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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Even More Croissants

I like fuss free lazy recipes. I also like croissants. So began my quest for the Busy Woman's croissant recipe. As it turns out, making croissants is really no hassle as long as I am marking work or writing articles. I just have to hop down and fold the dough once every hour and then put it into the fridge.... and continue with whatever else I have to do.

For a fuss-free croissant, skip the egg glazing. It doesn't help the croissant taste better. It just looks better, is all. I also skipped the 8 hour 1st proof. After 2 hours, I begin to fold the butter in. It gave me better results. Dunno why also. Don't ask me for recipe yet. The croissants aren't great, even though they're better already.

I'll muck around and experiment some more to get an idiot-proof lazy recipe. Then I'll post.

Ugly... no glazing you see...

Layers peel off real good... and this looks kinda rough because I used flaxseed meal for an added taste dimension.

The internal layers are paper thin... but the layers are all too closely stacked together so there is too little air between one layer and the next. I have a solution for that which I will experiment with next.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Power of a Difficult Victory(R)


This child goes to a school where it is known, that the highest mark for composition tends to be between 31 to 34. So when Mommy P commented that 30+ wasn't great (since the marking could have been very lenient), I requested that she ask the Teacher for the highest mark in class for English composition.

It turned out that her child had scored the highest mark in class for English composition.

This child worked hard. On a weekly basis, she put in between 2.5 to 4 hours into doing her composition to build the writing REFLEXES that I had taught her. Yes... you read correctly... we are building REFLEXES. When it comes to teaching skills, you can't run away from training reflexes. There is a very thin line between what is skill... and what is reflex.

It wasn't easy. At times, Mommy and I had to confer and discuss how we could encourage her to keep at it. It was not easy to please Dr Pet when it came to writing compositions. At one point, I shortened her skills grid by 3 skills so that she wouldn't feel so demoralized by her weekly marks. Now that she has hit the jackpot, the child is herself clamouring (so says the Mommy) - "Give them to me! Quick! Give all the skills to me! I am READY!"

When we give our children difficult goals to achieve... and encourage them to keep at it till they do... the final success releases as much motivational energy as a nuclear blast. Difficult Victories (R), detailed in Chapter 8 of Dr Pet's book, is a VERY VERY powerful strategy.

This child is revved up and ready to go. She knows she can do better and she wants to try. As long as the child is willing to try, then the child will improve from whatever the level he/she is at. All I ask is that they try their best.

The results will naturally come. Focus on effort and the results will come. We focused this child on EFFORT. We didn't tell her we wanted her to top the class. We set no expectations for grades. We worked at motivating her to pour in maximum effort.

And then one day, she wakes up, and finds herself at the top of the class.

The strangest thing though... is that this child also has a name that starts with C... like these 2 HERE. Maybe children with names starting with C are a good fit for Dr Pet's strange teaching methods?

Postscript: 
Mommy P just got in touch. Her child was top in class not just for composition, but overall too, for English. 

Fairprice Baby Wipes


I love baby wipes. They're the next best thing to fresh air and home grown vegetables. From Day 1 at the hospital, baby wipes have wiped my kids backsides after every poop. I've used them for little toddlers' grubby hands... for cleaning up after picnics. Baby wipes can be used in soooooo many different ways.

I always have a large pack of Fairprice baby wipes in my bag.

So, imagine my surprise when Little Boy refused to let a clean baby wipe near his nose. It appears that he associates baby wipes with his own backside, and nothing that touches his backside should go near his nose. His nose was leaking mucous and he chose to blow it into his t-shirt, eschewing the whole packet of baby wipes I waved in front of his face. Now I notice that Little Boy doesn't ever use baby wipes to sanitize his hands either.

I wonder how many children in Little Boy's generation have developed an unreasoning negative association with the smell of Fairprice baby wipes. He knows it is completely unreasonable but he cannot bring himself to use baby wipes because the smell just makes him think poopy thoughts.

If anyone from Fairprice is reading this, it is time to put money into researching a new fragrance... texture and colour for baby wipes because an entire generation remembers them in close association with their own backsides and their own poop. When mommies like me pass away, so also will pass the demand for the baby wipes we used and loved and esteemed so much.

I find it so intriguing to see Operant Conditioning operate so powerfully to condition market demand for a product.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Home Made Croissants

I itched to make better croissants. So I went at it again. This time, I was able to get a much better crumb.

 Croissant dough rolled out and then topped with garlic and shaved champagne ham.


Rolled up for final proof.



Baked and cut apart. The layers separate out very nicely.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Home-Made Croissants

Thanks to my intrepid friend S, I launched myself into making croissants. You really have to be very brave to make croissants. The dough is easy enough if you have a good kitchen machine. Working the butter into the dough to create layers of dough interspersed by layers of butter... now THAT is very difficult. It's like making puff pastry bread style. Anyway... I went and burnt half my Saturday and all of my Sunday, just for the experience.

