi coast to Teluk Bahang is pretty on most days with blue skies and even bluer and sometimes green waters reminding those who live on the island that they are blessed. Before arriving in Teluk Bahang town, slow down and to your left, is a “secret garden” on a hill which serves as a sound lesson in creating a classroom of all things nature. Here, you can stroll amidst the foliage and learn new names of flowers, insects and make friends with tadpoles, frogs, and other blessed friends of nature. With a whiff of spice(s) in the air, you want to learn more about the smells and beautiful dishes you can whip up with them and all these can be fulfilled in other corners of the garden. A cooking school where chefs like Viji, Nyonya Su Pei and Rohana make it a joy to master a local dish or two and partake of it, is found in the grounds. Also perched on a wooden deck, is yet another spot to chill, where you can take it the gentle breezes of the Andaman Sea as you nibble into Thai-inspired canapés or even savour a full Thai lunch or dinner. Even the shopaholics are not forgotten in this tropical paradise, for a retail outlet stocked with many Malaysiana items await.

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For now though, lets focus on this weekend’s happenings,  where a “Poison Garden” is taking shape and will be unveiled. The project, is a collaboration between the Tropical Spice Garden and Lithuanian designer Tauras S. The small theme garden is said to reveal the rich history humans co-existing with plants that heal, thrill and kill! Details in the poster below and please remember to RSVP if you are attending.
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 Photos courtesy of the Tropical Spice Garden

Nyonya Nibbles

They are up at the crack of dawn making Nyonya kuihs (cakes made by the Straits-born Peranakan Chinese) which are so fine and delectable. Located along the hard-to-park Burma Road, there is also mercifully a backdoor entrance to Li Er Cafe which fronts (!) the Pulau Tikus Market. An open kitchen offers visitors a first-hand look at how some of their childhood favourite eats are prepared.

Deep-fried Chinese crullers (Yu Char Kway or You Tiao) are being pressed and prepared from fresh dough for take-aways.

While my picks for the day were the Kuih Kosui (steamed in Chinese tea cups and rolled in desicated coconut) and Kuih Talam (twin-layered and also steamed in green and white),  the aromatic sambal ikan bilis which is served with the iconic Nasi Lemak, assails the senses and can go on record as having proven its weight in gold previously.

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Just Float

Malaysia’s first and only float centre – Float for Health – has opened its doors in Penang. The luxury float centre is the brainchild of Arthur Wilkinson, who during a visit to his brother in Southern California two years ago, had heard the hype being made about float centres. When the Wilkinson brothers located a float centre nearest to them, they found out there was a two month waiting list to get an appointment! Arthur finally secured a slot to float at another centre which was equally busy, and had what Oprah Winfrey would refer to as an Aha-moment when he stepped into a float tank, and figured that Malaysia may be ready to host similar float centres.

At his float centre located at Tanjung Tokong on Penang island (pre-booking is required normally between 8 and 10 hours before an appointment), one steps into a space where luxurious float rooms have been designed to maximise comfort and provide guests with a light-as-feather experience.

Guests are advised to bring nothing but an open mind, since all floating necessities such as towels, ear plugs, hair dryers, etc are provided. Tea and refreshments are also served after each float in a special lounge.

Each of the four float rooms found at Float for Health contains an extra-large tub with 500 kilograms of Epsom Salt dissolved in 250 gallons of water and heated to 34 degrees.

Free from gravity and external stimulation, one is left with no choice but meditate or sleep, as all sensation from the outside world melt away. Either in total darkness or with customised lighting on to fit the mood, the private spa-like room offered me a cocoon from the non-stop “chatter” of the mind and phone!

The sensation after the float session is akin to that of a relaxing massage, where all tension knots have dissolved and given way to a sense of zen and lightness.

Small wonder then that float centres in many cities around the world are turning into mini retreat and spa spaces for marathon runners, stressed out executives and fitness buffs.

More details are available at http://www.floatforhealth.com

Photos courtesy of Float for Health

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George Town

She has been a safe harbour to travellers for centuries, many of whom ended up calling her home and enjoying their days in the sun and being surrounded by water. Today she is a cosmopolitan city where travellers still fly, sail or drive in droves. While her silhouette has been altered greatly by man-made developments, she still has plenty to offer by way of experiences, panoramas and exquisite flavours. This is my George Town!img_6621

Christmas Countdown

As Christmas nears,  the reality of rising costs is likely to be felt when baking festive treats calls for high-quality staples. I have been reminded by many good bakers that one should never compromise on butter especially when making Sugee (or semolina) Cake and Jam Tarts. The brand of choice among the discerning is either Golden Churn or SCS Butter which in recent years, have both escalated in price. It would be interesting to see in the coming weeks if there will be substitutions or lower quality butter or margarine applied to time-tested recipes. I can safely say that Miss Cate my sugee cake sifu (teacher) will likely maintain her impeccable baking standards and continue showering us with her moist and buttery semolina delights this year.

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Time-out in Tambun

Bukit Tambun on mainland Penang is only a 45-minute ride from George Town on a traffic-clear day. The drive to this fishing village is one which is akin to taking a chill pill. Swaying coconut trees, cool breezes and a laid-back way of life greet any stressed out person driving into the village. Defences are let down as one takes in the slip-slap of the waves while fishermen take off or return on their boats. The healthy and green mangroves also lend a sense of calm to the senses as one delves into fresh seafood offerings at the various eateries built on stilts.

The star dish of the day was the Crab Fried Rice recommended by Ed for my crustacean-loving friends.
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