Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Book Giveaway Contest Ending Tonight

Just to let you all know that the Book Giveaway Contest will be ending tonight. Current results can be seen at the sidebar. These ladies have been working very hard. Kudos! I feel your spirit.
Anybody else going to sprint for the finish line? Remember, you just need to get into the top 3 spots.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Turmeric Chicken


I was cracking my head the other day thinking what to do with the chicken I had thawed out. I was in the mood to do something different. Well, different from my usual ginger chicken or chicken with mushroom. I decided to try kunyit" (turmeric) chicken and it actually turned out quite nice. The family gives it a thumbs up so here is the recipe.

Ingredients:
  • Chicken - In this case I used about 1/2 chicken.
  • 2-3 potatoes, quartered.
  • 1-2 large onions, quartered.
  • Garlic - chopped to tiny pieces. How much garlic depends on how much you like it. I love it so I put in plenty.
  • Ginger - Just a little bit, cut into strips.
  • 3-4 serai (lemon grass).
  • Turmeric powder.
  • Salt and sugar.

How I cooked it?

  • Rubbed a little salt on the chicken.
  • Then used about 2 tsp of turmeric powder and rubbed that over the chicken too.
  • Left the chicken to season for about 1 hour (or more).
  • Boiled the potatoes until cooked. Set it aside.
  • Put oil in the work and fry the garlic, onion, ginger and 'serai' until fragrant.
  • Add in the chicken and stir fry for a few minutes.
  • Pour in enough water for the chicken to simmer.
  • Add salt and sugar to taste.
  • Close the wok with a lid and let simmer till gravy thickens a bit.
  • Just before you turn off the fire, add in the cooked potatoes and stir it around.

p.s.: Even though I pounded the ends of the 'serai' to get the flavor out, my DH says the 'serai' taste is still too mild. Any ideas on how to get the 'serai' flavor out more?

p.s.s.: Did you know that research shows turmeric to be a spice that has antibiotic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antimicrobial properties? Some of the benefits when ingesting it are improving blood circulation, purifying the blood, strengthens the digestive system and improving the liver function.

It can also help clear up acne problem. Use it externally by making a paste and applying it on the acne. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes and then rinse off with lukewarm water. Here are some options on how to make the paste:

  • Ground fresh turmeric root with yogurt.
  • Turmeric powder mixed with mint juice.
  • Grounded neem leaves with turmeric powder.
  • Add 1tsp of turmeric powder, 1tsp of sandalwood powder and milk.

Beware of the yellow stain in leaves behind. Some say cleansing milk will get rid of the stain.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Edutainment Software Mia's Reading Adventures: The Bugaboo Bugs!

Some of you may know that I do pre-school homeschooling. I don't really follow a set of syllabus. I do a lot of reading to my children and also whatever workbooks I managed to get from book sales. Usually I follow the syllabus from the workbooks. Can't go much wrong there. I also look for educational activities on the internet, especially on topics that my children are interested in. There are also interactive websites such as Starfall.com and Iknowthat.com that my children enjoy playing. Another teaching tool I use are educational softwares. To date the software most enjoyed are the Jumpstart ones.



Now there's are new edutainment software called Mia Reading: The Bugaboo Bugs!
"Edutainment" sounds like a good way to learn - education + entertainment. We all know children learn best when it's in the form of playing.



The Adventure
Basically the software is about a little mouse (the heroin of the adventure) trying to get rid of the Bugaboo Bugs from her house. Her family has lived there for generations and now, these Bugaboo Bugs put them in danger of being evicted. You see, these horrible bugs might cause the humans to call the exterminators and then, everyone including Mia, will be out on the street.

The Education
Target = 5-9 year olds (Perfect for my no.1 and 2)
The educational activities are integrated into the story.
The following is what your children will learn:


  • associating images to words
  • adverbs
  • phonics
  • rhymes
  • spelling
  • sentence structure
  • vocabulary
  • reading comprehension
  • word recognition
  • etc... etc...etc...

