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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hardship Holiday

Now that I have recovered from the New Zealand trip, I hereby promise myself that I will never go camping again. Gee... what was I thinking when I signed myself up for that?!

Budget Style Travel in Europe
As young parents, The Husband and I devised a perfect way to travel in Europe, USA and Australia without breaking the bank. We would rent a car and a cottage at every stop. See HERE. Maybe 5 days in one cottage before we move on to the next stop, next cottage. So, a fifteen day holiday would need 3 different cottages plus perhaps 2 nights in a city hotel near the airport - one night when we arrived, and another night before we flew home.

The cottage would be the base from which we would make day trips to tour the sights within an an hour's drive. It allowed us to discover corners not found on the internet. It allowed us to flexibly plan our visits in active discussion with the kids. We made sure we did something for everyone.

Cottage rental worked out to be about the same as hotel room rental. Cottages had kitchens. If I planned properly, I could cook for every meal. Lunches would be packed. Dinners would be pre-prepared and heated up in the microwave no matter how late we got back. Ovens would be pre-set to start at a certain time so that we would get back home to a hot roast or seafood en papillottes. If I was resourceful, we could have rare specialty cheeses, an informed selection of fresh oysters, deli delights that would cost 5 times the price in Singapore or in the restaurants there.

Eating out in restaurants can easily make up half of the cost of a holiday in Europe, Australia or USA because labour costs in such countries are high. Travelling this way, I effectively halved our travel costs whilst ensuring that the children ate well. Little kids have peculiar food habits which restaurants don't cater to. For a long while, before she became more adventurous with food, The Daughter only ate fried rice. Little Boy had to have spaghetti bolognaise. If I cooked as we travelled, the children ate more and we had less fights about eating.

It was a formula that worked.

Me No Gypsy
Then I had to go and mess with it because I had this romanticised notion of a gypsy's life. It was a hardship holiday I tell you. We were all very very tired at the end of 14 days. It ain't fun trying to sprint across the camp grounds to the communal toilet in the morning chill, only to realise that I had left my toothbrush back at the RV. Then I had to run back. It ain't fun trotting back and forth from the communal kitchen to the RV with pots and bowls and such.

The Husband knocked his head on the ceiling a few times. Little Boy closed the RV door on his own head a couple of times. My bed was used as the repository for bags and shopping. Little grains of I-dunno-what collected on it and irritated my skin at night, before The Daughter figured out how to carry out the quilt and shake it down before bedtime.

At first, nobody thought it necessary to clean out the excrement tank daily. Nobody liked that job, you see. It made perfect sense to collect enough to make the dirty task worthwhile. The thing though is that all that excrement decomposes into rather pungent gaseous byproducts. When the toilet bowl's toilet hatch is opened to receive the errrr.... newer droppings, putrescent fumes (the like of which would delight Milo) arise from below. Since my bed was right next to the toilet, the olfactory centre of my brain was given a fair bit of stimulation. We soon devised a way of pouring bleach into the hatch after every ummm... exercise of relief. I was very enthusiastic about that. I poured in lots and lots of bleach. The result was an updraft of another type of gas which corroded our ummm... delicate parts, and made us cough. In the end, we learnt to use the bleach sparingly to good effect. We also learnt to clean out the excrement tank everyday.

Conjunctivitis and Sinusitis
Then, The Husband's nose went on strike. Mud from the thermal mud pools had got into his eye. The tear duct was blocked up and then his nose decided to deny entry through its passages to the little specks of mud. His eye became infected with bacteria because with blocked tear duct and nose, the eye could not clean itself. The poor man couldn't breathe. Both nasal passages were so stuck that no amount of trying could get air to pass. They were hermetically sealed.

Then I came across a signboard outside a thermal pool that warned people against putting their heads inside the water of a thermal pool in order not to catch Amoebic Meningitis. Curious, I went to google the condition and scared myself SILLY. It was documented on the internet that the amoeba (which lives in hot springs) first colonises the nose and through the nose, it colonises the brain... and travels to the brain stem and there it begins to EAT the brain. Apparently, it's fatal. The amoeba liquefies your brain. It literally turns your brain to mush. We had visited 2 thermal springs. I stood there with the Sword of Damocles over my head, wondering if there were amoebae in The Husband's nose.

I didn't tell anyone my fears for 2 days. Then, the stress was too much to bear. I told everyone and freaked them all out. Poor Little Boy was VERY insistent that his father go and see a proper doctor. A little bit of Google is a scary thing.

Since The Husband couldn't breathe, he couldn't sleep. He lay next to me and emitted all sorts of hissing, puffing, gurgling and bubbling sounds. He sounded like a noisy toilet bowl trying to clear its own choke. I too woke up. Over two nights, I spent 3 hours administering pine essential oil and tea tree oil. I did it with great gusto (believing the enemy to be a species of brain eating amoeba). The Daughter called a helpline which advised that we call an ambulance and admit him to Emergency. However, the nearest hospital was 1 hour away... so we decided to wait till dawn before we drove that 1 hour to the hospital. By that time, the pine essential oil and the tea tree oil had done their job.

We went to see a doctor anyway because Little Boy was most insistent.

The worst thing was that we didn't SAVE money. We spent MORE than we had thought we would. Now THAT makes me really sore. We got the most expensive RV available for 4 people because we had intended to do freedom camping. However, I was just so grossed out by the dirty toilets in the freedom camps that The Husband decided to let us camp quite often at Full Service Campsites with showers, toilets and kitchens. It's like paying for accommodation twice.

I'm so going back to cottage style travelling.

Nonetheless, out of the ashes of this experience rose a resplendent phoenix of joy and hope. Our little family really bonded. The experience allowed us to see the mettle of both our children. Both Little Boy and The Daughter were strong under pressure. I have good kids.

No... I have GREAT kids!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Waipara Sleeper Camp Grounds

The Kitchen

Old Forgotten Bicycle

Chess Pieces

An Ancient Boiler

This was the cheapest campsite at $35 a night for 4 people. Most things here look like they've been DIY-ed. Everything, starting with the rusted train carriages (made over into charming bedrooms for those who travel in cars instead of RVs) look run down and worn. Tables have wood peeling off them. The toilet showers are mismatched. The formica countertop looks like it was recycled from somewhere else. The stove... I remember that stove from the French countryside 30 years ago. It was already old when I was young.

Yet, this place is absolutely charming. There are hedges of rosemary growing gustily, and left somewhat unpruned. A hot water dispenser that is at least 40 years old hangs over the kitchen sink, still doing its job. The train carriages look rusted and old. A rusted bicycle without pedals lean on the side of one train carriage. Giant chess pieces sit in one corner of the garden on old tiles.

