Saturday, May 31, 2008

Getting Kids Into The Kitchen

Many parents shoo their children out of the kitchen. But in actual fact, getting kids into the kitchen is very beneficial for them and for you. Cooking is a skill that should not be overlooked. And I'm not just talking about teaching your daughters how to cook, but also your sons.
For young children, they are many hidden lessons in the kitchen - math, science, reading. You can also build up their motor skills when you teach them to crack eggs, help do the whipping or stirring, kneading, rolling, cutting, pouring, peeling, etc.... Not forgetting passing down knowledge you don't find in books such as the fastest way to peel garlic, how to counteract spiciness, what is the best soy sauce to use etc....

When I was in primary school, I joined the Brownies. I remember one activity that involved cooking. One girl cooked French Toast and it was really good. I recall wondering "where did she learn to do that?" I was quite amazed at her capability.

Well, I've decided that I need to rope in my daughter into the kitchen more often. I've been inspired by some moms out there who cook with their children every Saturday. I think this is a wonderful idea. Not only do the children learn, but it's also a great way to bond and spend some quality time together.

Here's K trying not to burn the french toast.

First time I'm trusting her with a knife.

Edible? Baby thinks so. It turned out great.

An important part of cooking is learning to prepare the ingredients. I had K peel garlic for me today. A whole bunch of them. She was a great help and freed up some time for me to clean the fans in the house. She learned something today -- peeling garlic is sticky. Oh, she learned another thing -- your hands smell of garlic even after you wash :)

BTW, K is going to be 7 years old this year. I believe you can start getting them into the kitchen at about 5 years old.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

How I Motivated My Child To Excel In Exams

Last Thursday, my girl came back from school and she was screaming "Mommy, Mommeeeeee" all the way from the outside gate until inside the house. I thought she was being chased by some bad guys or something. Actually, she was screaming because she scored 100% in her science paper. She was very excited.

I'm not telling you guys this to brag (okay, brag a little lah). But just wanted to discuss about ways you motivate your children to excel in exams. Before her recent exams, my girl was saying that it is impossible to get 100%. However, I know it is within her potential to achieve 100%. So to get her a little motivated, I said I'd reward her RM5 for every 100% she got.

So, now my question is:
Do you think it is a good idea to motivate your children with money????

I remember when I was in school, I had friends who had promises of oversea trips if they did well in exams. Me? My mom would say "you should ask what you will get if you DON'T do well." Hahaha. She said it jokingly.

But I believe money can be a good motivator. The trick is not to offer too much coz' then you overshadow the intrinsic reward. You still want the "feel good" factor to be greater than the external factor.

Let me share with you how my father encouraged me during my golf practices. Yes, sometimes he would use money too but it was so my practice sessions stayed interesting. I would earn money for every birdie, double three, double 5, and trot. But I would also have to pay for double bogeys. Sorry if you don't understand the golf terms. Bottom line is, it worked for me. It wasn't a lot of money but just the token of it was good enough to keep me striving.

Anyway, that was my strategy with my girl. I just wanted her to strive for the 100% by attaching a token to it. Now that she knows it is not impossible, I think I will reduce the reward (or else I might go "pokai"). Hahahah.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Baby Milestone: 17 Months

Baby is starting to show signs of independence. He now demands for his own bowl and spoon during eating times. He tries hard to get the food onto his spoon and then into his mouth. Sometimes he is successful with the former, but not the latter :) When the process gets to difficult, there is always the backup plan... use fingers to eat.
What does mommy do? Tell daddy to close his eyes coz' he cannot stand mess. Hahaha. Also to cut down on clean up time, I put a newspaper under the bowl and also newspaper on the floor to catch the ones that "get away" or "fly away". I must give some credit to daddy. He has been very patient in "coaching" baby to eat. He will take baby's hand and show him how to scoop up the food. The most important part is teaching baby to lean forward as he puts the food into his mouth. That way if he misses, the food will drop into the bowl/plate. So remember, bring the mouth to the spoon and not the other way around.

This stage of wanting to eat by himself is a real test for us. I realize that baby and us have different agendas. Here we are focused on getting baby to eat. Whereas, baby is happy that he has been given the freedom to PLAY with food. He is more focused on what he can do with the utensil in his hand - push the food around, trying to cut the food, tossing the food, occasionally using it to put food in his mouth, trying to scoop food from your plate etc.... It's a tough stage but it's vital that we don't give up. It's easier to just continue feeding them ourselves. Easier BUT not beneficial.

