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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pigs! Oink! Oink!

I asked for a lot of storage space at the new house for it seemed that every cupboard and drawer in our penthouse are full to the brim. Everyone is allocated storage and everyone seems to collect enough THINGS that belongings are strewn on the floor. When I buy storage boxes to store away the THINGS, somehow there are still THINGS on the floor. One would have thought my parquet was a Magic Parquet. It grows belongings with a fertility that I wish my garden had. And the store room was so full that things were in danger of toppling out.

I found a mound of little soap bits in one hidden corner of a bathroom, a collection made by someone who uses soap bars to bathe with. There was a drawer full of empty health supplement bottles. Somebody's room had a book entitled "How to Choose Secondary Schools". Old ring files with rusty clasps filled up another shelf. There were unrecognizable odds and ends of questionable provenance which someone said had sentimental value, and another claimed they could be used to make useful contraptions. Somehow Gentle Joy had stored away an old broom and a broken pail. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out why she keeps opened packets of flour and nuts (with a bit only left in each) at the BACK of the kitchen cupboard. Every single plastic spoon and plastic take away container was also squirreled away. Even Milo, I found, had his stash. He had somehow managed to store away little bits of his weekly knucklebone in the little space between the iron grille gate and the glass door.

I told somebody that when he/she gets old and lives alone, people would likely find his/her corpse in the middle of a room piled high with junk. And by the time the discovery would be made, he/she would be in advanced stages of decomposition. I made someone else cry when I threw away the broken market trolley. Someone had wanted to build something nice with the old wheels. I secretly got rid of the bottles of red wine from 3 years ago stored in less than ideal conditions. We opened a few last month and knew that many had turned to vinegar. Yet, The Husband would not let me throw. I threw them away today. The Husband will find out but by then it'll be quite the fait accompli. The mound of soap bits went down the chute much to the muffled consternation of the soap bar user. Milo looked at me reproachfully when I cleared his stash of knucklebone bits.

I last did this whirlwind of find and throw when the children were little. Back then, I found pieces of dried apple in The Daughter's underwear drawer. She had squirreled them deep under her underclothes to eat later.

Back then too, I had made myself unpopular with everyone. I offended every near and rather near relative. There were sulks and tears and for a long time, someone kept repeating that I should not have thrown away the present he/she had bought one of the kids even though the thing was broken and the kid no longer plays with it. Since then, one child assured me that he/she was quite capable of spring cleaning in his/her own room. I have for 8 years respected the karung guni ways of everyone else and refused to look at the growing mess. I wanted people to like me you see.

But I can't take it anymore.

Not one of those warm fuzzy feelings do I now give a hoot.
Much will be said when THINGS Petunia gives the boot.
Against every teary protest, I will stamp my foot.
For every reproachful look, I will an angry stare shoot.

Defenders of junk will sprawl where they would
Once Petunia has kicked them where she should
Petunia has endured as much as she could
And will ruthlessly clear the Lee Family loot!

I will do this every year. Get used to it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

X'mas Brunch Buffet at Halia

One of my favouritest restaurants is The Halia at The Botanic Gardens. Food is consistently of good quality and if you want al fresco dining, it is the best for miles around. The Halia sits in the middle of a garden maintained by NParks. It is an amazing place of verdant green, dappled sunlight, frisky squirrels and surprising splashes of purples, reds and blues that wink in and out of your gaze as the breeze shifts the leaves of the stately gingers.

And the food is good.

And the mood is good.

I booked us all a seat at the X'mas Buffet Brunch. There were many hits among the dishes and a few misses. I was so looking forward to the gravlax and the beef carpaccio, only to find them served at room temperature. A little bit of chill goes well with dishes like gravlax and beef carpaccio, I think.

The chicken miso soup was clear and flavourful. The Husband encouraged me 3 times to get at the seafood salad. I absolutely loved the artichoke and mushroom salad. The wagyu beef stew was heart stoppingly good - tender and flavourful. And the lamb chops just melted in the mouth, so tender they were. And the service was wonderful wonderful wonderful. Smiling, attentive and prompt.

