Domestic Life in the time of Coronavirus: Sprouting Seeds, Mason Jars & Food Prep, and Not Exactly Bullet Journalling & Productivity

This blog has been a little quiet since the circuit breaker in Singapore began I’m a person with too many jobs at the moment. I’ve been (full-time) teaching all my classes (say hello to 3-4 hour practicals via Zoom!?!) and taking a part-time Specialist Diploma (just because it is circuit breaker hasn’t meant the essay deadlines were delayed!), whilst also full-time taking care of the baby human Bean (childcare centres all closed and grandparents advised not to travel over for childcare!!), which has left me with nearly no time to do any of the normal debbiethings I would usually get up to.

Maybe to build a little momentum and to get the ball rolling on this dusty old blog again, here’s a little documentation about some of domestic/productivity-related debbiethings I DID do during circuit breaker in the stolen moments….

1. Sprouting Seeds: Growing Mung Bean Sprouts at home

It seems everyone’s newest urban growing craze during Singapore’s lockdown circuit breaker is Mung Bean Sprouts and yes… even I too have been growing them. I’ve grown some sub-par sprouts or weird looking sprouts in the past – we forget how used we are to seeing the commercial “taugeh” sprouts being all pasty white and yellow, and somehow by allowing the sprouts to turn green by giving them some sunlight also changes how they grow and how they taste. Growing some fast sprouts for consumption is different from growing bean plants, and websites online all anedoctally point to a few things you can do to improve the quality of your sprouts:

  1. Grow them in total darkness (Under a truly opaque cloth. A hankerchief will not suffice to keep the light out. I used an dark coloured pillowcase folded over twice and draped it over the beans.)
  2. Change their water at least twice a day.
  3. Avoid disturbing the beans too much (Somehow they grow better when they get to really establish their roots)

Now its not absolutely necessary, but I also got this microgreen tray which has these micropores which is supposed to enable a more even distribution of the microgreen seeds (although the mung bean itself is bigger), and which has two half trays which makes it easier to remove and change the water, and allows for planting two different seeds at the same time with different sowing time. (I’m just waiting to get some more microgreen seeds from local farms to see if there’s a microgreen that we will enjoy eating, so later in the year I’ll report back on the microgreens…)

Presoak the beans overnight in a bowl, covered by a cloth. Here I measured out 1/4 cup of mung beans. On hindsight… I probably needed half of that. These aren’t any fancy mung beans, just the cheap Redmart brand for everyday cooking.

After soaking overnight and skimming off the obvious split beans, the remaining beans were scattered over the tray and water poured in until it touched the mat. 1/4 cup of soaked mung beans fit almost exactly into the two trays.

The beans then were rinsed twice a day and left to grow under cover of darkness until they looked about ready to harvest on Day 5.

Here the human Bean inspects the Beans.

The roots are clean so we ate them roots and all. I only rinsed it several times in order to remove the green bean husks which are a little less palatable, texturally, but not entirely inedible.

Finally the cleaned sprouts are ready to go in any dish you want. This made enough for about 3-4 meals of sprouts, so next time I’ll grow fewer beans at one go as its nicer to eat the sprouts fresh.

The sprouts were blanched in boiling water for 1 min and then thrown into a big metal bowl of ice water to stop them from overcooking. Then they can be used in any recipe. I loosely used Maangchi’s Sukjunamul Muchim recipe to make a sprout dish to go with a big pot of Doenjang jjigae, which was also loosely thrown together with bits and bobs around the house.

2. Mason Jars: How I make Overnight oats and prep common ingredients ahead of time

I became slightly obsessed with mason jars after trying to find a replacement lid for a regular jam jar that I had around the house and so I wondered about what constituted a standard jam jar lid size. I measured the exterior dimensions of the jar I had and it was 70mm – turns out that this is the size of a “regular” mason jar. And there’s another common size that I find myself drawn to even more – the wide mouth. Looks like a drinking glass, but is microwaveable and oven safe? SIGN ME UP! Making overnight oats was the solution to my morning routine; I find that I can no longer skip breakfast without becoming faint and HANGRY, but often I don’t have enough time to prepare food for myself when I have to run a 8am or 9am class AND also feed the Bean AND change her nappies AND check work email. So… Jars! JARS! JARS! George seems to think I’ve reached new instagrammable heights of food-prep-hipsterdom with my functional food prep so here are some pictures that he ended up making me take.

