Tuesday, October 30, 2012

URTI again

It started off rather inconspicuously. 

On Friday evening, AA, EM and ZS came over for dinner and our usual French-Chinese exchange lessons. We sat on the heated carpeted floor of my room. At a stage, I could dozed off while teaching EM Mandarin, no thanks to pre-dinner whiskey apéritif. My face was flushed as usual after alcohol consumption (yeah, my reaction to alcohol is pretty immediate). At some points, I felt a little chilly, but then I thought that was just the side-effect of my being flushed. That night, I felt sleepy, but couldn't quite fall asleep. Ended up blogging and surfing the internet mindlessly since I could not quite concentrate and get the "serious" stuff done.

Woke up on Saturday morning with a headache. Thankfully it was not one of those horrible throbbing headaches or splitting migraines. But it still sucked! I hardly have headaches. [The only exception being the period when I was working for 3 ugly Singaporean bosses in a row at an MNC.] I felt "heaty" and slightly feverish, with the posterior of the throat and the internal nasal areas feeling swollen. I decided that I have to add extra (cooling) Job's Tears (barley) [意仁/意米] to my usual herbal concoction to tone down my heaty-ness. Took an acetaminophen tablet for the headache (a small dose is usually enough to take effect on me). Moped around in my room for much of the day, ate leftovers* from Friday's dinner for food and took extra rest. I blamed it on the whiskey apéritif, perhaps it was too strong.

By Sunday morning, the headache toned down, but remained in the background. But then, I have an additional ailment, a slightly blocked nose. I didn't want to back out last minute on a monthly social appointment, so I put on some make-up -- hoping it will camouflage my slightly off-colour complexion and mood. It worked. I held up my social grace, made polite conversation and ate a decent amount (2 dinner plates) over the buffet brunch. When I arrived back home, I felt wiped out. Rested again. By evening the nose met further blockage and the cough had arrived with some sticky yellow-and-light-green phlegm. I boiled a luo han guo [罗汉果]based cough concoction and drank it. Followed by a "cooling" warm-soupy dessert [白果意米腐竹糖水]。Had some snacks, combined the last of Friday's dinner leftovers* with other stuff for food.
[*Note: Yeah, I cooked too much for 4 persons again. I am still working on improving my portion estimation. :-P ]
By Monday, I was coughing (when not suppressed by my shallow breathing), had sticky yellow-green mucus from both the nose and the mouth; and my voice is beginning to be affected. I can feel that the URTI has travelled down to the bronchi of the lungs, although the bases are not quite affected yet (*touch wood*). By now, I am getting grouchy, although you wouldn't know if you read my typed communications (*result of years of professional training*). Still managed to get some minor stuff done. By nighttime, I was so grouchy, I was tired but not willing/able to sleep (like those toddlers on their temper tantrums), yet I was not alert enough to do anything consequential. [Yeah, I admit, I lack self-discipline.]

This morning, my voice sounds hoarse and weak (I mouth the words but the voice comes on-and-off unpredictably). The mucous, though, is getting lighter. Went to school to run some errands early in the morning but decided that I wasn't well enough to stay for the afternoon classroom discussion. Left school for the community library to return some DVDs instead. Was planning to go to the walk-in clinic (GP/doctor/physician), but saw that the queue was long -- the usual autumn weather-change spike in its patients -- and decided to buy a few groceries items and head home instead. [As my housemate AH says, doctors here are unlikely to prescribe any medication for the common cold. This is because it is mostly viral in origin and thus best left to the immune system to fight it off.] While unpacking at home, I suddenly realized that I have failed as a team lead to get my team to submit an outline of our plans for the group presentation by today's deadline! Yikes! Argh!!! The world seems to come crashing down suddenly. Then I tell myself, "Focus, FOCUS! Focus on what you can get done." So I did some paperwork related to various registration for myself. Surfed the internet as a mild distraction in the meantime.

Now I wonder, will I be well in time to start clinical this Friday? I am keeping my fingers crossed. According to "Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology" by Martini, it typically takes 1-2 weeks for the body's IgG antibodies to kick-in. Let's hope that my exposure to the antigen was way earlier; say, over last 2 weeks when my landlord was coughing and sneezing; so what I'm experiencing now is the IgG antibodies putting up a good fight. [Hmm, actually my landlord has a rather sensitive nose, he has been coughing/sneezing on-and-off throughout the year, more so since fall arrived.]