We ate so much no one had space for dinner last night.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tropical X'mas Tree

When the children were little, we had a tiny little X'mas tree which The Husband called the mosquito tree because it was so spindly and rather bald, that it looked like a big mosquito. Then came the year when The Husband categorically refused to put up The Mosquito. He was fed up that I had ignored his wish for a big X'mas tree over so many years. So we went and bought a somewhat bigger X'mas tree. Somewhat.

I don't understand The Husband's fascination for big things. Big dogs. Big frangipani trees. Big X'mas trees. I wonder if he would have preferred to marry a big wife too.

This year, the topic of the X'mas tree was one that stimulated lively debate. Little Boy wanted a real one with pine needles. The last time I had that in my living room, I was living in France, and I did not have a nice time sweeping up the pine needles. Added to that, it really bothers me to be celebrating X'mas with a living being sitting in my living room that is slowly dying... "Because that is what real pine X'mas trees do." I said, "They die a slow and possibly agonising death in your living room whilst you eat drink and are merry."

I won that round. No live pine tree.

Then the whole family considered the fake tree sitting in its box. And The Husband predictably said that it was too small. Good grief... how big must his tree be?! I truly understood how big when The Husband smiled beatifically at the tree in Universal Studios. No way! He wanted real and he wanted big. And so he proposed to buy me a real tree to grow in the garden at the new house, which we can carry into the house at X'mas time.

The Husband won that round. I don't mind growing his conifer for him. Though I rather think that if it can be carried hither and thither, it can't be that big.

But well... we aren't at the new house yet so The Husband graciously conceded that we should find a temporary solution. Since everyone seemed to want a real tree, I proposed to decorate our new frangipani rooted cutting. So voilĂ ... this year, we have a Tropical X'mas Tree.

So... The Daughter enlisted the help of The Male Friend who balanced the pot in the palm of his hand, waltzed down the stairs and deposited gently it downstairs by the window. And Little Boy decorated it with me. This custom is very important to Little Boy.

One year, I was too lazy to put up The Mosquito. Little Boy asked when X'mas was on 26th December 200X. And when he heard that X'mas was over he wailed long and loud "X'mas is over and it didn't even come!" To placate him, we drove all the way down to Bras Basah to get X'mas decorations and spray cans to make frosted glass. Everything was going for a 50% discount and Stingy Petunia seriously considered making it a habit to do post-hoc X'mas decorations every year.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Jiaozi Again

I made jiaozi again. I thought I had made them small. Even The Daughter confirmed that they were a nice size. Petite little things sitting prettily in the bowl dusted with flour. The Daughter even confirmed that I had rolled out the jiaozi skins as thin as 2-ply tissue paper.

I had visions of owning a thriving chain of jiaozi shops. I was gonna call my enterprise "Petunia's Jiaozi".

But quite inexplicably, the jiaozi grew in the water. They doubled in size and ended up looking rather large again. The skins too didn't stay thin. Oh good grief! How does one make jiaozi with delicate skins? They're supposed to look sweet and demure, smiling their dimples at our chomping teeth. Instead, they looked like fat nannies with over-sized breasts sprawled with vulgar invitation all over the plate. Even our teeth stopped in mid-chomp, and tried to jump out of our mouths in sheer terror.

I made so many of these vulgar nannies that we had enough for three meals. By the 3rd meal, the vulgar nannies had coalesced into a sodden mass of dough and meat. I had to pick up that many headed Hydra of a dumpling with both hands and it made a heavy splash as it fell screaming into the boiling water.

When it came out (double its size) we had to use a sharp knife to carve up its remains so that each of us would have our fair share. For some reason, everyone felt generous that day, offering each other the larger portions.

Little Boy with a little voice said, "Can we don't have dumplings anymore?" The Husband said looking sideways at me "Wah lau... good thing we don't have guests today!" The Daughter said "The filling is nice" but she was sure she couldn't finish her own portion.

But then... the filling WAS good.

Apple Pie Recipe

Here is the recipe for Petunia's Apple Pie.

