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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Gluten Free Quiche

Even if you are not celiac nor gluten intolerant, you would want to make this quiche. Firstly, the crust is much easier to make than traditional shortcrust pastry. Secondly, the crust is made of almonds and egg... so, it is low carb.

Ingredients for Crust
1 egg
350 g of almonds
1 tbsp icing sugar

Sieve 1 tbsp of icing sugar into a bowl. Add 350g of almond meal. To make almond meal, simply blitz raw almonds in a blender or a food processor. 

Beat 1 raw egg and mix into the almond meal + icing sugar mixture. Make a sticky mass.

Press into the bottom and sides of a spring form tart pan lined with baking paper. Preheat the oven for 15 minutes at 180 DegC. Bake the crust with TOP HEAT ONLY for 10 minutes. 

Ingredients for Filling
A fistful of fresh oregano
5 large eggs
200ml of pure cream
1 teaspoon salt
200g of gluten free ham
500g of button mushrooms
200g of feta cheese

(1) Whisk 200ml pure cream, eggs and salt together. Keep aside.

(2) Slice the button mushrooms and fry in butter/ghee till they are wilted and sorry looking.

(3) Mince the oregano leaves.

(4) Chop the ham into bits.

(5) Dice the feta cheese.

(6) Layer the oregano at the base of the tart crust. Layer the ham on top of the oregano. Layer the feta cheese on top of the ham. Pour the cream+eggs+salt mixture over all the ham and cheese.

(7) Bake in the oven (top and bottom grill) at 120DegC for 40 minutes.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Who Was GIVEN 38 Oxley Road in its Entirety?

Fact #1
In October 2011, LKY informed his younger children on a topic related to "architect" that rebuilding on 38 Oxley Road was not possible because LHL, as PM, had indicated that he would declare 28 Oxley Rd as a heritage site. See HERE.

This shows that LHY already knew, in October 2011, that rebuilding could follow the demolition of the house. Indeed, rebuilding was discussed even before LKY died.

Fact #2
In December 2011, LKY wrote a letter to cabinet stating, "Cabinet members were unanimous that 38 Oxley Road should not be demolished as I wanted. I have reflected on this and have decided that if 38 Oxley Road is to be preserved, it needs to have its foundations reinforced and the whole building reburbished." See HERE.

This shows that LKY was ok for the house to be preserved.

Fact #3
Despite knowing that...
(1) LHY would not be averse to rebuilding on the site...
(2) LHL was looking at preserving the site for the benefit of the whole country...
... LKY still bequeathed 38 Oxley Rd to LHL in its entirety. See HERE.

LKY knew that LHL wanted to preserve the house for the whole country. Yet, he bequeathed the house to LHL entirely. What does that tell you about the choice LKY made between his 2 sons?

Since LKY bequeathed the house entirely to LHL, LHL could actually have...
(1) ... used his political power and influence to change the zoning laws of the area to allow high rise buildings...
(2)... used his political power and influence to prevent the government from declaring it a heritage site...
(3) ... exercised his personal right to demolish the house...
(4) ... personally develop the land into high rises...
(5) ... personally pocket hundreds of millions...

He could have abused his power for personal gain, but he DID NOT.

For those Singaporeans who jubilate at the attacks on LHL by his younger brother, I think you have placed your allegiance in the wrong party. LHL chose to dedicate his life to Singapore.  LHY CHOSE to leave the civil service. He preferred the more profitable private sector. Even today, LHY is uncaring to the damage he is inflicting on Singapore and Singaporeans.

Now that LHY has bought 38 Oxley Road from LHL, he stands to gain hundreds of millions.

What About 5 Generations Down?
The way I see it, the government MUST gazette 38 Oxley Road. It has no choice. The day will come when every Singaporean old enough to have personally known a living and breathing LKY will die. There is no guarantee that an enterprising future Singaporean will not rebuild the house based on archived photos and plans.

I remember that when LKY passed away, enterprising folks in his old village in China, designated a house as LKY's ancestral home and charged entrance fees for a visit... never mind that LKY never ever spent a night there.

As long as the land belongs in private hands, hundreds of years down the future, a Frankenstein of a monument WILL rise to LKY. Only if it belongs to the government and today's government sets down laws and regulations in perpetuity with regard to the house, can we honour LKY's wish for privacy.

Challenge Will in Court
I think it is unseemly to have a public to and fro about LKY's will. I wish they would settle the matter in court in camera.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Selling Picket & Rail Bed

I am selling this queen sized bed solid wood Picket & Rail bed at $250. Self-collection please. Please fill out your contact HERE if interested.

Update: Bed sold.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I Stand With LHL

In the whole FamiLEE saga, much is shrouded in mystery. It is an alarming story of He Say and They Say. Where the truth lies, nobody really knows. I would like to think that everyone is speaking truth but they are just looking at the issue from different perspectives. You know, like the blind man who asserted that the elephant was like a wall... and his equally blind colleague insisted that an elephant resembled a snake.

Yet, there are certain things we already know.

Lee Hsien Loong's Dynastic Aspirations
Firstly, LHL is planning his own retirement. His own political career has very little to gain from errr... moving into Oxley Road himself. His son has announced that he does not want to be in politics. You might call him a liar but seriously, he really does not look like he is interested. Where is he in grassroots work? Where was he when his Dad was campaigning? Even if you believe that LHL and HC have dynastic aspirations, have you tried making an adult/adolescent child fulfill your parental aspirations? Not even LKY could bring LWL to heel... and LKY was for decades, the most powerful man in Singapore.