These are 1-pint jars (476ml) and just the right size for a portion of food (they are also the right size to pour a nice cold drink into!). I got 12 jars online for about S$48 and I also got a stack of both regular and wide mouth plastic lids for about S$5. The Ball jars themselves are definitely oven safe and microwave safe as they were meant for preserving jams, so if you buy random jars online check to make sure they are suitable for such reheating use. (If you dig a little deeper online you’ll find a whole lot of alternative mason jar lids which work as fermenters, sprouters, graters, juicers, etc…)

The overnight oats recipe that I made up to my preference and have been using for some time now is this:

Debbie’s Breakfast

1/2 cup oats
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
1 tsp moringa leaf powder
1 tbsp dried cranberries
1 tbsp dried mulberries
2 dried apricots, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk a squirt of honey

When I am eating it, I throw in about a 1/4 cup more of milk and sometimes I throw in some frozen mango pieces, or frozen berries at the last minute, but I try not to leave the fruit in for too long (ie: i don’t add it in at prep time) because they can get a little weird and funky in there, like how fruit tastes when it has been allowed to sit in a wet plate for too long. Its like a dessert, and I didn’t think I’d be eating this so often since I have a savoury tooth and not a sweet tooth at all (I have eaten savoury breakfasts for most of my life), but I was hoping that oats would aid my milk production (since the Bean is still breastfed) and turns out that overnight oats SAVES TIME!

I also use the jars for advance meal prep at the moment. I like to make a big batch of caramelised onions at the start of the work week (2 jars worth, or a 2kg bag) and then stuff them into the fridge so that during the week whenever I make a quick meal or pasta I can just throw a handful of onions in and it immediately makes it feel even more like a meal.

Debbie’s 15min Lunch

80g of vermicelli pasta
some bacon
4 cloves garlic
handful of baby spinach
smoked paprika
caramelised onions
caramelised red peppers or any other cooked vegetable in the house
and some leftover chilli flakes from when George last bought PIZZA


  1. Boil of a pot of water with 1 heaped teaspoon of salt
  2. Fry the bacon in some oil at very low heat to render the fat
  3. Slice the garlic thinly and add to the oil. Heat should be so low such that only small bubbles appear on the edge of the sliced garlic.
  4. Add paprika and chilli flakes to the oil.
  5. Cook the pasta according to the timing on packet, in my case it is 6 minutes. Set the timer for 5 min.
  6. Add in the onions and any vegetables to the oil. Wilt the spinach in the pan.
  7. A minute before the pasta is done, transfer the pasta and a big splash of pasta water into the pan.
  8. Allow for everything to cook down until the pasta water and everything is absorbed back into the pasta (usually 1-2 min more)

Lunch in 15 minutes!


3. Not Exactly Bullet Journalling: Improving my To Do List format

Longtime readers of this blog (who on earth is my audience? haha. hello friends???) will know that I am not so secretly big on GTD/PRODUCTIVITY. Sometimes George thinks I like doing work because it must be that I ascribe some kind of moral value to hardworking (a la protestant work ethic) but honestly I like working because… I enjoy it! I enjoy keeping busy and fiddling with things and doing stuff. I enjoy toiling away at things. (Oh. Maybe that is where Beano is getting her inexplicable drive to EXERCISE NONSTOP).

During my maternity leave I had a phase in which I read all about bullet journaling. I also became aware that there’s a huge cottage industy of people and instagrammers banging on about their #bujo designs although none of them look particularly productive to me, and if its not productive I don’t really need it. My notebook is like a cup I can empty my brain out into so I don’t have to hold all that stuff inside my brain where it gets all crowded. I don’t really need my notebook to be neat, but I liked being able to physically cross off items on a list and review what I managed to complete at the end of the day (a sort of pat-yourself-on-the-back if you managed to do most of what you planned. Previously, I would write items in a list and then cross them out, which made them quite unreadable. I ain’t got time to document everything in a bullet journal, but I have incorporated the format of the checkbox into my everyday To-do list format. I now draw a square and cross out only within the square when the task is done. I also draw an arrow to indicate if the task is carried over to the next page.
Whether or not you believe in willpower being a finite or infinite resource, I do find that removing obstacles to my morning also helps get things going every morning (especially when I have to rush to feed baby, myself, and start my 8/9am class):

