Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What's in a speech therapy session - An email interview

Dumpling and I were both blessed to have gotten to know Joanne from The Speech Pathology who helped Dumpling with a sound production a few months ago. In my post earlier, I shared about our experience on what goes on in the therapy room. 

After sharing that we attended Speech Therapy, PMs on Facebook came in fast and furious. I decided to post the common questions that I received to Joanne which I hope are useful to you. 

(Pic above: Dumpling hamming it up with Joanne)

Me: Hi Joanne, thank you for agreeing to the interview. First off, please tell us a bit more about yourself. :) 

Hi everyone! I'm a qualified Speech-Language Pathologist/Therapist who is originally from Perth, Australia. I've been living and practising Speech-Language Therapy in Singapore for close to a decade now. I'm currently working in a centre called The Speech Pathology Centre. My specialty is Paediatric Speech, Language and Communication Disorders. This means that I work with children of all ages to improve their abilities to communicate and build relationships with others. I love working with kids as they keep me smiling all day long :)

Me: Speech therapy is not something that is widely discussed here in Singapore and certainly, speech therapist is not a common vocation. Can you share a bit more on what exactly being a Speech Therapist entails? 

Working as a Speech-Language Therapist (SLT) means everyday is new and exciting. For many years now I have been working in a daily intervention programme for children called the Excelerate V2 Programme. It's a one-of-a-kind programme here in Singapore that provides integrated, daily therapy input for children between the ages of 18 months - 12 years, with developmental delays. I see children for speech therapy in small groups and assist them in reaching their communication potential through games and engaging classroom experiences. 

Many of the children I work with enter the programme non-verbal, which means they are not yet using speech and verbal language to communicate with others. Overtime, most of the children enrolled achieve functional and meaningful verbal communication. They learn to talk and interact with others. It's the most rewarding job in the world!

I also see children for individual speech therapy sessions. Children who see me for 1:1 therapy typically have mild to moderate difficulties in the areas of articulation (i.e., speech sound production), fluency (i.e., stuttering), higher level language use (e.g., understanding and answering questions, following instructions or generating longer utterances) and literacy development (i.e., learning to read and write at an age appropriate level).

My job scope also includes seeing children with feeding difficulties. These issues can range from tactile defensiveness (i.e., having a sensitive mouth and hands), motor planning (coordination) issues for chewing, food refusal and dysphagia (swallowing difficulties).

Each day is new, exciting and full of challenges. With every new day comes a new opportunity to make a difference in a child's life. It's wonderful :)

Me: Will you be able to share, what are the typical milestones of speech development from 1.5/2 right up to 6 years old? 

When we talk about speech and language we must recognise that they are two different but interconnected things. Language is the method of human communication. We typically use verbal language (spoken words), non-verbal language (gestures) and written language to communicate. Speech is the act of articulating our thoughts verbally. When we discuss developmental milestones, there are separate markers for both speech and language development.

:: Language Milestones:

Expressive Language (the "output" of language):
Most children by age 2 will have an expressive vocabulary upwards of 100 words, however there is great variation at this stage of development. What is clear however, is that children with less than 50 words or who are not yet combining words to form short phrases such as: "Mummy go!" "Drink juice" "Push Car" "Big Doggie" "Daddy eat" are at risk for language delay and would benefit from early intervention from a SLT. As a general marker, we are looking for at least 15-20 words by 18 months. It is important to note that these words should be spontaneous and meaningful, not simply imitated by your child.

By 3 years of age children should be chatting like little adults. There sentence structure and grammar does not need to be perfect but they should certainly have an expressive vocabulary consisting of hundreds of words and often exceeding a thousand. They should also be attempting longer sentences around 5 words in length.

Three year olds are typically able to make statements, give instructions, comment, ask questions and use negatives. You should be able to have a simple conversation on a variety of familiar topics with your little one by age 3.

Receptive Language (the understanding of language "input"):
Most children by age 2 can understand most of what is being said to them. They can follow routine instructions and also understand new directions. They can point to familiar items on request and can understand more complex language involving pronouns, verbs and adjectives. Two year olds love listening to stories and can repeat familiar phrases and words to 'read' along with you.

By 3 years of age your little one should understand all common verbs and nouns, most common adjectives and also some prepositions. They should be seeking new vocabulary by asking lots of "What's that?" type questions. They should have no problem at all following multiple step commands such as "Give me your spoon and give daddy your cup".

Speech Production [Articulation] Milestones: 
Children are expected to achieve 80% intelligibility (be understood by unfamiliar listeners) by age 3 years. Before this age, we expect that children are still developing their speech musculature and are learning how to control their muscles for accurate speech sound production.