The Husband was quite pleased indeed. He's not very discerning though. If it smells of butter then it must be good. The Children well... they aren't very discerning either. If it's warm bread, then it must be good.

Me... I don't think they were very good croissants because the crumb inside was not loose enough. A good croissant has thin layers of bread separated by air... sort of like the bread version of a mille-feuille. You achieve this my interspersing butter and dough such that the dough layers separate from each other when cooked.

See HERE for the crumb of a good croissant.

I had some layers but not enough. Can be better. For what it's worth, here is the recipe and here are my pictures. The recipe is good except that I didn't follow the dough folding instructions exactly, resulting in fewer layers of dough than ideal.







Little Red Riding Hood


I wanted the children to practise their oral skills for PSLE. Fortuitiously, I came across a book of rhyming plays. Each child was assigned 3 roles to prepare. I was really pushing it here because even in a short play of 6 pages, 3 roles meant about 3 pages of lines to memorize and interpret.

There were some moans and groans when I assigned this homework last week. Clearly, no one likes to memorize. I mollycoddled the groaners and listened to the woes of the moaners... and eventually all the children committed to memorizing - rather unwillingly. The sheer number of lines to memorize was quite daunting I assure you.

Now why was I not surprised, this week, when I found that the kids didn't do their homework properly? They didn't memorize their lines or if they did, the recall was poor. Indeed, for one child, the parents got stressed up too... and there was a wee bit of panic in their email to me requesting politely for more guidance and gently questioning the necessity to prepare THREE roles. I didn't make things more comfortable for this set of poor parents. I just told them to "chill" without giving more detail.

Chill...

Put it down to my habit of assigning Impossible Goals eh? Impossible goals are great for building confidence. Convince these little people to agree to do things that look difficult and then encourage them to achieve the goal.

When you conquer difficulty, confidence grows. Confidence is motivating. To have motivated children we must first build this foundation of confidence by giving them difficulty to conquer (and discreetly managing the environment to help them conquer it). Please note that I did not say to ACTIVELY HELP them conquer the difficulty (id est... do their work for them). I said to manage the environment in such a way as to help them conquer difficulty (id est... smile kindly, encourage warmly, then sit back  and watch them suffer).

Please also note that I didn't say to FORCE children to do difficult things. I said to CONVINCE them to AGREE to do them.

When the kids got here, I set up a situation undergirded by motivation research done umpteen years ago by Professor B.F. Skinner and his esteemed colleagues. The whole thing began to look like a fast-paced TV game show. There was plenty of yelling. Points were deducted left right and centre. Points were added left right and centre. Then the children LOST one round... and then they WON another round with a HUGE surfeit of points. And the 3rd round was the tie-breaker.

Tie-breaker? Oh my goodness! The STRESS!

The children went from reading like corpses would... to flapping arms and jumping into closets (because the stage instructions said that Little Red's Grandma had to hop from bed to closet). We had one boy whose voice has broken but he had to be Grandma (and it offended his machismo greatly to be female)... and so he kept jumping in every now and then with the syllable "Pa" whenever his friends called him "Gran".

Out of nowhere a child produced a truncheon (Oh good grief! Which parent was it who provided her/his child with a weapon thus!!?) and began to run after the Big Bad Wolf with it. It was quite funny because the boy acting the Big Bad Wolf was rather smallish... Suffice to say that by this time, one child was rolling on the floor laughing and another had laughed so much that he had to be given peppermint tea for his coughing fit.

On her part, Dr Pet had a blast!! It's called reliving my childhood.

It was all very messy and funny but the kids had to meet a set of skills standards I had drawn up (which was important for PSLE Oral). At the end of it all, the children were all very keen to go home and memorize their lines ... and bring back more props (more truncheons?)... and I did get them to meet my set of skills standards for PSLE Oral.

So everyone is happy? Yes.

They STILL have a lotta lines to memorize but for some odd reason, no one is complaining anymore.

By the way, whilst you're here, Dear Reader, check out our new website HERE.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cotton Harvest

It's been difficult to find flattering clothes in the past few years. I've responded by turning into a slob and not looking in the mirror very much. Things came to a head when holding The Husband's hand I stared at ourselves in a mirror at Centrepoint. The Husband looked as handsome as he always has looked but I.... oh horrors... I looked a fright!

As soon as I could find the time, I spent an afternoon making Herculean effort shopping. It was ok I guess. I managed to find decent clothes... nothing very stunning but wearable. Neat and honest.

Then I came across a little booth at Thomson Plaza called Cotton Harvest by Gabriel Chiradeth. For the first time in years, I found flattering tee-tops. What sets the designs apart are the fabrics. These flow flatteringly around my over womanly curves. They hide whatever they should hide and flatter whatever can be flattered (which really isn't much at my age).

