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Friday, October 19, 2018


Fresh echinacea flowers.

Fresh echinacea flowers in a cup.

Shredded echinacea flowers in a thermal pot.

Astragalus from the TCM Hall.

Fully organic, non-pesticidal fresh and dried echinacea flowers are good to have in the freezer to stave off flus. It is important to take echinacea at the very start of the flu (like literally at the FIRST sneeze). Once the flu has settled in, it is not quite as effective. When the flu has not quite settled in, echinacea gets rid of it before it even properly starts.

Echinacea does so by triggering the immune response BEFORE the numbers of the virus get too large. When there are fewer numbers of viruses, it is easier for the body to kill the infection. See HERE.

For echinacea to work, you need to have healthy levels of white blood cells. If your white blood cell count is low to begin with, no amount of early triggering of the immune response will help. To ensure healthy levels of white blood cells, my family takes astragalus once a week. See HERE.

Echinacea works only for flu viruses, not bacterial infections.

(1) Shred the flower completely with a kitchen scissors.
(2) Place at the bottom of a thermos flask.
(3) Pour 250ml of hot, boiling water.
(4) Leave in thermos flask for an hour.
(5) Pour out to cool before drinking.
(6) Top up the flask with hot boiling water again.
(7) Repeat steps 1 to 6.

Nota Bene
(a) Echinacea comes out in pee. It is cleared quickly from the system. Instead of drinking the whole mug at one go, divide into quarters and take 1 quarter every 15 minutes.
(b) After 4 steeps, ensure that you chew up the flower. If you can swallow, do so. Else, chew and spit out the pulp.
(c) GNC sells echinacea in capsules. They are useless. That is why I grow my own.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Pant Paradise

Chong Pang Market has a stall that sells bottoms of every sort. The prices are amazing. 1 pair of flared pants in light cotton retails at $10. 1 pair of jeans retails at $16. There is a whole variety of tights and shorts and bermudas too.

Best find of the year!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Growing Dou Miao With Water

Homegrown dou miao is a treat. I have been growing dou miao for about 4 months and the excitement of harvesting and eating the dou miao does not ebb. Here is how:

(1) Purchase from Giant, the above sieve + container set. 

(2) Pour the maple peas into the sieve. Fill the sieve till the maple peas cover half the base of the sieve in a single layer (i.e., none of the maple peas sit on top of each other).

(3) Fill the sieve + container with water till the maple peas are all submerged under water.

(4) Soak for 24 hrs.

(5) Drain the water at the end of 24 hrs. Fill the sieve + container with fresh water. Do not submerge the maple peas. Instead just make sure that the water forms only a thin film of water at the bottom of the sieve (when the sieve is inserted into the container).

(6) Leave on a window sill with bright light or a few hours of sun.

(7) Change water daily.

(8) Inspect the bottom of the tray daily to see if roots have grown through the holes in the sieve. Once you observe this, then ensure that the water level stays below the sieve. The dou miao can drink through their roots.

(9) At this stage, if the maple peas stay in contact with water, they will start to rot. So, it is important to ensure that the water level only reaches the roots.

(10) Change water daily.

(11) Cut 1 inch above the pea after the dou miao reaches 3 inches tall.

(12) It can be harvested up to 3 times per batch.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Clash of Civilisations

This is a Mother-in-law post.

A Woman With Male Chauvinist Beliefs
I have known my mother-in-law for 30 years. Until now, I see the trees but not the forest. I address problems but have never taken a helicopter view to sum up the macro level dynamics that lead to micro level clashes between us. I see reason to blog about this because it might actually help other women in my situation.

Grandma is a woman of her times. She is a woman with male chauvinist beliefs. Women are worth less than men. Her own daughter was neglected in favour of her son, my husband. When I gave my daughter into her care, my daughter developed emotional issues arising from Grandma's very obvious favouring of my son. These emotional issues underpinned The Daughter's poor academic results. Back then, my poor daughter scored in the bottom 25% of her cohort until I stepped in to resolve these issues, whereupon she went straight to the top in cohort.

Feudal Notions of the Matriarch VS Daughter-in-Law Relationship
In line with these subconscious beliefs, Grandma's mental model of a daughter-in-law was one that made sense only in feudal China. Grandma's view of a MIL was one of an all powerful matriarch who could order the daughters-in-law about, and freely dispose of all said daughters-in-law's possessions (including dowry and children). This probably made sense in an era where the matriarch of a wealthy family controlled all family resources. In those days, daughters-in-law were illiterate and the only way to prove their worth was to render service to their MIL, and thereby gain favour.

30 years ago, I did not understand this.

I simply found it puzzling that Grandma would go into my room, take one piece of my jewelry and then lend it to her sister without even asking me first. It was NOT jewelry that her son gave to me. It was a piece that I received from my own family. From Grandma's perspective, everything that belongs to her son (including his wife and all his wife's belongings) is hers.

I never understood why Grandma insisted on having her own bedroom in my HDB flat when her own 5 room HDB flat was within shouting and gesturing distance across the HDB carpark. Since she insisted, I gave her own bedroom. That was the biggest mistake of my life. Ensconced in her bedroom, she proceeded to take over my home entirely. She said that she disliked the way I had disposed the furniture and moved it around to suit her tastes. She did not like the spot where I had placed my kitchen condiments, and also moved those. She told me that my brands of soya sauce were not good, and proceeded to replace those too. If I told the helper to fry kang kong, she would go into the kitchen and tell the helper to fry bayam, not kang kong.

I felt like a guest in the apartment that I owned. I had no say in the home whether it pertained to my children or my furniture.

Since I was working full time, I mostly gritted my teeth and suffered in silence, except for the few instances where I thought she had really gone too far. When she proposed to mediate a quarrel between my husband and me, I told her bluntly that we were quite capable of conducting our marriage without her help.

To me, I was asserting my rights. However, from her world view, in the few cases where I did lay down the boundaries, I had impinged upon her rights as the matriarch of the family. What little I did to protect my rights, she experienced as a violation of hers.

Save My Family
Then, my children started to show dysfunctional behaviours. Little Boy only had eyes for Grandma. Grandma possessed him entirely, body, heart and soul. Little Boy hated his sister and absolutely detested his Father. The Daughter was in the bottom 25% of the cohort and was convinced that she was not loved. I came home from work to a whining daughter, a helper who complained about MIL and a MIL who complained about my daughter and the helper. Only my son could do no wrong. I looked into our joint future and I saw a loser daughter, a spoilt son and contentious relationships all around.

No way!

