Monday, September 12, 2016

Why I've Been Missing....

I've been missing for some time because my mum was hospitalised in July and I went home to be with her. 

However her lung complication got the better of her and after exactly one month in the ICU ward, she passed away on 1 August. 

Yes, you read right. My mum passed away. 

You know how you often grow up always believing that your parents will be there like forever? 

Death seemed so far away because my mum was only 67 years old. She wasn't really old. 

I have friends whose mothers are like in their 90s and play games on the iPads. 

I have friends whose 80 year old mums go to the beach in swimsuits and get a tan. 

I have friends in their 70s who go scuba diving and scale mountains and do all sorts of exciting outdoor sports. 

So you see, it was hard to accept that one day my mum was alive (albeit breathing with a ventilator) and 30 days later, she was dead. She lost consciousness 2 days before she died and never woke up again. 

It was a shock to my sisters and me.

It was totally devastating as we always expected her to get well and get home. 

Unlike all the previous hospital stays where she would get well after a dose of antibiotics in a week, this time she was too weak. 

When I was home in Banting for 19 days (from 1 July to 19 July), I told myself that it was impossible that the antibiotics didn't work. The doctors couldn't believe it. She couldn't breathe on her own due to a collapsed left lung and had to use a ventilator which pumped oxygen into her lungs. She had to have nurses extract her phlegm daily because the bacteria was that vicious! 

Halfway through her ICU ward stay, she had a tracheostomy done - a minor operation to insert the breathing tube through the base of her throat (all the while the tubing went into her mouth and down her lungs).

Still, she couldn't take solid food. For the entire month, she subsisted on a special liquid supplement that was poured down a tube - the tube went from her nose to her stomach. She wasn't allowed to drink water - not even a sip! 

She grew weak and fragile and thinner day by day. And all my sisters and I and my dad could do was visit her twice a day (once at noon, once in the evening) to talk to her and massage her hands and legs. I even had a ritual of my own. I'd go in, wash my hands properly and start updating my mum on the day. She could be alert at times and would try to speak but eventually, she would ask for pen and paper to write. 

She would say things like she wanted to go home and that many people have died in the ICU ward (she had seen the Indian lady next to her pass on). 

To say that the ICU ward is very "yin" is true. It is a place that has no "yang". In the ICU ward, one either gets well and gets discharged or deteriorates and dies. My sister and I would say our respective prayers each time we were with mum. She needed lots of spiritual help! 

I am a big believer in the power of prayers and I felt so blessed because when my friends knew, they too started praying for my mum. One good pal even sent a get well card which I believed my mum appreciated when I read it out to her (though it quoted the Bible and my mum's a pure Taoist!). 

We were there so regularly that the nurses recognised us and so did the security guards. 

I am one of those crazy optimists in that each time I talked to my mum, I told her, "Mummy, you are getting out of this ICU ward soon". I practically willed it. The doctors and nurses were not very hopeful but there I was with my sisters each day, motivating my mum and giving her lots of encouragement. But then again, when are doctors ever hopeful? 

I had not much respect for the doctors because they never really updated us properly. I had more respect for the nurses because they had to do the unpleasant tasks - clean my mum, extract her phlegm, etc. The nurses had more empathy than the doctors. 

When I left Banting to come back to Penang, I had planned to fly back again on 2 August for a week. I told my mum just as much that I was coming back to Penang to settle some things (my book which was in its final stages of edits before printing, my women entrepreneur organisation's anniversary dinner, my own client projects) and then go back to see her again.

It was not to be. 

Nic and I drove back for the funeral (and had a massive argument with the funeral manager) who tried to con my dad out of almost RM28K for mum's funeral. Luckily, we stepped in and managed to control the situation (and get rid of the gangster guy). I almost lost it on the day of the funeral when he kept harassing us for the final payment. But I didn't want to cause a scene in front of neighbours and friends so I just ignored his crudeness. 

My sis carrying my mum's remains in a yellow cloth.
We were on our way from Negeri Sembilan to Port Klang to scatter her ashes. 

We eventually hired our own Taoist priest from Negeri Sembilan for the funeral rites and cremation rites. My mum was cremated three days after she passed on. Her remains were scattered off the sea at Port Klang on a beautiful day. 