I once chatted with a group of CEOs about staff motivation. They were thrilled when they heard that I was branching out into child motivation. They said that staff motivation was easier - hire, fire, bonus. Staff will heed their CEOs. CEO children do not. If LHL's son is not interested, there is no way any dynastic aspiration on the part of his aging parents will ever be fulfilled. 

So, what political mileage has LHL got to gain from preserving the house? Clearly nothing.

Lee Hsien Loong's Monetary Gains
He willingly sold his share to his siblings and even donated half the value of the house to charity. So, our PM was not looking at monetary gains either! Wouldn't it have been so easy for LHL to demolish the house and cash in? He did not have to sell his share to LHY, you know.

If we had a lesser man than LHL, he would have sold and cashed out his millions. No! He donated millions instead. Look across the causeway and see Mrs Najib spend USD$30 million on jewellery lohhhh... Man! I am so damn proud of Ho Ching for wearing slippers to the White House, and carrying a plastic purse.

Are those not LKY's values?

Lee Hsien Loong's Duty to the Nation
Now, don't forget, he is our Prime Minister. He has learnt at his father's knee to put Singaporeans first. Foremost on his mind is the need to preserve 38 Oxley Road as a historical record of Singapore's history. He would be thinking of future Singaporean children who need to see and learn about the values that built our nation. He would be sensitive to the lobbying of all the historians and archivists who must have been screaming blue murder at the thought of destroying the house.

How can we fault our PM for putting country before family?

Really? You want a PM to prioritise his family before Singaporeans? Then, go become a Malaysian lohhhh...

Lee Wei Ling's Desire To Stay At Oxley Road
I can understand that LWL wants to stay at Oxley Road. If I were the unmarried daughter, I too would want to stay there. However, simply for a selfish, personal desire to stay in a house, she has come out into the open to destroy OUR Prime Minister's social capital, political capital and global standing. This is plain wrong. Your selfish desire has hurt the whole country. 

The assertions are malicious and calculated to inflict maximum damage on a PM who has for the past 10 years, been struggling to redeem his track record. Can you not see him try?

Lee Hsien Yang's Desire To Demolish the House
For certain, it was LKY's wish, However, in the fulfillment of this wish, 38 Oxley Road represents humongous monetary gains for LHY and LSF. Inasmuch as LHL has nothing to gain and everything to lose (when his siblings come out to slander him), LHY has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Opposition MPs have been sued for saying less slanderous things about LHL. Till now, LHL has breathed no litigious word.

And really, it is ok to fight with your brother over your father's last wish. Plenty of people do that. However, to do it a way calculated to hurt an entire country is wrong. You hurt LHL. You hurt Singaporeans. Which part of that do you not get?

Why Set Up the "Secret" Committee?
Very secret meh? Even before this saga, the existence of this committee was publicised in the papers. Perhaps, the committee wished to understand better the circumstances of the drafting of the last will discreetly so that face might be saved for those who stand to gain millions from demolishing the house. Challenging the last will in court would have clear penalties for those found to have somehow influenced an old man to draft a last will in not exactly the way he really wanted.

He was very old and frail at that time... (and yet, his daughter quarrelled with him. Surely, for a father so old, one could close one eye and indulge him?)

A committee would have allowed LHL to get to the bottom of the matter without the courts punishing anyone.

Powers of the Committee
The government has a legal right to gazette anything in this country as a national monument. It could gazette my house if it wanted. Once gazetted, it belongs to all Singaporeans.

The government really doesn't NEED a committee to study the issue of 38, Oxley Road if there was a clear desire to disobey LKY's deathbed wish. The only reason I can think of, for this committee to be set up, is to ascertain whether the last will was INDEED LKY's true desire. If not, then the committee could go ahead and gazette the house as a national monument. If yes, then the committee would honour LKY's wishes.

Hence, LHL's 9 questions pertaining to LSF's involvement are very important. IF LSF and LHY had unduly influenced the drafting of the 7th will, then the government could exert its right to go right ahead to preserve the house for future generations of Singaporeans.

Bear in mind that there is no need for the committee. The government of the day has every legal right to designate 38 Oxley Rise a national monument, over riding LKY's will. No man is above the law. Not even LKY. He would not want to be above the law either.

Hence, if a committee was set up, it really was to honour LKY. However, to honour his last wish, it was necessary to know whether the 7th will was really his true last wish.

Robbing Singaporeans
If it should really turn out that LKY's last will was messed with, then LHY and LSF  are robbing the nation of our birthright. Standing between us and this loss is LHL! This should get personal for every Singaporean! Why are we not standing with our PM on this?

First Salvo
The desire to do hurt came first from LHY and LWL. It was they who brought this out into the open. To me, it was clear that they meant to hurt. If they were really afraid of a PM abusing his powers, they would have left the country already. Why are they still here?

Clearly, they know that LHL is too kind to sock it to them with the same ruthlessness that they socked it to him.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

It is NOT Islam, but Malsi!

