Monday, June 27, 2011

Avoiding summer brain drain in your kids

(ARA) - The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are here and for kids that means time out of the classroom and out of doors. While school may be out for summer, you don't have to succumb to the summer brain drain that affects children each year.

Research shows that many students may lose as much as a few months' worth of learning in the summer. A 2007 study by the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University found a direct link between summer learning loss and the achievement gap.

"Typically, teachers spend the first week to the first two months of the school year trying to bring student knowledge up to a specific level in order to advance their learning," says Debra Hill, associate professor in the College of Education at Argosy University, Chicago and president-elect of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. "This is found most commonly in math, where review can last through the first full semester in some grade levels."

So when all your kids want is down time, how do you keep their minds tuned up?

While proactive summer learning can certainly improve a child's retention rate, the way that they learn in the summer may be different from how they learn while in the classroom. "Learning is an ongoing, lifelong activity," says Hill. "A mental break for your kids in the summer should occur not based on learning, but based on the activities students engage in related to learning. Summer should be about more reading for fun, exploration, communication and application of what they have learned.

"Since students do not often practice by doing or by teaching others, it would follow that the application of what they have learned in school through hands-on activities in the summer will assist in retention in the fall," says Hill. "Hands-on experiences, conversation, physical activity will help kids continue to be mentally active." Providing students with opportunities to participate in activities they consider fun will not lessen the learning.

"The more you can keep your students accessing previously learned knowledge in a new and practical way, the more it is likely to get implanted and permanently ingrained in their brains," says Kevin Yeoman, an instructor in the Game Art & Design program at The Art Institute of Fort Worth.

Family meals, trips to the store, collecting shells on the beach, heading to sports camp and most any other activity can have a learning component if parents engage in conversation with their kids about the activity. "Learning a new skill, or about a new place, or a different way of doing something, or meeting new people are ways of studying. There will not be a test, yet the new information contributes to the overall mental growth of the individual," says Hill.

"Keep your students actively engaged in the world," says Yeoman. The more they can apply their book knowledge to new experiences and activities they enjoy, the more learning will take place."

"You don't want to create a resistance to learning by forcing your child into the same types of activities they do during the year," says Yeoman. "Instead, take the lessons they've learned in school and apply them to everyday situations. Whether it's having your child map out the route to the grocery store or use basic geometry to create a sandcastle, you're providing them the opportunity to apply their book knowledge in a new way."

And that can even hold true with video games. "There are excellent technology tools such as video games and online projects that are educational and engaging," says Hill. "The key is balance and not encouraging kids to focus most of their time on their electronic toys."

"Ask kids what they like and want to do," encourages Hill. "As an adult, examine what learning can take place when your child gets to select the activities they participate in. Talk to your kids, ask questions, provide problems to be solved, give them opportunities to explore and model what it's like to be a life-long learner."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Moments That Matter Most

I totally LOVE this video and heart the message. Hope it awakens your senses like it did mine.
Click here to discover the 4 key relationships regarding things that matter most.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crochet A Headband With Flower

My mom bought some yarn and crochet needles for my girl to learn. We found on YouTube a simple project for her to do - a 3 strand headband. She did okay crocheting the basic chain but got frustrated doing the slip stitch. This girl of mine gives up easily. So, I made it into a "duet" project: She did all the basic chain and I did all the rest.

She was very happy when it was completed. I also was very happy coz' I learned something new too. I can now crochet a flower. Woohoo!

I was just thinking to myself, how lucky we are these days with the internet. Before, I would have to go to the yarn shop to look for somebody to teach me. Now, all I have to do is turn on my computer.

Anyway, if you are looking for a simple crochet project, you can try this first. Here are the 2 videos to show you how:
Part 1
Part 2

Monday, June 20, 2011

Safe sleep for babies: What every parent needs to know

(ARA) - Safety is a top priority for every parent. When it comes to sleep, giving your baby a safe sleep environment is extremely important, but even the best caregivers can overlook small things that can have serious risks.

Whether you're a first-time parent or you've faced these questions before, here are some safety guidelines to keep in mind so you can provide your baby with the ideal sleep environment:

Mattress and sheets - Place your baby in a safety-approved crib with a firm mattress. When selecting a mattress for the crib, a firmer option is preferred over one that is too soft and flexible. Make sure that the mattress fits securely in the crib. You should not be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib side. A quality, firm mattress will help keep your child sleeping safely and comfortably.

Bonus tip: Before purchasing a crib, visit to make sure the crib you selected has not been recalled.

