Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Pine mouth

I like all kinds of nuts and seeds. My kids think I'm nuts because they find nuts disgusting.

Pine nuts must be one of my favourites. I eat them raw, straight off the pack, without toasting or making a pesto sauce or anything. They're tiny, but packed with nutrition. And they're delicious. Even Rusty likes them.

While googling about pine nuts one day, I chanced upon many posts about a weird side effect of eating pine nuts. Here's what I've pulled out from Wiki:

"A small minority of pine nuts can cause taste disturbances, developing 1–3 days after consumption and lasting for days or weeks. Though very unpleasant, there are no lasting effects. This phenomenon was first described in a scientific paper in 2001. Some publications have made reference to this phenomenon as "pine mouth".This is a relatively new phenomenon and appears to be most common in nuts coming from China. It has been theorized that the nut trees are absorbing something and passing it on to the nuts, or the nuts themselves are being treated with something before packaging. It is also possible that the nuts have spoiled and are rancid, causing the metallic taste disturbance. Also, it has been hypothesized that this bitter side effect is caused by an allergy that some people may have to pine nuts, but this does not explain the recent appearance of this syndrome. Metallic taste disturbance, known as metallogeusia, is reported 1–3 days after ingestion, being worse on day 2 and lasting for up to 2 weeks. Cases were self-limited and resolve without treatment."

At first I pooh-poohed this theory. What rubbish! But there are hundreds of threads on the Internet about this. Then it happened to me one day. I experienced the strangest sensation in my mouth. For many days, everything I ate tasted sourish and bitter. I lost my appetite and suspected it was the pack of pine nuts from Mustafa Supermarket. The nuts were from China. I threw the entire pack away.

I usually buy the organic ones from USA. When I came across the ones in Mustafa, I bought without checking the country of origin.

After that incident, I bought my next pack from the organic stall. I checked the expiry date and country of origin (USA) before paying. Last week, I ate a small handful. When my mouth felt a little strange 2 days later, I had reason to suspect the nuts.

I decided to try again two nights ago. This time I ate more. True enough, today I am experiencing that same bile taste in my mouth again. Everything tastes so weird now, even my saliva tastes funny.

It seems that both the China and USA imports are capable of causing taste disturbances. Don't tell me I have to give up pine nuts forever!

Bramley apple pie

I was very pleased when Marks & Spencer began selling frozen desserts at their outlets. Compared to the offerings in UK, the selection here is very limited. They cost alot more too.

My kids are in love with the strawberry cheesecake. Yesterday, I bought the lemon meringue pie and bramley apple pie as well.

We had the apple pie after dinner today. The pie, which is nicely assembled in an aluminium tray but totally uncooked, requires an hour of baking in the oven. It's so convenient! You can enjoy a freshly baked pie without doing any work.

It's almost impossible to go wrong if you follow the instructions (180 degree celcius, 60 minutes). The pie exudes a lovely aroma. The crust is crumbly and buttery but I find the apple filling a tad too sour. They should cut down on the lemon juice.

We still like the strawberry cheesecake better.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Fast food

We had fast food for dinner last night. My definition of fast food could be different from yours.

I got home at 5pm with bags of grocery. YK, who got home a minute earlier, was happy to see me.

"I'm so hungry. I skipped lunch."

Luckily I picked up a honey roasted chicken from the rotisserie on my way home. It was still warm.

"I'll rustle up something quickly. It won't be long...."

Within minutes, rice was boiling in the cooker. I defrosted a bag of cuttlefish (which I had already cleaned and sliced up over the weekend) and washed a head of cabbage and some french beans.

The chopped up cabbage, french beans and dried shrimps were swiftly stir-fried in the wok. It was ready within minutes.

The cuttlefish went in next, with diced onions, chilli padi and spring onions. Those plump cuttlefish were fast to cook and good to eat!

By the time YK got out of the shower, a piping hot meal of roast chicken, cabbage stir-fry and spicy cuttlefish was waiting for him.

I enjoy making fast dinners because I have more time to do other things before the sky darkens. Yesterday, I had time to potter about in my garden, walk the dogs and chat with the neighbours (members of our club) and savour a bottle of beer.

The club

I'm now a member of a club. Not any Tom, Dick or Harry can join this club. There is no membership fee. To date, we have a handful of members. We don't even have a club house or chairman. Yet we gather almost daily at the open field to discuss about something we love. Or should I say, someone.

That someone is Bodhi. This endearing stray has brought us all together.

I don't even know everyone's name. There's Evelyn ~the kind neighbour who has been feeding Bodhi and all the cats in our condo; Vincent ~ the bald gentleman who lives upstairs; the slim lady aka silky terrier Ah Boy's owner; and the Indian family who owns a brown/white mongrel.