The showers are hot though. The kitchen is clean. The tables and chairs are an eclectic mix of rejects from people who don't want them? A loaf of bread sits on the kitchen counter and all are encouraged to slice some off to eat. The lawn is trim and there are NO sand flies! This place has my thumbs up.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lavendyl Lavender Farm, Kaikoura

Kaikoura is along the eastern side of New Zealand's South Island. It is well known for its Swim With Wild Dolphins Tours. We found a hidden gem here though. It was a lavender farm run by Jan and Corry Zeestraten (a husband and wife team). They do it all... from tending the lavender plants, to designing the gardens, to distilling the lavender oil in their own oil distillery. They make their own lavender ice cream too.

We explored the garden with oohs and aahs. It looked like it had leapt out of the pages of a stately Georgian novel. There were benches that beckoned you to sit down. Turning a corner or ducking under a branch, you would come across little touches of humour or elegance. There was a little wooden mask leaning against a tree. There was a petanque set neatly arraigned along a stone path. A burst of red roses burst out at you from behind the neat rows of lavender coloured a gentle purple. The whole garden was filled with the heady smell of lavender oil.

An Inviting Bench

A Row of Trees

Lavender Coloured Coffee Corner

Lavender and Rosemary Muscle Ache Cream

I went berserk in the shop. Every single product was packed with a powerful lavender punch. We walked out with bottles of shampoo, jars of muscle ache cream, bottles of massage oil, spritz bottles of lavender water for spritzing the air, and pots of lavender honey. The Daughter asked me if I intended to buy the whole shop.

We tried the lavender ice cream and lavender tea in the tiny cafe right next door. I had never tried lavender ice cream before. This was so very very good that I think I shall try to make lavender ice cream when I get home.

Seals by the Roadside

The road to Christchurch from Picton borders the coast at some parts. The open ocean stretches towards infinity, with the horizon shaded in misty colors of blue, grey and white. Then Little Boy squealed, "There is a seal on that rock!"

And so there was.

It was raining a fine mist so we decided to come back the next day. I'm so glad we did. We spent the better part of an hour just lookng at Mommies frolicking in the water with their pups. Grandpa seals basked in the luminous light. Their coats are well camouflaged against the smooth rocks worn down by centuries of waves crashing upon the shore. We almost tripped over the one above and it was too lazy to move.

It was very very exciting. We had never been this close to a wild seal before.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Waterways Boating Safaris, Queen Charlotte's Sound

The children really had fun today. Gu niang Petunia just hung on for dear life. The Daughter and Little Boy drove their own motorboat. The Husband and I took another. We took a tour from HERE. 3 boats (i.e., 6 people) went out today together with the leader's boat. 

It was massive fun.

The mussel industry is a NZ$200,000,000 million industry that operates from Picton. Queen Charlotte's Sound has the pristine waters needed to grow HUGE and FAT mussels for sale all over the world. Seriously... the mussels here are HUMONGOUS. People who stay around here throw away the blue mussels that people like me pay to eat in Singapore. They deign only to eat the sweeter and much more meaty green mussels. We drove around to a few mussel farms and heard a lecture on how they are farmed... how people apply for resource concessions from the government to use the water for mussel farms.

We stopped by at a deserted beach for lunch and a local wild bird came by and ate from our hands.

The children made their own fun by zig zagging the boat on the waves. If you ride against the waves, your boat hops up and down on the water. It's something of a joy ride, which I don't really fancy but young people have plenty of adrenaline to spare.

Ohhhhh... to be that young again!

The Daughter piloting her motorboat with Little Boy standing up enjoying the boat hopping on the waves.

A weka bird coming by to beg for scraps.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Freedom Camping VS Holiday Parks

Freedom Campsites
These sites are free.

As such, they are very popular with young Europeans who drive up in a car, unload tents and sleep on the ground. There are toilets but these often are huge plastic boxes with a toilet seat. You look into the toilet bowl and see a pool of blue disinfectant... and of course errr... excrement passed by other people. There are no showers, no kitchens, no plug-in electricity. In both the freedom campsites we went to, there was a river with sparkling clear water to boil and drink. If you're not afraid of the cold, you can swim in there to freshen up. Just don't use soap. The views at freedom campsites are stunning.

With a self-sustained vehicle (i.e., one with its own toilet, excrement tank and grey water tank) it is quite comfortable to spend the night in a freedom campsite. It's also easy on the wallet.

Holiday Parks
The 4 star holiday parks (i.e., paid campsites) usually charge $20 per person. You get access to communal kitchens, showers and toilets. These are spotlessly clean in the 4 star sites... and there may be other fun stuff such as a trampoline, a swimming pool, a thermal pool. One even had an aviary. Another had a glow worm cave, warm muffins on arrival and lamb feeding. We've been camping at these sites every other night because they allow us to plug in and recharge the battery that powers the lights. We also get access to water supply to fill up our 120 liters water tank. There are washers and dryers for laundry too.

There'll also be a waste water and excrement dump for campers with self-sustained vehicles to offload all the icky stuff.

Self-sustained vehicles rental don't come cheap - about $4000 to $6000 for a 4 person.

Another option is to rent a car and then pay for the cabins in the holiday park. These also have beds and then you share the cooking facilities. There are also lodges with private cooking facilities.

RVs are only cheaper if one does a fair bit of freedom camping. I'm not keen on freedom camping because I dislike showering inside the RV. The Husband, to indulge his wife's fanatical need for cleanliness (laundry has to be done every other day and showers to be taken every day) has very kindly booked us into paid campsites quite often.

We met another family which spent 2 out of 18 nights in paid campsites. They did freedom camping every other night, subsisting on water from the free water top-up stations, and daily driving to recharge batteries.

Oven and Sink at Smith's Farm Holiday Park

Fridge and Microwave at Smith's Farm Holiday Park

Dining Area

Laundry Room


Midges and Sandflies
We've learnt to keep the insect screens of the RV down shortly before dusk. The first night, midges came in and flew around our lights. They don't bite but when they die the next morning, they litter the insides of the RV.

Sandflies, however, do bite. Like mosquitoes, they all come for me and mostly leave the others alone. Their bites are a lot worse than mosquito bites. They itch horribly for days and days! I've got them all down my legs. Sandflies reproduce in areas of running water, laying their eggs on leaves and stones. The female sandflies used to feed on seals and other mammals before humans came along. Now they make a meal of us.

We learnt to eat inside the RV at dawn and dusk because these nasties love to bite at those times.

Rewards of Camping
There are definite rewards to camping out. It is a near magical experience to wake up to stunning views in the morning, of crystal clear waters and sunlight shimmering on the leaves of the trees. The birds sing in the morning too. Along hidden pathways bordering the campsites there are magical corners that let you pretend you're in Rivendell (the home of the elves in The Lord of the Rings).

In early December, the temperatures range between 12 degrees celsius to 25 degrees celsius. These are very comfortable temperatures and it's wonderful to wake up and breathe in clean and pure air.

Hidden corner of the Whakapapa Holiday Park at Tongariro, resplendent in the evening sun. 
Just the place for dinner. 

Clear waters of the mountain river beside the freedom campsite at Reid's Farm, Huka Falls.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Self -Contained Vehicle

The Kitchen

The Dining

The Excrement Tank

Clearing Waste From the RV Into the Sewage System

The Pipe from the Waste Tank

When I embarked on this camping adventure, it didn't occur to me that I would have to clear emmmm... night soil from the RV. It didn't turn out too bad though. The camping infrastructure in New Zealand is beyond world class. I think New Zealand sets the standard for camping facilities. There are waste disposal stations and water top ups everywhere. I am very impressed by the civic mindedness of the Australian, French, German and local campers. Every facility that we have been to has been spotlessly clean. Everyone cleans up after themselves and disposes of waste responsibly. In a communal kitchen at a Full Service camp site, I took over a table from a German man, to prepare dinner. He came back with a cloth to clean up one tiny smudge of a spot that he had left behind. In contrast, a Singaporean family had their lunch on an adjacent table. They left crumbs and bits of tuna behind. I was embarrassed so I mopped their table too before I left the communal kitchen.

We're getting certain procedures in place quite nicely. Shoes are taken off outside the RV and bagged before we all climb inside. Everyone using the RV toilet has to wipe down with an antiseptic wipe. The space constraints are such that to be liveable, everyone must maintain very high standards 0f communal hygiene. Else, the RV fills up with dust in just a few hours and blades of grass get onto the bed.

I threw a hissy fit at the end of Day 2 about hygiene.

After a tense family discussion, we figured our way out. Every day, Little Boy mops the floor before he sleeps. The Daughter navigates and plans the itinerary. The Husband drives. I dictate procedures such as How To Use the RV Toilet-cum-Shower Responsibly, and How To Shake Out Dust From All the Duvets Everyday. Everyone pitches in to cook whilst I plan the menus and the groceries lists. If I am too ill, we look for a restaurant.

Everyone is happy to be living in a clean space again (though small).

You. Don't. Wash. Your. Dishes. In. The. River.

We went to a free campsite the first night (i.e., no communal showers nor kitchens nor barbecues). It had nothing but a Long Drop toilet (i.e., a toilet bowl with no water closet... you look down into a deep pit where everyone else's shit has dropped a long way down).  Ok... I was grossed out too (which contributed to my hissy fit)... but well...  I had made the dubious choice of camping, and so I guess I have to make the best of it.

We woke up the next morning to the magnificent sight above. It seemed like sacrilege to wash anything in that pristine river. What would our dish soap do to the fishes swimming in the clear water? How would it affect the black swans gliding placidly along the glassy waters? So, we took our waste water and emptied it into the sewage system.

I'm not sure I've made an entirely bad decision to do this camping thing. It does have its rewards. I guess I need to get used to it. It can be quite pleasant especially since The Daughter and Little Boy pull more than their weight.

They LOVE this camping business. All the hard manual labour doesn't faze them at all. They enjoy every bit of the hard work.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hobbiton, at Mata Mata New Zealand

A Hobbit's Sunday Brunch

Steps Towards Bilbo Baggins' Hobbit Hole at Bag End

The Very Unfriendly Note on the Gate

Samwise Gamgee's Hobbit Hole

Fishing in Hobbiton

The Veggie Patch

The Mill

The Mill

It wasn't something I expected because I didn't plan the trip. Also, I had understood that the film sets had been taken down after the movies had been made. It turns out that they had only been taken down after The Lord of the Rings. The movie sets constructed for The Hobbit have been preserved because the owner of the farm negotiated to have the sets stay permanently.

The place is actually a 500 hectares working sheep and cattle farm. It now runs Hobbiton tours as a side business - a very profitable side business. This is really what is meant by Reality is a Social Construction. Hobbits don't exist. They have no real existence. Yet, because everyone knows what hobbits are, real money rolls into Ian Alexander's farm by the truck loads. Whether hobbits exist or not is beside the point. It's what people believe.

It was a magical morning.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Miso Potatoes & Lamb Chops

Little Boy bugged me and bugged me to make crème brûlée. So that's what I did. Then Ting blogged about Miso Potatoes so I thought I would make that too. Since I was already making 2 special dishes I decided that I could be lazy and do a tray of idiot proof lamb chops.

Miso Potatoes (dunno why they dun look like Ting's HERE)

Grilled lamb chops

Crème brûlée.

Crème Brûlée

Custards cooking in their bain-marie (a larger tray with HOT water coming halfway up the sides of the custards).

Wobbly custard out of the oven.

Custard with a caramelised layer on top.

Ingredients for Custard
3 egg yolks
300 ml of thickened cream
1.5 tablespoons of sugar

Ingredients for Crust
1 tablespoon of white sugar
1 tablespoon of brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius.

Beat egg yolks and 1.5 tablespoons of sugar into a light yellow fluffy batter. Heat the thickened cream to just about to boil. Let the thickened cream cool for 10 minutes. Add the thickened cream slowly to the the light yellow fluffy batter stirring smoothly with a wooden spoon.

Add the CREAM to the eggs, NOT the other way round. The cream is hot. If you add the eggs to the cream, the heat in the whole bowl of cream will cook your eggs. If you add a bit of hot cream each time to the eggs, you will get a nice smooth yellow batter.

Fill 4 ramekins with the custard cream.

Place the 4 ramekins in a bain-marie, and inside the oven at 150 degrees celsius for 30 minutes.

Remove the ramekins from the oven and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

For the Caramel Crust
Mix 1 tablespoon of white sugar with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Sprinkle the mixture evenly on top of the custard in the ramekins. Place the ramekins in a larger oven dish with ice water. The water should reach halfway up the ramekin sides. Switch on the broiler to 200 deg Celsius. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes.

Watch the custards carefully or the caramel might burn. OR... you can use a blowtorch like the one below!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Electronic Game Addiction

I was trying to diagnose the motivation problems of 2 children in the past month when it occurred to me that they were behaving very much like cocaine addicts...