It pains me to see the carnage currently taking place in European capitals. France and Britain have been the subject of terror attacks for years now. Terrorists have wreaked havoc in the Middle East on true Muslims for decades already. That the carnage which regularly happens in the Middle East does not flood our media in the way European terror attacks do, does not mean that Middle Easterners are exempt from the violence unleashed upon Muslims by other people who call themselves Muslims.

It is easy to confuse the 2 - terrorism and Islam. It is easy to think that Islam is a religion that gives birth to terrorism and violence. Part of the reason is because these terrorists like to yell "Allahu akbar!" just before they mow down people with their cars, their bombs and their guns.

I refuse to believe these terrorists are Muslims. Unfortunately, we do not have another name for people who kill in the name of Allah. There is power in names you know. If we had another name with which to refer to these individuals who subvert a largely peaceful religion (Islam) to violent ends, then we can psychological differentiate between the multitudes of Islamists who are peaceful and loving... from those few who kill in the name of Allah.

If we had a different name for those who kill in the name Allah, then we can name them and talk about them without psychologically hurting people who are true Muslims. Right now, when we call those who kill in the name of Allah, Muslims or Islamists, we also verbally attack the true Muslims.

We really should call those who kill in the name of Allah, Milsum. This is "Muslim" written backwards to signify that these are people who do NOTHING in the name of Allah, because Allah is love and NOT murder.

Similarly, the religion espoused by those who kill in the name Allah, should be called Malsi, because it is quite the opposite of Islam... and would benefit from being called something that is the backward spelling of Islam.

Words have power. It is important to name things without ambiguity. In this case, it is important to differentiate between those who love in the name of Allah and those who hate in the name of Allah. They may read and quote the same Quran BUT they are NOT the same people. They do NOT have the same religion.

Once we can name a phenomenon properly, we can deal with it in a targeted manner without fear of being politically incorrect.

I really like what the Australian Muslims have done HERE. They clearly reject those who kill in the name of Allah. The whole world should follow their lead and reject the Milsums as people who subvert a peaceful and loving religion (Islam) into a violent one (Malsi).

I don't care that it is the same Quran. It really is not the same religion.

I mean, the Crusaders could call themselves Christians but they really were Crusaders... a violent group of ne-er do wells who killed in the name of God. Crusaders had a religion that was NOT Christianity because the Christian God I know is a loving one.

God... Jehovah... Yahweh... Allah... all are love.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

P6 SA1 Testimonials

These testimonials are from parents of the originally poorer students. 

This child was failing in early P5. I thought he would be hard to help but he made it!

This child has special needs.

This one was quite poor too, at the start. Extremely careless!

Last year, his school teacher said that he was CMI (cannot make it).

This love note made my day! From client to friend... it makes all the frustrations that go along with being a Teacher so worth it!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Kawai K800

I have a preference for the rounded mellow tones of the German pianos. Years ago, I explored buying one. The difference between a German piano and a Japanese piano was stark. The German pianos sounded silky smooth with every note full and rich. Back in those days, the Japanese pianos sounded bright and sharp.

I much preferred the deep, rich and complex tones of the German pianos, but I could not afford one.  So, I settled for the electronic keyboard pianos just to have something to bang tunes out on.

If I had the money, I would buy the $35,000 August Forster piano or even the Steinway. These sound even better. However, I really am not a very good piano player so I decided to buy something I could afford and still sounded nice enough for me to feel good playing it.

The Kawai K800 was a surprising find. It is an upright grand. This means that its strings are longer than a normal upright piano. Thus, the sounds it makes are larger, richer and silkier than a normal upright. I liked that it uses ABS carbon (a synthetic material) in its piano action. Most pianos use wood which makes maintenance in our high humidity more problematic. With its ABS carbon parts, I expect the Kawai K800 would be easier to maintain over the years.

The Yamaha upright grand equivalent of the Kawai K800 is the Yamaha YUS5. I much preferred the sound of the Kawai K800. It was nearer the quality of sound I was hearing from the German makes. I don't know if I am dreaming it but 10 years ago, the German makes sounded better. I remember thinking they sounded like creamy soft serve vanilla ice cream. The Yamahas 10 years ago sounded like lemon sorbet back then. - sharp and crisp sounds.

I just prefer the creamier sounds. Possibly, others prefer the sorbet-like sounds. That is still very much what the Yamaha YUS5 sounds like - sorbet. These days, German pianos seem to sound less creamy and the Kawai K800 sounds MORE creamy. So, I guess I found something creamy enough but not as creamy as I would like.

Still nice... and far more affordable.

The design is ever so cute too. The piano sheet holder can be pulled forwards, towards the pianist and underneath it are 2 sound escapes. So, the sound not only emanates from the back and the top of the Kawai K800, it also emanates from the front panel as well. This makes for a lot of resonance.

I do think I bought a piano that is way too good for my lousy piano playing skills. So, I am trying to practise and practise and practise so that I can deserve the piano I bought. I dread to think what my neighbours think because I literally play it all day. After every compo I mark, I play for 5 minutes just to refresh my senses and help me regain focus enough to mark the next compo well.

It also means that this poor blog has been sorely neglected. For someone who has no real job, I really am quite a busy person, you know. What with my piano and my Le Creuset pots...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Parent Seminars 2017

HOT Skills Parent Workshop and Positive Teaching Parent Seminar are open for registration.