Ingredients for Pastry
250g self-raising flour
250g plain flour
500g butter
1 egg
2 tablespoons white sugar
Some milk (ermmm... I kinda put enough to make a rather dry-ish dough)

(1) Mix 2 types of flour together in mixing bowl. Cut butter into small cubes and rub into the flour. Rub until flour resembles coarse sand. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and mix well.
(2) Make a well. Crack egg into the middle and mix with a wooden spoon. Add enough milk to make a dry-ish dough.
(3) This dough cannot be rolled out. Put HALF the lump of dough into a tart pan and press it into shape.

Ingredients for Apple Filling
8 small apples cut into cubes
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1ooml water
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 flat tablespoon white sugar
1 small pat of butter

(1) Dissolve sugar into 100ml water. Mix in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and 1 tablespoon of plain flour.
(2) Microwave apples with 5 tablespoons of water, until soft. Melt the butter in a wok. Throw in the cooked apple. Stir fry briskly.
(3) Add water-cinnamon-sugar-flour solution. Stir fry till apple is coated with stickiness.

Assembly, Decoration and Baking
(1) Pour apple filling into tart pan on top of the dough you earlier pressed in.
(2) Break pieces off the other HALF lump. Roll between hands into long ropes. Lay these over the apple filling in criss-cross forming a sort of net.
(3) Bake at 175 Degrees Celsius for 30 to 40 minutes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Al Fresco Jiaozi

We dropped by the construction site at about 5-ish in the evening one day and were surprised to see a familiar face atop an unfamiliar body. The face I could recognise, but the clothes were all wrong. He normally wears construction worker clothes. But he sauntered into the precinct in a spotless white shirt and well-fitting pants, carrying 2 bags of groceries.

It turned out that he was about to make jiaozi. A rickety table was pulled out under the blue sky. A chopping board that looked like a section of a plank was quickly rinsed and laid out. A small tupperware without its cover held water... then appeared a pair of bright pink plastic chopsticks and a big knife. He looked a little awkward and shy, because I was fascinated and staring.

I wondered if I should contain my curiosity and look away. But then, I really really REALLY wanted to learn how to make jiaozi, and I didn't much care that I was standing on a concrete slab under the blue sky, next to the steel skeleton of my household shelter. So, I plucked up my courage, caught hold of The Husband's hand, towed him over there, and asked brightly "May I watch you make jiaozi? I wanna learn."

And then he made magic before my eyes. Some flour, a little water. A few flicks of hand and wrist. The dough was ready. Chop chop chop, went the knife and the meat was all mixed up with Chinese cabbage, Chinese parsley, ginger, garlic and paprika. Salt ( a lot). Soy sauce (also a lot).

Then he got out a short end of a broom. It looked exactly like my small rolling pin. He rolled out the dough and then he showed me how to wrap it.


They were perfect little jiaozi too. Quite unlike the leather stuffed pillows I made here. The next day, I returned him the favour with Petunia's Apple Pie which he promptly unmoulded onto a newspaper and shared with his friends. I was a little taken aback but I do admit that he did what I thought quite impossible. I've never thought it was possible to flip an apple pie over twice and have it remain intact.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reaching the Tipping Point for Chinese

In this round of end-of year exams, Little Boy scored 90 and above for every subject except Chinese, where he scored only 79. We are desperate. Little Boy went and asked the Girl Who Scored Full Marks for Chinese Compo her secret. She said, "I memorise tons of Chinese Compositions."

Okaaaaaaay! Whatever works eh? We're gonna lick this Chinese... and lick it good.

We went off to Beijing and brought home 4 compendiums of 1000 Chinese Compositions. There are the 2009 collections and the 2010 collections of China's best compositions from their PSLE-equivalent exams. At least, that is what I think they are. Whatever it is, the quality of writing is excellent and the compositions are a pleasure to read.

I can't read Chinese but I respond well to good quality language when it is read to me. These essays are beautiful. Full of music in the prose and so evocative in the images they conjure up. Grandma comes by every now and then, and reads the essays into a digital voice file on Little Boy's computer.