I tried to manage by working more from home. It was futile. My household and my little family were in a mess, even as I strove to please everyone and do the right thing...
- Convince The Daughter that she was loved.
- Repair the relationships Little Boy had with his father and his sister.
- Allow Grandma to occupy space in our little family unit to the exclusion of me.
- Discipline Little Boy (because The Husband held me responsible for how spoilt his son was)

The dysfunctional relationships had gained momentum. Grandma did not understand what I was trying to do and acted in ways that undermined my efforts. To reverse the momentum successfully, I needed her out of the way.

I prayed very hard. God sent our little family to the USA, where I had 12 months to do the emotional labour I needed to do, to root out the dysfunctions in my little family. Once I had repaired all our relationships, we came back as a united family and then Grandma found that it was hard to monopolise Little Boy's affections. The Daughter also knew that I was her rock. It took 2 more years to get Little Boy to like his father but I had already laid a good foundation which was relatively easy to build on.

Maintaining Boundaries
However, I became wary of MIL. I feared that if she continued to intrude into our lives, she would undo all that I had done. So, I took back the bedroom I had given her, explaining that I needed a personal study room. She would still come over every day but there was a limit to her intrusion because she had to go home to sleep.

Then, we moved into a penthouse duplex. She vigorously demanded a room in our house. In order to avoid an all out quarrel, both The Husband and I listened silently BUT did nothing. MIL cried real tears because she felt that her rights as a matriarch were being seriously violated. She was a matriarch without a place in my home, and thus, she was no longer in a legitimate position to control my little family. She was as if bereft. Me, I was puzzled at her emotional response. I did not understand why she absolutely needed a bedroom in my house, when she owned a 5 room flat 5 bus stops down the road. It was really puzzling.

It did not stop her from trying to assert her rights as matriarch. At first, she came over daily and would tell me that my toilets were dirty and needed washing, my pineapple tarts should go into the fridge. One day, I bluntly told her that she should govern her own home 5 bus stops down the road, and leave my home to me to manage. Privately, I thought to myself, "I have a Masters degree. Surely, I can be trusted to decide when to wash my toilets." Again, she was as if bereft. I had impinged on her rights as matriarch of the family, deserving of obedience and blind respect even in the smallest things.

Over time, she came over less often (3 times a week). She complained that it was because she did not feel at home in my home. Privately, I thought to myself, "Thank goodness for that! If you feel at home in my home, I know I will again feel like guest in my home."

Moving In Together Again
Then, we moved into a semi-detached home. By then, MIL was getting on in years. She really wanted to live in the same house as us. On the ground floor, there was space to build her a mini apartment of 1000 sq ft with her own kitchen, living room and bedroom. To get from her apartment to my home, you have to go outside. I made it very clear to her that she should leave me to manage my side of the house without her interference. Else, I was prepared to move out of a landed home and into a condo. She would then have to move back to her own HDB 5 room flat.

This worked for 5 years. However, we had still not addressed her world view. She still feels wronged. Lately, she has started complaining again that this is her son's house, and she should be allowed to do what she wishes where she wishes. She should be allowed to manage the helper as she sees fit. She should have free access into even my bedroom when she wishes. When I left the house, she would come over and tour our bedrooms, telling the helper that this is her son's house and therefore hers. She commented that perhaps I would be more compliant if she had more money, which made no sense to me.

My reaction was violent. I had a major meltdown and actually suffered 2 hormone crashes. I crudely told my husband, "Perhaps we should invite her to watch us have sex in the bedroom she claims belongs to her, by dint of it belonging to you."

The thought of having her dictate my every decision and action was no longer tolerable. I had experienced it for long years and had developed a psychological allergy to it. My reaction escalated into 2 panic attacks and 4 days in bed. No no no! I will not be chattel again! Why should I be chattel? I have a bloody PhD!

I had thought that I was being a good daughter-in-law to let her have her own self-sufficient apartment in my house. I thought I was being a good daughter-in-law to make her kefir every day and almond milk every now and then. I give her home grown veggies regularly. I do hospital duty. Over the years, I have gifted her with diamonds, opals, ovens, vacuum cleaners, spray mops and air purifiers. In my will, it is specified that should I die before her, this house cannot be sold until she passes on. Living in my house means that she has income of $2000 a month from renting out her HDB flat.

Yet, she still thinks she is badly treated.

Now, I realise that it is a lost cause. Only total ownership of me and mine will satisfy her. To satisfy her, I must be prepared to take on the position of chattel. I will never do that. Why should I?

She is not a bad person. She is simply a woman with values from a bygone era - where women had no rights and no wealth, except what they had through their son. Think about the Empress Dowagers of China. They held power insofar as their sons had power. MIL claimed rights and power through her son, my husband. For a better idea of how this translates into practice, click HERE.

If I were illiterate and non-wealth generating, I suppose that I would HAVE TO be compliant and have no sense of me and mine. This is the position that many domestic helpers and foreign workers are found in. Employers impinge on workers' basic human rights all the time. For those who treat their helpers like less than human, think on the fact that not 50 years ago, many daughters-in-law were in the same position.  There is no way either of us can come to an amicable solution because to uphold her rights, is to deny me mine. To uphold my rights, is to deny her hers.

I wish I had had this moment of epiphany years ago. I would have saved myself so much heartache from trying and not getting appreciated. Henceforth, I know there is no pleasing her. I am not able to give her what she considers rightfully hers, without denying myself what is rightfully mine. I will do what I can and not expect any appreciation at all.

It is not my fault. It is not her fault. It is a clash of civilisations.

I am very grateful that in my country, women have rights as men do. I am aware that there are still places on this earth where women have no rights at all. I am also grateful that my husband finally understands how much aggravation I have borne in 3 decades. He understands chiefly because he now has a high achieving daughter starting her journey through life, and he does not want his daughter to go through what I went through.

Finally, my husband is prepared to defend my rights.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Garden Veggies Are Not Free

Let me ask you. Would you go to your relatives' or neighbours' fridge and help yourself to their fresh vegetables, smiling and saying, "It's just for me. One person. I don't eat much." Would you also go rummage about in their NTUC grocery bags and take some fresh tomatoes and a few pears, saying, "They're just laying there. Spare me some."

Would you?

I doubt anyone would. However, people do think that it is ok to help themselves to the vegetables in my garden. A neighbour I hardly know, passed by, and said, "When I pass by, I will snip those long beans hanging on the outside of your fence. She was not asking me. She was telling me. Relatives snip and take smiling and saying, "It's just for me. One person. I don't eat much." Friends look upon my tomatoes and say, "Pass me some!"