(1) They were physically restless. They could not stop moving.

  • One child had to get up to drink water every 5 minutes. When I told him that there was no need to drink water every 5 minutes, he got up to go to the toilet every 10 minutes. Sitting on his chair, he had to move his hands and feet. He was a ball of restless energy. It was even more obvious since all the other children were quietly concentrating.
  • The other child talked so fast that I couldn't understand him. He too had nervous physical tics which were less obvious because his class involved quite a bit of physical movement. Still... he was a lot more restless than the other children.
(2) They had very little impulse control.

(3) One child lied and lied about his homework.

(4) Neither child could focus deeply. One could not focus at all! He had to drink water every 5 minutes!

Alone, each of the above symptoms mean nothing. Together in the SAME child, alarm bells rang in my head. As I chatted with the parents, it turned out the both children played computer games extensively... 2 to 4 hours at a stretch.


Professor Douglas A. Gentile studies gaming addiction. You can read his CV HERE. Here is what he has to say about gaming addiction...

 "When you play the games, your [brain’s] biochemistry does change," Gentile said, "and it changes in many of the same ways that it does if you take cocaine. Your brain does release dopamine. That adrenaline rush you feel from playing games is really adrenaline. That's epinephrine coursing through your veins. You also get other stress hormones—glocucorticoids and catecholamines like cortisol and testosterone. And over time, [your brain] get desensitised."

- See HERE -

Note that the biochemical effects on the brain are EXACTLY the same as what happens when you take COCAINE. These children's brains had become so desensitised. Normal levels of stimulation (inherent in calmer intellectual pursuits such as reading and writing) could not capture their attention! The normal strategies I used to help children develop work focus did not work!

Parents complain their children cannot focus. No wonder! Both of these children sometimes spent up to FOUR hours a day on electronic games!

Why Can Adults Play Computer Games, But Not Children?
You know, we don’t give alcohol to children for a reason. They are physically incapable of dealing with the substance. We give children half doses of flu medication for a reason. The child’s body is unable to cope with higher dosage. Like it or not, the brain is an organ. It responds biologically to chemicals and hormones.

Most adults work. Adults have little time for computer games. The sessions of TV and computer games after work is much like a half glass of cognac before bedtime for an adult male. It is done in moderation. Children (especially during the holidays) can spend up to 4 hours a day on computer games and TV. This is like 4 glasses of cognac flooding a child’s body in ONE day.

If you fed your child such high doses of alcohol a day, your child would become an alcoholic in no time. His liver would also be damaged. Such Desensitized Brains can only focus when gaming. Anything else is bland and boring because these brains need the HIGH DOSES of adrenaline, dopamine, epinephrine and cortisol (provided by computer games) to stay focused. This explains why such children are unable to focus in class and cannot do work without getting up and fidgeting.

It doesn’t matter how interesting the class is. No academic class is as gripping as a fast moving computer game.

Dulls the Brain
One child's brain was so over-stimulated that the cognitive paths for even basic word recall and generation were frozen. These are LOWER order thinking skills necessary for language manipulation. The other children could generate 5 adjectives to describe a noun where this one could only generate ONE.

In the eyes of a psychologist like me, this is nothing less than BRAIN DAMAGE. No... I do not exaggerate. These brains had changed physically. The brain is an organ, remember? These brains had changed just like your liver would change if you drank 1 litre of vodka a day!

In one of the cases I saw months ago, the child was only 3.5 years old. His preschool used songs to teach the alphabet. The children danced. This one could not engage with any of these interesting learning activities. He was so bored that he pummelled on the door and tried his best to break it down to avoid the learning activities. Gee... he was bored by Songs and Dance?

In this particular child, improvements to focus and concentration could be seen after 3 months of going Completely Cold Turkey on computer games. Improvements were seen without ANY OTHER intervention.

Little Boy was only allowed 2 hours of TV on Friday night, if at all. He was not allowed ANY computer games until he reached Secondary 1, where his brain had sufficiently matured to take such high doses of excitatory stimuli. The Daughter at 4 years glued her eyes to the TV for hours. We removed the power cord quietly, and that was that.

Computer games are not innocent fun. They operate a lot like cocaine in your child's brain. Think about that, when you next say "Yes" when they ask to play.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Messiah

For a while the internet was abuzz with chatter about the exploits of The Messiah. A frisson worthy video appeared warning the Singapore government of impending cyber attacks on government websites. I wondered at that time if this was the work of an organisation, or of disparate individuals. It appeared for a while that it was the work of a global organisation called "Anonymous". It now appears that individuals are responsible.

Many netizens jubilated at this act of civil disobedience. They cheered the courage of these who stood up and took action. The jeered at the responses of our government. I think most people don't realise that organised crime grew out of such civic disobedience. Every single criminal organisation the world over had its origins in anti-government movements.

The Origins of the Mafia
A reference to Sicilian mafia groups date back to 1838. In the old feudalistic structure, the nobility owned land and also took charge of maintaining order. As the country transited out of feudalism, land ownership devolved to the rich (but non-noble) people. These didn't see it as their responsibility to maintain order, as they had never been part of the government as the nobles had been. It became the job of the elected democratic state to maintain law and order. The new state had no resources to do so. At one point, on the island of Sicily, there were only 350 policemen. Many towns and villages on the island of Sicily had no permanent police force. This allowed all sorts of malfaiteurs (both noble and common) to get away with much that was UNjust. Men formed themselves into fraternities of "men of honour". These "men of honour" provided protection to common folk. See HERE. To this day, the mafioso call themselves "men of honour".

The Origins of the Yakuza
Yakuza history traces its origins to the Tokugawa era, the time of the shogunate, when Ieyasu Tokugawa unified the country of Japan. Japan had come a long way from its period of civil war, but was not yet a stable nation. The newfound era of peace left as many as 500,000 samurai left unemployed. There were not enough jobs to support their number. Many of these samurai joined the merchant class, but those who didn't - the ronin - had to find other means of support. Many turned to thievery and criminal methods to support themselves. It is in defense against these wandering samurai that the machi-yokku, or servants of the town, originated. These folk heroes were regular townsfolk who stood up in defense against the destructive ronin to protect the well being of their families and town. Like gangs of today, they were tightly knit and spent their free time gambling. These folk heroes are the predecessors of the modern day yakuza, and while the connection may lie in legend only, the machi-yokku play a large role in the romantic image that the yakuza gangster holds today. See HERE.

