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Friday, January 25, 2019

The Batik Auntie

When no one is looking, I wear batik dresses at home. They don't cost much, are loose and being cotton, they wick perspiration very well indeed. I get a lot of wear out of each batik dress before they turn into rags. Every year, I buy a new lot from the Batik Auntie at Chong Pang market. 

This year, I realised what a formidable sales woman hides behind that innocent old lady face. Her hair is all white and wrinkles criss cross every inch of her face. I am guessing that she is near 70 years already. One forgets when one sees a sweet old gal, that she has had a lifetime of experience to draw from, and this one... man... this one!

My favourite batik kaftans were not in stock. Whyyyyyy? I love kaftans but apparently, they are no longer fashionable among aunties who shop at the wet market. What is now in fashion is the mermaid dress. This is a dress with a sort of flared skirt around the knee.

I asked how much. It was $15.90. I was taken aback. I am so used to paying $10 a piece for my favourite batik kaftans. I shook my head and walked away but I really really needed new batik sleepwear so I walked back again, determined to find a cheaper pattern. I found something at $12.90 each and proceeded to pick the colours and the prints I liked.

She began in earnest her sales pitch. Out came a chart with all 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. She asked me which animal I am. Then, she picked out the colours auspicious for me.

- "I don't bluff you one lah... If the dress don't look nice on you, I won't sell you ok. These colours bring you luck and make you look good. I tell you ah... the mermaid pattern is good to buy. It looks so feminine and good design is good design. You have to pay more for good design, but it is worth it!"

I protested feebly...

- "I am wearing it to sleep. I don't need it to be the latest design."

She responded with a flounce...

- "Oi... don't say that you can wear anyhow to sleep ok. Nowadays ah... outside there ah... got women come in all tastes one ok. Got sweet and sour and bitter. You are married right? You have competition! Go to sleep also must wear something nice."

I was writhing internally with laughter. I wanted to tell her that at my age, nothing I wear is going to make me look enticing and I needed to count on my husband's moral rectitude and sense of honour to keep him faithful. However, I did not know how to say all that in Chinese so I nodded my head and smiled.

In the end, she half bullied and half cajoled me to buy 3 dresses at $15.90 and 3 dresses at $12.90. Sigh! Things are becoming more and more expensive these days. I remember buying such dresses at $4/piece before.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Abdication of Responsibility

Over the weekend, a parent told her son in front of me, "I give up. If I still cannot cope, I will leave you for Dr. Pet to motivate and to manage."

So nice hor... pay Dr. Pet $280 a month and she will fully motivate, manage and discipline your child for you on your behalf. You see, Dr. Pet has a magic wand. She only has to touch your child and he will behave.

This parent often complains to me about her children. I give her clear method steps to follow but she does not follow them. Unsurprisingly, her relationship with her child is still fraught, and her children disobey her. According to her, she has naughty and unmanageable kids. Her method of coping is to complain about her child.

Complaining is not going to help her child succeed. It simply lays the blame on the child for poor parenting habits.

When children come to the centre and show themselves to be docile and obedient to me, then any rebelliousness or misbehaviour with the parent is due to poor parental management. If the child were really problematic, the child would be problematic here too. This parent's child is very docile and cooperative with me.

I have offered to teach her how to manage her children properly but everyone expects free advice from Dr. Pet. So, in order to save money, she would rather continue to complain and then say, ""I give up. If I still cannot cope, I will leave you for Dr. Pet to motivate and to manage."

It is impossible to help children of parents like that. The parent influence 24/7 is stronger than mine. I know because I have TRIED in the past to help. I failed. Every time. Now, I don't even try.

For all parents who read this blogpost, know this. If you give up on your children, I will give up too. I am not going to chiong and kill myself for your kids if you don't care enough to even try.

I used to stress myself overly about this and that child reaching potential. The Husband is right. These are other people's children. Parents should not expect that I will happily take over the motivation and management of their kids for $280/month.

It is very tempting to abdicate responsibility to a teacher. It is a responsibility I refuse to shoulder. I have tried to shoulder it before and it lead me to depression. I cannot save children from their own parents.