  • Getting hydrated in the morning – Before I go to bed I set out empty mugs with my tea and spoon, so I only need to add hot water the next morning. Often one needs to muster the will to do this small thing for oneself…
  • Pre-measured baby feeds – Before I go to bed, I measure out all of the bits that will go into Bean’s first feed of the next day. I’ve still been using all the travel containers to premeasure the oatmeal and formula for mixing into oatmeal feeds. It saves a bit of time when I’m rushing and multitasking.
  • Drafting emails on Google Keep – this is my scratch pad where I draft out bits of emails. It is quickly available on all my computers and devices so I can paste completed emails in quickly at the start of the workday. I don’t send work emails after work hours because I think its important to observe the working day (and it is well-known that people will mainly check their email in the morning and so if you want a quick reply, you’ll want your email to come in right on top of their inbox for about 10am)…

In the next post, I swear I will finally complete my series on House Renovations in time for the 1 year anniversary of having moved into this flat!

The Exotic Mushrooms and Trees of Canberra: Fly Agaric, Death Cap, and London Plane

On my first week in Canberra, as I was running to the National Gallery of Australia to get to the first guided tour of the day, I was greeted by the most astounding sight of several Fly Agarics (Amanita muscaria) growing right on King Edward Terrace, magically lit in a spot of sun. Alas I only took one picture of this classic fairytale toadstool as I was running late…


I used to be in Brownies when I was in primary school, which had all of its patrols named after fantastical (and decidedly Victorian/European) fairytale creatures such as PIXIES and ELVES (with all of these after-school activities naturally being european/british imports). Naturally everyone wanted to be a goddamned fairy, but when it came to the draw, I was designated to be in the GNOME PATROL. A wizened, landbound, garden gnome. Me and the rest of GNOME PATROL met every week to decide what ‘Fun Thing’ we would learn that week, like how to do ironing, how to sew a button, how to tie a round-turn-and-two-half-hitches, or recite the national anthem in Malay or something like that. For some reason my memory holds that we even sat around an actual model of a fairy toadstool that was plonked in the middle of our circle, although NO SUCH MUSHROOMS EVER EXIST IN SINGAPORE (CAN YOU UNDERSTAND HOW EXCITED I AM TO SEE ONE IN REAL LIFE).

As a young child unimpressed by the mundaneness of garden gnomes, on one of the first meetings after being assigned as GNOME I asked, “WHAT DO GNOMES DO? WHAT FANTASTICAL MAGIC POWERS DO GNOMES HAVE?”. I was given the answer that “Gnomes come in and happily clean the house whilst you’re not in”. Ignoring the part where the poor gnome is mysteriously compelled to perform hard domestic labour for no remuneration, I remember then asking “But where do the Gnomes live if they don’t live inside the house?” The teacher clearly struggled to invent an answer and eventually gestured towards the mushroom in front of us. “The gnomes live under the fairy toadstool?…” (Ah the fairytale origins of the English notion of the “mushroom hall”…)


Source: Forest Mushroom Woodgnome (Public Domain image)
Its worth noting that this predominantly northern hemisphere toadstool was actually first introduced to Australia together with the pine trees which had been imported over from Europe, so they always grow alongside the pine trees which are technically exotic to Australia.

Later, I returned to the same spot in hopes of sighting more of these delightful mushrooms in a less harried fashion, but I strangely could not find them despite combing the stretch for at least 20 minutes. Instead I found a load of boring mushrooms which resembled shiny, slightly greenish potatoes.

PICTURE DOES NOT REFLECT ACTUAL COLOUR, which was very distinctly greenish yellow and shiny

Not to be deterred by the boringness of the mushrooms, when I got back home I fired up the ol’ Google machine to try to identify these mushrooms and to my horror…

…which explains all the overbearing DON’T EAT WILD MUSHROOM flyers found at tourist information points, as it appears some foragers with a passion for fresh food have even died… IN THIS SAME AREA IN CANBERRA!!! When viewed in person, the mushrooms in the picture above totally match the images in this article about death caps.

