And this is how you wear a fish pond

Fish Pond Poo

Recently my parents went away for 4 weeks (holidaying around the US!) and I looked after their house. They also asked me to look after their koi fish, and of course I said yes.

But to avoid what happened last time (I killed my mother’s fish), I promised her that I would be extra diligent so it wouldn’t happen again.

So. I popped over every second day to check up on those fish.

All was fine until week 3.

It was a Friday afternoon. All my children were at school and I had 3 hours before I had to pick them up. I was actually on my way back from a meeting in the city, so I was dressed quite nicely, wearing crisp white jeans, silk top and a blazer. I stepped into my parent’s garden and the smell hit me. The sour stench of rotting algae and fish death. OH NO!!

The pond water was murky. The pump had stopped working. I slowly peered into the water. All the fish were still alive! But they were moving pretty slowly.

Siiiiiigh. I didn’t want to fix this problem! I have so many errands to run today! I didn’t have time for this! This was supposed to take 3 minutes! In. Feed fish. Out. Done.

But of course, since I killed her other fish, The Good Chinese Daughter in me felt obliged to sort out this problem before MORE FISH DIED!

So I took off my high heel shoes and carefully stepped on some rocks so I could take a closer look at the pond pump.

Hmm. The pump sat at the bottom of the pond and it was very murky down there. I couldn’t see a thing. I grabbed the slimy tube connected to the pump and lifted the whole thing up and out of the water. It looked like a dead and smelly swamp creature covered in brown algae, just like in Star Wars. The pump was not working. Possibly clogged? I gave it a shake to dislodge anything that might be stuck in it. But it was still not working. So I carefully placed it back into the pond, but just as it hit the water, it slipped from my hand and made a big splash.

I gasped. MY WHITE JEANS!

I looked down and my white jeans were splattered with dirty pond water. Shit. Shit. SHIT!

I went back into the house and I reluctantly took off all my clothes, except my knickers and bra. I gave my white jeans a wash and hung them up. Then I went BACK to the pond to examine that pump again.

That’s right! I was standing IN a fish pond in my freaking underwear! My NICE underwear!

I was praying that no one came to the house – postman, delivery guy, pool cleaner, electricity meter reading guy, the neighbours – how embarrassing!

Sigh. I took apart the whole pump. Tubes. Filter pads. Power supply. Everything. Everything was covered in this brown slime. My fingers and hands were covered in it. It was dripping down my arm. The filter pads were so clogged with the stuff, that I couldn’t see inside any of the pump parts. So I had to spray water on it to clean it, and the spray splattered the brown stuff onto my chest, face, hair too.

It was truly disgusting. It was slimy and sticky. It smelt sooo bad. And I SMELT SO BAD!

I deduced that the power supply had failed.

So I called the closest water pump specialist in the area. The guy on the phone told me that all the blown slime was probably fish poo. Oh god. I fed the fish too much. The fish went on a pooing spree. The poo clogged the pump. The pump died.  And so that is how I came to be standing in my underwear, covered in fish poo, talking to a guy I have never met.

EEEEEeeeeeeewwwww.

So then, what happened?

I bagged the old pump. I hosed myself down. I changed back into my nice clothes (and wet jeans!). I drove to the pump shop. I showed the guy the broken pump, in wet, white jeans. I bought a new pump (for $259!!). I drove back to my parent’s house. Checked that the fish were still alive. I took off all my clothes again. I installed the brand new pump. Tested it to make sure that it worked. Had a quick shower, with soap this time. Changed back into my nice clothes again. And then rushed to pick up my kids from school!!

I only *just* made it!

And, I hope, nobody noticed the faint whiff of fish poo :P

My Tips for Youthful Looking Skin

This new year has got me thinking. I’m in my mid-thirties and I’ve never felt fitter, stronger, healthier and more energetic in my whole life!

I’m very blessed and grateful to have good health so I hope to keep myself at the top of my game as long as I can, being the best me possible.

So one of my goals is to look after my skin.

Here’s how I am doing that!

My Tips for Youthful Looking Skin

1) Sun Protection.

Wear a hat. Cover up!
I’m now a crazy hat person. I own a lot of hats for all kinds of different occasions. From caps for outdoor sports, to a cowboy straw hat for the beach, to a black and white fedora just for making a fashion statement.

Keep out of the sun!
I try to avoid direct sun exposure during the hottest parts of the day (between 10am and 2pm).

Suncream!
I wear suncream every day. I spread it all over my face, ears, neck, chest, shoulders and arms. I usually buy the stuff rated SPF30+ but have started buying the SPF50+ creams too. I am always on the look out for the ones that are “dry touch”… which feel much nicer on the skin.

My Tips for Youthful Looking Skin

2) Eat Healthy

Eat healthy foods.
I usually eat very well, so this is easy for me. I love eating all the super-foods and foods rich in omega fatty acids – such as broccoli, spinach, salmon, berries, eggs, lentils, nuts and seeds.