You know what, I prefer to go and buy vegetables for you than give you from my garden. It is difficult nowadays to get truly organic produce that is pesticide free. The "organic" labels cannot be trusted. So, the little vegetables that I produce for my family are precious. It is also precisely because mine are fully organic and pesticide free veggies that they stimulate veggie lust from relatives and friends. Everyone recognises the value of such veggies in today's chemically toxic world.

What they do NOT know is how expensive it is to produce these veggies. I spent more than $4000 on benches and trellises and close to $1000 on soil alone. These are only the sunk costs. What about the running costs? Organic fertilisers do not come cheap, and I buy them in bags of $25kg. Then, there is the TIME invested in inspecting the garden every morning to hand pick insects that would otherwise devour the veggies and herbs. How else do you think I can raise vegetables without pesticides? One physically pores through the leaves and removes the bugs by hand. It takes about 30 minutes to apply fertiliser and one needs to water daily too! It takes effort to make compost and vermicompost to feed the plants.

People assume that if the veggie is growing under the sun and in soil, that it must be cheap and free. It isn't. Home grown veggies are expensive to produce, in money, time and effort.

I regularly give away my surplus. To relatives, I sometimes give even though it means I need to go buy supermarket veggies to top up for my family. The irony is that it is because I give generously that people start to take me for granted... and then, they go through my garden and cut what they want.

The Husband is convinced that the witches of old are nothing more than highly intelligent women who knew herbs and could grow plants. The ability to make plants thrive and use them for medicine must seem like magic to some. The Husband believes that back in the day, I would qualify as a Good Witch because I know how to make children behave, heal my family with herbs and cast a spell on my garden so that leaves grow green and lush.

What readily comes to mind is the story of Rapunzel. Here is my take on that story. When Rapunzel's mother (let's call her Thief 1) was pregnant with her, she glimpsed the lush vegetables in a witch's garden. She really really wanted to eat those vegetables. To satisfy his wife's yearning, Rapunzel's father (let's call him Thief 2) climbed over the high wall and stole 3 NTUC bags worth of greens and root vegetables. He did this DAILY.

Every morning, the witch walked her garden and she saw bare patches here and there where vegetables should have been. Daily, there were more and more bare patches. The witch was broken hearted. She mourned the loss of her priceless veggies. She resolved to catch the thief. She did catch the thief, and to the Witch's mind, priceless must exchange for priceless and in return for her priceless veggies, she exacted from Rapunzel's Father an equivalent price - his unborn baby.

Now, tell me. How is it that the witch went down in history as the bad guy in the story? That is so unfair! If I had acres of veggies, I don't mind, but my garden is small. It is barely enough for us. Now, if you will excuse me, it is time to teach a certain relative some kindergarten manners. Don't worry. I will not be asking for a baby.

Friday, July 20, 2018

I Blinked

I faced off with Maggie our Princess Hen and I blinked.

2 weeks ago, Maggie crouched on her feeding bowl like a lump of exasperated feathers. She gave me an irritated look. I offered her some millet, corn and sprouted mung beans, along with normal chicken feed and high protein food for insectivores.

Maggie took one look, turned around and strutted away with the hauteur of Queen Marie-Antoinette. You could almost hear her say, "No mealworms? YOU eat the millet."

I told her that she was a naughty girl and then I decided to treat her the way I treated my kids. I said, "Fine! You eat the millet OR you eat NOTHING."

The thing is, my children don't lay delicious eggs. Maggie does and she has the upper hand. Out of spite, our NAUGHTY princess hen stopped laying. Then, today, she absolutely had to lay an egg so she laid such a tiny egg that she might as well be a quail. See below.

See that tiny egg on the left! This was Maggie saying, 
"No worms for me!? Tiny egg for YOU!"

I lasted 2 weeks. Today, I obediently went to the store to get 8 boxes of mealworms for Princess Hen. I faced off with a hen and I lost.

Friday, June 22, 2018

French Cheeses

We like French cheeses. Really like French cheeses. It has not been easy to get hold of French cheeses in Singapore. Huber's specialises in Swiss cheeses. They're good (still way better than the plastic tasting cheddar slices and the mass produced camembert in the supermarkets).

We are still partial to French cheeses.

They all taste different and all have complex taste profiles. There is the smell of the terroir. Different cheeses have discernible notes of fresh grass, daisies, berries. French cheeses are real treats. My new fascination with French cheese started on Mother's Day this year, at One Ninety where they served Pouligny St. Pierre on the buffet table. It was Wow! The Chef at One Ninety is excellent. 

The One Ninety buffet does not have all the hype of Ritz-Carlton's Colony but each offering is well-chosen. Colony served Boursin from the supermarket. One Ninety served Pouligny St Pierre. I know which restaurant provides true quality.

Cheese platters (with artisanal cheese) for 4 in a restaurant cost about $30 and you only get a few slivers of 3 to 4 types of cheese. So, I decided to source for French artisanal cheeses. I found a good selection at The Marketplace and then, I found La Petite Boutique (which flies in exactly the type of French cheese I order). La Petite Boutique supplies to restaurants so you can get through them, really special cheeses that you cannot find in the supermarkets (or even their website). If you KNOW what cheese you want, just order through them. The prices range from $7 to $19 per cheese and I get the whole block (instead of a few slivers).

Pouligny St. Pierre - salty flavour that turns sweet in the mouth, and ends with nuttiness.

Banon de Chalais - rich and creamy, smells of mushroom.

Langres - oozy and creamy, with a full bodied umami taste.


For 10 years, I have enjoyed the bliss of NOT attracting male attention. No one hits on me. I didn't realise that getting hit on, and having to deal POLITELY with unwanted attention, was stressful, till people stopped doing it to me.

It never occurred to me to question why. I just enjoyed the peace.

Earlier this week, I finally realised why no one hits on me anymore. It is because I am UGLY! Oh man! When did I become so ugly?!

I went on my annual hunt for good quality t-shirts. Usually, I head straight to Giordano and buy 10 t-shirts of 5 different colours. This lasts me all year, till the next t-shirt hunt. This year, Giordano did not have designs I liked so I wandered into Uniqlo to hunt. Giordano's changing rooms are dim and forgiving. Uniqlo is so sure of their products that they have bright white light in the changing rooms.

I gave myself a fright when I looked at me in the Uniqlo mirror. Where did all those freckles come from? Why are there wrinkles on my belly? Why are there ugly folds of skin on my back when I turn? You know how those Hollywood stars do the back turn for photos on the red carpet? I tried that in the Uniqlo dressing room and almost scared myself to death.

