Friday, December 20, 2013

Egg Fried Rice with Ham - home cooked with love in 20 minutes

Another quick quick meal for the family last weekend. I was scratching my head wondering what to cook for dinner, as I wasn't in the mood for anything too complicated. Plus, it's the weekend and I was just feeling lazy. And so were the kids.

But they still needed to be fed, and the leftover rice in the fridge needed to be used, so…. Fried Rice! 

I used just 4 ingredients:
2 bowls cooked leftover rice
4 eggs, beaten, with a dash of fish sauce
5 slices honey baked ham (or any other ham of your liking), cut into square chunks
1 tsp chopped preserved radish

1. Heat some oil in a wok, on medium heat.
2. Add the preserved radish and fry until fragrant.
3. Add the rice, and give it a good toss.
4. Make a little dent in the middle of the rice, so that it resembles a 'donut', then pour the egg mixture over it.
5. Stir continuously, making sure that every grain of rice is covered with egg, until the egg is cooked. This may take up to 5 minutes.
6. When the egg is almost cooked, add the ham.

Egg 1

All done in 20 minutes. AA, my little 饭桶 (literally means 'rice bucket', or one who loves rice), asked for thirds and fourths, while EV, who usually prefers noodles, finished every grain on her plate. Tried and tested, this quick-to-cook dish has definitely won over their tastebuds. Until they next decide to surprise me by changing their tastes, that is, at which time I'll have to challenge myself to think of other ideas to cook fried rice. 

Do you have any to share?


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Happy family day out

Some of my favourite photos of the kids during the holidays.

Aaron 1

EV 1

Aaron 2

Linking up with

new button Wordless Wednesday Hop


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Braised Pork Belly with Egg & Chinese Cabbage with Dried Scallops

With a busy day looking after the kids and doing the housework, preparing a tasty, sumptuous and easy dinner can be a challenge. Especially with two young demanding kids who constantly want your attention. Before the kids, I could prepare and cook at one go. Now, I need to multitask, and break the dishes I want to cook into smaller manageable tasks that I can do throughout the day. Something that most mums do, I'm sure.

Though busy and tiring, with one thing happening one after the other without stopping, like clockwork, I enjoy cooking for my family, and seeing their happy faces when their hungry tummies are filled. It's very satisfying, if you know what I mean.

Today, I'm sharing two dishes that fits the above criteria that I've listed, and which are some of my kids' favourite food - Braised Pork Belly with Egg and Chinese Cabbage with Dried Scallop. And I will focus on the various steps that I took, from the time I started preparing to the serving of the dishes at 6pm. Firstly, the ingredients needed for each dish:

Braised Pork Belly with Egg
500g pork belly
6 hard boiled eggs
3 tbsp light soya sauce
2 tbsp dark soya sauce
1 tbsp Hua Diao wine
1 tsp corn flour
1 tsp Five Spice powder
1/2 cup water

Chinese Cabbage with Dried Scallops
500g Chinese Cabbage
10g dried scallops
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup water

Step by step method and time
9am - Purchase the pork belly. If it's frozen, take it out of the freezer and defrost.

11am - While AA was having his nap, and DaddySay was playing with EV, I cut up the pork belly into strips and boiled the eggs. Then I seasoned the pork with the dark soya sauce, light soya sauce, wine, corn flour and Five Spice powder, and let the seasoning set in in the fridge. After the eggs are cooked, I set it aside to cool.

2pm - Peel the eggs and put it in the fridge along with the seasoning pork. Wash and cut the Chinese Cabbage into strips.

3pm - Start cooking the pork belly. First, sear the pork with the stove fire on high. Once all the pork is browned, pour in the water and turn the flame to low, and let it braise slowly. After about 45 minutes to one hour, carefully put in the hard boiled eggs, and leave it to simmer for about another hour, or until the eggs attain a nice brown colour.

530pm - Soak the dried scallops in water for about 15 minutes. Heat a wok with some oil and put in the scallops. Fry until fragrant, and put in the cabbage. Add the water, and let the cabbage simmer. Once they turn soft, add the fish sauce.

6pm - Serve both dishes with some hot fragrant rice. 

Belly 1

Cabbage 1

Simple home cooked fare that my whole family loved. That just makes me super happy. Now I can rest my tired head and body, provided the kids don't stir.


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Box Thursday: The Read-Aloud Handbook

This week, instead of a children's book, I'm sharing a parenting book that I recently discovered and which I think is extremely helpful to any parent.

Read Aloud 1

As the title suggests, The Read-Aloud Book by Jim Trelease is about reading aloud to children. It reinforces what I believe in - the importance of reading aloud to my kids, and much more. So since I already read aloud to EV and AA, why do I still need to read a parenting book about reading aloud?

While this book is written as a guide to help parents begin the reading aloud process and how to make the home a conducive place for reading aloud, it contains delightful information for parents who are already enjoying the bond that reading aloud with their kids bring. What I like about this book is that it comes along with a lot of supporting research information conducted on children's reading.