(1) HOT Skills HERE.
(2) Positive Teaching HERE.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dr Tay Kai Xian, Dentist

Last year, I had a wisdom tooth taken out. It was growing on its side and impacting a good tooth. At the point of impaction, a cavity had begun to form because my toothbrush could not reach that spot. I knew about the impacted tooth but somehow, I missed out on the fact that there was a small cavity there.

When I went for my yearly scaling and cleaning at the Woodlands Polyclinic, the dentist sent me to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital to get my cavity looked at.

A specialist dentist looked at it and spent a looooong time telling me how DIFFICULT it was to fill that cavity. He went on and on about the challenging case. It was right at the side of the mouth. It was growing into the side of the tooth and getting perilously near the tooth nerve. If they tried to fill it, it might touch the nerve or there might be a nerve infection. Then, there would need to be a root canal operation OR an extraction.

Then he said, "This case is so difficult that I need to get someone else to look at it."

Within 10 minutes, the other doctor was ready for me. You see, I really don't understand why people complain about our healthcare. I was referred from the Polyclinic and yet I experienced very prompt intervention. Undoubtedly, I had to wait 3 months for my scaling appointment and then another 2, to see the specialist... but once they saw how urgent my tooth was, I waited 10 minutes.

Now, this is where it gets interesting.

I hopped over to the next aisle and opened the door into Dr Tay Kai Xian's consultation room. I came face to face with a man that looked not a day older than 17 years. He talked fast and made small jerky motions with his hands. I thought to myself, "Huh? This is the guy who can do the challenging thing that the other older dentist cannot do?"

I was stunned. I stared at this 17 year old male in a dentist scrubs and I asked a few questions, meanwhile, churning in my mind my next course of action. Do I allow this 17 year old to lay hands on me? Do I kick up a fuss and tell the hospital that I object to being operated on by a student? Do I take a leap of faith and submit to the ministrations of this young boy who looked not a day older than my son.

I took the leap of faith.

And Dr Tay Kai Xian was WONDERFUL! His entire demeanour changed from the moment his dentist's mask went on. He spoke slowly and gently, carefully explaining each thing he was about to do to me... "This will sting a bit. I am injecting local anaesthetic. Now that the area is numb, I will do this, so you will feel a lot of pulling on your cheek. I am going to shave off the side of your tooth, so you will next feel some vibration.... and so on."

He had steady hands and he was unfailingly polite to his nurse when he asked for this and that... or gave instructions to prepare the next step. It was so lovely to be treated by a genuinely nice person, who was so quietly confident at every part of the process (except for the start when I asked him if he could really do this challenging op and he started to talk too fast and gesture jerkily). He had such STEADY hands!

Seriously, the moment I sat back in the dentist's chair, Dr Tay morphed into a father figure.

I came home and told my family about him. The Husband asked, "Is he handsome?" Then I kicked myself! Whyyyyyyyyyyy didn't I ask if he was married/attached? Whyyyyyyy didn't I tell him about my pretty daughter with her 8 A level distinctions, gymnastics medals, Dean's lister, good job and a temperament so sweet that 4 kids sit on her legs at Sunday school, with more fighting to do so.


See photo of Dr. Tay Kai Xian HERE. I highly recommend him!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Son: Reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci

I really am not supposed to blog about this. The Son has given me a gag order. I am not allowed to blog about him very much, which is such a bummer because blogging about him is so entertaining for me. And so entertaining for my readers. No?

Anyway, it all started with a BBC broadcast on the way to school. A voice with an Italian accent read out excerpts from Machiavelli. Apparently, the excerpts were shockingly evil in their content. So I questioned why they were listening to them at all. So began an amusing exchange between father and son.

Daddy: My son is so intellectual that he refuses to listen to pop music on the way to school, preferring meatier fare from BBC.

The Son: Noooooo... it is because your selection of pop music is so repetitive. Anything is better than that.

Daddy: **with a perfectly straight face** My son is a renaissance man. He can fight and write.

The Son: **roll eyes** Splutter!

Me: Ohhhhh! My son is like Leonardo da Vinci. He is the reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci.

Daddy: Ahhhhh! My son is better. Leonardo da Vinci cannot code computer programmes. My son can code.

Me: Trudat! Our son is better than Leonardo da Vinci.

The Son: **glowering at me**

Me: Heyyyy... how come you don't glower at your Daddy? He was the one who started with "renaissance man". How come when I praise you, you get all mad?

For some strange reason, The Son has evolved to be like his sister. He keeps downplaying his triumphs and saying that he is not good enough. Every time I tell him I am proud of him, he gets peeved... and I am not allowed to blog about his triumphs either! Then, when I play along with his I-am-not-good-enough line, I get knocked on the head for not having faith in him. The conversation unfurled as follows.

The Son: **to change the subject** Oh, by the way, we got into Finals.

Me: Oh! You did!? You got into Finals!?

The Son: **looking peeved again** Mom! I ALWAYS get into Finals! How come you even doubt that I can get into Finals!?

Me: **speechless**

Now, you tell me. Is it fair?! Sheesh! A mother cannot do anything right! You know what... teenaged sons are idiots!! Certainly nothing like Leonardo da Vinci, who, I am certain, was much nicer to his Mom.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Will You Make the World? Or Are You Made For It?

