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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Solar Stove: The Gosun Sport

I have been eyeing this solar stove for 3 years. It started as a kickstarter project. I held off buying, waiting for the company to stabilise the technology and iron out the teething problems. Every year, I would youtube the latest reviews.

I finally took the plunge and am thrilled with my buy! On days when I am only cooking for The Husband, M and myself, this stove is enough for a one pot dish. It is quite hassle free because there is no need to watch the pot on the stove. Just fill the tray. Slide it into the solar tube and leave it in the sun.

The meats are succulent because the tube locks in moisture. Food comes out steaming hot. I put in onions and tomatoes. Both veggies came out mushy soft. The water in the tray comes from the natural food juices. I did not add any water at all.

The Husband has plenty of social engagements and often eats out. The Daughter eats out too because she works late. The Son is in the army camp. I often cook only for me and M. I hate cooking just for 2 people. It makes no sense to dirty the whole kitchen just to cook a meal for 2. With this thingy, cooking for 2 won't seem like such a hassle anymore. It is clean, oil-less and requires no supervision.


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Scents and Sensibilities

Sensibility: the quality of being able to appreciate and respond to complex emotional and aesthetic influences.

The Husband has gifted me 3 different scents. I bought 1 for myself. I now realise that I like each scent depending on my mood. Pleasures is a fresh and girlie shorts and t-shirt scent. It is the one I wear most often to Chong Pang Market to cover over the market smells. Pleasures smells of skipping and smiling and relaxed chatter. It is the scent I wear when I don't mind being underestimated. It is the 妹妹  scent. It is also the scent that gets the most compliments from women.

J'adore is a womanly scent. It projects confidence, strength and womanly allure. J'adore smells of seduction and a deep romantic connection. This is the smell of putting my head on The Husband's chest at night. This is also the scent that The Husband picked. J'adore has a strong sillage and it stays around for hours, maturing slowly from murmured conversations about his day to pre-dawn murmurs of "Did you sleep well, my love?"

Diorissimo is a sporty scent. It smells of cycling to Sembawang beach and lazy days in a hammock under a tree, cool wind caressing skin. Ohhh... Diorissimo eau de toilette does not last long! It is gone in an hour, leaving no sillage at all!

Yves Rocher's lilac scent is my giggly scent. It makes me feel mischievous and playful. This is the scent I wear on Saturdays to play with kids. This one gets gone within the hour too!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Sugar Cane Bagasse

Sugar cane bagasse is what is left after one has pressed the juice out of the sugar cane.

Fruit smoothies are a great way to get everyone in the family to ingest a lot of fruits. Some fruits, like guava, have little water content. So, I blend them with sugar cane juice. With 350ml of sugar cane juice, I can make smoothies for 7 people.

It was not long before I started looking wistfully at the sigar cane bagasse, wondering if I could turn it into fertiliser. With some research, I found that sugar cane bagasse, when composted, is rich in potassium. My garden needs high potassium feeds. So, I asked my favourite Sugar Cane Auntie for a pail of sugar cane bagasse for my compost bin.

My helper then told me that my compost bin has somehow become a vermicompost worm bin. Apparently, some vermicompost worms got in there and multiplied. Now, there is a thriving community of composting worms inside there! No wonder a dark fluid has been dripping out the bottom, which the vegetables seem to love.

That would be worm pee, I guess.

I shall bring my pail every 2 weeks to ask for sugar cane bagasse.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Intermittent Fasting: Fountain of Youth

It was Tracy Tay, my personal trainer, who taught me about intermittent fasting. In intermittent fasting, I fast from 6 pm at night to 11 am the next day. This means I go 17 hrs without food. At first, I did it to lose weight.

However, since I pair it with about 1000 calories to 1500 calories worth of cycling per day, plus various strength exercises, I am not losing weight. I gain weight but lose inches. It can be demoralising to fast, and see nothing happening on the bathroom scales. So, I almost gave up.

Then, I realised a few things...
- I was not falling sick as often as my kids were falling sick.
- My skin tone improved. My hair looked better.
- I seemed to react less violently to foods that used to make me really ill.
- I was mentally sharper.