That said, come to think of it, I think I am really rather "manja one" (when it comes to being sick/injured) compared to some elderly folks whom I met over brunch on Sunday. Thankfully though, I only get sick a couple of times a year since arriving in Canada -- a big improvement compared to my health situation while in Singapore.

p.s. According to this, it seems like I caught the flu, not a cold. :P But hey, I'm feeling much better* now (Tuesday night).


[Update on Thursday 01-Nov-2012]

When I mention "much better" above, I meant that my voice is coming back (although still not my normal volume, but at least predictable rather than on-and-off), fever, headaches and extreme exhaustion is gone. I'm still dealing with mucus and phlegm this morning. Thankfully, it is mostly either clear colourless or light yellow, only occasional small amount of thick yellow discharge. Continuing with my soups, herbal infusions and even inhaled steam from my slow-cooker to soothe the symptoms for now.

[Update on Thursday 08-Nov-2012]

It is 2 weeks from onset (Friday 26-Oct-2012) now. I decided not to go for clinical last Friday. I didn't want to be overstretched "just as my health improved slightly, only to get worse". Thus I started clinical on Saturday as I felt well enough to meet the demands of a nurse's job. I am thankful that I gave myself an extra day for rest and recovery. When I woke up this morning, there is still an occasional small amount of clear sticky phlegm but the chest felt clear. I guess my recovery is within the norms according to "Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology" by Martini.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Recipe: Peanuts and lotus roots soup 花生莲藕汤

I served this at a dinner at AA and EM's place last month for mid-Autumn festival [中秋节]。 By now, you would probably realize that my style of cooking gives margins for errors and a step where you can adjust the flavours. Same goes for this soup.


Lotus roots and peanuts soup 花生莲藕汤

Ingredients for about 6 servings:

1 to 2 segments of lotus roots 莲藕

3 cups of braised peanuts 焖花生

Water or some liquid from braising the peanuts.

Optional: A pinch of salt if using water above

Optional: 3-5 red dates. For subtle, natural sweetness.

Note: All measures are approximate, add more/less as per your preference.

1. Rinse the lotus roots 莲藕. Cut into cross-section slices. If in a time-crunch, slice thinly so that the lotus roots will cook faster. Put into the pot.

2. If using red dates, rinse them and remove the seed. Dice and add into the pot.

3. Add water to cover the lotus roots. Or if using the peanuts-flavoured liquid, add 2-3 tablespoons per serving and top-up with water to cover the lotus roots.

4. Slow-cook for 2 hours. If in a time-crunch, 1 hour is enough, just that the lotus roots flavour may not be so developed.

5. At the final 1 hour of cooking, add the braised peanuts.

6. Stir and taste the soup. Add soya-sauce, mushroom sauce, sugar, etc to adjust the flavour to your taste. Be careful not to overpower the lotus roots flavour. If the lotus roots flavour is not strong enough, boil for a longer period, or add more lotus roots and continue to boil. If the peanuts flavour is not strong enough, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter (note: adding peanut butter will turn the soup cloudy).

Note: This soup starts-off as a clear soup. The longer it is boiled, the more the lotus roots and peanuts breakdown, and thus turning the soup cloudy (and more richly flavoured).


There you have it. Simple, fail-safe peanuts and lotus roots soup 花生莲藕汤。Enjoy!

Recipe: Braised peanuts 焖花生

I served this at a dinner gathering at my place back in August. ZS was surprised that I cooked my own braised peanuts. EM asked me what I added into the peanuts to get them flavoured.


Braised peanuts 焖花生


A packet of raw peanuts 生花生

3-5 tablespoons of mushroom sauce, a.k.a. vegetarian oyster sauce 素豪油

1-2 tablespoons of soya sauce 酱清

1-2 flat teaspoons five-spice powder 五香粉. That is: Ground fennel, anise, ginger, cinnamon, cloves.

Optional: A few shakes of ground pepper 胡椒粉

Note: All measures are approximate, add more/less as per your preference.

1. Rinse the raw peanuts. Put into the cooking pot. Note: The peanuts will expand to about 3 times their original size, so do not overfill the pot.

2. Add water about 3-4 times the level of the peanuts. Note: Throughout cooking, check that the water level covers all the peanuts. Top-up with more water if needed.

3. Add the seasoning.

4. Cook on low-heat (or in a slow-cooker) until the peanuts are soft to the core. It may take up to 4 hours. To check, split open a peanut. The core should not be opaque (i.e. raw) but has a slight translucence (i.e. cooked).