How difficult is it?
The software supports the school's curriculum from kindergarten to grade three. There are 12 reading and writing skills activities with 4 distinct levels of difficulty. So I guess you can say it is a progressive way to learn to read. Of course with all computer activities, children must be given a time limit. Educational software should be a supplementary teaching tool. It serves as a good break from mundane worksheets and boring homework.

To see screen shots of the game, visit this Kutoka's page.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Egg Taufu with Minced Pork

I'll come right out and confess that I totally dislike taufu. The only kind of taufu I will eat is this egg taufu. Here is how I cook it:

Ingredients:
  • Egg taufu (slice into little round circles)
  • Chinese mushrooms (soak in hot water till soft then cut into thin slices)
  • Minced pork (For my Muslim friends, I'm sure chicken would be good too)
  • Garlic (minced into small pieces)
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Light soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • Cilantro ("Yin sai")

How to cook it?

  1. Add oil and fry the egg taufu first.
  2. Remove the taufu and set aside.
  3. Add oil and fry the garlic until turning brown.
  4. Add in minced pork and stir fry.
  5. Add a pinch of salt, little bit sugar and about 1-2 tsp of soy sauce.
  6. Add hoisin sauce and oyster sauce.
  7. Fry until it's cooked.
  8. Add in chinese mushroom.
  9. Pour in water to make gravy (how much water depends on how much gravy you want).
  10. Let it simmer a few minutes.
  11. Crack in one egg. Stir it around.
  12. When about done, just add back the already cooked taufu.
  13. Serve with some cilantro on top (if you don't like cilantro, you can just forget this option. I like it and I think it makes the dish look good).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Huggies Cleanteam

Have you heard? The Huggies Cleanteam is hitting the streets. Yup, not the "A-team" but the "Cleanteam." Their mission is to help parents establish good hygiene in children.

What exactly is the Huggies Cleanteam?
They are a bunch of cartoon characters each representing a specific cleaning product.
  • Daphne Dolphin - untangles hair
  • Sammy Snake - extra conditioning shampoo
  • Henry Hippo - hand soap (with lights that blink!)
  • Freddy Flamingo - flushable moist wipes
  • Billy Bison - bath wash
  • Wally Whale - disposable wash cloth
  • Carley Crab - cleansing cloth

These characters work together as a team. Watch the video and you'll know what I'm talking about. The idea is to make washing up look like fun.

If this is the Cleanteam, then my DH is the General. With regards to cleanliness, he and I have opposite upbringing. His mom is a clean freak (hate to say but it's true). Curtains are washed every week, floor is swept and mopped everyday, entire house is spick and span with not a sign of dust. My mom? Well, she's not a slob but cleanliness was not pressed upon us hardcore. Floor was mopped once, maybe twice a week. Dust is not an uncommon sight. She would do occasional spring cleanings. Her time was mostly spend out of the house anyway.

Currently in our home, DH demands a crumbless floor and strongly advocates a dustless environment. Kids have their orders to wash legs and hands immediately after playing outside. DH's attitude has instilled in the children that cleanliness is important. KokoD hates having his hands dirty. Every instance of slightly dirty hands, he runs to the sink. When he is sticky, he takes a bath himself. We do not have to call him. Even babyD has picked up a clean habit - he always asks for the toothbrush when we bath.

As for me? I'm still striving to live up to my DH clean standards. I still wait for mildew to appear before I start washing the bathroom walls. There has to be visible dirt on the fans before I clean them. Curtains are washed maybe once a year. BUT I do sweep and mop the floor everyday :)

Mamas Bag of Tricks:

  • Teaching cleanliness to children begins with the parents attitude and the state of the home.

Note to DH:
Thank you General. Even though you do stress us out once in a while with your clean freakiness, you do help keep us in line.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Children Attached to Maid

Having a maid has become normal practice in a Malaysian household. Therefore, part of being an effective parent here usually includes handling maid issues.

