Friday, August 30, 2013

Foodie Fridays - Roast Chicken, Potatoes and Stuffing with Ratatouille on the side!

I love the weekends for 2 reasons. 1 - I get to spend time with Dumpling and 2, I get to cook and experiment in the kitchen.

As much as I love cooking and eating, I still have not been very successful in getting Dumpling to eat more greens. She does eat them but (sadly) very minimally. We chanced upon 'Ratatouille' during lunch over the weekend and surprisingly, Dumpling really likes them. Perhaps it is because it uses tomatoes as its 'base' or perhaps it complemented the Chicken Breast (the mains) but well, she basically polished that off.

Encouraged, I decided to try my hand at creating it. There was only one minor set-back, we promised her that we will cook Roast Chicken and we have only 1 oven. So, I started searching for a 'no-bake' Ratatouille recipe. I am pleased to share that the recipe is pretty straightforward and easy.

::  Ratatouille - The Gathering List
- 1 egg plant
- 1 yellow capsicum diced
- 1 red capsicum diced
- 1 zucchini sliced
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 1 clove of garlic
- Thyme
- Fresh basil

:: The Cookout 
1. Crush garlic, add diced onions and fry till onions are a little caramelised
2. Add diced capsicums next and fry till a tad soft
3. Add zucchinis and eggplants and stir in canned tomatoes.
4. Add thyme
5. Add salt to taste (I used a mix of garlic salt and table salt)
6. Stir in basil & water
Optional: You can add in vegetable stock for a sweeter taste.

::  Roast Chicken - The Gathering List
- 1 chicken
- 1 small potato, skinned and diced
- Stuffing (I had some frozen stuffing in the freezer hence added this in)

:: The Cookout 
1. Marinate the chicken about 3 - 4 hours prior with mixed dried herbs (I used McCormicks), a few dashes of garlic salt & red pepper powder and rub it in, on each side. Because my hubs prefer the chicken skin to have a bit more flavour and a tad browner, we usually add a dash of red wine marinade with it. You can also use a bit of A1 sauce and if you do not have, Oyster sauce is other alternative (yes, I know that this is supposed to be a western meal but it works!)

2. Steam potatoes prior and mix it with stuffing

3. Stuff potatoes and stuffing into chicken cavity and use toothpicks to seal it up

4. Pre-heat oven (I went at 220C for about 15 mins)

5. Roast chicken for 35-40 mins at 210C. (That's the temperature for my oven which runs a bit hotter, so please check yours regularly) I placed the chicken on a strainer, so that it is elevated from the baking dish so that the oil can drip out)

Serve hot with Ratatouille and the potato stuffing on the side. YUMMY!!!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Outdoor Fun: September Holidays - where to go & what to do Part 1

Heading out with the kiddo need not be expensive at all. Of course there are workshops and field trips which cost more but there are more affordable alternatives.

So for this September holidays, I thought to share some ideas. Here's Part 1 of a 2-part series. :)

Nature Lovers:
I am a big fan of our gardens here in Singapore. Not only are they beautifully maintained, our gardens are clean and the educational team organises a good variety of activities too. If you and the kiddo love the nature and outdoors, you can head over every morning from 10 - 13 September for their workshops. (Click on links to read the synopsis of the workshops/tours)

September 2013
 NEW "Trees Around Us" – A Drama Workshop Series: Our Tree Named Steve 
Suitable for children in K1 – P6 levels
10 Sep 2013, 10:00 am - 11:00 am  
$10.00 per child

 A Trail of Colours
(A Guided Tour)
Suitable for children in K1 – P6 levels
11 Sep 2013 10:00 am - 11:00 am  
$6.00 per child and $6.00 per accompanying adult 

 Sara Goes Gardening
(A Guided Tour) 

Suitable for children in K1 – P6 levels
12 Sep 2013 10:00 am - 11:00 am  
$9.00 per child (includes $3.00 "Sara Goes Gardening" storybook) and $6.00 per accompanying adult

 NEW Mid-Autumn Festival Special: Lantern Making & Mooncake Appreciation Workshop
(An Art & Craft Workshop) 

Suitable for children in K1 – P6 levels
13 Sep 2013 10:00 am - 11:30 am  
 $30.00 per child (including all materials)

Most of these workshops are kept to 1 hour and starts at 10am, great for avoiding the peak hour traffic. Since you will be at the gardens, pack a basket for a picnic too. If you are at Jacob Ballas Children's Garden, you can spend the morning after the workshop at the sandpit / playground. But if you are looking at having a picnic, you can only consume food at the garden next to it. The great thing is that you can go "swan-watching" at the pond.

