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Monday, December 11, 2017

How To Grow Rosemary in the Tropics

1 tiny seedling in a BIG pot in July 2017.

The same seedling in December 2017.

7 tiny seedlings in generous pots in July 2017.

The same seedlings in December 2017.

Soil Mix
50% perlite + 50% Jiffy potting mix. However, any off the shelf cactus mix will work.

Sun Conditions
As much sun as possible. In the summer, near Aix en Provence, rosemary gets 10 to 11 hours of direct sun in temperatures of 40 Deg Celsius. They LOVE the sun. The more sun you give them, the faster they grow.

Water Conditions
They hate wet feet. Never water at night. Always water the rosemary at the time when the sun shines directly on its leaves. This ensures immediate transpiration throughout the plant and prevents wet feet at night.

Rosemary roots are susceptible to root rot. Once the fine tendrils of roots begin to rot, the rosemary will be unable to uptake water and nutrients. The leaves will begin to curl. The bottom leaves will turn brown.

If you do nothing, the root rot will spread and your rosemary will die.

How To Rescue a Rosemary Plant from Root Rot
Uproot the plant. Trim off the rotted roots. Be THOROUGH when you trim, or the root rot will spread. Then, your plant will die. Remove as much soil as possible. Lay the plant on DRY newspaper to dry out. When nice and dry, repot into CACTUS mix. 

Remember to note the percentage of roots you have removed. You will later need to trim the same percentage off the leaves and stems too.

Placement of Rosemary
Place under glass roof to get direct sunlight but NO RAIN. Rosemary hates rain. It hates daily watering. I only water when I feel the pot is very light (i.e., soil is fully dry). Feel the weight of your pot before watering. Feel the weight of your pot after watering. Water only when soil is DRY.

When watering, water generously until water drains out the pot holes below.

How to Rescue a Root Bound Rosemary
Most people prune the leaves of the rosemary to eat. However, to ensure the long term survival of a potted rosemary, it is important to trim its roots too. When the rosemary's large roots fill the pot, there is no space for the fine roots to grow. When that happens, there is again insufficient uptake of water and nutrients. The bottom leaves will turn brown and wither away.

A potted rosemary plant needs to be pruned at the roots and repotted in new cactus soil at least once a year. A video speaks a thousand words. Click HERE.

How to Fertilise a Rosemary
I give worm pee, Guanito pellets, Phenix pellets, gypsum powder, home made kitchen compost and worm poo. These are all organic fertilisers. I mix everything in water and steep overnight. Then, I water to all my plants, rosemary included.

I water all my plants with this very dilute fertiliser solution. It is always better to give very diluted fertiliser water, than to give a lot of fertiliser pellets. Too much fertiliser pellets will lead to fertiliser burn.

Rosemary From Nurseries or Cold Storage
It is in the financial interests of rosemary growers to...
- get a full and lush pot of rosemary in as little time as possible
- NOT facilitate the long term survival of your rosemary plant.

Hence, growers will crowd 4 to 5 seedlings to a pot. The rosemary hates having its roots crowded. If you want your rosemary to grow big, you need to give the roots ample space to grow, failing which, your rosemary will become root bound and die.

Hence, when you get a pot from the nursery, tease apart every individual plant and repot in its own generous pot with ample space to grow. Then, ensure a lot of direct sun, very little water and very well draining soil.

Kaypoh Jee

We have had a clutch of Zebra Dove eggs hatch in our garden. The babies grew up and forage in our garden for seeds and insects. They are very tame. They like to fly into the house to explore and to investigate what we are doing. Since they are a mated pair, I have named one bird, "Kaypoh" and the other bird "Jee". The female bird is Kaypoh and the male bird is Jee.

Together, they are Kaypoh Jee.

Milo has killed 2 birds previously already. After getting scolded, he has understood that he should be gentle. He did try to be gentle this time but the bird still suffered abrasions and lost feathers. I am quite sure that Milo means no harm. He simply does not know his own strength.

Anyway, he was sorry. We can tell because we made him sit in Naughty Corner. When we came back 10 minutes later, he was still in the Naughty Corner. Usually, if guilt is not weighing on his conscience, he gets out of the Naughty Corner the moment we leave the room. Misdemeanours like running out the gate for a jolly run around the neighbourhood is apparently not a sin in Milo's books. He barely even agrees to sit in Naughty Corner. When he does, he has that Roll Eyes This Is Unfair Look on his face.

This time, he looked very sorry.

Milo in Naughty Corner.

