Thursday, 15 October 2020

Volunteering at Free Tree Society (Bangsar Nursery)

*Note: This blog post is based on my experience volunteering in Mid July 2020
I had the opportunity to Volunteer with Free Tree Society (FTS), Bangsar Nursery, back in July 2020, and I have to say it was a pleasant experience! Besides getting some hands-on plant care/gardening experience, we were taught about climate change and what we can do to play our part to prevent it.

What is Free Tree Society (FTS)? 

Established in 2013, Free Tree Society Kuala Lumpur is an environmental organisation that spreads the environmental stewardship message by giving away trees for free to green our Earth. 

They have a nursery in Bangsar and also a station at Taman Tugu, KL! You can read more about them here on their website!

How do I Volunteer with FTS? 

You are required to book a slot by sending an email to FTS. FTS offers various volunteering experiences, which you can refer to here on their website. 

I selected the Bangsar Nursery Volunteering program, which is available on Tuesday and Saturday mornings only. 

Every volunteer gets to bring home one plant of their choice after volunteering! I took home this white ghost cactus! Public volunteering sessions are free, however, companies or corporations booking for more than 10 volunteers in a session will be asked to donate a minimal fee.

Note that their volunteering program is limited to strictly 10 people and the slots get booked up fast, so do book your desired slot in advance! 

What do Volunteers do at Bangsar Nursery?

1. Tour of the Nursery

We started off the day at 9am sharp with a tour around the Bangsar Nursery. The nursery occupies just a corner lot amidst the residential area of Jalan Limau Purut, just right next to Federal Hill.
We were told of various way to greenify our space, even if we have a small compound.
There were random broken pots, painted over with bright cheery colour, displaced all over the garden. These function as an animal hiding/resting spot!

The toilets at the nursery run on a rainwater harvesting system.

Do you know that 97% of the Earth's water supply is seawater? That means only 3% of the world's water supply is fresh, consumable water. Will we run out of fresh water supply one day? 

Somehow rainwater harvesting feels like it is not too popular here in Malaysia, probably (my assumptions) due to the fact that our water bill is still somewhat affordable. I do hope that more places would start to adapt the rainwater harvesting system since rain is aplenty here in Malaysia. 

There is a small water feature at the nursery - which is an ecosystem on its own. There are aquatic plants and animals in it and are self-sustaining. On free tree giveaway days, visitor can even bring home an aquatic plant/animals! 
We were also taught about the basics of composting. I finally know why the compost at my home smells...absolutely atrocious. 

Compose should have a 30:1 Carbon to Nitrogen ratio. Food waste like skin of fruits and excess vegetables contributes Nitrogen, whereas newspaper, egg shells, coal etc are what contributes Carbon.

If you have a low Carbon to Nitrogen ratio (eg: your compost mostly consist of food waste), that's when your compost will smell horrid. To "neutralise" the smell, you have got to add in more Carbon compound (eg: newspaper and egg shells!)

Random bunches of old pencils/bamboo stick bunched up together and tied on tree you know what are these for?

They are animal resting spots!

3. Brief Climate Change Talk

And we were taught about some basic fact of climate change. 

3. Hands-On Activities

The hands-on activities differs according to the need of the nursery during your volunteering slot. During my visit, there were many aloe plants that are in need of repotting and change of fresh soil due to the constant rain, that caused the soil holding the aloe to be heavily waterlogged
We were taught how to make our own potting mix. The brown grain thingy in the green bucket are rice husks, which act as aeration for the soil!
And were taught how to properly handle plants and repot them!

Halfway through we got really distracted by this cute (but poisonous!) caterpillar. 

Other than repotting, we had the opportunity to learn how to propagate some mulberry plants too! Just to note again that everyone's volunteering experience differs according to the need of the nursery at that time :) But you'll definitely get a lot of valuable hands-on experience with plant care!


FTS have a little corner selling gardening stuff such as potting soil, gardening accessories and fertilsier 

Which as you can see, have really cheeky names.


I'd definitely recommend anyone who would want to start gardening or learn more about plant care to join this volunteering program. I found it highly educational and fun too! And a huge bonus of being able to bring home a free plant so that you can kick-start your gardening journey. The staffs were really friendly and helpful, as they provided really helpful tips and recommendation on what plants you can bring home based on the care level you think you'd be able to give for your plants, and the location (eg: indoors/outdoors and light level) your place has. 