The Origins of the Triads
This author documents HERE that triads started as a mutual aid brotherhood in 1761, again in response to the government's inability to provide protection to the common people.

The Beast You Feed Will Turn On You
When organisations which operate outside of the law, develop, the day will come when such organisations become criminal. That has been the case for the mafia, the yakuza and the triads. Undoubtedly, these organisations' "the ends justify the means" attitude served the interests of weaker people at the start. Over time, this shadow government evolves to devour the very people it was created to protect. They start off by using extreme and violent methods to strike back at unjust or weak authority - a sort of Robin Hood. Such methods continue to define such organisations even when the need for violence and extremism is long past.

Civilised Country
Thanks to Lee Kuan Yew's leadership, we live in a country where the rule of law is enforced. There are some who believe that current laws exploit the weak. By all means fight in the open to get these laws changed. History is replete with courageous men who stood up in parliament and CHANGED laws. Clement Attlee thought that people such as Earl Fitzwilliam legally exploited the coal mine workers. He fought to legislate the nationalisation of the coal industry so as to stop the exploitation of coal miners. Thaddeus Stevens spoke up against black slavery and was a major force behind Abraham Lincoln's 13th amendment.

Legal Exploitation of the Disadvantaged is Not New
History shows that the legal exploitation of the weak and disadvantaged is not new. In the feudalistic system, the nobility exploited the serfs LEGALLY. In the colonial system, the colonial masters exploited the colonies LEGALLY. In the days before the 13th Amendment, white men exploited black slaves, LEGALLY. In the present, big business exploits the every day salary man, also LEGALLY. World domination has taken on a whole new meaning. Again and again, within a democratic parliamentary process people have stood up and fought legal exploitation... and made it illegal.

Some might think that the CPF is a way of exploiting Singaporeans. Others might think that the ERP is a way of legally exploiting Singaporeans. Then there are those who might think that the government's stranglehold on business through Temasek Holdings is another way to exploit Singaporeans. Stand up in the open and engage in robust public debate with your face uncovered to challenge such legal exploitation. Get those laws changed. Vote out those who seek to propagate such methods of legal exploitation.

The last thing we should do is to cheer on and support methods of civic disobedience that look very uncomfortably like mafia/yakuza/triad arm twisting. These methods, once entrenched, will be used to hurt us next. The beast WILL turn on you. It's not a question of "IF" but a question of "WHEN".

I am quite relieved that things aren't quite so bad in Singapore that honourable men feel compelled to band together to form a shadow government. I am relieved that the perpetrators of the hacking were individuals only. I do believe though that if our government continues to break trust with the populace, then intelligent and upright men may find it their moral duty to fight from the other side.

Breaking Trust
One way in which our government continues to break trust with the populace is in its easy trust of civil servant assurances. It is clear that our politicians rely on their civil servants to know the extent of the hacking. If these are too afraid to say the truth... or these are more keen to "cover their own... errr... back****" than to support the politicians in their work in caring for Singaporeans then it leads to...

(1) The government making claims that tuition is not needed in Singapore. Parents across the country raised their eyebrows in incredulity. So hmmmm... who speaks truth?

(2) The government claiming that their websites were not hacked... it was Google's fault. Presently, Google claims that there was no weakness on THEIR side. So hmmmm... who speaks the truth?

(3) The government claiming "ponding" instead of "flooding". Clearly someone thought a change in vocabulary could downplay ineffectiveness.

I don't think our country is so exploitative, repressive or weak that good men with the best brains will form a shadow government, but I do wish our politicians were a little more nuanced (or sceptical) in pronouncing (or accepting) "truths" fed to them by their civil servant subordinates.

Triangulation is a good way to confirm information. Different parties with opposing vested interests can be asked their opinion. If they all concur on a fact then it's true.  More often than not each party provides a partial truth and triangulation allows a richer appreciation of an issue.

Diminishing Its Circle of Influence
I'm not sure the government realises that in trying to convince citizens to take on a larger part of social responsibility (so that the government can do less), it'll slowly diminish its own circle of influence.

People develop a loyalty to those whom they view are able to care for them.

Leaving civic and social space empty invites the development of organisations which are more than willing to take on the mantle of people's protector. There were those who imported face masks and gave them away during the 2013 Haze... all whilst bemoaning that since the government did nothing, other people had to step up.

If such organisations are the open and legitimate ones like the Worker's Party, various churches and self-help groups, then it's all good. Or, if they are clandestine but disparate individuals with loose social ties (like The Messiah and his friends), then it's also all good. If, however, these "protector" organisations are clandestine and bound into a tight social unit, united in a single mission... possessing of strong common values, AND are anti-government... then Petunia is terrified.

I hope that there will be no social catalyst nor vacuum left in our country for such organisations to fill. It really is a very frightening thought.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Providing Emotional Support

Research has a term called "emotional labour". This refers to work that requires emotional management. You manage others' emotions. You manage your own emotions. Motivating someone can be classified as emotional labour. If you cannot control your own feelings, then there is no way you can manage your child's feelings towards his schoolwork.

One Mommy that I coached 2 months ago wrote to me today these words... 

"This term, I remembered what you said and I buffered her. It was really an uphill task. I told myself, "I HAVE TO"... even if it went against my natural non-confrontational self. Every time anyone ( the father, the grandparents) said or did anything to make them feel bad, I defended... or I buffered them. 

It was also hard for me to not nag nor scold. Every time anger surged up in me, and I wanted to release it by correcting her harshly, I swallowed my anger. I must say, that swallowing feels like silent rays of negative energy going into the chest. It feels almost physical when it actually is not. I felt emotionally battered in these trying moments (especially when I am really tired). I lost a lot of my own joy. Truly, God is my strength and help. Church has become a solace."

This Mommy's daughter has improved in leaps and bounds, both academically and physically. The little girl used to get asthma attacks on the eve of every exam. On various occasions, the girl had to be rushed blue in the face to the hospital. In this latest round of exams, there were NO asthma attacks.

It reminded me of all the emotional labour I did for my son.

Little Boy Was My Emotional Labour
No matter how afraid I was, Little boy never knew. No matter how frustrated I was, Little Boy didn't guess. As I accompanied my son towards the PSLE I knew full well that my Little Boy needed every ounce of his own emotional energy to pull himself out of the depths of poor grades. He not only needed his own emotional energy, he also needed mine to power his effort.

