Sunday, December 30, 2012

A little holiday baking adventure

A special treat for EV this holidays: baking with her favourite aunt, my dearest sister J, otherwise known as the baker of the family. She baked a strawberry cake for EV earlier this year, and plans to do the same next year. Yums...

So, the little toddling baker accompanied J to Holland Village to get baking stuff. When they returned home, they got down to work.

Cinnamon Roll

First, the dough for the cinnamon roll. As J kneaded the dough, EV added flour and patted the dough and did her bit to knead it into a smooth consistency.

When the dough was set aside to rest, EV helped to make the cinnamon filling by pouring out the brown sugar and stirring the mixture.

Here, she is rolling out the dough into a 12x9 inch rectangle. She had lots of fun and kept poking her fingers into the soft dough, which J had to fix.

It was then time to spread the cinnamon mix on to the dough. J then rolled it up.

With her aunt's help, J's little helper cut the roll into twelve pieces. She oiled the baking tray for J to put the rolls in.

The cinnamon rolls ready to be popped into the oven.

Ta da! Hot, sweet cinnamon rolls! Yums!

Star-shaped Sugar Cookies with Chocolate Ganache
This was relatively easy compared to cinnamon rolls as J used a pack of sugar cookie mix. After adding softened butter, flour and an egg, and kneading it to a smooth consistency, the dough was ready for EV to work on.

EV hard at work with a star-shaped mould.

Sugar cookies ready to be baked.

Chocolate, glorious chocolate! EV adding chocolate ganache to the piping hot cookies, and licking it off the spoon when she is done.

Crunchy, mouth-watering sugar cookies.

Want a bite?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What I'm thankful for in 2012

This year has been an eventful one. I became mum to my second kid, a handsome boy. I also had a mid-career change, and am now an educator. The first half of the year was demanding, as I, as well as the rest of the family, was coping with the arrival of a new member while carefully ensuring that it was a smooth transition for E who used to get all the attention. The second half of the year was even more testing, as I had to adapt to my new career quickly. Work now starts two hours earlier, and this means the schedule and arrangement that the family is used to had to be adjusted, not to mention my sleeping times. Couple that with the hubby's absence of two months because of work, and having to be both mother and father to two young kids, I think I was suffering from a severe lack of sleep.

Still, it is now December, and 2012 is going by without a hitch. I am thankful for my family of four, that we have been kept safe, healthy and happy throughout this year.

I am thankful to my husband, who is standing by me during my mid-career change. His support is my pillar of strength.

I am thankful to my parents and parents-in-law, who during my hubby's absence, rallied behind us and helped us to look after the kids, especially when I was at work.

I am also thankful for a very helpful and trustworthy helper.

I am thankful for my wonderful brother and sister, the greatest siblings one can have. I miss them both as they live in Melbourne. And definitely not forgetting my sister-in-law and cute cute nephew Grayson.

Finally, I am glad that my bedridden grandfather, who passed away in January, is finally reunited with my grandmother after six years of separation. Their love story continues in heaven, and I miss them both.

Eventful 2012 has peacefully gone by. 2013 will be another year of new beginnings for me, something that I have not done for almost 15 years. I am heading back to school. Yes, that will be quite an experience, and I look forward to it.

NB: This post first appeared as part of the Thankful 2012 guest post series by The Gingerbread Mum. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Treats for a yummy Christmas

Over the weekend, EV and I got a little greedy and whipped up three yummy treats for Christmas. I  had wanted to work with food items that can be easily found at home, and didn't require any cooking. So with a quick look around the kitchen, and a visit to the supermarket to get whatever I was missing, we created these treats. 

Here, you see all the ingredients that we used for the three treats: Ice cream cones, green icing sugar, pumpkin bread, carrot bread, spinach bread, cheese as well as sweets, dried fruits, biscuits and cereal stars for decorating.

Christmas Tree Sandwich

Layer the spinach bread and cheese to make a sandwich.

Cut out the sides, so that you get the shape of a Christmas tree. 

Decorate the tree with dried fruits, sweets, cereal or biscuits. EV used mostly cranberries, one of her favourite dried fruit snacks.

Christmas 'Star' Tree Tower

Using star-shaped moulds, EV cut out stars from the carrot and pumpkin bread. We used the mould set from Daiso, which comes in different sizes.

Stack the different sized stars into a tower, and the Christmas tree is complete.

EV also had so much fun toppling the tower down, before sinking her teeth into the tree.