See HERE for the full article.

See HERE for the full article.

Daniel Yap wrote in the article HERE. "I can feel the massive ship turning ever so slightly."

I oso say!

I read the above 2 articles in the past 2 days that gave me much to be excited about. Since 2010, I wondered why our educational system had evolved into the huge mess that it pretty much still is, at the moment, with its over emphasis on academic excellence to the detriment of other developmental areas.

In the end, I concluded that the MOE had forgotten about first principles and allowed itself to be seduced by the fads in education emanating from the USA... standardised testing... PISA and what not. For 7 years I wondered why the MOE was not preparing our children for life. 

Since Ong Ye Kung and Ng Chee Meng took over, it does appear that we have come to our senses.

What is the use of topping the PISA scores and having a world class testing methodology if our children are poorly equipped for life at work? So finally, the MOE, helmed by 2 men with WISDOM if not actual educator experience, is working from first principles.

What is this first principle? 

To know what the education system needs, we need to work backwards from the future ready children we want to have, 20 years from today. Certainly, the future is hard to predict and nobody expects the MOE to be entirely clairvoyant. However, certain things are perennial in a useful and productive adult.

- Emotional intelligence
- Social networks
- Literacy and numeracy
- Knowing how to learn and unlearn
- Respect for high standards

Throughout The Son and The Daughter's education, their schools focused largely on literacy and numeracy. It was up to me to teach them emotional intelligence (the old people will simply say 做人道理  for emotional intelligence). It was up to me to nudge the development of their social networks along. It was up to me to teach them how to learn independently, and how to identify stuff to unlearn. It was up to me to insist on high quality work with the mantra - If you're not going to do it properly, please don't even do it at all.

Every week, I do battle with parents and students who want to do a lot HW but give me junk to mark. This attitude is endemic and it takes all of my strength and determination to stand firm and say, "Your junk will end up in my bin. It will not be marked. It will not even be returned to you. You will not learn anything new from me until you learn this properly."

At least learn something small, but don't learn nothing at all.

In truth... right up until today, with Ong Ye Kung and Ng Chee Meng at the helm of the MOE, the strategic direction of our education was still very much what Goh Keng Swee had set down in the 1960s when he had to MAKE people fit the staffing needs of the global MNCs which invested in Singapore. 

Singaporeans learnt to be compliant do-ers. Our best students were compliant do-ers. Never break the rules. Work hard. Work very hard. Work very very hard. So, not surprisingly, our top entrepreneurs seemed to have a less than stellar academic history. Think Sim Wong Hoo and Eldwin Chua. These are people that the MNCs would vomit out from their ranks and told that they were un-employable.

And yet... what wouldn't I give today to BE Sim Wong Hoo and Eldwin Chua, my Phd notwithstanding?

With so much disruptive change on the horizon and in front of us - Grabtaxi, Uber, AirBnB, Facebook, Kickstarter, Redmart... the world is very different today than what it was when I grew up. The MOE can no longer make people to fit something. Why? Because the MOE (and everyone else) does not know what the world our children grow into, will be like.

As a 3rd world country, Goh Keng Swee could look at the 1st world countries and project our manpower to fit those needs. We are now a 1st world country. We have been a 1st world country for a long time now. This change in strategic direction is long overdue.

Yes... help our children find their passion. Give them the following set of skills...
- Emotional intelligence
- Social networks
- Literacy and numeracy
- Knowing how to learn and unlearn
- Respect for high standards
... and then watch them make their world.

The young all have that capacity for change. It is in the adolescent's natural psychological evolution to challenge the status quo and to question if things can be done differently. We spent so much effort in the past 2 decades trying to prepare them... to groom them... to mould them... for a future that you and I do not know. Adolescents are programmed to re-make their world.

However, in this new direction, where we actively look to bolster strengths and grow diversity of skills and encourage passion, we will have a whole field of colourful wildflowers ready to take their chances with the new world.

Their world. Not ours.

Gone are the days where the government can predict the world and protect us with their clairvoyance. It will be uncertain days ahead and only diversity can give Singapore the resilience to make it through.

We must educate our children to make (or re-make) their world so that they can shape their future. We should not make them to fit it.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

925 Chicken Rice

This eatery is opposite the Sembawang Shopping Centre. It is new, good and reasonably priced. In my humble opinion, it is better than Sum's Kitchen (its neighbour). Strangely though, the queues at Sum's Kitchen are longer.

Ohm Shimono Cyclone Vacuum Cleaner

I wasn't even looking for a vacuum cleaner. 

I passed by Home Fix and stopped to see the demo. It was such a light machine that I decided that my mother-in-law might like it. So, I told the man that I would bring her back to take look. He urged me to try it for myself on the tiled floor (that looked clean to me). He shook out all the dust from the dust container and handed the machine to me. To be polite, I dragged the machine up and down a bit. Then, I became REALLY intrigued. In no time at all, a dust bunny had built up inside the transparent dust receptacle.

I looked the floor and it did look clean. Then, I looked at the dust bunny and I knew that the floor was clearly not clean. So, I decided to buy it. If mother-in-law did not want it, I would keep it for me.