Kaypoh is doing well, eating a lot and is very perky. Jee comes by often to visit her. I don't dare to let her go because I caught some mynahs circling the cage. They can tell that she is hurt. If I set her free and her feathers are not grown back, the mynahs will kill her.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Childhood Dream Come True

The irony of my life is that I never dreamt of all the most treasured blessings that I do possess. The childhood dreams that I had, usually did not come to pass. I dreamt of becoming a Princess. Nope! Didn't happen! I dreamt of living in a renovated shophouse. Then, I discovered that they tend to be dark houses, with the occasional ghostly inhabitant. My dream crumbled to nothing. I also dreamt of living in a castle (goes with being a Princess you see) but castles are very cold places in winter, and cost a lot to heat (which offends my bank account).

I dreamt of owning a doll house. Other girls had doll houses. I never had one. Now I have one! Yay! It is not as nice as this one HERE, but still, I love it.

The fridge has ice cubes, bottles of cold water, milk, butter and cheeese. The telephone comes with 2 thick phone books and its own table.

The piano comes with a piano score. The oven comes with a shepherd's pie and cookies on a tray.

The meal is set for 4 people, with lemonade, pizza, cake, ice cream and a salad.

Little Boy's bedroom is in the loft. See how full his schoolbag is? Apparently, he does Music in school.

The Daughter's bedroom is at the top of the tree house. She has her very own patio and a sweet, girlie room.

I insisted to have a garden. The Husband can read his newspapers in the lovely armchair too!

Finally, I now have an outdoor bathroom with a clawfoot tub!

The toilet adjoins the bathroom.

The laundry room comes with a laundry basket, softener and liquid detergent.

There is even a garden swing!

The buffet table has a vase with flowers. The study desk has a pencil sharpener, pencils and a crayon.

Apparently, my helper's childhood dream has also been fulfilled. She saw me, head bent over my tiny furnishings and she asked, "Can I help?" Forthwith, I am not sure who had more fun - she or I. It has become quite interesting to get up in the mornings to see things moved around in surprising ways. Then, I proceed to move them somewhere else.

It is like the characters got up in the night and moved around, but sigh... I know it is my helper.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Buat Bodoh Syndrome In Kids

To date, I have experienced 5 children with the Buat Bodoh syndrome. These are highly intelligent children who DELIBERATELY underperform.

The First One
The first one that came my way, it took me 3 years to figure it out. This is a family so blessed with intelligence and talent that the other 2 siblings are world class in their passion. I do not mean this as a hyperbole. They are truly world class as in, they win worldwide competitions REGULARLY. We gave this child every benefit of the doubt.

He was clearly intelligent. Yet, he did poor work for me.

We got him diagnosed as ADD. We applied ADD strategies and put him on vitamins and a special diet. Things worked for a while and then they stopped working. We put him on every therapy I could devise to help him focus. Then, he was caught stealing something from his brother. Only then did I put two and two together.

He was jealous. This eldest boy had figured out that whenever he underperformed, his Mother was forced to spend more time with him. Doing too well in school meant that he would get less time with his Mom. So we made some adjustments to parent strategies. Mommy started giving him a special afternoon a week to make up for her absences taken when she accompanied the other 2 siblings to overseas competitions.

This intelligent little one must have figured out that I had something to do with his Mommy spending more time with him. Hence, in an attempt to manipulate me to advise his Mommy to spend even more time with him, every one of his weekly PSLE compos done for me included an irritating brother. I know! I get it! You don't like your brother! You feel neglected! However, there is a limit beyond which it becomes unfair to take parent time away from another sibling. His Mom began to look harried and stressed. She was almost whining when she confided in me, "I spend a lot of time with him on his schoolwork, more than with the other two." 

So, I ignored his shenanigans, choosing instead to give technical feedback about his compositions.

So, this child upped the ante. He began to underperform seriously, hoping that I would then advise his Mom to spend more time to help him perform.

I did quite the opposite. After all, if we care for this boy, it would not do to reward him for being a Damsel in Distress. These sorts of children grow up into adults who live their lives expecting handouts from their parents. They will become deliberate losers so as to perpetuate the pattern of, "If you love me, you will help me. If you love me, you will give me."

I expelled him from my centre and explicitly told the whole family (in the boy's presence) that henceforth, the child should get attention only when he performed. He went on to win himself a coveted DSA spot in a good school, a scholarship and an A* for English.

He obtained his A* for English BECAUSE he was expelled from tuition, not because he stayed in tuition. So you see, I must be the only tutor who gets A* by NOT teaching a student.

The 2nd One
The 2nd time, it took me 7 months to figure it out. She hid her intelligence so well that I thought she was poor in Higher Order Thinking. She would stare for long minutes at easy questions. Her answers made strange and illogical connections.