To get a sense of what goes on for such a workshop / tour, you may like to read about a recent tour I attended on Plants and Animals at the Botanical Gardens.

Dumpling also attended a Vanda Ms Joaquim workshop last year which I shared about too

When in the midst of nature, observe and discuss things that you see with your kiddos, I had a great time listening to Dumpling and her friends chat about 'Monkey's Tail'.

Though most of these tours state that it's for K1 kids and above, I have signed Dumpling for tours which are for older children; the management is ok with it but would require for the children to be accompanied by an adult for safety concerns. 

Other activities which you can then 'extend' from home are:
- leaf printing / collage, reading on Lorax (with links to YouTube ebook and clip ~ After 'Trees around Us' tour) 

- reading up on "The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds: A Book About How Living Things Grow"  (After 'A trial of Colours' tour) OR watch the YouTube clip

- growing your own aloe vera plant or brewing a lemongrass drink (After 'Sara Goes Gardening') Here's a link to 4 simple recipes for an aloe vera drink. 

And you can also visit the Chinese Garden (or Chinatown - see below) for Mid-Autumn Festival

Heritage Trial
What about a simple heritage trail which costs almost next to nothing if you are exploring on your own? This would be good for older kids who do not mind walking more.


See the bustling streets at Chinatown. The last time I was there, I spent at least 2 hours (minus the cold dessert time!) with Dumpling where we saw some exotic snake oil (she was suitably impressed) and we browse through traditional handheld fans and chinese brocade items. You can also talk a quick look at the Sri Mariammam Temple which is free too. 

Alternatively, you can register for a walk too (priced at $15 for children and $26 for an adult, the walk varies from 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on which you register for). As Mid Autumn Festival is nearing, there is lantern making competition too! Click here for more details on when and where to view them (FOC!).

Little India
Dumpling has been to Little India several times and almost always, for food. :p I used to bring her to Tekka Market when I was not working then and it was almost a fun experience just for her to walk around. She especially likes the streets of shops selling pretty trinkets and swaddles of beautiful sari cloth. If your kiddos are older, you can also introduce them to the various spices sold at the stalls.  

Free Walking Tour
Now, in the midst of researching for this post, I chanced upon this website and was extremely surprised that these group of students from NTU offer free tours! They offer walks down the "scenic banks of Singapore River and through the monumental enclaves of Bras Basah Bugis Precinct." This is one tour that I will definitely be checking out. 

With a different mix and match of activities daily, excluding transportation and food, your 4 - 5 days cost you as little as below $100 (for an adult + child). Here's Part 2 of this series! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Despicable Me 2 Monopoly - Review

I recently placed a pre-order for 2 monopoly sets, not just any monopoly but Despicable Me 2 monopoly with... the popular and well-loved minions included! The recent June holidays was great - I basically watched as many shows as any kid on a holiday break - from Monsters University to Turbo and of course to Despicable Me 2. I had a great time with Dumpling and my mummy friends with the movie play dates.

I have to own up that I love those minions (but not enough to queue over at Mackers for those toys though) but I prefer the plush, bags (yup, ordered one too and waiting for arrival) and... the monopoly set!

I first saw the set while surfing and I later received an email blast from an online spree organizer too. I totally missed out on the deadline and was kinda mad with myself till I saw it at Joli Petite

Dumpling and I had a go at the game over the weekend. Here's our take.

:: Overview 
This set is even simpler (when it comes to the rules) than the Junior set. It states that it's for kids from 5+ and needs adult assembly. However, I think that it should be fine for 4+ too as the rules are pretty straightforward and the 'track' fairly small.

It has a total of 24 'steps' in total on the track with the usual 'jail', 'free parking', etc.