The mother-in-law LOVED it. She tried it out on the floor that she had mopped just that morning. She was surprised that a dust bunny had formed in no time inside the vacuum cleaner. She loved it so much that for a few days after, she would bring it over to show me how much dirt she had collected in the mornings. MY helper also loved it. She would go over and borrow the thing.

So, I decided to buy my helper her own machine. It wasn't easy to find you know. Online, it retailed for $300. I bought it at $168 at Home Fix. However, Home Fix had no more in stock. They still have no more in stock. In the end, I found it retailing at $168 at the 2nd floor of Thomson Plaza.

There are 2 models. One model is wireless. The one with wire was more powerful and cheaper.

Nice Day Today!

I woke up feeling rather low. The Husband has been working late nights frequently. The Son... well... I never see him because he is so busy trying to win this or that. Believe it or not, the twit has 5 CCAs. The Daughter has started working and sometimes works up to 3 am. You know, life in Singapore is crazy. There are people who work so hard they don't go home for 3 nights!!

How does that happen? Won't they die?

Me... I thought it would be another boring day of marking assignments. And then, I received 3 emails today that sent me over the moon.

I am not keen on the idea of working the children hard up to the PSLE. This burns them out. So, I try to crack the whip much earlier, through P4 and P5. Then, in P6, I close the P6 class in end-May. Parents and children who have worked with me closely in P4 and P5 enjoy this respite. If all goes well, the children are much less stressed too.

Then, it is time to say goodbye. 

Now, this is the email that really caught me by surprise. This is a P5 parent. She is caught right at the moment when I am at my most pressurising... and yet... I don't think many parents agree with her but her email still made me glad in my heart.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Another Bird Nest

We found another bird nest in the garden. This time, it is an even tinier bird with a nest not larger than my finger. So thrilled! Now I have 5 pet birds.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Our Zebra Doves

There was a Papa Bird and a Mama Bird. Two zebra doves had staked out my 2nd floor balcony as their territory. They foraged for food in my garden and then, they built a nest (the size of my palm). Then, they laid eggs (the size of my thumb's first phalange). 

Shortly after the chicks hatched, one of the parents died. It had flown into one of our large glass doors and knocked itself out. Milo picked it up and tried to revive it. His way of doing so was to hold the poor bird in his mouth and shake it. Not surprisingly, it died. I came home to a living room littered with feathers and a puzzled Milo.

We were all devastated. I even cried. Seeing me in tears, The Husband googled material for me to read and learn about how to feed nestlings and squabs. That is his way of comforting me. You know, not take me in his arms and wipe away the tears gently with a soft silk handkerchief... like in the movies. The Hub points to the computer screen and says, "Nah! Here, read this pdf file and watch this youtube. You will feel better when you know how to help the birds."

I guess it worked because I wiped away my tears, got in touch with a bird expert friend and figured out how to keep the birds alive. Fortunately, one of the parents is still alive and so all I had to do was to rig up a bird feeder next to the nest. The parent did the rest.

We are not sure if it is a Mama or a Papa bird. The literature says that the males are more likely to incubate in the day and the females incubate at night. Now that one is dead, there is no parent at the nest at night. So the one left must be a Papa bird? I can't tell because I can't see any ahems dangling anywhere.

2 eggs.

Papa and Mama Bird.

Dead Mama bird.

We took out the babies to clean the nest.

Nice clean nest.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

PE Tuition Teacher

I wish I could tell you that I engaged Tracy Tay to be my personal trainer because I wanted to get stronger and healthier. Unfortunately, the real reason why I engaged her was that I really wanted to lose weight. 

My thyroid issues predisposed me to weight gain. Losing weight was next to impossible. I would cycle 2 hours a day and see no improvement on the weighing scales nor in my girth.

I engaged Tracy with some amount of trepidation. The stereotype of a personal trainer is this hard driving and yelling fitness freak who will inflict pain on the unsuspecting in ways the unsuspecting do not suspect but very much fear.

Tracy is not like that at all. "My oldest client is 79," said she. I looked down at my fat figure and silently jubilated. I was quite confident I could keep up with a 79 year old. Tracy has a degree in Sports Science and she knows my body better than I do. She knows the names of all the muscles and she knows what exercises I should do to target which group of muscles. She is adept at modifying exercises to fit my fitness level. When I started with her, I could barely manage 2 push-ups. With some modifications and a lot of patience, I can now do 20.

My backaches are gone because she has helped me to strengthen my core muscles. I feel much more energetic than before, more flexible and a lot more agile. I can climb up and down stairs without breaking a sweat.

Best of all, I lost 4 inches around the hips, 2 inches around the waist but only 1 kg off the weighing scales.

WMF Pressure Cookers

Pressure cookers have been around for umpteen years. The only problem was that I was deathly afraid of them. The old pressure cookers had no safety mechanisms and were quite capable of exploding. Then, I came across rave reviews of the Instant Pot. 

The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker which has built-in sensors and automated cooking programmes. See HERE for a demo. This thing will not explode (at least, if it were functioning well, it shouldn't) because it will reduce pressure automatically before explosion. This thing does a beef pot roast in 45 minutes. Such a roast normally requires 3 hours in the oven.

The oven is not exactly the most energy efficient piece of kitchen equipment. 3 hours in it sends the electricity bills sky high.

