Anorexia Kills

I received the sad news that my friend’s 16 year old daughter died of anorexia-related complications. She was 16, pretty, lots to live for, and certainly not fat at all.

Yet she believed she was. And media tells us that women have to be thin to be successful/beautiful. Giorgio Armani used anorexic-looking models this year, for example, the so-called heroin-chic. There are many websites that promote this dangerous propaganda too.

One of G’s friend in her previous school was hospitalized for eating disorders. A 13 year old should not be worried about being fat. Some of the bitchy girls commented behind G’s back that she is fat.

But does G care? Heck, no.

I post a lot about her because one of the things I want to propagate is “healthy and strong is beautiful”. Like her million dollar legs. They are not thin legs, but do you want a thin pair over G’s powerful pair? Girls should be taught to feel empowered by their femininity, not enslaved.

I get infuriated when people compliment me on my ‘slimness’ (especially in Asia). No, I don’t aim to be slim. In certain stages of my life, I was unfortunately slim because I was bereaved, or I was going through chemo, or I could not eat. There is nothing to celebrate, yet that farking word “slim” is so celebrated in Asia. Please think, and use that word responsibly. Don’t propagate the slim culture, because at best, it will give girls stupid useless targets to aim for; at worse, it kills.

Beauty is an inner thing.

Six Ways of Growing Sibling Closeness

In the past week, I have had more emotional turmoil than I did in the last ten years of my life. But it took just one phone call, and my big brother Huw was there. In fact, he had always been there, silent and watchful, looking out for me.

“Fix you,” he would say. Like in the Coldplay song.

Even though we live in different continents now, the bond between us never snagged. I am closer to him than I am to the father of my children, whom I have slept with for almost three decades.

“Everything OK at home?” Huw would ask whenever we spoke. At family gatherings, he would try to get me on my own to ask those pressing questions. “Walk to the shop with me,” he would say. ‘We need to get more milk.”

Funnily enough, I have always thought I am closer to my younger brother Al, whom I used to take the train to school with everyday. Al and I fought like cats and dogs. Huw, on the other hand, had always been the big brother, serious and stoic, to be respected but not played with. Though he is only a year older than I, it had always felt as if he was much older and much more sorted out.

I could tell him anything, even my deepest secrets. I thought I had none, until I unburden myself to Huw. If I told anybody else about the darkness that lurks in my heart, they might stop loving me. But never Huw.

“History,” Huw would say. “We have history.”

And so it dawned upon me again, just how important sibling closeness is. You might have differences and angsts where your siblings are concerned, but at the end of the day, you rise from the same bedrock. When the chips are down and the whole world is against you, it is often your siblings that you can count on to shore you up. Thus, I am very thankful that my children enjoy the same closeness with each other that I enjoy with both my brothers. In fact, their father and I often bemoan the fact that they are closer to each other – with their first loyalties to each other – than they are to us, their parents. They have a shorthand way of speaking to each other, so that family news gets disseminated efficiently and discussed thoroughly, and decisions come to. One voice will speak on behalf of others. Even if there are disagreements within the group, they will speak with one voice.

This sibling cohesion made it difficult for their father and I to enforce anything against their will, because it had always been a collective will. Five voices speaking as one against “the management” aka the parents, either pleading for clemency on behalf of a wrongdoer, vetoing parental plans or pushing forward their agenda. When it comes to our kids, we could never divide and rule. Though that made it challenging to parent them especially in their teenage years, we are glad and relieved that they have this closeness with each other. Because we the parents will not be here forever to support, guide and comfort them. It is good that they have each other to turn to in times of need, and goodness knows, that need could hit anytime, as I have found out in the last week.