Money wise - it only has denominations of M$1 which is a 'banana buck'.

What it consists of:
  • 4 minion tokens
  • spinner pod with Nom Nom Tom minion
  • game track
  • game tray (plus 2 clips)
  • 16 Cupcake tokens
  • 8 Ice-Cream Sundae tokens
  • 16 Property cards
  • 16 Chance cards
  • Banana Bucks and game guide

:: Design
The design is very true to the story where it features various elements from the story - from The Girls Room, to The Pyramid to Lucy's Car and to... The Moon (from the first movie).

Now, instead of just a traditional board, for this set, the board has somewhat a 'tiered' design where it features an arena with other minions on the side 'cheering on' as the base.

Now, what's the arena used for? Instead of a die, it uses a 'top' where the player spins and the number of steps to move will depend on the number the top points to. What's different about it? Check out the spinner - aka Nom Nom Tom minion

:: Game rules
For 2-4 players, the aim of the game is similar to the traditional fast-dealing property version - to get as many banana bucks as possible. This is done through the 'collection' of money from the other players who land on your property.

Now, with the purchase of 1 property, a cupcake is placed on the board. If you managed to buy property of the same color, your cupcake gets 'upgraded' to a sundae which yields you more banana bucks collected from the other players if they were to land on them (see picture above).

:: What I like about it
Clearly this game rides on the popularity of the movie and the minion fever. The characters and design are wonderfully 'true' - check out the details on the minions below :)

I love the chance cards and how they relate back to the movie and how some are a tad 'villianous'...

:: What I feel could have been done better
Like all monopoly sets, I like that this board game allows the kiddo to learn counting on but unlike the other sets, the denomination of the Minion currency is just set to M$1. 

I feel that this is a pity as it would have been wonderful for the children to have the chance to work on simple subtraction and addition of money.

Another thing which annoys me is that the minion keeps falling off from the top! Every 2 spins definitely guarantees him falling off.

Overall, an entertaining board game with lovely illustrations and cute references to the movie and characters. Dumpling and I played it twice over the weekend so she does enjoy it a lot. Definitely a keeper for fans :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The curious case of a monkey's 'tale'

I was out with 2 other mummy blogger friends - Jen and Connie over the weekend for a talk organized by Jacob Ballas Children's Garden and we finished with a simple picnic after. After the picnic, on the way back to our cars, I saw this on the floor.

I stopped and asked the kids, "hey look, doesn't this look like a monkey's tail?" The kids were all a little in awe but curious and proceeded to squat down and stared at it...

I asked again "do you think that it's a monkey's tail?" And started what was a lovely discussion...

Isa (Connie's son) was very enthusiastic and said that "yes, it could be a monkey's tale because it looks furry." He also added that the color was 'right' too. Dumpling disagreed and said "if it were a monkey's tail, there should be blood. So what happened to it and to the trail? And where's the body," she added. 

DinoBoy (Jen's son) then joined the kids at this moment and gave his thoughts - "yes, it is a monkey's tail." 

"So where's the blood?" I asked.

"Something in the tree must have drank all of the monkey's blood and then bitten the tail off. That's why there's no more blood on this now." He clarified.

I smiled. I love it. I have always loved these discussions with Dumpling and am always in awe with children's minds.

I continued to let the children discuss, taking on more of a role as an observer. Then DinoBoy asked "where did this come from?" And so, this prompted another round of discussion as they looked for the source of origin. At that moment, another 'tail' dropped and landed on the floor. Then the kids looked up. Finally, together, they found the 'tails' on the tree above. 

I picked up a piece and proceeded to open it and showed it to kids.

(DinoBoy must have decided that it was safer to watch from a distance in case of blood spurting out!)

On the inside, it looked more fibrous then anything else and there was no blood stains or any hint of 'blood'. So the kids pretty much ruled out that it was the tail of monkey but instead, it came from the tree. :)

I received PMs and at times emails from readers and friends on the discussions that I have with Dumpling. Since young, I rarely give Dumpling a direct answer to her questions but would instead ask her other questions to help direct her attention to some details in guiding her to observe and compare. Now that she's older, I can see that she's able to draw relationships between the 'cause' and 'effect' and importantly, I like that she's about to deduce and make inferences. 