I stay away from foods that are high in saturated fats, high salt, contains additives and preservatives, deep-fried foods and processed foods.

Limit Sugar.
My weakness is sugar! I’m trying to limit the amount I eat. On average, I eat a small square of chocolate per day and I won’t say no to a small slice of cake.

Drink Healthy.
I don’t like drinking juice or soft drinks. And I don’t drink alcohol. I just drink water, two cups of tea each day and the occasional coffee.

Oh, and of course, I don’t smoke.

My Tips for Youthful Looking Skin

3) Moisturise, moisturise!

I can really feel the change in my skin from when I was 20 something.

I can see fine lines appearing, my cheeks are less firm and perky, and I have definitely noticed a loss of radiance in my skin. I have been using some great moisturising products, applying them day and night.

Ageing IS inevitable, but I am sure not giving up without a fight!

My Tips for Youthful Looking Skin

4) Get more sleep.

I’m a bit of a night owl, and if I was left alone to my own devices, I would revert to my university days and bad habits of sleeping at 1am every night.

But my husband helps me with this. We try to sleep at 10-11pm each night. It makes such a difference to get two hours of extra sleep before midnight!

Meditate. Relax.
While I don’t do any formal meditation, I always try to make 10 minutes during the day where I sit quietly, slow down my thoughts and concentrate on my breathing.

My Tips for Youthful Looking Skin

5) Get Exercise

I believe part of being and looking youthful is to have energy and a happy spark.

For me, daily exercise and being active definitely brings about both these things.

At the moment I run 2–3 times a week, I go to the gym, I go for daily walks, I cycle, I do floor exercises and weights in front of the tv in the evenings and I play netball once a week. I also combine mi routine with the new Proven weight loss pills to boost the resoults.

It helps that my husband and kids are very active too. I love it that we spend lots of family time together in the park – but only in the early morning, and very late afternoon, when the sun in not so strong.

Spending time in the park with your family may not actually make my skin better… but it sure makes me happy!

Jamie Oliver’s 6-Hour Slow-Roasted Pull-Apart Pork

Slow-Cooked, Pulled Pork

This is an adaptation of Jamie Oliver’s 6-hour slow-roasted pork shoulder, recipe here.

The original recipe talks about cooking pork and roast vegetables. But I wanted to make some kick-ass, slow-cooked gravy too! So I threw in some finely diced vegetables which caramelised and melted into an exquisite puddle of deliciousness – perfect for making gravy.

Ingredients

2 kg shoulder of pork, skin on.
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon of fennel seeds, ground

Gravy Vegetables
1 red onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
2 garlic clove
4 bay leaves
600 ml water

Roast Vegetables
1 red onion, cut into chunky wedges
2 carrots, chopped into chunks
3 celery sticks, chopped into chunks
5 potatoes, quartered

1. Preheat your oven to 220°C

2. Get a sharp knife and make scores in the pork skin and fat, about a centimeter apart (but don’t cut into the meat). Rub a few pinches of salt, pepper and fennel seeds on the skin and underside of the pork.

3. Put the pork in a roasting tray (skin-side up) and surround it with the gravy vegetables, garlic and bay leaves. Pour in 300ml of water and put the tray into the hot oven.

4. Roast for 30 minutes, until the skin of the pork has started to puff up and you can see it turning into crackling.

5. Turn the heat down to 170°C. Wrap the pork and tray in foil and put back into the oven for 4.5 hours.

6. Take off the foil. Baste the pork with the oil that has dripped into the tray.

7. Then add the roasting vegetables. Toss them around into the tray to coat with the pork oil.

8. Keep the tray uncovered. Put back into the oven for 1 hour.

9. Move the pork to a serving dish. Be careful, as the pork might fall apart! Cover with the foil, and leave it to rest. Also take out the chunky roast vegetables out of the pan.

Gravy.
What’s left in the pan will be the reduced, diced vegetables, pork drippings and oil. Carefully skim off ALL of the oil floating on top. There will be a lot! Pour everything that remains into a blender and whizz it all up (you might need to add some water) to make a rich, sweet gravy that tastes like caramelised onion and carrots. Season to taste!

Cooking Notes:
My crackling didn’t work out very well. I think I didn’t blast it in the hot over for long enough, so it didn’t puff up and go crispy. But in the end, I was so disgusted by all the fat and oil (saturated fat is really bad for you!), that I cut off ALL the crackling and fat and refused to serve it to my family. I threw it all in the bin, haha!

Building a Stylish Wardrobe – Three Modern Classics

Black Classics

I want to share three modern classic pieces from my wardrobe, that always make me feel fabulous whenever I wear them.

Versatile for work or play and perfect for mixing and matching, these items are wonderfully timeless… so I definitely classify them as my “wardrobe essentials”.

A black silk shirt
A real investment piece, this Isabel Marant silk shirt (from Forward by Elyse Walker) is heavenly. It is a size FR34 and it fits my arm length, body length, across the bust, neck, shoulders… perfectly! The fabric is luxurious silk, which feels, moves and falls like a delicious cloud. There are no pin-tucks, epaulettes, embroidery, shoulder details or print – it is a simple, clean-cut shirt with minimal design. A classic indeed!

A black leather skirt
This a-line, leather skirt is oh-so cool and understated. It’s soft, supple and has a raw edge along the bottom, which I really like. I bought it several years ago from Urban Outfitters. It used to sit on my waist, but I have since lost a bit of weight and it sits on my hips now. I do prefer it to sit on my waist, so I might find someone to alter it.

Black strappy sandals
These are a pretty good, quality pair of non-leather heels by high-street Korean brand Koo (from YesStyle). They were about $70, which I believe is quite affordable for good quality shoes. I purchased them about 2 years ago and I still happily reach for them whenever I want simple sandals to compliment my outfit. I wear them a lot, they are pretty comfortable and I look after them very well. I guess it proves to me, that I don’t *have* to buy leather everything for an item to last.

Building a wardrobe with key classic pieces is a whole lot of fun, especially when I see the results – that is, the ease in which I can put together a stylish outfit and feel fabulous!

Hope this inspires you too!

Celebrating… Because We Can

Chinese New Year 2014

I think I may have had my most meaningful Chinese New Year yet.

10pm and the band was still belting out tunes from the 1950s and 1960s. Couples in their 60s and 70s, in their swishy skirts and crisp tuxedoes, skimmed across the wooden dance floor like happy flamingos. The chatter of 800 people filled the cavernous ballroom like a roaring ocean.

I was standing amongst it all, in this Chinese New Year Ball, looking up at the sparkling tree. I thought that the glowing lanterns looked like Chinese UFOs with alien octopus-tentacles rising up into a star-system worm-hole thing. I wished my kids were here to see it. They would make sound effects for it, invent a story and act it out, and I would laugh with all my heart.

The night before this ball, we had a big Chinese banquet with my entire Mum’s side of the family. Dinner with the Wongs. And it’s always the same. Same Aunty’s house. Same roast duck. Same fried prawns. Same steamed fish. Same table cloth. Same pink rice cooker. Same blue esky for the extra cool drinks. Same faces. Same jokes. Same stories. Same smells. Same sounds.

When I was a kid, and a teenager, I used to get bored with the same-ness. I used to roll my eyes and crave for something new. Something different.

But this year, I liked that things were the same. In the way you retrospectively like a banal object after you discover you’ve lost it. The table full of Chinese cookies. The Asian-style hot water dispenser. The plastic tea cups. I poured myself some Chinese tea, moving around my Aunty’s kitchen with ease and familiarity. I used to live in this house when I was a kid. Now look at me. Look how much I’ve grown up. Look at how much my kids have grown. I touched the kitchen bench top and smiled, wishing that things would never change.

Because I know that soon, maybe next year, some things will change. Someone might be gone. Things might be different. We’ll start to have people-shaped holes in our lives. We’ve been on a good run here. 10 years of same-ness. We have been blessed. But things will start to be different soon.

Back at the Chinese New Year Ball, without my kids, the band stopped playing. The MC announced, with a heavy Chinese accent, that a new band was going to come on stage and play “music from the 80s”.  I looked up with delight. While my formative years were in the 1990s, my husband is very much a 1980s kind of guy. This will be fun. I want to dance. It’s been a while since I let loose on a dance floor.

I looked for my husband and saw him afar, talking and laughing to someone. I caught his eye, smiled, then pointed to the dance floor. I wriggled my arms like a twisting chicken, in the universal sign language that said – LET’S DANCE!!

We walked towards each other, eyes locked and grinning, weaving between chairs and people and the ocean of noise. My dear husband. Ten years ago, he had emergency surgery to save his life, and the surgery threatened the mobility of his legs. He could have been in a wheel chair for the rest of his life. Thankfully, both his life and his legs were spared… and now we dance, because we can. That’s our motto.

Chinese New Year 2014

But just before we were about to step onto the dance floor, the new band started to play. Beautiful, soothing and heart-aching music filled the air. But it wasn’t Madonna.

It was in fact “music from the Andes”, not “music from the 80s”.  As in, bamboo pan pipe playing folk music from the Andes mountains, in South America.

We laughed uncontrollably. Holding hands. Holding each other steady, to suppress our laughter. So that others wouldn’t think we were laughing AT the band.

By 11pm, we were done. We drove home, still holding hands, past all the glittery lights of the city and towards our warm bed and a new day of children cuddles, school lunches, bike rides and glorious sameness.