In addition to a firm mattress, the crib sheet should fit snug so it stays put when your baby is in the crib. A sheet that is too loose may be a suffocation hazard.

Crib bumper safety  - A crib bumper that wraps around the inside of the crib will help protect your baby's arms and legs from becoming caught between crib slats possibly resulting in bruised or broken limbs, or the development of neuropathy. A traditional crib bumper that is plush, pillowy and made with non-breathable fabrics increases the risks of suffocation.  While it might seem parents are forced to choose between suffocation or entanglement risks, there is a safer alternative that addresses both concerns.

BreathableBaby's Breathable Mesh Crib Bumper is a safer alternative to traditional crib bumpers. Their award-winning mesh crib bumper will keep your baby's arms and legs inside the crib and has been evaluated, tested and recommended by pediatricians. It incorporates A.C.T. (Air Channel Technology) which promotes continuous air access and helps reduce the risks of suffocation, and rebreathing carbon dioxide - risks associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). BreathableBaby's mesh crib bumper is sold online and at stores nationwide for under $30. Visit for a list of stores.

"We want parents to do everything they can to keep their baby safe," say pediatricians Dr. Joel Clingenpeel and Dr. Jim Schmidt, founders of Child Safety House Calls. "This product addresses many of the risks we know are associated with traditional bumpers."

Keep clutter out of crib - For most parents, all those cute stuffed animals and soft blankets might seem a natural fit for the crib, but unfortunately they all pose suffocation risks.

Toys and stuffed animals are best saved for interactive play time. As for blankets, consider a wearable blanket that zips around your baby and can't ride up over her face reducing the risks of suffocation. However, when using a wearable blanket, dress your baby lightly to avoid her getting too hot.

Bonus tip: Set the room at a temperature that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.

Safe sleep position -The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend placing babies to sleep on their backs during naps and nighttime.

Tummy-time play is important to strengthen neck, chest, shoulder and arm muscles. Placing a baby on her belly should be done when she is awake and closely supervised.  When your baby is in the care of a sitter, family member or friend, remind them to put her to sleep on her back, as they may not realize its importance.

By following these easy and important tips you'll be able keep your baby safer when you put her to sleep, helping you both rest a bit easier.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bizarre Thoughts of a 4 Year Old

We were in the car on the way to pick up my older 2 kids from school. I asked D2, who was tagging along, what did he want to be when he grow up? Here's the conversation:

Me: D2, what do you want to be when you grow up?
D2: When I grow up, I will be ready.
Me: What? You will be what?
D2: I will be ready.
Me: Ready? Ready for what?
D2: Ready to serve a mission.*
Me: Oh, I see. No, I mean what do you want to do when you grow up? What kind of work do you want to do?
D2: Hmmm... I want to sell popcorn.
Me: Huh? You want to sell popcorn?
D2: Yeah, I want to sell popcorn in that library (pointing to the library in front of us).
Daddy: What? You want to sell popcorn in the library? Okay, how are you going to market your popcorn? What are you going to do to make lots of money from selling popcorn? Do you have a marketing plan or not?
D2: Yes. I have 4 ways.
Daddy: Okay, tell me what is the 1st way.
D2: I will make bluff money.
Daddy: You cannot make bluff money. The police will catch you.
D2: If they catch me ah, I will kill the police.
Mommy: You cannot kill the police. You'll end up in jail. Ok, ok, why don't you tell us what is your 2nd way.
D2: I will make real money.
Mommy: Oh, now you make REAL money.
Daddy: What is the 3rd way?
D2: I make a BIG car.
Daddy: What does a big car have to do with selling popcorn? You know what we are talking about or not?
D2: Yes. Put the big, yummy popcorn in the BIG car and then eat lah.
Mommy: Ok, nevermind. What is the 4th way?
D2: I sell money.
Mommy: How to sell money?
D2: I sell RM1, RM1, RM1, RM1....
Mommy: How much are you going to sell your RM1?
D1: RM10.

Sometimes, talking to D2 can get REAL bizarre.

* We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Boys usually serve a 2 year mission when they turn 19 years old. We were discussing during our Family Home Evening, how the 2 boys need to prepare themselves early so they will be ready when it is time for them to go on a mission. That is why when asked "what do you want to be when you grow up?", D2 answered "I want to be ready." He was remembering back to our discussion the night before.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Baby Hawk Carrier: Oh Snap Review

When it comes to comfortable soft structured carriers, the Baby Hawk Oh Snap is a popular choice. Initially, the Baby Hawk was a Mei Tai type of sling. But now, they have it with snaps and buckles too (which is the Oh Snap).

