Merry Christmas from the House of Annie

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 2:1-2, 8-11 (New King James Version)

Christmas Display at Tang’s Dept Store, Orchard Rd, Singapore

Tang's Orchard Rd Singapore Christmas Display

May you have a joyous holiday season!

Merry Christmas, Selamat Hari Natal, and Mele Kalikimaka from House of Annie.

Cheers and Aloha, Annie and Nate

Defeating Comment Spam Bots

Here’s how I dropped virtually all of my comment spam, with no extra challenge fields to hinder human commenters.

no spam logo by david hegarty

logo by David Hegarty (License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic)

I hate spam. I don’t mean the  canned Hormel pork product that is so tasty in Spam musubi or Spam fried rice. I mean all the unwanted comments and links to any manner of dubious websites invading this blog’s  comments section.

House of Annie is a WordPress-powered blog that used to get a moderate amount of comment spam. Spambots – computers run by spammers to automatically leave comments on blogs – were becoming an increasing nuisance. Like most WordPress blog owners, I use the Akismet anti-spam plugin as my first line of defense against comment spam.

But sometimes Akismet either lets a spam comment through or shunts a legitimate comment over to the Spam queue (a “false positive”). That’s why I moderate comments as well, only letting previously approved commenters get automatic posting privileges. It’s a second line of defense for the ones that gets past Akismet, but doesn’t help with false positives that may be sitting in the Spam queue.

If there are a lot of comments in the spam queue, it’s not so easy to find these false positives. It’s almost like finding a needle in a haystack. As this blog has gotten more popular, that haystack has gotten bigger. I needed to find a way to reduce the comment spam, but did not want to use CAPTCHA or math challenge-response plugins that stop spambots but slow down human commenters.

I think I found my answer.


Masala Vadai

Recipe for how to make this tasty, South Indian fried lentil snack called vada or vadai.

Masala Vadai

A few days ago, Nate and I were walking in Kuching’s version of a strip mall (more like a row of shop lots) looking for Christmas presents for our kids and we bumped into an Indian lady selling snacks outside a store. She spoke to me in Hokkien (a Chinese dialect) which surprised me. I guess she must have lived here a good long time and have interacted with enough Chinese here to pick up the language. I bet her Hokkien is better than mine!

Anyway, she was selling vadai and some steamed chickpeas. Nate had been craving vadai for a long time so we happily snapped up some to munch on as we walked around shopping. Though they were tasty, they lacked the curry leaves that Nate loves dearly and they just didn’t have any heat to them. That is one problem with living here in Kuching—people don’t enjoy their food too spicy. My heat tolerance has probably gone down a lot since getting here. And being that this lady was local to Kuching, she has also tempered her food to match the local tastebuds.

Feeling somewhat deprived of good vadai, I decided it was time to try to make some of my own. I’ve had a Southern Indian cookbook that I bought many years ago that I’ve never gotten around to cooking from and I decided that it was time to look at the recipes again. True enough, there was a section on snacks and there was not just one recipe for vadai but several recipes.


Chicken with Black Fungus

Try this simple and delicious recipe with healthy black (wood ear) fungus, and you’ll be sold on it too!

Chicken with Black Fungus

Have I told you that I’m a pretty easy sell? I totally believe in sales gimmicks and this is why I never let those Kirby people in unless Nate is there at home with me. If I was alone, I’d be the proud owner of a really expensive vacuum cleaner (and I hate vacuuming). Why do I even let them in? Because I’m pake, see, and they always offer to clean one room for free! ^_^

I was at the market the other day buying vegetables and the vendor lifted this packet of black fungus to me. At first I didn’t know what it was she was trying to sell me but once I understood, I was tempted to get it. It’s not often that I can find fresh black fungus here.

Turns out, this vegetable vendor was a pretty good salesperson. “It’s very good for your health,” she said, “and it’s my last big pack.” She went on to convince me that it was really tasty and I would enjoy it. She could see that I was sold before I even nodded and, with a big grin, added it to my bag of other vegetables. Thankfully, in this case, it was just a pack of wood ear fungus that make for delicious eating and thus, totally justifiable. Right honey?


About Us

My Photo Annie is mistress of the kitchen while Nate is the master of the grill and smoker. We cook the homestyle Asian and Hawaiian foods of our younger days while also exploring the wider worlds of Western foods.

Learn more about us by clicking here: About House of Annie.

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