Dumpling did not stop there, her questions came fast and furious once we were in the car:

- 'Mama, what happens to a monkey if he has no more tail? Will he die?' (To which I asked 'What do you think? In your opinion what do monkeys use it for? How does this affect him?)
- 'Do they then regenerate their tails like lizards?'
- 'Hmmm... besides Shark and Lizards, what else have capabilities to regenerate?'

When you are next out with the kiddos for some outdoor fun, be observant and engage them in observations and discussions. Who knows, you may be 'luckier' than us and spot a tiger's tail next! :p

Connie also wrote about the Herbs and Spice talk our kiddos attended. Hop on over for a quick read! DinoMama, on the other hand, captured some comical moments of our 3 kids!

(Photo source: Connie ~ thank you!)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Parenting with Love - The Dreamer and Me

I have a dreamer. Little Dumpling's mind can wonder at a 101 km / hour at times that it can be both amusing and trying. As she gets older, her thirst for knowledge through stories grow and grow and she'd be captivated by the plots and be totally in a world of her own. Being a homeschooling mum, I have the advantage of directing her attention to tasks in a positive manner. For e.g. for the longest time, she found writing very hard and trying. So, what I did was to look for creative ways to encourage her along for e.g. getting her to narrate her own story and then write it down complete with drawings / painting. With God's grace, we finally got over her being a reluctant writer.

Now, what about the activities which require a bit more focus? Less than a year ago, she took up a musical instrument. I do not know where she has first heard that instrument but she insisted on learning only that instrument and would not hear of me trying to "upsell" other instruments.

After negotiating with (and nagging at) me for 4 weeks, I finally relented and brought her for a trial in a school that specializes in that instrument and she loves it. After the trial, she bugged me for another 2 weeks before I agreed to letting her try it out. The instrument is hard, harder than the organ which I play after learning it for many years. The precision, technique and motor skills required, I often feel, are un-natural for children this young. She practises hard but lately I have been getting feedback from the school that she tends to 'dream' a bit in class. This was the very same comment from her Chinese classes too.

Frankly, that got me worried. Since P1 is hovering over us like a dark cloud, I went into this hyper-active mode where I was trying very hard to get her more focused. Now, thing is, she is able to do all the tasks her teachers ask of her - for e.g. she can play her instrument without looking or that she's able to complete her sums but needed reminders to 'jolt' her back to the present. Many times, I actually needed to raise my voice just to get her attention. And the voice would get louder and louder and I'd get more and more impatient.

An alarm then went off in me. One of the reasons why I chose homeschooling is because I wanted to bond and that I wanted us to have fun. So, when did it come to a point where I needed to raise my voice? Last night, as she slept and I looked at her sleeping calmly and peacefully, I suddenly asked myself "Does it matter? Does it really matter where she needs to do those said activities there and then and in that said manner? Or does it matter more that I have a happy and healthy child?" Now, I know that there will be a lot of comments right now in some of your minds saying "of course it matters - when she goes to P school, she will be in a bigger class and she will need to follow instructions and complete her tasks."

Of course I know that's important. Now, what if I phrase it differently - what if you were to sleep your last 'sleep' that night and only to realise that you are back with your maker and you have no more opportunity to speak with, hug and touch your child? Would you then rather have your child remember you raising her voice at her and trying to keep to a schedule or would you rather your child remember the happy moments you have with her, that she is loved and treasured, and that she remembers your encouraging words, love and hugs?

So, I am learning to be chilled out about raising a dreamer. I am very aware that I will still need to remind her to be 'present' and I understand that she may need to focus a tad more in formal school years. However, I am learning to slow down with her and for her, and remind myself that everything will happen in good time. In His time.

Ironically, it was my aunt who homeschooled me when I was young (yes, I was a homeschooler too) reminded me that I, too, was also a dreamer. Truth be told, I still am one. :)

For parents of dreamers, here's a motivating story to share:

"It seems that there was a little boy who struggled in school, finding math and science to be a challenge for him. In fact, he really didn’t like school much at all but, from his earliest days, he loved reading. Consequently, he spent a great deal of time imagining things. As he learned to write, he discovered his penchant for science fiction and would draft story after story filled with mystical characters and amazing adventures, to his mom’s delight.