We've heard many horror maid stories -- maid run away, maid abuse children, maid don't do duties well, maid seduce husbands, maid stealing, maid having boyfriends etc.... These, of course, causes undue stress on parents. So, you'd think that having a good maid would be a blessing. Unfortunately, even good maids are a cause of concern for some parents.

Recently, I came across a working mother who voiced her dissatisfaction that her child seem to be closer to the maid than to her. I'm sure many of you have experienced before (or are currently experiencing) that jealous feeling when your child is more obedient to the maid, choose to spend time with the maid and stick to the maid even when you are around.

Just let me share some thoughts (and I hope I don't step on anybody's toes).
  • First, remember that YOU created that situation. Your child did not ask for a maid. If you ask your child, I'm sure they would be 110% in support of you staying home instead of the maid. Therefore, the choice of having a maid to act as a caretaker on your behalf, is your choice. I know some mothers cannot afford to stay home. But that is not the point here. The point is, you put a maid in your home, so be prepared to accept that your child is very likely going to have a close relationship with this caretaker.
  • Be realistic, you are not there for your children 24-7. You may say that you are the main caretaker of your children. However, in their waking hours, exactly how many hours are you around to take care of them? Probably not as many hours as the maid. Plus, children learn that mommy hired "kakak" to take care of them. So, if they need something (food, entertainment, comfort), they will go to the person that they are used to. In your eyes, you are the main caretaker because you are the mother. But in your children's eyes, do they see you as that? Take some time to ponder what you are in your child's mind.
  • Your child does not have an on/off button. If your child likes the maid, you cannot expect the child to switch off that feeling when mommy is around.
  • Don't try to compete with your maid for your child's affections. If your child loves the maid, doesn't mean he/she loves you less. You will always be the mother. Children know that!
  • Of course they are going to behave differently with you. Their time with you is limited. So you may encounter some "manja," cheekiness and playfulness. Also keep in mind that children may even misbehave to get their parent's attention. And boy, do they always want their parent's attention. I pray your children have not resorted to that trick.
  • If you really cannot accept that your child is closer to the maid than you, than stop whining about it and start clocking in more hours with your child. You cannot work out of the home and expect the blessings of being a SAHM.

I invite working mothers that have a maid to share their experience and thoughts. Like I said, I hope I have not offended anyone. Tell me if you agree or disagree with me. And what would your advise be for such a mother?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

First Attempt at Cupcake Decoration

Actually, the last posting on bithday cupcakes was not my first attempt at cupcake decoration. This picture really is my first try. It was done August last year. I kinda like this pink and white combination better. Anyway, the reason for this posting is to give you the icing recipe. It is different from the one I recently used. This one does not require shortening.
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs milk

Other resources:

1. Discover How To Have AnAwesome Children's Party! Get Both of These Children's Party Books... Almost 200 Party Craft Ideas and Almost 100 Party Game Ideas...
Click here to find out how these books can help you plan a great party.

2. Alex birthday party ideas.





Monday, April 14, 2008

Birthday Cupcakes

Since birthday cupcakes are the trend now (as oppose to birthday cakes), thought I'd try it out for my FIL's birthday. I'm not exactly the creative kind. As you can see, I need to improve in the artwork. Hahahah. I also need to get more icing dispenser thingy (what in the world do you call those?) I only have one and it looks like a big injection needle. I had 4 colours going - blue, red, green and white. As I only had one icing thingy, the colours started to get mixed up.
In the end, it was an exhausting affair.