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria notes that the Death Caps (Amanita phalloides) are “always under exotic trees, especially Oak (Quercus), including broad-leaved and cut-leaved oaks. There are reports of Amanita phalloides growing under Eucalyptus in Algeria and Tanzania, but there are no confirmed sightings of the Death Cap away from exotic trees in Australia.”

How curious to describe the oaks that basically dominate many of the streets of Canberra civic as ‘exotic’ – but I guess likewise despite years of living in London and getting to know oak trees, the oak is possibly always going to be exciting and FOREVER EXOTIC to me, since I never grew up with oak trees.

And speaking of “exotic” trees, I noticed some of the seed balls of what I thought to be London Plane Trees were so big (exceeding 3cm) that I couldn’t imagine they could be the same as the London Planes I had seen in London. So I had to read up on the whole Plane tree family…


It turns out that the humble London Plane is doubly exotic to Australia! A hybrid tree produced by the combination of oriental plane (P. orientalis) and American Sycamore (P. occidentalis) being brought together in the same place in the 17th century (location disputed: spain? london?) and reciprocal pollination occurred when the trees were next to each other… and then this hybrid being spread all over the world since it was found to be efficient in filtering out small particulate pollutants. Today it has surely become one of the most ubiquitous trees in many parts of London, and I’ve been observing it all over Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne…

Mysterious White Insects on Madagascar Dragon Tree: Mealybug Infestation or Scale Insect Outbreak?

We further interrupt this already un-routine blog for another digression into a mysterious plant insect investigation. But, this story actually begins with a consideration of air quality in space station and how I acquired these specific houseplants in the first place. If you’re interested in the problem of volatile solvents in household air sprays, and the afflictions suffered by tropical houseplants, read on…

We live in a top floor flat which has its windows on its roof. Air doesn’t really “blow” through the house so much as it kinda randomly pours in, and this flat definitely has got some humidity and ventilation issues. I used to combat this with air sprays, but then I became curious about how air sprays work, and ended up finding out that a lot of air perfumes including my sprays of dubious provenance (thanks TK Maxx) actually may contradictorily deprove air quality in enclosed household spaces. Furthermore, many household cleaners and pre-made wipes were likely to release more volatile organic compounds into the trapped air.

So I got George to carry home three pots of Dracaena Marginatas (Red edged Dracaena), which were one of the plants studied in the NASA clean air study. The study was trying to determine which household plants would be potentially effective in cleaning the air in space stations, but obviously it also has very useful applications in indoor earth habitats.

This particular type of Dragon Tree was found to reduce the levels of benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene in the air by just living in the room. They are very low maintenance and rather importantly, they were also on SALE at the Homebase closest to us…

I also tried to switch to more basic methods of doing the household cleaning and descaling with combinations of citric acid, sodium carbonate, and Dr Bronner’s castile soap. Say what you will about the crazy text all over the Dr Bronner soap bottles (bringing new meaning to soapbox – its certainly Dr Bronner’s soapbox for his unusual moral philosophy), but the soaps work excellently and definitely do the job of keeping ‘Spaceship Earth’ clean.

Dr Bronner
Gaze upon this amazing picture of Dr Bronner from the 2015 ALL ONE REPORT, which begins with these words:
“In all we do, let us be generous, fair & loving to Spaceship Earth and all its inhabitants.”
This morning whilst cleaning the bathroom in anticipation of first ever visit of my parents to London (and visit to our flat here) – I discovered that the Madagascar Dragon Tree living in the bathroom was covered in tiny white ovals! It was so horrifying I didn’t take a picture of it. It wasn’t mould, I could see that this was a bug problem, but these tiny stationary bugs were too tiny for me to perceive any detail with the naked eye (under 1mm big, but terrifyingly numerous). The infestation looked quite severe, and it seemed to have come on overnight. Some parts which were covered by dots had even turned a bit more yellow. I initially thought it must be mealybugs, but weird ones considering that they didn’t have the usual furry fingery parts of the mealybug showing – but I supposed that perhaps there were weird strains of mealybugs in Britain – I mean, I’m not a mealybug expert! Who knows what the british mealybugs might be up to!