I looked like Najib's wife, Rosmah!

I stood there and only THEN was I hit by a moment of epiphany. No wonder no one hits on me anymore! If I glimpsed me over a glass of white wine in a romantic restaurant, I would run away screaming!

So, I texted The Husband, hoping that he would... you know... look at me with the eyes of the beholder kinda thing and say, "Oh no darling, you look as beautiful as the day I met you." Instead, The Husband merely said... see below...

He did end off by saying, "I love you regardless," which did NOT make me feel much better because it means he agrees that I am ugly! Then, I became even more depressed because things aren't gonna improve! If I already look like Najib's wife now, can you imagine what I will look like when I reach her age!?

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Fratini la Trattoria

There are not many restaurants in Singapore that I can safely eat at. So, I am thrilled every time I find a new one.

Fratini la Trattoria is helmed by a slip of a girl who looks more like your regular PRC waitress than the Head Chef...
- with a degree from NTU in Banking and Finance
- who paid for her own uni education selling home made cakes
- who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London
- blah blah blah

Since it is a No Menu restaurant, the chef designs your menu. You simply have to trust the Chef. Think about it. That is what the Queen of England does, no? Her Chef knows what she likes and dislikes and he has carte blanche in deciding what to cook to please her (depending on what produce is of highest quality at the market).

Wah man! Today hor... I felt like the Queen of England leh! I just sat there and thought to myself - "Please me!"

Was I pleased? Oh man, yes! That is not all! Of the whole family, I am easiest to please. If you can please The Husband, that is when you know you are good at your kitchen craft. The Husband was very pleased indeed!

The Husband even said, "The best thing is, I don't even need to order!" He is a man who needs to make so many decisions at work that when he gets home, he really doesn't want to make any at all. I usually decide what he eats and I have gotten good at it because The Husband will COMPLAIN if it is something he doesn't like. Not quite fair, huh? You don't wanna decide and you complain when I decide for you.

Today, Chef Chomel decided for him and the man was THRILLED!

Scandal That Was Not A Scandal
It was after the meal that we did a spot of internet sleuthing and turned up some scandal about Chef Chomel! Seriously though, I really did not think it was a scandal at all. Apparently, Chef Chomel will post your name and details on the internet if you make a booking and then do not show up.

The whole internet behaved as if she had comported herself wrongly. I say "Good for her!" She stood up for the dignity of all chefs who care about putting good food into people's mouths. Her attitude reflects the attitudes of European chefs who have pride in their work.

Competence deserves respect. Establishments that care, deserve respect. If customers are so uncouth as to no show after confirming a booking, I won't just shame them, I would black list them and ensure that they never get to eat in my restaurant again... unless they call to apologise and explain (because sometimes, people have life and death reasons). Actually, this is what I do to my clients. Those who are inconsiderate and abusive, I smile nicely and gently take steps to make sure I never see them again.

Singapore is so big and cosmopolitan that people don't have to behave. They can disappear into the crowds after misbehaving. In Europe, restaurants are often found in rural areas and they serve a clientele that they see at village townhalls and suchlike. The chefs are your neighbours. People behave better in such situations. They are less cavalier and less careless about no showing. Chefs will also fly into a rage at such no shows.

Still, I have never thought it wise to offend chefs, you know. They cook things I like to eat, My policy is to suck up to every hawker centre chef who cooks stuff no one else can cook. I get very generous portions this way because people just want to be treated considerately and live with dignity.

Smoked salmon. Sous-vide pork. Brown rice. 
Dunno what is the yellow puree below nor the white sauce topping because Chef Chomel spoke very fast when she explained the dish and I was too shy to ask her to repeat. Ya man... the service here is so good that someone actually explains the dish to you and tells you which region of Italy it comes from! When she did it for the 1st time (and I thought she was a PRC waitress), I thought to myself, "What if she made it up? How do I know that this dish really comes from that region?" After the first mouthful, though, I wasn't thinking anything anymore. Whatever was going on in my mouth was very distracting!

Scallops With Yummy Sauce. I promise that the next time I go, I will make Chef Chomel repeat and I will write down NOTES so I can tell readers exactly what the dish is all about. However, you are unlikely to eat what I ate. Everyone gets different things, on different days.

Lamb on purple sweet potato puree. There was beef tenderloin too BUT The Son had eaten it before a photo could be taken.

Seabass on Yummy Vegetables.

Truffle Pasta.

Seafood Pasta With Cream Sauce.

White chocolate pavé. Tiramisu. Mint panna cotta.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Nice Handbag

At the risk of appearing like the gargoyle Rosmah Mansor, I hereby show off my newest handbag. The design is originally by some Japanese designer. Please don't ask me whom because I am not sure. For almost a decade, you can only buy this handbag from the actual label itself, which sells it for SGD$700. Yes, yes... I know the price because my brother's wife bought one.

There is no way I will pay SGD$700 for a handbag. No way.

I loved the design though. I have loved it for years. So, when I came across it at a pasar malam, I bought it for $35. I bought 2. Then, in a fit of affection for my Mother-in-law, I gave her the extra one that I had bought. My 70+ year old mother-in-law loves it too. Then, I went to the photocopying shop to get some stuff printed. The lady admired my pretty bag. I popped by to get her one and delivered it when I went to pick up my printouts.

Driving home, I saw a very fat lady pushing a market trolley and laden with plastic bags. She was carrying one too.

It really is a pretty bag. The problem is, all the ladies carrying the bag are NOT pretty at all. I tote it everywhere in my slippers and shorts. Grandma totes it. The 60 year old at the photocopying shop now also has one. That fat  karung guni lady was carrying one.

By this time next year, this bag won't scream style anymore. This bag will scream "Auntie!" That's ok. To me, it is still a pretty bag. I am going to buy one more to keep in the cupboard so that when the one I have gives out, I have a spare!

I wonder why I can get this bag for so cheap. Of course, it is brandless. Did the copyright whatever it is lapse?

National Service

In the best of times, I don't think any mother looks forward to seeing her son go into National Service. Come on, how can I send that baby in the video, to NS?

Right now, I feel positively panicky about NS. In 3 months, 3 young men have died. I am terrified at the thought of losing The Son. It is a cold fear in my heart that nothing can warm. I complained to my husband, who did nothing but shrug. I complained to my son, who said that the statistical chances are very low.

Yes, but they are not zero. They should be zero.