There is no local retailer for the Instant Pot. Locally, the only electric pressure cooker available, is the Philips. I refused to buy it because it has non stick coating on the cooking pot. Non stick coatings slough off after some time and it is not good for health if ingested.

So, I started to look around a little more. I finally settled for the WMF stove top pressure cooker. I liked the stainless steel. I liked the fact that I needed to learn to control time and pressure for each recipe. Best of all, I liked that this pot will wail loudly when pressure gets too high. It is so loud that I can hear it from anywhere in the house.

No danger of explosion then. See HERE for demo.

This pressure cooker brings down my electricity bills considerably and I can turn around meals a lot faster too. It cooks carrots in 2 minutes. It does my pot roasts in 30 minutes. The best thing is the risotto. That gets done in 7 minutes and it comes out perfect, with creamy starch and al dente rice grains.

Normally, risottos require 45 minutes of patience at the stove, adding soup stock ladle by ladle and stirring. Even then I often don't get it right. Too soft, too hard, too dry. In the pressure cooker, it comes out PERFECTLY each time.

After I bought the WMF Pressure Cooker, I found the Tefal Clipso Plus HERE. It is ever so pretty and has a detachable timer. By that time, I had already bought my 2nd WMF pressure cooker. Else, I would have got me the Tefal Clipso Plus.

I used to make rice in the thermal pot without realising that higher heat is required to release the oils in rice responsible for its fragrance. My mother-in-law used to complain that my rice (from the thermal pot) was not fragrant. I ignored her simply because that is what daughters-in-law tend to do, right? 

Now though, I know what she means. Rice done in a pressure cooker is amazingly al dente and fragrant. 

I wish I had found these new style pressure cookers before I had bought my Le Creuset pots. They are so practical and cook so fast that I now use them every day. The Le Creuset pots are good when guests come and I want to take time to cook things low and slow. Taste wise, one cannot beat the Le Creuset pots but for daily convenience... man... I love my 2 WMF pressure cookers.

I love them so much that I bought 2!

Perfect risotto in 7 minutes.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Landing Point, The Fullerton Bay Hotel

This gluten free high tea can be booked 2 days in advance. No one can believe it is gluten free but it is. I ate it and nothing happened to my tummy.

Huge sofas to drown in.

Huge selection of teas.

The high tea.

My coffee.

My favourite bite.

The other favourite bite.

Half of the 3rd favourite bite. Haha!

Pim Pam by FOC

It is very hard to get safe Western food for celiacs in Singapore. So, when you find one, you spread the word to all other people who get sick from eating gluten. No fear! Pim Pam is here!

Egg, iberico ham and some sort of potato millefeuille which was like a cross between a croissant and a potato chip.

Galician octopus on a bed of mashed potato.

Scallop and pork rib paella.

Gluten free "kit kat" dessert. Crispy from the peanut bar, chocolatey from the white chocolate and creamy from the vanilla ice cream.

The service staff are extraordinary too. Friendly and helpful. I mean truly friendly. They interacted with me like I was a friend and truly cared about my dining experience. Not all pricey places do that. I tried to book La Brasserie at The Fullerton Bay (after I tried out the wonderful High Tea at The Landing Point) and they made me feel like I probably could not afford to eat there.

Oh well... I could afford it if I wanted to, but now I cannot afford it anymore. They would have to pay me to eat there.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Nesting Mama Bird

Yay! A mama pigeon has laid eggs in our garden!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Home Made Solar Oven

My helper thinks I am a genius (which is just as good, because the feeling is mutual). I actually cooked an egg using an old cardboard box. It worked so well that I shall be using my cardboard box to braise meat on sunny days. I will post more when I have done it.

It is the box left over from the purchase of a Brother printer.

It needs a black cooking utensil to absorb heat.

It needs a black cover and a glass heat trap, to trap heat.

Tada! Hard egg!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Redmart Shopping

Again, I am a late adopter. It took months after my friends started telling me about Redmart before I even tried surfing the site. 4 weeks ago, I took the plunge and made my first order. It was a new experience but not unpleasant except for the constant peering into the computer screen.

But, I liked the experience of having the groceries sent right to my door. The prices of some items were cheaper than the brick and mortar supermarkets too. Then, I found that the week after, I did not need to peer as much into the computer screen. Redmart remembers what I have bought before and henceforth, I just need to go down the list and click what has run out in my pantry.

I felt some loyalty to NTUC Fairprice. So, I decided to shop at NTUC Online. It was a frustrating experience because many things that I usually buy aren't online. Redmart had everything I needed from organic vegetables to parma ham and a HUGE range of gluten free products. In the past, I used to have to run to 2 places (Cold Storage and NTUC Finest) to get my gluten free products and my organic milk. Now, Redmart has it all. Delivery is free too.

I particularly like that Redmart sets it up such that I can examine the ingredients in close up. Then, I can immediately google what each ingredient is to see if natural or processed. If processed, then how was it processed. That way, I don't put junk into my mouth.

I haven't tried Honest Bee yet. I did try Open Taste but they only have organic vegetables so I cannot collate everything into a single delivery time slot.

Very happy with Redmart. This is an unpaid review. Redmart did not ask me to write it. I wrote it because it has made a big difference in my life. If this goes on, I don't need my car anymore.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Device Addiction

I have written about electronic games HERE and HERE.