As this little boy grew older, he thought it would be great fun to make movies based on his stories and so, with his simple camera he did, often pretending to be sick so he wouldn’t have to go to school and, instead, could stay home and pursue his hobby. Not so reluctantly, his mother allowed this.

Encouraged that she was, this mom joined her aspiring film-making son as a stand-in character whenever he needed her for one of his productions and sometimes she even helped him carry out special effects. Once she worked in her kitchen to heat 30 cans of cherry pie filling in a pressure cooker until they exploded all over her walls, achieving the desired results for her son to use as he told his latest tale on film.

When the young man graduated from high school, he didn’t have test scores that would get him into a great film school but it didn’t really matter. A hard worker and a dreamer of dreams*, young Steven Spielberg took his creativity and spunk on to produce movies like E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List, a movie that brought the horrors of Spielberg’s own Jewish family heritage to audiences everywhere. It is told that his mother could not speak at the end of a private viewing of the film, she was so moved by what her son had done." Source

So until then, here's my parting note and a reminder for all of us who are homelearning / homeschooling our children - we need keep focused too: to continue to love teaching. :)

A Juggling Mom Motiviational Monday

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chinese Book Review - 十二生肖

I like to read up on the meaning / the folklores related to Chinese festivities with Dumpling prior to any occasions / celebrations. From mid autumn festival (中秋节)to Chinese New Year (春节), I have a set of relevant titles that I would dig out and read with her.

Now, when it comes to Chinese New Year, besides the famous story of Nian (年), which tells us of a tale of a terrifying monster which terrorizes Earth and harms its people and how it was frightened by the sound of firecrackers and red decorations, there's also the story of The 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs.

I recall that when I was young, some teachers of mine have read the story in class and I found it interesting how a tiny animal like the 'rat' was able to emerge as the second animal in the race. As Dumpling grew older, I thought that would be an interesting traditional folktale to share with her.

And that's where I ran into road blocks. Maybe I am totally bad in finding for Chinese titles from the library but I could find anything suitable. I even went to the second hand bookstores at Bras Basah to look around too. The only few titles which I recall finding were a short 3-4 pages in a compilation of Chinese stories and some which were a tad too simple for Dumpling.

I finally found this on Dangdang some months back and bought it.

This title comes as a hardcover and with an audio CD that narrates both the English and Chinese stories (I have not tried this our yet).

With the CD, a mini booklet of the English translated copy is enclosed. (The English text is not entirely perfect though :p)

What I like are:

:: Illustrations
This book (which comes in a good size - 25 x 26cm approx) has cute and colorful illustrations. I enjoyed the 'traditional' drawings of the people and some cute humor too.

After each page of reading, Dumpling would spend some time poring over the drawings, smiling, pointing out stuff to me before we continue on.

(Check out the Marilyn Monroe moment)

:: No Han Yu Pin Yin
I know that some mummies prefer titles with Han Yu Pin Yin but for me, as I am reading along with Dumpling where we take turns, I prefer titles without Pin Yin where we can also work on word recognition along the way.

:: Short sentences 
Having said that, each page is not over loaded with paragraphs of words. The text is quite simple to read and often, each page has only 1-2 short paragraphs made up of 1-2 sentences in each paragraph (sample as below).

In fact the below is possibly the page with the most text :)

:: The Storyline
The story holds pretty true to the version that I was told when I was young. It is also kept simple where if used as a read-aloud to a younger child, it should be easily understandable.

It also wove in how snakes ended up with no legs and how the rooster (which based on this story, used to have 4 legs) ended up with only 2. :)

This is a title which I will definitely be reading to Dumpling comes closer to Chinese New Year and which I will be making a Chinese printable pack on. :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Movie Turbo - Review!