5. Serve on its own or use as an ingredient in other recipes.

6. Do not waste the resultant peanut flavoured liquid. E.g. It can be used to cook soup or flavoured rice.

Note: You can see a photo of this dish in my other blog post "Dîner en couleurs [Dinner in colours]" here.


Note: Dried shitake mushrooms 茶花菇 can be braised for 3 hours in the same manner, except that you would not need the mushroom sauce in this case.

Recipe: Stewed Pear (French version) 西式炖梨

This is an original recipe that I created while I was in France. I had some lovely pears but did not have the other ingredients to make a typical Chinese stewed pear dessert. So I did some substitution and came up with the following.

Note: Recipe is also known as "Poached Pear". It was served at my group's dinner theatre performance in B.C. in summer-2011.


Stewed Pear (French version) 西式炖梨

Ingredients for about 4 servings:

375ml (1 bottle) of Malibu Caribbean Rum with Coconut Flavoured Liquor

400ml water

2 large pears Barlett, Peckham, Anjou or French Butter preferred.

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

50g dried cranberries or raisins or mixed

2-3 tablespoons honey

1. Wash and peel pears. Cut into chunks or cubes, approximately 2cm thick.

2. Put pears into a large pot. Add liquor and water into the pot. Add the spices. Cover with lid and bring to a boil.

3. When the liquids start to boil, lower the head and simmer. Add the dried fruits.

4. Slowly simmer until the pear cubes begin to show a translucent layer of shimmer.

5. Add honey to sweeten. Note: Do not add too much honey or it will overpower the unique sweetness of the pear and liquor.

6. Spoon into individual serving bowls and leave to cool. Refrigerate until ready-to-serve.

7. Serve chilled.

Recipe: Stewed Pear (Chinese version) 中式炖梨

This is a dessert that I cooked for a gathering at AA and EM's place. They all liked it; i.e. the 2 Japanese ladies, the Romanian, PY (my PRC GNIE classmate) and the French couple AA and EM. In addition, I shared some with HC (my Canadian friend who originate from Hong Kong) who liked it after added a bit of sugar to further sweeten the dessert.

Note: This dessert is supposedly good for coughs (thanks to the pears) and nourishes the complexion. It can be served hot or cold. Some like it hot, some like it cold.


Stewed Pear (Chinese version) 中式炖梨

Ingredients for 10 servings:

5 pears. Barlett, Peckham, Anjou or French Butter preferred.

1 clump of Snow-Ear fungus 雪耳 Note: Snow-Ear fungus 雪耳 is preferred over white-wood-ear fungus 白木耳 because the folds are tighter and its texture is softer when cooked.

5 honeyed dates 蜜枣

Ground cinnamon.

Sugar or sweetener to taste. I used about 3-5 tablespoons of honey. Molasses can be used if preferred.

Snow-ear fungus

Ingredients in a pot, before cooking.

1. Wash the pears. Remove and discard the core. Chop into small chunks, e.g. 1.5cm x 1.5cm x 3cm. Put into the pot, with the skin on.

2. Rinse the snow-ear fungus. Chop into small chunks, e.g. 1cm x 1cm x 1cm. Add into the pot.

3. De-seed the honeyed dates. Dice and add into the put.

4. Add about half of the sweetener. Add a few shakes of cinnamon (do not add too much, or it would overpower the pears). Stir to mix.

5. Add around 5 bowls of water, enough to cover the ingredients with about 2-3cm extra. Slow-cook for around 2 hours. Shorten cooking time if the pears are very ripe; conversely cook for 3 hours if the pears are very raw. Ensure that the ingredients are covered by the water, top-up with more water if too much is boiled off.

6. When cooked, stir and taste a tablespoon of the dessert. If needed, add more sweetener and/or ground cinnamon. Be careful not to add too much sweetener/cinnamon that the subtle flavours of the pear is overpowered.

7. Serve hot. Or if preferred, scoop into a container. Leave to cool; and when cool, put into the refrigerator. Serve cold.

Stewed Pear (Chinese version)
-- ready to be served.

Recipe: Bamboo fungus with spinach soup 竹笙翡翠汤

I cooked this for a gathering at AA and EM's place 2 Saturdays ago. EM liked it very much and has been asking me for the recipe. Last Friday EM came over to my place earlier (before the start of our French-Chinese lesson) and I took the chance to show her how to cook this.

The "bamboo fungus with spinach soup" is inspired by the "braised spinach soup with bamboo fungus" from the Ling Zhi vegetarian restaurant in Singapore.


