Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A blind dog, our best companion

Nitro -  a shih Tzu breed with a nice gold and white hair which I often received compliments by dog lovers on how good looking and well groomed he is (I'm not boasting!).  He was our second dog by chance.  Our first dog was a female named Nicole.  She was only 3 months, a tiny little puppy with mixed colour of black/brown/white, when we brought her home from the Pet Lovers shop at Simei.    Unfortunately, she refused to eat and kept whining for nights that we, have no choice, but to return back to the pet shop for fear that she might die of hunger.  The pet shop agreed to do a swap but could not reimbursement the money.  And then, the care taker showed us a bigger puppy that claimed to have an Australia parent due to his size.  He was just the opposite of Nicole.  Super active!  Always jumping around and chewing off the handler's shoe lace mischievously.   My hubby liked him instantly and decided to bring him home.  We named him 'Nitro' short for nitrogen.  Nitrogen is volatile and explosive nature in gas and just like this puppy - restless and energetic. 

We sent Nitro for obedience classes every weekend with dr-dogs at Hougang.  Because he is an alpha male and we have not successfully trained him to walk along with us.  During our walks, he was always leading and dragging me behind.  However, he never destroyed our furniture or cabinets around the house.  And he did his poo and urinate business at the designated poo pan.  We love him to the bits and treated him as part of our family.  We had great time together be it at home or in a park playing hide and seek.  I wrote more about Nitro's character earlier here.   Having Nitro was a blessing in disguise.  A year later, I was pregnant after many futile attempts of conceiving.  He was our lucky star and my best companion during my ups and downs. 

With an additional family member, we kind of neglected his presence.  But he did not give us any trouble or showed his jealous of the baby.  I was told by my mum that he even slept quietly besides my baby one night.  I was surprised.  It was nice to have a guarding angel, right?  Guilty as charged.  I might be over-reacting at times and scolded Nitro for the mishaps at home like poo and pee other places except the poo pan. 

Baby was growing up every day and I have been kept busy all the time from nursing, changing diapers and rocking the baby to sleep.  Indeed, I felt sorry for neglecting him.  Time passed, toddler started to show interest with this fluffy furball.  Pulling his tail or hair while I was not looking.  Nitro did not like it at all.  His retaliation was a nip on my little boy's hands or feets.   Next moment, I got a crying toddler and I got mad with Nitro too. Other than that, Nitro was nice and never once given my son a nasty bite.  We did walks together with my baby in the stroller.  It was not easy to control especially Nitro always charged ahead of us.

Preschooler began to understand Nitro is a dog.  Walks together has been a routine for Mommy and son.  Watched Nitro pooed and marked his territory against trees and lamp post was a familiar but not a disgusting sight (which seemingly unpleasant to some kids who does not own a dog).  Some times, they have an indoor ball game since Nitro loves to play fetch and is a big fan of any kinds of balls especially squeaky ones.  It was a joy to see my two playful 'boys' having fun together.

Until 11 March 2014 mid morning - a normal Tuesday and also the day my mum visited us.  I noticed Nitro was unusually quiet and behaved sheepishly.  Every steps was cautiously executed and he has tendency to knock/bump onto the cabinets and wall.  And he did not respond when I called him. Worried and I held him close starring at him but he looked away.  I sensed that he could not see me and immediately after my son finished school, I brought him to the Mt Pleasant clinic at Bedok for a thorough check. He was blind and has high blood pressure.  The blood test showed he was healthy and no organs failure.  The vet prescribed fortekor and asked me to wait and see if there was chance he could recover.  Shocked and sad, we decided to seek second and even third opinion from another vet at Serangoon North. The result was the same.  Nitro is blind and zero possibility of reversible due to retinal atrophy in his right eye and retinal detachment on his left eye. And he has to take amlodipine for life to maintain his blood pressure.  I was in tears during the first few visit to the vet's clinic as the vet explained to us.  For the first week, he was quite reluctant to walk and bump onto curbs at times.  He also fell into the drain once (my fault).  He has also been quiet during the transition period.  On a lighter note, blind dog apparently adapts very well.  His other senses actually helped him to navigate. Indeed, a week later, Nitro began to show eagerness for walks just like before and resume its playful self.  And for a moment, we thought he could see us but that was our wishful thinking. 

We are glad Nitro is happy again.  He is still our best companion and my precious!

This video depicts the onset of his blindness.

This video shows his playful self after one week.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Bento # 333
The bento was actually a red pepper flower with egg white which I piped some ketchup on it.  Leaves were slices of Japanese cucumber.  Underneath he had fried ee-fu mee with spring onion, cabbage and carrots.

In Singapore, after a long dry spell in March, we had sudden downpour of rainfall that triggered unusual mass flowering. We have never experienced such a weather phenomenon in my whole life here. The brown grass patch magically turned green the next day after the rain. 

