Archive | March 2010

Sufficient grace

We’ve all been fighting the cough and cold in the past week.
With the added complexity of a change of routine – DH moved into a new job last week which requires him to leave early in the morning before our usual waking time – that’s left me on my own to manage the kids, prepare and give them breakfast, before changing to leave for work.

So last week was a real adjustment for both of us (probably for the kids too to get used to not seeing Daddy around when they woke up in the mornings).

Last night, as we got the kids ready for bed, DH and I exchanged tired glances and I paused to lean on his shoulders for a comforting hug.

DD got down from her bed where she’d already comfortably settled herself. Throwing her arms around me, she said “It’s okay mummy, it’s okay.” and patted me gently.
She then cheerfully climbed back into bed and initiated a rousing version of our usual bedtime wind-down Sandra Boynton rhyme.

I couldn’t hold back my laughter. And my tears.

And as all four of us chorused the last line of the rhyme together, laughing through my tears, I gave thanks to God.

For that little gesture of grace and sensitivity from DD.
And for reminding me of the daily measure of that greater heavenly grace He promises, sufficient for each new day and week.

Image from Heartlight.org                                                            image from heartlight

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28 – 30

Child’s Play

“…time to brush your tee-eth!!”
                 “Shh, mummy. The babies are sleeping.”

? What babies ?

Oh.

How cute.
Later though, when I looked at this photo again, I thought it was interesting how she laid out a sheet first, then layered it with a waterproof mat (exactly how I used to set her bed for afternoon naps when we were potty training) before putting the pillows and stuffed toys on it. 

The level of detail in the arrangement truly amazed me as to how much children pick up on real life daily living and routines in their pretend play.

Alphabet Wall: Making…n is for nest (and nine)

I took the inspiration for this week’s Alphabet Wall craft from Psalm 104. It’s a majestic work of poetry rendering the praise of creation for its Maker. 🙂

The psalm makes mention in verses 12 and 17 of birds finding their perfect spot in the tall cedar trees to build their nests, surrounded by refreshing waters in a lush and verdant environment lovingly created by God. Oh, my description is not doing it justice!  Click here to read the original and you’ll see what I mean.  🙂 

So for our craft piece today, you will need the following materials:

Pale blue paper, poster paints, paintbrush, an old toothbrush, brown paper string (can also use thin strips of crepe paper), another sheet of paper in contrasting colour (e.g. yellow), scissors, glue, artblock sheet.

1. Squeeze out a variety of different paint colours on a palette. Add water to mix to a fairly watery consistency for spatter painting with a toothbrush.

2. Dip the toothbrush into a colour of your choice. Holding the toothbrush in one hand and the paintbrush in the other above the sheet of pale blue paper, run the back of your paintbrush against the bristles of the toothbrush. Repeat with the other colours on the palette.

This should give you a nice speckled effect like the one below. Once you are satisfied with the results, set aside and let dry.

3. Cut the brown paper string into nine strips. Cut a block small letter “n” out of the yellow sheet of paper.
4. When the painted blue sheet is dry, cut out nine eggs.

5. Apply glue on to the artblock sheet in the shape of a nest. Paste the brown paper string on. Count one to nine with your child! 🙂

6. Paste the letter n above the nest.
7. Paste the speckled eggs onto the letter n, counting one to nine as you go.

As an optional step – For additional reinforcement on the counting activity, you can cut out the numbers 1 to 9 from old magazines and paste these onto the eggs.  Have fun!  😀  

Tip for parents: Spatter painting is a really messy painting technique that results in paint spatters pretty much everywhere! It is best done in the bathroom shower stall or outdoors, where you can use the shower or water hose to spray away the mess immediately afterward.  😀

“Relax, things can only get worse.”

It is 3. unearthly. am.
We are both wide awake no thanks to being awakened twice by DD and once by DS who was awakened by his sister.

I honestly wonder, when a parent starts to enjoy proper uninterrupted sleep.

In the first few months of a baby’s life, you endure multiple wakings for feeds and diaper changes and all sorts of other things, and accept that it is part and parcel of baby care.

Then when they start sleeping through the night, you breathe a sigh of relief and harbour hope of some respite and return to normal life, and watching your favourite House M.D. and CSI dvds uninterrupted.