The Israelis all have 5 kids. They are a nation at war and all Israeli mothers know that young people die in the service of their country. They have many kids to ensure at least some are left to console a bereaved mother. Even then, there are mothers who lose all their children to war. But... but... but... Israel is constantly at war. Their boys die so that Israel might survive. Our boys die because some young idiotic officer barely out of his teens, was either cruel or stupid.

Why did not anyone tell me that our young men too, could die in the service of our country, for no better reason than the stupidity and cruelty of another young man? I would have made 10 kids. As it is, I only have 1 son and 1 daughter. Both are precious to me.

So, I am deeply regretful that I made The Son swim 15 laps or jog 15 minutes daily when he was in P4 through to P6. I deeply regret that I was so proud of his 6-pack at the end of P5. I should also not have been so proud when his school selected him as talent for Track and Field (which we rejected in favour of shooting).

At that time, there was a spate of young men who simply dropped dead of heart failure whilst marching in the sun. I decided that I had to ensure that The Son developed a strong heart. So, I forced him to swim or jog daily. Now, I am rewarded by the news that he has to go for Commando medical. I should have kept him indoors and sent him pale and slender (with a slight cough) to his NS medical. Oh why did I make a son with a rippling torso and a muscular right arm (the right arm holds up the pistol).

I am usually quite good at keeping my worries to myself. The Husband, The Daughter and The Son all have stressful schedules and it is not fair to burden them with my fears. This time, I whined and whined and whined. When I suggested that my son deliberately fail his Commando medical, both The Husband and The Son gave me speechless stares. And I am like, "So what!"

Then, my son assured me that he had no interest in joining the Commandos and would make sure he told that to the interview panel, but he had no intention of intentionally failing anything.

As you can see, I have now taken to whining on my blog.

Every day, I send one of the following pictures to my son on Telegram. I know that if I send it all to him at a go, he will only read the last one. I upload the pictures in the hope that they will be useful to other mothers.

Psssst... a friend of mine has a son who got sent to the K9 Unit. I am praying for that assignment too! Or perhaps the cyber security unit? Or the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle unit)?

Friday, May 11, 2018

Aggressive Roving Males

Nobody likes roosters.

People have been trying to give me roosters. In the space of 2 days, 3 people offered me their roosters. The roosters either were aggressive or they had the tendancy to run away. Of course, roosters don't lay eggs either. You really only want them around if you intend to breed more chickens.

Roosters are individuals, you know. They all have their own individual personalities. My Ah Koon (aka Max) is very mild and gentlemanly. He sits mildly on his perch and surveys his domain. If there is danger to his flock, he will raise the alarm, which is a few times a day.

When a cat comes by.

When Milo makes eyes at the flock.

When the garbage truck comes around.

When the rooster from the jungle comes to visit.

That is all he does, my Ah Koon. He doesn't do battle himself. He raises the alarm and expects me to come and rescue the flock. I do that (or my helper does).

Other people's roosters are more problematic. There is one who, in the throes of reproductive frenzy claws the back of the hen. Of course, since the hen lays eggs, people don't want their hens to be hurt. There is always the risk that the hen will die of infection. Solution: give problem rooster to Petunia. However, the family said Petunia cannot eat said rooster. Why would I take in a rooster that rapes hens violently? I have a pretty hen and 3 pretty pullets. Why would I want to create an India for chickens? Of course, I'll eat it. Ok... so they decided to find another home for the rooster.

Then, there was another who would run away! He would pop into the houses around the neighbourhood for a look see and eat other people's plants. The owner was fed up with having to go collect his rooster back. So, hey Petunia, fancy a roving rooster? Again, when the person heard that I would eat it, the decision was taken to let the rooster loose in the jungle. Something will eat that rooster. It just won't be me. Why would I want a rooster that I have to go up and down the street to catch?!

The 3rd person was rather more understanding. Their rooster would not allow the hens to eat. He chased them away from the feeder and he also would not let the new hens into the coop. This family asked me to ensure that the rooster did not suffer unduly. I was asked to eat it.

I was shaking my head at these aggressive male birds whose unseemly behaviour would lead them straight into the stockpot, when my Milo (male dog) got into a fight with Cliff (the neighbour's male dog). All I could see was a blur of fur rolling around on the tarmac, and then, as if nothing had happened, they suddenly started sniffing each others' butts.

Males are weird.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Can Dogs Fall In Love?

Every time we walk Milo, he goes over to this house and sits in front of the gate. Inside, a little lady Maltese will scratch on the glass door, clamouring to be let out into the garden. Then, both the dogs will sit across from each other separated by a gate. They will sniff each other. The lady Maltese will pee on Milo. They will both whine.

I have never seen Milo be nice to any dog before. I wonder if he is in love with this one. Fancy letting your girlfriend pee on you!

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Banshee Scrappy Doo

The Husband worries that one fine day, I will come home from Giant Supermarket with one black eye. This is because (when shopping for groceries at Giant) I keep getting into scraps with huge men 1.5 heads taller than I.

Scrap Number 1
This man was like fat bear. For some reason, we both kept hanging out in the same aisles. In my first interaction with him, he was blocking the whole aisle. I stood there waiting for him to make way. He looked at me and continued blocking the way. So, I said, "Excuse me." Then, I made my way carefully past him whilst he stared at me.

In the next interaction, on another aisle, someone shoved me roughly to the side. I turned around and saw Irritating Fat Bear. Actually, I shouldn't call him a bear because bears are nice. This man was not nice.

Finally, the Irritating Fat IDunnoWhat queued behind me at the cashier's. There was a person in front of me and I was patiently waiting to be served. Before the other person had even paid up, Irritating Fat IDunnoWhat shoved at my cart and used his head in a rude chin up gesture, telling me to hurry up.

I blew up at him in loud strident tones, lecturing him on good manners and the virtues of patience. He was rather taken aback that something so small as I, had such a LOUD voice. Everyone was soon staring at him. I decided to get out of there before I ended up on STOMP.

I did it all in Chinese because the Irritating Fat IDunnoWhat had a thick PRC accent.

Scrap Number 2
This next one, was all done in English because the Irritating Skinny Beanpole was definitely Singaporean.

This gal (with a PRC accent) queued behind me sweetly and patiently. She was half a head shorter than even I am!  The Irritating Skinny Beanpole shoved her out of the way and yelled to the counter staff his order. The counter staff had not even finished serving me.

