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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Moringa Tree

My neighbour's moringa tree.

It was just a tree. I had no idea that it was also food. When the neighbour pointed it out to me, I politely nodded my head. I have never eaten a tree's leaves before. One usually eats tree fruits. However, she bugged me enough that I went and googled.

Lo and behold, I discovered how the internet is raving about the moringa tree. See HERE. Now, I stare up at the tree and drool. The leaves make a delicious stir fry and if it is as nutritious as stated in the internet... man... that is some tree!

My own moringa tree is barely taller than my forearm. It is as good as no tree since I can't eat it without killing it. As such, I rely on my neighbour's largesse for a regular supply of the vegetable. So, I have now become doubly conscientious in plying my neighbour with home made almond milk (which she loves) and home grown xiao bai cai. In return, I get moringa leaves to fry up for dinner.

This is good old fashioned barter trade!!

Picture from HERE.

Picture from HERE.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Happy Garden

Happy Dragonfly

Happy Tomatoes

Sunday, August 28, 2016

When Does a Boy Become a Man?

Quite uncharacteristically, The Son (who used to be called Little Boy or Smelly Boy on this blog) announced that he had Saturday night dinner plans. This was odd. The Son normally has morning soccer plans or afternoon project plans. Saturday night plans are such a grown up thing and The Son hasn't quite grown up yet.

He got home close to midnight and our little family managed to catch some time together before bed. He came home rather uncharacteristically loquacious and rather red in the face. I noticed nothing amiss except that he seemed rather happy. Then, I crawled over him on the sofa to get at something and the smell of hard liquor hit me in the face.

Me: You drank?

The Son: Yeah!

Me: How much did you drink?

The Son: 2 glasses of wine and 3 shots of I dunno what with 45% alcohol.

Me: You are still standing?

The Son: Yeah! I am quite amazed that I can hold my liquor so well.

Ohhhhh... a plethora of thoughts crashed through my head. So many thoughts there were, that my brain froze. I didn't know what to say. Many of my male friends do drink but The Son is 15 years old and I have never thought of him as a man. In fact, when I look at him, I still see him in Pampers. Meanwhile, The Husband was beaming with pride. His son could hold his liquor well.

I had visions of my son coming out of a club half drunk and getting stabbed to death by hooligans who may have taken offence at something or other my innocent son did. What if my son raped someone else's daughter when he is drunk? So I cut through a Father's pride and said, "If ever you get drunk, make sure you don't rape anybody!"

This startled my son. He explained that he was having dinner at P's house with 15 other boys. It was a   sort of farewell for the Express stream boys who would soon be taking O levels. The good thing about ACS Independent is that an intricate network of friendships bind the Express stream and the IP streams together. This was the last party before the Express boys turn their focus on intensive mugging for the O levels. The IP boys wanted to encourage their Express stream friends.

P's house has an extensive wine collection and a fully stocked bar. Classical music streamed through speakers and the boys played bridge amidst mahogany wood panels and plush leather sofas. "It was not uncivilised drinking Mom," The Son assured me. It was all very polite and elegant. My jaw dropped. Wow! Mahogany wood panels and then I looked around at the bare cream walls of my own house... 

I kept quiet.

Then, I said, "You need to hydrate yourself to dilute the alcohol in the bloodstream." The son replied, "I know that. I have been drinking water all night."

Wow... he knew that? My 15 year old already knew that. I went all quiet again.

Then, he said, "Mom, if you are not comfortable that I drink, please let me know. I won't do it if you are uncomfortable."

What a blessed son! I wasn't sure what to say because my male friends drink and if I don't object to them drinking, why can't my son drink? I sort of made some confused noises and then I objected, "What if you drink in a pub and get attacked? What if you drink so much that you become an alcoholic?"

Then my blessed son said, "Mom, I promise you that I will only drink at private parties until I reach the legal age. These occasions will be few and far between. We cannot always be hanging out at P's house to drink his Dad's whiskey. Besides, my shooting seniors have advised me to drink in moderation because over drinking interferes with our ability to hold the gun steady. This was social drinking. I don't like alcohol and will not drink alone."

I looked at my son and registered the words... "social drinking", "moderation" and "will not drink alone". Then it struck me that my son, at 15, seemed to have the wisdom of an adult male. Then, I figured that if (at 15 years) he is mature enough to be selected for a full-time research internship in a research lab, then he is mature enough to hold his liquor.

However, I am just a little sad. My Little Boy is really really gone. I can't imagine him in Pampers anymore.

Clean and Steam VP7557 by Tefal

It is getting much harder to get down on all fours to mop the floor. My knees don't behave as they should anymore. The alternative is to stand up and mop. If so, I need to get through a room twice to get it as clean as I would like it to be, and even then, it is never as clean as I am able to get it, if I go on all fours to mop the floor.

I was desperate for a high tech solution.

For a few months, I eyed the Philips Aqua Trio Pro. See video below. I was turned off by poor online reviews of its reliability. It seems that this product needs quite a bit of after sales technical support.

Then I saw the Tefal VF7557 Clean and Steam

However, I could find no online reviews and so I didn't buy. Eventually, I discovered that this product retails in Europe as the Rowenta VF7557 Clean and Steam. I watched this review HERE. I was sold. So, I bought one.


It vacuums debris very effectively and simultaneously nukes the floor with super hot steam. Instead of pail after pail of water, I now need only 2 litres of water to mop the whole house.