Only to be swiftly awakened to reality when the teething process starts. And continues through 20 teeth. 20!!

Let’s not forget to scatter in, random but still significantly impactful events like…
…irritation due to random insect bites procured during evenings in the playground.
…upset tummies.
…fevers and flus.

really, the list is quite endless.

Add completed daytime potty training into the picture, and you have more night wakings from the child who now is so conscious of needing to go to the toilet. You can’t really quite tell her nevermind it’s okay to pee into a night diaper, because that would be counterproductive, right?  😛

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A friend of mine has this catchphrase which he often replies to people complaining about the situations they’re in.

“Relax, things can only get worse.”

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Yeah, I suppose so.

Put it all into perspective, at least now, I know what is keeping me up at nights. And what I can do about it.
Because it can really only get worse in the later years when I won’t know what exactly is keeping me up at nights and can’t do anything about it – like, in their teenage years, or when they leave home for university.

Relax. Relax.

And try and get some sleep before the alarm starts ringing at 7:00am.

My mother’s agar-agar recipe

I have all these scraps of paper on which I’ve scribbled recipes, randomly tossed in the kitchen drawer where I also store my baking tools, and it is beginning to look a right mess.

Okay, fine…actually it looked a right mess some time ago, and I really have to credit my mum-in-law for putting up with it.
And now I’ve misplaced the scrap of paper where I penned down my mom’s verbal instructions on the agar-agar! Grr!  😦

I need to get meself a notebook, and a good stretch of time to go write all those recipes down properly. But for now…I’ll go with posting it on the blog (procrastinate procrastinate…), at least I can’t think how I’d be able to misplace that! 😉

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Ingredients:
1.2 liters water
3 pandan leaves
1 pack agar-agar strips
220 ml milk
1/2 cup rock sugar

Red food colouring
30 ml milk
1 tsp cocoa powder

Instructions:
1. Soak the agar-agar for approximately 10 minutes.

2. Bring water to boil in a pot. Twist the pandan leaves into a knot and place in together with the agar-agar strips. Stir till agar-agar has dissolved.

3. Pour in rock sugar and keep stirring till sugar has dissolved.

4. Turn off the fire and slowly stir in the milk.

5. Divide the mixture into two portions.

6. In one portion, add red food colouring to your desired shade of pink.

7. In the second, stir the cocoa powder into the 30 ml of milk and mix before pouring in to the agar-agar mix.

8. Pour into prepared jelly molds, and refrigerate.

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This makes a very light agar-agar with low sugar taste. For a sweeter or more intense flavour, you can either

  • increase the rock sugar and cocoa powder amounts to your desired taste, OR
  • use different types of milk, e.g. fresh milk vs. powdered milk vs. evaporated milk vs. coconut milk.

Click here for the picture of the agar-agar. 🙂

Sad…

I spent four days on leave at home with the kids.
Both of them wanted no one else but mummy to give them their meals, bathe them, change them and put them to naps.

Those four days were the most tiring ever.
But they were also the happiest days ever.


And now I have to go back to work.

😦

Lemon Blueberry Bread

I found this while surfing the internet for a recipe to use blueberries since I had a box of fresh blueberries in the refrigerator.
The combined aroma of lemon and blueberry wafting out from the oven was amazing and I loved the fluffy texture of the bread! This recipe is so definitely a keeper!  🙂

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar

2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (outer yellow skin of the lemon)
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1 cup fresh blueberries

Lemon Glaze:
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter (or spray with a non stick vegetable spray) the bottom and sides of a loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3 inch) (23 x 13 x 8 cm).

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until softened (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (in three additions) and milk (in two additions) alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Mix only until combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar and the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

When the bread is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Pierce the hot loaf all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and then brush the top of the loaf with the hot lemon glaze. Cool the loaf in the pan for about 30 minutes then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. This bread is best served on the day it is made.

Makes 1 loaf.

Sources:
Beranbaum, Rose Levy. ‘The Cake Bible’. William Morrow & Company, Inc. New York: 1988.
Bon Appetit Magazine, August 1991 Issue.

Turning three: Part III

DD had her birthday celebration with her friends in Sunday School today. Wanting to avoid eleventh hour scrambles and not really wanting to do cupcakes like every other person has done, I decided to go for an agar-agar cake.
This year to date, all our “cakes” have been non-conventional frozen confectionery. Not purposely planned, by the way.

I loved how the pink and chocolate turned out. I think the kids were quite impressed too, right up till the moment they tasted the agar-agar.
Then I think they didn’t quite know what to make of its consistency as it didn’t seem any of them had ever tried agar-agar before. Maybe they were expecting more of a melt-in-the-mouth jelly. 

Oh well.  🙂

This year’s celebration has been an interesting process.

  1. Making the cheesecake was a great mother-daughter bonding session.  I hope it’s just the start to many more in the future. 🙂  And with DH and DS chipping in to help as well, it also turned out to be a really meaningful celebration for us all to (literally) enjoy the fruits of our labour.
  2. I learnt how to make agar-agar from my mom!  And realised that it wasn’t as difficult as I’d thought it would be.  I probably won’t make it for preschoolers again, probably just for family. 😉  It brought back many nostalgic memories of the agar-agar desserts my mom used to make for me to bring to my end-of-year school parties.
  3. I rode an elephant! And so did DH and my parents. We probably would never have done it if DD hadn’t first brought up the idea. 😀

Turning three: Part II

Some time ago, DD asked if she could ride a real elephant. Her father said yes, when she turned three. She’s waited patiently through many many months for this day to arrive!

Elephant rides run at two scheduled timings in the afternoons at the Singapore Zoo.  Cost is $8 per person, free for young children (not sure what the age threshold is). 

Alphabet Wall: Making…m is for Moses and miracle

mir•a•cle
Pronunciation: \’mir-i-kəl\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin miraculum, from Latin, a wonder, marvel, from mirari to wonder at
Date: 12th century
1 : an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs

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When I think about Moses, the word “miracle” jumps to mind. From start to end, his dramatic story speaks of God’s divine protection, grace and mercy over a Hebrew mother that ultimately leads to the deliverance of an entire nation.

And it is such a long story! I didn’t quite know where to start!
There is so much ground to cover and so many ideas were coming out of our brainstorming session on Wednesday night that I think this Alphabet Wall craft is only the tip of the iceberg. 🙂

Anyway.  🙂
We decided to theme our Alphabet Wall craft around the crossing of the Red Sea.
So you will need the following materials: – Marker pen, artblock sheets, blue and white poster paints, paintbrushes and palette, colour pencils, glue, scissors.

1. On an artblock sheet, draw out a picture of a Moses. You could also draw out sea foam, or a bunch of people, any other things that you would like to fill your “parting of the Red Sea” scene with. Set aside.

2. Get ready your blue and white paints. Mix the blue paint with water as you will need a fair amount to paint the sea. Do NOT mix the white paint with any water.

3. On a second artblock sheet, freehand paint two walls of water arching outwards from the middle with a little space in between the walls. Cover with blue paint.

4. Once it’s fairly dry, dip another paintbrush in your white paint, and guide your child to trace little “m”s with the brush on the blue painted surface. Talk about how m is for Moses and m is for miracle.

5. As your painting is drying, hand the colour pencils to your child to colour the picture of Moses.
6. Cut out the completed picture of Moses and any other picture props and paste Moses in the centre of the parted sea.

On a sudden brainwave, I filled a shallow dish with water, and invited DD to attempt parting the water with the strength of her breath in the dish, to explain the meaning of the word “miracle”. No matter how hard each of us blew on the water, it did not part.

I then pointed out to her that the parting of the Red Sea was something only God could have done, not Moses or any one else.  On her own, she mimed with her fingers, walking across the sea and talked about how this was how the Israelites got across.

It was a good opportunity to point out that although we could not create a path even halfway across that would have enabled us to walk our fingers through the water without getting wet, Moses and the Israelites were able to walk without getting wet, across the whole stretch of sea because God miraculously created a dry path that lasted long enough for the entire Israelite nation to get across.

Think about how majestic and awesome that must have appeared!

Definitely and infinitely much more than could ever be represented through our imagination, on paper. 😀