So, I did some readings off the internet. I found that intermittent fasting...
- Improves immunity.
- Speeds up cell renewal.
- Reduces inflammation in cases of auto-immune diseases.

My readings reported other benefits which I did not notice but I do believe I experienced because of overall improvement to health...
- Cancer fighting.
- Better glucose regulation.

Boosts Immunity 
Dr. Yasmine Belkaid found that when mice fasted, their T cells and B cells (cells responsible for creating immunity against past infections by recognising and destroying pathogens previously encountered) disappeared entirely from the bloodstream and organs. They had gone to hide inside the bone marrow. The bone marrow is a nutrient rich environment for T cells and B cells. When the body started feeding again, these cells emerged from the bone marrow supercharged.

When Dr. Belkaid introduced a pathogen, fasting mice got well in 2 days. Non-fasting mice needed a week to overcome the infection.

On fasting days, I eat only from 11am to 6pm daily. This means, I fast for 17 hrs and eat only within the window of 7 hrs. Looking at Dr. Belkaid's research, it appears that my T and B cells get supercharged daily during the 17 hrs of fasting. So, now, I know why I can throw off a bug in 2 days when my kids drag on for 2 weeks.

On days when I have morning meetings, I will take a low carb breakfast of tea and soybean curd. No sweets before 11am and no sweets after 6pm.

Cell Renewal 
Dr. Valter Longo found that during fasting, damaged body cells are destroyed. When the body re-feeds, stem cells turn on and the body regenerates new and healthy cells. Dr. Longo writes of multi-system regeneration. In short, fasting forces the body to clean out low performing cells, and generate new cells faster.

No wonder my skin looks better. In fact, my complexion and hair have improved so much that I am getting compliments from men 20 years younger than I am. One fruit vendor smiled at me appreciatively and said, "You are a beautiful as my fresh mangos." Of course, we all know he was trying to sell me his mangos. Thank goodness he was not selling cuts of fresh pig. I wonder what he might have said then.

Another appreciative shopkeeper selling pots and pans waggled his eyebrows and then winked at me when he caught my eye. I am quite shocked. When did Singaporean men become like French men?

Lessened Inflammation 
Dr. Vassiliki Boussiotis reports that patients with rheumatoid arthritis reported less pain when fasting during the month of Ramadan. Studying the phenomenon, Dr. Miriam found that monocytes (white blood cells that attack pathogens) all went to hide inside the bone marrow during fasting. Monocytes are really good at inducing inflammation. With fewer monocytes in the bloodstream, patients with auto-immune conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, experienced less pain. I have an auto-immune condition. My immune system attacks my gut lining and my thyroid whenever I eat gluten.

Ever since I started intermittent fasting, my reactions to gluten have been much less severe and of shorter duration too.

Cancer Fighting 
Cancer cells feed on glucose. During intermittent fasting, the body switches to ketones for energy. Cancer cannot use ketones for energy. This research is by Dr. Mark Mattson.

Better Glucose Regulation 
I did not notice this before I read up. After reading, I can see that it makes sense. I used to be hypersensitive to sugar. Now, I no longer am. I still do stay away from sugar as much as possible, indulging very sparingly but I do notice that when I do take something sweet, I don't feel as ill as I used to.  For the past 6 years, The Son and I have disagreed on his habit of skipping breakfast. It turns out that he is right. Since I started skipping breakfast daily, my health and vitality have improved.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Sex Game

There is one biological reality that handicaps women vis-a-vis men. That reality is that women get pregnant, bear children and then spend years as primary caregivers to children. Pregnancy puts women's lives at risk. For 9 months, we are fragile beings, incapable of hard labour. The men at the braised pork stall start work at 4am and end work at 8pm, working through the sweltering heat. Imagine a pregnant man doing that.

The Sex Game disadvantages girls.