By age 3, we expect the following sounds to be clear and accurate:
m, n, h, p, ng, w, d, t, y, b, g, k

By age 4, most children are able to also articulate the following:
f, l, sh, ch

By age 4.5 years, the following sounds should be crisp and clear too:
s, z, j

By age 6, most sounds should be well developed, including the following:
v, consonant cluster such as sp-, cl-, bl-, pl-

Me: Based on the milestones shared, in your opinion, when should parents consider speech therapy? 

As a basic rule, keep your eye out for the following “red flags”:

1) If your child is not displaying early language precursors by 12 months it means they are at risk of developing a speech and language delay. Early language precursors include:
  • looking interested in others (eye contact and joint attentional focus)
  • waiting and taking turns with others (turn-taking)
  • copying the actions of others (imitation)
2) By age 2 years, if a child has 50 words or less in their expressive vocabulary they are considered speech and/or language delayed. Intervention is indicated in these cases.

3) With regards to articulation development, it is important to seek the assessment of a SLT if unfamiliar listeners find your child difficult to understand at age 3 years.

Me: What typically is involved in the first consultation? Is this the 'assessment'? And if so, what does it entail?

Each initial consultation is a little different based on the age of the child, the difficulties they are presenting with and the child's personality. Typically, an initial consultation with run for 1 hour. In this time I will have a chat to the child's parents to get an understanding of their concerns. I will then take a detailed case history to better understand each child's background including their developmental milestones and medical history. From there I will either conduct a formal or informal assessment. This can either be play-based and observational in nature if the child is very young, or it can be a little more structured and formal if the child is school-aged. It is important that I have a representative sample of the child's communicative abilities, so often with the younger children I will need to go through a questionnaire with the parents to get an idea of how they communicate at home with family members and familiar people too. The consultation process is stress-free and fun for the children, so parents have nothing to worry about :)

Me: What should a parent then expect for follow up sessions and how long will the journey be? 

By the end of a consultation I will advise parents on the best course of action moving forward for their child. Depending on the child's age, their diagnosis, the severity of the issues and also their personality, an individualised recommendation will be made. A traditional therapy model would involve seeing a child for 1:1 therapy each week for 1 hour, however this model is not always effective as changing the way a child communicates requires far more input than 1 hour per week. This is why a daily programme like The Excelerate V2 Programme is highly effective in facilitating change in children with moderate to severe communicative delays and disorders.
Me: Lastly what are some myths you would like to debunk, when it comes to speech therapy? 

After watching the movie “The King's Speech”, there are certainly a lot of myths surrounding the modern practise of speech therapy. We most certainly do not fill children's mouths with marbles  for a start :P 

Myth #1: You should wait until your child is at least 3 years old before seeing a speech therapist. Most kids grow out of it. They'll talk when they're ready.

TRUTH: If we measure intelligence at 17 years of age, we find that 50% of that development occurred between conception and age 4. Paediatric Speech-Language Therapists are qualified to work with children from infancy to develop the precursors necessary for communication. Normal language development begins in the womb. Human brains are "pre-wired" for language. There are many language precursors and pre-linguistic behaviours that occur before a child utters their first word. By observing and interacting with an infant and young child, a SLT can determine if language development is at risk of being delayed. Stimulating and facilitating delayed areas of development can bring those skills closer to normal in the long run. SLTs can also help determine whether hearing problems are involved and can work with infants and children with swallowing and feeding issues, as well.

Myth #2: Individual (1:1) therapy is always better than group therapy.

TRUTH: This is certainly not the case. Communication occurs with a wide variety of partners, not just with your SLT in their clinic room. It's important that children learn to converse and generalise their language skills across all their environments, especially school, which relies heavily on peer to peer interactions. There are children who have certain disorders where 1:1 therapy is best, at least in the beginning (i.e. verbal dyspraxia/childhood apraxia of speech, articulation delay). Individual vs. group therapy really depends on your child’s needs.

Myth #3:'Speech pills', special gadgets, vitamins, diets etc can replace the need for speech therapy.

TRUTH: Be careful of any product that claims to improve speech and language skills or claims to completely replace the need for a qualified SLT. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Nothing can replace steady and consistent work towards a goal.

Myth#4: No-one can understand my child who is 3 years old, but people say he will grow out of it.