Bamboo fungus with spinach soup 竹笙翡翠汤

Ingredients for 4-5 large individual servings:

Vegetable soup stock. We used miso paste instead, roughly 1 tablespoon of miso for each large individual bowl/serving of soup. Note: Do not use meat soup base, especially not beef stock because it will overpower the subtle flavour of the bamboo fungus.

10g of bamboo fungus 竹笙

8g-10g of black moss 发菜

80g of finely chopped spinach. We used the frozen chopped spinach.

1 small bundle of mung bean vermicelli 冬粉

100g enoki mushrooms

Salt or soya-sauce to flavour. Note: We skipped this since miso contains salt itself.

Optional: Sweetener, e.g. sugar, molasses, or honey. We used 1 tablespoon of pure liquid molasses. If using honey, control the amount so that it would not overpower the subtle flavour of the bamboo fungus.

Optional: 10 water-chestnuts, diced for additional crunch in the soup.

Note: All measures are approximate, add more/less as per your preference. As I explained to EM, Chinese cooking often do not rely on exact measures because so much is determined by the quality of the ingredients. If you have an excellent quality ingredient, you may want to add less; and conversely add more if the ingredient quality isn't so great; so as to maintain the overall harmony of the flavours.

Clockwise from top-left: Mung bean vermicelli, chopped spinach, enoki mushrooms, black moss.

Bamboo fungus and black moss

1. Rinse the bamboo fungus. Slow-cook it for 1-2 hours with about 5 bowls of water and the soup stock. The longer you cook, the more the flavour of the bamboo fungus will develop in the soup. [Note: If you're in a hurry, even 30min of cooking time is also ok, just that the exquisite flavour of the bamboo fungus will not be so developed.]

2. Rinse the other ingredients.

3. Chop and throw away the dirty roots of the enoki mushrooms. Chop into 3 approximately-equal segments lengthwise. Split the large clumps (lower end, near the roots) into smaller clumps about 1cm x 1cm thick.

4. If using frozen chopped spinach, defrost it in the microwave.

5. At the final 15min of cooking time, add the mung bean vermicelli into the slow-cooker. [Be careful of the steam when opening the slow-cooker.]

6. At the final 10min of cooking time, add the black moss into the slow-cooker. Stir to distribute the ingredients. Do not overcook the black moss or it will break apart into tiny 0.5cm strands. [Be careful of the steam when opening the slow-cooker.]

7. At the final 5min of cooking time, add the spinach, enoki mushrooms, and water chestnuts (if using). Stir the ingredients to distribute it. Taste a tablespoon of the soup and add sweetener to adjust the flavour.

8. Scoop into serving bowls and serve immediately. Do not let the soup sit around or the mung bean vermicelli will expand and absorb most of the liquid.


Sorry, no final product photo. We were so happy eating that we forgot to take a photo of the completed dish again. :) If you need a sample, I recommend that you go to Ling Zhi vegetarian restaurant in Singapore to try the original "braised spinach soup with bamboo fungus".

Friday, October 26, 2012

3 best cold weather advice

Here are the 3 best cold weather advice that I have received, on how to adjust to Canada's cold weather.

"Lather yourself with LOTS of moisturizer during the cold and dry months."
From my elder sister when I was collecting luggage bags from her back in end-September 2010,
"Keep your head and neck covered and warm. Always wear a hat and a scarf, you'll feel warm that way."
From an acquaintance (who is my younger sister's colleague's aunt), a Singaporean living in Canada for decades, (as she chatted with me over the phone around Nov/Dec-2010 on the traditional Chinese health-system)
"People assume that in the cold weather they should it more heaty food to keep warm. In fact, the reverse is true. During cold weather, a lot of people fall sick because when exposed to the cold, the body goes into an overdrive to compensate, and thus becomes too heaty. Therefore, it is important to eat cooling foods in winter to maintain good health. Drink lots of 凉茶 [cooling tea]!"
This post is for folks like KC and his wife who will be landing in Canada soon. [Note: January is still the winter period.] Welcome and I hope you'll find the above advice useful too.

My 1st hockey game

On Wednesday, I went to watch the Vancouver Giants vs Brandon Wheat Kings at Pacific Coliseum with PY and her toddler. PY got the free tickets from a charity organization and decided to pull me along. It was the first time watching an ice hockey game "live" for the both of us.

Vancouver Giants vs Brandon Wheat Kings. 2nd goal by BWK.

The Vancouver Giants are the ones in red jerseys. The Brandon Wheat Kings are in yellow-and-white jerseys. The umpires are in vertical black-and-white striped jerseys.