Ice Cream Cone Christmas Tree

Invert an ice cream cone and spread green icing sugar on it. I was in a lazy mood and used ready-made icing that can be bought from supermarkets. Green icing can also be easily made at home using icing sugar, water and green food colouring. Just make sure that not too much water is added otherwise the icing will become runny.

EV had a great time 'painting' the cones with icing, and licking it off her fingers and arm. How it managed to get on to her arm, I have no idea.

Decorating time! Once that is done, this sweet treat is ready. Share the love around, as one cone is enough to give you a sugar overdose.

I am so happy that EV had fun making these treats, and this mummy had fun snapping her cheeky smiles. We hope you will enjoy it too. :)

Friday, December 07, 2012

Our Care & Share Day

This year, I decided to dedicate one day to spend with my girl, something I call our Care & Share Day. Basically, I wanted to share with her that there are those who are less fortunate than us in Singapore, and I wanted her to take a part in doing something for them.

Before we started our mission, we had a nice mummy-daughter lunch at Mos Burger. After that, we headed to help those in need at the Boys' Brigade Share-A-Gift and World Vision Tree of Life.

Besides rice and milo for those in Singapore, we also got water filters to provide clean water for children in Myanmar, a food pack for one child in the Philippines and a health pack for two children in China. I'm glad we shared our love with them. 

Linking up with

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Favourite Children's Author: Mem Fox {plus a Giveaway}

After three months and eleven guest posts where mummies shared their favourite children's authors such as Julia Donaldson, Lea Lionni, Enid Blyton and Hans Christian Anderson, this week marks the last post of this guest post series.

I admit. I have more than one favourite children’s author. And today, I will share about another author whose picture books are always on our reading list.

I only discovered Mem Fox this year, and I must say she is a brilliant writer of children’s picture books. She has written over 40 titles for young minds and five adult books on reading, teaching and learning, of which Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Changes Their Lives Forever is the most popular. She is also sought after as an international literacy consultant.

Born in 1946 in Melbourne, Australia, Mem Fox grew up in Africa, at Hope Fountain, which is a few miles from the city of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She went to drama school in London and married an Englishman in 1969. They returned in Australia the following year and in 1971, she gave birth to her only child Chloe Fox, who is now Minister for Transport Services of the South Australian Parliament. She is also grandmother to Theo, born in January this year.

Mem Fox switched her focus to literacy studies in 1981 to find out how children best learn to read and write. She eventually became Associate Professor of Literacy Studies at Flinders University, South Australia. She retired in 1996, after twenty four years of teaching, to focus on her second passion – writing and reading aloud to children.

Mem Fox wrote her first children’s title Possum Magic, which is dedicated to Chloe, in 1978 during a course in children’s literature at Flinders University. It was rejected nine times over five years, before finally being published in 1983. Today, Possum Magic is one of the most recognised picture books in Australia and has sold over four million copies worldwide. 

Since then, Mem Fox has continued to pen bestsellers that are well-loved by children and parents alike. These include wonderful tales such as Koala Lou and Hattie and the Fox. In 1993, she was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia, for ‘services to children’s literature’. 

Becky and I have been reading several of her books, and we absolutely love them! Here, I will share several of these wonderful picture books.

Possum Magic
This is a delightful picture book tale about two possums (small marsupial species native to Australia). Baby Hush is made invisible by her Grandma Poss to protect her from the dangers of the Australian bush, but unfortunately, Hush cannot regain her visibility. So the duo takes an adventure tour around Australia to search for the secret to Hush’s visibility. 

Not only is this tale a rhythmical story of Australia’s landscapes and the animals that live in them, it also includes some very Aussie food as part of its plot, such as pumpkin pie, ANZAC biscuits, lamingtons, pavlovas and yes, to my horror, vegemite sandwich! After being in Perth for so long, I still do not like the taste of this very Aussie food. And you know, neither do my siblings who are currently residing there.

Possum Magic is so incredibly Aussie, that I can’t help have a soft spot for it. For those of you who have spent time in Australia, you will know what I mean. And for those who are planning a trip down under, this is a great book to introduce Australia to your kids.

Even though it was written nearly thirty years ago, Possum Magic still appeals to many children. It won the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Ethel Turner Price for young people’s literature in 1984, as well as the Canberra’s Own Outstanding List (COOL) in 1994. The latter is an annual children’s choice award where children are encouraged to read and vote for their favourite books.

Possum Magic has also been performed three times by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. There is even a highly successful musical that made its premiere in 1990. 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of the book and over 20 years on stage, and Possum Magic The Musical will be having a farewell tour. Becky and I will be sure to keep a lookout for that. Maybe if we visit her cousin, my nephew in Melbourne next year, we can go watch it.