It is girls who end up fragile for 9 months and shackled to the full time care of children for 2 decades. In these 2 decades, the work we do at home, is unpaid labour. People think that the worst paid folks in Singapore are cleaners. They are not. The worst paid folks in Singapore are stay-at-home mothers, because people like us are paid nothing at all.

My decision to stay home was motivated by a single obsession. My children were not doing well. I did not really count the financial sacrifice because The Husband (after he saw how The Daughter went from bottom 25% of her cohort to top in cohort and became a prize-winning gymnast) was more than happy to be the sole breadwinner. Nonetheless, since my work attracted no salary, I did not feel good about spending money.

In those years, I was frugal to a fault. I felt that I had to justify all my expenses.  So, I allowed myself no indulgences. I paid some price in indignity too. I often had to ask The Husband's permission for purchases. My mother-in-law sincerely believed that it was her son's salary which bought our home. She claimed to own my house through her son. It hurt me very much to see that all my years of stay-at-home labour and the raising of 2 high achieving children gave me no stake in the property I lived in.

Clearly, my mother-in-law believed that I had no right to own my home since I had not been drawing a salary for 2 decades. It was her son's purchase and therefore, her house.  I, the mother of 2, and wife of her son, was merely a slave with no rights. When I signed over the title deeds of our HDB flat, I noticed that the next family had left out the name of the purchaser's wife and mother of his children in the purchase. The property was deeded in the names of the purchaser and his parents, instead. I felt sad for the purchaser's wife.

Happily, in my situation, I was able to robustly counter that I had made money through various property transactions, the proceeds of which had then gone into the purchase of our house.

Then, it struck me. What if I had made no financial contribution to the purchase of my house? Could I lay claim to my own home by simply having done 20 years of stay home labour? Put this way, readers might answer, "Yes." In reality, the answer was, "No."  For 20 years, I worked for no salary and people assumed I had no rights to own my home nor buy indulgences for myself without permission.

I am reading "Moment of Lift" by Melinda Gates. She writes of African daughters-in-law who, upon marriage, have to stay in a small mudhouse away from the main house, not allowed to be under the same roof as their mother-in-law. Melinda Gates shares that financially empowering these daughters-in-law to start small businesses, also allowed these daughters-in-law to command more respect within their husbands' families. Meanwhile, in Singapore, I stared in horror at my friend, whose mother-in-law had called her "lazy cow" during her confinement period.

So, you see, The Sex Game is highly disadvantageous to women. If we do our jobs as mothers and wives, outside of the workforce, we give up some personal rights and suffer a lot of indignity. I contrast my past 2 decades with my friend's 2 decades. She is the CEO of her organisation. She asked no one's permission to buy her $200,000 Porsche. My friend's mother-in-law would never claim to own my friend's house.

Every so often too, I see married men (with stay home wives) trying their best to score with a woman not their wife. This then begs the question, why is life so unfair? Why is it that women, who work hard at being wives and mothers, have to give up personal rights, suffer financial indignities AND the indignity of a husband with a roving eye?

So, no, I am quite unable to accept an attitude of nonchalance towards teenage pregnancy held by some communities in Singapore - See HERE. The Sex Game is simply too disadvantageous to females, even within the context of a legal marriage and The World's Best Husband (i.e., my husband). Research data all over the world shows that teenage pregnancy CAUSES long term poverty. Teenage mothers disrupt their education. In turn, their own children become poorly educated and raised. These children cannot climb out of poverty.

Now that my children are grown, my career can re-start. I have earned an interesting income for the past 6 years. I have plans for professional development. My mother-in-law no longer bothers me. My claim to own my house is indisputable. I no longer ask The Husband's permission to buy my indulgences.

I am aware that I can re-start my career only because I am well educated. Teenage pregnancies put a stop to a woman's education. Uneducated, her earning power across her lifetime is directly pressed down to subsistence levels.

If Dr. Pet had to put up with being treated as a lesser person, with lesser rights, for 20 years, imagine what life would be like for an uneducated teenage mother. Surely, it would be a life full of indignity and even fewer personal rights.

One moment of pleasure translates into 9 months of pregnancy pains, a lifetime of indignity, and unending poverty because of low educational attainment.