TRUTH: By 3 years of age a child's speech is normally 80% intelligible to new people. There is a developmental hierarchy of sound development. Certain sounds are mastered before others and within certain time frames. A 3 year old child who is unintelligible may show an improvement in speech over time, but if sounds are not developed along normal milestones, it is more difficult to correct them later. Certainly if a 3 year old is unintelligible to others, it is time to seek an evaluation before the child becomes frustrated or develops self-esteem and confidence issues.

Thank you Joanne for such an insightful sharing! 

Now, for those of you who wish to know more about what goes on in such a speech therapy session, here's my post on the sharing of our personal experience. If you have other concerns / wish to find out more, here's Joanne's details. 

Joanne Silvestri
Senior Speech-Language Pathologist/Therapist
Manager of the Excelerate V2 Programme
B.Sc (HCS) Hons 1 [Aus], MSPA

Note: Dumpling and I attended the speech therapy sessions as a regular paying customer and I am not compensated for this post. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book review: The Paper Bag Princess

“Ronald,” said Elizabeth, “your clothes are really pretty and your hair is all neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum.”

My curiosity was certainly piqued when I read those lines. “This does not quite sound like a fairy tale with ‘happily ever after’”, I thought. 

“The title of the book is ‘The Paper Bag Princess’, why was she called that Mama? Does she not have any clothes? What happened to her?” Those questions (by Dumpling) came fast and furious and so, I sat down and read it with Dumpling.

:: About the Author

Written by Robert Munsch who studied 7 years to be a Jesuit priest, he uncovered a talent in stories and writing when he worked in daycare. This eccentric author (who later decided that he was “lousy priest material”) has a strange habit of visiting schools and daycares for free and (get this!) he usually does not tell them that he is going!

So I went and knocked on the door of Ms. Clebanoff¹s grade 2 and said, “Hi! I’m Bob Munsch. Remember you asked me to come and visit when you wrote me last year?”
Mrs. Clebanoff just stood there and didn’t say anything so I tried again.
I said, “Hi! My name is Bob Munsch and I am from Canada and your class wrote me a letter and asked me to come and visit and I was driving by on the Ventura Freeway and I came by for a visit and do you want me to tell some stories to your class or should I go back to the Ventura Freeway and stop bothering you?”
Mrs. Clebanoff said, “Canada? Bob Munsch??? Stories????”; And then she finally figured it out and yelled, “Kids, drop everything, we have a visitor!”  Source

:: The plot
Now, with a spunky author like that, how can his stories be boring? :)
Dumpling read it to me and chuckled along the way. The story celebrates feisty females through the main character Elizabeth who met a nasty dragon which burnt away everything she owns and abducted her fiancé. A battle of wit versus brawn, how will Elizabeth be able to rescue her prince and outsmart the dragon?
I like the modern twist where Elizabeth stood up for herself and for her beliefs and did not allow the prince to walk all over her. As it is a fairly short story, the story grew on me only as I read it a second and a third time, but grew it did. Dumpling and I also had discussions around the Prince's choice of words and his attitude. I feel that the story, being quite 'straight-to-the-point', can be used as a read-aloud for 3 year olds instead of the recommended for ages 4 – 7. Great for little girls and certainly as a gift too. 
Author:  Robert Munsch
Illustrator: Michael Martchenko

I received this title from My Imagination Kingdom in order to do a review on and give my opinion of it. 

Up for grabs! I am also pleased that My Imagination Kingdom is doing a giveaway of this title! 

I have 2 copies (each worth $14.90) to give away! Here's how to win! 

Please remember to:
1) Leave a comment in the comment box on why you wish to win this title

2) Leave your email address - this allows us to contact you if you win it. Winners will be randomly selected. 
(Note: this giveaway is only for Singapore Residents only) 

I was also invited guest post at My Imagination Kingdom to share my experiences and tips on read aloud and literacy. Hop on over to find out more!  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Outdoor Fun - Botanical Gardens: Let's discover plants and animals

It was a nice cool morning, a rare treat from the previous weeks of hazy days. I signed Dumpling and myself up for a workshop with Botanical Gardens where it introduces children to Plants and Animals. This part of the 'tour' was conducted near to Tanglin Gate (Green Pavilion to be exact!). It was my first time there and I later found out that it was an entrance near Gleneagles Hospital.  

We bumped into 2 fellow mummies from the homelearning group where one was so kind to share some fish food with Dumpling for her to feed the fish in the pond :) (Thank you Dominique!!!) 

The group was split up into 2 smaller groups where 'Uncle TC' was our guide. Uncle TC is knowledgeable and quite a humourous guide; what I like too was the running commentary and questions he tossed to the children, getting them to observe and think. 

