The Good Life: Barter Economy

While my potato harvest has been extremely good, we are getting a little sick of potatoes here at The New Castle of Corke.  I have been seriously running out of things to do with potatoes!  I’ve made nikujaga, mashed potatoes, irish stew and have even fried the darn things in my airfryer[1]!

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Check it out.  More than half a kilo of potato right there.

Yesterday, I dug up the biggest potato I had ever seen in my life and realised that I had gotten to the end of my potato threshold.  Neither the Boobook nor I felt like eating potatoes anymore.

Thankfully, my friend, Mrs Peacock, was visiting family in Newcastle and she had had far too much citrus.  So, we did the only thing that made sense:

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Have a bag of taters

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Oranges, lemons and tangerines oh my!

We traded produce.

I have now participated in the barter economy!  Check me out being all productive and stuff!

Now all I gotta do is figure out what to do with all this fruit…


[1]With little success, unfortunately.  Some potatoes were not made to fry.  They disintegrated instead.

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Owls Well presents: Living Clay/Studio Asobi

So, during the June school holidays this year, I wrote about our experience at a pottery workshop with Studio Asobi. Well, our pieces have been glazed and fired by Huiwen from Studio Asobi, and they are so much prettier than we ever expected!

Here’s a little video I made of our time at the pottery wheel – and the results of our labour!

Here are some thing I learned about the glazing and firing process:

  1. Applying the glaze will add layers to your final piece, so the walls of your clay piece will appear much thicker than your original creation, and any scratches and marks made on the surface will be more shallow.
  2. The firing process dries the clay out as it hardens, and the final product will be at least one-third smaller in size. So if you want to make a dainty teacup, your original creation may have to be as big as a mug!
  3. Be brave about experimenting with glazes! As you can see from the video, different glaze combinations can have startlingly different results. I regret not taking a bigger risk with my glaze selections…but now I know that I can be braver next time around!

Studio Asobi welcomes back participants of previous workshops with a markedly reduced fee and as always, 20% of their profits are donated to The Mercy Centre’s Trolley Ministry for Singapore’s homeless population. I would love to work with them again!

 

Easy Listening (Part 1): Short and Sweet

I’ve been pretty much bedridden with different varieties of the hideous flergy for the last month, coughing up nasty goo and generally being icky.  I couldn’t even watch TV or play video games because the fevers made it a little difficult for me to pay attention to what was going on onscreen.

Thankfully, I managed to avoid a case of yellow wallpaper madness by entertaining myself with podcasts!

I love podcasts.  I learn primarily by hearing stuff and I like having a bit of chatter going on in the background.  That being said, I’m very picky about what I listen to and even though my subscribe list is about a mile long, I’ve only stocked it with stuff that I feel is engaging and fun.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to divide my listening list for sharing as some of the shows I listen to cover a plethora of different topics, sometimes even in a single episode!  I’ve settled on splitting them by average length per episode.  So, without further ado, here’s a list of everything I listen to that’s short and sweet – 15 minutes and under.

HAalbumart.jpgThe Hidden Almanac with Reverend Mord by Dark Canvas Media

Written by acclaimed children’s book author, Ursula Vernon and brilliantly acted by her husband, Kevin Sonny, The Hidden Almanac is a witty and brilliantly surreal adventure comedy.

Each episode, Reverend Mord shares useful gardening tips, historical events of the day and various advertisements for an alternate universe in which miracles, magic and librarian conspiracies are a daily occurrence.  While the good reverend would like nothing more than to devote himself quietly to managing the Hidden Almanac test garden and his thrice weekly radio broadcasts; he is often reluctantly sucked into adventures with his “friend” and colleague, Pastor Drom the Miracle Worker.

At under 5 minutes per episode, The Hidden Almanac is easily the shortest podcast in my list as well as the most frequently updated.  It’s pretty much child and AgedP friendly, containing no cursing and very few sexual references, particularly since both Reverend Mord and Pastor Drom have taken vows of abstinence.

This is a series that needs to be listened to from the very beginning.  While the earlier episodes suffer from a little bit of early installment weirdness, they’re still worth listening to just for the world building alone.  The characters are lovable and become more so the more you get to know them.

That’s the Hidden Almanac.  Be safe and stay out of trouble.

Det_Pod_MF_1400x1400-2.jpgDetective by Panoply

At roughly 15 minutes per episode, Detective is a quick and interesting true crime series.

Each season of Detective covers the experiences of homocide detectives from various backgrounds and walks of life, with each episode discussing a different aspect of their career.  Unlike most true crime series, Detective steers away from the gruesome and grizzly murder details and instead focuses on the human interest part of how the detectives go about their work.