We spotted a few trees that are flowering in our neighbourhood.  One of which, I jokingly told my son that it looks like lollipops on the trees (since I did not know what was the correct name at that moment).  We had a good laugh and began counting the numbers of such trees.  Upon checking the internet, these trees are known as Xanthostemon chrysanthus (Golden Penda).  It was such a pretty sight!

Xanthostemon chrysanthus

Golden Penda

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter hare & Teriyaki chicken sushi roll

Food art # 331

Father, son, mother (from the left)
Easter is just around the corner.  Although we do not celebrate it, I made an attempt to mark the occasion by doing some egg-cellent craft together.  We did egg painting last year with my help.  This year, he drew our family of three with black marker and I placed each egg on the milk bottle caps that I have collected.  Ahem, I must admit there were no pretty faces on the eggs.  And he wanted to make it a special one for himself with eye wrap like the ninja turtle.  Can you tell?

Harping on the topic, I took the opportunity to ask him if I could create an Easter bunny for his lunch.  An affirmative yes from my son!  Yippee!! But it has to be a 'hare' not 'rabbit' and must be brown and not white.  He was almost right - hare has black markings and longer/larger ears/feets/legs than rabbit.

Using a hard-boiled egg, the Easter hare was dyed with light soya sauce first. Next, pink ham for its large long ears and feets.  Facial with seaweed, whiskers were spaghetti and lastly, some ketchup on its cheek. (The egg shell did not peel off nicely and hence, the uneven surface.)  On a mini food tray from one of my bento box, I placed a boiled lotus root, two green grapes, a cherry tomato, some blanched broccoli and a flower carrot.

Yesterday, I prepared teriyaki chicken sushi roll, packed with blanched broccoli, cherry tomato and green grapes for him to bring to school.  Not forgetting to throw in a few foodpicks and luckily, the little fellow did not complain.

Bento # 332

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Birthday Cake

This year I made a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (TMNT) cake for my son's 6th birthday. I tried the frozen buttercream transfer according to Wilton's video here (I reduced the amount icing sugar used).  His favourite was 'Raphael' - the one with red eye wrap. I drew a cranky and grumpy Raphael which finally approved by little boss (my son) only after the second version.  We were really excited about it.   My boy did the mixing and selecting the colours and I piped the buttercream on a piece of wax paper.  He was having loads of fun.  In the progress, I also popped the question of what makes green colour and started to discuss about primary colours as home learning.  Unfortunately, we did not manage to get the red colour we wanted.  In the end we decided to abandon and go for blue instead.  So 'Raphael' become Leonardo' instead :P  It was my first try on frozen buttercream transfer.  And because I did not have a steady hand, the outlining was not as smooth as expected.  This was done one week ago and I kept it in the freezer before the big day.
A day before the actual birthday, I baked chocolate cake. Yes, it was chocolate cake again! The adventurous me tweaked the receipe by experimenting with top flour, extra dark cocoa powder and chocolate couverture I bought from Phoon Huat Baking Supplies store.  The effect :-
  • My cake shrank a little (which I did not know why) but did not collapse (Phew)
  • It gave a really charcoal black colour just like the oreo biscuit
  • No chocolate taste in the extra dark cocoa batter (I thought was a little weird when I tried a spoonful)
  • It was not awfully sweet overall with a slight bitterness. 
  • The sweetness of swiss meringue buttercream I did later actually complement it
  • Texture was moist - happy!
Last part was to frost the whole cake with swiss meringue buttercream and placed the frozen buttercream transfer on the cake.  Prior to that, I have watched many videos frosting a whole cake. Yet, I still got crumbs visible on my cake.  And the more I wish for perfection, the cake crumbs appeared even more.  With exhaustion creeping in and it was past mid-night, I decided to let it be despite the imperfection.
Ninja Turtle Birthday cake
Frozen buttercream transfer
Since it was the last year with his kindergarten, I bought 17 Aseop fables storybooks during a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for his class (including my son) instead of goodie bag as remembrance. It was a steal because it cost only $4.90 per book after the exchange rate conversion and Border's member discount.

Left - Aseops fables
Right - my hubby's book
Originally, I planned to celebrate his 6th birthday at the LEGOLAND Hotel and even invited his two Jie Jie(s) for the stay.  However, the trip was cancelled because Nitro, our pet dog suddenly lost his eyesight and was diagnosed with high blood pressure. We need to follow up with the vet for further check up and also, could not bear to leave Nitro at the boarding house. Hence, we gave my son an early birthday treat to Singapore Night Safari instead.  Back at home, I prepared the birthday banners and my son cleverly and creatively hung it on the chairs and we did the usual stuff; photo shoot, sang birthday songs (in 3 languages) and of course, cut and ate the cake.
Birthday banners on the chair

My son's idea 
Not the perfect cake
but glad that he likes it as always
Recycle and redecorate
for my hubby's birthday
which was on the next day