My six ways of growing sibling closeness:

 1. Model it first

Children learn best by copying. If you are close to your siblings, your children would naturally be (even if they fight like cats and dogs). It makes sense, because if your children can see the benefits you derive from your close relationship, they would want a piece of the action, too. Having sold this to them on emotional and psychological grounds, you can move on to the implementation as outlined in the next steps:

 

 2. Make time for family

It is a fallacy that if you live in the same house, you have a close relationship. I have seen sad incidences where parents and children are sitting round the table in a restaurant, each engrossed in their iPads and smart phones, rather than have conversations with each other. So set the first rule: talk to each other and make mealtimes family times.

 

3. Teach your children about your family history

Children love stories, so use this opportunity of telling them about your parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins. Give them a sense of belonging. Create that glue that binds the family together.

 

4. Teach your children to love each other

Many parents have the mistaken belief that because of biology, siblings will automatically love each other. This couldn’t be further than the truth. Children need to be taught love, and also taught to express that love so that it becomes richness in their lives. Simple ways to teach them to love each other:

If one sibling has done something selfless for the other, highlight that (in a casual way);

Encourage them to do nice things for each other;

Play team games where siblings are in the same team versus the parents;

Give them presents that they have to share with each other;

Encourage them to spend time together;

Devise a system where the older one helps his/her younger siblings as part of household chores that all children have to do (but do not overburden the older child with too much).

 

 5. Create the environment

Love does not grow easily in hostile environments. Have lots of love and laughter in the house. A golden rule of my mum’s is never go to bed angry with each other. From personal experience, I discovered that having fresh flowers in the house helps with creating a happy environment. These can be flowers that you and your children pick on your walks.

 

 6. Enjoy each other

There is a lot to be said about having good times together. Even when we struggled in the early days as cash-strapped young parents, we endeavored to put time aside to enjoy each other.   The weekends were for the parks in summer and free indoor events in winter (the museums in London were free after 5pm). We took long road trips to visit grandparents, we collected coupons from newspapers for free trips and we read bedtime stories every night. From enjoyment comes warmth and open hearts.

 

Note: if your child is an only child, use this model with their cousins.

 Song: Fix You by Coldplay

Raising self-sufficient kids

My mother always made excuses for me to absolve me from doing chores and even from thinking.  She always had the perfect excuse: I had homework to do, I was tired, it was faster if she did it herself anyway and a whole host of other excuses, when it came to washing up, taking the rubbish out, cleaning my own room, right down to fetching myself a cup of tea. In her simple, generous and selfless mind, I always had other more important things to do.  I was going to be an important person in the future, destined for greater things, and thus, my every moment should not be wasted on menial tasks and mundane things.

It may sound idyllic, but my mother had robbed me of learning opportunities. I never learned to be self-sufficient. All I needed to do was use my voice.

The career paths I had chosen did not help me either. From my twenties onwards (apart from my short PhD years), I had nurses, secretaries and maids running at my every bidding. I always had people to file things away, sweep up my crumbs, wash up after me, run my errands, open jars and load syringes. As I grew older, I morphed from a pampered kid into an arrogant adult who hid her insufficiencies behind her successes. My excuse – nay, make that self-justification – was, I was earning a six figure salary, why should I know how to change car tyres? I needed hired help, to free me to do the ‘more important’ things in life, such as playing with my children, cooking wholesome food, reading, partying.  That was all good at the headline level, but filter that down to day-to-day living, it became a crippling shortcoming. Examples: because I no longer have a personal assistant, I have missed the same flight three times in the week, I am always going overdrawn in my accounts because I am bad at keeping track on my spendings, I do not know how to operate household appliances, I leave my kitchen mess for others to tidy up, I can never find my own things … need I go on?

In the beginning, I tried on this ruling class mentality with my children’s father, but got nowhere. He was the only one who was not prepared to jump over hoops at my bidding. Indeed, I often credit him for teaching me life’s lessons, including one in self-sufficiency.

Kicking and screaming, he had dragged me into the real world. I had learned how to change fuses and clean our house (on the first night I slept over! I am still reeling with shock about it). But almost thirty years of unsympathetic lessons from this taskmaster, I still have the occasional bad habit, like handing a banana on auto-pilot for him to peel.

