Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Swiftlet Nests in Singapore

Yes, you heard me right! There are real Swiftlets' nests, commonly known as Bird's Nest ( made by the swiftlets using solidified saliva), in Singapore! I happened to stumbled upon one such area during the last weekend to visit Mt Imbiah Battery. I had signed up some tours for Battle for Singapore and this trip was one of it. What I had not expected is to find intact bird's nests in the battery.

Upon arrival, I joined a group of history enthusiasts. We were told current status of Mt Imbiah, stories of WW2, the history of the battery, and the suspected use of each rooms. Although the place was decomissioned prior WW2, this battery is the only intact battery in Singapore that remained relatively untouched after the British army left Singapore. The rest of the batteries (Fort Siloso and Fort Connaught) in Sentosa had been bombed. The underground rooms were where the infantry used to store weapons was flooded and almost suffered the fate of being buried away as a result. Luckily, that idea was being abandoned and measures were made to drain away the water. Otherwise, we will not get the chance to visit and experience how it was like in such a battery. 

We were also brought through a very narrow passageway (basically the passageway is the perimeter of the underground magazine), we were told that this passage will help to keep the ammunition that were stored next to it dry. It is also in this passageway, we found the swiftlet nests. We were told the swiftlets are Jin Si Yan and the nests found here are poisonous, not for human consumption. Walking though the narrow passageway in a dark and groomy environment is pretty scary if you asked me. We were told to switch on our torchlight in our phone but I don't know how to operate mine. Luckily, majority of the members of the group had their lights on, so I followed behind. From their lights, I managed to see 2 rows of bird nests near the ceiling on the both sides of the corridor and snapped a picture of 2 nests next to each other (below). You can imagine the excitement I had because I had never seen any bird nests of any kind in my life before. What an experience it was! The swiftlets were probably frightened by us as we were making quite a commotion and they flew all over the place. Luckily, we were told there were swiflets in the passageway, otherwise I may have thought they were bats. One of the birds even bumped into my hand. In the innermost of the passageway, I felt the floor soft beneath my shoes. I could not see what it was. I believe they are feathers. When we were finally out, one of the guides asked whether we saw any big fat cockroaches! Eeewwww... Yes, these are some of the creatures you can find here, much to my amusement. I am sorry to tell you that the magazine is not open to public except in tours like this. Plans are made to preserve the site. I do hope in future, it will be open to public, including the magazine.

Bird nests in Mt Imbiah Battery

In the next photo collage, I am pleased to tell you that you will be able to visit and know more about swiftlets in Swiftlet Garden Museum. This particular museum is located at D'Kranji Farm Resort. When we first saw this museum during our farm hop last December, I was pretty excited to know more. It is not a very big museum but with the guided tour, you will be able to know the history of Bird's Nest and how it was harvested. It was Admiral Cheng Ho who brought them back as delicacy for the royal family from the South East Asia. You will also learnt that swiftlets are  monogamous and not all swiftlets are able to produce edible bird nest, only a few species do. You get to know how despicable some manufacturers are to the extent of bleaching bird nest to make them white so that they are be sold as premium bird nests.

You also get to learn how this particular plant, Swiftlet Garden Group of companies , harvest their own bird nests in swiftlet houses without harming the swiftlets and how these nests were processed. Essences ( glycoprotein extracts to produce food supplements for anti-cancer -SGBx, and stem cell therapy-NUSGx) of bird nest were extracted to make cookies, chocolates and coffee. To find out more, you may want to visit their homepage. The items can be purchase from their visitor's centre. Although I believe in consuming whole food rather than extracts (which were made into products), I bought the oats and blackcurrent cookies because Little One likes them.  

