Wednesday, 27 December 2017

My Reflections on 2017

2017 marks an important year for me to pen down some thoughts.

Not because it outshone the past years with more sweet or bitter memories.

Every year end I see people writing reflections for the past and resolutions for the upcoming year. I wonder what was mine? Every year I couldn’t think of what was mine. But this year is different. This year is different because I started to be mindful, able to understand and catered to my needs.

It all started in Feb 2017 when I carelessly injured my lower back when I carried heavy furniture in the wrong posture. After various visits to doctor, physician, bone masseur, took X-ray, acupuncture and medicines it got better but not fully well. I asked the doctors shall I exercise to make it better or avoid moving much for it to heal? Doctor's advice was to rest first and monitor further, suggest I could approach a chiropractic if I want to. Since it wasn’t that bad and I only experienced pain after exercising, I made do with it.

The pain had worsened after my Bhutan trip in May, I suspected that was because of the horse riding at the mountain trail. At that point I suddenly feel that being able to run and jump without pain is such a bliss. That was my wake-up call! In the past I wasn’t exercising regularly and it was then that I realized that to be able to exercise without  pain is fortunate.

More visits to the clinics and got better again but the pain would return and persisted for a few days after every long walk. Not serious but still there whenever I moved. I couldn’t even carry slightly heavier item, not even a kg. In August, I told myself I need to do something to manage this issue. I asked myself shall I exercise to make it better or avoid moving much for it to heal? Since the latter is not helping, let me try the former. I started to google what would be helpful and discovered that swimming helps. I couldn’t swim :P Perfect chance to learn and so I did, engaged a coach and started swimming lessons. For the first few lessons, I experienced back pain after each lesson. But after 3rd and 4th lessons the pain has reduced and more manageable. At the same time my company got external party to teach Mindfulness course and I signed up for it. There were 6 lessons and through this course I have learned to be more mindful about my actions, feel and pain. Breathe deeply and slowly helps me to pace my daily life slower, manage my stress better and understand my pain too. I started to take some good supplements to help in bones and joints.

I felt that I was ready to try to exercise besides swimming, I started with a YouTube clip by Athlean-X on “How to fix low back pain instantly”. I did two of his simple stretching and yes it did help to relief the pain instantly but not permanently. Well, we can’t expect to do one set of stretching and get our pain fixed right? I continued the same set of stretching every day and I could feel that it’s improving.

Slowly, I added my own random stretching that I could remember from past PE/Yoga classes.
Slowly, not rushing.
Slowly, not judging.
Slowly, keep with the breathing method. Inhale when stretched, exhale to release.
The key point is to go slow, feel the stretch and strengthen the muscles at that area. It is not about how much I could do, it is the stretch that I want to strengthen. Even 5 minutes of stretching helps. Constantly reminding myself, not to judge.

Slowly, I added more stretching exercises and even planking to strengthen other parts of the body muscles. Every time I introduced something new, I was mindful on which will cause the pain. When I spotted a particular exercise that caused the pain, that means I am not ready to perform that exercise. I got 2 small dumb bells (1 kg each) and started to train my arm muscles too. After a while I could start to carry heavier items without feeling the pain at my lower back.

Slowly, but steadily.

I did the above in the evening time.

In addition, I started to stretch on bed every morning when I woke up. Simple and slow, just a cobra stretch to relieve the stiffness from the long hours on bed. This is very helpful to start the day with a more relaxed lower back. Slowly, I added in the cat poses as well.

Sometimes I tried to follow YouTube video on some cardio exercises, I noticed I could perform those but I couldn’t keep up with their speed. Their speed didn’t allow me to go slow enough with my breathing method. However I managed to pick a few poses here and there from the video and added them to my exercise regime.

I am happy that I am managing my lower back pain well. I am not aching (just ache, not pain) unless I go overboard with my exercise or sit too long without changing position. I am still monitoring, I am not taking it for granted and let myself go back to the pain stage.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Coconut Chicken Soup

Coconut Chicken Soup


3 coconuts
3 drumsticks or your favorite chicken parts
3 pitted red dates
3 Chinese mushrooms (pre-soak to soften and remove stem)
Few ginger slices
1 tbsp wolfberries 
Pinch of salt

1. Cut away any visible fats from the chicken parts, I kept the skin intact. Blanch chicken parts in a pot of boiling water with ginger slices and pinch of salt. Blanching purges aggregated proteins, residual blood, surface bacteria and other impurities before you cook it. Discard the water and ginger.

2. Use a chopper to chop open the top of coconut. Pour the coconut water into a jug and set aside. Scrap some coconut flesh using a metal spoon and set aside. The toughest job in this recipe is to chop open the coconut, I am not good at that so I left it to the man in the house to execute the task. I have provided some links on how to chop open the coconut at the bottom of the page, if you are keen to try ;)

3. Place chicken parts, 1 red date, 1 mushroom and some coconut flesh into each coconut. Use a sieve to pour in coconut water until 2/3 full and top with 1/3 plain water till the brim.

4. Cover the coconut with the cap and steam for 1.5-2 hours. I wrapped the base of the coconut with aluminum foil as my steamer is quite shallow preventing water seepage.

5. Half hour before serving add in wolfberries and pinch of salt (really little bit of salt only).


The above is the most straight forward method. Now if you prefer something more complex to play with, refer to the alternative method:

Alternative Method
You may realize that you have a lot more coconut water than what is required. You can either enjoy the cooling coconut water on its own or cook everything in a pot instead.

So for step 3 (above) instead of putting the ingredients inside each coconut to steam, use a pot to cook all ingredients. Coconut water vs plain water ratio is the same, 2/3 coconut water vs 1/3 plain water. After boiled, simmer for 1.5hours in pot. From here you could serve your coconut chicken soup, it has more chicken taste as compared to steaming inside the coconut. At this junction, the soup is already very flavorful. But if you are as curious as me trying to see the difference between cooking in a pot and steaming in the coconut, you could scoop the ingredients and soup into the coconut to steam for 1/2hr before serving. The coconut fragrance really make the difference ;)

Online links on how to chop open a coconut

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grape Sauce

Italy is a paradise for quality food, we had so many good quality meals during our recent trip there. One of the dishes that impressed me a lot is the Pork Tenderloin with Grape Sauce. I took mental notes on the obvious ingredients while we were dining so that I could try to replicate it when I am back in Singapore. So here it is, my version of this sweet pork dish.


300g pork tenderloin/ loin (6 pieces)
30 sweet green seedless grapes
2 inches young ginger (remove skin and cut into small slices)
3 sprigs rosemary
Olive oil and butter
2-3 tbsp white cooking wine
Black pepper
1/2 cup water
1tsp corn starch

1. Pat dry and pound the pork loins using the back of a chopper. Marinate with salt and black pepper.
2. Air fry the grapes at 170 degrees for about 20mins until skin crack, soften and shriveled. Need to toss/ stir at intervals for even cooking. Set aside.
3. Add olive oil and butter in pan, fry the pork loin until just cooked. Set aside.
4. On the same pan add a bit more olive oil and fry the young ginger for a while, add the wine.
3. Add the grapes and any leftover grape juice. Rub the rosemary sprigs with both hands to release the aroma and add into pan. Fry for awhile then add in the water with corn starch.
4. Once sauce thicken, pour over the pork loins and serve.

Serve it with rice or potatoes.