It takes 24/7 effort to build up motivated and disciplined children like The Son and The Daughter. There is no way to do it in 1.5 hrs a week. If I try, I will only fail. Some of these children have so much potential. I would not mind adopting them and then put in this effort. After this effort, I want to be the ones to enjoy these children's loyalty and filial piety when I am old. If I am to parent the child, then I want that child to be mine and only mine.

No such thing as parent on your behalf and return the kid to you disciplined and motivated.

I have learnt wisdom. Now, if I discern that the parent is not committed to parenting, then I also pull back on my own investment in the child. I don't want to pour my energy and time down the drain. The next time this parent complains to me about her child, I will ignore her. I will also refrain from spending too much extra time on this child. Better to conserve energy and invest it in parent-children pairs that will give me results.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Selling Organic Echinacea Flowers

I am selling organically grown echinacea flowers at $7/stalk. The minimum order is 5 stalks. One flower is enough to stave off a flu provided...

- You sip the brew once every 15 minutes over a period of 8 hours. Echinacea is cleared out of the body by the kidneys so the dosage disappears fast. Keep adding hot water and keep on sipping. At the end, chew the leaves and the flowers.

- You shred and mash up the leaves and flowers in the cup really well.

- You take the brew at the first signs of a sniffle or even when someone else sneezes at you. Do not wait for the flu to take hold.

The flowers will be dried and packed individually. Fresh flowers are available depending on how many blooms are available on the day itself. Click HERE for instructions on how to prepare.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Pretty Stones

I developed an interest in pretty stones. No, not diamonds. Diamonds are beyond boring. They do sparkle with internal fire and that is pretty much all that they do. I discovered that there is a huge variety of pretty stones that can be made into jewellery and these hold qualities of...

- Adularescence: 
A milky or bluish glow/lustre that seems to emanate from just under the surface of the stone. It is a property of moonstones.

- Labradorescence:
Iridiscent flashes of colour that seems to come from just under the surface of the stone.

- Aventurescence:
A metallic glitter observed when inclusions create a pattern of brilliant flashes.

- Opalescence:
A shimmer of different colours when viewed at different angles, caused by the reflection of shortwave light.

- Jellylike
The stone is hard but looks like jelly, High quality jadeite does this.

I have found that the beauty of the stones have NOTHING to do with its cost. There are beautiful stones that no one seems to want. For example, the chrysoberyl below is even harder than jadeite. It plays light off in a way that mesmerizes the eye and yet, it was only 49 euros.

Italy has a long tradition of jewellery making, dating back to the Etruscan period. In effect, people in Italy started making jewellery even before they started to write. Everywhere you go, there are jewellers in Italy. These are not simply retail merchants. They actually make the jewellery they sell, on site. Many of these jewellers use precious stones, gold and silver. If you look carefully though, you can find those who work only in brass and copper. They do beautiful work and each piece of jewellery costs less than 50 euros.

I don't hang out with people who like jewellery. So, the only people I have found to share my fascination with pretty stones are two 10 year old little boys who both own a rock collection. It is a bona fide hobby with a long tradition ok. See below an 18th century rock collection belonging to a Cardinal. 

 18th century rock collection belonging to a Cardinal.

Brass necklace with labradorite stones. It looks beautifully Etruscan.

A yellow agate pendant.

Alabaster pendant.

Amber (I think). I shall soon be conducting a shortwave UV light test. The most convincing fake for amber is copal, which is also tree resin but instead of being millions of years old, it is only a few thousands of years old. Under shortwave UV light, amber will glow blue. Copal will not. I did not pay much for my amber jewellery so I will not be surprised if it is only copal.


To test for fake chrysoberyls, immerse the stone in a clear glass of water. Hold it up to the light. If you see a honeycomb structure as above, it is real chrysoberyl. Chrysoberyl make beautiful stones and it is harder than jadeite. Yet, it is so cheap!

Chinese New Year Cookies by Kookii

A dear friend of mine is a talented baker. She isn't just a talented baker. She is a very PARTICULAR baker. I know because she taught me how to make her pecan rocks. She gave very specific instructions to me to get Spectrum coconut oil (from Cold Storage) and to get UNsweetened coconut flakes.