Armed with a glossary prepared by Grandma of all the difficult words in the composition (comprising both pronunciations and meanings), Little Boy memorises each essay in turn whilst listening to Grandma's recording. The aim is to expose Little Boy to a high volume of spoken and written Chinese prose. Each day, Little Boy encounters beautifully written Chinese words upon Chinese words... and once he has encountered enough of these words, we hope to reach a tipping point. The tipping point where he has enough vocabulary to pick up more vocabulary in the same way that a large snowball quickly picks up more snow as it rolls down the hill. We hope to reach a force of momentum. Once the tipping point is reached, we hope that Chinese will become as effortless as English has always been for Little Boy. Volume matters.

When he can recognise enough Chinese characters to read without hindrance, he will read more fluently... be able to guess meanings of expressions he does not know... and he will get greater enjoyment from the experience. I hope!!

I so hope!!

I cannot give Little Boy a Chinese speaking environment at home, but with modern technology, I can ensure he is immersed in high quality Chinese day in and day out. This is Chinese Boot Camp Petunia style.

Little Boy seems to enjoy the process. He feels good when he can manage to recite the text, and he feels superior to his Mom, when he can translate and help me understand the text that he has just recited. And since he has inherited my sensitivity to good language, he is also responding well to the high quality prose he is reciting.

When he began, he could only manage 3 sentences at a time. Now, he is faster. He can do 6 sentences at a time. We hope to stretch the envelope of possibilities. Maybe, the day will come when he can recite one whole essay at a time.

I hope this works. I do hope it works.

The psychological explanations for Potato Chinese™ works can be found here (build cognitive infrastructure) and here (transiting from reciting to writing). You can buy a set of Potato Chinese™ materials here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Disgruntled by The Disgruntled Chef

I was at The Disgruntled Chef twice in the past few months. After the first time, I vowed never to go back. But when the girls decided to go there, I kept my mouth shut because I didn't want to spoil the party. At the end of the evening, we unanimously decided it wasn't worth the money we paid. I was in 2 minds whether to blog about it but decided that it wasn't worth revisiting a somewhat blah experience. Then, this blogger wrote about it, and she felt exactly like I and my seven girlfriends.

The eight of us spent $60/= on water alone!! We were so busy talking that when approached with either sparkling or still, we absent-mindedly gestured one or the other. Each bottle of water is $12/=. I think it is done on purpose to pad up the profit margin, because the first time I went there with a friend, we had to tell the server THREE times that we didn't want bottled water at all. If they had asked a 4th time, we would have felt embarassed enough to accept their offer of $12/= per bottle of water. There is some undue pressure here. Something that says "We're a classy place and people here drink bottled, not tap water."

But I didn't see any chandeliers. The setting is green and relaxing in Dempsey. You're there to talk and chill out. It isn't a diamonds and ballgown sort of place.... so $12/= for a bottle of water?! It's overpriced.

The portions were miserly. We each paid $48 and then went to PS Cafe for big seconds. The plates were heavy (stone slabs) and when you're supposed to share the "small eats" you end up passing blocks of granite up and down the long rectangular table. If it's for sharing, the Chinese way is great - a round table. Else, don't make the plates so heavy... or, don't construct a sharing menu.

The quality of the food was excellent though but it feels awful to order bone marrow only to have a large piece of bone arrive on a large stone slab with fully 1 teaspoon of marrow to eat. Unless dogs are allowed, I don't see the point of that large bone. I ate that the first time. My friend had half a teaspoon of marrow smeared on toast. Me, I had the same. Then we amused our mouths with the other pieces of toast.

This place has settled on a great way to make money. Present small portions of excellent food on large plates... charge the prices of normal portions of good food on normal plates... within an unpretentious ambience... get guests to share. Unwittingly, people will order more dishes because when you share, you keep on ordering when you realise your friends have not had enough.

People end up paying the prices of a meal at a vastly more pretentious place than here. Of course, there is the part about getting people to drink bottled water like in a top class French restaurant with chandeliers and gold leaf chocolate.

Smart strategy, but I don't like being inveigled. If I want to pay Jaan prices, I make a decision to go to a Jaan or equivalent. I don't wanna go somewhere laid back, amidst green and wood and lazy armchairs... and then realise that I am in a Jaan-price place.