There are some innovative cuts, tucks and stitches that bring the material around the body in the most pleasing way possible. Gabriel tried to explain. I didn't really understand but well... I didn't need to. All I needed to know was that the tee-tops made me look good. I bought 2 pieces and then went back for 4... and then another 3. I gave 2 to The Daughter and her first response was a high pitched squeal - "Eeeeeeeeee... this is sooooo nice!!"

The clothes flatter me and her. We have very different shapes. Hers needs little flattering. Mine requires a lot.


You can't really see how nice the clothes are in the picture. The discreet nips, tucks and stitches that contribute to flow... are far from obvious. The quality of the flowing material is also not apparent. Believe me... these shirts look good on a woman (with too many curves) and another (with enough curves). It's something to recommend to blog readers... and Cotton Harvest is not paying me for advertising.

Instead, I've spent a fortune on them. Next time, I am gonna ask for more discount.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Life With My Teen

Little Boy is in the throes of his adolescent separation-individuation phase. Things can get emotionally confusing for everyone (usually me), despite the fact that I do have some rational grip on the phenomena.

It's an eye-rolling and throw-my-hands-up phase.

Thankfully, the foundations of judgment that I took care to lay down in primary school hold steady. The big things like sex... failing in school... drugs... hard partying... are non-issues. Little Boy is the one rolling HIS eyes when I start kidding about such outrageous behaviors.

Nonetheless, on a daily basis, there are enough little things to drive me up one wall and down the next. Little boy is just SO disagreeable.

Little Boy is now taller than I am. He also smells rather bad. He still has the tendancy to gambol around exuberantly like a puppy. When it's a puppy and exuberant, it's cute. When it's BIG and exuberant, it's not cute. It's violent.

When a smallish Little Boy crawls into bed between The Husband and me, it's cute. When a man-sized Little Boy crawls into bed between The Husband and me, I get pushed to the side of the bed... almost to the edge.

It's bad enough when a 3 year old says "Mom... play with me!" It's surreal when a 13 year old says "Mom... play with me!" Good golly! Play what?! So I proposed that we all go for a walk. I reached out to hold his hand whilst walking and recoiled as my hand touched a huge man-sized hand that had all the stickiness of a toddler's hand. I said "Go wash your hands!" Little Boy replied "Why? They're clean!!"

Next, The Husband commented "Wear proper shoes when you walk." Little Boy pointed to his flip-flops and declared in the face of clear evidence - "These are proper shoes."

Next, we disagree about the state of his room. For 3 weeks we couldn't clean his bedroom floor because he had some project going on all over it. There were bits of paper and ice cream sticks and liquid glue. I commented that his room was messy. He said "No it's not Mom. It's really quite clean."

We also disagree about bread. All his life I've endeavoured to feed Little Boy wholemeal bread with some success since I am the one who does the baking and the shopping. Lately, I've been saying "Wholemeal chocolate buns and cinnamon rolls are delicious." Little Boy said "No they're not. Please make white bread ones Mom!"



We disagree about vegetables. There was a time when Little Boy would eat his veggies obediently. Lately, I keep hearing "Mom... can I don't eat the green stuff? I'll replace with an apple instead?" Wail... wail... wail... I can't make him eat his vegetables anymore!!

It's ok. I'll survive. The trick to surviving this is to not sweat the small stuff... and to stop treating Little Boy like a kid, even though he still sometimes behaves like one. Expect him to be an adult and treat him like one. This means I'll have to accept that he won't eat his vegetables, clean his room nor eat wholemeal bread.

I should be happy that I need no longer worry about his exams... when he ends class... how to sort out his CCAs and all that.




Sunday, May 19, 2013

Two Children Labelled "C"

I have 2 little C's. There is a Boy C. Let's call him Charles. There is a Girl C. Let's call her Crystal.

Crystal
Crystal came to us defiant and guarded. Her body language communicated repressed antagonism. It seemed to me that she expected to be scolded and she didn't care if she was. She made very clear to us that she hated the English language.

Crystal had sometimes failed English in previous years. When she wrote her first composition for me, I understood why. The sentences looked like English but weren't English. In fact, they weren't in any language that I understood. Sometimes, one can figure out the meaning of a text written by Singaporeans, by reverse translating into Chinese. It didn't make sense in Chinese. It didn't make sense in English.

I found this skittish and scrawny little girl very endearing. She was a natural leader amongst her peers and if the group were up to something naughty (like when she got them all to copy down the model answers when I was upstairs) you can be sure that this one masterminded it. When I came downstairs she peered up at me through her glasses and the look was there again... "Come on! Scold me! I'm ready." I could almost hear the song "Hit me baby! One more time!"

This girl had that much drive and determination.

She was also very starved for approval and affection. We fed her huge HUGE dollops of approval and affection. It was really so easy from there, to harness her drive for English. Once we had harnessed her energy and channeled it towards work, she became a real blessing. We could pretty much leave it to her to boss her less driven classmates into good behavior and focused work. After a bit, Crystal's body language changed to that of a busy puppy. She was always bouncing around and getting things done. Very bossy little girl, that one!!

Yesterday, Crystal was over the moon when she announced her English SA1 results to me. For the first time in her life, she saw other people fail in English, but not her. For the very first time too, she scored 14/20 for English composition. This is her highest composition mark ever.

There's still some way to go before she reaches the top but she has some time before she gets to PSLE and she is very determined to improve. Since I don't run classes during the school holidays, Crystal has decided to read. I was most pleased when she shared with me her very very ambitious reading list.


Charles
Charles came to us compliant on the surface. He always smiled and nodded his head. There never was any head- on confrontation. Charles was the master of passive resistance. This boy devised ingenious excuses for why work was not done or half done. Convincing excuses that only began to look fishy because excuses were offered week after week... all different and all convincing.

Charles tried to make me believe that he could do no better than the lousy work he handed up week after week, if at all.

I knew better.

There are ways to make naughty children forget play just long enough to do good work for a couple of hours. If you've done good work for me even ONCE, I know where your capability lies. New students are always scaffolded in a way that lets me see what their best effort can give. Charles gave me excellent work at December 2012's Dr Pet's Compo Workshop and when I compared the quality of his weekly English Enrichment homework with the piece he gave me in December, I knew he was just being lazy.

When I discussed with Charles' mommy, she said, "He is sooooooo lazy! Every single Teacher says he's lazy!" Alright, so we had to fix that first.

I won't pretend that Charles was an easy child to manage. He caused me some headaches (but his class facilitator adored him)... and he caused his Mother much heartache. His Mother said "I've given up. I don't want to care anymore."

Even for me (unlike with Crystal, who was easy to resolve) Charles was a tough nut to crack. It was really not easy to harness his very strong will and agile mind... and channel it towards excelling at English.

Don't Fight With Strong-Willed Children
The thing though is that both Charles and Crystal are strong-willed children. In Dr Pet's English Enrichment, the children play games. Sometimes it's a water balloon fight. Other times, it's to beat the other team to capture the flag. Yet other times, they play to see whose parachute stays up the longest... or which team can make a glue bubble tower taller than the other.

Charles' team wins... EVERY TIME. It amazes even me. When you've half explained the rules of the game Charles' eyes have lit up. He already knows what strategy to use to get his win. The second you complete your last sentence explaining the rules, Charles has begun to organise his team. He is the most popular boy in class. Where he leads, the others follow willingly. On the word "Go!" every single child on Charles' team knows what to do.

Most people don't realise that it is futile to fight with such children as Charles and Crystal. Such children will never tire of fighting you... the adult. If you're at cross purposes with such children, you grow white hairs faster and you also retard the children's development. Whatever energy they spend fighting you, they won't use to grow their minds and their character. Fight with such children... yell at them... punish them.... and all you'll accomplish is that YOU will look stupid and ineffective, and they will learn nothing from you.

With children like Charles and Crystal, you've somehow gotta get these kids to WANT what is good for them. Once they want it, you can just leave them alone to get it. They might even bug their adults to do their part properly so that we don't stand in the way of what they want to do.

A breakthrough came when Charles' mommy told me one day, "Last Thursday, my son called me at work and told me that I MUST NOT be late to fetch him from school. He said he needed time to do Dr Pet's homework properly."

Charles came in 2nd in class for his English composition at his mid-year exams. I think his whole family is in shock... including Charles himself. Even then, my assessment is that Charles is performing nowhere near his true potential. This one can do much better. His mother told him to aim for first in class for English. I smiled and patted his head. Then I whispered, "A boy that wins EVERY one of Dr Pet's crazy games can do better. I've seen you play. I know how clever you are. You go and get me the top mark in the LEVEL... not just in class."

Now we sit back... wait and see. He may get there or he may not. Intellectually, he can. The question is, does he want to?

Is It Important To Top The Level?
Whether Charles gets to the top in level in English composition, is not important, I think. Of course, it would make him feel good for a while... and it would give him much status among his peers if he did. It would also change how his Teachers view him... and when Teachers view you differently, they treat you differently. That can make school more comfortable for him in the short term.

However, in the bigger scheme of things I doubt it would make a difference to how successful this boy will one day become. Yes... I used "will". I didn't use "may". You see... I envision Charles as an intrepid entrepreneur, not good at following rules invented by others but ready to make up his own for others to follow. When you play by his rules, and on his team, you will win. Really, even if he doesn't top his level in English, I think he will be someone to watch out for.

Businessman of the Year 2033?

It might actually be a blessing if he stays an average student because that would mean he is more likely to keep that little bit of maverick in him that makes him special.

Gives Meaning to Life
My 2 little C's have made me happy.

There are times when I question my worth. I've put 2 decades of my life into my family (tending to the children and supporting my husband) and I have made serious career sacrifices as a result. Of course, I did always work part-time but like every other stay-at-home mom, I feel like an Invisible Woman. When I go out with my husband, no one knows my name. I am known by his. When I speak to my children's Teachers, I am so-and-so's Mom. They too don't know my name. People show up asking for free advice... free talks... free courses... and that makes me feel like my advice is not worth paying for. I am the woman who grows echinacea tea, freezes Mexican Pulled Pork and sometimes wakes up at 4 am to shape a brioche for breakfast. The Husband is kind. He comforts me by saying that if nothing else I have done matters, at least I have raised 2 good kids who love us deeply.

It's nice to know I also made a small difference to my 2 little Cs... and as time passes, there will be more little kids whose little hurt lives I will touch and make whole again.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Mother's Day 2013 Present


I think the children outdid themselves this year. Not in my life did I expect that they would put in so much effort. The 5 minute video is made of 1400 still photographs made of painstakingly drawn, coloured and cut out letters. The cartoons were hand drawn and cut out too. So much work was involved that The Children and The Husband locked themselves in a room all of Mother's Day this year... and I spent the day all by myself, reading.

Oh children (and husband)... thank you. I love you all too. Very much.


Blessings to All the Invisible Women Out There

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Relating Bread Dough and Government Policy

WHEN Singapore became self- governing in 1959, the prevailing ideas of the British left influenced us. Both Dr Goh Keng Swee and Mr S. Rajaratnam had spent time in London and believed that all citizens should be given an "equal opportunity". Fortunately, to defeat the communists, the government demonstrated that it could be better at providing water pipes, health clinics, schools and public housing to improve the lives of the people at the very bottom. This deep and profound concern for the people at the very bottom reflected both an internal political imperative to "win the ground" as well as [a strong belief] that the best societies were those that helped the poor.

Then came the Reagan-Thatcher revolution. Both Reagan and Thatcher believed that policy should not favour the poor. Policy should communicate to the poor that the onus was upon them to make something of their lives. Those with the strength of spirit to pull themselves out of their circumstances prospered. Those without the same spirit did not prosper. As the prosperous prospered, the disadvantaged would be helped to prosper because...

(1) the disadvantaged knew that they could not free load... and therefore they were compelled to work harder

(2) the prosperous created jobs and provided leadership to the disadvantaged

... the Reagan-Thatcher revolution had convinced economists all over the world that [such government policies] would lift all boats. In short, when the rich got richer, the poor would get richer too. There can be absolutely no doubt that the bold economic reforms of then-Chinese premier Zhu Rongji and his team lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty in China. The same was equally true in India.

We now live in a time where it is becoming increasingly clear that the Reagan-Thatcher revolution has gone too far.... both the US and China face strong challenges of rising inequality. This global trend towards rising inequality has also swept Singapore... In the 1990s, we believed that all Singaporeans would benefit from [Reagan-Thatcherism]. In the 2010s, we know that this has not happened. 

Contrary to what the proponents of such [lift all boats policies] suggested, growth in the last decade has made Singapore more unequal. Hence, the time has come for all Singaporean policymakers to ask themselves a simple question: how many of the assumptions in our minds are still influenced by the Reagan-Thatcher revolution? And if we find some, how do we scrub them out?

_____________________

The words in brown italics above were penned by Kishore Mahbubani here. I replaced some of his words and added a paragraph of my own in black non-italics above. Kishore Mahbubani is gently critiquing the wisdom of the Reagan-Thatcher mentality which Singaporean policy makers have adopted for 2 decades. I don't understand that many anti-establishment types have flamed the man for the piece he wrote.

In the above brown italics, I rather thought Kishore Mahbubani wrote on the side of many anti-establishment types. He certainly wasn't defending government policy makers. Instead, he was asking some hard questions to get them to think.

The Reagan-Thatcher mentality has been on my mind ever since I read about the champagne parties and fireworks celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher. She was hated by those disadvantaged that she had refused to help. For Margaret Thatcher, if you were an inefficient industry you didn't deserve to survive. So die! If you were not willing to wrestle life and help yourself out of your poverty, then you deserved to starve. So starve! Yet Margaret Thatcher was loved by those who saw Britain attain greatness again... where industries had to shape up or die... where the whole country worked harder and got better.

So when I read Kishore Mahbubani's words above, it was as if something in my head clicked into place ... and I suddenly thought of ... the humble...

Bread Dough

Reagan-Thatcher type policies lift the top of the bread dough (or society). If the gluten is strong and well-formed (i.e., the society is cohesive) then the Reagan-Thatcher type policies lift top people who will in turn pull the bottom people up as well (via job creation... leadership... community outreach).


However, as seconds and minutes tick past (or years and decades flow past), the bottom dough is heavy and drops downwards by force of gravity. Over time, the gap widens between top dough (top echelons of society) and bottom dough (bottom echelons of society)... and if we wait longer, the top and bottom will separate into 2 different blobs of dough (communities). Such communities talk different, walk different and think different... but they're supposed to be the same country. The best example of such stark separations would be the aristocrat VS commoner distinction that lead to massive and violent populist revolutions in Russia and France. Another example is found in the different strata of people found in India today.


To prevent the separation from happening, the Reagan-Thatcher type policies need to be paired with policies that support the bottom dough (bottom echelons of society). In this way, the dough (country) stays together. See in the picture above the hand supporting the bottom of the dough.


For Reagan-Thatcher type policies to work (i.e., the top will also lift the bottom), the social fabric of the country (the gluten of the bread dough) must be strong. In the picture above, the gluten is barely formed. If you use the spoon to lift the top of the dough, the top dough will separate itself from the rest of the bottom dough ... fly up and prosper ... but the rest of the dough will stay resolutely at the bottom of the bowl.

The massive influx of people in recent years has turned Singapore back into a meeting place of peoples... not a country that shares a common set of values and vision. As much as LKY and his team forged a nation out of peoples, the past decade has seen this nation become a gathering of peoples again. With such a weak social fabric, lifting the top won't lift the bottom.

Those lucky enough to get the best education (in GEP and IP and whatnot) will earn themselves a better life. They will not help the bottom peoples because they have no ties... nothing to bind them to the bottom.

It does seem then that the Reagan-Thatcher ideology is useful and appropriate only when there...
(1) is a strong social fabric
(2) are concurrent attempts to lift the bottom

It would be a mistake to think that the Reagan-Thatcher ideology should be completely scrubbed out. If we do so, we would toggle to another extreme where there is no pull at the top. For the whole country to move forwards as a single entity, we need some bit of the Reagan-Thatcher ideology AND the push to the bottom as well. We need BOTH the pull at the top and the push at the bottom.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Little Boy Feeds Himself Properly


It was such a big day when Little Boy could feed himself without dropping anything on the floor. He had spent months and months sitting out in the garden patio half playing and half feeding himself. One plate of food could occupy him for an hour or so and I had some peace and quiet to read. I just needed to make sure I rescued him before the ants came to carry him off.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Brie and Peach Salad With Mung Bean Sprouts



The mung bean sprouts were too young. I'm supposed to wait till the tails grow as long as the bean before eating (or they won't be as digestible). But I couldn't wait. I saw tails, went "Yippee!"... and I tipped them into the wok with garlic and salt... and threw them on the salad.

It tastes good still but next time I'll wait till the tails are longer.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Parma Papaya Salad


There is no such thing as sick leave when you're a Mommy. I caught a bacterial infection that I thought was a flu. A flu goes away on its own. One just has to suffer through it. This one didn't. It got better as my body fought it off but after one particularly exhausting day running from talk to class to dinner, the bacteria took over... and I had to retreat to bed with a dose of antibiotics. That was 4 days ago.

Meanwhile, the work piled up.

So today, it was payback time. I coached 2 parents in the morning... had a chat with a friend... rushed off to do the groceries and then cooked a batch of spaghetti sauce... a batch of pork belly in black soya sauce... went to fetch my son... sorted out the bank... went to the post office. There is still an email backlog I need to look at tonight.

There was only 5 minutes to put lunch together for myself and Little Boy.

I made myself a Parma Papaya Salad with calamansi squeeze. Little Boy had a mug of Milo and a pulled pork sandwich that was assembled on my way out to fetch him home. Salads are great. They can be put together in very little time and they're nutritious to boot.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Home Made "Chi-Chi" Pizza

It's The Daughter's last day of exams so I contrived to make a bacon and cheese pizza to celebrate with her. Thank goodness for the freezer and a stash of pre-made pizza dough that I had stored away for just moments like this when I have only 20 minutes to make a meal. It takes 5 minutes to roll the dough (already thawed since dawn)... and top it. Cooking time is 10 minutes.

When all was done I stared at my pictures for a while wondering why my slice of farmhouse pizza (on an uneven base and a mis-shapen rectangle) had managed to look so gourmet-ish... like it was some high class pizza. Then it hit me. It was those radish micro greens and mung bean new sprouts that I had put on top. 