Tell me, is it worth it?

So, when The Daughter was dating her first boyfriend and jeopardising her A level results, I made sure I told her that sacrificing her academic performance for a boy was not worth it. A woman should have her own worth (above and beyond a pretty face), independent of the man she dates or marries. That is the only way for a female to live a life of dignity, beholden to no one, desired by all, and loyal to one. I cited the example of Coco Chanel, who established The House of Chanel and with a combination of independent worth and beauty, was greatly loved by the Duke Of Westminster.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

6 Mushroom Glutinous Rice

The Husband loves glutinous rice. So, when I came across a selection of forest mushrooms at Chong Pang Market, I decided to cook them with glutinous rice. Since these are dessicated mushrooms a little goes a long way.

50g Agrocybe Aegerita (also called Black Poplar mushrooms)
50g Agaricus Blazei Murrill (also called Mushroom of the Sun)
50g Morchella Esculenta (also called Morel mushrooms)
50g Hedgehog Hydnum
50g Auricularia Auricula-Judae (also called Black Wood Ear mushroom)
50g Shiitake
6 Chinese sausages (sliced thinly)
3 cups of glutinous rice
4 tbsp of sesame oil
1 large onion (chopped)

(1) Re-hydrate the mushrooms by pouring boiling hot water over them, and letting them soak for 2 hrs.

(2) Cook 3 cups of glutinous rice for 4 minutes in a pressure cooker with 3.5 cups of water (used to soak the mushrooms.

(3) Heat up 4 tbsp of sesame oil and brown the chopped onions. Add in the sliced Chinese sausages. Saute till edges crisp up and blisters form on the slices.

(4) Add in the re-hydrated mushrooms. Saute till steaming hot.

(5) Add in the glutinous rice. Saute till steaming hot.

(6) If the glutinous rice is not soft enough, transfer into a large bowl. Add 4 tbsp of water. Microwave for 20 minutes.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Different Worldviews

Growing up, I had no hawker friends.

In the circles I grew up in, if you did not make into university, the world would come to an end. At the very worst, all my cousins my age graduated from polytechnic. With The Son and The Daughter, our expectations were much higher than scraping through to university. I aimed The Daughter at 8 A level distinctions. I aimed The Son at the perfect IB score of 45. The Daughter did get 8 A level distinctions. The Son scored 44.

I expected The Daughter to apply to the Ivies and to Oxbridge. She refused to. We all know that children always fall short of parent expectations. I was angry and disappointed when she decided to accept a place in NUS. I expected The Son to try for the Ivies and Oxbridge too. This child is happy to do so. Secretly though, after The Daughter's experience in NUS, I am hoping he will go to NUS too.

What I am trying to say is that in my worldview, it is unthinkable that my children and my friends' children NOT go to university at all. My clients and my friends all think like me.

Now though, I have hawker friends, and they think very differently, indeed. I very much enjoy chatting with my hawker friends because their mindset and worldviews are so different from mine that I almost feel like I am travelling to a different country, getting to know a different culture. When you're more than half a century old (as I am) there is little that fascinates you, unlike a child of 2, who finds even an ant trail full of novelty and charm.

Talking to my hawker friends, I recapture the feeling of being fascinated by something complex and new. Sometimes, I wonder if the social divide is less of an SES thing than it is a cultural thing. Clearly, a large difference exists between how my hawker friends think and how I have been brought up to think... and how I brought my children up to think.

If I had less respect for my hawker friends, I think I would dismiss their worldviews as not worth my time. However, I have grown to respect them too much now. I prefer to think there is no right or wrong, better or worse. It is a different cultural mindset, is all.

For one thing, their view of an education is unlike mine. The 58 yr old man with an 11 yr old son tells me that it is not necessary to be very educated. He does not have the same expectations of his son as I have of mine. This 58 yr old man tells me that plenty of graduates cannot find jobs even though they have studied for so many years. This is true. He further states that in life, education is less important than a pair of hands that can make money. This is also true.