I would never have found out except that this child LOVES to lead. She ADORES bossing people around. She is not only intelligent, she is also a gifted leader of other children, and a strong influencer of adults. However, in my classes, leaders are chosen only when I see them master the academic material 3 times faster than others.

These are often the high potential and gifted kids who see the answers almost as fast as they read the questions. These, I load them with further cognitive challenge over and above the academic material. On top of learning English, they must learn strategies to influence and lead.

As long as she stayed stupid, I would never choose her to lead. The metamorphosis was amazing. She morphed from a tricycle to a Ferrari in less than a month. When she unleashed her intelligence upon us all, even I was taken aback. In the 2017 SA2, she scored full marks for compre and listening compre. In compo, she was 1 mark away from the top in class. This was in stark contrast to her grades in SA1 where she was below average.

Again, this child is the eldest of 3. Tellingly, her Mom also said, "I spend the MOST time with her. She needs me the MOST." Oh well, it just goes to show that the Buat Bodoh (i.e., Act Stupid) strategy works! If the Asian child buat bodoh, the Asian mother will give her more attention.

These days, this one's brain ticks along as fast as a GEP brain. I bet you that she deliberately underperformed at the GEP testing too.

The 3rd One
This one was sloppy and careless. So, I requested that his Mother activate Throwback Therapy according to my method steps. Since his Mother and I were not close, I had little idea of the family dynamics until one weekend when Mommy was away at a ballet competition with a younger sibling. That day, this boy's brain shut down. The homework was disgusting and he completely drifted off in class.

If you know how Dr. Pet's classes are run, you will know that drifting off is quite hard to do. Apparently, he was determined to do so. He was on strike. His Mom was off giving her time to another sibling. He refused to work.

Troubleshooting with Mommy, I heard a now familiar plaintiveness in her voice, "This boy takes a lot from me. This oldest child needs attention from me all the time. I spend the most time with him."

Dear reader, you see a pattern now?

The 4th One
I am quite proud myself. At least, it shows that I learn from experience. I diagnosed this one within 2 months. This one cleared GEP testing 1st round. Yet, he could not answer simple questions with no right or wrong answers (e.g., What do you think of Cuthbert?) that other children who did NOT clear GEP testing 1st round breezed through.

His ineptitude sucked attention from everyone. At one point, he was assigned a student guide, a facilitator and myself. We were all waiting for gold to drop from his mouth. He held the puppet strings and was the puppet master. He had successfully become the centre of attention.

This one wasn't quite as skilful because he tried from Week 1 to draw my attention in a way that got me suspicious. He did it well, but he overdid it and he did not account for the fact that I tend to have very opposite reactions to some stimuli than normal teachers.

I have 5 cases but I shall not bore my readers with the details of all 5. After a while, every case has the same contours...
- eldest or elder child
- highly intelligent parents
- busy parents
- child overdoes the stupid act (i.e., even simple questions he/she has problems with)

Why does it happen?

You see. If your children are spaced closely together, the older one is not quite out of baby stage when the younger one is born. If you have experienced the homecoming of a baby, you know that a new baby sucks attention from everyone simply because he/she is completely helpless. If your slightly older one is intelligent, he/she will figure out within the 1st month that if he/she regresses towards babyhood, he would successfully grab parent attention and time away from his newborn sibling.

Parents are of course clueless. The pattern propagates itself through the years. The more helpless the older one, the more time he/she gets.

If you have an intelligent eldest/elder child who spends an entire childhood Buat Bodoh, he/she will really become bodoh once puberty hits and his/her body activates synaptic pruning (see HERE).

I wrote this post for any parent out there who has an eldest child who is needy and underperforming. The solution is twofold

(1) to signal to this eldest child that he/she will get attention only if he/she performs, NOT when he/she underperforms

(2) to make conscious effort to divide time/attention equally between children (do NOT tell your elder one that you must spend more time with the younger ones because they are more helpless).

Monday, November 27, 2017

Purslane and Brazilian Spinach Oats Porridge

The porridge is vegetarian but I gave my son a meat topping.

Brazilian spinach on top.

Ornamental purslane.

Wild purslane. This plant grows in many gardens like a weed. Save some money. Eat weeds.

Brazilian spinach.

See HERE for the nutritional profile of purslane. See HERE for the nutritional profile of brazilian spinach. Both plants are hardy (quite invasive) and require very little care. They are nutrition packed too. For someone trying to be as self-sufficient as possible for vegetables, I am so going to grow a lot of both plants.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

2017 SA2 Results

This one did badly at SA1 too.

This child is one of the few who are dyslexic.

This one topped the cohort. She is writing short stories for me.