Most normal humans might consider throwing out their shockingly diseased-looking potted plant at this stage, but I decided that I was not going to do the normal thing. NO! I decided that I couldn’t allow this plant to be eaten by mysterious white dots without trying to understand what was going on, so I googled for the instructions on how to eradicate mealybugs from a plant.

Techniques recommended included controlling the infestation using the mealybug’s natural predators such as ladybirds or green lacewing. I considered going to the park and picking up as many ladybirds as I could, but I don’t think George would want our bathroom to become a flying ladybird habitat (furthermore, we don’t have the pleasure of having the time to breed flightless ladybirds which need to be bred by selective breeding like the Japanese have done).

Ladybird Transportation
To be fair, I’m quite sure if I needed to, I could actually find a handful of ladybirds and bring them home. Some are flighty, but some are quite tame and patient and will allow you to carry them for unreasonably long periods of time. This was a ladybird which I recently carried from a hot, uninteresting concrete pavement near Forest Hill – all the way to the very top of Crystal Palace Park…


If I could give everyone a strangely philosophical warning on the sheer tedium of houseplant treatment, it would be this:


After I spent ages cleaning each side of each leaf of the Dragon Tree, it looked much better. I was convinced it would survive this infestation of mysterious white dots.

Crucially, I also took a leaf from the bin and examined it with my USB microscope.

For comparison:



Looks like it is actually a kind of scale insect, a limpet-like creature which sits on plants and sucks the sap out of your poor juicy houseplants. How on earth did it get into our bathroom? The bathroom with its window mostly closed? I don’t even know…

On an aside, I also wonder how many other people were induced to purchase plants on the NASA Clean Air Study list like me. Did the release of the list increase the sales of those specific plants, or are people not logical like that when it comes to their choice of houseplants?…

Growing Mushrooms, Moss and Lavender – Part I

Growing Mushrooms


I’m currently trying to grow Oyster Mushrooms. I bought a small quantity of oyster mushroom spawn on ebay recently – the substrate used appears to be millet. After that, I boiled a bog roll (white, no inks, no fragrance) in a pot of water and then when the bog roll had cooled down, I scattered some mushroom spawn on it and inbetween its layers. To be honest I’m not sure if I’m doing it the right way, but we’ll check back on these babies in a week’s time. Right now they are hiding underneath a box in our rather warm room…

I have wondered about this but I do not think the mushroom spores pose any direct risk to humans – or do they? I mean, we are not going to have an outbreak of mushrooms everywhere in this room, right? Surely it can’t be that easy to cultivate mushrooms. I mean, if it were so simple to have an outbreak of mushroom then wouldn’t everyone with a slightly damp and dark house have mushrooms growing right out of everything, and wouldn’t then people capitalise on that and eat home-cultivated mushrooms all day long?

Growing Moss

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Another thing I’ve been doing is attempting to grow Moss. MOSS! It is very plentiful on the walls and pavements of West Bank. One day I went out and scraped a container’s worth of moss from one of the front walls of our house, after which I broke the moss down into little bits and mixed it down with some Sainsbury’s Basics Yoghurt and leftover beer. The yoghurt and beer serve as food for the moss bits, I was actually going to do a comparison of which works better (beer or yoghurt) but I realised that the yoghurt actually acts as a glue, hence the prevalence of people using buttermilk or yoghurt as without this ingredient it will not stick to surfaces. So I just mixed in some yoghurt with all of the moss. I applied this strange smelling moss sludge to the balconey. It hasn’t turned mouldy yet which is great, but it probably will take a few weeks to reconstitute together…

Growing Lavender

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Finally, this is a picture of Georges II the Lavender Plant, who has grown from a cutting from a pot of Lavender I bought in Paris last year. Last year around this time, George the human brought a small cutting back from my pot in Paris and stuck this bit of lavender into a pot of soil. Unexpectedly, the clipping of lavender now known as Georges II did not die from the trauma of being suddenly cut and rudely stuffed in a pocket and carried to London, but actually has continued to grow and thrive to this day. I hope that Georges II will have many more happy years on the West Bank Balcony….


