Archive | January 2011

Love letters for my grandmother

This weekend marks the start of the new Lunar Year of the Rabbit. After visiting round DH’s family, we will return to my childhood home to visit my parents. And already, as I envision us unloading the kids and our bags from the car, and walking into the kitchen (that’s always the first room in the house I gravitate to each time I arrive home), suddenly my mind is filled with memories of my paternal grandmother.

Chinese New Year always meant a bustling time in my childhood home. Ah Ma and mum would spend hours in the kitchen and backyard, making all kinds of Chinese New Year goodies to fill the traditional eight treasure tray.

And of the myriad variety of cookies, there are but three nearest and dearest to my heart.

*****

Kueh bangkit, baked in wooden trays. Little white powdery cookies in the shape of flowers or animals with a pink or red food colouring dot on top. Store-bought ones today are nothing like the ones grandma made. Made right, they melt gently upon your tongue, and five are never enough, because we’d want one each of every design.

Golden pineapple tarts – baked to crumbly perfection, topped with aromatic homemade pineapple jam, brewed carefully over the old two-ring gas stove which has since been replaced with a new and shiny twin.

And best of all, kueh kapit (“love letters”), crispy wafer thin egg rolls baked over Ah Ma’s charcoal stove out in the backyard, with Ah Ma herself fanning the coal fire, and busily spreading a thin layer of batter on the iron molds.

It was hot and hard work – one had to work quickly, and keep a close watch on the fire so the love letters wouldn’t burn.
Then as quickly as they come off the stove, with her bare hands, Ah Ma would peel the circles off the hot iron, and fold them while they were still pliable, in half and half again to form delicate fan shapes, that once cooled, would be delightful wafer-thin pastries.

My job was to cut circles of tracing paper and carefully arrange layer upon layer of love letters, alternated with tracing paper, so that the love letters would not chip or break. The tins would have to be packed and sealed off quickly with one last circle of tracing paper to keep the love letters crisp throughout the whole fifteen days of Chinese New Year. To savour them, one would have to flick the tin cover off with the back of a spoon, pick out a precious few, and quickly reseal the tin so the rest of the love letters would stay crisp.

****

Ah Ma passed away of stomach cancer when I was in upper primary.

If I’d known then what I know now…I’d have been more diligent in observing how to make the kueh kapit instead of just being satisfied with sneaking a piece or two as I packed the tins. I could go learn it from the internet now, or from a cooking school…but it’d never be the same.

I know one is not supposed to cry at Chinese New Year because one should think happy, joyous and prosperous thoughts to set the tone for the year ahead. But I can’t help it. I’m not even sure what triggered the memories of Ah Ma and her love letters.

Ah Ma, I guess I won’t know right now, if you know that your grand-daughter is penning these thoughts onto her web log. But I guess that somehow the Lord who lives in me, and Whom you are with in heaven, will help us bridge that chasm between the mortal and the eternal. And that He’ll let you know that I’m thinking of you and crafting my version of my love letters for you, this Chinese New Year.

Photo credit: asiaone.com
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In my world: Sand in my shoes

It just struck me…I started this week with a post on sand, and now I’m ending it with another post on sand.

How much sand can a little boy get in his shoes?

A lot, apparently. A whole cupful, in fact.

Emptied out from a single shoe, before we climbed back into the car after spending the morning at a beach in Mornington Peninsula.

*****

Sometimes in the middle of cleaning, I discover little gems left behind by the children. This Friday series was started with the intention of celebrating the imagination and creativity in a young child’s world…and hoping that it’ll bring a little ray of inspiration and joy to your day, as it does mine.

Wordcraft: B for Book

DH came back one day and showed me how to make a book out of a single piece of paper. You can get six pages on the inset, and if you flip it over, you will have an additional six pages.

From a single sheet – how cool is that? I can make loads of little books for the kids to draw their stories in.

You will need the following materials: Single sheet of paper (A4 size or larger works best), scissors, coloured paper, glue.

1. Fold the sheet of paper in half widthwise.

2. Fold this into half, and then fold into another half.  You should end up with your sheet of paper, divided into eight equal sections.

4. Unfold your sheet of paper, like the picture below, and make a cut halfway along the centre fold, perpendicular to the base.

You should get this.

5. Fold back down along the length of the paper, and push from each end, to get a book with six pages.

6. We cut the letters, b-o-o-k, from coloured paper.  Here’s DS trying to make an all new weird and wonderful word…

7. Pasted them on…

8. When the glue is dry, write or draw something in your very own book.

Sand: A Study in Soil Erosion

Doesn’t that just sound like the most serious title ever for a blog on activities for pre-schoolers! 😉

Heh, nothing complicated…just simply putting a bucket of sand near the waves, at the beach, and watching what happens next.

We watched the tide swirl menacingly around the tower of sand, like a whirlpool, pulling away the grains on its perimeter, as it slipped back to the sea.

We watched the remaining grains holding on together for their dear lives and eventually crumbling from the pressure, leaving a meagre foundation of a thin unwieldy base.

And we watched the stub melt away into oblivion, with a giddy appreciation of the pulling sensation of sand sinking under our toes, as the waters washed away from around and under our feet.

In my world: Horse stables and rabbit hutches

Last Sunday, the kids were busy building a horse stable and a rabbit hutch…with their crayons! DD started it and then her brother caught on.
So engrossed were they, I had to convince them that yes, they could continue after dinner and I promise not to clear it away, AND I’d close the door so no one would come in to the room and accidentally move the crayons.

 

Sometimes in the middle of cleaning the rooms, I discover little gems left behind by the children. This Friday series was started with the intention of celebrating the imagination and creativity in a young child’s world…and hoping that it’ll bring a little ray of inspiration and joy to your day, as it does mine.

New series – Wordcraft: A for Ark

“It’s time to build a word…let’s build it, let’s build it now!”

Now that both the children are able to recognize most of the letters of the alphabet, DH and I have decided to begin a new series of wordcraft. 🙂

I haven’t got any particular theme in mind, but since we gave the kids a Noah’s Ark puzzle in early January, I pulled together an ark craft the other day when I was home with DS and DD was away at kindergarten.

You will need the following materials: Tissue box, toothpaste box, cellophane tape, scissors, coloured paper, glue, craft foam.

1. Wrap the tissue box and toothpaste box in coloured paper of your child’s choice.

2. Paste the toothpaste box on the top of the tissue box.

3. While your child is pasting the boxes together, cut out the letters a, r, k from craft foam. Also, cut out some small windows to paste onto the ark. (I did this for DS while DD cut out her own when she returned from school and wanted an ark of her own as well.)

4. Paste the letters on the lower part of the ark and the windows on the upper portion.

This was not a very accurately dimensioned ark but I figured if I wanted to be accurate to the measurements, I’d have to find a very skinny long box.  A small one would probably be not very attention-engaging for a preschool craft project…and a large one I have no idea where to get that and certainly no space for it!  😀

So for those who would like to do a more detailed study into the hows, whats and whys about the actual ark, Answers in Genesis has a pretty good write up.  Click here for the link.

Mister Noah built an ark

The people thought it such a lark

Mister Noah pleaded so

But into the ark they would not go.

Down came the rain in torrents, torrents

Down came the rain in torrents, torrents

Down came the rain in torrents

And only eight were saved.