So, for 3 years, I swallowed my own stress. For 3 years, I swallowed my son's stress too. For 3 years, I gathered up positive emotional energy from within me and fed it to my son in the form of encouragement and cheerful confidence. No matter how hopeless things looked, I never shared with him my fear nor my misgivings. I dove into searching out the best materials I could find. I experimented with strategies that I made up, because conventional strategies had so far not worked... and I needed to do something that would help me son cover 6 years of primary school in 3 years. I wasn't sure of my strategies. I didn't know if I was guiding him correctly. I feared so much that the day would arrive where he would tell me, "Mom, you made me work so hard, but I learnt the wrong thing... studied the wrong books."

Thank God he did well at the PSLE!!

A Wellspring of Clean Positive Emotional Energy
It was MY positive emotional energy that sustained my son through 7 hours a day of memorising-reciting Potato Chinese(R), and pulled him out of failing Chinese. It was MY constant encouragement throughout the day for 15 days that kept him going as he memorised 15 compositions of 2000 words each, pitched at 4 years above his grade level. It was MY constant emotional support that kept him emotionally stable and calm throughout the entire P6 year when all the other kids were falling ill and breaking down.

In those 3 years, I gave him my ALL. I took all his toxic stress, fear and anxiety. I swallowed my own toxic stress, fear and anxiety. I didn't get angry with him. I swallowed my anger. I did the same for The Daughter and The Husband because those years were definitely challenging for all three of them as well. At home, with me, I would heal their hearts, give them comfort... make the world alright again... patch them up... and then they had strength to go out there to do their best. I told no one because I figured that this was my responsibility as a Mother and a Wife.

It was my load to bear alone.

To be fair, there were some things I chose to take on - challenges that I fell in love with and decided that I wanted to do. Write a book. Teach university classes. Consult. Build a house (without prior building experience). Things to do that make life interesting and worth living no? They were fun! They made me happy (except for the bloody house building exercise). Anything that's challenging is stressful to some degree.

Together, all this exacted a price.

The Costs to Me
My entire adrenal-thyroid system collapsed from internalising the combined stress of 3 people and my own. I can tell you that Little Boy's PSLE stress was as much as the The Husband's and The Daughter's combined. If PSLE can break the body a grown woman like me (because my mind is stronger than my physique), it's no wonder that across the board there are worrying signs of increasing mental illness in children in the past decade.

I had NO idea at the start of the 2013 what was wrong with me. I thought this and I thought that. Meanwhile, my mentality was still geared for "Yay! Yippee! I have my life back! I wanna do so many things! I wanna make good money again!!"

It didn't occur to me that I needed rest till now. I've been able to rest since end October 2013. Things are so much better! The other enrichment centres rely on staff. In Dr Pet's English Enrichment, I make it a point to know EACH parent-child pair, in-depth. In other centres, they rotate Teachers and staff. In mine, I do it all. So, if Dr Pet's parents are reading this, you now know why I don't teach during the holidays. Your children do ONE composition a week. I mark 36 every week. I am not Energiser Bunny. I need rest as much as anyone else... if not more.

Feeding someone positive emotional energy seems like such a trivial thing. Reaching out to give emotional comfort, remove fear... or lock the self's raging fear and anxiety away seems like an easy thing to do. However, when you do that all day for weeks and months and years, it takes its toll.

Fleeing Irreparably Negative and Disempowered People
It is NOT a trivial thing to be an ENCOURAGER. I know because I am now dry. I have little to give my family. Instead, they are now getting used to having to resource me. Happily, both kids are big and relatively stronger. I am now the one that needs their support. Right now, I flee people who are negative and who disempower themselves into complete helplessness. I don't care why they are like that. I just don't want to be near them, absorbing their negative energy and having them drink what little is left of my own positive energy. They might feel better after my encouragement and support. I would feel drained and sad. What's worse is that after I've paid the price, nothing improves. Nothing positive comes from such encounters.

I refused to go to dinner with a long time friend because I could not bear to spend an entire evening listening to her sob stories... which aren't really very sobby compared to other REAL sob stories. Having to hear it on Whatsapp is bad enough!

Let me get well first.

Mommies Must Feed Positive Emotional Energy to Children
Mommies must know that their positive emotional energy makes a huge difference in their child's motivation and ability to expend effort. Mommies who are careless with their emotions and readily communicate fear, anger and anxiety every day to their children... force their children to perform emotional labour. What effort the kids pour into emotion management is effort not used for school. These children under perform.

Mommies who are centred on filling their own emotional voids... who are themselves needy, clingy and starving for comfort and encouragement suck emotional energy out from their children... and then these children under perform VASTLY. Academic performance is not just about mastering material. It is also about cultivating emotions that sustain effort.

God is Necessary to Life
In every case where I have turned a child around from zero to hero, their Mothers have made valiant efforts to control their own emotions. They have made valiant efforts to feed their children positive emotional energy. In every case too, the Mommies were practising Christians (or Buddhists). They might not have had enough emotional strength, but their religion gave them enough.

Now tell me that God is unnecessary? To me God is as necessary for Living, as breathing. God is my solace... my wellspring of emotional strength... and He never runs dry.

Soon Kee Teochew Porridge

Not a chi-chi place at all...

Steamed fish head... my favourite

Clams... this dish shows how much care is taken in food preparation. It had NO sand at all.

Braised pork belly... very very popular with the diners. Little Boy loved it.

Little Boy hates his greens but he said this was good.

The Daughter loved this.

This place sells readymade food. You point at the already cooked trays of food. They ladle. You pay. If you're eating alone, please carry your own plate to the table. The ceiling leaks water in one small corner of the coffeeshop. A flight of 6 mynahs hang around waiting for customers to leave before swarming the leftovers. The lady who cleans the tables is so slovenly herself that she tends to miss out spots of gravy as large as my thumb.

The dilapidated surroundings stand in sharp contrast to the 4 Mercedes Benz parked in the adjoining carpark. Their towkay owners are busy tucking in, shooing away mynahs with one hand. When I drove my own beat-up car out of my parking lot, a Jaguar was waiting to take my place.

That's how good the food is.

The test of a world class transport system is in how many rich people will leave their cars at home to travel on public transport. The test of a world class educational system is in how many rich people ditch tuition and entrust their kids to MOE schools. The test of a world class Teochew Porridge stall is in how many rich people will queue up, carry their own plates, eat on dirty tables and compete with mynahs... for a meal that usually costs $4/=.

One whole Red Snapper fish head steamed to perfection comes at $10. Waaaah... in Singapore still can find prices like these leh.... Petunia is very proud of herself for having found this place!!