Wondering if the Baby Hawk Oh Snap is right for you? Here's a quick review to help you decide.

Price Range

Baby's age/weight
15 to 45 pounds.
Ideal for older babies and toddlers.

Back Support
You won't feel your back hurting because the weight distribution is fantastic. Many mothers say they can barely feel their baby's weight. You can wear baby for a long time and feel no pain.

Crotch Dangler?
No. Babywearing experts will give it a thumbs up as baby sits in a correct position. You can tell because your baby's knees are higher than the butt. They are not dangling.

Carry Positions
Front carry, back carry

Ease of Use
You can quickly put baby in and out. It is easy to use.

Yes. Convenient for nursing.

Head Support
It has a headrest that can be folded down.

Hands Free
Yes. Baby is well supported and is not flopping around.


Plus Points
  • Top and bottom straps are very well padded. You will feel comfortable wearing it.
  • Beautiful designs. You can expect many compliments to come your way.
  • The length of the carrier is higher than most other carriers. Therefore it gives excellent back support, especially for older and taller babies.You don't have to worry about them leaning out of the carrier.
  • Adjustable to fit you and your spouse. 
  • If you are petite, you can adjust both the waist belt and top strap to help fit you better.
Bad Points
  • Pricey
  • No pockets
  • When you carry baby in front, you have to take off the chest strap. If you don't keep it properly, you might lose it. 
  • Not suitable for newborns and small babies. Best used for babies about 6 months and up.
  • Does not have a hood to hold babies head when sleeping, but some mothers say you don't need a hood. The carrier's high back and head rest is good enough.
Putting baby in the front carry position (video is a bit blurr though):

If you appreciate my review and would like to get a Baby Hawk Oh Snap, please do so through my affiliate link. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beco Carrier Review

The Beco carrier is a very stylish baby carrier. You will love the beautiful prints. It is one of the best soft structured carriers and many mothers give it a thumbs up.

Click this affiliate link to view the different kinds of Beco Carriers.

Here is a quick review on the Beco carrier.

Price Range
$119- $139

Baby's age/weight
From newborns till toddlers.
Suitable for 7-45 lbs.

Back Support
It is ergonomical design provides excellent lumbar support. The shoulder straps and adjustable belt are wide and padded. You won't strain your back or shoulders with this carrier.

Crotch Dangler?
No. Baby sits rather than dangle. Good support for spine and hips.
With the Beco Gemini, you can fold the bottom part of the body to make it narrower. This is ideal for very young babies who can't straddle yet. This way baby can sit in a correct position which is the knees above the butt. When baby gets older, you can unfold the body to make it wider. 

Carry Positions
Depends which type of Beco you choose:
Beco Butterfly II: Front front facing in and back carry.
Beco Gemini: Frong facing in, facing out, hip carry and back carry.

Ease of Use
Very easy to use whether carrying baby in the front or back.
Adjustable to fit someone who is 5'1" or 5'10".

Can be done but not easy for some. It depends on the build of your body. Some mothers find it easier than others. One tip is to loosen the straps to get baby down lower to a level where you can feed. The extra piece of fabric (inside panel) between you and baby may get in your way.
It is easy to feed with the Beco Gemini because it doesn't have that extra panel.

Head Support
Good head and neck support for baby. The Beco Gemini has a foldable headrest. The Beco Butterfly 2 has a hoody that you can snap on to the carrier to protect babe's head while sleeping.

Hands Free
Yes, baby is well secured.

Drooling pads to attach to the straps so baby can drool away.

Plus Points
  • The inside panel is a unique feature of the Beco. You can secure baby in the carrier before putting it on yourself. It also allows you to pass the baby to your spouse or another person without having to take baby out. You can also feel safe when you unbuckle the straps knowing baby will not fall out.
  • During warm weather, the fabric between baby and you helps to separate your sweaty body from baby and vice versa.
  • The Beco butterfly comes with a removable infant insert. The Gemini doesn't but you can fold the bottom to make it narrower to support your small baby better. So you don't have to buy extra accessories for a newborn.
  • The leg openings are padded so baby's legs won't get chaffed.
  • You can cross the straps if you want.
  • Can be folded down to a small size for easy storage and portability.
  • Very stylish.
  • Slim fitting. Not bulky.
Bad Points
No pocket.

How to put a newborn into the Beco:

How To Nurse with the Beco:

There are 2 types of Beco: Beco Butterfly II and Beco Gemini
There are a few differences between the two.