We do hope to visit the musuem again. Hopefully if we are not rushing for time so that we can stay and read the boards in the museum. At that time, I also wished to visit their farm in Malaysia. Currently, their farm does not have open farm tours available but I do hope that they conduct some day. I am sure plenty of people, especially the Chinese, would be interested.
Swiftlet Garden Museum
Left: Harvesting in swiftlet houses
Bottom Right: Mock up of Bird's Nest in swiftlet house
Top Right: Harvesting naturally in a cave

PS: I am in not affiliated or associated with the above mentioned company. 
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Friday, February 19, 2016

Book of the month : Warning: Do Not Open This Book! (E-Book) and how to use Overdrive

Have you heard of myLibrary ID? Although National Library Board (NLB) had launched this platform more than a year ago and that the libraries had been actively promoting the usage of myLibrary ID. I signed up then but only started to use recently to borrow e-books. This post is both review of this book and how to use overdrive to read to enhance your reading experience. So far, I am using PC to read e-books.

myLibrary ID is pretty useful. You can use it for the following:

  • Check Your Account 
    • as in current list of hardcopy books that you have borrowed and information about when to return (note : e-book account is separeted from hardcopy account. See below picture for the e-book account)
  • Access loan history
    • history of your previous loan and when they were returned.
  • Update Profile
  • Place Reservations
  • Borrow books with the new NLB Mobile app (can be downloaded at Apple App Store or Google Play without queuing to borrow the books)
  • Borrow eBooks (it can be normal e-books, read aloud e-books or audio ebooks)
  • Access eResources
  • Access the Multimedia stations at the libraries
  • Receive email alerts:
    • on loans (before due-date, overdue)
    • collection of reserved item
    • payment of lost/damage item
    • expiry of reservation
    • expiry of membership (Premium Plus and Foreign membership types)
e-book account and the different types of e-book
Charlotte's Web is a audio book is represented by a headphone icon (Top left)
e-books with viewable pages are marked with the opened book icon.
Read along books are marked with the words READ ALONG across the book cover (Bottom Right)

In order to enjoy e-books, you have to Singapore National Library member AND have a myLibrary ID. If you do not have a myLibrary ID, you may sign up online or via e-kiosk. If you want to know how to access e-book via mobile, you may want to hop to Cheekiemonkeys. They also have plenty of screenshots on how to access and borrow the e-books. You can login at NLB website to access ebooks via overdrive once you have myLibrary ID.

The first book I borrowed was Warning: Do Not Open This Book!
narrated by Adam Lehrhaupt ; illustrated by Matthew Forsythe.

Little One loves this book and had been asking me to read over and over again. Hence, earning the award for book of the month. From the cover, it is rather interesting to see so many tapes and road signs requesting not to open the book and there is a curious monkey on the cover. That naturally makes people curious to know how a harmless looking monkey triggers the need for a warning. Of course, as a mother, I hope Little One obeys rules and not try to break them. This book is tempting her to do the opposite! I have to remind Little One this is just a book, hence rules could be ignored. When there are real road signs such as those appear on the book, we should obey.  
So, we opened the e-book, True enough, madness and mayhem lies within the book. The more we flip, the more chaotic it becomes. And to stop the madness... the author shared a secret plan. In order for it to work, you have to.... you guess it... flip the page again and close the book! Hahaha... pretty humorous I can tell you.  


    Reading e-book is pretty convenient when you have no time to go to the library. Best of all, you do not have to worry about overdue books. These books will be automatically returned in due time. 
    Overdrive is pretty easy to use too! After opening an e-book on overdrive, just a click on the left of the book, will move the page backwards whereas a tap on the right will move it forward. Alternatively, you may want to tap the middle of the book and a navigation pane that displays the current chapter and location will appear at the bottom of the book. (as per picture above) You can choose to move the pages by swiping the button (A). If you wish to read the overview or tips to use Overdrive, you may click on (B). When there is a need to bookmark the page, you can do so by clicking (C) as indicated at the top right hand corner. Once you have done that, bookmark sign will appear below the navigation pane. All you need to do is to click on the bookmark at the bottom to resume the page you have stopped. If you are reading e-books such as a cookbook with content page, it is possible to click on the chapter and go straight to the page that you are interested in.
    The only complaint I have is that the Chinese collection is only 1/10 the collection of English collection. The minimum level is Grade 2 which is somewhat equivalent to P2 in Singapore. I do hope that there will be more Chinese e-books and simpler ones especially the read along ones so that Little One could read it on her own.
PS: This book is available in hard copy in the libraries.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Exploring neighbourhood: Queenstown's Ridout Tea Garden