Then, it struck me. Isn't this what Ong Ye Kung has been saying? It is not education. It is skills, attitude and passion. A degree is only a piece of paper. It means nothing if you don't possess a pair of hands which can make money.

When I talk to my hawker friends, I notice that they have pride. They hold their heads high and think well of themselves. They do not see themselves as inferior nor less intelligent than anyone. They tell me that they are not stupid, but they just did not like studying. The lady who makes my teh si kosong can make a drink so fast that it blurs my eyes. On second, I am waving at her. The next second, my drink is handed to me. She yells at the newbie for being less than focused, "You must focus! We cannot keep people waiting!" Oh dear... I imagine that if I were hired to make my own teh si kosong, I would probably get yelled at too. I don't even make my own tea at home!

At first, I listened and noted what my hawker friends said. Later, I thought on their words. Their words make sense.

What is there not good about their lives?
(1) Popular stalls make a good living.
(2) They are proud fathers and husbands, able to provide for their families.
(3) They are beholden to no one.
(4) It is money made honestly through skilled work.
(5) There is pride to be had from high quality craftsmanship.

They are not highly educated but life is still good. Some find in themselves the generosity to give generously back to society. The Boss of my favourite stall refuses to raise prices because doing so may affect the poor elderly folks who patronise his stall. Twice a year, he treats his workers to an overseas company trip, happy to forego earnings from stall closure, and happy to pay for his employees' holiday. Within his circle of influence, he is such a blessing to others.

Best of all, his circle of influence is wide because his food blesses so many people.  This, I tell you, is a life of contribution Dr. Pet would be proud to lead. Unfortunately, I am such a bad cook!

Another difference is in their attitude towards sexual issues. My eyes opened wide when the aunties nonchalantly mentioned that some customers had to marry at 18 because they had gotten pregnant. They used the word "caught it", like it was a contagious something that you can catch from ignorance. Hence, the persons involved weren't quite at fault.

They communicated no judgment of the unwed mother. When they looked at me, and said that I looked rather young to have my children in their 20s, I panicked inside wondering whether any of them thought that I once had been an unwed teenage mother!

Perhaps, I should not have worried? They may not think badly of me even if I were really an unwed teenage mother. In fact, I do remember that when I visited the GP to get a pregnancy test, the receptionist took one look at my baby face, and looked for my card in the Children's Records. Then, she also mentioned some counselling service. It took a while for her to understand that I was already in my mid-20s, and married.

When The Daughter was growing up, I watched her like a hawk. I vetted all the young men in her circle. I made her do Powerpoint presentations about sexually transmitted diseases, telling her that a young man who LOOKS clean, may not be clean. I drove her home from every late night. I did not allow sleepovers at all.

I even had a talk with The Daughter's boyfriend telling him that The Daughter does not give her heart easily and if he was not serious about her, he should stop right there. The Son was basically given a talk about respecting other people's daughters in the way he would like his own sister to be respected.

Once, I was out at a late night movie date with The Husband. We passed by a group of youths when I saw 2 young girls who looked about 14 yrs old. I was aghast. What a gross dereliction of duty on the part of their Moms!? Why were the teen girls allowed outside so late into the night? I spluttered all the way into the theatre when The Husband told me off and said, "Stop complaining or you will spoil our date."

With my fingers crossed, I am thankful that there has yet been no unplanned pregnancy in my immediate family. Then again, talking to the hawkers also got me thinking. I would like grandchildren and The Daughter is LATE in giving me one. Perhaps, an unplanned pregnancy is not quite as bad as no pregnancy at all? Unfortunately, I think I did such a thorough job of my children's sex education that I don't think The Daughter nor The Son will ignorantly "catch" something.

In a separate conversation with the hawkers, we spoke about dialects. One hawker commented that his mother tongue, Teochew, was quite crude because the phrase for asking someone to come and eat could be translated as asking someone to come make love. I stared at him with my eyes large, unable to decide if he was being rude to me or not. I decided to overlook the comment because I really was not sure if he was just being normally nonchalant about such things, or if he really meant to be rude. These hawkers have been so kind to me that I cannot think that they would be deliberately rude to me.

