Archive | July 2012

Singapore National Day Craft: Fly our flag

I don’t know about you but my favourite segments of the National Day Parade are without a doubt, the fly past and military defence showcase. And with this year’s theme – Salute to 45 Years of National Service in Singapore, I am anticipating an even more impressive show.

Last Saturday evening, I happened to be attending a wedding dinner at the Fullerton Hotel. When I heard the deafening roar of the jet engines as I entered the lift on the first floor, it was all I could do to hurry on to the fifth floor roof garden…only to find that the Fullerton’s roof garden is enclosed. Bummer! So much for hoping to be able to catch a free glimpse.

I found 20 craft sticks in our art bureau, and decided we would do a little “Fly our Flag” craft.

You will need the following materials: 10 plain craft sticks (for each child), craft glue, red and white acrylic paints, brushes and palette, twine or string, toy helicopter.

1. Take 8 craft sticks and line them up in in a single column. Apply craft glue down the left and right hand side of the column, and paste one craft stick on each side perpendicular to the rows. Leave to dry.

2. When dry, paint the top 4 rows with red acrylic paint, and the bottom 4 rows with white. Leave to dry.

3. Paint on a crescent moon and five stars. (We tried this both with a skinny paintbrush and a Q-tip, both seem to work fairly well, very good for testing fine motor dexterity). Again, leave to dry.

4. When dry, using twine or string, tie the flag to the helicopter and you’ll have your own little fly past model ready for when the aerial segment comes on.

Bookmark Monday: Orange Ants

The use of carnivorous citrus ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) to protect orange groves in China dates back at least 1,700 years. The earliest known mention of such use is attributed to Ji Han in his records of the Plants and Trees of the Southern Regions (A.D. 304):
The people of Jiao -zhi sell in their markets ants in bags of rush matting. The nests are like silk. The bags are all attached to twigs and leaes which, with the ants inside the nests, are for sale. The ants are reddish-yellow in color, bigger than ordinary ants. (These ants do not eat the oranges but attack and kill the insects which do.)

We found Ma Jiang and the Orange Ants written by Barbara Ann Porte and illustrated by Annie Cannon, while the kids were in a storytelling session at the library last weekend.

We’ve been introducing them to folk tales and fables recently, and this title caught our eye because we were curious to find out what orange ants are, and how people earned a living selling orange ants in ancient China. This week, I have learnt something new I didn’t know before. 🙂


The Ma family earned a living selling orange ants to owners of orange groves. It did not necessarily yield a lot of money but they made enough to have food, shelter, clothes and medicine to put on ant bites, and lived happily enough. However, one day, the father and brothers were rounded up to serve in the emperor’s army, leaving Ma Jiang, her mother and her baby brother to fend for themselves.

As collecting wild nests of orange ants was a predominantly male job, requiring collectors to climb high into tall trees and into wild bamboo in the night, neither Jiang nor her mother were in a position to do this, and so they relied on making rush mat bags and other woven articles as an alternative source of income.

Times were hard and the children and their mother often went hungry as only the rich or lazy bought rush mat nets, most people made their own.  But one day, their fortune turns for the better when a beekeeper buys Jiang’s mother’s rush mat nets and a chicken cage and sandals because he finds these will be useful to stave off stings, and pays them in honey instead of money.

The family is glad for the honey, and they keep it in a gourd hung from the ceiling, and enjoy a little each day. One day, while eating, Jiang’s baby brother accidentally drips a puddle of honey onto the floor, attracting hundreds of little black ants.

This lends Jiang a brilliant idea to make a honey trap by smearing the inside of a rush mat bag with honey, reviving the business of selling orange ants without requiring dangerous night time climbing of trees.

Jiang’s mother was happy to be able to buy good things for the family and they prospered on the sale of the orange ants.

However, as they prepared the good food for the Lunar New Year, they could not help but miss Jiang’s father and brothers who had now been away for a year.

Then just three days before the end of the old year, Jiang and her mother and brother receive a pleasant surprise – her father and brothers return, released at last from the emperor’s service and the story ends happily as the family joyfully reunites with much to be grateful for.


Singapore National Day Craft: Loving Singapore Our Home

It’s been a long time since we did anything art and craft…so we whipped up something quick with the red and whites this evening, in preparation for National Day Parade 2012.  😀

If you’d like to do the same, you will need the following materials:
Red construction paper, white artblock sheet, scissors, glue.