My heart went out to the Little Miss Shorty because hey... us shorties of the world must ARISE and stand up for shorty rights, no? I mean, there are just some things that tall Amazonian women like Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman) will never experience. Men just don't shove Amazons out of their way but they do it to shorties all the time in Singapore.

So, I turned and glared at the Irritating Skinny Beanpole and then I loudly exclaimed to the counter staff, "The other lady came first."

That should have been all except that the Irritating Skinny Beanpole said, "It doesn't matter. It is just one person."

I blew up at him in loud strident tones, lecturing him on good manners and the virtues of patience. He was rather taken aback that something so small as I, had such a LOUD voice. The other lady was grinning. I decided to get out of there before I ended up on STOMP.

I think that if I had a superpower, it would really be my high pitched screeching voice. Men don't mess with Wonder Women. They should not mess with Banshees like me either! I might damage their ear drums.

The Robot Rebellion

Big Son (who used to be Little Boy) wrote the story below in P6. It has never been published. I hope readers enjoy it.

It is year 3012, the year of despair for all the unemployed. At the turn of the century, an inventor by the name of Robert Taylor had invented what the press dubbed “mankind's greatest innovation thus far”. Strangely enough, it was created with the single purpose of enslaving men. The robotifier was a small circular plate with a few buttons, a USB port and minimal cost. However, with suitable machinery, one could insert it into the head of any human. This would strip him or her of all emotion, will, opinion and thought whilst causing the wretched victim to be entirely devoted to any chosen master at the press of a button. In short, he or she would be reduced to an “It”, an opinionless slave, an emotionless machine ––– an organic robot.

So the race was on, as companies and nations dashed to haul outlaws, pickpockets and murderers alike from their dark and dank cells for the operation. Shrieks of terror and spurts of blood escaped from the operation room as the convicts leapt from the frying pan into the fire. These robots of flesh and blood were soon found nearly everywhere, from dark-as-dungeon coal mines and smoggy factories to rich households and posh restaurants. Nevertheless, there was a limit to the number of crooks they could find. Demand soon outgrew supply. The prisons were soon barren, the click of the guard's footsteps ringing loud through the deserted corridors. The moans of the depressed old men, mingled with the hoarse shrieks of distressed young lads were replaced with eerie pin drop silence. Within a decade nearly all felons and jailbirds had been robotified.

A couple of years later, the solution was found. They turned their attention to the people living in poverty. Sweeping through the slums, they nabbed the pitiful, woebegone people and seized their meager belongings. Driven by the fear of capture some took the easy way out with a knife through the chest, whilst countless others turned on each other in desperation and despair. The scourge of terror broke more men than the scourge of robotry ––– as the process had been named. It was during one of these immoral campaigns that a young man named John was abducted.......

Gulping down the revolting mug of stale beer, he grabbed the improvised dagger he had crafted for himself and staggered to his feet. Clutching it tightly, he creaked open the half-rotten slapdash door. With adrenaline pumping, he peered out into the repulsive pigpen of a dirt track. He was scanning for signs of danger. It was imperative in those days. His neighbour went insane just the other day and stabbed a friend. Two men down the road were killed, having been mistaken for being organic robots. Seeing that the coast was clear, he sidled onto the street. Verminous, vile muck sloshed over his bare feet as he waded through the sea of filth. An enormous rat scuttled past. There were probably more rats than humans in the slum. Arriving at his only friend's door, he rapped on it. Nobody barged into houses lest they be mistaken for an organic robot and found a knife in their eye. From within came the raspy voice, “Come in.” Swinging the door open, he found a sharpened stick leveled at him. The decrepit old inhabitant then lowered the spear as recognition showed on his face. “Welcome John,” murmured the ancient man. Gazing into the bloodshot eyes fixed on him, John thought back to his knowledge of this hardy survivor. He was the oldest man in the slum who had not succumbed to illness or the pall of gnawing fear and suspicion which lingered in the air.

His train of thought was broken by an ear-piercing yelp. He snapped out of his reverie in time to see a man stumble to the top of the hill before crumpling to the ground, a dart in his back. Within the blnk of an eye, a truckload of organic robots drove over the hill. They were armed to the teeth with dartguns and knock-out gas. Faced with this dire situation, a variety of reactions were displayed. Some were paralysed with fear, rooted to the spot and frozen in time when they saw the shadow cast by the vehicle in the afternoon sun. Others fled like madmen, racing as fast as their malnourished bodies could take them. John leapt for the ditch at the double. Cowering in the mud, shielded by the sides of the ditch he witnessed the chaos and havoc wreaked by the intruders. The hunted were picked off with astonishing accuracy. Columns of smoke rose from all around obscuring vision. A platoon of organic robots emerged from the fumes.

Grasping a steel pole, with the strength of a tiger and the fury of a fiend, John swung it in a wide arc, striking an advancing attacker on the forehead. The emotionless creature stared blankly at him, with crimson blood trickling down his pale face and attempted to raise his weapon. With a fluid swipe, John lopped his head off before plunging his knife into the robotifier of the next assaulter. A surge of blood gushed from the open vein with an explosion of electrical sparks. Gawking at him with bewildered, pleading eyes, the dazed man let out a pained groan before collapsing to the ground in a jumbled heap.

He had killed a man.

An upwelling of sympathy blended with John's hatred and instinctive fear. For a split second, he hesitated. That was his folly. In this hard world, sympathy was punished. Before he knew it, a dart buried itself in his flesh. The potent potion set to work at once. A wave of fatigue overcame his strained body. He tried to suppress the effects, but his efforts were futile. Vision was closing in. From his peripheral vision he saw the old man fighting for his life, downing organic robots as they neared. Still, it was clear that he too, would eventually be brought down. The thud of his skull on the stiff stony soil was the last thing John felt as he passed out.

With agile, practiced movements the nimble fingers of the organic robots bound the unconscious men before lining them up on a separate, boxed up truck in an orderly fashion and injecting them with Heimia salicifolia. Heimia salicifolia is a drug which operates as a subtle sedative and tranquilizer causing the victim to be extremely calm and compliant. During robotry, it was used to subdue the victim in order to ensure that he does not resist the operation. The injection of this devilish extract was done in no time flat as organic robots were far from slow and sluggish. In fact, one of the reasons why they were favoured over traditional workers was that they were swifter and speedier than the average man. Another advantage is that their ability to focus is greatly increased. However, once in a blue moon, human error will still occur. In this case, despite weeks of prior observation, counting of population and meticulous calculation, there was a shortage of Heimia salicifolia. As luck would have it, due to John's opposition and struggling coupled with his obscure hiding place, he was the last to be handled. As a result of this and the fact that there was insufficient Heimia salicifolia, he was only administered a twentieth of the usual amount of the foul concoction.