The series covers a range of topics from motives for murder to the social work that the detectives do in their spare time.  I highly recommend the first season, which follows retired Detective Joe Kenda of the Colorado Springs police force.  He’s an engaging speaker and has a wonderful matter-of-fact manner that makes me imagine him as the crusty old sheriff in a cowboy film.

Detective is AgedP friendly, but may not necessarily be child friendly.  Despite the slightly gruesome topic (murder is never pretty) and the occasional curse word, the series never strays towards being overly foul or gratituous.  It’s definitely worth listening to.

downloadEOS 10 by Justin McLachlan

A science fiction dramady podcast, EOS 10’s episodes run anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes each and follows the adventures of a Dr Dalias and Dr Urvidian, a pair of misfit doctors aboard the space station EOS 10.  Joining them on their adventures are Jane Johns, their slightly unhinged charge nurse; Levi, the hypochondriac foodcourt dishwasher who claims to be the deposed prince of an entire planet; and Akmazian, Destroyer of Stars.

EOS 10 balances issues like addiction and death with hilarious comedy without cheapening the seriousness of said issues.  It’s a fine line to walk, and EOS 10 does it very well.  The dialogue is always engaging and the characters are well-rounded, quirky and fascinating.  Even though I’ve listened to this series several times over, I’m still discovering new things about the characters and haven’t gotten sick of it yet!

EOS 10 is possibly AgedP friendly, but definitely not child friendly.  While the show doesn’t contain any cursing, it does contain a lot of sex, though it is never handled in a puerile manner.  That being said, the fourth episode of the series (Up, Up, Up) is primarily comprised of penis jokes and doesn’t ever stop being funny.

If you’re looking for a clever, lighthearted and cheerful podcast, I cannot recommend EOS 10 highly enough.

So, there you have it.  These are the three shortest podcasts on my listening list right now.  I hope they entertain you as much as they do me!

A Better Florist – A Review (with exclusive discount code and giveaway!)

A fortnight ago, I received a lovely bouquet of flowers from A Better Florist. I’d been sick with the flu for a couple of days, feeling incredibly miserable and sorry for myself – and it was amazing what a difference it made to receive such a special delivery! It shirked me up to no end.

The bouquet that I received was The Lilah, part of A Better Florist’s signature collection of floral arrangements. I was very impressed by the exotic mixture of cheerful blooms in their simple and modern glass vase, which really brightened up my room as well as my day.

The flowers, which are sourced from Cameron Highland farms, arrived in dewy fresh condition, and with a daily water change, they were able to stay sweet and pretty for a whole week. I would say that the blooms really looked their best in the first four days.

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J and Little E enjoying the flowers

I placed the bouquet on my dining table, and funnily enough, over the next few days, I noticed that J and Little E would quietly go and sit at the table to read or play, instead of lounging in our living room. Little E was even inspired to make a few sketches of the flowers!

If you’re looking for a great last minute gift, A Better Florist does offer same day delivery (at no extra charge) for orders made before 3pm, and they so have a very nice selection of affordable bouquets! They also hold occasional floral arrangement workshops on Saturdays – I’m hoping to bring Little E and the Aged P to one next month. Check out the A Better Florist Facebook page for details on their next floral jamming session or for exclusive discount codes!

Speaking of discount codes, A Better Florist is offering all Owls Well Readers a whopping SGD$10 off their next order! Just quote the code OWLSWELL10 at checkout!

Something Special For Owls Well Readers: The fine folk behind A Better Florist are kindly sponsoring a giveaway of the Spring Breeze floral bouquet in a beautiful mason jar (worth SGD$72)  to one lucky Owls Well Reader!

Thanks A Better Florist!

To take part in this giveaway, please follow the following steps:

  1. Be a fan of Owls Well on Facebook
  2. Share this giveaway on your Facebook page (set to public), tagging @owlswellblog and at least TWO friends
  3. Comment below with your favourite bouquet from A Better Florist. Don’t forget to tell me the name of your Facebook account that you used to share this giveaway and include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)
  4. (optional: For an extra entry, follow our Instagram account @4owlswell and leave a separate comment below with your Instagram handle.)

(This giveaway is open to anyone with a Singapore mailing address and closes at noon on Tuesday 4th July 2017. Winners will be picked via Random.org – just make sure you complete all 3 easy steps!)

Update: This giveaway is now closed and the winner has been emailed! Thanks for playing!

Living Clay: A pottery workshop with Studio Asobi

Last weekend, we joined a clay workshop with Studio Asobi, a local pottery studio run by ceramic artists, Huiwen and Kenneth.