No... not nice. The eight of us swore that we would not go back. And the food isn't unforgettably good either. I didn't develop an instant addiction like I sometimes do with food. See post here.

House Construction 9: Milk Foam Nozzle for Concrete

I like to watch baristas at work at Coffee Bean. They stand behind the counter and pull out all sorts of tubes and nozzles to concoct milk foam and other stuff that's good to drink.

Now, imagine a 3 storey high contraption on wheels with a steel arm that reaches over the fence and gate all the way from the road to the back of a longish piece of land. The steel arm holds a nozzle that dispenses concrete mix straight into the formworks (i.e., the wooden planks all nailed together to form a mould for the concrete mix).

I've never seen any machine this large. We went off on an early and short vacation in order to be around to supervise the house construction. We still feel like we're on holiday though... because so many interesting things have been happening to the house and every day holds new learning and fresh insights into the building process.

The concrete was mixed by specialists instead of on site. The clerk of works was present to examine the quality and strength of the concrete mix. It was interesting to see them do the slump test. Too much water in the concrete mix is not good (because when water dries, the concrete will crack from water evaporation). Too little water in the concrete mix is also not good (because then it's not easy to apply - I think). The concrete specialists provided a document that gave the tolerance envelope for the slump test. Ours envelope was between 75mm to 105mm. Our slump test came up to be 80mm. See picture below.

80mm shows that the concrete was on the dry side (the lesser the slump, the more viscous the mixture), but since it was still liquid enough to work on, the cement mixer poured the whole truckload into the huge 3-storey concrete nozzle machine. Out the nozzle end (guided by one tiny human) came the gray concrete into the humongous wooden mould. Tiny humans waded into the mix to level it properly into the mould.

And voila... the entire slab that will be our 1st storey floor is done. Now, we wait for it to harden like a plate of agar agar.

By the way, I also learnt that it isn't good for concrete to dry too fast. One is supposed to spray it with water during the "curing" (i.e., drying process) so that it takes 28 days to dry out. That way, it reaches its maximum strength. Hence, some slight rain is actually good when one is building one's house.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

House Construction 8: Why is My House So Small?

Just before the steel bars are placed onto the foundations in preparation for pouring the concrete (that will form the 1st storey floor slab), I could see the outlines of each room on the floor of my house. Here... is the kitchen. Over there... the living.

We wandered in there and were dismayed. Why was each room so small?! I was POSITIVE that Mr Grizzly had made a mistake. We have a land area of 3600sq ft. Why does my kichen look so small... how am I gonna put a table in this dining room... and my poor children, they now have to downgrade to cells!! I was ready to cry... and couldn't sleep a wink that night.

The Husband woke up the next day bright and early, brought his parents over to the new house... tried to convince them that they would be moving into a hovel that is their half of the house. Nothing doing!! The old folks have been looking forward to moving in with us for 2 decades. Nothing would make them change their minds. Move in they will even if it meant jettisoning all their belongings.

It was heart-rending to see the old folks assure us that they had been jettisoning stuff in the past 6 months, and that they were totally prepared to downgrade to smaller living quarters and that if we hadn't invited them to move in with us, they would have sold their 5-room to buy a smaller 3-room. Neither of us could bring ourselves to tell them that the invitation was withdrawn.

Desperate to understand why the house felt so small, I scooted over with plans and tape measure and measured every wall. Nope! There was no mistake. Mr Grizzly had done a good job... and he was too gentlemanly to gloat whilst I proved myself wrong. It turned out that our perceptions were grossly inaccurate. Not till I measured the contours of a single bed in The Daughter's bedroom outline did I realize that the bed looked even smaller.... and that The Daughter's room isn't small at all.

Nothing is smaller than what we are experiencing at our penthouse. Everything is larger.

Certainly though, our living and dining rooms are not as large as what one would normally experience in a semi-detached house (they're about penthouse sized) ... but that is something to be expected since we have decided to give 4-room HDB flat worth of space to the old folks for their own self-sufficient apartment with kitchenette. It makes them happy, and that is a small price to pay for family harmony.

This said, I veto-ed every attempt to open doorways and moveable walls from their space to mine. That is the small price the old folks have to pay for family harmony too, for I would surely turn into an evil daughter-in-law if my space were not protected.


House Construction 7: Water Proofing the 1st Storey Floor

My architect had chosen "basement style" waterproofing for my 1st storey floor. First, a thin layer of concrete is laid down. Then, a black sticky substance is painted on top in 2 layers. This sticky substance hardens into a plastic membrane that keeps out water. Woe to you if you make holes in the dried membrane when you step all over it during house inspection. Third, another thin layer of concrete is laid down.

In between skype, sms-es, emails and people travelling... a miscommunication happened between architect and builder. Mr Grizzly did not lay down the 2nd thin layer of concrete and the workers proceeded to step all over the membrane in order to tie in position steel bars a few inches above the membrane. See picture above. Step here step there. These steel bars are the reinforcements for the concrete that will form the floor of our house. Now, imagine that if there were holes in your membrane and dampness rises into your concrete floor. What happens?

The steel bars that hold up your floor will rust and corrode.

This is not desirable because it does not make for a lasting house. Ideally, there should be Concrete Layer A (thin layer), then membrane, then Concrete Layer B (thin layer)... and ONLY THEN the concrete floor slab with steel bars inside. The 2 thin layers of concrete will protect the membrane from tearing as workers step all over it to lay the steel bars.

Well... in the end, because the membrane had been compromised, it was decided to use Waterproof Concrete to cast the 1st storey floor slab. Now... even here, not all Waterproof Concrete are same. There are those that come in powder form and mixed on site. The builder will apply it himself. Such types do not come with warranty. Next, there are those that come in a huge cement truck with trained specialist applicators. These come with a 10 year warranty.
Mr Grizzly gave me the type with warranty.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bling Bling

Jewelry isn't my thing. The few pieces of diamonds from my wedding trousseau are hardly ever worn. Partly because however I manage it, diamonds don't really go well with pyjamas nor tatty t-shirts and shorts... which is de rigueur when you work from home.

But the jewelry that Sinfonia makes is so fun. They're not made with precious stones but they're attractive and have a sense of humour. The Daughter walked into my bedroom this morning and purloined Button Heaven for herself, and I almost wore Peach Mirage to go inspect the construction of the new house... but I wasn't sure what the workers would think of me, so I went in tatties and slippers instead. I put on Charlotte's Web to teach a class last month and I felt cheeky the whole time I was talking. I also like Pearl Medley and Glam Jane very much.

I'm not sure which is more fun. Wearing tongue-in-cheek jewelry made with a touch of class, or making tongue-in-cheek jewelry with a touch of class. I rather think making them is more fun, and selling them for money is even more fun. But since I'm all thumbs and can't do much else really well except write, I'm happy to have found Petunia's Purveyor of Pretty Pieces at Sinfonia.

I did find a lovely piece at the airport en route to Beijing too. Its called Madame Papillon. And here it is below.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sex Education

I asked Little Boy at lunch today (as he was wolfing down a delicious bowl of ramen) - "Do you know how people have sex?"

He looked at me with a bunch of noodles half hanging out and mumbled - "Mom, I am eating."

But I persisted. The Daughter went through Mommy's Sex Education module at 8 years old. I had almost forgotten about Little Boy... and since we're in the middle of the school holidays and Little Boy is 10 years old, it is as good a time as any.

So, I explained sex to Little Boy. I find that it's easier to explain the birds and the bees to children before they actually reach puberty. Nothing is happening inside their bodies yet. They are not yet puzzled and afraid of the things that happen every month, or that go whoosh in the night. It's all still theoretical. It's all thinking... not yet feeling. One can explain the mechanics of sex very properly with the help of a picture book from the library.

And since they aren't yet at the age to question authority nor practise over independent thinking, it is also easier to get them to accept and understand the social conventions that surround the sexual act - marriage, childcare responsibilities, family responsibilities, partner fidelity...