I arrived home in England and all the old-time bad habits surfaced once more. My passport. It was out of date. Can you imagine, I managed to get through immigration with an out-of-date passport, but fortunately, Border Control in the UK side allowed me in. My family’s office scrambled into action.  The appropriate forms were miraculously pushed into my hands, appointment for Priority Service made, proxy letter written and printed (for someone to go and get my new passport), directions to the local photographer given … all I had to do is walk the 200metres to the photo shop.

But see the post-it stickers? Yes, I am that incapable.

And having learned from the previous generation’s mistake, my girls were brought up very differently. Oh yes, their father made sure of that.  Despite her delicacy, Kat could change car tyres and U-tubes (kitchen sink). Despite her lack of domesticity, G could fix herself a nutritious meal and self-medicate (at 14!). And even though she spends a lot of time on the football field, she stays on top of her schoolwork with zero interference from us. As she often comments, “I brought myself up.” That’s what happens when you have a mother with a disability in the real-life department.

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Education: What Are We Paying For?

My youngest child attends the British International School, Phuket. I must admit, I gulped a bit when I paid the school fees. But so far, I am fine with what I am paying for. It costs a lot to run this little piece of Great Britain in the tropical paradise of Phuket, and the money has to come from somewhere. Simple economics. It makes me feel better that it is a trust school, meaning that there are no greedy shareholders trying to fleece parents through turning education into a big money-spinner, putting profit before altruistic goals. My elder daughter attended a trust school as well, and yes, I did balked then when the invoices from Portsmouth High School arrived with ominous regularity.

But what exactly are we, the parents, paying for?

I had an unsuccessful academic career in private schools. I left with four mediocre ‘O’ levels instead of the standard seven that most half-wits in most half-decent non fee-paying schools can aspire to. Perhaps I was too excited about riding horses on the beach in the mornings to get rid of the hangovers obtained the night before than I was about getting the grades. I doodled during prep, dreamed about flying hovercrafts, greasy food at Trevor’s Caff and Snakebites at Smugglers’ Inn.

I applied to Havant Sixth Form College because I did not have that many options. The then Principal decided to give me a chance, despite my dismal ‘O’ level grades. And so I began my ‘A’ levels in this non fee-paying school.

I succeeded.

In the second year of my ‘A’ levels, I received an unconditional offer from Southampton, my home university, to read Medicine. I also received an offer from Cambridge.

Thus I must state the obvious: Havant Sixth Form College was the making of me. Somehow, this little school had everything just right. I will attempt to list down what I think the key success factors were:

(1) A proactive and ‘real’ careers guidance department
Secondary students need personal guidance, because the adult world with its seemingly infinite number of choices is a baffling place. Moreover, how could one possibly know at 17 what one will be at 27, 37, 47, 57? Throw in parental pressure and false representations from the media, and the poor students are lost in the uncharted waters.

The careers guidance department at Havant worked well for its students, because it was located on the corridor that all students had to walk past at some stage of the day. There were big posters to attract the eye, and over-zealous staff were always on the quick to pull unsuspecting students in.

Even the teachers got proactively involved. Mr. Jim Crow, in my case. I had a lot to thank (and blame) him for. He got me work experience at St Mary’s Hospital. I thought it was for a week when I signed up, but it turned out to be longer than I feared. For two days a week for a whole year, I had to show up at the hospital to do menial jobs, get insulted by patients and run foul of the matron. I vomited on my first day. Straight into the laundry basket. Things got progressively worse. I complained to Mr. Crow and told him that I no longer wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to study nuclear physics instead and be an astronaut. I could still remember his moustache twitching in amusement as he admonished me with a straight face.

But my work experience meant that I leap-frogged past the dreamers and fantasists and predicted grade A swots. Because I proved that I could hack working as an unpaid lackey in a busy hospital for one whole year. If members of the selection committee at Southampton University were privy to the tearful rants I had with Mr. Crow, life could have been very different for me indeed.

