Snake Plants Are Dangerous For Cats!

Snake plant

You see this plant almost everywhere these days. It’s called the Snake Plant, also known as Sansevieria or, in Malaysia, Mother-in-law’s tongue (pokok lidah mentua – I know, it’s sad, right?).

This plant has been hailed as an easy way to purify the air, hence the increase in demand to have these as indoor house plants. It also helps that these plants are quite affordable and very easy to maintain (read: won’t die so easily on non-green thumbs like me!).

Many sites claim they are pet-friendly so I gave it no thought whatsoever when our pet cat, Thomas, would gnaw on a leaf or two once in a while. I’ve always thought cats would know instinctively what’s good for them or stay away from what’s toxic for them. Hah! Or so I thought.

Now you must understand that Thomas is part-British Longhair. Because of his long fur, we’ve always thought that it’s quite normal for him to spit out hairballs once in a while together with a bit of mucous. The incidents recurred a couple of times but we did not give it much thought.

Meanwhile, at some point, Thomas chewed down practically all the leaves of our Snake Plant that my mom decided to send the plant outdoors to allow it to recuperate.

Soon after, Thomas got really, really sick. He had diarrhea, randomly vomited all over the house, pooped on my comforter (!), refused to groom himself, and hid under the stairs. The fact that he stopped grooming himself was really alarming because it’s a sure-fire sign that a cat is unwell, made worse by the knowledge that when cats hide themselves, it’s when they’re really ill and/or about to die (a lifetime of caring for cats taught me that).

It was late evening and our vet’s clinic was closed so we decided to clean him up manually, stopped all dry food, and just left fresh water everywhere. I started searching online for possible causes of cat vomiting and diarrhea. After reading several articles, my heart jumped when I came across an article that mentioned that snake plants actually contain a certain toxin and should be kept away from pets.

Thankfully, Thomas somehow recovered the morning after. He came out of hiding, groomed himself, and returned to his usual active, noisy self.

Suffice to say that the snake plant is now permanently kept outdoors now!

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Mama, My Hero

My mother started teaching when she was barely 21 years old. When she discovered FaceBook, she managed to reconnect with many of her former students and many of them do not simply call her “Miss” or “Madam” but “Mama”. Yes, she has also become their second mother and I am proud they think of her that way.

Always beautiful in my eyes

I’ve always loved my mother and had a special bond with her. When I was a teenager, instead of the usual teenage angst that normally drives children away from parents, I found a confidante and best friend in her.

I appreciated her all the more when I started having children of my own. I look at her wrinkled hands now and I get teary eyed thinking of how those hands, over the years, soothed my pain and worry, bathed me, clothed me, fed me, held me…and now those very same hands are doing the exact same things to MY children.

We were tested when she was diagnosed with breast cancer stage 2a in 2007. But the fighter that she was decided to immediately go for mastectomy. She also went through 6 cycles of chemotherapy, leaving her with the classic symptoms of blackened nails, metallic taste in the mouth, and hair loss. She took her hair loss in stride, having fun doing virtual hair and makeup makeovers on her phone. She drove herself to her radiotherapy sessions.

When I see my mother, I see the strongest person I know. I see a hero. I see everything I wish to be.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama. Words will never be enough to express my love for you.

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Interview with David Castro (Encore)

David Castro, Madrid-based singer & composer

I recently caught up once again with Spanish musician-composer David Castro, who just released two new videos. The first video is an updated version of his now-viral Thermomix chime video, featuring Thermomix users from all over the world. The second video is a slick David Bowie “Space Oddity” tribute that he created with a bunch of uber-talented friends, quite a feat considering that they were all in separate locations while working on the project due to the ongoing COVID-19 quarantine.

1. Congratulations on the new Thermomix chime video that features videos of people from all over the world connected through your music! The response from Australia to Portugal to the United States has been so amazing. How are you feeling right now?

