Monday, January 3, 2011

Holiday Open House

One holiday tradition for my family is to host a holiday season open house (rumah terbuka) for friends and colleagues.  Typically we hold these around the Christmas/New Year time although we did deviate one year with a Cheese Party at the end of one November.  It is a good time to reconnect with former colleagues, and meet the spouses of present colleagues.  This year our open house was set for 1 January 2011, a Saturday, 4-8pm, which meant that most people would be in town as the new school year started on Monday, 3 January.
So, what are the ingredients for a good open house?

Good Food
First of all, one must have both delicious and abundant food.  Typically we get the main dish from a Malay caterer since we want to ensure the guests are both familiar with the food and comfortable that it is halal.  One year we served a family turkey and they picked at it before asking for the chili sauce!  In the photo you can see the main dish -ayam masak merah (red sauce chicken)- in the tin at the back left.  In the left foreground is a tin of acar -pickled vegetables- which, with the nasi minyak (oil rice, but this version was more like confetti rice) makes the main dish.

Daughters of a colleague taking the rice

Nasi minyak, but looks like "confetti rice"
On the right side of the first photo can be seen the many varieties of baked goods that my wife makes.  She is famous amongst my colleagues for her baking and this spread included apple bread (with pecans), zucchini bread, fruit bread (two varieties), cinnamon bread along with chocolate-chip cookies, chocolate cake,  fruit tarts, tiny cupcakes and so forth.  Drinks in the form of sodas (Coca-Cola, Vanilla Coca-Coal, Zappel, Root Beer, F&N Orange, F&N Fruit) and water were served.  Usually we provide hot water for tea and hot chocolate, but this day Jabatan Bekalan Air chose to replace some pipes and thus the water was cut for the day.

Selection of sodas, but not drunk much by Malay friends
Secondly, after securing food and beverage, one must provide some entertainment for the children especially if, like me, you have many colleagues who are in the early child rearing stage of their lives.  We like to play Santa Claus so up goes a Christmas tree with presents underneath for the children.  ("What defines a child?" I was asked by a single adult hoping to score a present.  "If they are under 6 feet in height, or more intelligent than me" was my reply.)

Daughters of a colleague in front of Christmas tree
We like to give healthy presents so typically we wrap up a selection of small, hard candies and a fruit drink, maybe a chocolate or two (Cadbury's Choclairs are perfect - support Kraft products!).

To assist with babies and toddlers, we put down straw mats on the floor with a selection of toys -washed between open houses- for "free play".  The toys are all plastic as I discovered that metal toy cars were driven by the children (boys mostly) on the tile floor, not the mat, putting scratches on the cheap tile with which I had remodelled.  (Note to self: buy better tiles next time.)

Toys on a matt

Even babies like Teak's open houses!
Of course, it is not just children who enjoy Christmas trees; some of the adults like to have their photos taken in front and we enjoy telling the history of the tree's ornaments.  Some western families buy a new ornament or two each year (or receive such as gifts) and those ornaments tell a bit of the family's history.

Four Malay men from three different countries
Finally, one must provide comfortable and sufficient seating, whether on chairs or on mats on the floor.  We have a variety of chairs -rubberwood table chairs, teak chairs and bench, rattan-cane settee and couch with cushions, and also a newly-purchase teak-and-jute screen to hide the clutter corner where rain jackets, tools, and footwear hide out.

Teak bench with teak-and-jute screen
Of course, my favorite furniture is built from teak (kayu jati) from which I derive my nickname.  I even had a post about this beautiful wood back when this blog first began.

So there you have it, the three main ingredients for an open house.  Of course, what you do after providing the basics is up to you.  So the final ingredient has to be great conversation.


  1. Hey! When did you get that teak screen?? I remember the bench, but not the screen. Hmm can I inherit the screen and the bench someday? Haha, guess which one of your children this is.

  2. Sure, come and get them! Children? Do I have children?