In earlier trips, I thought it a pity to be eating steamed fish head cold. The Point-Ladle-Pay system doesn't allow you to demand steaming hot food. Every dish is ready. You eat what is there. These folks don't smile. If you're slow in ordering, they'll yell at you. If you speak too softly, they'll also yell at you.

Oh heck... yell at me all you like, but please let me eat your cooking!

I do like my fish steaming hot, though. Since I didn't dare to complain to these unsmiling people about their cold steamed fish, I decided that I would have to adapt to THEIR schedule. If you arrive at exactly 11.10am, the trays of fish heads come out from the inner kitchen, steam rising gently from the trays. The fish swim gently in sweet soup topped generously with tomato, celery, salted mustard greens, onions and leeks. I think I would pay just to drink the soup the fish head is swimming in.

I did manage to get a smile out of them this morning though. I was so excited about my hot steamed fish that my joy must have rubbed off on them. When I had to leave my table for a bit, helpful strangers flapped the mynahs away from my food. I got myself a friendly scolding and some gentle ribbing about my carelessness... and a BIG smile plus a 10c discount from the genius woman (this little old lady), in charge of steaming the fish.

Simple people... small prices... world class food. **RESPECT**

Soon Kee Teochew Porridge
33 Sembawang Road,
Hong Heng Garden,
Singapore 779084.

Lunch ONLY. Not open for dinner.
Go early 'cos when the food runs out... well, it has run out.
Closed on Sundays.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

MDA Blocks Ashley Madison

I have 2 words. Thank you.

Yes... yes... yes... there's adultery here anyway. Why help it along though? Yes... yes... yes... it's gonna be hard to BLOCK an internet site. After all, Facebook and BlogSpot are blocked in China, but plenty of Chinese netizens get past the blockade.

Still, those people who REALLY wanna commit adultery will find a way to do it.  If they choose to breach the blockade, that's their pasar. You really gotta want to, to try, you see. It's not there in plain sight hailing at the all and sundry.

It's like prostitutes.

They're someplace in Singapore. Those who want them will go looking for them, but I certainly DON'T WANT to see them in places where I am not looking for them. I don't want to see their advertisements on Facebook. I don't want to see billboards advertising their services next to Colgate and Palmolive. I don't want my children to see them either.

So yes, thank you.

Bread... Bread is My Poison

I cannot eat bread.

That really is the strangest thing. There is a well-known condition called celiac disease where bread gluten destroys the intestinal lining in the gut, preventing the uptake of nutrients. I don't have celiac disease. Yet, I still cannot take bread.

The moment I go back to bread, my body goes into a spiral of cold hands and feet, lowered body temperature and extreme sleepiness. These are all symptoms of an under active thyroid, or hypothyroidism. Of course, there is that possibility of taking thyroid medication. I had chosen not to go that way, preferring to manage the condition through dieting.

Thanks to Mommy T's advice, I've stayed away from foods that are known thyroid depressants - cabbage, turnip, pine nuts, peanuts, soy products etc... Then, Mommy P ventured a guess, "Maybe bread gluten... maybe you should stay away from bread gluten."

So I did. I've cut all these foodstuffs out of my diet. I wasn't sure what was aggravating my condition so I decided to cut out everything, and introduce them back into my diet one by one when I began to feel better.

After 2 months of a low carbohydrate, high protein and high fibre diet, without all the above, I do get better. Of course, I have to exercise religiously too. Then, I begin to feel warm again. Feeling good again, I venture to go back to eating bread. I love bread you see. Of all the foods, bread is the first I re-introduce into my diet. It's hard to stay away from bread because I bake 4 loaves of bread twice a week. The smell of freshly baked bread fills the whole house. When I take the loaves from the oven to lay on the rack, crispy, warm and chewy... it's really hard to not take a small piece.

Twice already, I've yielded to temptation. I've taken a small piece the size of my palm (and I am a small lady with small palms). Each time, that one piece of bread shoves me down the spiral of cold... cold... cold... sleepy... sleepy... sleepy. I once fell asleep standing up at NTUC, staring at bananas... or was it oranges? It then takes me another TWO months to recover.

It was so odd.

In the last week, I've finally been able to rest properly and eat well. Warmth has come back to my body. My brain fog has lifted. I contemplated my loaves of home made bread. How can plain bread be poison? I almost took another piece, my 3rd piece of bread in 6 months... when it occurred to me to google. I found this link. I was sad to find from the write-up that there really is a documented connection between gluten intolerance and thyroid health.

What explains the connection? It’s a case of mistaken identity. The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. This means if you have AITD and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.

It appears that it can take up to 6 months for the body to recover from one incident of gluten poisoning. I suppose it's something to be grateful for that I recover after 2 months from taking one small piece of bread. So there you have it. No more bread for Petunia... ever.

The good thing is that as time goes by, I learn more and more about hypothyroidism and it becomes less daunting... less scary... less depressing. After all, I am a woman illiterate in Chinese who taught my son Chinese. It just takes a bit of determination and a willingness to learn, right?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Proverbs 22:6

Train up the child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
King James Version

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
English Standard Version

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
New International Version

Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won't depart from it.
Common English Bible

The most common interpretation of the verse above is as follows. Us adults need to ensure that children develop according to what we think is good and correct. If we do that well, then our children will grow up and do what is good and correct. I think such an interpretation opens the way to parent hubris. What makes us think that what we think is good and correct, is really good and correct?

Should Go VS Should Go
I prefer another interpretation that I first read about 20 years ago. This interpretation acknowledges that only God knows what is good and correct for each child. It assumes that when God made each child, he gave that child an innate shape. As parents, we are to develop the child in such a way as to bring into salience the innate shape that God had put there from Day 1. In other words, we should train that child in the way he SHOULD go... but this notion of SHOULD is already pre-defined by God when he made the child.

As godly parents therefore, we need to first open our eyes and observe our children. We are then to see the hidden beauty that God has already put there. It doesn't matter what it is that WE think is good. It doesn't matter what it is that WE value. As godly parents, we have to develop that child with every faithfulness to the architecture that's already in that child.

After all, God made that child, and who are we to see imperfection in what He gave us? Children MUST be perfect, no? If they weren't perfect, why would Jesus say "Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." It is us parents, with our spite, our anger, our anxiety, our fears, and our notions of what a perfect child should be... that slowly deform the children who were already perfect when they arrived in our arms.

Poison Cookies
I was reminded of Proverbs 22:6 when I spoke to a Mommy whose twins have just started classes with me. Mommy had warned me that her son was a handful, whilst her daughter was docile of the docile - a veritable angel. He got in trouble so often with his Teachers that Mommy was desperate for a place to park her little handful without having to hear anymore Teachers' complaints.