And in the same way that babies can accept that their Grandma lives inside the phone receiver (because Grandma's voice comes out from there), an 8 year old doesn't really question how the man's "ahem" gets into the woman's "baby bag". That's just the theoretical science of it. There aren't any ooohs or aaahs or ewwwwws.

I really do want to be the one to teach my children about sex. Because if someone else (or the internet) teaches them, I'm not sure they will explain the social responsibilities of the sexual act at all... or in a manner acceptable to me. The Daughter could well learn that one should try out a few partners before settling on the best. Little Boy could learn that it's ok to love 'em and leave 'em.

From sex, one naturally progresses to talking about dating and about marriage. The Daughter learnt early on that a woman has a shelf life. It doesn't make sense to waste time in relationships that will lead nowhere. Unless one sees a possible future with someone, just stop it there and then. Of course, the possible future may not materialise, but that's better than knowing that nothing will materialise and waste time. It takes time to build an understanding. For 2 trees to graft together into a single strong unit, it takes years. And when a break up happens, time is wasted and people get hurt.

I once sat down to lunch with a male friend who shared that he and his brothers all have steady girlfriends (for many years) but none wish to commit to marriage. In my head, I was quietly disapproving. Why should you be wasting the girls' time? If you aren't willing to commit, let them go so that they can find partners who will commit.

I went so far as to point out men our family knew whom I thought good husbands and boyfriends... and other men whom I thought poor husbands and boyfriends. All this was done because I feared... I so feared that she would choose poorly. Anyway, I have done my best. If she still makes a stupid choice, I know I tried my best to protect her.

What did Little Boy learn? He was told "Don't go around having sex with girls any old how yeah? You don't wanna get trapped into marrying someone who won't make a good spouse. Besides, later when we go home, Mommy will share with you close-ups of all the awful bugs that cause venereal disease. We will also learn the types of pain and death caused by each."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Robot Cleaners

The new house will be huge (by the standards of one who needs to keep it clean)... and I don't know if the helper can manage. Of course, if someone else keeps it clean, then it's a rather small house. One can always get two helpers but gee... it isn't a very cost effective solution, and offends my sense of frugality. And after two long-time helpers fell in love (each with a few men) and one helper's paramours came to blows whilst the other eloped with hers to Batam, I have a sense of foreboding every time a new helper joins the family. Will it happen again?

I find it hard to forbid another woman from starting a fruitful relationship (after all, every woman has a right to fall in love and marry a good man), and they take that as license to flirt and play the field... and then really nice girls turn into harridans. They are on the phone the whole day. They yell at the children and say spiteful things to them. And they sulk for the smallest things. I wonder what the girls' families think of me... that under my employ, their innocent girls have become corrupt.

Two helpers might not get along... and if they each have a string of boyfriends, it'll be double the trouble... and single trouble was already bad enough when I had to go to the police station twice because of my helper and her paramours.

So, I've been looking into robot vacuums. Of course, these come in many brands... some of which seem to be quite stupid and not to be trusted alone. They get stuck, turn themselves off and one has to rescue it every 5 minutes. Others seem to require a great deal of cleaning and technical maintenance because after the robot has cleaned, you gotta clean the robot. And cleaning the robot takes as much time as vacuuming the room yourself.

But there are one or two promising brands. I must say that the idea of having 4 robots work simultaneously in different parts of the house is an enticing one. I could do away with a helper altogether if the floors are taken care of... a dishwasher is installed... a dryer... and a steam mop. Oven cooking is not messy. Soups are no sweat with the thermal pot... and if one has no time to cook, a raw food diet has been touted as a very healthy lifestyle choice.

So we've decided to experiment with these robots. We first get one in place of the second helper. I think our helper will be thrilled. The steam mop will save her all the scrubbing... and protect her hands because steam cleaning disinfects without chemicals. The robot vacuum will clean all the upstairs on a daily basis. She'll only have half a house to clean... plus water the plants. And if she gets herself a string of boyfriends, I'll simply send her home and buy 3 more robots.

So far, I think the Neato and the iClebo are good. I'm wondering if the Japanese have good floor cleaning robots since Japan is well known for being at the cutting edge of robotics. And if any blog reader has any thoughts or suggestions, I would be so pleased.