The micro-greens topping reminded me of this picture below of a dish topped with micro greens from The White Rabbit. In Singapore, only the most chi-chi restaurants do micro-greens because these greens are extraordinarily perishable after harvest. They're hard to store and become limp in a short time. The window for harvesting is also quite small. Harvest too early and the greens are puny.... harvest too late and the greens are tough. These are very delicate ingredients and since they need to be shipped from overseas, there is a fair amount of wastage because part of the shipment may have to be discarded.

Picture taken from HERE
See how sparingly the greens are used? 
The freight costs, storage costs and 
inevitable wastage add up to make 
these tiny greens very expensive. 
Yet, depending on the type of greens, 
they can add inveigling subtle flavors... 
like truffle might do ... or lavender honey... 

My pizza was huge... see the number of bacon slices needed to top it? 

My tray of radish micro greens was good-sized too. 
This single tray was enough to top 2 huge pizzas 
(with a higher density per square inch than the 
White Rabbit dish pictured up above). 


I like radish micro greens because they have some kick... like rocket salad. I have very little wastage because I only harvest my greens when I need them... or I make sure I cook whatever is due for harvesting. They're good as pizza toppings.... sandwich innards... stir fries.

So unknowingly... Petunia has cottoned on to a chi-chi lifestyle edible for a fraction of the cost (and what I really mean is a fraction's fraction's fraction) in Singapore's chi-chi restaurants which would charge an extra $10/ dish just for a few strands of aromatic micro-greens that make a boring pizza a bit more interesting to look at, and to eat.

Just wait till I grow enough trays to fill a whole salad bowl of micro-greens and nothing but micro-greens, then it would be just like eating free gold. I'm quite bemused really... it's hard to believe that all it takes is a set of drip trays... seeds... water... sunlight and air. ok... ok... ok... I do have a helper to change the water and rinse the greens daily but I hardly have to even look at them until I feel hungry. It's even less hassle than proper gardening because there is no pest control and no fertilising required.

It seems perverse somehow that something that tastes so good and is priced so high out there in the market, is so EFFORTLESS.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Makti Sprouts Salad


I realise that I've been growing micro greens HERE, not sprouts. Sprouts are what you see above. They have a little tail but no leaves at all. Sprouts need to be lightly fried or steamed because they are grown in the dark in a warm place. These are the same conditions that predispose the growth of salmonella and e coli.

I lightly stir fried the sprouted makti beans in olive oil and garlic ... seasoned with salt before I topped it onto the salad. 

Some people believe that the sprouting process unlocks nutrients in the beans by stimulating enzyme activity that destroys the beans' natural growth inhibitors. Without growth inhibitors, seeds would sprout indiscriminately even in conditions not conducive to plant growth. Nutrients such as Vitamin C and minerals are made more available to our digestive systems once ssprouting has started.

Whatever it may be, I like the taste of makti beans that are barely sprouted. They're actually sweet!! And they've a very satisfying crunch. Now that I've discovered sprouting, the world of beans is open to my family. I rarely cook beans because I find them quite indigestible and a major cause of flatulence. I also didn't like their starchiness when cooked into a mush.

Sprouted beans have a satisfying crunch. They don't taste starchy at all... and they don't sit heavy in my gut.

Talk to Parents: Singapore Centre of Chinese Language

Potato Chinese (R) got some air time at an event organised by the Singapore Centre of Chinese Language. It felt quite awkward at first to be amongst speakers and organisers who were fully fluent in speaking, reading and writing Chinese. I suppose I was there as something of an oddity... a parent illiterate in Chinese who still managed to help her son pass Higher Chinese Language at the PSLE (sans tuition nor enrichment). I spoke on...

How To Motivate a Child to Do Potato Chinese(R).

Quite by chance this morning, Little Boy spoke to me wistfully about his classmates who have been exempted from Chinese. I could tell that he would have appreciated an exemption if only it meant that he could have more play time to himself.

I didn't attempt to get an exemption for him because I grew up as Chinese who can't speak and write Chinese. I don't like that feeling. Most people around me, even if they are poor in Chinese, can read some words. I can read nothing at all. It's not a good feeling. You feel ignorant and stupid in a country where even Indians and Malays can read Chinese (plus their own mother tongue).

I felt the lack like a hidden handicap.

Then Little Boy went on to comment on the irony that little P is fully Indian and is good at Chinese... and little M is Malay and quite good in Chinese. Meanwhile little M and little D and little L (all Chinese) are exempted from Chinese because the first had lived abroad for too long, the second is dyslexic and the 3rd ... well... Little Boy couldn't remember the reason for exemption.

Perhaps Little Boy will never thank me for stubbornly persisting in thinking that Chinese is a non-negotiable part of his education, for he will never keenly feel a handicap he does not have. Most people are not grateful for what they have because they've always had it. Even if you know a little Chinese you are better than Petunia who knows nothing at all. Even if you're not good at Chinese, you at least know some.

It's better than feeling ignorant everywhere you go or feeling inferior when you're with intelligent people who speak Chinese as a first language, whom you would like to be friends with but cannot ... because you cannot articulate the intelligent thoughts you have in a language that speaks to their hearts.

Maybe Little Boy will never know. But I, his mother... I do know.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Natural Eating

I read this article this morning about how margarine is responsible for a drastic increase in heart attacks... how energy bars are unhealthy... and how fat free foods are just plain bad. Despite what profit-oriented food companies think and advertise, I guess man-made foods are not natural. 

God gave us food  (and medicine) aplenty in nature and for the past century that we have tried to believe that God's provisions are inferior to our own patented creations... we still wake up one day knowing that either we have lied to ourselves or others have lied to us. Man-processed food (and medicine) is bad for health. Margarine kills us faster than butter. Progestin (patented pharmaceutically designed progesterone) causes horrible side effects that natural progesterone does not cause.

I'm thankful that in all these years, I have simply followed my palate when it comes to food. Butter tasted better than margarine. Energy bars tasted like stuck together bird seed. Fat free yoghurt was not creamy enough. Fat free anything tastes yucky.

Actually I don't really know what is healthy food anymore because even brown rice has phytic acid, which prevents our bodies from absorbing other required nutrients. Besides, who is to say that 2 decades from now, another study would not tell us "Margarine is better than butter." 

I've decided to forget about what health gurus say and just have 3 rules...

(1) Follow my palate.
(2) Stay with unprocessed foods.
(3) Eat as much home grown produce as is possible.

Homegrown chickens give eggs that you KNOW contain no antibiotic traces (so I wish I had chickens to lay eggs). Homegrown vegetables have no pesticides for sure. Home made bread has no preservatives. 

Of course, it'll be impossible to replace everything with homegrown produce, so I'll just have to close one eye and pretend I don't know that Canola Oil is extracted using hexane... or that the extra virgin olive oil I buy may be adulterated with cheaper oils... or that the strawberries and tomatoes I eat may be full of pesticides... or that the eggs I eat are laid by hens pumped full of antibiotics.

One can't think that far.

Meanwhile, it makes me feel good that I can dish up a plate of organic veggies 3 times a week from 10 sprouting trays. It's fun to watch them grow. The leaves can grow 1 cm a day. The roots do the same. Quite fascinating. If you move them into the shade, the shoots turn towards the sun outside the window within 1 hour. It doesn't matter if you tumble the seeds right way up and upside down when giving them their daily rinse, they'll reach downwards towards the water tray below within 1 hour as well. Clearly, plants can tell up from down.

See the masses of roots? It's fascinating that plants don't make the mistake of growing leaves downwards eh?

All the green tips turn towards the light. You'll never see a root reaching up.

Funny that one small seed can grow into umpteen times it's own weight and volume by doing nothing else than bind sunlight, water and air together.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Story of Pea Shoots

Sprouting Seeds

Sprightly Shoots

Snippy Snip

Softly Stacked

Sizzling Stirfry

Shoots in Stirfry

Simply Succulent

Post Script:
Apologies, I forgot to put in the link for the Easigarden sprouting trays. Click HERE to buy sprouting trays if you're interested to grow these for your table.


Use PLAY to Train Work Focus


May 2013 Issue, Singapore's Child

It may be contradictory to the norm, but giving them time to play can actually be helpful in enabling children to focus while they study.

Professor Stevan Hobfoll’s Conservation of Resources Theory states that human beings aim to conserve and accumulate resources. Thus stress is experienced by us when: There is a threat to our resources; We experience failure to obtain resources after hoping to gain them and; We lose resources. For children, this precious resource that they are driven to protect is play time. In a similar way, for most adults their key resource is money.

Thus in the following scenarios, stress is experienced: When there are threats to our stores of money; when we are unable to obtain money after having put in much effort and; when there is an actual loss of money. This is the same feeling children feel when their play time is lost or threatened despite their best efforts.

No Play, No Focus 
The same Conservation of Resources Theory also posits that people who lack resources will be insecure. Therefore, they will tend to adopt a defensive posture vis-à-vis their resources. In other words, if you have very little money, you would feel insecure. As a result, you would tend to be stingy with it and possibly grasping even at the opportunity to pick up 50 cents out of a smelly drain.

Unfortunately, many Singaporean children lack play time. As a result, they adopt a defensive posture vis-à-vis play time. They grasp play time whenever they can, and at every opportunity. Thus often when you leave the room, the child will pick up a pencil and pretend it is a rocket. When your back is turned, the child will start stacking stationery into a tower and imagine an astronaut on top of it. If all else fails, the child turns to daydreaming. He lives in his head precious moments of play time he does not have and seems to have no hope of gaining.

........

The rest of this article is in the May Issue of Singapore's Child.