Choose Beco Butterfly II if:
  • you want to transfer the baby carrier to another person without having to unbuckle the baby. You can't do that with the Gemini. 
  • you like the idea of strapping baby into the carrier before putting it on. This may feel more secure to you.
  • you prefer the detachable sleeping hood.

Choose the Beco Gemini if:
  • you want the extra option of carrying baby front facing out and on the hips.
  • you would rather a simple buckle carrier (don't really fancy the safety harness feature of Beco Butterfly II), then Gemini is your choice. 
  • you like to cross the straps. 
  • you prefer a headrest that can snap up or down as oppose to a sleeping hood.
If you appreciate my review and would like to get your hands on a Beco Carrier, please use my affiliate link below.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Should You Choose the ErgoBaby Baby Carrier?

The last thing you want to do is buy a baby carrier that hurts your back or don't function like you need it to. You've probably heard about the ErgoBaby baby carrier. I'm not surprised you are checking it out because it is one of the best in the market.

La Stella Blu Baby Carriers

Here is a review to help you make a smart decision.

Price Range
$115 - $148

Baby's age/weight
From birth until not more than 40 pounds (18 Kilograms). Well, that is the website's recommendation. However, it can carry up to about 90 pounds (41 Kilograms). Many mothers are in favor of the Ergo because they can use it for a long time, even up to preschool years.

Back Support
Many mothers like it because there is no stress on the back and shoulders. Straps go over both shoulders and there's a belt that goes around the waist. The design makes it possible for baby's weight to be distributed evenly. It is very comfortable to wear and you can carry baby for long periods of time, even if you have a heavy baby. Ideal for shopping, traveling and hiking.

Crotch Dangler?
No. Provides good support to baby's hip and spine. Baby is in a natural sitting position.

Carry Positions
Front (inward facing only), back and hip position

Ease of Use
You can get baby in and out without much hassle. The back carry takes some practice though.


Head Support
Baby is well supported even when you bend forward and are moving around. Keeps the baby's head steady.

Hands Free
Yes. Baby is snugged inside. You can easily move about and do what you need to do.

  • It has an infant insert caled Heart to Heart. It is padded and uniquely shaped to secure your newborn in the right position when held in the carrier. As you know, a new born can't sit upright yet, so this insert supports your baby's head, neck, spine and hips.
  • Sucking pads so you don't have to wash the whole carrier when baby sucks on the straps.
  • Ergo baby weather cover to keep baby warm and dry when it's not so nice out there.
  • Extension belt, matching pouch and also a back pack.
Plus Points
  • Has a sleeping hood to support your sleeping baby's head. Also good to use as a cover when nursing your baby.
  • Easy to get baby in and out, although some say it takes a bit of practice to do the back carry.
  • When you roll it up, it is small enough to fit under your stroller or inside your diaper bag.
  • It looks great on the dads too.
  • It has a little pocket where you can fit in a couple of diapers, wipes,your key and some money. If you need more room, you can buy a detachable front pouch.
Bad Points
  • Some mothers say they felt a bit warm as the material was too thick. You might want to get the Ergo Sport which has better ventilation.
  • The body at the back is also a little short and some mothers commented that their older and taller kids were arching out.
  • You may find the straps a bit bulky.
How to get baby into the 3 positions:
How To Nurse with the Ergo:

If you find this review helpful and would like to check out some ERGObaby carriers, please click on my affiliate link below:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Father's Day Project For Kids

Father's Day is next week. You can use thIS theme to get your kids busy on something.

If you're not sure what to do, download this Father's Day kit that I put together some time ago. It's a Father's Day booklet where your children can insert some of their drawings, art and craft and photographs to make it special for dad (or grandpa).

Click here to have a better idea of what is in the Father's Day kit and also the link to download it.

P.S. If you want something really nice from Tiny Prints, you can get a free Father's Day card with this code: FREEFD. But you'll want to hurry coz' it expires 6/13/2011.

Get your free card thought my affiliate link:

If you like this post, tweet it or share it on your Facebook. And don't forget to follow me so we can be friends.

Book it: Stimulating summer reading ideas for all ages

(ARA) - The warm summer days with cool breezes flowing across your patio or beach chair create the perfect environment to relax with a good book. Whether it's a list of great summer reads or a pile of books you've been eager to dive into, each book promises an engaging story within.

But perhaps the best part of a great read is sharing it with someone else - a friend, co-worker, kids or grandkids. Below are tips to work reading into summer activities and to share the goodness of reading with others.

* Join or establish a book club - Book clubs can uncover authors and genres you might not normally read. Find a book club that expands your interests - for example, fiction versus nonfiction, historical versus fantasy, romance versus mystery or even poetry versus prose. Or establish a book club with a group of friends. It's a great excuse to get together once a month and share a couple of desserts like your favorite flavors of Archway cookies. These cookies smell, look and taste so much like homemade cookies and will create a great tradition at your book club meetings.

Have children in the house? Start a children's book club during the summer months to prevent them suffering from the "summer slide." Studies have shown that a long summer break can cause student learning to slip anywhere from one to 2.6 months if the student doesn't receive educational stimulation during the summer break. The summer slide often is worse for children from low-income families. Let your children lead the club, but have parents also be involved to help guide discussions or connections if needed.

* Trade books - Instead of discussing just one book, consider arranging a meeting once a month with friends to trade and recommend books. This will help uncover great books you may not have explored while also cutting down on book costs. Plan the meeting around a lunch or even an afternoon snack of Archway's shortbread, peanut butter or triple chocolate cookies. Hold the meeting in your backyard to enjoy the summer weather.

* Plan a reading afternoon - Gather the kids or grandkids and head to a local park for an afternoon of reading. Sit in a circle and read the stories out loud, or spread out a couple of blankets so each person can comfortably immerse themselves in their own story.

* Join the local library's summer reading program - Many programs are often geared toward children to prevent the summer slide, so make sure to bring kids, grandchildren, nieces or nephews along. No kids at home but still want to share the joy of reading? Volunteer to read at the library, or plan a program at the library involving the books the children will be reading this summer.

To help children keep up their reading during summer vacation, Archway is partnering with First Book on the Share the Goodness Literacy Campaign that promotes the goodness of reading by putting new books in the hands of children from low-income families. Archway will be donating a portion of proceeds from sales to First Book this summer, with the goal of donating 10,000 new books to children in need across the country.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sharing Pictures Animoto Style

Create your own video slideshow at

These are some pictures that were taken in the month of May 2011. Actually, a majority of the pictures were taken by my son; It's the result of an 8 year old boy discovering the timer feature on the camera. It made me laugh looking at them posing for the camera and waiting for it to go click.

You can create fun videos like what I did here. It was so easy. Just upload the photos, pick the template, select the music and ta-dah! You can register for a free account BUT your videos will only be 30 seconds long. If you want to do longer videos, you can upgrade to their Animoto Plus account by paying USD5/month or USD30/year.

You can also use Animoto to market your business BUT you'll need an Animoto Pro account for that. Price currently is USD39/month, USD249/year.

If you like what I've recommended and want to register with Animoto, click on my affiliate link. Thanks.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What's A Good Gift For Newborn?

A friend of mine just gave birth to her 2nd baby. I'll be visiting her soon and would like to bring a gift. What's a good gift to buy for a newborn?

I know, it does sound like a funny question coming from a mother of four. You'd think I would know what would be the ideal gift. With my kids, I received stuff like:
  • Diapers
  • Jewelry (from relatives)
  • Baby clothes
  • Flower bouquet
  • Baby powder, soap and shampoo
  • Soft toys
  • Ang Pow (cash)
I appreciated all those gifts but I wouldn't call them ideal gifts. Maybe the most ideal of the lot is the "ang pow" coz' then parents can use the cash to buy whatever baby needs.

Diapers, powder, soap and shampoo are definitely useful but they seem more like essential items rather than a "gift". Plus, these are stuff that the parents would have in abundance already. Clothes are nice but what size would you buy? If you buy for newborns, they will outgrow it in a few months. If you buy a bigger size, then it gets kept in the drawer or somewhere and it might get forgotten. 1 year later the parents might find it and say "Hey, we forgot to bring this out for baby to wear. Oh no, it's too small already." 

Asking myself what sort of gift I would have liked to receive, I would say "I'm not really sure." Before baby was born, I would have already purchased all the necessary stuff. 

Some ideal gifts may be a bit to pricey for example a good baby sling.

What do you guys think about some cute baby booties? Or maybe something for the mother instead of baby?

So, what do you think are some good gifts to give a mother with a newborn?

Baby Is 21 Months

 Okay, I've not been very diligent with babyK's updates. I've been missing some months here and there. Can't believe in a few months time we'll be celebrating her 2nd birthday.
Well, here are some of her latest tricks and adventures:

  •  See the picture above... Do you see something funny?
    Yup, she's got on 2 different types of socks. Every night, she will head over to our socks bin, grab a pair of socks (doesn't matter if they don't match) and then sit down and practice wearing them herself. She will take them off, put them on, take them off, put them on.... For some reason, it is easier for her to put the sock on her right foot but not the left foot. So sometimes, she'll put on 2 socks on the right foot. 
  • She's showing signs of independence. She wants to put on her pants herself. She gets it right 50% of the time. The other 50% you'll see 2 legs in 1 leg hole.
  • Loves to get piggyback rides. She's got 2 very willing "horsies" - K1 and D1. 
  • Very quick to respond when you ask her to come bathe. She will immediately walk to the bathroom and take off her pants. She will sometimes grab D2's hand and ask him to go bathe too. AND she will diligently make sure the dirty clothes on the floor is deposited into the laundry basket. 
  • Has learned how to scold (just like mommy). She will wag her finger at you and go "ji ji ji ji ji". 
  • If she falls down, she will beat the floor. If she bumps into the chair, she will beat the chair. It's never her fault you know.
  • I have to feed her in the living room. If she sits on the table with us, she will be busy trying to scoop this and that from the vegetable and meat dishes, even after we've already put everything on her plate. If I feed her in the living room, she will sit nicely and let me feed her. 
  • When she wants to breastfeed, she will ask for "this". I think it is going to be very difficult to wean this little baby. When we tell her that she'll have to say goodbye to "nen-nen" in 3 months time, she starts crying. 
  • She's becoming a little bit more friendly. She will wave her hand and say "awo" to people she meets.
  • Lurvvvvves ice cream.
  • Some words she can say: "babbit" (rabbit), "wek" (wet), "ter" (water), "sit", "walk-walk".
  • Still prefers to pee like a boy.
  • Almost toilet trained. She still have accidents but it is getting less and less.
  • Can drink from a cup without spilling.
  • Loves to drink soup.
  • Likes to bully D2. Poor guy has had so many scratches to his face.
  • Will feel jealous when the other siblings sit on my lap. She will come push them down so she can sit on my lap.
  • She knows D2 likes people to rub his stomach when he wants to sleep. So she will go rub his stomach for him.
  • If any of her siblings is crying, she will try to comfort them.
She's a cheeky little thing but she brings joy to the home. We love ya babyK.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Dumb Encounter With Curry Chicken

The other day, my son requested that I cook curry chicken. He has his father's and grandfather's cili-eating blood. So, I decided to get some "curry paste" from the Indian shop at the wet market. Usually, I just use curry powder, but decided to do something different. Unfortunately, I didn't quite know how to buy the curry paste. So this was my conversation with the shop owner:

Me: 1 packet please (pointing to the curry paste)
Shop owner: How much do you want?
Me: Errr... not sure.
Shop owner: What are you cooking?
Me: Curry chicken.
Shop owner: How much are you cooking?
Me: Err... 1 pot (gesturing about how big the pot is).
Shop owner: So, how much do you want?
Me: I don't know.
Shop owner: You don't know what you are cooking?
Me: I know. Curry chicken (feeling very embarrassed already).
Shop owner: How much chicken are you cooking? 1 chicken, 2 chicken?
Me: Ooh, 1 chicken.
Shop owner: Okay. Now I know how much to give you. You must tell me how much meat you are cooking.
Me: I see (feeling very dumb).

So, this is how much I got for 1 chicken.

 I really don't know what are the ingredients in this paste. I can only guess there is some "kunyit" (turmeric). I don't know what are the other stuff. Anybody out there can help identify the other ingredients?

Anyway, the chicken curry turned out awesome. Very delicious. I added in some kaffir leaves, daun kesum (laksa leaves), mint leaves and curry leaves.

What did my boy have to say? 
Thumbs up!

Shocking that my girl who doesn't really eat spicy food also enjoyed it. 
Don't ask me why she is wearing bunny ears to eat her lunch.

Parenting Tip:
Make sure you teach your children how to buy ingredients.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Four ways to be more 'green' at home

(ARA) - It doesn't take much effort to run your household in a more eco-friendly way. You might even be surprised by how much money you can save.

"A small change can make a big difference," says Charles Valinotti, senior vice president of insurer QBE. His company recently implemented a series of small environmental changes and the savings are adding up. "These are changes anyone could make in their own home. We just did it on a larger scale."

Here are four simple green changes inspired by QBE that could benefit any homeowner:

1. Recycle - and not just the obvious stuff.

Chances are, you're already recycling glass bottles and aluminum cans. But why stop there? Consider recycling before you throw anything away. You might also consider collecting aluminum cans and bringing them to your local recycling facility where you may get some cash for your efforts.

QBE's Sun Prairie, Wis. office recycles electrical wire, cabinets, shelving, scrap metals and light fixtures. In two years, not only did the company collect $4,000 for non-traditional recyclables, it also avoided fees for disposing of them.