1. With the scissors, cut heart shapes from the red sheet of paper. No need for uniformity, just freestyle it.

2. Mentally divvy up your artblock sheet into top and bottom half, in landscape orientation.

3. Paste the hearts in the top half of the artblock sheet.

4. Cut out a crescent moon and five stars from a white sheet of paper or artblock and paste on.

You’re now ready to use this for a flag, or poster or anything you want it to be for NDP 2012 decorations or props. 🙂

Bookmark Monday: Papa’s Pastries

It’s been a whirlwind of activity in the past two weeks for the whole family with school field trips, meetings, projects, deadlines, and my brother’s wedding! So the blog’s been quiet, but thank you to our readers who have faithfully still been checking back for updates.

A couple of weeks ago, we found this Christian-themed book, “Papa’s Pastries” written by Charles Toscano.

Miguel wakes to early morning rain dripping through the family home’s leaky roof. Outside, he overhears his father praying as he packs the pastries he has made to sell at the market, asking God to provide a new roof, firewood and clothes for the family so they can survive the winter.

Accompanying his father to three neighbouring villages to sell their pastries, at each village, Miguel gets increasingly anxious when they are unable to sell anything as the villagers are equally facing hard times and have no money to buy the pastries. However, Papa remains positive and even gives away his pastries to needy families, one in each village.

When they reach home in the evening, the anxiety of the family is heightened by the empty bag and empty pockets, but Papa calmly tells them that kindness is far more valuable than money.
Cold and tired, Miguel wonders about this as he tosses to sleep, how kindness will provide them the things they themselves need.

The next day, he awakens in surprise to the sound of the roof being repaired! It’s being fixed by one of the villagers that Papa gave pastries to yesterday; turns out that he is a carpenter and has come to repay Papa’s kindness.

Close to the woods, another recipient of yesterday’s pastries busily chops firewood for the family, and in the house, an old lady that they gave their last pastries to before going home is measuring and cutting cloth to make new clothes for Miguel’s brothers and sisters.

Although they earned no money yesterday to buy what the family needed, God had sent them today exactly what they needed.
And at the end of the day, Miguel prays to God, “Thank you for your loving kindness. And thank you, Lord, for my Papa. Amen.”

Although written in a very simplistically heartwarming manner, we found this book to be valuable – as a reminder to ourselves that most times, it is us who complicate matters by thinking too much and trusting too little; to be thankful for everything God has blessed us with, to be compassionate toward others, and to always trust God our Provider.

Bookmark Monday: Chapter books

What do you do when you have an almost-five-year-old genius who’s read every available award winner on the library shelves and is now looking to up the ante?

Not our children, but a son of our friends’ – this boy is one amazing reader and as his mum and us were chatting on Sunday, she asked “What else is out there that I can give him that is good clean reading without needing me to censor stuff I’m not comfortable exposing him to?”

Because that is the challenge with chapter books isn’t it?  They are the next reading skill level, but then chapter books are a varied lot.  Some are too complicated, some are too worldly for a young impressionable mind, some are just plain nonsensically mindless.

We didn’t have the answer on Sunday, but on Monday when the kids had a day off from school for Youth Day, DH brought them to the library and they found this series called Dinosaur Cove.

Even if your little dinosaur enthusiast may not be ready to read the book by himself or herself, you can still read a chapter a day to him or her, which is what DH did with the kids.

I hope this helps my friend. 🙂  Click on the links for more information about each series.

Dinosaur Cove book series: About two boys who discover a secret entrance to a prehistoric world where dinosaurs roam.  Written by Rex Stone (possibly a pseudonym?)

Other chapter book series for young readers worth checking out –

The Five Find-Outers Mystery series, written by Enid Blyton: Aspiring sleuths can follow the adventures of Frederick Algernon Trotteville, more affectionately known as Fatty, and his friends Larry, Daisy, Pip, Bets and Buster the Scottie as they solve puzzling mysteries that take place in their little neighbourhood.

Delightfully and quintessentially English in style and setting, I grew up loving this series and all things English tea, and am now a lifelong fan of British-authored whodunnits and their inspired screen adaptations. 😉

The Famous Five series, also by Enid Blyton: Siblings Julian, Dick and Ann  take some time getting used to their cousin, Georgina (who prefers to be called “George” as anything that boys can do, she would do better!).

But once they do, they have the most exciting of adventures on their holidays on the rugged terrains of the English coast and hilly farmlands with the most deliciously mysterious castle ruins, turrets, buried treasure, secret codes and papers, scary caves and tunnels, choppy sea waters and intriguing lighthouses on rocky outcrops.

Joining them and making up the number five is Timmy, George’s dog.

I’m sure we’re only at the tip of the iceberg because there probably are some really good reading lists out there on homeschool forums and blogs, but it’s a start!