The micro fibre mop does not get very dirty because most of the dirt is vacuumed. However, it does trap the fine dust particles that don't get into the vacuum. This results in a really clean floor, which has been disinfected with steam. After cleaning 1 storey, I remove the cloth for a good rinse and put it back to do the 2nd storey. Then, I rinse the cloth again to do the 3rd storey. Once all the floors are done, I throw the cloth into the washing machine. It later dries in the sun with the rest of the clothes.

Instead of having to sweep once and then mop twice, which requires three times the time. I now need one pass to get every floor surface super clean. This is an amazing machine. I so love it.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Diary of Some Tomatoes

My tomato plants are so gu-niang that I don't see how they can survive on their own in the wild. One night of strong winds snapped the stems of 2 beautiful plants. I responded by staking them to my trellis. Another night of strong winds snapped a branch full of blossoms. This made me look at all the other branches and I decided that these silly plants had branches so weak that they would snap under the weight of their own fruits. So, I had to tie the fruiting branches with raffia string to the trellis roof.

I am not sure but I guess tomato plants have been domesticated so thoroughly that they really need human intervention to survive. Tomatoes are really a lot of work to grow!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

One Ninety at Four Seasons Hotel

The One Ninety Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel is under-rated. It doesn't serve items of grand luxe like The Line, Shangri-La (with its 4 types of foie gras, fresh oysters, whole legs of lamb etc...). However, it has a skilled chef and whatever foods are there are good. The prices are more reasonable than The Line where I found the roasted meats very photogenic but did not taste good. Very dry. In contrast, at the One Ninety, the main dish is cooked in the kitchen when you signal them that you are done with the appetiser buffet.

And what an appetiser buffet they have!

Few places serve burrata. It isn't very well known in Singapore but I have missed burrata so much that I tried making it (with precious little success). Of note are also its truffle dishes. I had no trouble finishing my eggs with truffle flakes because the rest of the family each took a bit.

I did not take pictures of all the appetiser dishes. The selection below contains dishes that I particularly enjoyed.

Gluten free toast
Baba ghanoush


Pork pâté

Pork terrine

Pumpkin salad




Smoked burrata


Truffle ricotta

Poached egg with truffle shavings

Pollinating a Tomato Plant

The tomato plants are doing well. There are 8 tomatoes. Oh dear! When they all fruit, I think I may have too many tomatoes to eat up, all on my own! You see, I now have 16 tomato plants. I had 7 of my own and Grandma gave me 9. They are ALL fruiting!

Oh well, I reckon it is a good problem. Extra tomatoes can be given away. There is no tomato sweeter than those ripened on the vine.

2 baby tomatoes

The thing is, tomato plants need some help to fruit. Unless you have bees, the tomatoes don't readily set fruit. I had to go over to Watson's to buy an electric toothbrush to mimic the vibration of bees' wings.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Oh Chin Huat Hydroponics Farm

Right across from Sembawang Air Base, there is a hydroponics farm. It is 5 minutes from our house. It took me till now to realise that I can buy pesticide free vegetables from them. It just got cheaper and easier to eat pesticide free now! Whenever I run out of vegetables from my garden, I will just pop in there to buy.

I love staying in the ulu part of Singapore. I can get farm fresh produce! Imagine that!

Vegetables being packed for sale.

Regular customers can go into their giant fridge to pick vegetables.

This is bayam (Chinese spinach).

This is kangkong (morning glory).

These are imported from Malaysia and so they may not be pesticide free.

They have lovely portobello mushrooms and button mushrooms at small prices.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pretty Bug

I found a pretty bug on my garlic chives this morning.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Setting Up the Worm Farm

Lately, I have not just been growing a garden. I have been growing neighbourly relationships too. It is amazing how when you plant seeds in dark soil, you also reap tendrils of warm friendships that reach out to curl about your heart.

A neighbour peered over my gate to ask, "What are you planting?" Proud gardener that I am, I showed off my vegetables. He appraised them with a knowing look. Then, he asked, "What fertiliser do you use?" So, I volunteered my various types of poopy pellets. Then he scoffed and said, "I use nothing but worm poop and worm pee." Now THAT was a huge pick up line.

Petunia said, "Can I come to your house now?"

Then, I rushed out my gate and accompanied a stranger home to his house. He showed me a lush garden with lemon trees, passionfruit vines, ciku tree, mulberry trees and then, in a shady corner, he pointed out 2 worm farms. We opened up the lid and there were hundreds of worms. He saw the look on my face and said, "If you prepare your containers, I will give you some worms."

Oh man! He didn't need to tell me twice. I was off to the shops to get 2 plastic tubs. I made Smelly Boy poke holes in one and lugged them over to the neighbour's house for another self-invited visit. The neighbour pronounced his verdict. The worms will not like your tubs. I was quite disappointed so HE came to my house to look over my gardening supplies. He picked out2 flower pots and disappeared with them. He came back with them filled with a generous clump of lively worms.

I placed the worm farm in what I thought was a shady part of the house. Oh well, the sun moved and almost cooked my sweethearts to death in their clay oven. The maid, who owns a farm back in Myanmar, clucked at me and said that worms don't like sun. She marched off with the worm farm and placed it in a corner that never gets sun.

I now have happy worms.

Since that day, I self-invite to my neighbour's house very often. His gate is always opened. I just walk in with my farm produce and give it to him. Today, I pruned my tarragon and offered him a bunch. Yesterday, I gave him some elderflower kefir. Last week, I offered him a bell pepper seedling, in return for a strange plant that cures sore throats.

Gardens predispose people to neighbourliness, and generosity because things grow and grow and very often you have too much to eat on your own.