At Port Klang, after scattering her remains at sea. 

Still, we've had a tough time coming to terms with her death. On one hand, as the priest says, she has gone on to a better place and is no longer suffering. On the other hand, my sisters, dad and I have been in a daze because suddenly mum is no more. 

She isn't there to nag my nephew and niece about bathing. 

She isn't there to quarrel with my dad over petty issues. 

She isn't there to make us our favourite curry puffs and Nyonya acar. 

She isn't there to watch Wah Lai Toi all day (we've since terminated her Astro account). 

She isn't there to have 1-hour phone conversations with.

She isn't there to complain about dad. 

There was also an element of the occult which I believed in. A spiritual teacher said that there were 7 people on her side of the family who wanted her dead. We don't know why. Even when a Christian friend prayed for my mum, she recalled seeing a vision of a man who was trying to suppress my mum. She called me worriedly and asked if I knew of any man that would want revenge. I had no idea. My mum was adopted and was the only child of her adoptive parents. 

The final photo we took with mum as a family this Chinese New Year.  

But I can tell you that my mum started getting chills in the middle of the afternoon some 2 years ago. She'd wrap up in thick clothes at 2pm and told us all she was very cold. Due to this, she refused to go out with us to the malls anymore. She said going out made it worse. This off and on chills and fevers made her very depressed. 

When we asked her to visit a doctor, she'd refuse and self medicate. Or if she did see a doctor, she wouldn't complete her course of antibiotics properly. She throw half her meds away or leave them in the fridge. 

We encouraged her to see a temple medium, if only to prove that there was nothing spiritual bugging her (or offended any spirits). Since I wasn't with her, we don't know if she took the advice of the temple medium. 

When I did manage to get to a temple, I met a medium who told me directly that if a soul is departing, there's nothing you can do to stop it. He had met my mum once when she went to see him, just to ask about his schedule. He remembered her. Strangely, I had never met him with my mum but he seemed to know who I was talking about. 

The night that I spoke to him a thunderstorm was brewing and rain was falling. The whole atmosphere felt creepy and weird. Yet he was kind despite his piercing stare. I started to cry right in front of him, a total stranger I had never met. (He reminded me of a Datuk Kong. He could very well be a manifestation of a Datuk Kong trying to give me some advice.)

It was then that I knew that my mum was going to die.

That's a feeling of all the air sucked out of you. Of a huge hole in your being. 

And there was nothing we could do for her. 

Not even my optimism, encouragement and motivation. 

So there you have it. 

I am still trying to come to terms with the grief and sadness but life has to go on. 

One of the reasons why I continue to blog as Soup Queen is this: let us all have good health through eating right. If we all had better health, we would live longer lives. 

Until today, I still don't know why mum didn't recover. Was it a hex or was it just a sign of weak health? 

I shall leave you to ponder. 

But you know what? I discovered that my mum's passing made me more fearless. I've seen death conquer two people in my life - my grandma and my mum - and it makes me more aware of living well, living strong. These days, I'm a lot stronger inside because nothing shakes you up like the death of a loved one. There is nothing more intense than death; ridiculous clients or stupid remarks or toxic people don't even come close. 

p/s: Two weeks after my mum passed on, I picked up a book by psychic Richard Lawrence called Gods, Guides and Guardian Angels. It came to me at the right time. His book answers a lot of questions about death and dying and where do souls go. I felt a lot calmer after reading his book and believe that there are things we do not see but that doesn't mean we cannot understand. 

Plus before my mum passed on, I gave her the Forgiveness Mantra to read. I encouraged her to forgive and I think that was a balm to her soul. (The website for Pranic Violet Healing looks a little on the suspicious side no thanks to its awful web design but the stuff is legit. Forgiving oneself and others is a powerful gesture indeed.) 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Benefits of Burdock Root Tea

Here's a new remedy for hair loss.

(I am like a dog with a bone. I am not letting up on the hair loss remedies or hair loss cures haha though I am happy that my hair is looking much healthier now. I wonder if it's the natural shampoo I'm using or the daily dang gui capsule that I'm taking? Or the fact that I am keeping my scalp cool and oil-free by washing my hair each time I feel my scalp heating up!)

This humble root called burdock has been made into burdock oil to prevent hair loss and encourage hair growth.