2. Switch to high-efficiency lighting.

For years we've heard that high-efficiency lighting is the way to go. But did you know the magnitude of difference this one change could make? EnergyStar reports that each compact florescent light bulb can save up to $40 in energy costs over its lifetime.

In March 2010 QBE's Bellevue, Wash., site converted from halogen to fluorescent light fixtures in its parking garage. This one change is saving 378,554 kilowatt hours per year in electrical usage, totaling $26,575 in annual utility expense.

3. When it's not in use, turn it off.

Moms all over the world can be heard reminding their brood, "Turn the lights off!" While there's no doubt it makes sense to turn off lights, some may question when and if a computer should be turned off since it takes a bit more energy to power up than to leave it running.

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that for energy savings and convenience, consider turning off your monitor if you aren't going to use your computer for more than 20 minutes. Turn off your computer if you're not going to use it in the next two hours.

Like a lot of people, QBE employees don't always shut down their computers at the end of the day. Last year, the company began automatic shutdowns at 9 p.m. local time - saving about $55,000 in energy costs each year. The system gives a prompt 60 minutes prior to the automatic shutdown, allowing employees who are actively working to bypass the shut-off.

4. Paper - who needs it?

Valinotti suggests that taking baby steps toward a paperless existence can be natural and painless. For example, many homeowners already do their banking online - so why not also switch to paperless bank statements? Many utilities, credit card companies and municipalities also offer online billing.

By just moving a portion of its monthly reports online, QBE saves 2.5 reams of paper and $11 per day, totaling $2,000 in savings last year.

As you can see, just a few small changes can help you go green - and help you build financial strength as well.

Friday, June 03, 2011

How To Choose A Good Growing-Up Milk Formula

“What? There could be up to 13 teaspoons of added sugars in my child's growing-up milk formula?”

Shocking isn't it? I was at a supermarket and a promoter highlighted this problem of numerous growing-up milk formulas posing a health risk to my children because of their high added sugar content. She told me about the "semakgula" website where I can use a calculator to see how much sugar is contained in a milk powder.

This claim of excessive sugar in milk formulas has really created a stir among mothers. It's a MAJOR issue. Nobody wants to knowingly feed their children 13 spoons of sugar. BUT, is the claim really true?

Well, being curious I googled "semakgula" and found Interestingly, there is information there that highlights how the claim is misleading.

You see, when you use the semakgula calculator, you key in the amount of carbohydrates contained in the milk. And then, they use that to calculate the amount of added sugar. Well, not all carbohydrates are sugars. I don't know what mathematical formula is being used but it would be nice to know if their calculation segregates out the carbohydrates that are non-sugars. If not, the results could be more than what it should be.

One thing my professor taught me at University was to be more critical about claims we hear, even results from research. Don't take everything at face value. If research was done, find out how many test subjects were involved, how they chose those subjects, how was the test carried out, what were the variables etc.... Sometimes, research can be biased. So in this case of added sugar in milk formulas, investigate how did they come to the conclusion of 13 teaspoons of added sugar and if it really is an accurate conclusion.


Seek For A Good Balance

Let's face it; I don't think you will come across any formula milk that has NO SUGAR. Definitely carbohydrates are needed. It is what gives our children energy. Even if you find sugarless milk, your child will probably reject it. Remember what Mary Poppins said "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down". So let's just accept that some amount of sugar is needed to make milk a little more delicious to our children. The idea is to choose a formula milk that contains an ideal balance of nutrients such as carbohydrates, fat, proteins, DHA and etc.... Yup, the keyword is BALANCE. A good balance will contribute to the optimal growth of your children.

A formula milk that has good balance will address the following 3 areas:
  • Strengthens Immune System
    You all know how terrible it is when your children gets sick. If you are concern about your children's immune system, then find a formula milk that can strengthen it. You can strengthen immunity by improving your gut's health. Some milk formulas like Mamil Gold aims to improve your children's gut environment. It has oligosaccharide mixture called IMMUNOFORTIS™ that helps increase good bacteria in your children's intestine.
  • Supports Brain Development
    Definitely brain development is important. Who doesn't want a smart kid? Then look for ingredients such as DHA, AA, SA and Taurine.
  • Aids Growth and Development
    Their little bodies are growing and so they will need proper nutrition. Choose milk formulas that include essential nutrients such as Calcium, Iron, Zinc and Vitamins. If the milk formula follows the Malaysian Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI), you can be safely assured your child will receive the right balance of vitamins and minerals.