We are drawn together because of our love for Bodhi. Our mission is to find him a good home. Evelyn has been visiting boarding homes for dogs. Ah Boy's owner was spotted peering at the notice board at Cold Storage because someone saw a notice for a black/white lost dog. Unfortunately it isn't Bodhi.

When I announced that my best friend may be keen to adopt, everyone applauded and almost popped opened a bottle of champagne.

Trouble is, best friend's hubby is out of town. He doesn't know about it yet. It is up to her to convince him when he returns this weekend. Meanwhile, everyone in our club is getting jittery because time is running out for Bodhi. If he gets into some mischief, the authorities will not hesitate to take him away before the deadline is up.

The members are hatching plans B and C. Evelyn said most of the boarding houses are full. Then again, Bodhi can't stay in a boarding house forever. My parent's farm is the last resort. The farm is not gated, so Bodhi may run away or get into fights with the neighbourhood dogs.

So, we're still hoping someone will adopt him. All the members are pinning their hopes on my best friend. If she can sell $20 million machines to tough customers, I am sure she can convince her hubby to adopt our doggie friend.

Monday, 28 June 2010


I'm assembling the ingredients for tonight's dinner.

Lotus root, carrot and sweet corn. Ah, this is easy. Cut up the pieces and boil in a pot of water, together with dried cuttlefish, dried oysters, red dates, wolf berries and some meat.

Fresh button mushroom and Korean bunashimeji are perishable, so we'll have to eat them today. I'll pan fry with olive oil, garlic, a dollop of butter and some white wine.

Stir-fried vegetables are a must at the dinner table. I wish these baby kale were from my own backyard. They're imported from Hong Kong.

And this cauliflower is already past its prime. I'll cook it Indian style, together with onion, potatoes and lots of spices.

Finally, fish is SK's favourite. I'll panfry some flounder.

Croissant, anyone?

If only the kids like sandwiches as much as I do, then I won't have to work so hard in the kitchen!

YK was feeling peckish one night, so he made himself a croissant tuna sandwich (rather reluctantly).

"Woah, I didn't know croissant can be so delicious! Can you buy more?"

The dutiful mother went out and bought a box only find them still hanging around in the fridge days later. YK's craving for croissant had been rather short-lived.

So, here I am, having a croissant sandwich for lunch. I must say it's really yummy!

If only they aren't that fattening. Want some?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Time is running out

Early this year, someone left behind a small dog in the neighbourhood. At first we thought it was a lost dog. Over time, it dawned upon us that he had been abandoned. He was always very wary and elusive. It took us a long time to gain his trust.

Many people in our neighbourhood (mostly apartment dwellers) love him. Slowly, some of us managed to get closer to him.

My neighbour Evelyn feeds him daily and he has grown into a handsome and very healthy dog. He's a happy dog, always very friendly with other dogs. His coat is shiny and he is active and strong. She calls him Bodhi.

The trouble is, someone called the authorities (AVA) to take him away. Four big and strong men came 2 days ago with steel wires and lasso to capture him. Luckily Evelyn was there feeding Bodhi. She pleaded with AVA to give us time to find the dog a home. The deadline given was 10 July. After that, the dog will be captured and put to sleep.

Now everyone is distressed. Evelyn is almost in tears. Apartment dwellers (especially those living in public flats) are not allowed to keep big dogs. I already have 2 dogs in mine, there is no way I can take in another one yet I cannot bear to see him being put down.

We tried to capture him yesterday so I could bring him to our farm for the time being. He managed to break loose from the leash. My parents already have 2 dogs there, it wouldn't be fair to bring another one home. We are hoping that he could find a better home. With the looming deadline, we are all very worried.

He came running towards me this morning and allowed me to cuddle him. He's a really nice dog, in fact, he even looks like a pedigree. It would break our heart to see captured by AVA.

I took some photos hoping that someone out there will fall in love with him and give him a good home.

And here's Rusty, chewing up my lottery ticket.

If this is the winning ticket for $1m, I could buy a big house and keep all the dogs under one roof!

Bubbles and the moon

Tonight I drove back to my parent's place alone. The boys had their own plans. Rusty stayed at home with Cookie and I was 'going solo'. It's called the empty nest syndrome.

Thank goodness weekends at my parent's place is always lively. The young ones were blowing bubbles in the porch when I arrived.

Seeing their happy faces immediately brightened my day.

After dinner, we looked out and witnessed the lunar eclipse.

I love family gatherings!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Chilling out

For the second week running, our plans to eat at Nando's was foiled again by the crowd. The line of people waiting to get into the restaurant extended all the way outside the mall, we gave the much acclaimed peri peri chicken a miss.

While we like eating, we're just not into lining up for food, so we ended up at Manhattan Fish Market at Illuma. We polished off a serving of coleslaw, fried oysters and grilled seafood platter, leaving nothing behind. So, the food was satisfying but nothing to rave about.

When I saw the marble slab at the creamery in the mall, memories of the yummiest ice cream at Cold Rock in America came rushing back. Sadly, the ones we had yesterday paled in comparison to their distant cousin. It was almost a waste of calories.

Later in the evening, we popped by Night and Day Bar, set up by the architect that built CH's house. I can't find the right words to describe the place. It's retro chic, a little messy and unkempt, yet rather charming. Everyone's welcomed to scribble on the walls, so all you see is graffiti, including some really cool ones.

At the entrance.

Scribblings of all kinds.

We had a mojito each. I was trying to prove to CH how a blackened tooth can really change a person's appearance. Here, I used mint leaf to put my point across. He couldn't stop laughing. I bet he wouldn't be laughing if this was for real!

CH at the DJ console.

More graffiti, or art.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

When it's raining cats and dogs...

The cats in the neighbourhood run to hide.
Cookie crawls deeper into his cubby hole to stay dry.
Rusty cowers under the dining table, shivering like a drenched rat.
The boys snuggle deeper under their warm blanket.
CH tucks into a bowl of curry vegetables.
And mummy makes a pot of piping hot fish porridge.

Fish porridge with spinach, spring onion, dried anchovies and fresh batang (Spanish mackerel).

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

You don't make udon anymore!

"You don't make udon anymore...", YK said while slurping on udon at the Japanese restaurant that day.

I didn't know he likes udon so much. I usually avoid it because of the starch overload. Those fat rice noodles will fill you up quickly, leaving no room in the tummy for other yummy Japanese sushi.

Now I remember how I used to make udon for the kids when they were younger. YK's going to be surprised when he wakes up this morning. I made yakiudon - stir fried udon with loads of bean sprouts, fish cake, egg, shrimp and spring onions. I seasoned with teriyaki sauce and a dash of mirin (Japanese rice wine).

I'm beginning to realise all my noodles end up looking somewhat similar!

Now he can't say I don't cook udon anymore.


Here are some photos (lifted from AmyL's blog) from the night at the orchestra.

Audrey, AmyR, me and CH at the cocktail party.

Some members of the orchestra.

AmyL and Dunne, the amazing accordion player.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Night at the Orchestra

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. At the invitation of our friend Amy, I went to the concert hall not knowing what to expect. In the end, I was blown away by such a dazzling performance, I just can't thank her enough.

Touted as one of the best chamber orchestras in the world, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, directed by Katherine Hunka, were joined by Dermot Dunne on Accordion. Together, they played a mix of Mozart, Molique, Vivaldi and Piazolla.

Hunker and Dunne were brilliant together. Dunne elicits great drama from the accordion, giving a colourful performance that turned everyone (especially Amy) into instant fans while Hunker delivered melodies with such panache and breath-taking agility.

Irish music is indeed infectious and catchy. The orchestra's persuasive and enthusiastic playing won the hearts of everyone, they received a standing ovation at the end of the night.

My first time!

Time wasn't on my side yesterday evening. I got home quite late from work and had a concert to attend. The dogs were waiting to be fed and walked, so I did something very brave. I brought them out for their walks together.

I shortened Rusty's leash and double-checked his harness just to be sure he won't be able to slip off like the night before. Then I stepped out of the house nervously with two dogs in tow.

Rusty is fast and Cookie is slow. The agile Rusty kept forging ahead only to find himself held back by the leash. His clumsy buddy trailed behind, looking lost and confused, I kept tripping over him.

To make matters worse, the stray dog living in the open field sprinted over to join in the fun, much to the chagrin of my dogs. Three frisky dogs and one harrassed walker - it was a nightmare. I brought the dogs home quickly and congratulated myself for losing none of them, or my sanity for that matter.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Walking two dogs

So far, I have not tried walking two dogs all by myself. They take turns in the mornings, with Rusty going out first. I wasn't planning on walking Cookie today but he started howling when we returned, so I took him out for a short one.

It's actually much easier to walk Cookie. Unlike Rusty, he isn't very curious and will not insist on snooping around. He's quite happy to return home after emptying his bladder.

Last night, CH and I brought both dogs out. Cookie likes to trail behind Rusty and keeps getting in our way. While we were busy untangling them, a young lady sashayed by with 3 large dogs trotting obediently beside her. She must be sniggering at us.

Seconds later, Rusty slipped out of his harness and sprinted towards the road. The more I pursued, the faster he ran. Finally, CH caught up with him. When he grabbed Rusty, I gave the doggie a spank on his bottom. I can't imagine going out alone with two dogs in tow!

Ugh! Let's talk about something yummy, like sweet and sticky chicken. My kids like eating seafood and vegetables. They shun the meat of large animals and when it comes to chicken, they will only eat if it doesn't taste too 'chickeny'.

I found this chicken recipe online and it was a hit when I made it. The sauce is an interesting combination of balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, sliced garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce, honey and salt. After simmering for an hour or so, the chicken becomes tender and coated with a sweet and sticky sauce. There is no chickeny smell at all.

I was running out of ideas of what to cook for lunch today, then I remembered Huier's suggestion. Curry yong tauhu! I know curry is such a sinful dish, so this will be the last one I'm making this month. Today's curry is packed with lots of beancurd, lady's fingers, eggplant, cabbage, french beans and glass noodles.

I'm hoping this pot will last till dinner as I'll be attending a concert by the Irish Chamber Orchestra tonight (tickets courtesy of Amy). It's best if I don't have to deal with dinner for the dogs and kids before I leave. But I know it's not going to happen that way of course.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Of dogs and mouse noodles

Cookie seems to be settling in very well. Ever since he set foot into our house, he hasn't even made a squeak, let alone bark. He's just happy to be amongst Rusty and people who love him.

We (including Rusty) went out for a BBQ party last night and left Cookie all alone at home. I was surprised to find him sleeping soundly at his favourite corner when we returned. There were no signs of anxiety at all.

At the farm, he loves sleeping under my dad's car. I think he likes tight places, so I'm not surprised that he has made the little corner of my patio, under the big umbrella, his home. He has to squeeze between the chairs and flower pots to get in but he's happy there. For once, I am glad my garden is shady.

When I take him out for walks, people tend to give us a wide berth and a curious look. It's like, what's she doing with a balding dog? I know Cookie's not the most elegant looking pooch in the neighbourhood but he has a great personality. Besides, his fur will grow back soon, though his ears will never be perky and normal like before. They're just a crumbled mess after the surgery but my kids love him so much and are constantly gushing at how adorable he is. They think he's cuter and sweeter than Rusty, it's almost comical.

Cookie still tries to sneak into the house every now and then. I let him into the kitchen sometimes, just to be fair to both dogs. When I was cooking mouse noodles this morning, both dogs were sitting below the stove, drooling.

In case you're wondering what kind of rodent I was cooking, it's a rice noodle called low si fun (mouse noodle) because the noodles are shaped liked a rat's tail. I cooked the noodles with lots of mushroom, bean sprouts and leafy greens. There's not even a single rat's tail in there.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Opera at the park

Having Cookie with us takes a little bit of getting used to. When I came home from Botanic Gardens last night, I found him wandering around indoors. When questioned, the kids said, "But... so poor thing. All alone in the patio."

They let him in and it took me a while to lure him out again. He spent the night sleeping on the timber deck. Now he tries to sneak in whenever he sees an opportunity. Rusty, on the other hand, keeps asking to be let outside. Then he gets bored and tries to come in five minutes later. With the dogs going in and out, I have been moping the floor several times a day.

Cookie used to be such a fussy eater but the antibiotics must be making him hungry. He keeps sticking his nose into the rubbish bin in the kitchen, looking for food scraps. We never had that problem with Rusty simply because the bin is too tall for him.

Anyway, enough of dog stories. Let's talk about the Opera that we went to at Botanic Gardens last night. I brought Rusty along so that Cookie can have some quiet time at home. The truth is, I didn't want the boys calling me halfway through the performance telling me the dogs are not getting along or up to some mischief.

I like these casual performances in the park where we can sprawl out on the mat with plenty of food and drinks. It's really an event for everyone, even kids and dogs.

Last night, we were glad our friend Amy could come. She brought her friend Amy too. Here they are, enjoying the food and music.

We had plenty to eat. Beverly made her famous tuna focaccia sandwich. I brought chicken curry and boiled chickpeas. The guys brought beer and wine.

We surprised Christiane with a birthday cake. Earlier, Rusty had stepped on the cake box. Luckily it's not a cream cake. Here Christiane looks surprised. She must be wondering why we're giving her a flattened cake for her birthday!

But nobody can really get angry with Rusty. Just look at that innocent face!

It wasn't me!

I must say he's a pretty good dog. Kids of all ages kept coming up to cuddle him and he put up with every single one of them!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Cookie's home!

I just brought Cookie home. He's fine now, except that his skin is patchy from the hair loss. He'll look good again in a month's time. I'm so grateful to the vet for being so gentle and caring towards Cookie. Many people will probably shun Cookie at this moment, but just look at him. He has the sweetest face!

Both dogs explore the patio together, with Rusty leading the way.

Rusty just can't wait to show Cookie that he is the boss around here. Yah, for now, Cookie will stay in the patio while Rusty is free to roam around the house. I guess Rusty is still the boss.