I had been wanting to attend one of their clay workshops for a very long time, ever since some of my friends showed me some cups and bowls that their kids had made under the couple’s tutelage last year. Each piece was entirely unique to the child who made it, and with the process of glazing and firing, had been turned into beautiful and useful works of art. To me, this meant that Huiwen and Kenneth were able to engage each student individually, and guide them in bringing their imagination to life.

This is why when my own extended family expressed an interest in attending a holiday workshop together, I was very quick to volunteer to recommend and organise a session with Studio Asobi!

We were a little late arriving that home studio in Hougang, but we were just in time to hear about how Huiwen – who had no artistic training – had taken a sabbatical from her corporate job to explore Japanese ceramics at a year-long stay-in programme in the old pottery town of Taijimi. After her return, she decided to pursue pottery-making full-time, and eventually, her husband Kenneth, gave up his career in architecture to devote his time to ceramic sculpture. Together, their works are seen all over the world, from local ceramic installations to Belgian pottery expos to Australian restaurants. They also use their art to benefit social causes that work with poor and needy, as well as pledging 20% of all their profits to support the Mercy Centre’s Trolley Ministry, which works with the homeless in Singapore.

Afterwards, Kenneth and Huiwen showed us the electric kilns in the house, and demonstrated how we start off shaping and moulding the clay using our hands. We were then each given equally sized clay balls, as well as some tools and sat down to start working.

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Beginning to shape each ball of clay

As each of us slowly worked our clay, Huiwen went round and checked our work, advising us on how to smooth out cracks and even out surfaces, showing us how to use the different tools available to make patterns and create textures.

We also had a chance to have a quick tutorial on the pottery wheel. Kenneth gave us a quick demonstration and some pointers on how to use the wheel, and then he guided each of us as we tried our hand at throwing a simple ceramic cup.

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Kenneth of Studio Asobi showing us how to use the pottery wheel

Both J and Little E seemed to really enjoy using the wheel, but it was much more difficult that Kenneth made it seem.

When it was my turn, I could feel the clay moving under my hands as if it were alive. Slowly, I shaped the clay into a little saucer.

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Debs G attempts to throw a ceramic cup on the pottery wheel

It all seemed to be going very well, until a sound from inside the house broke my concentration and I looked up for a split second, losing control of the clay and turning it back into a formless lump!

Oh well!

The Barn Owl was able to manage the clay quite well and with his delicate touch, was even able to get the walls of the little cup to be thin and even. It was amazing to watch him, as I could see on the Barn Owl’s face that a serene peacefulness settled on him whilst he was shaping the clay. It is unsurprising that working with pottery is can be very therapeutic!

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The Barn Owl reaching a meditative state and making a tiny dish

After giving the potters wheel a go, all of us went back to put the final touches on our little clay creations. Huiwen and Kenneth showed us how to add little decorations, handles or feet to the outside of our handiwork. We then etched a symbol or initial on the bottom of our pieces so that they could be easily identified.

Then it was time to decide on the glaze or glaze combination would look the best on our works – Huiwen would apply the glazes for us once the clay dried fully before firing them in the electric kilns (you can see the kilns in the picture below).

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With Huiwen of Studio Asobi

In the end, Little E made a mug, J fashioned a soup bowl, the Barn Owl moulded a bud vase and I made a dish. It is so amazing the number of different objects that we each made out of the same lumps of clay!

I can hardly wait to see how our little clay pots and cups will turn out in three week’s time!

(Update: Check out our finished ceramics here!)

For more information about Studio Asobi click here

For more information about family, group or corporate workshops with Studio Asobi click here

Giselle by Teatro di San Carlo

Last evening, Little E and I were very privileged to have been invited to the opening performance of the ballet, Giselle, performed by the oldest ballet company in the world, the Teatro di San Carlo from Naples, Italy.

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Little E is excited about the ballet!

It was a truly magical performance.

The dancers were such a joy to watch, with their expressive faces and gestures keeping all of us – Little E included – completely mesmerised. I was especially entranced the ghostly Wilis who were absolutely ethereal, drifting across the stage in their veils, each as light as a feather.

I wondered at first if the ballet would touch on themes that were too difficult for Little E to understand, but through the storytelling of the dancers, she was actually more than able to follow the complex storyline of love and betrayal.

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The Wilis (Photo credit: Francesco Squeglia)

In order to prepare 6 year old Little E for the performance, I borrowed Ballet Stories by Margaret Hargreaves from our public library and read her the tragic tale of Giselle.

Giselle, a beautiful but sickly peasant girl falls in love with Albrecht, a nobleman who disguises himself as a farmer in order to gain her affections. He promises to marry her, and she shares her excitement with a visiting noblewoman who is also celebrating her engagement. Unfortunately, it turns out that Albrecht is engaged to the noblewoman, and Giselle goes insane with grief, dancing until her heart gives out and she dies. Giselle becomes one of the Wilis, shades of women who died from unrequited love, but instead of exacting her revenge on Albrecht by dooming him to dance to his death, she pleads with the Wilis Queen and saves his life.

Little E and I had some very good conversations about the story of Giselle (especially in the light of this recent event), but it’s a very good cautionary tale about how important it is to choose potential suitors wisely and to listen to the counsel of friends and relatives who care for you.

Owls Well recommends: This ballet is 2 hours long with a short interval, so make sure you bring your little one to the bathroom before the start of the performance, and bring some sugar-free sweets to help them focus quietly!

P.S. Giselle is playing in Singapore until the 29 April 2017, so go watch it before it’s too late! Get tickets to Giselle here.

P.P.S. Find Ballet Stories by Margaret Hargreaves here.

Life Science in a Jar: Caterpillars

Whilst J was busy rearing mealworms, Little E asked me if she could also keep a pet. It just so happened that one of my old schoolmates is a primary school science teacher (henceforth referred to in this post as Mrs Great), and she had access to some caterpillars. She offered to give Little E a few of them and I was so excited to have another opportunity to study some more little creatures up close!

The very next day, Mrs Great rocked up with a clear tupperware that had four spiky black caterpillars, each about a centimetre long, happily nibbling away on spray of lime leaves. I don’t have a lime plant at home, so I was a little bit worried about having enough leaves for all the caterpillars – but Mrs Great assured me that there were probably enough leaves to last the caterpillars about two weeks.

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Some Very Hungry Caterpillars in different stages of maturity

The next day, about half the leaves were gone, and the little black caterpillars had doubled in size, developing streaks of bright green. There were also little dry balls of caterpillar poo rolling about the bottom of the tupperware, which I emptied out into a flower pot on my balcony. This wasn’t a particularly nasty job as everything smelled pleasantly of lime juice.

On the third day, one of the caterpillars had turned a bright green and was the size of my little finger. It was eating up the lime leaves at an alarming rate. I sent a text message to my friend Mrs Great, who was kind enough to drop by with a bunch of lime leaves, but I knew that at the rate the caterpillars were going, I would definitely need to find more lime leaves before the end of the week.

Sure enough, by the start of the fifth day, it was clear that I would need to find more lime leaves for the caterpillars or they would certainly starve.

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Running out of leaves!

Unfortunately, I went to three different supermarkets and three different wet markets and nobody had any lime leaves for sale! By this time, Little E was nearly in tears, upset that her caterpillars might starve to death.

However, as I was driving home, I passed by my local community garden. I stopped by, hoping against hope that I would find the leaves that I needed.

I didn’t think I’d be able to identify a lime plant without it’s signature green fruit, so I ran around taking pictures of various little plants and sending them to Mrs Great for identification. Fortunately, one of the pot plants had a tiny little green lime hanging on the one of the stems! Hooray! Community gardens save the day!

I plucked off a spray of leaves and triumphantly brought it to Little E who was waiting in the car for me.

The Aged P also went to talk to the security guard of her flat who keeps a variety of plants in his little guard outpost – and he so happened to have a lime kaffir plant that he was carefully cultivating. She managed to convince him to part with a few leaves which I kept in a cup of water to keep them fresh.

I was almost down to the last spray of lime kaffir leaves when we noticed that the caterpillars had stopped eating and were curling up on themselves, wiggling very slowly. One by one, they each moulted one last time, forming chrysalids that were securely fastened to the sides of the tupperware by silken threads.

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The Chrysalid and the Lime Butterfly

About a week later, the first butterfly emerged from it’s chrysalis! Little E was so excited, watching it pump it’s wings to fully inflate them and dry them out. We released it on our balcony and it rested there for a few hours before fluttering off.

As for the other three chrysalids, we noticed that all three had turned translucent one morning – we could see the black and white butterfly wings folded up beneath the surface of each chrysalis – so I told Little E to bring the tupperware to her kindergarten and share the magic of the butterfly with her classmates.

Sure enough the butterflies emerged from their chrysalids midway through her class time, much to the delight of everyone present. The teachers gently picked them up and released them into the school’s eco-garden, with Little E and all her classmates waving and yelling “Goodbye! Goodbye!”