With the 2 other cartoons (Monsters University & Despicable Me 2) on the big screen, I totally missed out on Turbo. It wasn't until Dumpling asked if we could catch it that I realized this was showing. Now that she's 4.5, it is always amusing to hear about the 'conversations' she has with her friends. In this instance, she was told of this movie by her cousin, my nephew, IZ. ;)

Without having read up on the show prior, I bought tickets for the family and we headed out to catch this on the Hari Raya PH. 

Traditionally, in all stories and shoes, everyone loves the underdog. It is certainly no different in this movie. From the makers of Kung Fu Panda and Magadascar, this story is all about a garden snail with a big dream - to participate and race in the world's fastest race, the Indianapolis 500. 

After a freak incident where he was suddenly infused with turbo charged speed (amongst other special 'abilities' such has having an 'inbuilt' radio & stereo system, reverse sensors and headlights!) Turbo finds that no dream is too big. With the help of some friends and 'racer' snails, he finally has a chance in making his dream come true as he takes on other racers in the Indianapolis 500.

Dumpling loves the movie and surprisingly, the hubs and I like it too. We found ourselves rooting for the likeable snail as he overcame obstacles after obstacles to enter the competition and to race. There were also physical comic moments in the show that suited young kids. I also liked the inclusion of Turbo's well meaning brother - a realist, who didn't believe in Turbo's dream and how he ended up rooting for him. 

Dumpling's words at the end of the movie - "I like that he didn't give up Mama!" That pretty much sums up the moral of the story. :)

If you still have some time over this long weekend, I'd say give this movie a go! :) 

Visit the official website and there are tabs at the right side where there are activities for the kids to do! :)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Uniquely Singapore ~ Pasar Malam

They say that age is catching up when we start to reminisce. It must be the case for me as I do think back of the days when I was younger and how different the world is now. I had a good childhood and the two things that were the key highlights in my life: amusement parks and pasar malam (night market).

My dad had a friend who operated one of those large amusement parks - with the full works of teacup revolving rides and carousels. Some of my fondest memories are when I get to ponteng school (played truant) and my dad would bring us to all these rides and of course, we snacked loads.

The pasar malam is another gem. My senses would simply be assaulted with the sweet smell of roasted chestnuts, popcorn and candy floss. I would almost plaster my face against the acrylic divider while waiting in anticipation for my kueh tutus. I was so enchanted with the almost hypnotic rhythm of the 'master' skillfully plopping in the flour, then the adding on of grated coconut before covering it with more flour and placing it over the contraption to be steamed. 

I also remember the bright lights of Ferris wheels, the loud kiddy music blasting away, and the ring of delighted squeals of children as they win prizes at the games in the tikam tikam corner.

With the technology of iPad, video games and TV, these amusement parks and pasar malams are a dying breed of fading tradition. However, I am still blessed as I do get the occasional night market stalls at my neighbourhood though it is no where as colourful as what it used to be. While I am aware that our neighbouring countries have such markets too, when the pasar malams do come by, I'd always bring Dumpling down as I feel that the eclectic mix of wares and food sold is so uniquely Singapore.

So, please take a walk with me as I bring you on a 'tour'. 

I present to you, my home - Singapore. Uniquely, simply and humbly.

Make shift stalls using canvas and a simple metal structure with open front and sides with the vendors at the 'shopfront'...

I love looking at these traditional toys - these were what I grew up with. Before the evolution of iPad and iPhone. 

When I was younger, I would save up my pocket money just to buy one these lovely pencils and scented erasers.

This is where I'd shop for little household knick knacks - sewing machine oil, nail clippers, door stoppers, etc. After having a child, I found out that this is also a great place for buying kids' stuff such as mini pillows and bolsters and... socks! 

Of course, not forgetting the rows of brightly lit food stalls selling anything from curry fish balls... 

to 'sharks fin' (before any animal lovers start to send me hate mail, this is the 'mock' version) to crispy chicken wings...

and of course, to the ever popular otahs.  

It is almost customary for us to cool down with a drink - sugarcane for me and well.. ribena for the little one :) 

Dumpling was most excited about these tattoos that we found at a 'sticker' stall and you can bet that we will be spotting this when we head out on Friday, National Day. 

I am certainly proud to be a Singaporean and call Singapore my home. Happy Birthday Singapore! 

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