Above pic: Uncle TC - He reminds me a bit of Old Master Q

As we began our walk, he shared and singled out various plants and trees to the children pointing to some "bark-less" trees and how they do not provide habitats for other animals / insects. This was in comparison to other trees which had orchids growing on them along with ferns, etc. A symphony of 'chirping' greeted us as we explored on which added very much to the beauty of the morning. TC taught us the trick to identifying the sounds between a cricket and a cicada. 

'Oooohs' and 'aaaaaahhhhhs' could also be heard as TC shared a 'sample' of an exo-skeleton of the cicada and in simple terms, what happens during the metamorphosis. 

Though the grass just a bit damp, I love the subtle smell of the rain on grass and the dampness clearly did not deter the children from exploring. :)

(Above pic: children reading up on the signages and information of the various plants and trees)

It was nice that the kids had a chance to see 'live' fruits and not out of cans / bottles / baskets :)

Trivia: Did you know that banana trees die off after 1 round of fruit bearing. The 'tree' then propagates side-wards. 

The kids were quite pleased with their starfuit finds...

And look what I chanced upon? :)

The hour long tour ended too quickly and soon we were brought back to the starting point. But not before we spotted a squirrel on a tree and some cat tails in a pond. It was a lovely morning, a nice change for me from the hustle and bustle of work life. There's just something about being with and in nature that calms me down naturally. The tours are usually not costly (just $6 per head for this instance). It is a nice and gentle way to introduce Science to young children too. For those who are keen to find out more, here's the link to share. :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: iTheatre's Hey Little Mousedeer

Dumpling gets very excited in the morning whenever she realises that we are going for any theatrical productions. This was certainly the case last Saturday as the family caught iTheatre's latest production, Hey Little Mousedeer. This time round however, she decided to go as a purple butterfly fairy complete with wand and all. :)

Truthfully, I feel that the brochure did not elaborate as much as what the play touched on. The story takes place in a jungle foliage setting where it centers around Kancil, a witty but arrogant mousedeer, who thinks of himself as the smartest creature in the jungle. He goes around tricking the big but blur ‘King of the Forest’ Harimau the Tiger; Monyet the friendly and helpful monkey; and the tiny and slow lizard Cicak for personal gains. 

Unable to put up with Kancil's tricks and arrogance, Cicak, Monyet and Harimau decided to turn the tables on him and tricked him into leaving the jungle where he was banished to the jungle fringe. Kancil then spotted a fire and rushed off to inform his friends so that they can escape. Will his friends believe him? How will they escape the fire? In a twist of fate, Kancil must now use his wit to save himself and his friends.   

Comparing this to the two previous plays (one of which was The Enormous Turnip) which we caught, this play seems to have more dialogue (lesser songs) and interaction with the audience. But the deforestation and forest fire scenes were depicted through the clever use of shadow puppetry which I feel were easily understood by the younger audiences. We spoke to Dumpling previously on why and how the haze came about and at one point she shouted "just like our haze and Indonesia!" 

Importantly, what I like about the play was that we were able to discuss values with Dumpling - on honesty, humility and being environmentally responsible. Dumpling also recognised the actress who was acting as Monyet as she was also in Magic Porridge Pot. 

There was also a meet-and-greet session with the cast and this time, it was on the stage with the vibrant backdrop and props. :)

Hey Little Mousedeer is now showing from 18 July to 7 August 2013. 
Details are as follows:

:: Duration
Performances 45 minutes plus meet and greet with cast.

:: Most suitable for: 
3 to 14 years and families

:: Venue
Alliance Française Theatre

:: Creatives
Written and Directed by Brian Seward.
Music composed by and arranged by Bang Wenfu

For more information on the play, you can also visit their website

Disclaimer: We were invited to watch the play in order to give our opinion of it. I was not compensated for this post. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

What's in a speech therapy session?

Some time ago, I brought Dumpling to a speech therapist. I have always been sensitive to diction and pronunciation and being phonics trained, I realized that Dumpling was stuck in a rut with a habit of sticking her tongue out between her 2 rows of teeth.

We did as much correction as we could - tongue placement and getting her to sit in front of a mirror to see and then mimic me. We were progressing well but I wanted to seek for professional help as I feel that it could be corrected faster and I wanted a professional assessment too. Interestingly, after a FB shout, I received many comments on my visit with many citing that they were very surprised to know that Dumpling needed to see a speech therapist as Dumpling seems very articulate. Over the next following days, I also received quite a few private messages that poured in asking me why, what was 'wrong' and some who also reached out to ask me for our experience and what to look out for.