I got sweetened coconut flakes and was too lazy to go to Cold Storage. So, I bought the Phoon Huat coconut oil. She tasted them and eyed me like Gordon Ramsay. I don't know what she was thinking of saying to me (but did not) but I think it was something Gordon Ramsay would say to an offending chef on Kitchen Nightmares. Then, when she found out that I had bought sweetened coconut flakes, she rolled her eyes when she thought I was not looking.

During our cooking session, I was trying to lure her upstairs when my helper was washing the oven. She insisted on sitting in my kitchen to supervise the cleaning of my oven to ensure that my maid did it right. Then, when she asked for a glass tupperware, I produced one with some black marks on the seal. She looked at me and gently said, "You know, you can remove the seals and wash them."


Despite all the aggravation I gave her, she still spent about 5 hours in my kitchen teaching me to make gluten free nut cookies to die for. The problem is that they are only to die for when she makes them, because when I make them, they only taste alright.

Her cookies are really good because she is uncompromising on quality. At CNY, she supplies them as corporate gifts to discerning top execs. Do give her a text at 9792 9990. Book your cookies before she closes orders.

She does close orders you know. Last year, my order went in late and she could not make for me.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Lapone Vineyard Paradise

When all of us got here, we wailed because we only have 2 nights here. This is just a stopover on the way back to Rome before we fly home. Everyone said that we should have skipped Florence and come straight here to see what this place has to offer. Aaaaargh! Bad decision to go to Horrible Florence!

The Husband is especially taken with this place. The remoteness appeals to his introverted nature and whilst the house is built in the style of a centuries old cottage, it really is a new construction with all the proper insulation and electrical work. The house is very comfortable and there are stunning views from every window.

It is such a nice place that all 3 of us lobbied The Son to NOT go out to see Orvieto, the town that I had planned into the itinerary. We all just want to enjoy the house! Hey... people book Balinese chalets and stay a week. Why can't we book an Italian cottage and just stay in?

Outdoor seating.

Kitchen with SMEG fridge and Bose speakers.

Look at the views out the 2 large windows.

View from the kitchen.

The main cottage where the host stays.

View from our bed.

Our cosy fireplace.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018


Since the children were 0 years old, The Husband and I have been avoiding the major cities in favour of countryside driving tours in Europe. This started when we were students in France when we would drive off to nowhere and find things to see along the way. We traveled cheap then because we would just recline the seats of Hub's car and sleep in the car, in a campsite. Till today, we find it hard to do 3 different countries in 3 weeks. We can only manage a small part of one country in 3 weeks because we move very slowly and sort of mosey around looking for anything that might turn up.

Every discovery is a surprise.

Even before AirBnB, we were already booking cottages in the middle of nowhere and using them as a base to search for local things to see. There used to be multiple sites advertising holiday cottages until AirBnB consolidated everything.

I like to use our overseas holidays to teach my kids lifeskills. When I am old, they will need to step into leadership roles. So, it is wise to let them lead me during the holidays. See HERE.

Little Boy has come a long way and has now become The Son. He is now 1.5 heads taller than I am. He now navigates in the passenger seat whilst I chill in the back seat. He is a better navigator than I am. He is calm and steady. I tend to yell at the driver when I am navigating. Before we trained him, we trained The Daughter. So, I haven't been navigating for 10 years already. The Husband stares at me wild-eyed when I get into the passenger seat during the holidays because he knows that he will get yelled at when I navigate.

The Daughter and The Son pick the sights and manage the schedules. I just chill and let myself get herded along. It is now very stress free compared to those days when I had to keep an eye on my Little Boy because he liked to wander off and make sure the kids did not fight. Now, The Son keeps an eye on me and The Daughter makes sure her parents do not fight.

Since I already do so little, I thought I should still contribute by cooking the meals.

Then, overly stressed by having to live like a refugee in Horrible Florence, I fell sick. I could not cook. The Son likes to eat and so he naturally stepped into the gap. He made 2 yummilicious meals. Now, he has become Cinderbrola. He does it all. He navigates. He shops. He cooks. He finds things to see. He herds us all into the car. He supervises the packing.

I like.