Two hours later, John woke up in a terrible fright, finding himself dripping with cold sweat. His doze had not been peaceful at all, plagued by nightmares of death and robotry. Testing his hands, he determined that they were roped together. He scrutinised the area for a means of escape. As his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, they homed in onto a shard of glass. Glancing about warily, he slowly edged his way towards the glimmer of hope. With his hands closed around the potential triangular piece, he spliced his bonds. He flexed his aching hands before approaching the first captive. His intention was to liberate his fellow captives and together, mutiny against the organic robots. But he saw that there was a flaw in his grand plan as he noticed the uncannily calm and composed expressions on the faces of his company.

Just then the vehicle trundled to a hasty halt. John immediately pocketed his new-found weapon, scampered back to his former position and promptly tied himself up. The door swung open for the captors to file in. Helping their prisoners up brusquely, they pushed them out into the open. They had arrived at the city centre. It was nearly midnight. The streets were still bustling with traffic. A bus full of people sped past, letting out strings of jeers. They clearly were not particularly welcome. John took this all in whilst maintaining a facial expression as close to the idiotic grins plastered on the faces of his company, as he could manage. Then, they were shoved towards the gigantic edifice before them. At the top of the edifice large, bold letters, spelled out “Robotry Department”.

With his heart in his mouth, John reluctantly passed through the doors. Glancing warily at his guards, he proceeded down the whitewashed hallway which to him, seemed to resound with the wails of tormented men. They entered an intimidating waiting room. The walls were of cold metal. The floor was bare. Even the blinding white light seemed unfriendly from his vantage point. The emotionless piercing gaze of the soldiers made him want to retch. Numbers were assigned to the various men. John received number thirty-eight. When they called a number, the man was to enter the Operation Room. One after another, the crowd gradually disappeared. Not long after, his turn came to pass through the imposing doors.

As the somber doors slammed in behind him, he leapt into action. Clasping the fragment of glass hidden beneath the folds of his tattered garments, he whipped around. Swift as lightning, his hand darted out, severing the head of a guard. Spinning back around, he meant to charge his remaining opponents when a sparkle of light caught his eyes as it glanced off the razor sharp surgical blades assembled on the counter. Seeing their potential as weapons, he generated a better plan and made a beeline for them at once, frenziedly slashing and striking a path of blood for himself. Spurred on by the stone-age instinct to preserve his endangered life, he struck in hot blood, without a second thought. He snatched up a scintillating shiv, before assailing the white machinery by his side with unfaltering resolution. He did so with good reason as this was the dreaded apparatus utilised for the insertion of the robotifer. But, outnumbered and outarmed, defeat was certain. Within a matter of seconds he was struck down, overpowered and restrained. The operation was set to begin.

Forcing down his saliva, he glanced apprehensively at the surgeons. Then, a gleaming needle plunged into his thigh, within seconds, he passed out. Later on, he woke up to find himself still in control of himself but immensely confused. The truth was that John's rampage with the surgical knife had, in fact, knocked the power source of the robotifier from its socket. This parasitic gadget would simply sap power from its host the moment it settled in. However, during the takeover, it relied on itself. So, without energy, the annexation of his mind did not commence. He later learnt that he was in the Recuperation Hall. It was basically a long winding hallway, lined with rooms and ending with a canteen, gymnasium and lavatory. The rooms functioned as the dormitories of the new organic robots, whilst the canteen and bathroom provided them with their basic necessities. The gymnasium also allowed them to exercise, raising their value. This area was run by a puny crew of twenty organic robots which were specifically programmed to care for the new robots whilst these recuperated from their operations. At first glance, this would seem like the perfect opportunity to escape, and a terrible flaw in the robotification process.

However, when one considered the fact that outside the Hall, were hundreds of surveillance cameras monitoring a maze of alien corridors and thousands of guards patrolling the perimeters, the building would turn out to be a foolproof prison. John wisely decided to lie low and wait for a chance to make a break for it. The Recuperation Hall allowed him and his inmates to heal from the injuries inflicted during robotification. John was able to recover from the emotional shock and upheaval caused by his operation. Here, the new robots were bathed, dressed, and trained for duties.

In spite of this chance to recuperate, John was still extremely unhappy, living in constant fear. He knew that this blissful period would be succeeded by the market. There, they would be sold to a millionaire with his nose in the air who would more likely than not, be a brutal and harsh master. After an eternity in the hospital-like ward, the time to depart eventually came. Packed into a truck, the cargo left the Robotry Department. The vehicle left the shadow of the looming building, but the shadow cast by the memories of that place would never be lifted from John's heart.
Arriving at the market, they were ordered from the automobile and on to a platform. Looking down, he sighted a score of plush, well-to-do merchants, business men and high ranking government officials. An overweight individual identified a muscled young man to John's left. “Turn him off for me!” he demanded. The product was shackled. Then, with the push of a button, the cloudy fog which had numbed the pain faculty, the steel clasps which had gripped the emotional centre and the iron bars which had imprisoned the young man's will all vanished into thin air. Stunned and dazzled by this sudden change, the young man took a while to come to his wits before the fear and rage came on. Ensuring that the goods had not simply been drugged, the buyer nodded acknowledgement. “I'll give two hundred thousand for all fifty.” he hollered. “Two hundred and eighty hundred thousand!” bellowed a blubbery man, so fat that he looked like two Santa Clauses in one. “Three hundred thousand” yelled another from the buzzing crowd. The fifty young men were marched over to their new owner. Amongst them was John who had been continuously watching and observing throughout the event. Grinning contentedly, the customer marched his purchases home.

Soon after, John arrived at the mansion. Majestic towers rose from the ground. Well trimmed bushes lined the path. Moving forward they soon arrived at a hulking pair of double-doors. Entering the awe-inspiring entrance, they were met with regal chandeliers, sky-high, ornamented ceilings and a well-dressed servant. A single glance at the stony face revealed that this worker had been robotified. “Prepare these!” growled the Master, before hustling off. The robots were then led to a bathroom. “Bathe.” said their instructor in a monotone. Squashed together in the cramped up bathroom, they showered without complaint. Next the orders were given. They were each handed a thumb drive containing the map of the palace, their role and their daily routine. This was to be plugged into the robotifier. John was then faced with a challenge, for his robotifier was faulty. Making a split-second decision, he returned the thumbdrive. Mantaining a semblance of the impassive voice his companions used, he claimed that the thumb drive was damaged. Immediately, he was passed a hardcopy version corresponding to his thumb drive. He had crossed the first hurdle.

