Monday, 28 November 2011

Dreams of Self-Subsistency

I have a dream. (One of many!)

To be able to grow my own veggies.

And the following is my attempt at what will hopefully be a functioning, producing kitchen garden. I'll be honest here, I had help making the beds. The first plants (14 young eggplants) are donated. I have sown some seeds according to this plan:

What I have sown so far. Some shoots are already visible!

The plot so far..

No carrot shoots are visible yet. But so far there are already a few kangkongs, tomatoes, possible some lettuce and LOADS of kailan.

Tomato shoots! Wahoooey!

The person who donated these plants also gave me some of his freshly plucked eggplants. Yum.

Little kailan shoots. Even more showed up this morning :-)

Curry leaves plants, also kindly donated. :-)

There are other plants nearer to my kitchen, I'll snap some pics and continue in another post. Insha Allah.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Reading List

Crazy stuff I really want to read and remember and keep organised. Links are just lumped together in no particular order. A lot of it is posted by the knowledgeable folks from Highbrow Paleo.

Possible causes of Anemia

Tea Tree Oil Toxicity (a reminder to myself while doing OCM and treating my cats' superficial wounds at home)

Treating Sinusitis: Quick Fixes & Long-Term Solutions (why oh why do I still get this??)

Problems with Overprescribing Antibiotics
(another excellent article from Mark's Daily Apple)

When Biology Refuses to Listen to Logic (sometimes what seems obvious may not be real)

Why Young Children Protest Bedtime (aka an evolutionary argument for attachment parenting?)

NaNoWriMo: Pep Talk by Brandon Sanderson
(do the Nike)

Swapping POVs
(a guide)

Orthodontic Problems caused by a Too-Soft Diet? (gnaw gnaw gnaw on your bones?)

Growing Seedlings in Eggshells (this is so simple and yet so awesome! solves my labeling problems too! :-))

Friday, 21 October 2011

Roasted Chicken

Cover image taken from

This recipe is adapted from one in Wolfgang Puck's "Makes It Easy" cookbook. As usual, some 'halalifying' was necessary: I substituted the alcohol with a squirt of lime juice and some pomegranate juice in my fridge.

Mama Pongkey's Whole Roasted Garlic Chicken in Herb Sauce

Ingredients for roast:

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped flat leafed parsley/celery shoots
2 tablespoons extra light olive oil (I ran out of extra virgin)
1 whole frying chicken, about 4 pounds

Ingredients for sauce:

1/2 cup pomegranate juice diluted with 1/4 cup water and squirt of lemon juice (I basically had 1/4 cup water, then added about 3 tbs pomegranate juice, squirted in some lemon and topped up to 1/2 cup with water. This is to avoid too much sugars from the fruit juice.)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons salted butter (I ran out of unsalted)
1 tablespoon dried'tarragon' (at least it looked like tarragon. The Iranian guy at the shop didn't know what it was called in English. I bought it anyway. Ha.)
Lime wedges for garnish


I preheated the oven to 230 degrees Celcius. I then tossed together the parsley/celery and garlic slices, then eased this mixture in between the skin and meat of the chicken. Then I gave the old bird a good massage with olive oil and a salt & pepper body rub.

I placed the chicken in a pan in the oven lying on its breast, and set the timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes are up, I turned the temperature down to 170 degrees Celcius (I forgot this part, and only turned down the temperature only after 10 minutes!!! Eeek one side will be more tanned than the other. LOL), flipped the bird to its side and turned the timer on for 15 minutes. And repeat for the other side for another 15 minutes. For the last I flipped the bird on its back, and cooked till golden brown, which takes about 30-40 minutes. You'll know the bird is cooked when the juices run clear when the chicken thigh is pierced with a knife, or a thermometer inserted into the thigh reads about 74 degrees Celcius.

Then I transferred the chicken onto a serving platter, taking care to conserve the chicken juices in the pan in another bowl. I heated the pan over high heat, added the pomegranate/lemon juice, and stir and scrape to remove the glazed deposits at the bottom of the pan. Then I add the lime juice and boil to reduce the liquid by half.I added the butter while it is still chilled, cube by cube. Finally I stir in the dried herbs. At this point you are supposed to blend the sauce but honestly I couldn't be bothered. Besides, I like chunky bits in my sauce.

And here is the final result:

It tasted.. good. Mild flavours from the garlic and celery. The tarragon tasted quite smokey in the sauce. Parts of the skin turned out a bit crispy. I think if I roasted the whole chicken at 230 degrees Celcius I could probably achieve crispy roasted chicken. Maybe. Anyway we polished the whole thing off. Would I make this again? I would, but make it even spicier :-) Alhamdulillah.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

My So-Called "Beauty/Skincare Regime"

Taken from

This is really dedicated to my youngest sister.