I felt useful in the way an artist who is stuck at home can be. Art is a way to connect people. And this is what happened through my song. Thousands and thousands of people from many countries got inspired by the positive energy there is in it.

We realize these days how much we need art in our lives. It brings us joy and light. I understand art as trying to make this world more beautiful.

From here I want to thank all the artists who in an incredibly generous way are sharing their talent with all of us to make these days more bearable.

2. We’ve also seen your latest video paying tribute to David Bowie. Can you tell us more about it? How you came up with the idea, who the other people behind it are, how all of you managed to work on such a project, given all the quarantine constraints?

One of these days I was looking from my window and thinking of the distance that separates us from everyone else. Although that distance can be measured in meters, I have the feeling that each of us inhabits different planets at this time. An unreachable distance for our hands and our bodies, but not for songs, which are space, timeless and indefatigable travelers. 

For this reason I started listening to this song in loop. I had a feeling and contacted some great friends and musicians. They did not hesitate a second to get on my ship. Some days after this video is traveling from ear to ear hugging the ones I can’t touch. 

Let me now introduce all the people who took part in this:
Santi Fernández – Drums & Mixing
Yago Fernández – Piano
David García – Synthesizers
Ricardo Tirado – Bass Guitar
Edit by Luis García
Draws by Alba Marín
Mastered by Denis Blackham

You are nobody without a great team behind.

3. Can you share with us some of the projects that you are working on now or plan to do very soon? We’re excited to see what you’ll come up with next!

Every morning I wake up and come up with different new ideas and projects. I like the way creativity is awakening these days, not only in me, but in my fellow artists.

There will be more videos, collaborations and songs. I prefer not saying much in advance so I keep the surprise factor. Stay tuned!

4. Can we backtrack a bit? Please tell us about your first album ‘El Idioma de Los Relojes’.

These days I am getting to understand something about my own album. A work is timeless. Although it is created at a specific moment in your life, the path that the songs later have is linked to time.

In the last few days this songs that were recorded a year ago are reaching more people over the world than in a whole year. It is as if the album itself knows what time it has to reach each person.

I put my best on the record. My essence is present in it. Each song is a part of that puzzle called David Castro which is still far from being finished.

5. Who would you say are your main influences in your music? And, given a chance, who would you like to work with or collaborate with?

My biggest influences are usually the good songs ahead of the artists. I am more interested in the piece of art that represents a specific song. But if I had the opportunity I would completely love to collaborate with Marcus Mumford. There is something too special in his voice and music. He has the gift of making everything he does seem easy.

6. Is there any message you’d like to pass on to everyone out there during these trying times?

We have art and we have each other. Remember that separated we remain together.

Click here to read the first interview I did with this singer-composer whose song Tarde Para Olvidar was featured in Pequeñas Coincidencias series in Amazon Prime.

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Arrozcaldo: Filipino Chicken Porridge Recipe for the Thermomix

Growing up, one of my most cherished memories of my mother is how, whenever I’d get sick, she would always cook for me a Filipino dish called arrozcaldo. Multiple sources say this humble dish’s origins can be traced back to the Chinese even though its name is of Spanish origin, and it has many variations, depending on one’s province (or one’s mother) but, at its most basic, arrozcaldo is simply rice porridge with sauteed ginger and bits of chicken, seasoned with patis, or Filipino fish sauce, which is very similar to the Thai nam pla. Even though it is just plain old chicken porridge cooked the Filipino way, arrozcaldo for me has always been a hug in a bowl, comfort whilst enduring illness or pain, nostalgic memories of the mother I love.

As I grew older and had my own family, I started missing my mom’s arrozcaldo. To be more accurate, I missed being coddled by her whenever I’d get sick and have her spoil me with a steaming hot bowl of arrozcaldo.