That got me thinking a bit - why is seeing a speech therapist seen as such a big matter where there must be something 'direly wrong'? Why is it that articulation is seen to be the same as 'speech production'? And based on the responses, there seems to be a stigma towards seeking such assistance. 

For that, I am pleased to share that the Speech Therapist who assessed and guided Dumpling has agreed to an email interview which I will be sharing in a upcoming post. For this post however, I thought to share a bit more on what some of the more common questions that I received.

:: Assessment
The first session was an assessment for Dumpling which I sat in too. Our therapist, Joanne, introduced herself and chatted with me first. She asked for my input on what my concerns are, my observations and what we've been doing at home. All these while Dumpling was playing / reading for a while on a mat.

Once we were done, Joanne spoke to Dumpling on what she was going to run through with her - she took out some sheets with pictures inside and told Dumpling to tell her what those items were. The pictures were to get a sense of Dumpling's grasp of articulation (all her beginning sounds, ending sounds, consonant clusters) fluency, etc. 

After her assessment, I was relieved to know that I was spot-on: Dumpling basically needed a bit of guidance in one area and that was just on the contraction of her muscle and tongue placement so that she can feel the dip in the tongue the right sound for letter S.

:: Hands on 'exercise'
The next part of the session was focused on guiding Dumpling to let her feel her muscle and how it should contract (for e.g. when she smiles ~ below pic) and then saying the sound.

After that was done, Joanne wrote out a series of S and then open vowel 'sounds' where Dumpling had to work through with Joanne on - S, Sa, Su, See etc. Each time she gets it right, Joanne will stamp a print on that 'word' so Dumpling can see her progress and this encourages her on.

At the end of the session, Joanne advised on 2 things. One, was that I am to practise with Dumpling everyday on those isolation and open vowel sounds like how she did it in the session and she wrote it out on a sheet (as shown in above photo). The second thing that she did was to work out an agreement with Dumpling on the list of sounds she needed to do with me (basically to get her 'buy-in') and where Dumpling basically signed her life away on her very first 'agreement'! :)

:: Follow up session
I was asked this question a lot. In fact, all the FB PMs which I received ask about this. Is it necessary? How often would the child need to see the therapist? How many sessions of 'follow-up' are needed? Is home practice necessary?

Based on my understanding, follow up sessions are necessary since first session is really to assess. How many sessions thereafter and how often will depend from person to person and what the corrections are. And yes, if the therapist suggests for home practice, then it is recommended.

For Dumpling, it was quite a straightforward case of just one sound, tongue placement / contraction as well as habit correction. With the home practices after our first session with Joanne, Dumpling progressed a lot. So for the second session, Dumpling showed Joanne the 'homework' she did with all the sounds and Joanne basically moved on to the next step where it was to encourage Dumpling how to self-monitor.

This was a major concern for me at that point. If Dumpling were to think about it, she'd be doing the sounds right but the moment she started to get animated and speak really fast, she'd forget and start making the wrong sounds and placement out of habit.

One of the techniques taught was using a 'reward and cutback' method as shown here in this clip. Now, the 'surprise' sprang on me was that straight after this clip was taken, Joanne wanted me to do a 'live' practice (so that she can guide us along if we need to) where I had to work with Dumpling just like how they were doing the exercise in the clip below. :p

After our second session, Joanne felt that we did not need to visit her anymore as long as I continue to work with Dumpling from home on this, gentling reminding her. I am happy to share that Dumpling has improved tremendously where mummy friends have also spotted the difference (thank you Jen!). 

In an upcoming post, Joanne will be sharing with us on some of the 'hot questions' which I received: what are the regular speech and language milestones, when should parents be concerned and have their child(ren) assessed, etc., so please stay tuned! 

Note: Dumpling and I attended the speech therapy sessions as a regular paying customer and I am not compensated for this post. My sharing here is based on our own experience at The Speech Pathology Centre and also to address the concerns, questions which I have been receiving on this topic. Should you wish to find out more, the centre's details are as below:

The Speech Pathology Centre Pte Ltd
19 Tanglin Road
Tanglin Shopping Centre
Singapore 247909

Friday, July 19, 2013

Foodie Fridays - Vietnamese Beef Pho!

I love beef and I love soup. Vietnamese Beef Pho rocks it for me. The hubs and I travelled to HCMC before Dumpling came along and we totally enjoyed the place and the food. In fact, we had Pho at every mealtime, just at different restaurants.