Many people are familiar with Mc Donald's. How about one that has a playground, a Japanese styled garden a pond with plenty of  terrapins and fishes? Probably in the whole of Singapore, there is only one. If you are there, do look out for the heritage marker to know more of its history. This place was formerly the Queenstown Japanese Garden. The place was burnt to the ground in 1978, fortunately there were no casualties. Do look out for the Commonwealth and Holland Heritage Tour organised by My Queenstown. This tour will be launched soon.

I have been to this Mc Donald's several times with Little One and we simply love to look at the terrapins after our meals. The place is pretty serene with lush greenery. It is a great place for photo-taking. There are bamboos and some pretty plants around too. There is an indoor playground at the back of the Mc Donald's but I seldom see children play in it. 
Ridout Tea Garden

At the side of the fast food restaurant were these brick wall. It look rather old. I wondered whether it is related to the former Japanese Garden then. After attending the launch of  My Community's 3rd tour, Commonwealth and Holland Village heritage tour, I have my answer. Yes, these are the remnants of the former site.

indoor playground

McDonald's @ Ridout Tea Garden, 
Singapore 149066

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To further read about this place, you may want to proceed to this post. The blogger had shared her memories about the Mc Donald's as well as the places near it.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Little One @ Pasir Panjang Nursery and Hort Park Tour

Did you know some of the roads/places  in Singapore are named after trees?  Did you know all the trees found on roads and parks actually comes from the one and only NParks nursery in Singapore? What to do if you have a space constraint to grow plants in Singapore? Why not visit the Hort Park for ideas? 

"Set up in the 1970s, the Pasir Panjang Nursery supplies close to 200,000 plants a year to green up Singapore’s roads and parks. Majority of the plants provided by the nursery are native to Singapore and not easily available in private nurseries. It is NParks’ major nursery and houses over 3,000 species of trees, palms, shrubs, groundcover, herbs, fruit trees and aquatic plants. Seeds, cuttings and saplings of native plants are collected weekly from across Singapore, including the forests. These are grown at the nursery until they are ready to be planted islandwide. The nursery also sources plants from the region such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia to increase the variety of ornamental plants used in NParks’ planting programmes.

HortPark is a one-stop gardening resource centre that brings together gardening-related, recreational, educational, research and retail activities under one big canopy in a park setting. Popular with gardening enthusiasts, families, and community groups who wish to learn more about gardening or share tips with like-minded enthusiasts, HortPark is also frequently visited by visitors who enjoy taking nature walks along the Southern Ridges."

Recently, we signed up for a tour at SGfuture: Site Visit to Pasir Panjang Nursery and HortPark. This time I signed my hubby up as he had not been to the nursery (not open to public) before. 

The tour started from Hort Park and ends in Pasir Panjang Nursery. I must admit I had not been to Hort Park for almost 1 year! Quite a couple of things had changed. One of which is Community in Bloom Gardens which are actually 5 meaningful mini gardens/themes to commemorate SG 50. They are "Blk 50", "Play Mosaic", "Balik Kampung", "Talk Bird, Sing Song" and "2065". I particularly like Blk 50 and Balik Kampung. They contains a number of nostalgic items. We were also introduced to the various techniques on how Hort Park used various innovative ways to maintain their gardens. Examples are vertical gardening and Aquaponic garden. Although I have seen vertical gardens in various part of Singapore but I must admit, I do not know how these gardens were maintain. It was definitely an eye opener!