(2) Useful subjects
I did Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology. I loved Mathematics with Mrs. Balthazar because I found Mathematics easy; I enjoyed Chemistry with Mr. Haskins because he was not fazed out when we exploded things in the lab (I think he was secretly a bigger pyromaniac than all of us put together); I tolerated Biology with Mrs. Woods because she was sweet.

But I had to do Typing. I mean, come on! Mrs. Jean Bushby with her stiff grey helmet for hair took no hostages. She shot from the hip. Fearfully, I learned to type.

It served me well when I went up to Oxford and had copious amount of data to process. And hey, I have written four books to date without the help of any professional typist.

(3) Real people
There was a large population of ex private school students like my brother and I. There was also a big group of students who came from state school backgrounds. Folks who lived in council estates, who wanted to do well, and children of liberals who did not subscribe to private school elitism. It wasn’t all rich kids, but a mix that worked well, not only academically but preparation for life in the real world.
I had a fabulous two years at Havant. Among some of my most precious memories is taking the train to school every morning with my brother Al. There was always enough going on in school to occupy us, or we would hang out either in the town centre or on the beach near my house. Yes, we drank and partied, but never with the frenetic debauchery of my private school years. I skipped school often (for good reasons), and my three A level teachers helped, rather than hindered, my progress.

It is a testament to their abilities as teachers and to the school for its ethos that I managed to do passably well for my A levels, despite sleeping on the beach at the end of Woodgason Lane with the father of my children right up to the night before my exams.

So in conclusion, there is such a thing as free lunch, and free (high quality) education. I am the proof of that, and I guess this is why I wrote this article.

http://www.havant.ac.uk

Harvest From The Roadside

Driving along the rural roads of Phuket, we chanced upon a tiny stall in front of a small house selling chopping boards made from tree trunks, pumpkins, limes and a handful of local greens.  I do not have the vocabulary to ask, “Is it organic?”. But within 10 yards from the stall, an elderly man was tending the smallholding.  I assumed it was as organic as we are going to get. The pumpkin cost us all of U$1.50. Pumpkins are incredibly rich in vital antioxidants, and vitamins (especially vitamin A). I have a rapidly growing teenager, and she needs her vitamin A, which is instrumental for cell growth as well as immune system maintenance (and of course, good eyesight). Because pumpkins are root vegetables, they are fillers, but unlike other fillers (white rice, white bread), pumpkins fill you with goodness, too. I made pumpkin soup with the pumpkin I bought today. pumpkin soup Here’s my recipe: Olive oil 4 cloves garlic, chopped About as much pumpkin as you see in the photo, cubed 1/2 an avocado a handful of cashews salt and pepper Distilled water Method: Saute the chopped garlic in olive oil until soft. Add the pumpkin and 1/2 cup of distilled water. Simmer until soft. Pour into a powerful blender. Add avocado (for creaminess) and cashews (for the nutty taste). Blend until smooth. You may wish to add more water to the desired consistency. Season to taste. I served my pumpkin soup always with the following garnishing: Chilli jam Fresh lime Sunflower seeds And of course, good warm bread with lashings of butter. toppings   Footnote: I had a spare pumpkin at home (I am in the habit of collecting roadside pumpkins) which I will make into baked pumpkin crisps. I have also roasted some for a quiche and probably an antipasti. By the end of the weekend, G will be squealing, “Please, no more pumpkin!” But it’s all good. Either eat pumpkin or liver, dear girl. Your choice.   This was the roasted pumpkin platter. The only luxury was the landana cheese with white truffle.roasted veggies

Slow down, my child, and enjoy today

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Dear G, you never listen to us, because you think you have incompetent, irresponsible, bungling beach bums for parents. Crazy people who preach alternative philosophies and live life as if everyday is their last. You are probably right, but hear us out before you rush off to do the ten thousand and one things in your busy life.

Life is not a race but a journey. Don’t be in a rush to get on the superhighway. Because you will lose out on lots of beautiful things that you will never be able to find again, however long and hard you search for them in the future. Things of real value, things of today, that will never come your way in this lifetime again.