The key to good Beef Pho is in the stock. I made this once years back and I was not entirely too satisfied with the flavour of the soup. This time round, I read up a lot more and I added in 2 other ingredients and used a different 'parts' for the soup stock - charred onion and ginger. :)

:: The gathering list
- 2 packets of flat rice vermicelli (we used Ipoh Hor Fun) sold in regular supermarkets here. If yours is the dried version, you will need to soak them in hot water for a few mins based on the instructions on the packaging.  
- Bone marrows (I got this from Giant, frozen section, 2 packets)
- Tendons cut into thirds, length-wise (Similarly, I got this from Giant, frozen section too)
- 2 Yellow Onions
- 1 old ginger (about 4" in length)
- Rock sugar (a 'crystal' of about an inch)
- Fish sauce
- Cinnamon sticks (about 3)
- 6 Cloves
- Peppercorn (I used about 1.5 table spoons)
- 5 Star Anise
- Asian basil (I used at least 10-12 leaves)
- Beef slices (I used those we use for Shabu Shabu as they are sliced up nicely)
- Condiment: chili padi (bird's eye chili), mint leaves, lemon wedges, spring onions
- Optional: Beef stock (In the interest of time as I have only 5 hours to spare, I added in a 500ml packet of beef stock)

Now, I happen to chance upon a shop at the Grandstand which sells spices and they pre-packed the Beef Pho herbs into a bag like this, so this is another option which you can consider. The same thing goes in there - cinnamon sticks, star anise, peppercorns and cloves.

:: The Cookout!
Step 1: Boil a pot of water (mine was a 2 litre pot) and place in the bone marrows (washed). You can use other parts which you like such as oxtail and rump, etc, but I personally like the taste and the broth to be just a bit sticky and thick and for this, I prefer to use bone marrows. Note: it will be a tad oily so you will need to skim away the layer of oil)

Step 2: Add in the herbs (best to place in muslin cloth and tied up) and basil into the soup (or use the packet as shared above).

Step 3: Add in beef stock. After about 30 mins of boiling, you can start to scoop out the brownish residue floating at the top of the soup.

Step 4: Add in the tendons. (Note: tendons do not require much attention just that it takes a long while to soften and in my case, 5 hours with the first 1 hour over medium fire and the remaining 4 hours on low fire.)

Step 5: Char the onions and ginger (this took as long as 20-30 mins for me) using a pair of tongs to 'flip' sides so that they do not get totally burnt. The aim for charring the onions is to release the flavours and to get the outside soft but the core still hard and has that 'bite'. For the Ginger, it was the other way, the outside was dry but the core was full of the wholesome "ginger goodness". (It is ok if the skin is charred as you can peel that away later.) Here's how mine looks like:

Step 6: Add the charred onions, ginger and rock sugar to the broth and simmer on low heat for the next 3 - 4 hours, checking from time to time (if tendons are soft). Add in beef balls (we used a mix of the ready ones as well as our own handmade minced beef bowls as I am not a big fan of using processed meat for Dumpling. But for the minced beef balls, we only added them to the broth just before serving so that they would not be overcooked and turn 'tough'.) 

Step 7: Add Fish Sauce - I added about 5 tablespoons. You can add on more according to your preference.

Step 8: Blanch and then soak the rice vermicelli in hot water for 1 - 2 mins to soften them. Drain the noodles, scoop them into a bowl.

Step 9: Cook the beef slices by dipping and quickly swishing them in the broth (so that they are not overcooked) and then place them in bowl above the vermicelli. (If you are serving this to young kids, please ensure that the meat is properly cooked without any hint of pink to it.) Add on beef balls.

Step 10: Scoop soup over (I have skimmed the layer of oil prior). Serve hot and with condiments on the side - mint leaves, sping onions (scallions), lemon wedges, thin rings of yellow onions. Mint is an acquired taste and while not are lovers, I'd encourage you to try adding this into your soup as it does cut through the 'meatiness' of the dish. The lemon adds some zest to the broth too. Mix and experiment, and importantly, enjoy!

(I do not enjoy raw bean sprouts so I did not add this to the dish but these are widely served and added to the broth along with the condiments so you can add this in too.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


:: This is me, Mama Sue – aka ELASTI-CHICK.
Why? Because ever since I became a mum, I have suddenly developed super hero powers. The ability to be a mum who nurses all sniffles and coughs, a driver, a wife, an employee and most importantly, the ability to multi-task and mysteriously ensure that my child is well looked after as well as churning good and healthy food on the table.

:: This is Dumpling – aka GREEN, MEAN EATING MACHINE. 