Do follow their Instagram or Facebook page if you're interested to learn more about them. FTS often hosts free trees giveaway too so do keep an eye on them through their social media page! 

Free Tree Society
Instagram: @fts_malaysia

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Bunga Raya Popiah, Melaka

Continuing on with my Melaka food posts.

There is one food item that I'd definitely not leave Melaka without eating it at least once -


Bunga Raya Popiah
Ah, the legendary Bunga Raya Popiah. One is never enough :p 
I'd often refer popiah as an "Asian Burito". Popiah is essentially a spring roll, if I were to directly translate it from the Hokkien dialect to English, it'd be "thin biscuit". 
The filling of popiah in Malaysia typically consist of various shredded veggies such as shredded cucumber, braised yam bean, tofu strips, then slathered on with sweet sauce and chilli, rolled up, sliced, and served! Popiahs are typically vegetarian, but the ones in Melaka are typically laden with pork lard - which gives it the extra crunch and oomph!
And my favourite place for popiah is definitely Bunga Raya Popiah! This humble little stall only sell one item - Popiah! Their popiah is definitely pricier compared to other places, but I feel their price is justified by the fillings - their popiah is packed full to the brim, full of the crunch from the pork lard! I'm dreaming of this popiah as I am typing this 😋

Head's up that it gets really busy on a weekend! Be prepared to queue as people tend to buy in bulk, and there are only two uncles manning the booth, doing all the rolling and wrapping. The best is to arrive when they just open, around 12:30pm. You may request for less chilli/no chilli/extra chilli while making your order. 

Bunga Raya Popiah
120, Jalan Bunga Raya, 
Kampung Jawa, 75100 Melaka

Business Hour: 12:30pm - 5:30pm

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Monthly Goals Review: September

This month passed by quick, and it felt as though my life got flipped upside down, or as though a tornado cut through them month of September, leaving me feeling...not sure what I feel. I was terribly busy and tired in the first half of September, then the second half of September was when things started to stabilize (I even had a trip to Melaka!) until a wave of bad news hit. 

How do one carry oneself through a month when everything's a mess? 

1. Be comfortable on my own

Similar to the month of August, I was busy and hence no qualms about being alone. Being busy makes alone time much more coveted I see. But is this a healthy way forward? 

2. Buy only clothes that are listed on my long-term planning wishlist

Epic fail. 
Honestly, I'm having a hard time sticking through with this resolution. See no 6. 

3. Initiate at least one event per month

Does my Melaka trip count?

4. Read at least two books per month
Half a World Away by Gayle
The Inheritance of Loss by Kieran Desai

5. Doing a monthly review of my goals
On it!

6. Do a monthly/weekly review of my spendings
Admittedly, this month expenditure is high on the dining out/alcohol segment and new clothes D: 

Alcohol expenditure RM200 

Clothing expenditure RM430
- 9.9 Sale (Two new T-shirts, a new skirt, a new basic dress and new pair of Sandals) RM300
- A dress from Dorothy Perkins RM130

Travel (Melaka trip) RM100

7. Carry a notebook and pen wherever I go and jot down notes systematically
This is much easier when I take the train - when I can immediately jot down ideas I've heard in podcasts during my commute. Managed to practice more of this, especially in the second half of September, when things. sort of went out of the window, and I realised how taking notes can keep me grounded and remember things better!

8. Try out something new each week
Week 1: I attended a focus group with a bunch of youth. That's something new.

Week 2: Coconut chocolate blondies
Week 3: Coconut cookies

Week 4: Coconut lime drizzle cake

9. Write more at least 100 words per day (not including what I write at work)

10. Log down news article I've read and jot down my thoughts about it, ie reading with purpose.

11. Curate at least two content on @pot_tosynthesis every week (Stories/Post)

12. Set at least two little goals every day

Was inconsistent with goals 9-12, again, because I felt a little out of control. But I'll try to push myself to do more of these for the month of October. 

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Donald & Lily Nyonya Food, Melaka

Whenever I visit Melaka, I have a few "standard" eateries I'd visit without fail. One of them is Donald & Lily, a Nyonya food restaurant serving simple yet delectable Nyonya delights! 
Donald & Lily has been around since around 1980, operating just as a small stall back then, but has since evolved and now occupies an entire shop lot at Taman Kota Syah Bandar! It is just about 5-10 minutes' drive from Melaka old town area. Parking there is a breeze - lots of parking lots, and no parking touts nonsense...yet. (please remain this way).