To hear Mommy describe him, I did wonder if I had been stupid in accepting the child since there were so many other children waiting for a place. Nobody wants to deal with a difficult child. According to Mommy, he was aggressive, unco-operative, disobedient. At the enrichment centre that he was previously attending, he sat under the table and absolutely refused to do as he was told. During this year's Teacher's Day, he asked his mother if it was possible to put poison in the cookies for Mrs So-and-So.

Ohhhhhhh dear! I made up my mind that I would be ever so careful if this little boy offered me cookies!

Don't Put Me in a Mould, Mommy
Then I met the boy. He was this scrawny little thing who did everything I asked him to do. Indeed, when I asked all 9 children in the class to memorise lines for a play, this boy was the only one who actually DID memorise. He was the only one who was able to rehearse without a script.

The thing though is this. This is one boy who WILL NOT be crammed into a mould. Unlike other more docile children, this boy has clear ideas about what he likes, whom he likes, and what he wants to do. He doesn't care a hoot about what people think of him. He can't care less that he is failing in school. He can't be bothered to please his Teachers. If you force him or frighten him, he will fight you to the bitter end. Yet, having taught him for 4 weeks, I can discern a very keen intelligence. This is not a child we can cut against his grain. He will fight you and resist you if you attempt to develop and sculpt him into any other form than that which is already in there, in him... as intended by God.

Thomas Edison was one such child. Here is a quote from Wikipedia...

In school, the young Edison's mind often wandered, and his teacher, the Reverend Engle, was overheard calling him "addled". This ended Edison's three months of official schooling. Edison recalled later, "My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint." His mother taught him at home. 

Edison's mother saw beauty in Edison that no one else saw... certainly not his Teacher, Reverend Engle (with all due respect for the good man). Edison's mother was so true, so sure of him that she did not believe the school system's judgment of her son - addled. She went ahead, listened to her child, observed him, saw beauty in her child and loved him into brilliance that lives on today every time we flip a switch to turn on a light... power a hair dryer... bake a loaf of bread.

So many parents I meet, allow the schools' negative feedback about their children to blind them to the ATYPICAL beauty of their children. There is a certain type of child the schools like. These children are docile, obedient, quiet, hardworking and they excel at the 4 PSLE subjects. These are the traditional high flyers.

Christian Parents Who Focus on the Ways of the World
Nowhere in the bible are parents commanded to ensure that their children get 4 A* at the PSLE, and yet again and again, I see Christian parents turn all their attention and energy to lamenting their children's inability to get 4 A*. After meeting these kids and teaching them for a while, I notice incredible atypical strengths (not valued by the school system) but very valuable in business, in the arts, in LIFE. These children come to me with an innate beauty that their own parents fail to see because their own Christian parents are blinded by the ways of the world.

I always begin by focusing on THESE strengths. I see them. I appreciate them. I ask their parents to see and appreciate them too. As their parents begin to see them differently, these children also begin to see their own worth and their own beauty. They then feel heartened and find the motivation to work hard, because there is someone that they must not disappoint.

Before you know it, their grades have moved up. By the time this happens, the parent invariably tells me, "I don't care about those grades anymore. I have faith in my child. I see him for the beauty that's there. He is my special child. This is worth MORE than 4 A*."

See God's Perfection in Your Child
So, if you want your children to bear fruit, to be successful, to grow strong and beautiful, STOP seeing ONLY their weaknesses as defined by the school system. See ALSO their strengths even if these strengths are not valued by the school system. Then, bring out these strengths. Money (big money) is made from skills and talent that are rare. The school system churns out many in the same mould. If your child is not from a mould, then your child is a rare commodity. He/she has strengths and skills that few others have.

I am quite sure Alex Atala didn't get 4 A* at the PSLE... but like my student Little T, he had passion and he wasn't someone you could easily cram into a mould.

The most gifted sculptors in the world, study their material BEFORE they begin to sculpt. Every block of marble has an innate shape. Every block of wood too has an innate shape. If you insist on sculpting YOUR OWN idea of perfection without regard for your child's innate shape, then you would very likely never bring out the true potential of that perfect piece of raw material God gave to you, to sculpt.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

New Ubin Seafood

Prawn Roll

Stir fried kale with crispy kale sprinklings on top

Chilli crab

Grilled Angus beef

Fried rice made from the drippings of the grilled Angus beef

Wasabi prawns

Fried mantou

Potato wedges

It was beyond yummy! This place is hidden away in the midst of factory blocks. You park in a dingy carpark. You walk under a dingy awning. You let your eyes get used to the dingy darkness inside... There is NOTHING here to hint at the extraordinary sensations that will charm, entice and seduce your palate.

When I drove the family over there this afternoon, I patiently explained that since the decor is nothing to shout about and the place is always packed, then it must be the food that keeps people coming back. The kids found the decor rather nice and when we got there, there was only one other table of diners.

My kids looked askance at me.

The food came and the kids looked nobody no askance no more. Perfectly crispy potato wedges with fluffy insides. The beef was tender and so satisfyingly... you know... beefy. The prawns were HUGE and had everything of the Q Q bite that people rave about. The crab was sweet and the fried rice just disappeared. One moment, the plate was full and when I looked up again, there was no more fried rice left.

The kids didn't much like the stir fried kale with the crispy kale toppings. I loved that. The crispy kale toppings were a nice touch. It gave the dish a sort of a fusion feel. It really was quite a surprising meal because the angus beef with potato wedges was clearly NOT Chinese, but I think many Western restaurants can't match up to its level of yummy goodness. The stir fried kale was Chinese but with deep fried kale strips as toppings à la Western style. Then the wasabi sauce was clearly inspired by Japanese food. The prawn roll is a Chinese classic and it was good! Chilli Crab is of course very very very Singaporean. You can't get more Singaporean than Chilli Crab. This one surpasses Jumbo by very far!

I ate Chilli Crab at Jumbo once and never went back again because I don't really like crab and that crab was just rather bleah... This one was good enough to make me like it, despite me not liking crab. The flesh was sweet. The sauce beguiled the tongue and made it forget to think.

Update 19 Sep 2014
I haven't been back to New Ubin for a while, since the time a crab dish smelled of ammonia. It was nice that they gave me a refund but I was offended by the dour faced man who hinted that I was out to cheat them of the refund because my husband (whose palate seems immune to bad food) had eaten one whole crab already (without realising that it was not fresh). When I remonstrated with the dour faced man, I was told that I had ordered cheap crab and therefore he could not guarantee freshness. I smiled politely at him.