Dumpling likes her food and pretty much likes it on time. Don’t muck around with her meals unless you want a meltdown.

And this is Dumpling at the mercy of Mother Nature where we are either being hit by the rain or (gasp), by the haze lately. So, what are we to do when the groceries run low?

:: Introducing
With my ELASTI-CHICK super hero powers, our groceries were sorted out!

Online shopping is my survival tip. I shop online for virtually anything because
(a) I hate crowds
(b) it saves me much time &
(c) it is virtually impossible to watch over an active preschooler AND shop. is my secret grocery shopping address where I can beat the crowd, be dressed in my worst jammies and no one can see me (and get frightened by the 3-pound eye bags) and best of all, in the comfort of my own home. J

Can’t wait to find out more? Here’s a sneak peek at this secret address!!! 
(Click on image for an enlarged view!) 

To all of you fabulous parents with SUPER HERO MULTI TASKING POWERS!


All you need to do is to enter this discount code: rm_beanie to enjoy 10% off your first purchase!
So hop on over to now!  


Disclaimer: I was invited to share my User Experience at Redmart. I have been compensated for this post. All opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but my sharing is based on my personal usage and shopping experience at 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review: The True Story of The Three Little Pigs

:: The True Story of Three Little Pigs

“So I walked down the street to ask my neighbour for a cup of sugar.
Now, this neighbour was a pig.
And he wasn’t too bright, either.
He built his whole house out of straw.
Can you believe it? I mean who in his right mind would build a house out of straw?”

The title of this book and the cover design stood out immediately for Dumpling and I when we first saw it. Curious, we both made a dash for it and started flipping through immediately.

Imaginative, hilarious and clever are three words which I would use for this title. All of us know the story of the classic tale ‘Three Little Pigs’ but how many have thought of it from the big bad wolf’s perspective?

Well, this is the ‘other’ side of the story, his story. The untold story of a badly misunderstood wolf who was at the wrong place at the wrong time with a bad cold!   

The story is told by Mr. Alexander T (Al for short) and started from what was supposedly to be a simple task of borrowing a cup of sugar for a birthday cake for his Grandma. This of course became an adventure (or 3!) along the way. This story is a rhyming story peppered with doses of humor and pun.

Now, the comic styled illustrations are wonderfully quirky too. And no wonder! They are illustrated by award winning (Caldecott Honor) artist Lane Smith and the book also won New York Times Best Illustrated book in 1989. 

(Can you spot the additional ‘ingredients’ in the cheeseburger?)

Before the end of the story, I was giggling as much as Dumpling and we re-read it once more. The twists to the classic tale are imaginative and hilarious. We both fell in love with Al as it is just so hard to view him as the 'villain'. After all, how can we blame Al? As he so eloquently puts it “It seemed like a shame to leave a perfectly good ham dinner lying there in the straw” and so he ate the pig up.

Though this is recommended for children of 5 - 8 years old, it is a truly delightful read and I certainly would recommend it for older kids (and adults too!) 

Author:  Jon-Scieszka
Illustrator: Lane Smith

I received this title from My Imagination Kingdom in order to do a review on and give my opinion of it. Just for Beanie N Us readers, I am pleased to share that My Imagination Kingdom is offering a 15% discount for all its titles

Just key in BNUS15 upon checking out (billing and shipping info page)! 
Code is valid till 17 July 2013

I was also invited guest post at My Imagination Kingdom to share my experiences and tips on read aloud and literacy. Hop on over to find out more! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A "NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum with SPF 25" 14-Day Experience PART 2!

Before I embarked on this challenge, I always thought that it would be very troublesome to use any Bodycare products and that was one of the major deterrents for me. Coupled with the fact that I am highly sensitive to scents and I dislike any form of “residue” on my skin, that’s how I ended up not have much skincare regime. However, after taking on this “NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum 14 Days Experience”, I can safely share that it required very minimal changing of lifestyle habits. Here’s sharing my experience.

:: Quick Absorption  
What I really like about NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum with SPF 25 is the “ease of use” because of how quickly the lightweight serum is being absorbed into the skin. It is not thick or oily where I need to rub in for over a minute just to wait for the skin to absorb the serum. Additionally, there was also no feeling of “stickiness” once it dries off.

Here’s a “20 sec” demonstration to share:

I first squeezed out some serum (about the amount / size of a 20 cent coin) and I rubbed it onto my arm for 10 seconds (see centre photo). I then continued rubbing it in for another 10 seconds where you can see that the serum was totally absorbed. Hence, to get the serum on all my limbs is now a ‘less-than-2-minute’ job! So there is no major change in any lifestyle habits, just a 2 minute regime every time when I reapply the serum!