In the video above, you may hear cheering and then "Oh, shit!" That was me, I was cheering because I was happy to capture a goal in the video. But then I realized that the goal was against the Vancouver Giants -- the team that we were supposed to be rooting for since we're from Metro Vancouver. And thus the "Oh, shit!"

Hockey is a big thing amongst many Vancouverites. As you can see from the video below, their children are inducted to the game at an early age. There are freebies, lucky draws, cheerleaders (complete with pom-poms), concession food and drinks (including non-alcoholic section in the arena seats) -- all in, a very healthy family entertainment if not for the "body checks" (i.e. uncalled for violence between players).

Kids Hockey. Remote-controlled blimp dropping gifts.

The final score was Vancouver Giants 2 vs Brandon Wheat Kings 3, with 29 and 28 attempts at goal from each side respectively.

The final score: Giants 2 vs BWK 3

I texted my Canadian-born friend RW about the match. Now that I have experienced it, I like watching ice hockey "live". It moves at a much faster pace and is therefore more exciting than baseball. I even prefer this over soccer (a.k.a. football) because the one-and-only "live" soccer match that I went to was so boring -- 2 groups of men jogging up-and-down the field, with one group making little/minimal attempt to score any goals. [Yeah, I suspect that particular soccer match may be "kelong" one.] RW agreed that we shall go watch an NHL (National Hockey League) match together when I get a RN (registered nurse) job with decent pay.

Autumn scenes

Just to share some autumn scenes.

16-Oct-2012 Red autumn leaves at Langley

19-Oct-2012 Red autumn leaves at Richmond

19-Oct-2012 Elderly couple walking hand-in-hand, Richmond

24-Oct-2012 Migratory birds -- here, there, everywhere;
In the trees, in the sky, on the electrical lines!
Vancouver, heading towards Pacific Coliseum

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chatting with strangers

While doing my groceries shopping today, 2 strangers chatted with me. Strangers sometimes chat with each other in Metro Vancouver (more often than in Singapore) and it is considered normal and polite social interactions. E.g. While waiting for the bus, while seated next to each other on public transport, while waiting at a supermarket check-out queue, while hunting for bargains at a sale. That's why I find Canadians (of all ethnicity) friendly and sociable in general.

The first was a lady (customer) who saw me examining bowls on sale at a supermarket. She walked next to me, smiled, picked up a bowl and then put it down. Then she remarked to me that the bowl's too heavy. I replied that (the weight due to) the thickness of the bowl is to keep the food warm. She explained that it (i.e. the weight of the bowl) is ok for young people like me (ahem, I probably looked young to her) but the bowls are too heavy for the elderly.
The stranger spoke in Cantonese, looked Chinese and possibly in her 50's or 60's. Then it occurred to me that the Chinese traditionally hold the rice bowl to their lips to scoop/shove small rolls/bites of rice into their mouths with chopsticks. Thus, the weight of the bowls mattered to the elderly Chinese lady. 
Anyway, the stranger remarked further that she uses Corelle bowls. I agreed that those are light indeed, and easy-to-use (i.e. dishwater safe) and beautiful too; however they cost more -- several times more. [“Corelle 碗又轻,又好用,又靓;但咳贵咯!贵几倍。”] Thereafter the lady replied that, "Yes, they cost more. But it is light enough for the elderly to use." I smiled and agreed with her. I have learned something new -- it is important to consider how your target users use the dinnerware and cutlery when making a purchase. Fortunately for me, given my budget and my (rather youthful) target users, I can buy the cheap CAD1 bowls.

TCM ingredients distributor outlet 
opposite Richmond Real Canadian Superstore.
Wide range of products, good price, quality stock.

The second was also a lady (customer) who saw me browsing through the tea section of a Traditional Chinese Medicinal (TCM) ingredients distributor outlet. She also looks Chinese, possibly in her 50's and spoke to me in Cantonese. She was there to compare prices for a "5 flowers tea". She picked up a packet, checked the price, put it down and then remarked to me "Wow, the prices rise so fast. Anyway, there is a sale at the other shop (nearby)." I just smiled and told her that I don't know about the prices since it's my first time at that shop.