The plant formerly known as Georges I (RIP 2012, due to overzealous watering on my part)

See also: A Mini Tour-de-Paris for a Pot of Lavender

The Flora and Fauna of the British Isles: Inis Mor

This post is way overdue. In September we went to the Aran Islands and we saw lots of plants and small animals (and a few large animals). I’ve noticed that for most of my time in Europe I have always been very excited about plants and animals but everytime I ask others, nobody around me can seem to tell me what they are called. Pish and Tosh! Uneducated heathens! I think its important to be able to identify plants and trees and animals (except that back in Singapore we didn’t really have as many animals to identify). So in the face of this glut of animal and plant pictures harvested in September, here is an attempt to get to know the names of the plants and animals…. starting with some of what we saw in Inis Mor…


This is the grove snail (Cepaea nemoralis) which is one of the most common types of European snails.


I think this furry fellow is a Fox Moth Caterpillar (Macrothylacia rubi), also a very common european moth.


This is likely to be a Viviparous lizard, a very common lizard in Europe. Viviparous means it gives birth to its young live, instead of laying eggs.


This is a Fuchsia plant, a very distinctive and hardy plant which can be seen all over Inis Mor’s sheltered areas. This was not apparently native to Ireland or the Aran Islands but is an import from Central or South America where it originates from.


Ahem. And this is how I found out its name…


This seems to be a type of Bluebell. I’m not too sure if its the main type or a hybrid bluebell as it seems very pale and seemingly less “formed” than the curly shape of what one would expect of a bluebell. I’m not sure. Any ideas?


This is a small fern known as a Wall-rue, which mainly grows on limestone and other calcareous rocks. There’s even a term for these sort of plants – “epipetric” – which means they grow on top of rocks.


This is Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum) which is apparently edible and is said to have a “pleasant, hot and spicy taste”. Sadly we didn’t eat any. We did eat some raspberries on a bush but even that seemed risky because we were suspicious about doing it all wrong. Yes I suppose us paranoid city folk have a long way to go to becoming wild foragers living on nature’s bounty…


Not the sweetest of black raspberries but… still a raspberry. Also in case you are wondering what is the difference between a blackberry and black raspberry, I think its that black raspberries have smaller cells and are a bit more furry like in the picture above.


I wish I could say I could identify this one but I actually don’t know. It looked soft and inviting but when I tried to kick it with my foot, it was literally like a rock. You could jump on it and it would be unharmed although it looked like a pillow of green bursting out from between the rocks. It could not even be prised out from the rock with my fingers. It was like stone. This was a strange one… and mainly observed growing on the most extreme parts of the cliff…





Well that’s it for a short digression into the Flora and Fauna of Inis Mor. There were a lot more such as cows and a whole host of mysteriously similar red berries but finding out their names is quite hard so we’ll go a few at a time. So next time: more on the flora and fauna of… Urban London?….



The Simulacra of Cobain the Cactus

Today I decided to do one pomodoro of Second Life building. I decided I would try to build a replica of Cobain the Cactus, a plant on my windowsill which G gave to me because it initially resembled a toy rabbit I had named Kobain. Unfortunately, G forgot that cactuses are not inert objects, so it continued to grow many new cactusey fingers, and now Cobain the Cactus does not look like Kobain the toy rabbit anymore.

This is a photo of Cobain the cactus – in Real Life:

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I cropped out the other bits so it was just the cactus. I prepared this as a 512 x 512 image for uploading to Second Life.

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Next I found some random 8-sided mesh/sculpted tree and retextured it with my cobain.png texture. You can find many free sculpted trees on SL Marketplace if you don’t have one to start with. If I had more time, I could probably have used Blender to bake the plant sculptie/mesh myself and then imported it into SL instead of repurposing some other plant mesh. I’m not building it in order to sell it, so the permissions don’t really matter to me at this point. Finally I created a brown pot for the bottom from a tube, added a circular disc textured with soil and linked them all together.

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And so by the end of one pomodoro, I had a copy of Cobain the cactus – in Second Life: