Archive | August 2011

Kids Say: Snail bread

Last Thursday, I had to purchase cold medication for DS, so he came along with me to the clinic. As we left the doctor’s, from inside the building we saw our bus just leaving the bus stop. So we had fifteen minutes to spare.

As we were visiting a friend’s home for a playdate that afternoon, I decided to use the fifteen minutes to pop into the neighbouring bakery to buy some pastries for her.

I’d finished picking what I wanted when DS’s eyes fell onto the cinnamon rolls and he called out, “Mummy, look! Snail bread!”

“Mummy, can I have snail bread? Please? Pleasepleaseplease…”
Figuring there was no harm, I picked up one from the shelf and placed it on our tray.

“Mummy, can we buy one snail bread for Jie Jie?”
Okay, one for Jie Jie.

“And one for Mummy”.
Hmmmm, son, these cinnamon rolls cost $2.80 a piece…”It’s okay son, mummy doesn’t…”
“And one for Mummy!”
Oh…ummm…alright.

“And one for Daddy also.”
As I hesitate, he tugs earnestly on my sleeve.
“Mummy, and one for Daddy also.”

Another $2.80…four rolls…adds up to $11.20.
I know. Mighty expensive for four bread rolls.

But as I paid the money, I looked down at my little boy.

The happiness shining through in his face. The ecstatic glow in his eyes as he clapped his hands, rested his chin on the counter and peered excitedly at the rolls being put into paper packages.

“Yay! Snail bread!”

Bless his heart, he just wanted to make sure everyone in the family could share the joy of “snail bread”.
He was so excited he insisted on carrying the purchases for me all the way to the bus stop, onto the bus, off the bus, and on the walk back home.

In that morning, I watched my three-year old stand taller, shoulders squared, walking purposefully as he took on the important task of carrying “tomorrow’s breakfast” back home for the family.

In that light, I guess…paying three bucks a pop per cinnamon roll isn’t all so bad an idea. The amount of money spent is less of an issue compared to the opportunity to allow him to bless others with a thoughtful heart.  How could I not encourage that? 

And so we all enjoyed generous portions of the tastiest “snail bread” we’d ever had, for Friday’s breakfast. 🙂

Bookmark Monday: New Old Shoes

A poignant story about how a pair of shoes can be just a simple, taken-for-granted object to one, but a valuable and priceless resource to another.  Follow the journey of a pair of shoes from America to Africa, as they are lovingly worn and used, but never worn out.

When we got to the page about the little girl who needed a pair of shoes so she could go to school, that made me pause to ask our kids to consider how many pairs of shoes they had. Each has one covered pair for school and church, one pair of sandals for play, one brand-new-in-box pair…and we think we are pared down to basics!   

For us who are blessed with plenty, it is a meaningful reminder and an inspiring thought to children how they can help other children around the world through something as simple as donating a pair of old shoes.

The below text is an excerpt from the back page of the book.  If you’re based in the United States of America, Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity that collects gently used shoes and distributes them to the needy within the US as well as to Third-World countries. Click on the website link for more information.

*****

Every day, 1.2 billion people around the world go without the most basic of human needs due to poverty…Footwear is a basic need, yet many people in the world do not have even one pair of shoes; 300 million children have none at all…Simply cleaning out our closets can make a significant difference in the quality of life of people in need.

Soles4Souls works “around the corner and around the world” to make a difference by giving the gift of shoes…For more information about donating your gently used shoes, visit www.Soles4Souls.org and join us in Changing the World One Pair at a Time .  ~ Wayne Elsey, Founder, Soles4Souls.

In my world: Random rainbow

It was 8:30am and we were finishing up breakfast and clearing away the table. And it must have been the way the light came in the window, refracted against one of the glasses and shone onto the dining chair. 

We suddenly saw this on DS’s shirt. 

It lasted all of maybe five, six(?) minutes but it was a very fun six minutes of sitting back down at the table, and moving his arm about to see where the rainbow would land!

So random. So unexpected.  So transient.  But so very special. 🙂

Preschooler Art: Dinosaurs, Coffee, and er…Kites.

While DD is definitely the art buff in the family, DS has his own style. 

I love sitting beside him and watching the process of layer after layer of overlap being added to the overall picture.

And trying to figure out how dinosaurs, coffee and kites and the mysterious “er” are intertwined in the landscape of his work. 🙂

Bookmark Monday: The Warlord’s Series

Having done the letters of the alphabet in uppercase and lowercase in our Alphabet Wall series, we moved on to piece letters together in our weekly Wordcraft.  Now, as an extension to the recommended reading section in each Wordcraft post, we’re starting a new series called Bookmark Monday. 🙂

Here, we hope to be reviewing books that we have ourselves enjoyed as a family and we hope you’ll also explore the titles, or if you’ve also read the books, let us know what you think of them as well.

To kickstart our series, this is a collection of picture books we found in our local library titled The Warlord’s Series, written by Virginia Walton Pilegard. 

Set against the background of ancient China, each story is written as a mathematical adventure of two children who serve in the household of a Chinese warlord, and is coupled with simple craft instructions at the end of each book on how to create your own math tool that applies the concept and Chinese mathematical invention introduced in the story.  

The series is listed by the California State Department of Education as recommended mathematics reading for second grade. 

Not that that was the reason we picked it off the shelf – really, we were just intrigued by the math element and the fact that it provided an easy introduction to Chinese history and culture for our kids. 

At this stage, we’re just enjoying the book for the latter element, and appreciating time in the evenings reading together as a family.  No complicated preschool geometry going on in our home!  Haven’t actually tried out the crafts, but hmm…maybe we’ll get around to making a Chinese water clock some time. 😉 

Read all about Chuan and Jing Jing’s adventures and the following math concepts in:-

  • The Warlord’s Puzzle – Geometry and Early Chinese Tangrams

  • The Warlord’s Beads – Cardinal Numbers and the Chinese Abacus

  • The Warlord’s Fish – Magnets and Compasses used in 3rd Century B.C. China
  • The Warlord’s Puppeteers – Ratios and Chinese Puppetry
  • The Warlord’s Kites – Measurements and Chinese Kites
  • The Warlord’s Messengers – Velocity and Chinese Land Sailing
  • The Warlord’s Alarm, A Mathematical Adventure – Telling Time and Chinese Clock Inventions 

 

In my world: Men at play!

 

Father and son…at the arcade machines.
Daddy totally focused on the race.  DS imitating Daddy’s every move.

Preschooler Craft: Geometric Giraffe

When DD saw me sorting through our diminishing stack of coloured paper for a planned craft activity the other day, she asked me for a sheet of purple coloured paper to “cut something”.  Usually her “I want to cut something” moments end up in random bits and pieces strewn over the floor. Not incredibly keen on squandering one of the precious last few sheets for that purpose, I suggested she use some recycled paper instead.

Her face fell.

And then I remembered reading somewhere that for kids to produce good art, we should try to the best of our ability to provide them the best materials we can possibly afford.

Oh…well, it wasn’t quite as if I had an immediate need or purpose for the purple sheet of paper I guess.  And it wasn’t as if purple coloured paper was all that expensive to purchase more of.

I called out to her and handed her the sheet of purple paper. Her eyes lit up.

I watched her go, now joyous, skipping across the floor into her room.  I shuffled the remaining sheets back into the plastic wrapper and thought nothing more of it.

And then…DH and I saw her arranging this on the floor.

It was amazing – the usual random geometric shapes she cuts, but now cleverly positioned to form an inspired piece. We gave her a large yellow sheet to paste her arrangement on and mounted it on the wall beside her bed. And she’s really proud of it.

I’m kinda…no I’m really glad that I followed that little pricking to not hold back on the more “precious” resources.  Because maybe, just maybe we would have missed out on this whimsical geometric giraffe altogether. 

And that, I guess, would be the real squandering…

Kids Say: Do as I say, not as I do?

“Son, you didn’t tell me you needed to go pee!” 

“Mummy, you didn’t tell me when you need to pee.”

Touché…

Born to be wild!

The past weekend marked the second wild iwonderbee weekend in our year – DS’s birthday, where we (okay, I…) completely max-ed ourselves out on our energy scale.

And the title of this post was meant to reference not my son, but his crazy mother.

Here’s how it all started.

On the National Day holiday week, I took leave from work. 

So on the 9th, we brought the kids out to Jurong Bird Park.  Because DS has been asking to go for three months.

On the 10th, we brought the kids out to the Singapore Zoo.  Because a friend blessed us with some free tickets.  And we didn’t get to feed the elephants the last time.  And…because I said yes without thinking too much about the number of plans I had mentally marked into our calendar for the week.  Heh…

I know what you’re thinking – two major outings in consecutive days in the current humidity…you mean, there’s more??

*****

On the 11th, I started to panic a little.  So after putting the kids to bed, I drew up my grocery shopping list for the parties on the 13th and 14th. Then I promptly fell asleep in a sitting position, of exhaustion from our Jurong and Mandai wildlife adventure in the past two days. 

But not before turning round to ask DH, “You think we might have overdone it a little this time?”.  I never heard his answer but I think I can make pretty good guesses. 😛

*****

On the 12th, I rushed home from work and immediately after dinner, started pulling out all the stuff needed to make the cake base for DS’s requested giraffe cake.  DD had asked to be involved in the making of the cake, so it had to be done after dinner and before bedtime.

We were both looking forward to this – and for me, it’s great fun to have an eager baking buddy who wants to do everything!

On a side note: Why do electric mixers have so many parts and little nooks and crannies to wash? Grr.

After the entire family had a chocolate junkie moment of ooh-ing and aah-ing and ‘don’t-touch-the hot-cake-tin‘ning, I hurried the kids off to bed, with solemn promises of chocolate cake in the morning, and hoped and prayed very hard that they would actually fall asleep dreaming of chocolate cake, and not stay awake thinking of chocolate cake all night.

*****

DH and I then sat at the dining table, sketching, cutting up and matching three-part puzzles of giraffe templates. and providing constructive criticism of each other’s taste in art appreciation.

“The neck is too short, longer a bit can?”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you first, so long cannot fit the serving tray…”

“I like the skinny legs version better. More refined.”

“Then your cake is going to be super small, won’t be enough to feed everyone?”

After we finally settled on a template we were both happy with, we looked at the time. 10:30pm.

“So…are we really going to frost the cake tonight?”

“Yeah, otherwise tomorrow where got time?”

“Aiyah…but then we’ll be up till 1am.” *And I’ll have to wash all the mixer parts, again!!*

“Howsabout tomorrow morning we wake up early, at 6am. We’ll have one hour before the kids are up.  We should sleep now.”

“Yeah, true…sleep sounds good.”

And so peace, descends upon the quiet household.  And all is well.

*****

Rise and shine! Bright and early!

Somebody remind me again, why I’m getting up at 6am on a non working day…The last time I checked it isn’t Easter Sunrise Service day…

I’m thankful that I’m only responsible for producing the cake for tonight’s gathering. 

Both DH’s parents are also up and early, and mom-in-law is already busy cooking up a  fragrant storm of popiah (Chinese spring rolls) filling in the kitchen.
I start putting the mixer to task while DH sets about carving the cake into a giraffe shape.

By the time DD wakes up, the first crumb coat is done, and I am trying to keep my grumbling down about not estimating enough buttercream…while DH calmly explains to an amused DD how mummy really dislikes sifting icing sugar.

By the time DS is up, we’re putting the finishing touches and doing airplane landings with the spatula on the orange cream frosting, and everyone has a slice of chocolate cake for breakfast!  Double YAY!

*****

In the afternoon, while the kids are napping, DH and I make our first attempt at melting chocolate to frost the outline, patches and facial details on the giraffe. We finish up by having a little mini chocolate fondue party for two – dipping biscuits, grapes and strawberries in the leftover chocolate. YUM YUM!

We’re surprised by a knocking at the door!  DH’s grandmother arrives early – she has taken a bus all the way across the island and walked a long way to get here!  In characteristic fashion, she fends off our questions about why she didn’t call so we could pick her up. Sigh.

It’s fun to have her sitting in the kitchen and chatting as we work, and giving us pointers on how to melt chocolate and to quickly work with it before it solidifies.  She has an amazing wealth of knowledge and conversation is always brilliant and entertaining with her witty repartee.

*****

The giraffe cake is a hit. The cousins are keeping the kids busy (actually, that’s the other way around…the kids are keeping our cousins busy), and we’re sitting under the stars drinking too much Coke, and eating popiah, fried chicken and prawn fritters to our heart’s content. Life is good. Very good.

DS has been on his best behaviour, going round to serve everyone a piece of cake, before sitting down to eat his own. My wonderful wonderful son, I can’t believe he’s three!

*****

Sunday evening and we’re all ready to party!  We’re doing a Cars-themed party and all the planning from a month ago is starting to come together…I’m very excited!

And more food…

We made shepherd’s pie, little scrambled egg and tomato tartlets (very cutely dubbed “eggshells” by one of the kids), homemade popiah, fried rice, and had grape kebobs, prunes and orange agar-agar jelly for dessert.

The kids made their own craft cars using TP rolls, black craft foam and paper fasteners.  And then we gave our cars customised paint (marker!) jobs.

They also played a stack-the-caps game inspired by Luigi’s leaning tower of tires. When we first thought up the game, we underestimated its value – some of the kids went back to the table to try and beat their previous stacking records!

And they were actually quieter during the game than the movie screening, which had them jumping, cheering, chanting as if the outcome wasn’t fixed years ago!  Totally precious.

Our friend, Ruth, calls this the deconstructed cheesecake.  😉

We made the cheesecake last night after the kids had gone to bed.

I’m really happy with how it turned out as I was cracking my head for two weeks how to minimise the use of artificial colouring.  If your site had cheesecake decorating tips and saw a marked increase in the number of views over the past month, that was probably me chalking up the Google search stats! 😛

It’s essentially a no-bake cheesecake in a cup.  The crushed graham cookie layer is in the centre, instead of the bottom, we then topped with a smaller sprinkling of graham cookies and strawberries.

The tier effect winner’s podium (conceptualised in a brainwave just about an hour-and-a-half before the party) is created by flipping a round baking tin upside down, wrapping a printed checkered pattern around the side and taping down a foil-covered cake serving base on the top. 

Each of the cheesecake cups has a tiny clear taster spoon, topped with a Cars-themed decal.  Serve, sing and eat immediately!

*****

And now that all the action is over, and we’re winding down for the night…

If you ask us whether we’d have done this again the same way, quite insanely, our answer would be a YES.  Yes, definitely.

Why, we get told, don’t you know that the same angelic face that thinks the world of you today may turn around and break your heart some day?

Well, just…because.

Because we believe we cannot and must not hold back the present in anticipation of the one day that that heartbreak may happen (although I hope it doesn’t).
Because we believe we can and must enjoy this present season.  This moment. Today.  

The ecstatic smile on the little face, rejoicing in being surrounded by the ones who love him and the ones he loves.

The animated chatter and happy sounds of children laughing, shrieking, playing, enjoying each other’s company.

The thousand and one times that I get stopped in the day to answer the same question, “Mummy, remember what we saw at the zoo?”

The candid thank-yous to God at bedtime prayers for family, and friends, and birthday outings, and chocolate and cheesecake…

And that, is more than enough inspiration to do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Kids Say: Hand a map to the kids…

…and be prepared to be directed all over the place!

We took advantage of the Singapore National Day holiday to visit the zoo. Except recently, in a effort to encourage DD to read, we handed her the map and asked her to direct the family’s route around the zoo.  Between her and her brother, that sure led to some comical outcomes.

*****

“Hey kids, look at the orang utan!  He’s going to climb up the vine.”

“But I want to see the snakes.”

“How about we go see the snakes after this?”

“Hmm…oops, well, maybe snakes after the zebras and giraffes.  Um, and lions.”

“Do you want to compare the jaguar and leopard?”

“No, I don’t want jaguar. I just want to see the snakes.”

“Do we have enough time to make it to the elephants show?”

“Fifteen minutes?  Grab lunch first?”

*after Elephants of Asia* 

“Mommy, I want to go to the carousel?”

“Um, carousel is kinda far away….”

“Mommy, can we go to the black monkey?” 

“But I want to go to the carousel.”

“That would mean going past elephants…for the third time…”

“How about the lemurs? Can we go and see the lemurs?”

“I’m so tired, let me just sit down here for awhile.  Pygmy hippos…look, kids, aren’t they cute?”

“That’s not a hippo…”

****

I think you catch my drift… (click here to view the roundabout figure eight route we took).