Then the lady walked over to the chrysanthemum tea, picked up a packet and told me, “我同你讲,呢个最直得买。裹边个店卖十个几。嘘!莫呸老板知道,呒咳他又起价。” ["I tell you what. This is the most worth buying. The other shop is selling it for CAD10+. Sssshh, don't let the shop owner know or they'll raise the prices."] It was only CAD7.80 at the shop we're at. Then she added, "It's good quality too!" She took a whiff of the smell and then offered it to me, “你闻一下。” ["You try smelling it."] I took a whiff of the smell -- yes, it was indeed fragrant. Then she proceed to explain to me how to re-pack and store the chrysanthemum so that it would last a longer period, which she claimed she learned from the shop owner. She explained that the big packets are compressed and often contained moisture, and thus easily turned mouldy before it is used up. The suggested method is to spread out the compressed chrysanthemum on a large piece of paper (e.g. newspaper) and let it air dry for while. Then repack them into sealable plastic bags (e.g. Ziploc bags) and store in the re-fridgerator shelf.

Big clumps of chrysanthemum tea

Spread out the chrysanthemum flowers
to allow the trapped moisture to evaporate

Then the stranger mentioned some ways to combine the chrysanthemum with other tea ingredients depending on the nature/state of my health. [Sorry, I cannot recall much of it.] I remarked that she seemed to know a lot about the herbs. She explained that she learned from experience. She stated that she was previously diagnosed with a terminal illness, and that at one stage, her pain was so bad that she needed injections that cost tens of thousands of dollars. [I don't know how true her story is, maybe she opted for treatment that is not covered under the province's approved medication list.] Anyway, her husband and herself were about to give up, but decided to give the TCM (traditional chinese medicine) approach a try. I remarked that it is great that it worked for her. She stated, “噻佐二几万银。” ["Used about CAD20+K."] I replied, “噻佐二几万银揭番条命都直得噶。” ["Spend about CAD20+K to regain one's life is still worth it."] She smiled and agreed. Then she joked that looking at me, dressed so "thickly"* that my health is possibly worse than hers despite my "youth". [“嘞供年轻,麽窘供多裳。可能嘞键康总比我差。”] I laughed and agreed. [*Note: I was prepared to be out until nightfall, and thus I wore my padded coat on my shoulders despite the nice afternoon weather because I was too lazy to carry it around. But then, I agree that my health is possibly worse than hers, given her somewhat radiant looks.]

Just before she left, the stranger shared another recipe -- combine handfuls of broad beans [扁豆], red beans [小红豆] and barley [薏米] and boil into a nutritious and delicious snack. Then she added, “今日的扁豆某靓,莫买!” ["Today's broad beans aren't good-looking, don't buy!"] And thus, I learned yet more new stuff from yet another stranger today.


This morning, I had brunch with PN. We met as strangers chatting at a police station in Singapore. She is now one of my close, caring and reliable friends in Canada.

In the evening I went out for dinner with my friend HC. HC migrated from Hong Kong to Vancouver in her teens and she has been here for around 40 years now. As we chat, I learned more about the Canadian norms and her observations of her fellow Canadians. It is amazing that we were strangers too, just over 2 years ago when she responded to my email questions about a room-to-let.

p.s. Please excuse my poor Cantonese typing -- I have not figured out how to get the proper Cantonese words using my keyboard yet.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Turning white hair to black

An anonymous reader asked for the "Traditional Chinese Medicinal recipe for turning white hair to black" on my blog entry "My new slow cooker".

But first, the declaration and disclaimer.

DECLARATION AND DISCLAIMER: The following are personal opinions from me and my cousin's wife. Neither of us is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner, nor are we in any way trained in TCM. Thus any content from us shall be construed as a sharing of personal opinions, not health nor medical advice. We do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information provided by us. Under no circumstances will we or anyone related to this content be responsible for any loss or damage resulting from any reliance on the information or other content posted or linked herewith.

Just to share my cousin's wife's story. She had ovarian cancer and underwent the relevant (western) medical treatment and surgery. She suspected that some of her hair turned white related to the cancer and/or its treatment. Thus she went to get some TCM treatment at the Singapore Chung Hwa Medical Institution at its Toa Payoh HQ. What she shared is based on what worked for her.

