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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Incompetent and Lazy

I don't even know what we were talking about when The Son said something that I had never heard him say before. He said, "Oh! That guy is the most lazy and incompetent person I have ever met."

As a mother, I have spent 17 years of his life thinking that if I am not careful, my son would be lazy and incompetent. I have carried with me the thought that if I did not watch him carefully, he would skive and not give his best to his endeavours.

To hear him pass judgment thus on a fellow 17 year old was quite a shock to me. It seemed like a Father speaking. Of course, there are many lazy and incompetent fathers. So, age is no indication of maturity. Still, he looks so young and I had yet to lay down the burden of being custodian of his character and his morals.

So, I remarked to him that I am a little surprised that he would thus judge his peer. I said, "Don't all teens empathise with all teens about working hard? Nobody wants to work hard surely?"

My son looked at me, eyes wide. He said, "Mom! No one wants to work hard. If you ask me, I would rather play. The reason why I am gonna do this specimen now is so that I needn't do it tomorrow. The reason why I would do it tomorrow if I did not do it now is so that I can get good results at IB. The reason why I want good results at IB is that I want a future that is secure enough to finance things I wanna do for fun. I am doing this now so that I can have fun in future!"

Then, he continued, "All of us wanna have fun. I wouldn't judge another boy for wanting to play. However, it is reprehensible when a person is completely incapable of controlling himself enough to stop playing for a bit in order to discharge his duties to others and self."

Wow! My boy has become a man.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sulphur Soap


Where has this soap been all my life? It is simply good ol' soap with micronised sulphur incorporated. Sulphur is a known miticide (it kills mites) and fungicide (it kills fungus). My chilli plants are prone to broadmites. These mites are so small you cannot see them with the naked eye. You only know they are there when leaves begin to look rough and wrinkled instead of smooth and fat. Chilli plants are especially susceptible. They may be micron sized insects but they are redoubtable pests. They can kill the plant if allowed to.

Kudos to Dr. Wilson Wong for this inventive and organic pest control method.

1 teaspoon of sulphur soap flakes dissolved in 1litre of water, sprayed daily onto plant leaves, does wonders. The mites all die and my chilli plants produce beautiful new leaves. This thing works on spider mites too - the bane of every rose bush and butterfly pea plant!

Best thing of all, using sulphur as a pesticide is allowed in organic farming because sulphur is an important nutrient for plants. The only downside is that an excess of sulphur in the soil tends to acidify the soil. Unless you are growing gardenias, your plants will have problems uptaking nutrients when the ph level of the soil is too low.

This is such a cheap low class soap that you cannot find it in NTUC Fairprice nor in Cold Storage. One needs to go to Valu$ where it is retailed at $0.50 per bar. It does not even appear in Sheng Siong!

I first bought 4. Then, I bought 10 because the 4 got used up really fast.

I opened one for the plants. My maid took one to bathe Milo, and it cured him of the eczema that he has had for years. My son took one for his face (because it helps acne). The Husband and I took one for scalp health because it kills the fungus that causes dandruff and itchy scalp. Then, the maid asked me for one to bathe herself because she said that her hands felt so clean after bathing Milo.

It can be drying for the rest of my skin but it works really well for my t-zone (which gets so oily that I need to wash it 5 times a day). I use the sulphur soap once every 2 days to remove oil and dead skin cells.

It also has keratolytic action (i.e., it breaks down the outer layer of dead skin cells), thus saving me the bother of exfoliating. The Husband never exfoliates so I am happy that his skin and scalp get exfoliated a few times a week when he uses this soap. The best thing, though, is that Milo has stopped his incessant scratching. We were so naive. We used all sorts of expensive pet soaps on him when a 50 cents bar of sulphur soap would have done better.

Cheap is not necessarily bad. Some of the most organic soaps (without a ton of additives) are the old brands that my Grandma used. Back in those days, big Pharma hadn't done that much research and chemical additives had not been invented. Soap was just soap.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Impressionism: National Gallery of Art, Singapore

I did not know about this exhibition until The Daughter mentioned that she was going with her JC classmates. There is something about Impressionist Art that appeals to me. I don't know what, though. I have liked Impressionist Art for years. Except for some Italian Renaissance Art (Caravaggio, whose portrayals of biblical scenes in all their blood and gore fascinates me) and some Dutch painters (Vermeer, whose ability to paint light is breathtaking), I don't really connect with many paintings. Not even Michelangelo nor Leonardo da Vinci nor Picasso nor Salvador Dali nor Andy Warhol.

I know these are good artists and very famous but the emotional connection is just not there. Since I cannot paint and know nothing about painting technique, my evaluation of art is very simple. Does it fascinate me or not?

What fascinates about Impressionism is how the artists make use of how the brain interprets images. Many impressionist paintings can only be appreciated from afar. I actually have a bear beanbag that is Impressionistic. From afar, we see a brown bear. Up close, the bear is coloured with spots of black, bright red and bright yellow. No brown. However, the combination of the little points of colour creates convincing light and shadow. From afar, my bear looks quite real.




I like almost all impressionist and post-Impressionist art. So, I got REALLY excited when I found out that there was an Impressionist Exhibition in town - 60 works from the Musée d'Orsay. My visit to the Musée d'Orsay 20+ years ago was a defining moment in my life. I have never gotten over my emotional connection to Degas, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec. I am not sure about Van Gogh because one sees him so often that one has viewer fatigue.

Unfortunately, there was not a single Degas nor Toulouse-Lautrec in the exhibition. I was a bit disappointed. Still, until I next go to Paris and block out 3 whole days to spend at the Musée d'Orsay, this exhibition will have to do. See HERE.

The Musée d'Orsay itself is fascinating. It used to be Gare d'Orsay (a train station). That day when I visited Musée d'Orsay so many years ago really is an indelible memory. I don't know why the place and the paintings moved me so much.

The painting box of Renoir and the palette of Degas.

Painting by Monet.

Another Monet.

A Manet.





Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Fertiliser in Bulk


This is 75kgs worth of fertiliser. There is Guanito (a mixture of different animals' poop with NPK 6:15:3 + 10CaO + 2MgO) and Phenix (also a mixture of different animals' poop with NPK of 6:8:15 + 2MgO). There is also agricultural grade magnesium sulphate (MgSO4). These are my go to fertilisers of choice (in addition to worm poop from my vermi-composting bins and my kitchen waste compost in the veggie composting bin). All are treated organic fertilisers.

The results from this combination of fertilisers are amazing. I raved about it to the Mother-in-law and she nodded politely. I could tell she was not convinced. So, I started my clandestine fertilising operation of her garden. I fertilised 1/4 of her garden and left the rest. After 3 weeks, when she began wondering why that particular area was growing so well, I told her the truth.

She was sold!

Our gentle Malay neighbour bore witness to my clandestine ferting operations. She too was sold on these ferts. So, I bought 75kgs of fertilisers and shared it 3 ways. 


Fertilised balsa plants - fat and sturdy.

Unfertilised balsa plants - skinny and diseased.

Fat and healthy veggies.

Fat and healthy veggies.



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.