Your father had voluntarily left his well-paid job to live on an island in a country he has never lived in before, simply to give you magical and memorable final years of your childhood, and to give you the best opportunities possible of achieving your dream to be England’s football captain. Dreams should be achieved, but never at the expense of the things that really matter in life.

We never saw giving up our careers as a sacrifice for you.  In fact, it is a privilege. You are only lent to us for a very short while. 18 years, to be exact. Or maybe only 16. We intend to use those precious years to give you a long, happy and idyllic childhood so that you have a strong base to build your future successes on.  There is no substituting these strong foundations. They are what that make you strong on the inside. Believe me, I know all about it. I still run home to Portsmouth, to my parents’ home, when the going gets tough. I still call on my brothers. And most of all, I only have to close my eyes to see my young happy self again, walking on the beaches of Southern England, going on the slow train to school with my brother or sitting in my mother’s sunny kitchen. I know I am safe, so long as I have a mind to remember those beautiful memories of that part of my life, a time of innocence, carefreeness and untrammelled faith. Days before the harshness of the adult world took away my kaleidoscope eyes. Days that will never come this way again. It’s not an age thing, but cynicism, a certain weariness, a hardened shell, that prevent those layers ever to be accessed again.

Several years ago, walking with my father on the deserted  Southsea seafront on Christmas night through the closed up fairground, I thought wistfully, “I wish I had not grown up so quickly.” Because my father, with his head full of white hair, arthritic knees, high prostate count and two major heart attacks, will not be here forever.  Just as yours won’t be, G.

Have you noticed why he is so whole-heartedly embracing all the time he has with you, the way he jumps in at the first opportunity, a stalker almost? Because he knows. Because he knows that our time with you is finite.

Like your brothers and sister, you all are the most precious gifts that God and Life gave us.  We often talk in awe (still!) about how and why we had been chosen to parent these beautiful beings. After all, we were just two ordinary people who went to the pub one evening, sat on the beach, and accidentally made a baby. We didn’t have a clue how to be a parent, how to be responsible parents, how to be ‘good’ parents. All we know – and we know that deeply – is that we must give you all a good happy home and a magical childhood, so that you always know that you are safe, and that life is good on the whole, no matter how dark the present is.

So G, this is what we are giving you.  Pieces of ourselves. So that however long you may live, you carry our love with you always, and the deep knowing that there is a happy place in the world for you. You have been to that happy place: it’s called your childhood. This type of transmission cannot be hurried, it is in the life we give you everyday. And so, your father and I would like to say this to you: successes in the outside world can wait, there is a time and place for everything. But something infinitely more important is happening at home right now, in the moments we walk by the sea, in the picnics on the beach, in the evenings we sit at home quietly reading, in our long drives in the car, in the conversations and in the everyday life with your parents who are dedicating their every waking hour to making the last years of your childhood magical. Don’t rush life, slow down, and enjoy today.

A positive parenting/teaching style

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 10.51.52 PMA few days ago, I posted about G’s father trying to help her with her homework, and although her father has a degree in Mechanical Engineering, had worked as a research engineer at the National Maritime Institute, and had taught A level Electronics in some of the best schools in England, she wasn’t just going to accept his word unquestioningly.

“I disagree with why you have to convert everything out of Newtons, Dad,” she said sullenly. “Seems a dumb way of doing things.”

My post brought in several messages from Asian mothers along the lines of “Aiyoh, you allowed her to challenge her father?” and “Your daughter must learn some humility.”

I agree, in part. Being a secret Tiger Mum myself, I could not have taught this child. And I am glad she has a father who has the patience of a saint, and a school that supports her learning style.

Today, I sat through a presentation by the Head of her school, the British International School, Phuket. Mr. Neil Richards spoke passionately about his vision. A couple of the things that resonated deeply with me were the following words of his:

 “I am committed to giving your children as many opportunities as possible to express themselves” and “Taking them beyond examinations.”