When this one started, I thought she CMI (cannot make it). She had such an awful attitude to work.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Hyatt VS Shangri-La, Singapore

The Waterfall Cafe made me a special gluten free dessert.

In February this year, a friend and I went to 10 Scotts at The Grand Hyatt Singapore, where I experienced gluten poisoning. We had asked for gluten free bread but (1) when we tested it with the NIMA, there was gluten and (2) by the time we tested, I had already eaten a fair bit, so I had diarrheoa.

The hotel refunded us the money for the meal. Someone called and apologised nicely. The poor chef who was put in charge of providing us gluten free options had done his best. He could not know that the gluten free bread that The Hyatt hotel had bought from a 3rd party supplier had gluten. He also told us that the gluten free bread was heated up in the same oven as normal bread. This can result in cross-contamination.

Frankly, for celiacs, cross-contamination can be very serious. Celiacs experience a wide range of symptoms in reaction to even tiny powder flecks of gluten. Some are as mild as rashes. Others break out in boils on the scalp, experience thyroid malfunction, become suicidal, have diarrhoea and develop muscle ache.

A 5 star hotel needs to be more responsible than this when placing a dish on the table, calling it gluten free.

I did not want to make a big fuss so when Customer Service called. I praised the chef for his efforts and requested that somebody get back to me about their investigation into why their gluten free bread contained gluten. Oh well... nobody did ever get back to me. I guess they were not sincere about offering gluten free options. Once they knew that I was not angry, they stopped worrying.

I guess it really is up to the hotel to decide whether the dollars from the gluten free crowd is worth their effort. It is, after all, a business decision. I mean, I don't expect businessmen to care about whether their food harms me or not.

Then, I experienced The Shangri-La. The Shangri-La in Sentosa had an entire breakfast section that was gluten free. The morning buffet had allergen labels clearly marking each dish - dairy, nuts, gluten. Every single waiter was trained and knew what to do when told that I am celiac. The Head Chef explained to me the kitchen processes he had instituted to prevent cross-contamination. I was not just impressed. I was overjoyed. The hotel really cared! I did not expect them to, but they did! I was used to starving in places full of good food that I cannot eat. So, I was overjoyed.

The Shangri-La Sentosa's Singaporean Head Waiter told me that he had worked all over Europe, and was very familiar with allergen serving processes. I then discovered The Waterfall Cafe in Shangri-La, Orange Grove Rd. You can see that The Waterfall Cafe is SERIOUS about gluten cross contamination. Unlike the Hyatt Hotel, The Shangri-La has professional kitchen processes that go beyond any individual chef. You can tell from the small things such as the one below.

The gluten free desserts are on the very top shelf. This means that crumbs from the other gluten-full desserts will not drop onto a gluten free dessert.

I eat at the Shangri-La once, sometimes twice, a week. On weekends, I bring my whole family there  for gluten free pasta. When I go out with friends, we always go there too. My friends are kind enough to let me choose where I can eat safely. If only 1 person in a group of 10 is an allergy sufferer, it is often that allergy sufferer who will pick a venue for meals. At least, that has been my experience.

Needless to say, I am disappointed that The Grand Hyatt, Singapore never got back to me on their investigation. I don't think they even cared to investigate nor put in allergen friendly kitchen processes, after my experience. I am sad too because I don't dare to ever eat in any one of The Grand Hyatt, Singapore's restaurants again.

I am also sad because whilst I have every confidence that every one and any one of the Shangri-La Hotels internationally are allergen friendly, I am not sure of The Hyatt... even The Grand Hyatts. I had wanted to book a stay at The Grand Hyatt in Bali, Nusa Dua. I waited and waited for The Grand Hyatt, Singapore to get back to me on my experience of gluten poisoning. They never did. So, I never booked their hotel in Bali.

I was also waiting for an update from the Hyatt Hotel so that I could update on the local celiac FB group (with 1,434 members in Singapore alone and visiting celiac members who join because they are heading into Singapore for their holidays, and need to know where it is safe to eat). Celiacs know they have few places to eat safely. So, when someone posts that a place is safe, ALL OF US make a trip down.

Similarly, when 1 person gets gluten-poisoned, NO ONE else dares to go to that same place anymore. No one wants to break out in boils after a meal.

If all 1,434 members in that FB group have 4 family members who, even though, not celiac, must eat at celiac safe places, that is a total of 5,736 paxes lost to the The Grand Hyatt's restaurants. Occasionally, the Waterfall Cafe at lunch, is fully booked because of corporate bookings. 2 people in that group had food allergies. As a result, all 25 people had to book the Waterfall Cafe.

Then again, this is perhaps too small a market for The Hyatt to worry about. So, thank heavens we have the Shangri-La.