I stumbled upon this root when I was reading a post about the famous Five Element Soup.

I've seen burdock in Jusco and Tesco (funnily, never saw it in my Lip Sin wet market though!). It's a long root, about 2 feet, and usually marketed as gobo (in Japanese).

In Chinese, it's called Niu Pang. If you go to a Chinese herbalist or Chinese medical hall, its seeds are sold as Niu Pang Zi (Zi referring to the seeds).

I bought one gobo/burdock root today from Jusco for RM1.29 - yes, it is inexpensive.

But wait till you hear about the benefits of burdock.

Burdock root 

It's used as a detoxifying agent to clear acne and pimples. It helps with sore throats, rashes and skin conditions such as herpes and eczema. It is often made into a tea to purify the blood. 

The Europeans use the oil extract of burdock root for hair and scalp. It treats baldness and makes hair strong.

Cross-section of the burdock root. It can be eaten as a vegetable if you're not making a tea out of it. 

According to this website, burdock is a "member of the thistle family. It was originally grown in Europe and Asia, but is now widespread throughout the United States. It is a short, dull green plant that grows in light, well-drained soil, with wavy, heart-shaped leaves and roots that are brownish-green or black on the outside.Both the root and leaves are used in herbal remedies; however, the roots are the most important part in terms of herbal medicine."

Burdock is good for gastro-intestinal issues as it contains inulin and mucilage. I went digging about to find out more about inulin. It's a mixture of fructose polymers found in plants. It survives the harsh acidic conditions of your stomach juices and goes to the small intestine where it becomes food for the good bacteria in the large intestine (good bacteria are the same bacteria you ingest as probiotics in your yogurt and Yakult). 

I swear by Marigold yogurt because that's the only yogurt that seems to really have live lactobacili. How do I know this? I make my own yogurt and I often am successful when I use Marigold yogurt as a starter. When I use Dutch Lady yogurt as a starter, my yogurt falls flat. So I am a big fan of Marigold yogurt if only for the live active cultures!

(For my DIY yogurt how-to, I even got featured in a Chinese newspaper. The reporter googled and found me and was so curious about making yogurt at home that she interviewed me. Yes, the things I get up to!)

But I think you get only the goodness of inulin if you chomp on burdock? What happens if we make a tea out of it? Will inulin also be present in the tea? 

(For the record, I drank the tea and ate the burdock root. It tastes bland but the fibre is good for my intestines LOL. And I am never one to waste stuff. Must be those years of listening to my dad telling me about the African kids dying of starvation while growing up!).
Burdock is also anti-microbial. It can also reduce inflammation and liver damage. It also contains saponins which is the what makes it a blood cleanser or blood purifier. Saponins are also present in ginseng so you can say that burdock is a poor man's version. It also contains 150 times more beta-carotene than carrots. 
I made this into a tea because I felt that my body was a bit too heaty (I had a super late night last night - visited a friend and chatted till almost 1am!). 
I just scrubbed the root and using a peeler, peeled it all, skin included. You'll end up with strips of burdock. I saved a small portion of the root because I want to try growing burdock! The burdock I bought was labelled China gobo but I think I can grow this root into a plant. 
All you have to do next is dry the strips of burdock under the sun. I couldn't wait for the sun-dried burdock so I took a handful and simmered it in some water for 10 minutes. (Here's a lovely pictorial guide on making burdock tea.)
If you dry it well, you can keep it in a jar and each time you want some burdock tea to cleanse your blood, you can make tea immediately (either steeping the roots in boiling water or simmering it on a low fire). 
If you like a savoury soup made with this root, try this recipe from this site

*Here's some trivia - burdock or rather its burrs are the inspiration behind the famous Velcro invention. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Of Strengthening Teeth and Hair And A Story of A Place Called Vanamoolika

Remember I was complaining how my hair was falling like crazy some months ago?

My hair salon lady told me it could be the rice intake.

So I started eating more rice and also ate a host of other stuff (black sesame and white sesame seeds) and realized that my hair issue did improve.

Organic Herbal Shampoo Powder from Vanamoolika India

The back shows you the ingredients used in this powder shampoo. 

I also observed that my hair fall increased when the weather was hot and my scalp was sweaty and itchy. I usually wash my hair every two days but sometimes when my scalp became too itchy, I had to wash my hair daily. I realized it also helped prevent hair loss.

