Chinese New Year 2017

Today is the last day of the year of the Monkey.

It’s been a year of many ups and downs.

In case you missed any of it:

Warning: Contains the ‘F’ word. It’s British.

If they had waited a couple of more weeks, they could have added George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds onto the list. 😦

To mark the end of the Monkey and to usher in the Rooster, this is what we had:

Fish in Cheong Cheng Sauce

Fish in Cheong Cheng Sauce

Fried Noodles

Fried Noodles

Roast Duck (store bought)

Roast Duck (store bought)

Chinese Roast Pork (store bought)

Chinese Roast Pork (store bought)

Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siew) -- I bought the mat and a packet of marinade powder (just add water and meat).

Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siew) — I bought the meat and a packet of marinade powder (just add water and meat).

Top: Buk Choy with garlic and soy sauce Bottom: Chinese Broccoli with garlic and oyster sauce

Top: Buk Choy with garlic and soy sauce
Bottom: Chinese Broccoli with garlic and oyster sauce

Orange Cake

Orange Cake

Mark’s sister and husband, who just happen to be here for a couple of weeks joined us for dinner.

As per tradition, there was plenty of leftovers! And it all fit in the fridge — phew!

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone!

No-Bake Pandan Cheesecake with Pandan Agar Topping

I made a Pandan Cheesecake for my daughter’s birthday last November.

This is a tweaked version of that recipe.



1 – 1 1/2 cup crushed biscuits
1/3 to 1/2 cup butter, melted

2 x 250g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 x 400g can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon pandan extract
1 teaspoon pandan essence
1 1/2 Tablespoons gelatine, dissolved in 1/3 cup water*

* sprinkle gelatine over cold water, stir well and heat gently in a saucepan until dissolved OR heat in a microwave oven on High for 45 seconds


1. Combine biscuit crumbs and melted butter. Press into a 24cm (9.5 in) square springform cake tin. Put in the refrigerator to chill and set.



2. In a large bowl, add ingredients for filling one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour into  cake tin over the base. Chill until firm.


100 ml coconut milk
400 ml water
1/2 teaspoon pandan paste
13 g agar powder*
75 g sugar
pinch of salt
desiccated coconut


* agar is a plant-based gelling agent. Commonly used in South-east Asian cuisines/desserts. Because it is plant-based, it is suitable for vegetarians/vegans, unlike gelatine which is animal-based. Agar can be found in Asian supermarkets and some urban/urbane mainstream supermarkets. If in a pinch, gelatine is a good substitute. (Pandan paste and pandan essence may be more difficult to obtain!)

Here is an interesting article about the difference between agar and gelatin.

Combine all the ingredients for the topping — except the desiccated coconut — in a small saucepan. Stir over high heat until it boils. Then, lower heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

If you are using gelatine, you do not need to boil the mixture. Using warm/hot water should be sufficient.


Pour agar mixture over the chilled cheesecake and, working quickly, remove as many bubbles as possible. Agar can set at above room temperature! It was >30C today and you can actually see traces where the bubbles were! The agar was setting as I was popping the bubbles!

Put back in the refrigerator to chill (if necessary).


Sprinkle desiccated coconut over the cake.





Home School 2017

Today is actually a public holiday since New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday. However, I cannot start school on a Tuesday. The curriculum we use has the weekly schedules all printed out nicely and I try to follow that. I know I don’t have to adhere to it strictly; if there are public holidays, or whatever, just move the work over to the next day. But doing that makes everything off-kilter and more difficult. We might end up finishing a book on a Monday, instead of Friday the week before, and start a new book on Tuesday, instead of Monday, which is the proper way to do things. So, over the years, my children have resigned themselves to doing school on a public holiday. Besides, they’ve been on holiday since November 12, so it’s been seven weeks, and that’s long enough.

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Happy New Year 2017

Time, I’ve been passing time
Watching trains go by
All of my life
Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven.

Good bye, 2016!

Hello, 2017!


USA Trip

We had the opportunity to travel to the US earlier this month with Elizabeth’s dance school. Last November, the dance school put out a request to see how many people were interested in going to LA with the tour group company Dance Around the World.

From February onwards, every Saturday, sixteen dancers worked hard and learned  a 25-minute dance routine to perform at Disney California Adventure and Universal Studios City Walk. They also learned the choreography for the Disneyland Main Street Parade.

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Brigades’ Presentation 2016

The Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade had a joint end-of-year Presentation Night again this year.



Although Miss 17 earned her Pioneer Pin last year, she only received the actual certificates and pin this year.

Miss Ten got Most Consistent Junior.

Most Consistent Junior

Master 14 got Boy of the Year.

Boy of the Year



Pandan Cheesecake

My youngest turned ten and couldn’t decide between a cheesecake and a Pandan cake. “Why not both?” she asked. “A Pandan Cheesecake!”

A Pandan Cheesecake? Does such a thing exist? Has anyone tried combining the two?

A quick search on the internet revealed that, like almost everything, there is nothing new under the sun. If you think of something, chances are, somebody has already thought of it, created it, and posted it on the internet.

I found a recipe that called for eggs and required baking. Since we prefer chilled cheesecakes (ie no baking required), I decided to just wing it!

One of my go-to cheesecake recipes involves a can of sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice. I decided to replace the lemon juice with coconut milk, pandan extract and pandan essence.

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So, this happened today:

The youngest turned ten. She is now in double digits!

I asked her what sort of cake she wanted. “Well,” she said. “I like cheesecake, but I also like Pandan Cake. Why not both? A Pandan Cheesecake?”

So, that’s what I did!


This wall hanging perfectly captures her philosophy!

Book Review: The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith

Borrowed this from the library.

I have been reading — and very much enjoying — Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. This is the ninth book in the series and the characters are getting more and more interesting.

Books in this series I have read and reviewed:
Tears of the Giraffe (Book #2)
The Full Cupboard of Life (Book #5)
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (Book #8)



The Miracle at Speedy Motors is the ninth book in the series.

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Book Review: The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith

Borrowed this from the library.

This is book #8 of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. I am on a McCall Smith kick at the moment and borrowed a small stack of his books from the library. Not all the titles from this series were available at the library when I was there, but I did manage to get about seven and am trying to read them in order. Although the series features a detective agency, it is not really the cases themselves that form the focus of the books. Also, the cases are not that difficult to solve. Rather, with each book, the characters and their relationships with each other grow and develop, and it is this — plus the philosophical questions raised — that make for great reading and contemplation (and discussion).

good husband of zebra drive

In this installment, Mma Ramotswe is asked to investigate some deaths at a hospital — three deaths in six months in the same bed. Coincidence or not?

Also, who is behind the thefts at the printing works? Mma Potokwani, the matron of the orphan farm, suggests that love and trust go a long way in giving a thief much-needed self-esteem. Will giving the suspected thief the keys to the  printing supplies work?

Meanwhile, Charlie, the older of the two perpetual apprentices at the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, wants out of his apprenticeship and wants to start his own taxi service. Will Charlie finally behave responsibly?

Mma Grace Makutsi, the Associate Detective of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, also seeks greener pastures. She goes to a job recruitment agency and comes face to face with her old nemesis from the Botswana Secretarial College, Violet Sephotho. (This Violet Sephotho is probably the personification of evil itself and appears in several later books as well, each time doing a different line of work, but each time making life difficult for Grace.)

What does it mean to trust? Should trust be unconditional? What happens when trust is betrayed? How to balance grace/mercy with justice? These are some of the questions one has to face and try to answer in this book.

Highly recommended.


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