Tuesday, 30 September 2008
While I was at it,I decided to make another kind of spring roll for dinner. This is much easier. I cooked the filling using shredded cabbage and carrot, chicken meat, dried shrimps and garlic. YK wrapped the mixture in spring roll sheet before popping them into the fryer. The freshy cooked ones are crispy and yummy!
The other dish I made was fish curry using curry paste, fish steaks, fresh prawns, tomato and coconut milk. It's just about the fastest curry dish I had ever cooked. I'm glad it turned out pretty tasty.
Even though there were only 2 dishes, we had lots of leftovers which we saved for CH who came by later as he was working late. With an appreciative diner like him around, nothing goes to waste.
Monday, 29 September 2008
Now that we're on our own, I am getting more adventurous in the kitchen. YK would sometimes exclaim "Mummy, why must you be so extra?" when he sees me experimenting again. We had our first Japanese cuisine night. I served teriyaki salmon and cod, grilled unagi (eel), seasoned baby octopus, miso soup complete with short-grained rice from Kyushu sprinkled with dried fish roe, sesame seeds and flavoured seaweed.
We've had kimchi hotpot recently. I'm thinking of making fish curry tonight. Tomorrow we're having popiah lunch when my brothers come visiting.
Well, I've always enjoyed cooking. Besides, I want them to try the whole smorgasbord instead of eating the same things day in, day out. I can't bring them to the restaurants every other day but I can try to give them a similar (or close enough) culinary experience at home.
Whenever I eat something nice at a restaurant, I always think of my loved ones. The first thing that comes to my mind is, "If only my kids or parents can try this!" Then I try to recreate the dish at home. Of course it will never taste the same but at least I've tried.
That said, some things are just not worth the trouble making at home. Baking cakes is not really my strongest suit. Without a proper oven and baking equipment at home, chances of failure is quite high. Besides, the amount of butter or oil and sugar that goes into a cake is simply too appalling, we need many people to share the calories. So I would rather buy a nice slice of cake from the store than slave in the kitchen all day to end up with a lump that nobody wants to eat.
The kids often reminisce about the days when we baked cookies so long ago. They loved playing with dough and seeing their deformed cookies emerge from the oven. I must agree the smell of freshly baked cookies wafting through the house is indeed quite unforgettable. That's a good reason to start baking again. But first, let me get a new oven.
I used to think that these stories were quite unbelievable. Maybe there's some truth but the truth must have been stretched and embellished to make the magazines fly off the shelves.
When I started nodding off at my workdesk in the morning even after 8 hours of sleep and plenty of exercise, I started getting worried. The results of my health checkup was normal. I even started to blame the water fountain in the background. The sound of water falling must be lulling me to sleep in the office.
At one stage, I spent my mornings simply struggling to stay awake. My eyelids would droop involuntarily and I couldn't get any work done. I would be drowsy like I was on drugs. By 10am, I was reaching for my second cuppa. I was desperate! Funny thing is, come afternoon, I would be energetic again. It was really puzzling.
Then I remembered the stories and decided to find out more about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It's one of the most baffling human ailments known to man. Many people suffer from food intolerances without knowing it.
I've never had much problems with food from young except chocolate which gives me ulcers. But in the recent years, I began to develop sensitivity to milk and dairy products which make my tummy uncomfortable and bloated all day.
I began to examine my breakfast. I had been getting lazy and usually ate a piece of sponge cake or sweet bread with my coffee in the morning. These are all refined, processed carbohydrates with a high glycemic index. That could be it. Well, it could also be gluten or yeast I'm allergic to.
I didn't want to take any chances with processed food, so I began a new breakfast diet of steamed sweet potatoes the next morning. I could see the instant change in me. I did not feel sleepy at all that morning, and the next morning. When I switched to farmer's loaf filled with whole grains, walnuts and sunflower seed (yeast and gluten too), my energy level didn't dip.
It's the 10th day of my new diet. It's 10am. I ate some steamed sweet potatoes this morning. The water fountain is still droning in the background but I'm not feeling drowsy at all. This is really working! Quite unbelievable but definitely true.
In the past, I used to bring lunch for the boys when I fetch them from school. Nowadays they take care of their own lunch. SK usually grabs a quick meal in the school canteen while YK often cook something when he gets home by bus.
Hence I try to prepare a nutritious dinner in case they're not getting a balanced meal for lunch. This evening's dinner was cooked in a flash because they were hungry. While the rice was boiling in the cooker, I stir-fried spinach with tiny silverfish (or is it whitebait?), sauteed sweetpeas and fresh button mushroom and pan fried some chicken fillet. Since they wanted to eat in a hurry, we didn't sit round the dinner table like usual. Instead, they each get a plate like this:
I wanted to boil lotus root soup in the crockpot early this morning but found that the lotus root wasn't fresh anymore after languishing in the fridge for a week. So I threw some pork ribs, peanuts, chick peas, carrot and corn into the pot. The soup was simple but yummy, especially when everyone's hungry!
Sunday, 28 September 2008
His team mate, reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen's car crashed into the wall towards the end of the race. He had only 4 more laps to go. The team could have finished 1st and 2nd, instead they finished with no points. Heartbreaking.
It was also very painful to see a very morose and subdued YK all weekend. Last Thurday, he was reprimanded by his teacher for all the wrong reasons. It was simply a case of being at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
It's not easy being a teacher in a school full of teenage boys but this particular teacher has managed to established a very good rapport with her students. While other teachers portray a very severe and no-nonsense stance with the boys, this lady has been successful in playing the role of a nurturing and caring teacher. Ever so friendly and chatty, she's obviously a favourite amongst the students who feel that they can talk to her about everything under the sun.
For some reason, her personality suddenly switched that afternoon. Maybe the stress of managing a class of boisterous teens had taken a toll on her, or perhaps the lack of discipline in her class as a result of being too chummy with the boys is showing, she suddenly snapped. At that time, the class was rowdy while she was trying to teach. Nothing unusual about that. It's a daily occurence. YK turned to his friend to hush him up so he could hear the teacher speak.
She suddenly pointed to YK and started accusing him of talking in class. She didn't give him any chance to defend himself. She just kept yelling at him, shooting him down when he tried to explain and finally sent him out of the class. Everyone was shocked. Why was this nice teacher behaving this way? No one dared to utter a word.
Feeling like a sitting duck, YK muttered under his breath as he walked out. She went ballastic and threatened to send him to the principal's office for caning.
A male teacher walking by came to her defense, threatening YK that he will be punished. She was crying and shouting at YK who stood there dumbfounded and defenseless. He had never felt so wronged in his life.
He came home late, feeling drained emotionally and physically after the face-off. He hadn't eaten all day and remained quiet and listless all night. He couldn't even bring himself to enjoy gaming or watching his favourite TV shows. His mind was filled with questions and worries. How can this happen just weeks before his important exams. What if he is really punished for something that he feels strongly wasn't his fault. How is it possible that the same teacher whom he was chatting with happily in the morning had turned against him.
It's sad to see things turn out this way. His friends think the situation will be forgotten by the time he goes to school today. YK loves going to school but he wasn't his boisterous self this morning. Yet the sensible boy knows it is important to go back no matter what the future holds. That's something I am tremendously proud of. I really dislike people who run away from problems.
As a mother, I hate to see my son being wrongly accused yet I know that I must stay out of this. Getting involved will make matters worse. It's an important lesson that such incidents are unavoidable as we go through life whether we like it or not. He must know that life can be cruel sometimes. Even winners like Ferrari can crash.
On a happier note, we saw Rusty over the weekend. He looks happy and fine, doesn't he?
Sniffing for lizards under the leg massager? He sure is busy.
Camping at Ubin
While other anglers were hauling up stingrays and other fishes, Chris managed to catch an eel.
Even the heron had better luck than him.
I harvested peanuts at my parent's home yesterday. These were groundnuts that I put into the soil months ago. If you ever wish to grow something in your garden, I would recommend planting peanuts. It's cheap, easy and failproof. I should go steam some peanuts now. It's a healthy snack too.
Saturday, 27 September 2008
My funny vegetable garden
The house is sparkling clean at last and I'm happy to be so up-to-date with the laundry today. Each time I wash the dirty clothes, the laundry basket fills up again. For once, it stays empty. My patio was like a laundramat this morning with sheets and clothes hanging everywhere. I'm lucky I can hang my clothes out to dry. I love the smell of clothes dried in the sun!
I'd like to show you my little vegetable garden. I doubt that I can harvest anything soon but just watching the plants grow is rewarding enough. Those skinny ones with broad leaves are ladys fingers. Can you imagine fruits growing on the skinny trunk?
I like using spring onions in my dishes, so I planted an onion. I know, I know. How can this tiny thing feed a family? I guess I need to plant some more.
I planted 3 peanuts too. So far, only one has sprouted. Again, how can the plant produce peanuts in such a shallow pot I wonder? We'll see.
Oh look! Our lipstick plant is flowering. Don't you think the flowers look like lipstick?
Friday, 26 September 2008
Me: Your exam's only weeks away, aren't you even worried at all?
YK: Of course I'm worried!
Me: Then shouldn't you be studying instead of playing online games?
YK: I'm playing for a while only... I'll stop soon.
Me: If you're gonna stop but end up sitting in front of the TV, it's the same thing...
YK mutes his game while I continue sweeping. If mummy can't hear him playing games, it's ok. I remember mum would say "You're only cheating yourself. It's your own funeral!" when I pretended to study in my room.
Last week, SK came running to be excitedly, "Daddy says he's moving and he's giving me his XBox. Can you go collect?"
No. We don't need an XBox in the house. Thank you very much!
First step, boil pasta. Don't ask me why I'm boiling in my rice cooker! YK cooked rice earlier and instead of washing another new pot, I decided to use back the same one.
Then I squeezed in some tomato puree. This tube from Marks & Spencer is my latest and best discovery! The puree is rich and full of flavour, a little bit goes a long way. It's only $1.80 per tube.
Green bean soup
Want to know what my green bean soup looks like after sitting in the slow cooker for 15 hours?
Funny it looks more brown than green now but it tastes delicious! This is a favourite Asian dessert made using green beans, barley and sugar. After slow cooking for so long, the texture is smooth and soft.
Though it is a simple dessert to make, the results can sometimes be rather disappointing. If you don't control the heat on the stove well enough, the fibrous husk will dislodge from the bean and you end up with a mouthful of husk and naked beans. I've read that some grandmas throw in a few ceramic spoons into the soup during cooking to distribute heat evenly throughout the pot, resulting in soft and mushy beans. I usually boil together with barley over delicate heat so that the soup becomes starchy and gruelly. Last night, I just threw everything in the crockpot and went to bed.
The slow cooker has proven its usefulness once again in the Blur Ting household!
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Same old same old
I woke up at 1am last night to the sound of leaves rustling and thunder rumbling in the distance. The wind was really strong and flashes of lightning could be seen every now and then. I could see the trees swinging wildly in the patio and decided to head to the dark kitchen. I put some green beans and barley in the crockpot so that the kids can have hot soup the next day.
I went back to sleep and woke up several times as usual. I had another interesting dream featuring friends, their babies and an open house. I was showing people around a sprawling residence (in my dream CH had kindly donated his residence) which I had just converted into a hostel with a beautifully manicured lawn. I must say that since young, my dreams had taken me to the most exotic places around the world. I do all my traveling in my sleep.
I got up at the sound of my alarm, showered and changed up before making breakfast of boiled noodles and poached egg for SK. It started pouring so heavily just as we were leaving the house. The traffic had slowed to a crawl on the highway but we managed to get to school on time. By the time I arrived at the office, the rain had already turned into a drizzle.
I had my wholemeal bread with coffee while reading the papers. Same old news about the downturn in the economy and more reports on the world's first F1 night race this weekend.
No wonder. There is nothing much to be excited about. It's just the same old same old. Only my dreams at night are more interesting than my boring days.
Working mothers like us often have to resort to using prepacked pastes and seasoning to save time. I always choose the ones without any MSG. Given a choice, preparing from scratch is always the best but I think it is still healthier than eating out. At least I make a conscious effort to use olive and sunflower oil for frying and control the amount of salt that goes into every dish.
Since I have fresh squid, prawns and straw mushrooms at home, I'm planning to cook Tom Yum soup for dinner tonight. I'm giving the crockpot a break but who has the time to prepare tom yum paste (grind chilli, ginger etc) on a workday? So, I bought a pack of tom yum soup base, some lemon grass, lime and lemons. All I have to do is boil water and put in all the ingredients. It saves me alot of time and energy.
I've also seasoned fresh chicken pieces with prepacked shrimp paste powder and left them to marinate in the fridge. I'll fry them just before dinner. We're eating too much meat this week, I really should cut down and serve more steamed fish.
Dinner is not complete without vegetables. I'll stir fry some greens too. That should make a balanced meal.
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
We were bundled into his car parked in the private underground garage. We piled into the Mercedes convertible, I was squashed in the back seat between his young kids and my best friend. His bodyguards slid into the sleek Lamborghini next to the Mercs.
The garage door opened up to a small and dirty alley crowded with people and bicycles. The convertible top slid to a close as we sped out of the garage. Someone was shouting at us to duck in case we were shot at.
Soon we hit the highway. We seemed to be safe now. I peered out the window and caught a glimpse of small wooden shacks and a bustling market place. We had just driven past a slum in Pakistan.
Leaving the filthy slums, the scenery ahead looked more promising. We were soon driving past a zoo. Little petite Chinese girls were swinging expertly on the monkey bars alongside the primates. I whipped out my camera to capture the amusing sight.
We were heading in the direction of the airport. I had gone by this road many times before and recognised the humongous dinosaur sculpture juxtaposed with modern skyscapers clad in colourful mosaics. The setting was misty like in Jurassic Park. But why am I taking pictures again when I already have loads of pictures of the same thing taken in Taiwan?
Then my alarm clock rang. It was just another fanciful dream I had last night.
As I was eating Dreyers strawberrry ice cream last night, I discovered it's made in Hong Kong which relies heavily on raw materials from China. Suddenly the ice cream doesn't taste so good anymore.
I came home to find that YK has already cooked rice. Seeing him with his plate of rice and chicken, I can't help but join him for an early dinner. The addition of potatoes, carrots and button mushrooms helps to make this a delicious and wholesome meal, so there is no need to add any more dishes.
The chicken pieces are so tender and juicy from 12 hours of slow cooking and the spuds are fluffy and fragrant. The best part is, there is no cleaning up to do. Just wash the dishes. That's all to it. Crock rocks!
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
I haven't been sleeping well these few nights. For some reason, I kept waking up in the wee hours of the morning to find it was only 2am, then 3am and 4am. Feeling frustrated, I got up at 5am today and pottered around the kitchen.
Ever since I changed my breakfast fare to boiled sweet potatoes, my energy level doesn't dip anymore throughout the day. So there I was at 5am, putting two small tubers to boil and seasoning chicken pieces for slow cooking.
In the crockpot, I made a layer of potatoes, carrot and canned button mushroom and then laid the chicken pieces (seasoned with salt, lots of garlic, rosemary, thyme and pepper, then browned in a pan for about 5 minutes) on top. I added some broth and closed the lid. The chicken will be cooking on low heat until I get home from work. I can imagine the house will be infused with the smell of rosemary chicken all day long!
With the slow cooker, I don't have to rush back and slave away in the kitchen anymore. We'll come home to an instant hot meal in the evening. All I need to do is stir fry some vegetables or make a salad and dinner can be served. Less oil splattering means less cleaning up to do too. Why didn't I think of this earlier? I think life is getting easier as I discover more efficient methods of cooking and housekeeping.
It's raining outside as I write. As usual, SK and I went for our breakfast in the city. Some of the roads are already closed in preparation for this weekend's F1 night race. Our popular kopitiam (coffeeshop) was much quieter than usual. Another victim of the hype-up race. Many malls in the city are already experiencing a big drop in sales due to the road closures and tight security.
The sky turned very dark while I was driving to work. After a hot week, we're beginning to see more rain again. This does not bode well for the F1 drivers. Doing a night race on wet roads can be a nightmare for them. Oh well. They're the experts.
Dark clouds moving in while I was waiting at a traffic junction.
View from the office window.
While I was browsing at Borders yesterday, I came across a cookbook dedicated to recipes using the crockpot (slow cooker). I've been using the crockpot for decades but little did I know that besides making stews and soups, I can even bake cakes in it. The possibilities are limitless!
So I went out and bought myself a new crockpot today and hurried home to cook something in it. Anything! I rummaged through the fridge and found a pack of pork chunks. Just the right time to try out Uncle Tan's braised pork rib dish I found on the internet.
I fried some crushed ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, spice powder and bean paste in vegetable oil until fragrant. Next, I browned the meat in the aromatic spice mixture for a few minutes. I stirred in some garlic, dark soy sauce and rock sugar and poured water to just cover the ingredients. When the mixture started boiling, I transfered everything into the slow cooker and left it alone for 2 hours. I threw in chunks of carrot and potato about an hour before dinner.
After stewing for several hours, the meat became very tender and flavourful. The carrot and potato had absorbed the wonderfully sweet stock, they turned out so succulent and delicious. I was surprised the kids enjoyed it very much even though they don't normally eat pork.
Since CH was joining us for dinner, I cooked a little bit more than usual. We had stir fried dou miao (vegetable sprouts), steam cod and leather jacket fish in a spicy sauce, sweet and sour prawns and stewed pork. I also served some side dishes of seasoned anchovies and tiny crispy crabs which I bought at Istean Japanese food fair.
Now that I have rediscovered the wonders of the slow cooker, you'll be seeing more new dishes soon. I'm looking forward to making a cake in it. The kids think I'm kidding but I'm sure it is possible.
Monday, 22 September 2008
Despite all the public education, I'm quite appalled that skinny bodies is still a growing trend. I can understand if impressionable teenagers are starving themselves to look good, but actresses in their 40s like the entire cast of Desperate Housewives are beginning to look like stick insects too.
I feel that women our age look better with a slightly padded body. Yet, it has always been a struggle to maintain the ideal weight. We all want a super slim body that'll look good in all kinds of beautiful frocks but too thin, and we'll appear so haggard and hungry. Nice dress on a scrawny body with saggy boobs and ribs sticking out. Ughh!
So we try to eat well to achieve a wholesome look and end up looking like a well rounded Nigella. That's ok if we're gorgeous and famous like her. If we're not careful, we'll end up looking like the jolly aunty next door.
As my metabolic rate slows down, I'm already eating minimally and exercising on a daily basis to maintain my weight. I often wonder if the Hollywood actresses eat anything at all! And they end up looking like a lollipop. What a price to pay to look bad!
Sunday, 21 September 2008
While driving the boys to school on the wet road, we stopped at the first traffic junction. YK said "I hate stopping at red lights." I was quick to reply that he can't hate it as much as I do. There are 16 traffic junctions from our house to his school 5km away. By the time I get to my office, I would have driven past 36 (yes, I counted!) traffic lights. This morning, we were experiencing the Red Wave which saw us stopping at almost every single one. A 10 minute journey stretched to 20 minutes.
Anyway, I still appreciate the road system in Singapore. The roads are so well planned out with ample signage and traffic lights, you can never get too lost driving here.
This morning I've also embarked on a new diet. I've been eating too much refined carbs for breakfast, I end up feeling so tired and sleepy by mid-morning. Over the weekend, I bought some sweet potato and pumpkin for my breakfast this week. That means I have to put them in the steamer soon as I get out of bed so that they're ready when I leave the house. I ate two sweet potatoes in the office and I am still wide awake now. I wonder if it's the novelty or simply the wholesome breakfast that's making a difference.
Thank goodness we're having a cool morning compared to the supremely hot and scorching weather in the last few days. I'm meeting a customer for coffee in town, so that's something nice to look forward to instead of being stuck to my chair all day long.
I hope your day is nice too.
SK didn't go for tuition because he was having an upset tummy in the morning. He's fine now. That gave me alot of free time to rest and relax today. I went running with CH at East Coast Park before it got too hot in the morning. The lack of regular exercise is taking a toll on my body. I didn't feel quite as energetic as before and ended up walking alot.
Saturday, 20 September 2008
She's an excellent filmmaker who managed to produce two very good pieces of work single handedly. She was practically running a one-woman show from start to finish, right down to funding and promoting her works. Her passion just resonates in everything she does, it is simply infectious. The documentaries are about her attachment to her childhood kampung and finally letting go.
When I spoke to her mum after the screening, I realised we used to live so close to each other. I felt a special kind of connection talking to Yee Peng and her mum, it was all very heart warming. I wish them all the best.
Chatting with her mum after the show.
We took a train to The Art House where the show was held and took some photos along the way.
Look at our skinny legs!
Boat Quay in the background.
The Fullerton Hotel.
Another view of the hotel.
It was such a hot day, CH bought ice cream!
Asian Civilisation Museum.
The first F1 night race is happening soon. 28th Sept to be exact. So there's alot of buzz in the city.
We were starving after the screening. CH and I walked to Lau Par Sat food centre for dinner before heading to the Containart Pavilion, one of the most exciting exhibits of Singapore Biennale 2008. Being a container reseller, anything to do with containers fascinates me. The Containart Pavilion is an architectural creation by internationally well-known Japanese artist Shigeru Ban constructed using 150 twenty-foot long shipping containers and 34 ten-metre recyclable paper tubes. It was simply awesome!
APL/NOL is the main sponsor of the containers. Naturally, there's a publicity area for this shipping line. The exhibition you see above is inside a 20ft container.
Outside the Containart Pavilion, artists Alfredo Juan Aquilizan and Maria Isabel Aquilizan (Philippines) created an “underwater world of fishes” by recycling about 6000 old slippers which are mounted on sticks.