I feel compelled to write about it again for 2 reasons.

(1) I observed over the Chinese New Year. Everywhere I went, and I do mean everywhere... I saw children holding phones and tablets, watching youtube or playing device games. If you don't know what is happening to these poor children as they stare into their precious devices, click HERE and understand that it is like a cocaine addiction.

(2) In the past 1.5 months, I observed a marked deterioration in 3 boys' ability to focus and retain material pre and post Dec holidays. The difference was marked enough that I had to stop and troubleshoot each case before I connected the dots into a pattern. I asked all 3 parents, "How many hours of device games did your boy get over the Dec holidays?"

Th answers were between 1 to 4 hours.

Wow! You might as well feed your child cocaine from a straw daily? Why don't you do that?

Why Do Device Games Compromise Focus and Learning Retention?
It really does not matter what games they are playing. My 3 students played Minecraft, Chess, Scrabble. Yet, when they returned to my classes, the drop in focus and retention abilities was obvious to me.

It DOES NOT matter what "educational" game the child is playing. The fact that the child is drawn to the game to the extent where he spends 4 hours a day glued to it and will not stop unless asked to, means that certain biological processes are taking place.

No matter the apparent "educational value" of the game, the biology does not change. It is all about dopamine and dopamine receptors.

Brain Needs Dopamine To Retain Learning
When dopamine (the happy hormone) and dopamine receptors connect at the moment you are learning new material or skills, the brain retains that material or those skills. If you don't believe me, click HERE. That is why happy children learn better.

Device Games Flood The Brain With Dopamine 
Device games flood the brain with dopamine in the same way cocaine or heroine do. If you don't believe me, click HERE.

If device games flood the brain with dopamine, and dopamine helps the brain retain learning, then isn't it good to expose children to as much device games as possible?

No, it is not.

How Do Device Games Change the Brain?
The problem arises when dopamine floods the brain. After that first moment of joy, the brain responds "by (1) producing less dopamine or  (2) eliminating dopamine receptors—an adaptation similar to turning the volume down on a loudspeaker when noise becomes too loud" (Source HERE).

With fewer dopamine receptors, the same high levels of dopamine from a computer game will produce LESS joy. You need higher and higher levels of dopamine to bind to fewer and fewer receptors, to produce the same degree of happiness. This is how an addiction forms. If the addiction continues unabated, you crave the stimulation above all else.

However, way way waaaaaaaay before your child gets to that stage of full blown addiction, his brain is already eliminating dopamine receptors in response to an hour of daily device games. At this stage, your child does not don't crave device games to the point where he loses control, but his brain's ability to retain material and skills learnt, is already compromised.

Way before he becomes really addicted, he already has fewer dopamine receptors for dopamine to bind to. Away from device games, his brain is already producing less dopamine than before he started playing device games. The net effect of this is 2-fold...

(1) With less dopamine produced binding to fewer dopamine receptors, his ability to retain material and skills learnt won't be as good as before he started playing device games.

(2) He doesn't have enough dopamine to synthesize into norepinephrine to help him focus attention.

What is Norepinephrine?
In the brain, norepinephrine increases arousal and alertness, promotes vigilance, enhances formation and retrieval of memory, and focuses attention (Source HERE). Children with Attention Deficit Disorder are often given Ritalin, which elevates norepinephrine levels in their brains and helps them to focus (Source HERE).

Dopamine is required for the production of norepinephrine. If the child is low on dopamine, he will be low on norepinephrine. If he is low on norepinephrine, his ability to focus will be compromised.

Practical Symptoms
So how does Dr. Pet know a child has been gaming?

(1) I know when I track back multiple weeks of HW and find that simple mistakes are repeated. See picture herein below of an intelligent child who makes simple mistakes repeatedly.

(2) I know when I compare the weekly facilitator behavioural report on each individual child and note a deterioration in attentional focus. I also know because I am in class to observe for myself the spaced out look and the drifting eyes.

We do not bother to collect nor archive quantitative data on marks. We do collect a vast amount of individual data on HW quality and in-class social behaviours because that is what allows me to know each child and to troubleshoot each child intimately.

The One Thing To Be Grateful For
Gaming does not seem to impair a child's ability to figure things out. That capability stays intact. However, the gamers have intermittent attentional focus and it is this intermittent focus that makes the child seem slow at figuring things out. At the point of time where he can focus, the ability to figure things out still seems intact.

One Hour A Day of Computer Games Is NOT Benign
Rules must be different for children than adults. An adult liver can process alcohol more effectively. There is legal age for alcohol consumption, no?  An adult's skin is more resilient to the sun. Adults can do things that children should not do.

An adult brain is NOT as sensitive as a child's. Children are supposed to learn like sponges. This means that their brains CHANGE FAST in response to stimulus. Their brains are way more sensitive than ours. Even an hour a day of device games is damaging. Even 30 minutes a day is damaging. Even 5 minutes a day is damaging.

Go ahead, give your 3 year old or 10 year old a tablespoon of vodka every day, or a cigarette every day. If you won't do that, why would you give them device games every day?

If you want to see the research on this, click HERE and read all the research papers. If you have time to only read ONE research paper, then click HERE for research that was done with Singaporean students. I have drawn out the following path model from this research done in Singapore. Note that gaming negatively affects school grades.