Yes!

Too often, schools and education systems (and by extension, teachers) are focused solely on getting their students to pass exams through memorising and rote-learning, thereby robbing the next generation of the opportunity to use their brains productively and richly. Learning to score top marks in exams without understanding the rationale behind the subject constitutes a narrow band of learning how to solve specific problems only, which given enough time, even apes can do. You don’t grow your brain by drilling for hours on past exam papers or memorising things that make no sense to you, just because some long-dead Professors said so.

“Teenagers are messy, they are control freaks. It is part of their DNA to want to take control back from the parents. We allow them to do so, but not too much too soon.” Wise words, Mr Richards, and the questioning, challenging and debating are all part of the process of making sense of the world around them, which they will be custodians of. We want to raise thinking leaders, not meek sheep.

My Richards spoke of his belief that Success = Attitude + Teacher + Ability. And surprisingly, Ability is only 20%, according to his 20 years’ experience as an educator. He believes strongly that all learning is emotional. How a child feels inside relates to how he will learn for the rest of the day. A child who is comfortable and happy in school will learn better throughout the day. And perhaps even influence his life’s choices.  Mr Richards himself was influenced by Mrs Griffiths, the history teacher who taught him when he was eight, and the positive influence she has on his life. And all Mrs Griffiths did was made the eight year old Neil Richards feel confident in himself academically.

The British International School in Phuket has succeeded in implementing its Head’s vision of creating a happy, comfortable place. The environment is indeed collegiate, non-threatening, sunny and relaxed. G, in her second week at the school, was not too intimidated by her new environment, and dared to put her hand up in class to correct her teacher. I give full kudos to that particular teacher, who was gracious enough to check the answer on the Internet, and concede that G was indeed correct.

G feels good in the school and I am confident that she will achieve great things, though she comes home and says that her teachers goof around in class. Today, I will tell her what her Head said, that this is all part of the grand plan.

 

Footnote: I am working on an article about teaching children how to think.  Follow this blog and read it, if you believe in raising thinking leaders, not meek sheep. And get ready for the questioning, the challenging, the debate. 🙂

Three Super-Fast, Super-Nutritious Food (in less than 10 minutes)

Contrary to popular belief, I do not spend that much time in the kitchen. What I do is I have sessions where I put my favourite music on loud and spend a couple of hours every few days stocking up my kitchen with the lovely basics that I can easily use to whip up super-fast, super-nutritious food on my lazy days (more time for the beach).

From my post a couple of days ago, Offerings From My Kitchen Today, I made the following ‘instant’ meals:

Instant noodles without the additives and preservatives

noodles

Apart from being nutritionally bankrupt, the much-loved instant noodles are actually very bad for you. Aside from its high sodium content, a typical packet is also full of acid regulators, flavour enhancers, thickeners, humectants, colours, stabilizers, anti-oxidants, emulsifiers, flour treatment agents, preservatives and anti-caking agents. Sure, they are convenient and tasty (addictive because of the flavourings), but do you really want to put all these chemicals into your body?

The soup of this version is made from the rich vegetable broth. If you are a non-vegetarian, bone broth would be an excellent base too. I made the broth a couple of days ago and stored it in the refrigerator until this afternoon.

To put this instant noodle dish together, I simply boiled spaghetti according to packet instruction. I used spaghetti instead of instant noodles, because instant noodles are coated with wax to prevent the noodles from sticking together. This can be seen when hot water is added to the noodles. After some time the wax can be seen floating in the water. It is just not worth it.

To serve, garnish the cooked spaghetti with tomatoes, lightly blanched veggies and sprouts (I used sprouted sunflower seeds and alfafa), and ladle the broth over. Shredded cooked chicken or slices of beef if you prefer not to go 100% vegetarian are good additions. Drizzle with sesame oil and Braggs for a more Asian taste. You get a lot of goodness from the broth, the veggies and the sprouted seeds, and it is as quick to prepare and tastes even better the unhealthy version.