Every time we meet, she will comment on my "clear skin". I usually go like 'huh?' In February this year when she asked me about my skin, I replied I haven't washed it for 3 weeks. Yes, I am that bad. But when your dad is in the hospital with a broken back, things like skincare tend to fall by the wayside. Basically I didn't have a clue on skincare. Yes, by that time I had figured out that my skin hates all those weird-sounding chemicals in drugstore skincare brands, so I had graduated to using a relatively cheap organic skincare range. I had noticeably less breakouts then.

A couple of months ago after going Primal she asked again. I replied it was all the saturated fat I was enjoying. I relished the fat from (Aussie/New Zealand) lamb steaks and (organic) chicken skin. I was cooking in butter everyday. I ate organic eggs. I love ghee. I took virgin coconut oil regularly. I also took Chlorella supplement to help detox from all the toxins being released by my fat stores (or so the theory goes). And probiotic capsules regularly, or homemade yoghurt/kimchee.

This week she called me up and asked again, commenting how nice my skin looked when I saw her last week. I said it can't really be my skincare regime as I don't remember when I last washed my face. I 'fessed up and said Primal/Paleo. I told her to eat lots of bone broths, veggies, no wheat, and lots of good fat. I said to ditch the seed oils. And yeah lately when I do pay attention to my skin, I lightly slather virgin coconut oil on my face, paying extra care to some reddish/inflamed areas. I directed her to Mark's Daily Apple and told her to read up. She asked whether I have a copy of the Primal Blueprint. I do, but since we live far apart it might take some time for her to borrow mine.

I am not sure if she will decide to use the recipes, or change her way of eating. But she is investigating, and taking charge of her and her family's health, which is the way it should be.

Diet (4HB?) Update

Emm.. this was baked salmon, with fishcake soup (yeah slightly naughty I know!) and slaw. Iftar in Ramadan.

Along the way, we found our diet morphing into a low-carb version of Primal/Paleo. How did we do this? Basically we started eliminating suspected causes of hubby's joint pains, namely the dozens of conventionally-sourced eggs, and Carotino oil (blend of the healthy red palm oil and bad Omega 6 rich canola oil). Processed foods are to an absolute minimum, that we only eat them when socially we have no choice. We don't really go for cheat meals anymore.

On hubby's side, his stats have improved tremendously. Blood pressure has normalised, from 150/120 to 110/70. HbA1c was 9.7 in Aug, went down to 6.9 by Sept. In June his random blood sugar was between 8.0-14.5mmol/L (145-260mg/dL), nowadays it is 5.8mmol/L (105mg/dL). He started at 132kgs (291 lbs) in June, now he's at 112 kgs (246lbs). Weight loss has slowed down somewhat due to lack of rest (working overtime) & my not being able to cook for about 3 weeks (loooong story). He has been on glucophage and blood pressure meds for a few years already without much improvement before Slow-Carb/Primal/Paleo. His energy levels have went up, and he is down several sizes. I can't remember how many inches lost at the waist, but it should be around 10-12 inches. :-)

I have attained my goal weight, in fact I am now at 53 kgs (116 lbs), my original goal was 55 kgs. Total weight loss, 7 kgs (15 lbs). I have added back small portions of rice once a day, and the occasional fruit. Some days I go on a mini binge of rice, but as long as I don't do that more than 2-3 days in a row I think I am fine. My skin has worsened a bit when I added carbs back, so perhaps I need to titrate down to a lower amount. I have started to exercise a bit more, keeping cardio to once a week, and lifting weights and other forms of body weight exercises plus generally moving more. I feel good eating this way, although from time to time I get cravings. But lately I am not too worried about them, because I know once in a while I can be naughty. Usually this happens when I am with friends who aren't into this way of eating. Hmm, I think in real life I DON'T have any friends who are Primal/Paleo.

So far so good.. insha Allah... :-)

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Update on Week 5 of 4HB (Slow Carb Diet)

Picture from Anizyn's Blog

Things have slowed down somewhat on the weight loss front. I lost about another kilogram, making total weight loss 4kg. My target is to lose 5kgs, to reach 55kg. So close, yet so far...

But on the other had I am quite pleased with my current weight, which puts my BMI to at about 23.4. If my weight loss stalls, I am happy to stay at 56kg. According to the reading I've done, at one point your body will have reached its ideal weight, and further weight loss will be difficult, and potentially unhealthy. At this point, it would be all right to add back small amounts of carbs during the week. I am going to give it another week before I start adding back carbs. I have lost several inches that I am happy about. I have also started some kettlebell exercises, using a 10kg kettlebell.