Here's the recipe that my cousin's wife shared (with some editing for clarity).
1. Wash 10pcs of red dates [红枣]; 6 pcs black dates [南枣]; 2pcs honey dates [蜜枣]. 
2. Put the dates into your cooking pot. [*Note: Personally I prefer to de-seed the dates and chop them into fine pieces, but it is up to your personal preferences.] 
3a. Add 375ml of water (estimate with 1 1/2 usual drinking mugs) if using slow cooker where the water level remains about the same. [Note: This varies depending on your slow cooker. Mine pumps out lots of steam so I actually add about 1 litre of water.] 
3b. Add 750ml of water (estimate with 3 usual drinking mugs) if using cooking on the stove.  
4. Cook until only 250 ml of water is left, i.e. about 1 usual drinking mug of fluids. [For me, I usually slow cook it for 1 to 2 hours and I get about 500ml at the end.]
5. Drink the fluid and eat up all the dates as well.
6. Repeat steps 1-5 over 3 months, 2 times each week. 
  1. This recipe works only for those with about 5% white hair or 5% hair loss. For those with more than 20% hair loss or sudden increase in % white hair or a circle of white hair concentrated at the crown of one's head, please visit your doctor -- it may be a symptom of something serious.
  2. My cousin's wife strongly recommends consulting a Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner before embarking on the above recipe or if you suspect any health issues or would like a health review. In addition, she suggests visiting an acupuncturist if you don't mind it. The Singapore Chung Hwa Medical Institution at its Toa Payoh HQ (located at Toa Payoh Central, near the Toa Payoh library) has acupuncturist sessions available, Monday to Friday 1pm-5pm. It used to cost only around SGD15 per session.

Photos at the start of the experiment. Grey hair not dyed yet. My grey hair is not evenly distributed. The left side seems to have more than the right side.





[Update 10-Jan-2014] I fell ill in Oct-2012 and stopped the experiment. Thereafter, I did not continue, so I cannot vouch if this formula works or otherwise.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The nurse-nun's story

I watched "The Nun's Story" on DVD yesterday. According to Wikipedia, the film is based on a novel with the same title written by Kathryn Hulme. It is a fictionalized story based on the real-life experience of Kathryn's partner Marie Louise Habets, who was a Belgian nurse and a former Religious Sister (i.e. Catholic nun).

As I watched the movie, I recognize the bullying (by some senior Religious Sisters) on the pretext of training "obedience" and "humility" in their younger nun (acted by Audrey Hepburn) training to be a nurse. [See also here.]

Now if one traces the history of female nurses in Singapore, one would learn that the first female nurses in Singapore were Catholic nuns from the Society of St Vincent de Paul assigned to (the Singapore) General Hospital. If you want to find out more juicy stories of struggles for power, accusations of bullying and discrimination, I recommend that you read "The Origins of Nursing in Singapore" from the Singapore Medical Journal.
[Note: According to a hospital's website, another group of Catholic nuns were serving as nurses in Singapore even earlier than the St Vincent de Paul group.]
I am generalizing here, but apparently the nursing culture in Singapore started out on the wrong foot and has continued to this present age. E.g. I am so sorry that even a lay-Catholic ADON subscribed to such out-dated ideas of how a nurse should behave -- i.e. accept all "shit", shut up and serve humanity with humility. Sorry, madam, we join nursing to be professionals (not to be exploited), and we certainly did not take any vow of "chastity, humility and poverty" that your nuns did.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Lost my blog statistics

Ok, something interesting happened. When I logon to Blogger today, my web statistics for my blog has been wiped out. Apparently I have only 2 hits since the beginning of my blog now -- both hits from today, Japan, from a user(s) running Internet Explorer on Windows. One of which was on my "Wind and clouds 风云" blog entry.

Anyone else had their blogger statistics wiped out before?


[Addendum on Sunday 14-Oct-2012, 9:55pm Canadian Pacific Time]

The stats are back. :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lucky first attempts!

My sister emailed me the following today.

[Extracted from my sister's email]

[Edited URL]

Chanced upon this.  Looks like you have a high quality of life over at Vancouver... Good!


I have forgotten about my poetry submissions. I submitted 2 entries -- one is amongst those that earned an "Honourable Mention". What a nice surprise, given that this is my first attempt at that genre of poetry.

As luck would have it, the theatrical play that was my first attempt at co-creating and acting in Canada (back in 2011) was nominated for a theatrical award this summer -- albeit the award category was not related to my direct efforts. [Note: I attended the award ceremony back in June this year.]

I think I am getting the beginner's luck once again here in Metro Vancouver. I'm so happy just thinking about my lucky first attempts!

Fall comes quickly

Just 2 days ago on Wednesday, the sky is bright by 7am. Then yesterday the sky was still dark at 7:30am and only just about starting to light up. Today, the sky was getting dark by 6:30pm. Even the temperature has dipped; hitting teens in daytime and single-digit at night. Yesterday was foggy and today is rainy. It's the typical Vancouver rain, i.e. light showers by Singapore standards.