Then I got myself a Thermomix. And one fine day, it dawned on me that I could “Thermomize” arrozcaldo. I replicated the recipe from memory, tweaking the quantity of the ingredients and Thermomix settings. And I simplified it further by eliminating the need for actual chicken meat to be in the dish, given that the annoying step that requires defrosting frozen chicken often prevented me from cooking arrozcaldo in the past. Instead, I decided to make use of homemade chicken stock as per the Basic Cook Book’s recipe, considering that it is, afterall, made of real chicken meat and some spices.

Today, to honour my Mama as she celebrates her 77th birthday, allow me to share with you this humble recipe that is rooted in maternal love.

Mimi’s Quick & Easy Arrozcaldo (Filipino Chicken Porridge)

Arrozcaldo made with a Thermomix
  • Ingredients A:
    1. 50g yellow onion, sliced in large chunks
    2. 50-100g ginger, peeled & julienned
    3. 20g oil
  • Ingredients B:
    1. 140g rice, washed
    2. 1,100g water
    3. 10g BCB chicken stock
    4. 1 Tbsp fish sauce
    5. 1 tsp ground white pepper

Cooking Method:
1. Place Ingredients A into mixing bowl.
🕑 5 min🌡120 o C ⚙ speed 1

2. Add Ingredients B.
🕑 40 min🌡98 o C ⚙ speed 0.5 98 o C

1. The fish sauce (Filipino: ‘patis’) and calamansi juice are traditional condiments for arrozcaldo. If you don’t have fish sauce, add salt to taste and/or increase chicken stock to 15g. Calamansi juice can also be substituted with lime juice or lemon juice.
2. You can add cubed chicken breast, if you want. Add after step 1. Brown for 🕑 3 min🌡120 o C ⚙ speed 1

You can also find this recipe listed in the Malaysian online Thermomix Recipe Community.

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Musee Internationale de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant Rouge (International Museum of The Red Cross and Red Crescent) — A Poignant Walk Back In Time

I am losing count of the number of days that KL has been under RMO/MCO (Restricted Movement Order/Movement Control Order). As one wise guy cracked, the only official days of the week now are Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

One good thing about the lockdown is how I’ve managed to unearth some old pics buried somewhere in my archives, such as these pics that I took in April 2011 but never published before.

This is the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland. I did not exactly plan to visit it that day as I had my sights on the United Nations (UN). Unfortunately, the UN tour apparently was very strict in the sense that. once you’re in, you can’t go out until the entire tour is over. I had a flight to catch and I calculated that I would not have enough time for the tour AND catching my flight. And that was how I ended up walking a few blocks away into this museum.

Entrance of the museum
A sculpture depicting prisoners of war

When I was in high school, I was part of what was called the Red Cross Youth. We learned how to administer first aid and were always on standby during school sporting events and such. Of course, we had to learn a bit of the history, namely, the beginnings of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. And I’ve never forgotten Jean-Henri Dunant‘s name even though the details remain blurry now.

Jean-Henri Dunant’s portrait is in the middle

The museum was dark and cold, as most museums are kept in order to preserve artifacts better, and I remember how solemn it all felt. It was a walk back in time, a remembrance of people who’ve given up their lives in war and other people who strove to improve the treatment of prisoners of war and civilians during war.

First aid kit?
Russian Red Cross artifacts
Archives of prisoners of war

The most poignant artifact I’ve seen that day is probably this postcard from a prisoner of war to some named Marguerite. It’s in French and my photo is, sadly, quite shaky so some of the words are hard to make out. But it starts with

“My little Marguerite,

I have written you a few days ago and I was very surprised not to have received any response. It would be very kind if you could write me a small note. That would make me very happy.”

Postcard from a prisoner of war

These were real people who loved and cried and felt pain just like us. Did she ever write him back? Did he get out alive? Did they find each other?

Black and white war footage were part of the exhibit

The International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent is located at Avenue de la Paix 17, 1202 Genève, Switzerland but is temporarily closed, probably due to COVID-19.

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