I did a lot of fasting last week, replacing the Ramadan days I missed last year, so definitely the fasts helped with the weight loss. Only thing is that I got dehydrated. I have always been bad about drinking water, and hopefully will be able to rectify that. I am making it a rule for me to drink a cup of water each time I set foot in the kitchen. I haven't kept track of how many cups I drink per day, but my chapped lips are definitely thanking me for it. I have also started taking B complex and mineral supplements as well.

My hubby, we have discovered, might be sensitive to arachidonic acid, which is found in eggs and meat. He has some joint pains, which he used to have before, but more frequently lately. So we are cutting down on both eggs and red meat, and he has stopped taking beef bone broth. I am preparing a new batch of chicken bone broth as we speak, using the recipe from Dr. Eades' blog here as a base. I have modified it to include some ginger and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to draw out the nutrients from the bone. Another suspect might be the fact that we switched over to conventional eggs instead of the organic eggs we usually have. It could be either the: increase in egg consumption; or the chemical-laden eggs that is causing the problem. Next week I am switching back to organic eggs and see how it goes.

On the other hand his blood sugar levels have continued to improve, with his random blood sugar now showing him to be pre-diabetic instead of diabetic. He has also started taking aged garlic tablets and green tea flavanol tablets. I tried taking these with ALA, but they proved to be too much for me. I became lightheaded and actually felt the energy being burned really rapidly. So no supplements for me, except for the usual vitamins and minerals.

Ah, yes, the bloodwork results! My hubby's is as usual, not that great, except his blood sugar has improved somewhat. his uric acid is also not too high. Mine is good, just that LDL is a smidgen high. Trigs are low, HDL is high, blood sugar normal, all other parameters normal. Bear in mind this test was taken 1 week into the diet, so I guess not much change can be expected yet. Also the day before we gave blood was Binge Day, LOL. I foresee in the future we might give up Binge Day altogether. Even last week on Binge Day we mostly stayed within the allowed foods, except for 2 small shot glass-sized custard desserts shared between us. We are, insha Allah, going to have another round of tests done 6 months from now.

Today is Binge Day, alhamdulillah, the one day in the week when we are allowed to eat whatever we want. So since we have chicken broth, I am making Mama Pongkey's Chicken Rice. The chicken is browning nicely in the oven, and the rice is simmering in my little claypot on the stove. I also bought 3 small mangosteens to have as dessert. Breakfast today was quite simple, organic hot chocolate with cream and cinnamon. What, no sugar? I guess I am used to it by now. Plus I don't want to spoil the drink with sugar because I'd crave it when I have the same choc drink without sugar during the rest of the week.

Okay my rice is almost done, and after a nice shot of grapefruit juice (ugh! too sour for me!) I am ready to begin my Binge Day proper. :-)

Friday, 24 June 2011

Update on 4HB Diet and Miscellany

So this is now Week 3. I have lost 2.8kgs to date, walhamdulillah.

Positive points:
• I seem to be cooking more and relying less on takeaways.. this made me realise that although I thought I was cooking at home a lot, in reality breakfast is often a takeaway, and lunch is often skipped, or also a takeaway. Making sure we get enough protein and good fats and staying away from grains requires a lot more home cooking.

• My skin seems to be clearer and looks healthier. At the moment I only cleanse and scrub my face once a week, or whenever it feels grimy, for a few months now. To be truthful, my skin started improving since I started to cleanse my face less religiously, a few months before beginning 4HB. Lately it feels less dry. I think it is all the good fats I am eating.

• My husband's weight loss has also been good, better than mine, in fact. Not a drastic drop, but steady, small decreases.

• Most of the time, I am able to stick to this diet, even though during the week I cheat by having a few spoonfuls of rice. I have switched over to Ponni rice, which needs 3 times the amount of water to cook. Before, we were consuming 1 cup dry (2 cups cooked rice) per meal. Now it is 1/2 cup dry (1 and 1/2 cups cooked rice) per meal. 1/2 cup dry Ponni rice has about 60 calories, according to the label. So we are getting 30 calories each, Compared to about 200 calories for a cup of cooked white rice.

• I do not have an exercise regime as such. Once a week, I go swimming for less than an hour. Occasionally I do stretches or yoga. So the weight loss is mainly from the diet.

• For the 1st 2 and a half weeks I did not use any of the recommended supplements. Yesterday I started popping 1 ALA (alpha lipoeic acid, from GNC) pill before breakfast. We'll see how this goes.

• My husband's blood sugar levels seem to be okay. We measure his blood sugar glucose, blood pressure, weight and pulse everyday.

• We are getting our bloodwork done, so I hope the results are good. We should've done one before we started on the diet, but we didn't have the time to do it then. The results should be out next week.

• I enjoy my Binge day, which is a Sunday so we go out to the movies and eat out. I am surprised that I don't eat as much as I used to. And somehow on Binge day, the thought of being allowed to eat anything makes unhealthy food lose its appeal for me somewhat.