Well, KokoD loved it and has placed an advanced order for his birthday. Thank goodness it is 4 months away. That gives me time to recuperate. Hahahah. To all professional cupcake decorators, I take my hats off to you.
By the way, I used Bake With Yan's ready muffin mix - blueberry and chocolate.
For the icing, I used the following recipe:
Thick Vanilla Frosting
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 3 tablespoons milk
Beat together shortening and vanilla with an electric mixer.
As you are beating, alternately add in powdered sugar and milk.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cleaning Up Tips

I highly propose that the next hurricane be named after my children. I'm sure some of you encounter the same mini "hurricane disaster" in the home. My older two "hurricanes" don't do much damage anymore. In fact, they've been recruited to the "search-rescue-restore" team. The "hurricane" that is still running it's course is this one: Hurricane Danic


Sometimes, I just feel like it's no use cleaning up his mess straight away. Afterall, he is just going to make another mess. Even the two older kids are tired of always picking things up. When we point to a messy area, the first thing out of their mouth is "It's not my mess! It's babyD. He did it." or "Why do I have to clean up again. Naughty baby. Don't come into my room again."


So, how to handle little hurricanes in the home?
  1. Teach the little fella where and how to put things back. This teaching is essential but not highly effective when they are still so little. Teaching them to clean up is more of a developmental training and not an immediate solution.
  2. Accept the fact that your house will be messy. It's part of their growing up. Don't stress yourself out. Give yourself permission to have a messy house (once in a while, not all the time okay!) Instead of trying to stop the "hurricane" (which is usually futile), try working on damage control. Designate an area where they are allowed to mess (but must be cleaned up at the end of the day.)
  3. Don't ever say "you mess, you clean." Children are quick to use it against you.
  4. Encourage a group effort. Put on the timer for 1 minute and be a "group hurricane" rushing through the house to put things back. Make it a game to see who can be the fastest. Children love competition. If you have a lot of mess, than maybe put the timer for an extra few minutes. But keep the time short. That way, cleaning will feel more "do-able".

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Book Review: Growing Up Green

I've just finished reading GROWING UP GREEN: Baby and Child Care by Deirdre Imus. And I must say, it is a real eye opener for me.

What is the book about?
Basically, it is a practical guide to raising a healthy child in our increasingly toxic environment. The book highlights the many ways we are being exposed to this environmental toxins and it's effects on our children. Some of the issues mentioned are:

  • unhealthy diets and contaminated food such as fast food diets, mercury in fish and pesticides on vegetables
  • toxic household cleaners
  • toxic personal care products such as cosmetics
  • dangerous substances in dairy products
  • how to choose environmentally safe toys and baby products
  • Debate on vaccination - life saver or cause for other problems such as autism
  • Alternatives to prescription drugs for children
  • How a school environment can be toxic too

As the book takes you through specific issues faced by children during different age groups, they also list out the specific toxic ingredients you need to look out for. At the end of the book are suggestions on what kind of healthy foods to store as well as healthy meal recipes. There's also a collection of recommended reading, web product guide and studies on children's health.

My Review
This book is not just for people who are already parents, but also for those who are planning to be parents one day. Working towards raising a healthy child starts even before conception. We cannot deny that our toxic environment has something to do with the rise in the number of children having asthma, premature birth, birth defects, heart disease, leukemia, diabetes, autism, dyslexia, mental retardation, ADHD and obesity.

Reading this book, you can hear Dierdre's urgency for us to play a bigger role in detoxifying our lives. She cites many statistics, research reports and doctor's opinions. You can see she has done her homework on this matter.

The book is not about treating childhood illnesses but rather about prevention.

What I like about the book is how she specifically tells what options you have. So, the message is not just "stay away from this stuff" but also "use this instead." She specifically tells you what product you can use and where to find them. Plus, many of the recommendation stems from her own personal use. Unfortunately some of the online references provided are not working.

So, what impact did this book have on me?
Well, the next time I washed my hair I quickly scanned through the ingredients of my shampoo and conditioner. ACK! My Sunsilk conditioner actually has formaldehyde. It's a carcinogen in humans. Some of the things written in the book I already knew or heard before such as don't reuse water mineral bottles and don't use plastic containers and plastic wrap when microwaving food. However, this book just made me aware that there's a whole lot more to consider. Okay, let's see what I can do to go a little greener :)

This book is priced at USD15.95

WANT TO GET A FREE COPY?
I have 3 copies to give away for FREE. But only open to Malaysians okay because it's too expensive to ship overseas.

