Thursday, July 29, 2010

Picking Blackberries

Tis the season to be merry and pick berries! 

I had wanted to go strawberry picking for quite sometime now but since the plan has yet to materialize, I had to content myself picking blackberries kat belakang rumah aje...

However, picking blackberries was not as fun  as picking strawberries as there were big prickly thorns to avoid.  You might want to consider covering yourself from head to toe to avoid being scratched!

As for moi, in the end, hubby did the 'dirty' job... Kui! Kui! Kui!

Blackberries normally grow wild in the bushes.  It flowers in spring and bears fruit in  summer. 

Beginilah rupa blackberry...  If it is purple, red or green in colour, it's not ripe yet.  So, tak payah petik sebab ia tak akan ranum walaupun diperam (ingat pisang ke??).  A sweet ripe blackberry would be deep black, and feels 'plumpily' soft when you squeeze it between your fingers.  Normally it will pull free from the plant with a slight tug. 

Blackberries are normally eaten raw, served with yogurt or desert and often made into jam or jelly.  Nantilah bila senang-senang, boleh cuba buat Blackberry jam (entah bilalah tu...)

Other interesting facts about blackberries:
- The ancient Greeks believed that blackberries could cure diseases of the mouth and throat and prevent many ailments including gout.
- Researches done in several institutions in Ohio found that blackberries contain potent antioxidants to fight cancer.
- According to Culpeper, the English herbalist, blackberry leaves boiled in lye solution made good grey-hair dye.

For more information on the blackberry (the fruit not the phone :P), go to this link.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer in Bristol

Summer is the time for outdoor activities.  Just the other day I watched this documentary on BBC about the British Outdoors.  My, the Brits really go all out during summer - camping, cycling, walking, fishing, picnicking, hiking, rambling, you name it!  Of course, we Malaysians don't really understand what the fuss is about as we live in a temperate country whereby 'summer' is experienced all year round.  As a sun-loving person, though, I welcome the summer with all my heart :D!

Anyway, summer in Bristol is not the same as, say, summer in Michigan.  Not sunshine all the way.  Maybe due to Bristol's close proximity to the sea, you'll get alternative days of rain and shine.  But then again, maybe it's just the English weather :P... 

Just the other day, my co-supervisor remarked that this summer is not a typical Bristol summer.  When I asked her what she meant, she said that it has been unusually 'hot' (when it's hot la...) this time around.  Well, I don't mind.  I'd rather have the sun scorch my skin than have the rain dampen my spirits :)!  But then again... I do think I have become a tad too tan for my liking.  Nak buat macamana, kulit Melayu... hehehe!  I guess I'll just have to slather more of those sunblock on my face :)...

Di samping Dr. Eyja yang putih melepak 
...or was it the foundation? :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

School Reports

The school term is coming to a close.  Unlike in Malaysia where school term ends at the end of the year, the term ends in July here. At this time of  year, parents will receive school reports of their children from the respective class teachers.  This being my first time (of receiving school reports in the UK), I was quite anxious and excited.  The UK school system has never failed to amaze me and I was thinking (in a good way) "what now?"

In Malaysia, school reports tend to be rather quantitative, whereby the marks (and grades) of each subject will be totalled up to determine a student's position in his/her class and cohort (very important to the parents, this :P).  There will be a small space in the report card for the class teacher and headmaster/mistress to briefly comment on the student's progress.  Most often, it will be some 'safe' forgetable comments such as "keep up the good work", "tingkatkan usaha anda", etc.  Rarely would you come across a memorable comment which would 'haunt' you for the rest of your life as "suka berbual-bual dalam bilik darjah" (like to talk a lot in class)! Kah! Kah! Kah!

In contrast, school reports in the UK are more descriptive.  No marks (surprise!).  Just the students' level (on a Likert scale of 1 to 5) to indicate their performance in each subject.  For example:
Level 3 and below represent "achievement  below the nationally expected standard for most ___ year-olds". 
Level 4 represent "achievement at the nationally expected standard..." 
Level 5 & 6 represent the "achievement above the nationally expected standard..."

What is more important, the teacher takes time to describe the academic, as well as the social development of a child.  Each child's achievement is 'celebrated' no matter how small it is.  At the same time, a child's area of weakness is highlighted so that parents can work with the child to improve his/her deficiencies.  

This is different from what I experienced back home.  I could still remember my experience during 'report-card day' many moons ago.  The moment my husband and I were seated, the teacher didn't waste any time pointing out the weakness of my daughter in math, that she needed to get 90% in all her subjects to be top ten in class (obviously, being in the top class of the cohort was not enough:P), that she was weak in this, weak in that, bla, bla, bla.  If I were my daughter, I would be demoralized!  I could still remember the weird look she gave us when my husband coolly told her that we were O.K with Nurul's 87% in math (still an A!), as we thought that she has yet to show her true potential (the daughter being the lazy bum that she was :P).  When we asked the teacher what Nurul's strengths were (since she has told us loads of our daughter's weaknesses :P), she just couldn't answer.  Hmm...

What can I say?  The Malaysian education system is exam-oriented!  Perhaps if teachers were not burdened by the system (and headteachers, and kiasu parents...) to churn out A students, they would take the trouble to nurture our young ones to realize their full potential as  human beings (not just academically)??  I hope I live to see the day...