• I only need to lose 5 kgs, so I guess I am halfway there now.


• I still crave unhealthy food. Perhaps this means I need to tweak my food intake a little more.

• In a culture that revolves around food, limiting carbs is very hard. Good thing when I spend time with my parents, they seem to understand. My mother (who is pre-diabetic) is now making a conscious effort to eat more veggies and less rice and sugar. Alhamdulillah.

• I still cheat during the week with some rice. Sigh. But I cook the rice in chicken fat or ghee or red palm oil so I hope the damage is limited.

• I am always cooking so my kitchen was a disaster the 1st few weeks. Things have calmed down a little now walhamdulillah.

• Need to get more veggies in.

• The last few kilos are the hardest to lose, or so I hear. I have a feeling unless I up the ante (exercise... ugh!) my weight loss will plateau.

• Hubby has some joint pain, which he had since before the diet, but it seems to be flaring up a bit. Either from the extra stress at work or perhaps too much protein = gout. I guess the bloodwork will show us which.

• We broke our scale so have to get a new one. Unfortunately the ones in the stores here, we don't like. So no weighings for a few days then.

Anyway we promised ourselves to try it for a month and reevaluate. The blood tests will come in handy then.

Things I am listing and linking so I can read for later (for some reason, I hate using bookmarks):

How the Ideology of Low Fat Conquered America

- interesting read on the origins of the low fat diet.

Where are the No Smoking Signs in Medina? Since they are No Longer in our Hearts, at least Put them on Walls

Despite Exercising More, Weight Continues to Rise
- illustrating correlation does not equal causation. The take home message seems to be exercise alone has less impact on weight loss as other major factors play a bigger role.

Effects of n-3 PUFA on insulin resistance after oral fat load
- "
The current study showed that treatment with n-3 PUFA not only improved lipid profile in a baseline situation, but it also improved all insulin resistance parameters in a post-prandial situation simulated with an OFL."

The case for not restricting saturated fat in a low carbohydrate diet
- "
we believe that the recommendation to restrict saturated fat in favor of unsaturated fat on a low-carbohydrate diet is unnecessary and may even diminish some of the beneficial physiological effects associated with carbohydrate restriction."

Comparison between low-carb diet and standard diet in severely obese people
- "In this 6-month study involving severely obese subjects, we found an overall favorable effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on lipoprotein subfractions, and on inflammation in high-risk subjects. Both diets had similar effects on LDL and HDL subfractions."

The case for low carbohydrate diets in diabetes management
- " These data show low carbohydrate diets to be comparable or better than traditional low fat high carbohydrate diets for weight reduction, improvement in the dyslipidemia of diabetes and metabolic syndrome as well as control of blood pressure, postprandial glycemia and insulin secretion. Furthermore, the ability of low carbohydrate diets to reduce triglycerides and to increase HDL is of particular importance. Resistance to such strategies has been due, in part, to equating it with the popular Atkins diet."

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Help, I am a Sugar Addict! ~ rant

During my student days, my then flatmate went on the Atkins Diet. I honestly thought she was nuts (and also, a little vain!). What, no carbs??? You're eliminating a food group here! And high fat? What's that about? She showed me the cookbook, and said she is aware of ketosis, and because of the the induction phase was only 2 weeks. Okay, I said, but don't expect me to do the diet too (we cook together and share our food). So we ate Atkins-legal main courses, except I added my daily white rice must-haves. I was quite surprised that she actually lost weight, and tolerated the diet well, no hunger pangs and such.

Ah, those were the days when I couldn't gain weight even though I tried hard. I remained consistently underweight for my height. For years I maintained a UK size 8.

Now I have ballooned into a size 14. Argh! At first I was pleased, as I had always wanted some curves, plus it is a good excuse to go shopping. But then I discovered a lot of the stuff I liked was made for skinny Asian pre-teens. And people started commenting on my weight. :-P!

But still I didn't care so much, after all a size is just a number, right? Until a lot of chronic diseases hit home, to family members. Suddenly I started to realise being too fat may be bad for your health. So we did all the usual low fat, low sugar stuff, cutting down on processed food, etc.etc.

And now it seems that it's the carbs/sugar that is making us fat. Seriously????? Now you tell me???

I am the sort of person that NEEDS her daily servings of rice. Otherwise I feel hungry. And now I might just need to watch out coz diabetes runs in the family??? I guess being young(er) just made me feel invincible, like, it could not EVER happen to me, right?

This is Day 2 of restricted carbs. And I have these slight pangs of hunger, but when before I would just down some rice/noodles, now I should snack on eggs. Or nuts. Argh. Yesterday was the worst; I actually fasted yesterday, but managed to pretty much sahur and iftar on the diet. Alhamdulillah. So far it has been a frenzied cooking learning curve for me: adjusting meals so we get enough nutrients yet remain low carbs.

I recommend Gary Taubes' 'Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It' for further details.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Cooking Frenzy: Lontong (no pics, sorry!)

I found some succulent 'Solo' seawater prawns at my local market, and remembered I had some grated coconut in my freezer, and so, what better than to use the prawns and fresh coconut milk to make Sayur Lodeh, to be eaten as Lontong. I bought a few more ingredients to go with it, and made the following recipe, which is adapted from this Sayur Lodeh recipe. Mine has much less ingredients and is much simpler, because I think the freshness of the ingredients makes the dish a real winner. Plus I am just too lazy, okay? :-)

This is what Lontong looks like: rice cubes in coconut milk gravy topped with spicy anchovies.
Hmm.. sorry no suitable picture, most people put bean sprouts and eggs in their lontong, which I consider strange. And somewhat off-putting. Whyyyy sprouts and hard-boiled eggs in absolutely everything??????

Mama Pongkey's Sayur Lodeh (serves 6)

To be finely chopped/minced:
  • 10 dried chillis
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cm old ginger
  • 2 cm galangal (lengkuas)
  • 2 tbsp dried shrimp (udang kering)
  • 2 tbsp dried anchovies (ikan bilis)

  • 2 stalks lemongrass - crushed
  • 400 gms prawns (I used large 'Solo' prawns ~ yummy!)
  • 1 carrot - sliced
  • 10 French beans - cut into 5 cm pieces
  • 100 gm cauliflower - diced
  • 1 firm tofu - diced
  • 3 packets of tempeh (the ones that come wrapped in banana leaves, they taste much better) - diced
  • 1 large piece of dried fermented soy 'pucuk' - broken up into squares
  • 1 handful of suhun (dried vermicelli)
  • 1 tablespoon organic powdered turmeric (the nonorganic variety usually has added cornflour, and much less taste)
  • 1/2 cup prawn stock (I boiled the shells and heads of the prawns to make the stock)
  • 1 liter coconut milk (mine is rather thin, so if you are using creamed coconut you might want to thin it down)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • Salt to taste


  • Heat up the oil in a pot and saute all the minced ingredients until fragrant.
  • Dump in the lemongrass and asam keping and stir for 2 minutes.
  • Dump in the coconut milk, turmeric powder, carrot, cauliflower, suhun, pucuk, tofu and tempeh. Turn the heat to low. The trick to cooking with coconut milk is not to overboil it, as it then starts to curdle and loses its flavour. Low temperatures are key.
  • When the mixture has been gently bubbling for a few minutes, it is time to dump in the rest of the ingredients. Watch the prawns, and turn off the heat when the prawns are just nicely cooked. Overcooked prawns taste like rubber, yucks.

Ta-da! Sayur Lodeh is traditionally eaten with compacted rice cubes boiled in coconut shoots (ketupat) and spicy dried anchovies cooked in chili (sambal tumis ikan bilis) or peanut sauce.

Mama Pongkey's Sambal Tumis Ikan Bilis Bertempe

  • 1 cup dried anchovies
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup cili boh (boiled dried chillies ground into a paste)
  • 1 pack tempeh, diced
  • 2 pieces of asam keping/asam gelugor for its sour taste.
  • 1/2 cup water
  • oil for frying (1/2 cup, depends on the anchovies the oil needs to immerse)
  • Salt to taste
  • Brown sugar (optional)
  • Heat the oil, then dump in the rinsed anchovies. Make sure the anchovies are dry, or things could get real ugly!
  • Turn down the heat and saute the anchovies crisp.
  • Add in the chopped onion, garlic and tempeh. Continue saute-ing.
  • When the onions are soft, and the tempeh has firmed up a bit, add in the chilli paste and water, and continue stirring.
  • You'll know it's ready when the chilli paste darkens. If the dish is too hot, just add a tablespoon of brown sugar.

Didn't I tell you I was lazy? I had mine with rice, not rice cubes. I am not about to hunt for coconut shoots, and I plain forgot to buy the banana leaves which could also be used to make rice cubes.

I was too busy wolfing down the whole thing to take pictures. I only remembered when it was all gone. Hahaha. Papa Pongkey didn't mind eating the whole thing with rice instead of rice cubes. He loved the Sayur Lodeh, he said the taste was spot-on. :-) Alhamdulillah... burpp! (It's not considered rude for us to burp after a meal.. hehehe.)

In a future entry, I will describe how I use the leftover spicy anchovies for another favourite dish, Nasi Lemak.

Adventures in Kitty Waste Composting

Picture from Do You Know? BlogNot good enough to compost, but good enough to drink, eh? :-)

Common wisdom (from trawling the internet) states that you shouldn't compost dog or cat faeces. Or if you do, make a separate composting system for it, make sure you compost is for more than 18 months, and even then, only use the compost for ornamental, not edible plants.

Common local wisdom (from speaking to nursery owners here) say they absolutely hate it when cats defecate or urinate on their plants/plant beds, as their waste is considered 'too heaty' and will make the plants die. Since my little bonsai pink frangipani did die after a rescued kitten pooped on it, I must somehow agree with that. But then again, that bonsai was the last of a long line of plants that I had successfully killed, so perhaps it wasn't healthy enough to survive the kitty assault. LOL.

But I came across these cat breeders, who claim they have successfully composted kitty litter for use on their potted plants and veggies (!) Man, those plants are thriving!

So, based on that, I stacked two 'bald' tyres I saved from my previous car tyre change, and started a compost heap. In the heap, I put:
  • coconut husk
  • cat poop
  • cat litter waste (I used pine pellets, this was when I had the cats indoors)
  • kitchen waste (veggie peelings, spent grated coconut, crushed egg shells)
  • shredded paper (unbleached, used to wrap my veggie purchases)
Bubu on the runway.. er makeshift compost heap. She also uses it as a scratching post.

I turn the pile once in a while (once every few days). And since this heap is in the cat enclosure, some of my cats have helpfully started to poop there instead of in their outdoor kitty sandbox. I am not worrying too much about ratios here, since I figure our hot and humid climate will help anything decompose. Eventually. *grin* Since mosquito breeding is a problem here (dengue cases are frequent) I made sure to fill the inside edges of the tyres that might collect rainwater (and thus provide a breeding ground for mosquitos) with the ground coconut husk. The system has been in place for about two weeks now, and there seem to be no pools of mosquito-friendly still water with the tyres.

There are some worries that one might inadvertantly get some Toxoplasma gondii oocytes (which cause toxoplasmosis, a well-known disease from cats) from the kitty waste onto your leafy greens, and ultimately into your dinner plate. According to Fox (quoting Dubey, 1998) in 'The Mouse in Biomedical Diseases' in the section on the sterilising of mice bedding (because mice can get toxoplasmosis too), T. gondii oocytes lose infectivity at temperatures above 40 degrees Celcius. Now, since compost heap temperatures have been known to be between 40-70 degrees Celcius, I guess if I make sure the compost matures properly, at the right temperatures, toxoplasmosis should not be a problem.

Toshi looking for a good spot in the kitty sandbox. In the far corner is the wild 'bunga telang' plant.

The kitty sandbox measures roughly 3 by 3 feet, and is filled with sand. I also turn the contents with a shovel once in a while, and am going to add some compost I purchased on it to cut down on the stink. A plant has also started to grow in there, Clitoria ternatea, or commonly known in English as the butterfly pea. We call them 'bunga telang'. A neighbour gave me the dried pods a couple of years back, and since then they have taken over my garden in a weed-like fashion. I planted them for their pretty flowers, which can also be made to colour the rice blue (yeah, blue food~ imagine that!) in one of my favourite dishes, Nasi Kerabu. Hmm.. googling for more info on this plant let me know that the more tender, young pods are actually edible. I had masses of these plants cleared to make way for the cat enclosure a while back, and some of it is being composted right now.
Some bunga telang growing back. 2 weeks ago this area was cleared. Everything grows crazily in the Tropics.

Would I actually eat the peas from the plant growing in my kitty sandbox? I haven't actually decided yet, although I have heard the urban legend that mung bean sprouts are grown on sheets of woven sacks fertilised with human pee. And I have definitely eaten commercially grown bean sprouts and survived to tell the tale. Would I eat veggies fertilised with my kitty compost? I think I would. All manner of animals have pooped/peed in kitchen backyards for ages now, I think the composted version would be safe(er). But I will wash my veggies thoroughly though, just in case!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Trawlings, Readings and Gastronomic Delights

Homemade Condiments - check out the fish stock recipe... mmm must try, but omit the wine.

Pickles via Lacto Fermentation - the salsa looks yummy! I have some extra cucumbers.. hmm..

Losing Weight Naturally from Wellness Mama - I am exploring this new-found blog. It is nicely laid out and organised, and she writes really well. She is also a Nutritional Consultant to boot, successfully helping clients lose weight and conceive.

Life as Mom's 5 Favourite Low-Cost Meals
- how to make meal planning work for you, and avoid food wastage.

Australia's National Sustainable Food Summit 2010
- some interesting points of view here. 7.5 million tonnes of food is wasted very year, yet 1.2 million people are regularly at risk of not having enough food.

Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book - I finished this yesterday. I just love the way he writes, quite spooky and yet with great economy of words. The flow is just amazing. Another favourite is Neverwhere.

Made Wild Mushroom Soup for the first time, which turned out pretty well. I got the recipe off of French Food and Cooking by Clements & Wolf-Cohen, a book we grabbed for a bargain last week. I made a huge pot, and froze them in smaller containers. I find that I use these quite a lot for my soups and stews. Previously I have depended on good ol' Campbell's. There are still some cans left in my pantry, which I will use up anyway but hopefully after this will be able to depend on my own homemade version. If I don't get lazy, that is.

The mushrooms I used consisted mainly of grey oysters (900gm) , dried black chinese mushrooms (4 flowers) and about 300gm of wild 'tawun' mushrooms (pic above) which I stumbled across at the local market. 'Tawun' is a corruption of 'tahun' (meaning 'year') because this species grows only once a year. On rotting palm oil trunks. I tried googling for other names for this fungus, and found that it is apparently cultivated in Sarawak, on palm oil waste (spent fruit and kernels, perhaps?). Anyway, the results are goooood. Sorry I forgot to take some pics.. heheheh. Instead I'll leave you with a pic of one of my meals this week, Boiled Beef with Vegetables, from Food Lovers One Pot. Oh yum. I did omit the parsley and marjoram because I didn't have any. Instead, I added 4 cardamom pods, 1 star anise and a cinnamon stick.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Crisis Cleaning!!!

I hate housework. I can imagine a million things I'd rather be doing. Hubby says it's okay to get some people to help clean the house, but I don't really want to. Unless I really have to. Which I do now.

I have a guest this weekend.



Whew. That felt really good. Actually having guests is okay, but having a born-organised guest who also loves to clean calls for extra special measures.

At the moment, I am decluttering the kitchen. I would love to say it feels good, but it doesn't. I am hating every minute of it. For every little chore that I do, I see a thousand more that needs doing.

My consolation is that Chunky and Googy are behaving right now, cuddled up fast asleep and not making any extra messes.

I still have no clue which room will my guest be staying in.
Computer room? Nah - we like to hang out here too much. Plus it has direct access (windows) to my cats in their enclosure.
Sewing room - hmm might have dropped needles, sewing machine, serging machine, fabric, not suitable for Guest Toddler. Plus air-cond is Out-To. (See Gaki no Tsukai - no laughing allowed! - best bit is at 07:00 onwards - on Youtube to understand this one)
My bedroom - hmm messy, needs some cleaning but otherwise a-okay. But Papa Pongkey Will Not Be Pleased.
Living room - hehehehehehe. Would do this but guest is a girl.

I will survive this weekend. I have to.

Update: By the way, due to unforseen circumstances, guest has postponed her visit to June. WalhamduliLlahi Rabb il alamiin.... now the decluttering and reorganising can go on at a much less frantic pace :-)

Monday, 4 April 2011

My Furry Bunch Part 2

These two gorgeous girls are Yuyu's legacy: Hakusho (right) & Jimmy. Hakusho is named after a Japanese anime called Yu-Yu Hakusho, and Jimmy is named after a friend of ours. Too late we discovered Jimmy is a girl, so I guess she is Jimmy short for Jemima, or something.

In this picture we were taking a photo of Hakusho, when suddenly Jimmy jumped onto the chair so we could take her pic too. As a tiny kitty, Jimmy fell down and injured her brain. At one time, she couldn't walk forwards, she just kept moving in circles, with her head nodding at an alarming rate. Alhamdulillah she was cured. Yuyu was a first-time mum, and so didn't realise she had given birth to two live kitties; she was feeding Hakusho but not Jimmy in the first few moments after birth. So Jimmy to this day is a very nervy and jumpy kitty. She hates any change, and is totally dependant on her sister Hakusho for companionship. Hakusho has always been a confident kitty, and will get the both of them into trouble. Although their mum is a semi-long haired cat, both of them are short hairs, but their coats are extra thick than the usual strays. Their dad was an orange stray whom Yuyu ran away from home to rendezvous with. Luckily we found her that night, amid rain and thunder. The second time she escaped we never found her.

Here are 3 little kitties I found a few months back in a drain near my home. I had driven a little ways from my house, when I remembered I had left something at home. So I parked by the kerb a few houses away from mine, and was walking home when I heard loud mewing. The owner of the loud voice is the solid creamy-orange cat above, whom we named Ichigo. A few feet away, lying on her side was a pretty little calico, now named Yoruichi, and yet further away, in a very weakened state was Toshirou, the white and orange van. I immediately got a box, scooped them all up and went to the vet's to get them checked out. They still smelled of milk, and were still wobbly on their feet.

We got them soft food, and set up a cage so that they won't be bullied by the other, bigger cats. To my relief they were pretty much ok, just dehydrated. The other cats weren't too happy at first, but gradually came around. As they grew older, 2 of them turned out to be semi-long hairs.

Ichigo is the most affectionate of the lot. He just flops in my arms whenever I hold him, and nuzzles my hand, feet, skirt... you get the idea. Those big soft eyes are just full of love. He sometimes likes to spend time outdoors, but whenever I appear at the door, he runs up asking to be let in.

Toshirou had me worried for a while, because he seemed to be rather weak. But he soon caught up to the others, and is now a happy, rambunctious little cat. He loves to carry things and leave them all over the house. Thank goodness he's no Klepto-Kitty!

Yoruichi is such a girly little kitty. She loves lounging around in pretty little poses. She hates being outdoors too long, and enjoys her little creature comforts: my pillow, my duvet, my clothes.. you get the idea. We call her our little Cindy Crawford for her beauty mark on the top of her mouth. Her demeanour and expressions remind us a lot of Yuyu, leading us to speculate that these kitties are either hers, or her grandchildren. Sigh.

So there you have it, 9 little kitties (10 if you count the missing Yuyu) altogether. They occasionally hiss and spit at each other, but so far no serious scrapes. Jang Jang Boy is the one who holds the peace, for some reason all the other cats love and respect him. I suspect it is the same reason why the cats next door disappear whenever he comes out into the garden. I am trying to integrate them all into their new cat enclosure, where they have plenty of room to run and play.

My Furry Bunch

Okay UmmS, these are for you! :-)
First up is Bubu with.. hmm.. I think it is Rodimus Prime in car form. She loves air-conditioning and is a camera hog. She can be quite standoffish at times, but quite affectionate when she feels like it.

Next with big ears and gorgeous heartfelt eyes is a rescue we found on the second day of Eid, Chunky Lafungga. She is deeply possessive and has been known to use the human loo. Her favourite spot to nap is next to my computer monitor. She has abandonment issues, and refuses to stay in the cat enclosure, insisting on staying indoors with us.

Below her, hugging a pole is handsome Jang Jang Boy. We suspect he is part Norwegian Forest. He is very friendly and loves the outdoors. Good thing too, coz he sheds a LOT. He once placed second in a cat show, and won enough cat food for 3 months. He loves fish, especially salmon (the canned variety of course! on occasion)

Pongkey and Lulu (but we call her Yuyu) are hanging out in the cat carrier. Yuyu has been missing for the past 2 years :'-(. She is my hubby's favourite, and is also sister to Jang Jang & Bubu. She is a true queenly cat, and keeps all the other cats in order. Miss her loads.

The pretty calico with the smiling face is Pongkey. She is the eldest of our cats, the last surviving kitten out of a litter of 5. She can climb coconut trees, is also deeply jealous and is currently very tubby. She once caught a frog and tried to gift it to me. Yikes!

In other developments, our cat enclosure is finally built. But there is still lots to do.. I am still planting trees in it, and am trying to compost the poo. I am looking for sweet-smelling flowers to plant all round to cover any unpleasant smell wafting to the neighbours'. Bushes for them to play hide and seek in would be fun. So far there is the camellia and breadflower, and limes. Maybe some ginger too. Lemon grass I fear might have sharp edges... perhaps when it is all prettied up I will post some pictures.

Link to Part 2 of My Furry Bunch. Yes. I have more cats!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Weekend Going-Ons

What I have been reading over the weekend:

This Garden is Illegal: Neem for Garden Pests
~ time to get rid of the malathion

Gardening by the Moon
~whoever knew planting by the lunar calendar would be effective?

Ten Steps to an Organic No-Dig Permaculture Garden

Cheeseslave: Fermented Salsa Recipe

Food Renegade: What is Real Food and How to Tell

Food Renegade: How to Cure Tooth Decay
"If you want the healthiest teeth possible, eat:
  • whole foods freshly prepared,
  • yellow butter,
  • organs and glands like bone marrow and liver,
  • mineral rich bone broths,
  • raw dairy, and
  • a variety of sea foods."
GNOWFGLINS eCourse: How to Cook Real Food (how to prepare foods to optimise their nutrients and yet are tasty too!)

Eat Fat to Lose Fat: the Lowdown on Fats that are good for you (that includes coconut oil, y'all!)

What I have been doing over the weekend so far:
  • sent hubby to his all-day strategic planning thingy (yes!!! how dare they do this on weekends!)
  • popped by the organic shop to purchase some veggies
  • stopped by parents' for lunch with sisters
  • went out to get birthday cake
  • picked hubby up
  • went to birthday dinner for the twins (my nephews)
  • went to weekend 'farmers market'. Got these plants: camellia, breadflower, lime & kaffir lime. Planted the flowers in the cat enclosure by the back fence, have yet to decide where to place the limes.
  • had lunch.. it was beef bone broth. Yummy.
  • made onion & celery fritters.
  • messing around on this blog!