If you want a free copy, start collecting points. I will give the books to the top 3 scorers.

HOW TO COLLECT POINTS:

  1. Email to your friends and tell them about my online children's bookshop at http://www.valuebookshop.com. CC or BCC your emails to contest@valuebookshop.com. Every friend you tell earns you 1 point. Make sure they are people you know. Don't spam. Don't cheat.
  2. Link your blog(s) to my bookshop (http://www.valuebookshop.com) and/or my bookshop's blog (http://blog.valuebookshop.com). Email your URL to contest@valuebookshop.com. Every link earns you 5 points.
  3. Make a blog post about "Going Green" (at least 200 words long). You could write whatever on the topic e.g. natural ways you clean your house, where you buy organic food, how you detoxify yourself, why you think this organic craze is going overboard, why you are going to feed your MIL mercury fish etc.... Good or bad, let's hear it. Email your URL to contest@valuebookshop.com. A blog post earns you 5 points.
  4. Write a blog post about my bookshop (http://www.valuebookshop.com). Email your URL to contest@valuebookshop.com. This blog post earns you 10 points.


CLOSING DATE: 30 APRIL 2008


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Thoughts On Preschools

Saw this discussion over at Parenting Times. Was wondering whether to participate or not (coz' I opt to do home-preschool), then Linda left a comment at my blog and kindly requested I contribute. So, okaylah. I do my good deed for the day. Hahahaha.

Here are her questions:
1. Do childcare and preschool sound different for parents?
Yes. Parents equate childcare to babysitting. Whereas preschool is equated to early childhood education.

2 Will parents choose childcare instead of preschool, or vice versa, by knowing that preschools offers more educational services, while childcares are more custodial and most of the time offer full-day service that benefit the working parents?
It depends on the age of the child. I would say parents with children aged 0-2 will opt for childcare. Parents with children aged 3 and above are more likely to choose a preschool setting. Furthermore, a majority of preschools have after-school childcare services. The option of combining both education and babysitting services appeals to many full time working parents.

Especially, for Question 3 and 4, Please sort out the options provided, from the most important to the least. In which, the inclusion of some justification and additional important points will be greatly appreciated.

3. What are the requirements that can make up a quality preschool?
- Well-managed curriculum
- Facilities (e.g Library, playground, teaching materials)
- Quality educators
- Learning environment
- Others
-__________
- Quality educators. The teachers are the main focus of a kindergarten. Whether a child will love to go to school or not depends on how they feel about their teachers. Whether a child will love learning or not also depends on the type of teachers they have. Next to a parent, I feel they are they next biggest influence on a child.
- Regular updates the parents on the child's development. Discusses with the parents on how to work with the child.
- Willing to listen to the parent's concerns. Teacher and parents work hand in hand.
- Facilities. A library is important. Children should be surrounded by books and encouraged to read. Playground must be safe and not run down. But children must also be given the time to play or else what is the playground for.
- Teaching aids to make learning a sensorial experience.
- Well-managed curriculum. The preschool should use a curriculum that has been proven effective.
- Learning environment. Must be bright, cheerful and clean. Children must feel comfortable and happy.