Most of the poor were illiterate, though the robotifier enabled them to read and write. However, the robotifier was unnecessary in John's case, for he had been partly educated and understood simple English. From the booklet, he learnt that he was to wait on the Master in the gardens where the pompous fellow dined. This placed him in the perfect position to observe his master. He was determined to utilise it fully. So, throughout lunch and dinner, amongst his countless myriad of tasks, John kept his eyes fixed on his master.

The Master was a self-important man with a bulging head and waistline. Lounging in his armchair, robed in extravagant clothing, the conceited singleton gorged himself on a feast fit for a king. Another defining characteristic of this egoistic man was that he was constantly in a temper. This was a bitter pill for John to swallow, but he bore with it in impassive, stony silence.

That night, when he retired to bed, he was well and truly exhausted. Yet, he could not enter the land of dreams. Tossing and turning under the covers, he wondered at the stark contrast between the flamboyant lifestyles of the rich and the ways of the impoverished poor. He thought back to his old friend who had been robotified. Despite his age, he had killed organic robots. His mind then wandered over to the scene at the market when the robotifier was turned off. Then, a bulb lit up over his head as a brilliant idea struck him. If he turned the robotifiers of the other servants off, they could rebel against the Master and escape. He would be the hero of the story, a beacon of light in an era of darkness and repression. He smiled.

Immediately executing his plan, he crawled out off bed and depressed a button on another robotifier. Leaping from the bed, the man he had freed slammed him against the wall. “Where am I?” shrieked the distressed man, “Who are you?” After explaining the situation to him and outlining the plan, John moved on to the next servant. One by one, he liberated his comrades. Each displayed a different reaction. Some were relieved, some were afraid and others were furious. Nonetheless, they all showed full-hearted support and agreement with his plot, whether with enthusiastic shouts of approval or solemn nods of acknowledgement.
So in the dead of night, they crept into the kitchen quiet as mice and armed themselves with knives of every sort, serrated and barbed, pronged and spiked, whetted and keen. The former robots who had acted as security guards retrieved their weapons ––– pistols, rifles, batons, grenades. Antique blunderbusses and flintlocks were dug from the “Personal Museum” of the mansion. Next, they fell upon their master, unleashing their pent-up hatred and vengeance, slaughtered their “owners”, massacring the occupants of the villa. With both the element of suprise and sheer numbers on their side it was a clear victory. Kicking the doors open, with guns blazing, they filled their victims with bullets. For some others, they simply hurled grenades into the room and waited for the blast. Before long, the mansion was theirs. The second hurdle had been traversed and the skies were all clear, or so they thought......

Rifling through drawers and wardrobes, they tried on the magnificent cloaks of their late masters. Rummaging through the bursting larders, they feasted on savoury morsels they had never tasted. Breaking into the cellars, they were drunk on vintage wine. Jubilant as ever, they reveled in the sweet taste of victory. It was a night of merrymaking and festivity lasting into the wee hours of morning.

Then, from the North came an incessant whirring. All of a sudden throughout the mansion thundered the rattle of machine gun fire. Whipping their heads around they were met with a mob of choppers equipped with guns of every type, accompanied by a score of bombers. Some were so deep in their cups that they simply lay there like sitting ducks, waiting to be slaughtered. Those who were not drunk senseless, scrambled for their weapons at once, fleeing to the Keep.

The Keep was a structure which remained from the Dark Ages. Stampeding into their only safe resort, the rebels shut the door behind them. Then a blast of heat emanated from the upper floors. A beam of light hit the ground as the roof was torn open. The fort was being bombed! The Keep had withstood many a trebuchet or mangonel in times long gone, holding off more than a few invaders from medieval times. However, the oaken supports had rotted and crumbled, the stone walls pockmarked by millions of arrows. In this state, it was certainly no match for the advanced explosives of modern weaponry. The stronghold was slowly being demolished.

Not long after, the place was reduced to rubble and the fugitives were massacred. John had also been captured. For a rebel leader with such a poor standing in the social hierachy and no lawyer to fight for him , the charge was clear, it would be the “Painful Death” the contrivance of some demented lawmaker. Hauled from his cell, John was strapped to a chair. Clips were attached to his fingers. Then, the horror began as pain signals coursed through his nerves.

He opened his mouth to howl but no sound was emitted. He felt a jolt of excruciating pain course through his body. It was as if every one of his nerves were overloaded with pain. The pain sent him into spasms though his bonds held him fast. He had found a new name for pain, “The Obliterator”. That was precisely what it did. It quenched every inkling and crushed every thought as it rampaged through the alleyways of the mind, leaving a trail of destruction It felt as if a thousand needles were piercing his skin. It flooded his mind, wresting control from him. Barricading himself within the confines of his mind he mustered every iota of strength remaining and gave one last, desperate effort to survive. But his efforts were to be in vain. His resistance would be vanquished. Moments later, the minute long torment which felt like an hour long ordeal was ended. Splayed out in an ungainly manner, his face was convulsed in agony too terrible for words.

He was dead.

Friday, April 27, 2018

More Chicken and Egg Stories

Some chickens live in the trees near our house. They are normally very shy. My neighbours have tried to catch them for years without success because they fly and roost in the trees. Yet, lo and behold, one of their young roosters came over to the house to check out my teenage hens.

He was a lean and mean flying machine, swaggering around with biker chic, eyeing my pullets up and down. I was not sure if he had lice and mites so I shoo-ed him back into his trees. I run an upstanding home for good citizens, not a hen brothel. Shoo!

In contrast to above lean and mean rooster, there is my fat hen, with her round butt and gentle disposition. In true Singaporean fashion, I was not able to keep up the British polish. Maggie is now called Ah Bui, in a respectful nod to Petunia's coolie ancestors. From tomorrow onwards, Ah Bui is on a diet.

Whilst we might choose to be coolie casual in how we speak to the chickens, it is still important to maintain high standards of hygiene. We will not have coolie standards of hygiene in this home. In addition to sand baths, the chickens all get chicken spa. Twice a month, they are bathed in a warm solution of sulphur soap and citronella oil. I discovered that chickens are sensual creatures. They love the warm water and look surprisingly human when they lounge therein. The one below was prodded a few times but he did not want to get out of the bath.

And finally, we have been getting eggs... yummy eggs that taste different than store bought eggs. Eggs delicately flavoured with the herbs that I feed Ah Bui (aka Maggie).