Koala Lou
This is a very special book for Becky and I. It was through this that I discovered that Becky was in her pre-reading stage. You can read more about that and what I'm doing to develop her literacy here.

Koala Lou is about this little koala who used to have the full attention of her mother, but gradually felt neglected with the birth of brothers and sisters. She thought that her mother no longer loved her, and longed to be hugged and hear her mother say 'Koala Lou I do love you.' So she decided to take part in a tree climbing competition, believing that only if she won, her mother would love her again. 

This tale about sibling rivalry and not winning an important competition is really heartwarming, and is good for teachin emotional intelligence. Couple that with beautiful pictures by Pamela Lofts and Koala Lou is just amazing. At the heart of it is this very crucial message - that no matter what happens, Koala Lou's mother will always love her. And you know, though Becky is still quite young, she gets that message. Probably that's why we both love the story so much. Every now and then, I would say 'I do love you. I always do and I always will.' Just like Koala Lou's mother.

Tough Boris
When I first read this to Becky, the moment she saw the first few pages, she was asking me to keep the book. And I can understand why. The story is about a pirate named Boris, and the illustrations show a fierce looking one. But I asked her to just listen to the story till the end. Again, I'm surprised by her ability to understand the message behind the story. When I finished reading, she was quiet and since that time, she was always happy to have me read it over and over again.

Tough Boris is a very simple tale, about a tough, massive, scruffy, greedy, fearless and scary pirate, who always had his pet parrot by his side. And when his parrot died, Boris cried. The key message is in the last sentence – 

All pirates cry. And so do I.

A touching tale indeed, to tell young ones that it is alright to feel upset and cry. This is good for sharing about feelings and emotional intelligence.

Hattie and the Fox
This brings to mind many other books, such as the traditional hen-and-fox tales from Aesop, The Little Red Hen, and even Pat Hutchins' famous book Rosie's Walk. Mem Fox's Hattie and the Fox remains a classic favourite, with its sing song, rhythmic and changing style. 

I also like the repetitive style as the fox is being revealed, and in the responses of the various farm animals. I get Becky to guess what comes next. It is also good in teaching about the different body parts of the fox. But I think her favourite must be the final part when the fox appears in full, and the other animals run away except for the cow. I ask her what the cow said and she would respond gleefully 'Moooo....!'

The Magic Hat

This is great for reading aloud, with its rollicking and rhyming phrases about a hat that lands on the heads of resident after residents in the town and instantly transforms them into different animals. 'Oh, the magic hat, the magic hat! It moved like this, it moved like that! It spun through the air!'

Here, varying descriptive lines and rhymes allow listeners to predict and guess what will follow as the page turns.

And over a road
And sat on the head of a warty old ... (turn page)

Like a bouncing balloon 
And sat on the head of a hairy ... (turn page)

A large but impish wizard appears to restore the characters to their former selves. Then the wizard himself dons the hat and becomes a little boy, high spirited and surrounded by starlight and sparkles – a hint to his magical ability.

Whimsical ink and watercolour illustrations by Tricia Tusa dance with life, just like the way the magic hat bounces around. And I like her humorous details too, such as a fruit-stand seller who juggles bananas as he is transformed into a baboon, and the animated children who witness each transformation with glee.

Mem Fox has many other wonderful books which we will hunt down and read, such as Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, Whoever You Are, Wombat Divine and Hello Baby!

Want to win a Mem Fox classic?
To mark the end of the My Favourite Children's Author Guest Post series, I am having a giveaway of two of Mem Fox's books. They are: Possum Magic and Koala Lou.

All you have to do is:
1. Like the Facebook page.
2. Leave a comment and indicate which book you would love to win.

This giveaway will end on 26 November 2012, 11.59pm. This giveaway is for Singapore residents only.

Winners will be determined by and will receive their prize by normal mail.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Toasting a rainbow

We made a rainbow toast this week. It is a really fun and easy to do. Best part of it? We got to eat our creation after.

- Bread
- Milk
- Food colouring
- Brushes (make sure these are ones you use for food only)

1. Mix the food colouring to the milk until you get the desired shade.

2. Then paint away!

3. After the painting is done, toast the bread and sink your teeth into colourful rainbow toast.

4. You can also paint on paper for a different sensory experience, like we did.

Becky had such a blast painting the bread. And when she was done, she eagerly waited for them to be toasted. She was one hungry girl that day. She ate two slices of bread, out of the three she painted, which looked more like single-coloured toasts rather than rainbow toasts.

Linking up with

The Js Arena