So, don't get too hyped up about this "too much added sugar" issue that has been going on. It is a good eye-opener. Be aware of it but also, learn more about it. Do a bit of your own research so you can be smart about making good decisions for your children.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Stephen Covey's Habits For Your Family: Part 1

I've been reading Stephen Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families
Not just reading, but also trying to get the whole family to adopt and practice the principles taught therein. 

  • He is on Time Magazine's list of 25 most influential American.
  • He is the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This book was named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century. The book that I am reading (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families) shows us how to apply those habits to family life. And you know what? It is the No. 1 best-selling hardcover book on family.  
  • He has 9 children and 44 grandchildren. 
  • He is the co-founder and vice chairman of FranklinCovey, the leading global professional services firm with offices in 123 countries.
  • Most of all, he is someone who has changed many people's lives. He is a great teacher, motivator, leader and consultant. 
  • Habit 1: Be proactive.
    You can choose. You are responsible for your life and your actions. No blaming others. Focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot do. Spend your time working on things you have influence on.
  • Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.
    What do you want to be, where do you want to go, what is your goal? Creating a mission statement to capture your vision of where you want to end up.
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
    Get your priorities right.
  • Habit 4: Think win-win
    Learning to find solutions that are mutually benefiting. Nobody loses. Learning to achieve balance between courage and consideration. 
  • Habit 5: Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
    Improving our communication skills. Learning the art of listening.
  • Habit 6: Synergize
    It's about teamwork and creative cooperation. Making our differences into our strengths. Coming up with better solutions together.
  • Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw
    Renewing yourself in four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. It is taking care of your well-being.

Above is a picture of our Emotional Bank Account box. This goes with Habit 1 which is being proactive. The idea is to make "deposits" to other people's "Emotional Bank". In other words, saying things to strengthen your relationships with each other. As parents, we are so accustom to barking out orders and pointing out what our children do wrong. Saying things like "Why are you always messing up the house?" or "Do your homework. Don't be lazy", are considered to be "withdrawals". The same way you would rather put money in your bank account than take money out, you want to make your family member's Emotional Bank rich, not bankrupt.

And so we nicely decorated a box to become our EBA box. It sits in our living room. At first, we only read the "deposit slips" after 1 week. But I find reading it at the end of the day is better because then, it is always on the children's mind. It motivates them to make deposits daily. So we've got stuff like "Thanks mom for playing with me", "I really appreciate you D1 for staying back after dinner to help clear the table and wipe the dishes" and "Thanks jie-jie for switching on the bathroom light for me".

Of course there are still lots of "withdrawals". Bad habits are hard to break. Improvements take time but at least we are doing something about our problem. Slowly, we can change the way we talk to each other: with kindness, courtesy and respect as oppose to shouting, demanding and with rudeness.

The kids look forward to opening the Emotional Bank every night. We had to tell them it was NOT a competition when they started comparing who had the most "deposit slips". Giving is as important as receiving.

There is still much improvements to do. We have to work on getting rid of blaming and making excuses. The kids' favorite line is "She do me first, so I must do her back" and "He force me to do it". Being proactive is a BIG change. However, it is better we take the steps to change now than never.

Tell me how can being proactive help your family?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

What's New at Positively Organic

Positively Organic Baby Clothes produces kids clothes that are made from organic cotton. The designs can be described as bold, bright, hip but also simple.

  • Free from heavy metals.
    Nickel-free snaps and low impact chemical dyes are gentler on the environment and also ideal for kids with allergies and sensitivities like asthma and eczema. You reduce your children's exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins.
  • Doing your part to care for the environment.
    What does "organic cotton" mean? It means the cotton was grown without using synthetic fertilizers and persistent pesticides It takes toxins out of the equation. It not only refers to how the cotton is grown but also how it is processed. Organic cotton reduces pollution.
  • It is soft, cool and comfortable to wear.

Here are some new summer designs from Positively Organic.
Save some money with these coupon codes:
  • 15% off: sas-5-11  
  • free shipping: freeship75

Unisex Hoodie - Positively Organic

Perfect for those breezy days.

Swing Tunic - Positively Organic

You can mix and match with leggings, yoga pants or shorts.

Short Sleeve Polo Shirt - Positively Organic

Very comfortable for warm weather days. Look stylish with yoga pants and surf shorts.

Infant Gown - Positively Organic

Easy to put on and easy to change diapers. Comfortable and practical.

So, do check out the new designs at Positively Organic. 
And I'd love to hear what you think about organic clothes. Do you think it is worth getting?