4. How would parents define “quality educators”?
- A degree holder
- Training certified person
- Patience in dealing with the children
- Others
___________
- They are resourceful. Meaning they have with them many different teaching methods and know which is the best one to use for each individual child. Good teachers are ones that can reach out to the children. So I guess some kind of training is required.
- They are sensitive to the different rates of development in each child and will adapt their teaching accordingly.
- They make learning fun and foster the love for learning, rather than drilling the child endlessly.
- Fun personality. Children like to be around them.
- Even though a fun teacher, they do discipline with love.
- They go beyond teaching abc's by fostering the child's character as well.
- A degreer holder. Not necessary.
- Ask your children. If they say the teacher is good, then he/she is good :)

5. Would you, as parents, allow your children to be exposed to technology in their preschool age (3 to 5 years old) as supportive tools in their learning process? Such as: computer interactive game help in the building of creativity, letters introduction with the use of computers, access to internet, etc. (any example of any kind of technology that have helped your children to learn might be helpful)
Yes. But like you said, it must be a SUPPORTIVE tool and not the main tool. I do surf the internet and have found, many useful learning programs for my children like
Starfall.com, Sesamestreet.com, storyplace.org, iknowthat.com, Boowa and Kwala. More of my online resource here: http://del.icio.us/lian8. My children are very familiar with the use of the computer and can navigate themselves. My goal is that they learn how to search for information on the net so they can expand their knowledge beyond the classroom. For example,
learning about whales, we searched the net to listen to whale sounds. Also, created emails for them to encourage them to write. During my time we had pen-pals. Why not have email-pals? Later, will teach them how to use practical applications such as photo editing, creating word documents, excel, digital drawings etc....

Although learning to use the computer is an important part of their education, parents must enforce time limits.


6. Finally, any opinions to point out and expectations to be expected from a preschool, please do clarify it further.
- With the many current kidnappings, safety is very important.
- Do not succumb to parents' pressure to pile up on the homework. If you communicate regularly with the parent, they do not need to use "quantity of homework" as a measuring tool to how much their child is learning at school. If you really need to give homework, give FUN homework. Be creative. Do away with the boring homework of writing repetitive letters and words.
- Assure parents that PLAYING is part of learning.
- Get parents more involved in their children's learning. We need to change parents mindset that once children go to school, teaching is the teacher's responsibility. It should be parents and teachers become partners.

Okay, that's it. So, who wants to be next?

It's been pretty good taking part in this questionnaire. Really made me think what I really want from a preschool. Things are always clearer when you put it down on paper. Well, in this case, on a blog.

So, what kind of preschools are you looking for?

p.s. If you decide to participate, let
MG know and she will link to you on her list of parents who participated.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Easy Char Siu

WARNING: NON-HALAL

This char-siu dish got a rating of 9/10 from my family. Want to try? Very easy to do. If you know me, easy-to-cook are the only types of dishes I do.

And the secret recipe is.... Lee Kum Kee Char Siu Sauce.
Hahahahah.
Told you it was easy. Highly suitable for people who don't think they are good cooks or who are beginner cooks. Also great for lazy cooks (like me) and busy cooks.

Ingredients:
"Sam chan" pork meat (I believe in English it is called pork belly).
Ready made char siu sauce.
Honey.

Method of cooking:
Cut meat into bite size.
Marinate with char siu sauce for 2 hours or more.
Bake in the oven at 190 degrees celcius for about 20-25 minutes.
Squirt some honey all around (not too much though, you don't want it too sweet or to over power the char siu sauce).
Take a spoon or something and mix in the honey with the almost ready to eat meat.
Since it's hot, the honey will just melt in.
Pop back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
Should be ready to eat by now.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Baby's Happy Feet

video

This "happy feet" dance is extremely helpful when you need them to wipe dry their feet on a foot rug :)

The Answer Is...

AUSTRALIAN CUSTARD APPLE!My mom brought it over on Sunday. It was from her tree. Previously she had given us a tree but we have yet to see any fruits. Since we all didn't know what the fruit looked like or what it tasted like, she brought it over for us to try. As you can see from K's expression, it's "yum yum".
I have saved the seeds. Anybody want to try growing it? Let me know and I'll germinate it first. Then we can meet up somewhere.
The other half of this post is here:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What Fruit Is This?

The Outside
(From green, it turns yellow when ripe)

The Inside

Let's see who knows what fruit this is?