BabyD at this age has also mastered the art of getting pity. When I scold him, he will cry tragically to his daddy. When daddy scolds him, he will come running to me. When we both scold him, he will seek out jie-jie (big sister). He will put his hands to his eyes and motion for you to wipe away his tears. When you ask him what happened, he will complain in his own baby way (coz' he can't talk yet). Fantastic this baby. The other day at church, he went from one auntie to another, pointing to a tiny mosquito bite on his hand. With his cutie pie face, you can imagine the pampering he got.

Oh baby, baby. You make life very interesting... and exhausting.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fill Your Love Tank For Effective Parenting

This is what I probably looked like to my kids yesterday.

This is how I felt yesterday.

I admit it, yesterday was not a good day for me. The cleaning, cooking, washing, mothering etc... just got the better of me. I just felt unappreciated and uncared for. I was mean and just couldn't find the strength to GIVE anymore. Yup, I wanted to be selfish and think of ME for a change. Inside my head I was scheming how to runaway from the house (but I didn't). Sigh! It really was an "ARRRGH!" day. I think many parents out there know what I mean.

My poor kids felt their mommy didn't love them anymore. I even got a note from them saying "Dear Mommy, you don't love your children anymore is it? You only love baby."
Alamak! Well, it was a blessing to get that note coz' then I was able to think and explain to them (in writing) what happened to their mommy. I realized that I was running on an empty "love tank".

Now what is this talk about a "love tank?" It's based on this book called "5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. The 5 love languages mentioned in the book are:
  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

Like a car that needs petrol in the tank to function, we need love in our tank to function effectively too. But how a person perceives love can differ from how their love ones perceive it. For example, your husband buys you a high tech vacuum cleaner. He perceives this as showing love because the vacuum cleaner will be a great help in your daily cleaning. However, you don't perceive that gift as love. Love to you is going out for a nice dinner and spending some alone time together. Hence, your love tank remains empty because both husband and wife are talking different "love languages."

So anyway, Monday nights are our Family Home Evening night. And naturally, the lesson was on "how to fill our love tanks." (My DH was snickering when he heard what the topic was, humph!). We wrote down the 5 ways and gave an explanation on what each was. With children you have to give plenty of examples. So, we discussed specific encouraging / complimentary phrases to use and specific acts of service that can be performed. Then we each identified which was our "love language". Jie-jie straight away pointed to "quality time" and "physical touch." KokoD said he wanted "acts of service." But we also know "physical touch" is important to him coz' he is always hugging and kissing me. Daddy and mommy also chose "acts of service."

In summary to my yucky day, here are my parenting tips:
  • You can't be an effective parent on an empty love tank.
  • Be thick skinned and tell your family what you need to get that tank filled. Don't wait for your spouse to guess it right or assume that he/she knows. If you need a day off, just say it. If you feel unappreciated, scream it!
  • Explain to your children how you feel. When I replied their note and told them what I felt, my daughter went "Silly mommy!" Then she tried to do things to make me feel better. She took extra effort to wash her own plate and take care of the baby. So, tell your children you need a little caring from them too. Tell them your "empty tank" needs a re-fueling.
  • When you are having a bad day and feeling disgruntled, it's good to put your feelings down on paper. It gets you thinking more rationally, and it helps to organize your thoughts. It's one way to let the "steam" out and you don't have to scream to do it. Post it on the wall for all to see. That'll get your kids learning to read too. Hahahah.

Friday, May 16, 2008

How To Cut Onions and Don't Cry

I hate cutting onions coz' I always end up crying with eyes stinging. I remember when I was younger, I heard that if we stick some match sticks in our mouth (like smoking cigarette) while cutting, the onions won't make you cry. I tried that. Errr... sorry, didn't work.
I've also tried holding my breath as much as I can while cutting. I thought that breathing in the onion vapors is what makes you cry right. Wrong! It's the stuff that gets in your eyes and irritate it.
So, I just read somewhere that cutting onions near a fire source will stop the stinging eyes. Something to do with the fire burning up the vapors from the onions coz' it's highly flamable (don't quote me coz' I don't know if it's true). Anyway, this is what I did yesterday. Put a little candle on the table as I cut away.


A little bit of stinging eyes but no tears. Maybe I need a bigger candle :)

p.s. They say cutting under water or under running water will wash away the vapors when you cut. But I don't think that is practical. Well, not for me anyway.

p.s.s. This will make a great science lesson for children. Teach them "why onions make you cry?"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nice Cloth Diaper in Malaysia

I recently wrote a tip about how to wash cloth diapers in the washing machine without ruining it. Thought I'd follow up with an introduction to a Malaysian online store that sells cloth diapers. I see more and more mothers choosing to use cloth diapers over disposable ones. If you are wondering where to buy them, you can visit...