Post script:
After some thought, as a mother of a daughter (and a woman myself), I do think that all this sex business disadvantages the female. I don't buy into this nonchalant attitude to sex. For sons and men, the impact may be not as great. For daughters and women, a teenage pregnancy means being unable to rise into independent wealth. Men have strength and stamina. Women need an education because we do not have brawn. I do not have a pair of hands that make money. I have a brain that makes money. 

Else, women would be forever dependent on men and subject to men.

I don't like that.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Knitting In Cashmere

Finally, I finished knitting my dress in cotton yarn. I had to knit, unpick and knit again a few times because I am a lousy knitter. It is finally done after 9 months. Gee... come to think of it, I could have made a baby in that time!

My next project is in cashmere! In Italy, I walked into a shop selling cashmere woollen wear. One scarf was 350€. The pullover was 1000€. I can knit my own for under $60. 

As we age, we lose muscle mass. To counter that, I cycle 12.5 km to 18.5 km daily on a stationary bike. It is quite boring so I watch drama series. However, I am also easily affected by the emotions in the drama. When there is too much blood or too much sex, the only way I can continue watching is to knit and listen to the drama, instead of watch.

The Last Madame was hugely popular on Toggle. I could only finish following the story by knitting and cycling furiously away. There was too much blood and sex. I like happy stories. I love romances where the protagonists end up together. These days, I will watch the last episode to ascertain whether it is a happy ending. If it is a sad ending, I simply won't even watch.

Where the stories have laughter and joy, I put down my knitting to watch and cycle. I wallow in the happy feelings. All stories have complications. When these complications get too emotionally painful, I pick up my knitting to help me regulate the strong emotions within me.

I reckon that such practices expand my time. Instead of spending 1.5 to 4 hrs cycling, then another 1.5 to 4 hrs watching drama and another 1.5 to 4 hrs knitting in a day, I get 3 things done in 1.5 to 4 hours (which would normally need 4.5 to 12 hrs to complete if I did them separately). This effectively adds 4.5 to 12 hrs to my 24 hr day! 

Haha! This means my day has between 28.5 to 36 hrs, instead of just 24 hrs!

If I wake up at 6 am, I am done cycling by 9 am, and I can still put in a half day of work, plus have extra time to cook, garden, visit with friends and mosey about Chong Pang Market for interesting things to buy! Even then, compared to when I was working full time, I am already a lot less efficient. When The Son and The Daughter were small, and I was homeschooling them, I used to do something like this too. I cooked or cleaned whilst asking the children questions about their learning.

If you ask questions, the children are forced to focus to a higher degree. Best of all, they were so pleased to be able to answer my questions. The trick is to ensure that one asks easy questions that help them discover and think about the material bit by bit. Success motivates. How best to ensure success than to ask easy questions that build upon previous questions so that the child levels up without even knowing he is leveling up to a very high difficulty level.

I used to sit inside McDonalds at The Science Centre 2 afternoons a week, typing client reports, and requiring The Son to come look for me every 15 minutes to report what he had seen. Then, I would smile and look interested, even though sometimes, I did not understand the scientific principle he was explaining. It did not matter. My role was to look enthusiastic about his discoveries and infuse him with my mirrored enthusiasm. The result was that by P5, The Son was downloading and reading actual bio genetic research papers from my university's e-library.

In the times when we had a maid, I could expand my day to 40 hrs a day, doing 3 things at the same time:
- supervise an apple pie being made
- ask the children questions
- type up work reports. 

When I realised that I had to help The Son master 6 yrs of primary school material in 2 years, I made him do tingxie whilst eating lunch on the way back home in the car. We were THAT short of time and I refused to work The Son beyond 7pm every night. I also refused to work him all of Sundays and the Saturday afternons. It took 30 minutes to drive home. I expanded 30 minutes into 1.5 hrs for him and gave him the extra hour to do unstructured play.

I need 9 to 12 hrs of sleep a day. That is why I have to expand my hours.