Who are Donald and Lily, you might wonder? They are the husband and wife team that owns this shop. You will see their portraits around the interior of this shop. Donald & Lily is only open for breakfast/brunch/lunch from 9:30am to 3:30pm. Do come early to avoid disappointment, as I've read many reviews claiming that some of the popular food items get sold out post-1/2pm!
Because of the restrictions imposed during MCO, the seating capacity of Donald & Lily has been reduced. It has always been a popular place and now with the limited seating capacity, expect to wait if you arrive at peak hour (after 12pm!). 

It used to be a self-service restaurant where you order and pay at the counter, but I noticed that the waiters are now taking orders from the table instead, from my two visits during RMCO (Once in July, and once in September).

The Food
There are only a few items on the menu of Donald & Lily. Expect the usual Nyonya Food suspects such as Nyonya Laksa, Mee Siam and Popiah. One food item that really caught my eyes (& taste buds and my heart) is Nasi Ketuk Ayam Rendang, which literally translates to "Knocked Rice with Chicken Rendang".
Nasi Ketuk Ayam Rendang RM12
My theory on why it's called Nasi Ketuk - the chicken was cooked till so tender it slides off the bones easily, as though it has been "ketuk"-ed many times :p Do yourself a favour and order this dish, please! This is definitely my favourite dish there - the rendang and sambal were fragrant and not too spicy (for me, I recognise my spiciness tolerance as "mild"). ON TOP OF THAT they used the blue rice (rice infused with blue pea/butterfly flower!). Always thought that rice tastes better when it's cooked this way :) 

Nyonya Laksa RM9
Rich. Creamy. Fragrant. Not toooo spicy. I love this. Nuff said.
There's also the extreme/premium version of Nyonya Laksa with seafood that is seemingly rather popular too, served only on weekends here at Donald & Lily. Never tried it before and probably won't be trying it out anytime soon, as I'm not too much of a fan of seafood.
Cendol RM5.40
This is by far my favourite cendol in Melaka, simply because it's not too sweet and the gula melaka used isn't too thick unlike some very famous place along Jonker Street ahem. But taste is subjective :) What I like might not be the same as what you like! And do share with me what's your favourite place for cendol too! 

I've been to Donald & Lily countless time, and they've never failed to disappoint me so far :) But again, taste is subjective. Try at your own risk!

Donald & Lily
No. 16, Jln KSB 1, 
Taman Kota Shah Bandar, 
75200, Melaka

Opening Hours:
Wednesday - Sunday, 9:30am - 3:30pm (Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

Saturday, 26 September 2020

The Secret Garden, 1 Utama

Is this a nursery? Is this a botanical garden...?

It is actually a rooftop garden located in a shopping mall. 1 Utama shopping mall in Bandar Utama! Apparently, there are about 500 different species of plants here in this 30,000 sq ft rooftop garden!

How to Get to Secret Garden

The first thing to take note is that the Secret Garden is only opened on weekends and public holidays, 10am-10pm. Admission is free!
The Secret Garden is accessible from only a particular set of elevators and stairs located at the New Wing of 1 Utama. Take note of this signage above - you'll see this around O' Briens on LG floor. 
You'll see instructions to get to Secret Garden on the elevator. the Secret Garden is located on Upper Roof (UR) floor.
You'll have to register yourself at the guard booth before entering and enjoy the green oasis. I'll let the photos do the talking!

Can't help but to be drawn towards this large school of whale fin!
Cactus corner
I call this the "Walk of Calathea" (Note: not official name - but there were so many different types of calatheas!)

Giant water lily pad - I've read that a small kid could actually sit on those without sinking!

There were also fruit trees/edibles corner

The Secret Garden is honestly a lovely place to stroll around, to take a break from the throngs of the crowd in 1 Utama :) I wish more places would have a secret garden like this! There were a couple of photographers taking photos of the beautiful flowers and plants there during my visit. My recommendation is to go early to avoid the heat, as some areas are uncovered.

The Secret Garden
UR, Upper Rooftop Bandar Utama City Centre,
Lebuh Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama,
47800 Petaling Jaya, SELANGOR, Malaysia

Opening Hours:  10am-10pm, Saturday, Sunday, and Public Holidays
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