Nice Cloth Diaper

The brands they carry are Bumwear, Baby Beehinds, and KS Velcro Pocket Diaper.
I hear some women also trying out Cotton Menstrual Pads. This shop carries that product also. Other stuff they have are like baby slings/pouches, flashcards (English, Chinese & BM), environmental friendly mosquito and cockroach repellent and environmental friendly laundry ball (this one I've never heard but sounds interesting).

Well, just thought you'd like to know of another Malaysian parenting shop. Pay them a visit today.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chicken Curry Kapitan

First off, I want to say that I'm not sure if what I cooked here is really Chicken Curry Kapitan. I searched the net for a recipe and I think it is sort of like that lah. The reason for cooking this dish is none other than to fulfill my DH wishes. He is the "I-love-to-eat-spicy-food" kinda person. He has even requested that there be a curry dish at least once a week. Sigh! Big challenge for someone who grew up not knowing how to eat spicy food. It is through his influence that I've come to acquire the taste for chili.

Anyway, this dish has a spicy-sour taste. DH says that "it's almost there." We can't figure out what I'm missing out. He also can't quite remember what authentic Curry Kapitan taste like. It may not taste like authentic Kari Kapitan but it still taste good.

So, if you are game to try, here is the recipe. Oh, before I start, must say that this dish does require a bit of work and planning. It's not one of those dishes that you can decide impromptu and pull things from your kitchen cabinets. My very talented FIL does a wonderful job stocking our fridge with ready made chili paste. Let me give you his chili recipe first:

  • 50g dry chili (take out the seeds. Wash and soak in hot water).
  • 250g shallots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Belacan, 1 finger long
  • Lengkuas (about 1 inch)
  • Kunyit – if fresh, about 1 inch, if powder form 1 tsp.
  • 3-4 lemon grass. Cut away the top and chop it up.
  • 6-8 candlenut. Smash it
  • 20-25 pcs cili padi (depends on how spicy you want it).

In a blender, blend all the ingredients above to a paste.
In a wok, put about 1 cup oil then add the paste. Cook under medium fire until it comes to a boil. Turn down to low fire and keep on stirring for 20-30 minutes. The longer you stir, the longer you will be able to store it. Put in container and refrigerate.

Tip: Be sure to have sufficient amount of oil so it doesn’t burn.

With this ready to go chili paste, cooking any curry or spicy food becomes a breeze. If you have to prepare chili paste each and every time you want to cook, then cooking becomes time consuming. So it is good to allocate some free time to prepare this chili paste and store in the freezer.

Okay, now for the rest of the CURRY KAPITAN RECIPE.

  • Chicken cut into bite size (I used about 1/2 a chicken). Marinade with about 1 tbsp of kunyit (turmeric) powder, some salt and a sprinkle of belacan granules.
  • 2 big onions - quartered
  • 2 tomatoes - quartered
  • Garlic - minced
  • The above mentioned chili paste.
  • 4-5 lemon grass. Chopped up and then pounded.
  • Curry leaves (just because DH bought a whole bunch that was on sale).
  • Coconut milk
  • Lime leaves (the fragrant ones).
  • Lime to make lime juice
  • Put oil in wok and start frying the garlic.
  • Then put in the pounded lemon grass and onions.
  • Add in your chili (how much depends on how spicy you want it to be).
  • Next is some sugar (to take away some spiciness).
  • Fry (or us Malaysians like to say "tumi") until fragrant. Hokkien we say "phang-phang".
  • Add in the chicken and keep on frying for a little while.
  • A dash of soy sauce.
  • Pour in the coconut milk. Sorry I didn't measure. I just bought the packet of fresh coconut from the shop and poured into the wok about 2/3. If estimate, I would say about 1 cup of milk?
  • I added in a bit of water too, so the chicken can cook, simmer and stew.
  • Dumped in some lime leaves, a bunch of curry leaves and the tomatoes.
  • Also added 1/3 cube of chicken stock.
  • Covered the wok and let it simmer till most of the gravy has evaporated. Stirring occasionally.
  • Towards the end, add the rest of the coconut milk and the lime juice.
  • Cook for about another 5 minutes. Gravy should be quite thick now.
  • Don't forget to taste and see if it's salty enough etc.... Suit your taste okay.
I read some recipes calling to add thin coconut milk in the beginning and then thick coconut milk at the end. Aiyah, sorry-lah. Me lazy to buy the shredded coconut and do the squeezing myself. So, I'm voting to forgo the thin and thick part. I just buy the already squeezed coconut milk and use that. First part of the cooking I poured in the milk and then added water, so can consider as thin milk I guess. Then towards the end I just add the rest of the coconut milk (without water), can consider that thick milk right?