A pity the dragon head is not a replica of the dragon playground in Toa Payoh.
Blk 50 with its antique looking window grilles. There are some nostalgic furniture around too! 
Aquaponics Garden is a small scale aquaponic system in which vegetables and food fish are grown together whereby both organisms benefits mutually.
Aquaponics Garden
Sandpit in HortPark

Proceeding next to Pasir Panjang Nursery.
As mentioned earlier, many of the trees in our local parks, roadsides and even Istana were nurtured here before planted islandwide. One of the roles of the nursery is to propagate native plants. Some of these species are coming close to extinct on our island. Our group consists of many plant lovers who love to grow their own herbs and plants at home.They asked lots of questions on how to grow certain vegetables. The guides were patient to share with us their knowledge. We were also told how certain places got its name, such as Kranji, Sembawang and Kampong Glam.

Golden Papaya

Fruit of Signature Tree - ants are feeding on the seeds
This tree is also known as Signature tree because autographs can be scratched onto the stout, long-lasting leaves.
In case you wonder why there are plants in the canal : aquatic plants, including water lilies, help to purify water that runs through it. 
Purple Capsicum?

Purple chilli
Various salvage plants
Little One is particularly interested in the Asam Tree, Garcinia Atroviridis. Ever since she stepped in the nursery, she had been asking for it. The reason being she loves to eat the young leaves of this tree. She was introduced to this plant almost 1.5 years ago when she last visited and she still can remember how it tasted like. Only the orange young leaves can be eaten raw and it cannot be eaten with an empty stomach.

Garcinia Atroviridis

Although this trip to the nursery was shorter than the last, we still learnt quite a lot from the trip. Hopefully, next time NParks will open more slots for the public to go.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Street Scenes at Jurong Point

If you like to explore Asian Food, Jurong Point is probably your best bet. It has food from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Malaysia. It has everything under 1 roof! I love to look at the street scenes from these places. I particularly love those at Shokutsu Ten.

Mongkok where you can find food from Hong Kong, particularly roasted meat and dim sum. The signage truly reminds me of Hong Kong
Ema @ Shokutsu Ten

Does these signage reminds you of Osaka?

Japanese kites and a flying ninja

This particular ninja gave me a fright

Malaysia Boleh! reminds me of food street in Malaysia
Wishing Ribbon at Korean Strret
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Friday, February 5, 2016

Making a bookmark: Tatting

Mentioned earlier in both my facebook page and blog post, I am into tatting just recently. This is an ancient lace making technique. There are various ways of tatting, just to name some- : finger, needle and shuttle tatting. Above bookmark is made by shuttle tatting.

In the beginning, I struggled with it especially when there is a need to undo a wrong stitch. It can be very frustrating. During that time, it was a struggle and half the time I wanted to give up. I remember the instructor said it can be difficult in the beginning and hence I persisted.

So below is the process.

Making the other part of the bookmark is more challenging, as the 1st half of the bookmark kept getting into the way when I was tatting.

Below are the close up shots of the bookmark.

Right side

When the bookmark is completed, I felt tremendous pride and happiness that I did it!

If you are looking for some instructions on how to tat the bookmark, I am afraid I am going to disappoint you. I am not giving instructions on how to do the bookmark. This is because the design is copyrighted. The second reason being I am still very new to tatting and I think I am not good at giving instructions. I think I have to take numerous pictures when I tat but this is quite impossible since both hands are required in tatting.

Below are some websites for you to learn tatting, should you be interested in the craft.

If you are interested to know how to read tatting patterns , below site is for you.

Don't thank me, I am still in the learning process. I didn't really help much.

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Linky to Creativity 521

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Chinese New Year Decorations

People's Park Complex (Zhen Zhu Fang) @ Chinatown
Golden Monkey @ Plaza Singapura

Peach Blossoms with monkeys @ Sun Plaza
Accessories for Chinese New Year decorations
This year, I have yet to find time to go down to then Chinese New Year Market at Chinatown although I was quite near it a fortnight ago. My hubby thought it would be very crowded and hence decide against it.  Chinese New Year decoration had adorned local shopping centres and supermarkets. Above were some photos which I had taken. In case, you were wondering why there are so many monkeys around. That is because we are ushering the year of the monkey!

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