I deduced that when my scalp is itchy, the hair follicles may be "open" and this made my hair drop. While I feared daily hair washing could increase the number of hair dropping, the reverse was true.

When I washed my hair daily and my scalp was cool, hair fall became less and less. I was so relieved! You know that feeling....after a shower and shampoo, I'd look at the drain cover and see if there's a bunch of hair over it.

When there wasn't, I was super relieved!

Side Story...My Fascination With Soaps 

Whenever I go for a meal at Ananda Bhawans, I made sure I popped by the Indian sundry shop right across. I usually go to stock up on my soap and toothpaste supply. We've been using this brand called Dabur Herbal Toothpaste (they have variations in clove and neem) for a few years now and prefer this over Colgate.

I think we started using the Dabur clove toothpaste when Nic started to complain about his gums aching a few years back. I started researching and found that neem or clove toothpaste was good for teeth and gums.

That was how we started and till now, I find that it is still one of the best toothpaste around and much better than Colgate.

As for soaps, Nic and I have now gone back to using soaps. I've never been much of a body shampoo fan because I actually like the feel of soaping myself and the actual clean feeling after soaping and showering. I dislike that body shampoo feel - you know, as if you have a layer of something despite showering it all off!

We've been trying a few made in India soaps as well as made in Thailand soaps. But that's another post for another day. Possibly a soap review!

While cleaning out my junk today, I found some Ayurvedic hair products I bought some 6 years ago. I debated whether I should throw them out or not. I disliked wasting stuff so I thought heck, I'd keep them and use them.

Visiting Kerala's Organic Herb Farms 

In 2010, I went off to Pulpally, a town in Kerala, India with a client (now ex-client). He wanted to check out the organic farming of herbs and do some form of joint venturing with the local contact.

From the moment we touched down at the Mumbai airport to the time we left via the Chennai airport, I knew the local contact was an absolute con man.

All of us on the trip comprising us (as in Nic and me), his Malaysian employees and his European friends - all of us knew in the pit of our stomachs that the local contact was a fat-faced liar.

The local contact was promising the sky and the earth and everything else in between.

Eventually, the deal didn't close. But all of us were treated to a week of travelling in Kerala (God's own country, or so says the Kerala State slogan - Kerala is by the way a Communist region), eating vegetarian food, getting oil massages and visiting organic farmers.

It was in a place called Vanamoolika that we started our exploration. This place functioned like a cooperative for Indian farmers. The interesting thing was, the farmers or growers of the herbs and plants were mostly women.

They had a small building that was a factory churning out products made using Ayurvedic recipes and locally grown Indian herbs. Besides herbs for making Ayurvedic medicinal products, they also grew pepper, vanilla and cloves. And they sold them at Vanamoolika.

India is a good place to visit because it's affordable (OK, it's so inexpensive that it's quite laughable).

Organic herbal Kesa Kala Hair Oil from Vanamoolika

See? It says only 140 rupees! 

The hair oil product I bought wasn't expensive at all. At 140 rupees, it was about RM8. I even managed to buy a packet of vanilla pods for RM21. I should've bought more but hindsight is always 20-20. (Now you can see that Vanamoolika has raised its prices for its products. Maybe inflation? Or export pricing is always higher?)

So I found my hair oil product and the herbal powder shampoo today while decluttering. And I decided that I would keep and use them, instead of throwing them away. I doubt herbal hair products have expiry dates.

Herbs In The Ayurvedic Shampoo

The organic herbal shampoo powder lists its ingredients as:

Hibiscus rosasinesis - which is Hibiscus flower (our national flower, by the way). My best friend's mother-in-law uses crushed hibiscus flowers to wash her hair. I know for a fact that her mother-in-law has really dark and thick hair even though she is in her 60s.

Alpinia galanga - which is greater galangal. Galangal is a root that's often used in Southeast Asian cooking. Mixed with a base-oil, it is employed as an anti-arthritic and anti-rheumatic ointment, or otherwise as a topical hair and scalp oil said to promote hair growth by increasing blood flow towards the scalp (says this website).

Cardiospermum halicacabum - which is Balloon Vine. This is a plant with a heart-shape on its seed! It is reputed to be prevent hair from graying, is a hair growth enhancer and prevents dandruff. In Mexico, it's called Cat's Testicles. This plant is also used for regulating menstrual disorders.

Indigofera tinctoria - which is Black Henna or True Indigo which is also a plant. The leaves of the Indigo plant are used to make hair dye and medicated hair oil. Powdered or ground leaves is made into black hair dye. It makes hair more manageable and shiny.

Sida retusa - which is Wireweed...and yes, it's actually a weed! I couldn't find any info on why this weed is useful for the hair but it does cure headaches. Maybe it cools the head!

Cyclea Peltata - which is Raja Patha, another herb.

Saturday DIY Hair Spa

I also tried them on my hair today, just to give myself some pampering. I massaged the hair oil into m hair and scalp and left it on for a good 15 minutes. Next, I poured out the herbal powder shampoo and mixed it into a paste with some water. I slathered this onto my oiled hair and scalp. Left this on my head for a good 10 minutes before washing my hair.

(If you know me, I am always using some Indian hair oil or something. I love how Indians have shiny, thick hair and I believe their hair oils and hair treatments have something to do with it.)

Apparently I shouldn't use any shampoo after this treatment but I felt my hair was still a little oily so I used a little shampoo to cleanse my scalp.

Accordingly, the hair oil and herbal powder shampoo contains herbs that cool the scalp. When the scalp is cool, fewer hair issues happen. I also think if the head is hot, there's just too much "prana" and my remedy is to wash my hair or in extreme cases, have a hair cut!

I learnt about prana during my years doing yoga and I believe that too much heat in the head also causes hair loss. I always think of the brain as a hard disk - it spins all the time (or fires neurons or synapses or what have you - I am so not a brain scientist) and this creates heat. The heat has to go off somewhere but doing hair treatments like these perhaps helps remove and reduce the heat!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pegaga Juice Benefits The Brain & Then Some

I bought a bunch of fresh pegaga leaves from the market last week. They were selling for RM3. Initially I didn't know if I should make ulam with it or blend it into a juice.

To make ulam, I had to have sambal belacan which I didn't! I have some ulam raja growing in my garden now and that would have made a great ulam platter together with pegaga.

In the end, I decided to juice the pegaga leaves. What I did was simply throw them into my blender with some water, blended them thoroughly and then sieved the juice out. I also mixed in some honey. I end up with quite a bit of pegage juice so I bottle them up using glass bottles and refrigerate them. 

Pegaga can still be found in most markets and even if you're too lazy to juice your own pegaga, you can still get it cheaply at drink stalls like the famous Penang Road Teochew cendol. 

Pegaga juice is a refreshing and cooling drink for hot and humid days. Penang is undergoing its hot spell now and each day I seem to sweat buckets. I am bathing some 4 times daily and sometimes just before I go to bed.

Besides being a cooling beverage, pegaga or gotu kola is also good for "fatigue, anxiety, depression, psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer's disease, and improving memory and intelligence. Other uses include wound healing, trauma, and circulation problems (venous insufficiency) including varicose veins, and blood clots in the legs". (from this source)

There's also an alternative way of drinking pegaga from this useful blog post.

It goes on to say that some women use gotu kola for preventing pregnancy, absence of menstrual periods, and to arouse sexual desire. Gotu kola is sometimes applied to the skin for wound healing and reducing scars, including stretch marks caused by pregnancy. (I wonder if the leftovers from blending the juice can be used for this!)

WebMD states that "gotu kola contains certain chemicals that seem to decrease inflammation and also decrease blood pressure in veins. Gotu kola also seems to increase collagen production, which is important for wound healing."

Another thing to note: I often see on blogs that they feature pegaga that is ornamental. I have a pot of ornamental pegaga too but i am unsure if this is the edible species. The ones I buy from the market is a little different in appearance. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Soup for Sparkling Eyes

After like a few weeks of not going to the market, I decided to go today. I have a love-hate relationship with market days. On one hand I know I am stocking up on fresh food and vegetables. On the other I know I need to clean out the fridge when I get back coz I need to make space for the new stuff that I bought.


Today I bought pork bones to make a soup called Ming Mu Tang or literal translation, Bright Eye Soup.

We Chinese aren't so subtle. If the soup makes our eyes bright/sparkling/clear, then name it such. No point beating around the bush. Pragmatic us indeed.

As always, I start with blanching the pork bones in boiling water over the stove.

This gets rid of the scummy stuff that floats up on your soup. 

Next, I soak the herbs - they're pre-packed dried herbs from my herbalist in town. Dried herbs from China are getting more expensive these days. Damn the ringgit and damn the GST.

I usually use a colander and a plastic basin to soak the herbs. Bigger pieces of herbs are easily rinsed under running water but this packet has tiny seed-like herbs which need a good rehydration at least for 5-10 minutes.

Then all you need to do is put the blanched pork, rinsed herbs and hot water into the slow cooker. I use about 1.5 liters of boiling hot water* which is equivalent to roughly 6 bowls. Put the lid on and switch cooker to Auto and let this dinner merrily for 6 hours. Season with some salt to taste after 6 hours. 

*use freshly boiled hot water from an electric jug. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Hair Loss Reversed....With A Few Remedies

Remember how I was wailing about my hair falling like mad each time I washed my hair?

Well, I told a friend, Then, who runs a hair salon and whom I go to each month for my henna hair colouring treatment (yes, these pesky white hairs keep popping up so when I get tired of plucking them by the roots, I go and henna them all).

She's Indian so she asked me if my diet changed. I was eating less rice at that time because I didn't want to get too flabby around my waist.

She told me that she personally experienced hair loss too when she reduced her rice intake. She advised me to get back to my normal rice intake and see if it helped. I decided to also get a bottle of hair loss shampoo from her. It was more to satisfy my own desire to do all I could to help my hair loss from getting worse.

The girl who worked for Then did tell me that her boss did eat a lot of fruits and yogurt. Yogurt is cooling for the body.

That was in January.

I started reading more online because I did see the logic of her statement. What we put into our bodies is more important than what we put on our bodies. I tried her shampoo for a while but I realised it didn't help much.

I decided it was all about my body because apparently, hair is related to Kidneys and Liver. TCM believes that hair is related to blood circulation.So if I wanted to make my hair stronger, I had to improve my blood. And blood, as we know, is stored in the Liver. The Kidneys play a role too in that if you wanted your hair to be shiny and thick, you had to have strong Kidney essence.

So the lack of sufficient blood flow and circulation is one of the causes of hair loss.

I wasn't sure if I was stressed and that caused hair loss. I was, however, keen to prevent more hair loss by eating right.

So I started eating one dong quai capsule a day.

I had bought these dong quai capsules from the Chinese herbalist in town for days when I was too lazy to boil dong quai soup after my menses.

The herbalist recommended that I eat a capsule at each meal meaning I had to eat 3 capsules a day.

I wasn't too sure if suddenly eating so much of dong quai was going to shock my body. So I went on for one a day. I would take one dong quai capsule a day in addition to my cod liver oil capsule.

I also started to eat more rice.

I also started eating black sesame seeds in powder form. I bought a packet of  black sesame seed powder from the shop inside Than Hsiang temple. Black sesame seed, I knew, was recommended for hair darkening because sesame seeds (white and black) are good for tonifying the Kidneys. I basically mixed 2 tablespoons of black sesame seed powder into my cereal beverage and drank this 2 times a week.

According to this website: "Taking black sesame seeds can heal all the chronic illness after 100 days, improve skin tone on body and face after 1 year, reverse gray hair after 2 years, and regrow teeth after 3 years.” says the Compendium of Materia Medica, the largest and most comprehensive medical writings in the history of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)."

I also realised that the hot weather didn't help. My scalp was sweating and itchy and it also contributed to hair loss. It's still humid and hot in Penang now but I have taken to washing my hair more often. I used to wash my hair every 2 days but now I wash my hair daily, if only to stop having a sweaty scalp. 

So how did all those remedies go?

I could see that my hair loss has become less each time I shampoo. I didn't use much of the hair loss shampoo so it's not the shampoo that's helping, that's for sure. 

I attribute it to the dong quai (for the blood-building) and black sesame seeds and rice. Perhaps all these were working in tandem. Again, I believe that improving blood and its circulation from within by eating the right foods and herbs did help. 

I am still monitoring my hair and scalp but I feel that the combination of these foods (and perhaps resting more and walking more) have helped. 