Okay, I think you guys get the picture that my cooking isn't exactly like the pros. But hey, it still tasted darn good.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What Happened to My Cloth Diaper

I know many mothers are now turning to using cloth diapers. But I've not read of anyone having problems with the leg gathers/gutters/gusset/becoming loose. Not sure how to explain...erm... meaning the stretchy thingy that is suppose to keep all the poo in is now stretched and has lost it's spring-iness. So much so that if baby has loose stools, it kinda runs down his leg. Ewww!

Maybe I should give some background as to how I wash these diapers. If there is poo, I hand wash it off first and then later, dump it into the washing machine with the rest of my daily laundry. I only bought 7, so I have to wash everyday or I will run out. Now, I suspect the gutters (that's what I'm calling it) have become loose because of the spin-dry action of the washing machine. You know when you take the clothes out to dry, they are all kinda tangled up together? Well, I believe this repeated stretching because of the entanglement is why my cloth diapers are what they are today.

Recently I started using a laundry bag to wash them. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done.

Mamas Parenting Tip:
  • For all mothers out there with still new cloth diapers, consider using a laundry bag to wash your cloth diapers. This is so they won't get tangled with your other laundry and stretch out the gutters.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Baby Milestone: 15-16 months

Looks like I missed baby's 15 month milestone. So, guess I'll do a 2-in-1 posting. Many people say babyD is very mature for his age. He understands so many things and the way he handles himself, sometimes can give you heart attack coz' you think he is going to fall or bump his head but he doesn't. And even when he does fall, he won't cry (unless very, very, very painful). Yes, his pain tolerance is quite high. He has cut himself a few times before and I didn't know about it coz' he made no noise. Okay, so here is a list of things he is up to:
  • He soooooo wants to be involved in our activities and always looking for ways to help. The other day when we called for the older two siblings to help take the plates of rice out to the dining table, who should come running into the kitchen instead? Yes, babyD with his hands stretched out, asking us to give him the plates. We gave him forks and spoons instead. Now he comes for the fork and spoons every time we get ready to eat.
    He would also sit and watch me sweep and mop the floor. In the end I will give him mop a bit and that is what he is waiting for.
    He will want to put the folded clothes into the laundry basket so I can carry it upstairs. Unfortunately all the clothes will come undone. Helpful but also not helping you know?
  • He observes everyone and everything and then he will imitate. Here he is sitting quietly watching his dad fix a computer. Soon after he took the screwdriver and tried to poke around the computer too.
    He would also sit and watch me cook. Today while I was cooking in the kitchen, he was in the dining area with a spoon and a tiny metal sauce plate pretending to cook too.
    He will sometimes watch tv and pretend to laugh (even though nothing funny is on). I guess that's what he observes us doing - watch tv and laugh.
    He has seen me use the company chop on my customer receipts. He knows where it is kept. My drawers now need a lock!
  • The two words he says very clearly are "park" (to go to the park) and "neh-neh" (human milk dispensers). He will also say "booh" for book. The other night I was sitting across him from the dining table and he stood up and leaned against the table and said "mama." I was elated thinking he was calling me. I went over to him to pick him up but he didn't even look at me. He kept saying "mama, mama." You know what he wanted? BANANA. Sigh! banana/mama, come on boy, don't do this to me?? :)
  • Likes to sit on daddy's lap during "makan" (eating) time.
  • I have to watch for his "poo-poo" face so I can whisk him off to the bathroom. Doesn't seem to have a problem sitting on the bowl.
  • It's easier to understand what he wants now coz' he will point and then nod for yes or shake his head for no.
  • Still has to suck 'nen-nen' to sleep.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Featured In the Newspaper

Just excited to inform everyone that my blogs and online children's bookshop is being featured on Monday's (5/5/08) New Strait Times, Tech&U section.

I wonder how the article will turn out. Ooooh, I'm excited!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mother's Day Candy Bouquet

Keep your kids busy with this easy-to-do candy flower. Make a few and you will have a blooming candy bouquet. All you need is some lollipops, colored paper, scissors, glue and ribbon. I know some of you mothers out there probably say you don't eat lollipop, that it's too childish or you're cutting down on sweets. I think it's still the perfect gift:

  • Cheap

  • Straight from the heart

  • Lollipop makes your kid happy

  • Their special written messages (or scribblings, depending on the age of your child) makes your heart all fuzzy.

Click here for step by step instructions on how to make this lollipop flower.
Here is more stuff on candy bouquets.
For those with an entrepreneur spirit, why not think about starting your own candy bouquet business.