 

Rainbow curry

curry and rice

From my tray of rainbow veggies, I made a Thai yellow curry using (OK, I cheated) curry paste. If you are buying curry paste, check the label and opt for the ones with the least evils. I bought mine from the market.

I served the curry with wild rice and topped it with chia seeds, flax seeds and toasted cashews. Wild rice is nutritionally superior to processed and polished white rice. It has up to 30 times more antioxidants than white rice, has a high fibre content and is a good source of vitamins and minerals. Topped with nuts and seeds, it is power-packed food!

 

Pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted vegetables

pasta

I made the tomatoes in my dehydrator a couple of days ago. If you do not have a dehydrator, you could use a fan oven at its lowest setting. I then left the tomatoes on my balcony for the sun to dry them for a few hours – as I live near the sea in an unpolluted part of the island, these last few hours of au naturel drying gives the tomatoes a lovely, lightly salted taste. They can be stored in a sterile jar, covered in olive oil, in the refrigerator for weeks.

I made the red pesto sauce to mix this pasta in by blitzing together the following ingredients:

1 garlic clove

Pinch of sea salt

25g pine nuts

250g semi-dried tomatoes

1 red chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped

Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley

125ml extra-virgin olive oil

25g Parmesan, finely grated

I added lots of roasted veggies (courgette, aubergine, onion, capsicum) and fresh basil leaves to the pasta and stirred the pesto in. The key thing is to ensure that proportionally, there is less pasta than veggies.

The beauty of this dish is, it can either be served cold as a salad or baked with grated cheese as a hot dinner.

 

Trail Mix

trail mix

I bagged up the dried apple and pineapple slices that I put in the dehydrator and mixed those with a couple of handfuls of mixed nuts. This baggie delivers a punch of energy during break, and it is also my excuse to tell her that I love her, big smile.

 

She does get away with more that she should

I insist on politeness. Rudeness is a red card offence in my house, i.e. immediate banishment to room, grounded for the weekend, no internet, etc.

But my children, especially G, are not the type to accept meekly (and I am glad). We pay for international school education for precisely this reason: so that they are encouraged to think, question, challenge, debate, learn …. of course, in the politest way.But here are the unspoken subtexts behind G’s words spoken with her oh-so-British accent:

(1) “Dad, I don’t get your point” actually means “Do you seriously know what you are talking about, because I doubt it.”

(2) “If I may have my say now please” actually means “Shaddup, you waste of space.”

(3) “Is it really?” actually means “I don’t think so, pondlife.”

(4) “The person who wrote this book is wrong” actually means “There are so many farking stupid people in the world today.”

(5) “Please allow me to show you how it’s done” actually means “Move over, loser”

This is why I cannot teach her. Because her words and tone of voice is a model of politeness in itself – thus I cannot censure her – only that I can hear the subtexts. Which is not good for my blood pressure.

The child with the cut-glass British accent:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RFONbabE6A

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Easy homemade tomato soup

IMG_7340

Forget tinned tomato soup – this is so easy to make!

Ingredients:
1 head of roasted garlic, remove skin (do not used burnt flesh)
1 red capsicum (for the colour)
1kg of tomatoes, the redder the better
1/2 an onion, chopped
20g basil leaves
200ml double cream
1 litre veggie stock, made yesterday
Spoonful of butter
Drizzle of olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Sea salt

Method:
Heat olive oil and butter in the pan.
Saute onion until translucent
Add capsicum, tomatoes, roasted garlic and chopped basil
Pour in the chicken stock, reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes.
Transfer into a blender. Blend until smooth (you may wish to sieve it)
Return to the stove and reduce until the desired consistency.
Slowly stir in the cream.
Served piping hot with freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sea salt.

(Note: we made veggie stock yesterday: https://raisinghappystrongkids.com/2014/09/09/offerings-from-my-kitchen-today/ – please follow this blog then you will see the continuity of what I do)