Today's weather reminds me of the time I "landed in Canada" 2 years ago. Grey and gloomy skies, perked up by the lovely fall colours of fiery red, ripe orange and golden yellow. It is surprising how hope shifts our perception. Despite the gloomy weather and hitting-the-wall time-and-again with each registration process, hope burning within makes me feel that "Everything is possible, every challenge has a solution -- it is only a matter of time".


We just finished another milestone for the GNIE nursing course today. Starting next week, we will transition to once weekly school lessons and preceptorship. I am lucky to have been assigned to a preceptor at a hospital near my home. So for once, I do not have to catch the 1st bus of the day to get to clinical on-time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blah blah blog

Yesterday, someone called this a "blah blah blog" without ever having had a look at it or finding out what it's about. If it were any person, I would not bother. But that someone was supposedly interested in me and made that remark when I casually mentioned about my blog. In response, I replied that his remark reminded me of a similar remark made by an MCP (male chauvinist pig) back in Singapore and that I dropped the other fellow as a friend after his very rude response to my decision to leave Singapore.
Sometimes it makes me wonder why men assume that women have inferior grey matter between our ears just because we don't go around shouting about our qualities and achievements. Come on, why would we when we (smart women) know very well that men usually go for looks? But that doesn't make us bimbos. If I wanted to be cruel, I could ask him, "How many people voluntarily come to you for your thoughts/views each day?" I'll bet it would not exceed 20/day* for someone who is a software developer and an introvert with a limited social life. But I won't do that, no need to hurt a man's most treasured asset -- his ego.
[*Note: As the current blog stats go, I get about 100 hits/day... assuming 2hits/day/person, it would be 50 persons voluntarily reading my thoughts each day.]
I am done putting up with chauvinist twits (click hereherehere and here -- see the comments section for the last 2 links), so unless that someone apologizes for his uncalled for prejudicial remark, it shall be "end of story" with this guy. There are plenty of fishes out there. I have turned down "better catches" before and would rather be alone than with a sub-standard fish.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

2 years in Canada - Exhaustipated

Today is my 2nd anniversary of landing in Canada.

Today marks a decision point -- for today, I meet the requirements to renew my Canada PR (i.e. reside in Canada 2 years out of every 5 consecutive years). From the looks of it, I am staying. 

Within the timeframe of 2 years, I have "Canadianized" in some ways. E.g. I check the weather before going out. E.g. I learned how to queue at the bus-stops. E.g. From defining travel time beyond 30mins as far, to accepting travel time of under 1 hour as reasonable.  E.g. From finding the "harm reduction" philosophy of public health spending a waste of money to accepting that the empirical outcomes prove otherwise. E.g. From not knowing what to make of acquaintances'/friends' offer to try their "pot", to understanding it as their gesture of trust and goodwill. E.g. From finding it weird to meet people with mental health issues in public, to considering it their right to co-exist so long as they are not a threat to themselves or others. E.g. From finding the relatively empty sidewalks of Richmond strange (i.e. no one walking in-front-of or behind me) to finding the busy sidewalks of Seattle* strange. [*Note: I visited Seattle last weekend and I was suddenly reminded of Singapore. It struck me that I do not miss the hustle and bustle of a big city.]

I have changed, but IMHO Singapore's socioeconomic and political scene has remained pretty much the same during these past 2 years. A case of 换汤不换药 ["changing the soup, but not the drugs in the decoction", i.e. "making at superficial changes only".] When I read online of Singapore's recent political "dances" and wayang, e.g. the National CONversation, I can only shake my head and tell myself that I am lucky -- I have a choice to remain here in Canada.

Going forward, I will probably not write much about the things happening back in Singapore. Many other online sources and bloggers have written eloquently on such matters. For example:
2 years. A lot can change within 2 years if the person involved chooses to open his/her eyes. E.g. Watch Tin Pei Ling at 0:55 and 2:30 in the video clip below dated Apr-2011. Back then she was also quoted as saying, “Many people are complaining and blaming the government for this problem. But is this really the responsibility of the government? I don’t think so.”

Check out Tin Pei Ling's Facebook. It seems that she realizes now that there are many people struggling to make ends meet, and the government is responsible after all. She even wrote in June-2012, 

One cannot help but wonder what did TPL see, hear and experience to induce her change of heart? Perhaps the same transformational experience can be repeated for her colleagues, especially her boss.

A matter of will --
highway cutting through mountain from BC to Alberta

To quote Lucky Tan, "All ideas are there - it is a question of political will!"

Oh! As for the title of this post, I saw it from an acquaintance's Facebook posting. "Exhaustipated" means "too tired to give a shit!"

For me, the train has already left the station.


[Addendum on 07-Oct-2012]