:: Moisturizing Effect
In my earlier post, I shared how dry the skin on my feet was with the years of neglect. During this 14 Days journey, I have been bringing the serum everywhere I headed to and have been applying religiously, sometimes even up to 5 – 6 times a day. This is because I work in an air-conditioned environment which dries out my skin totally.

After a week of usage, my skin was definitely less flakey and more hydrated. I cannot see so many lines on my foot (due to the dehydration of skin) now. The skin tone looks less dull (see centre photo). After 2 weeks, I cannot see any more flakey skin and the skin tone appears more even. I am very pleased that my feet definitely look ‘younger’! I guess that this has to do with the fact that the serum is infused with Hydra IQ and Red Seaweed which aids in a more supple skin.

:: Whitening Effect

Now, what about my arms? Being the family driver means that I am out in the morning chauffeuring my hubs and Dumpling to and fro before I eventually head off to work.

Over the weekends, I would also spend time by the pool while Dumpling has her afternoon swimming lessons and at times, I can see that my arms would get a bit burnt and turn red from the reflection of the harsh rays.

So I do like that the NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum comes with SPF25 since I am outdoors quite a bit too as I now have a serum which offers daily sun protection and yet moisturizes well! 

Comparatively to before usage, there was a difference after 1 week where there seems to be a reduction of brown ‘patches’. After 2 weeks, my arms definitely look fairer and more radiant too. A quick look at the product information shows that the serum is enriched with Vitamin C from Camu Camu and as we know, Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant which reduces melanin production (yay!) and hence my skin lightened over these 2 weeks.

I am very pleased with the improvements that I have seen in just 14 days. My skin has become more supple and definitely more radiant looking. I would recommend NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum with SPF 25 to other mums, especially busy working mums like me who need an easy-to-use serum which delivers.

Disclaimer: This is an advertorial for NIVEA and is part of a series of “14 days experience” for NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum SPF25. I have been compensated for this post. All opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but my sharing is based on my personal usage and experience of the product. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Parenting with Love - Values of humility

I am rubbing my tempers as I am typing this. Let's just say that through some circumstances Dumpling has been exposed to some degree of what I feel is some form of boasting and materialism which I do not feel comfortable about. She has been regurgitating stories about some money matters which I find a concern. A big enough of a concern for me to put up a shout on my personal Facebook last evening.

So here I am, faced with a double whammy, frightened as worried as hell that my daughter will grow up bratty (we are still working on her tone and manners) and even worse, have the wrong values inculcated. While I understand that most of us find joy in sharing good news but I also wish for more discretion when it comes to material stuff and money matters.

I am not anyone's example of a stellar Christian but I do have a very strong set of values and beliefs. Values are the hardest to teach and humility ranks high on that list for me. Whenever Dumpling or any of us, is blessed with something, I'd always give thanks to God and encourage her to do the same. After all, to me, what are given to us are all planned for and through the blessings of God - what is there for us to be so proud and boastful about? Especially when there are children involved and they are so young - is there a need to 'impress' these things upon them?

We read biblical stories and discuss verses from the bible as often as we can. I was so affected by what I heard last night that I spent an hour reading and discussing verses and parables with Dumpling. I do not want Dumpling to grow up thinking that money and all these riches on earth are what measures her success as a person and that is what she should strive for.

As a parent, I do not care if Dumpling were to grow up being a NASA Scientist or a top Neurosurgeon. Sure, if that is what she wants to do because she has interest and potential in that area, then by all means, she is free to pursue it. BUT. That would not make me any prouder than I already am. I will derive just as much happiness from watching her enjoy her life, her family and contributing to the workforce and society in any other way. I simply do not see myself as one parent who'd brag about her 'accomplishments' and go "You know, my daughter owns this large property in 6th avenue and brings home this amount of salary."

And so, here is an ending note which I want to leave for Dumpling, as a reminder, as a source of motivation and importantly, as a source of affirmation.

"Lulu, I am already proud as I can be of you and I will tell you this: I will be just as proud of you in 30 years even when I cannot see what lies ahead. 

This is because I believe in you. How successful you are as a person is not measured by how much you earn or what you own. It is beyond all these earthly riches but the heart of gold that lies in you. Continue to seek God when things are hard and give thanks when you receive any blessings.

For it is the riches in God's Kingdom that matter and one of these days, when I am gone, I will be right there in His Kingdom, waiting to enjoy those heavenly riches with you instead. I love you." 

Love, Mama Sue

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