Have you come across any interesting remedies for hair loss? Have you experienced hair loss? What did you do? I'd love to hear your comments. 

One more thing, I also believe that henna colouring helped cool my scalp too. If your scalp is too hot, it also makes hair drop too.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Back Again after a Long Hiatus!

Sorry folks! I have been terribly missing from my blog.

My sisters, niece and I at Fo Guang Shan Dong Zen temple in Jenjarom (near Banting) on the first day of CNY.

In between working on 2 books (yes!), working on planning our web design business, planning this year's marketing master class. taking care of my women entrepreneur association as president, engaged in meetings and interviews, and taking care of my family (their holidays included), I have been neglecting this blog a whole lot.

I haven't been making soups as much as I want to BUT I did buy a slow cooker or crockpot (that's how Americans call it) and that helped a lot. In the past, I used to boil my soups on the stove but the downside of this is that I have to be at home and watch the stove.

With a slow cooker, I don't have to worry. I can put all my soup ingredients (herbs and chicken or meat) into the cooker with enough water and I can put it on Auto to simmer the whole day (6 hours or so) and when I get back from wherever I am going, I have soup ready to slurp!

Or I can cook soup at night (yay!).  I can put all the soup ingredients into the slow cooker around 11pm which then means the soup can simmer the whole night through. It is done in the morning when I get up.

All I need to do is cool the soup down, ladle them into individual stainless steel containers (again, this helps cool the soup super quick) and once the soup is cool, store the containers in the fridge or freezer. I usually make 3 portions of soups (each portion makes 2 bowls of soup - enough for me and Nic) so this means we will have soup for the next 3 dinners.

I try not to freeze soups especially lotus root soup because I realised the freezing process changes the texture of the lotus root slices. Anyway, it is good to drink up soup as fresh as the day it was simmered. If you have leftover lotus root soup, just store it in your fridge and endeavour to drink it up within the next 2-3 days.

Today is the 15th day of the Chinese New Year - how quickly Chinese New Year has flown by! I went home for CNY (home as in Banting where my parents still live though technically, I now make my home in Penang) and had a tiring CNY helping my mum spring clean our house.

While home, I took over most of the cooking since my mum is getting old and can't do much cooking these days. This meant I was in charge of making "chai boey" on CNY Eve after our reunion dinner (with the dinner leftovers - actually it doesn't sound as gross because the roast chicken, roast pork, mixed vegetables and 'hou see fatt choy' made a truly delicious stew) which we had for the next 2 days!

I also made sambal hae bee for my sis to take home to Singapore. My arm almost fell out at the amount of slow stirring of the sambal! It took me about 30 minutes to ensure the sambal was ready. Now I know why sambal hae bee is expensive. It's not the dried prawns that is expensive - it's the labour!
My mum, dad and sisters and I. Yup, all girls so it's girrrlll power. 

Anyway, I saw this article from The Star Online that featured fresh wai shan in a dessert and thought of sharing it here. I copied the recipe (although you can access the recipes via this link) because newspapers are notorious for archiving their articles. In no time, you won't be able to find this recipe.

As you can see, most of the time, I'll keep recipes here so that I can also refer to them when I need to. (This usually happens when I am back in Banting and thinking of what soup I can cook for my family.)

Happy Chap Goh Meh!

(Here's something I haven't figured out: why do Penang people eat "pengat" or bubur chacha on this day? If you know, please leave your answer in the comments. I never grew up in Penang and I certainly never ate pengat on Chap Goh Meh although I certainly don't mind eating it.)

Anyway, perhaps it is about sweet beginnings and sweet endings. May this Monkey Year keep you smart and agile!


60g fresh huai shan (wild Chinese yam, also known as shao yao), peeled and shredded
3 pitted red dates, halved
600ml fresh sugarcane juice
30g rock sugar

Place huai shan, sugarcane juice and rock sugar in a medium saucepan or pot. Bring to a simmer over medium to low heat for 8-10 minutes. Do not allow to boil over. Remove and pour into individual serving bowls and enjoy it warm as a refreshing thirst quencher.

By the way, do check out my wai shan recipes below. 

Wai San, Carrot & Red Date Soup

And also, the time when I was growing wai shan in my garden!