The book is categorized into easy to read chapters, so that it is easy to jump to a specific chapter depending on one's familiarity with the reading aloud concept. These include 'Why Read Aloud' and 'When To Begin (and End) Read Aloud'. Though I generally know that reading aloud is beneficial, I do not know of the specific reasons why it is so. And I like this following quotation from the first chapter 'Why Read Aloud' that summarizes exactly why all parents should read aloud to their kids:

As you read to a child, you're pouring into the child's ears (and brains) all the sounds, syllables, endings, and blendings that will make up the words he or she will someday be asked to read and to understand. And through stories you are filling in the background knowledge necessary to understand things that aren't in his neighbourhood - like war or whales or locomotives.

What's useful about this book is that it gives insights into the reading aloud process. For example, it lists out the three important things that happen when one reads aloud to a child, including the bond between the child and the book, the learning journey that both the parent and child embarks on while reading, and the way the child absorbs everything that the parent reads. And thirty minutes is all that's needed for these things to happen.

Besides sharing about the various stages of reading aloud that a child goes through, and discusses whether there is a natural transition from picture book to novel. The Read-Aloud Handbook also gives it's view on fairy tales and their purpose, and it has this to say:

What distinguishes the fairy tale is that it speaks to the very heart and soul of the child. It admits to the child what so many parents and teachers spend hours trying to cover up. The fairy tale confirms what the child has been thinking all along - that it is a cold, cruel world out there and it's waiting to eat him alive. ... It addresses itself to the child's sense of courage and adventure. The tale advises the child: Take your courage in hand and go out to meet the world head on. ... If you have courage and if you persist, you can overcome any obstacle, conquer any foe.

More than just about reading aloud, this book also talks about Sustained Silent Reading, which refers to independent reading by a child for themselves and for pleasure. It emphasizes the importance of parents as models to develop this in children, and suggests some tips to do it.

I'm glad to see that this sixths edition has also been updated with a chapter that investigates whether TV and technology is hurting or helping literacy. The key, it seems, is all about balance, as TV and technology can help in certain cases, but care needs to be exercised to ensure that that doesn't become over-dependence.

The bonus of this book has to be the 115-page treasury of over 1000 suggested books for reading aloud, from picture books to novels. It also gives the recommended reading level and a brief synopsis of the books. Truly a treasury that all parents will find useful and helpful. No wonder The Read Aloud Handbook has been a trustworthy guide since it was first published in 1979.

Disclaimer: My Imagination Kingdom sponsored a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and images are my own.


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Giveaway: 5 Lavsuca's Pink Label wet bags & 20-slot card organisers

Remember our giveaway of Lavsuca's Pink Label's umbrella wet bag?

Well, great news! Lavsuca's Pink Label is sponsoring another three wet bags (each worth $19.90) and two card organisers (each worth $24.90)

Like the umbrella wet bag, the normal wet bags are made of cotton and lined with Procare lining to make it 'waterproof'. The seams are heat sealed to prevent leaking.  And the bags are environmentally friendly too, as they are machine washable and reusable.

The card organiser features 20 slots, along with two big pockets to hold notes, vouchers, coupons and so on. It's really a good way to organise all those discount cards and membership cards that one seldom uses, so you only have to carry those that is used more often in your wallet.

The wet bags and card organisers come in a variety of designs, to suit any taste and style.

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Five winners will get to win for themselves either a wet bag or card organiser, of a random design as decided by Lavsuca's Pink Label. Just follow the instructions below to enter. Good luck!

Terms and conditions:
- Entries that do not fulfill the requirements stated will be disqualified without notice.
- No repeat winners are allowed.
- Winners will be notified by email, through the email address provided in the Rafflecopter widget.
- Winners must confirm by reply email, within three days. Otherwise, a new winner will be picked.
- This giveaway is open to Singapore residents only.
- Giveaway starts on 9 December and ends on 23 December (inclusive) at midnight.
- Winners will be announced on this post and my Facebook page by 27 December.

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Disclaimer: Lavsuca's Pink Label sponsored three wet bags and two card organisers for the giveaway. The wet bags and card organiser used for the image above are my own. All opinions and images are my own.


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Play Learning Tuesday: 5 easy crafts for Christmas

Christmas is just 22 days away (what a nice number). We’re excited, are you? Here are 5 simple Christmas crafts to do to prepare for the festive season.

Xmas 1

Ice cream stick Christmas tree
This is an extremely easy craft that teaches shapes too. Here’s what you need:

9 ice cream sticks
Pom poms, in a range of colours
Green crayon

First, colour the ice cream sticks on both sides with the green crayon. You can get those pre-coloured sticks, but I think getting the kid to colour the sticks themselves also lets them practice their motor skills. After the colouring isdone, I asked EV to put the sticks together into triangles. Here, it’s a good opportunity to infuse some maths concepts, like multiplication by also asking how many sticks make one triangle, and how many triangles can we make in total. Glue the sticks together to make three triangles.

Xmas 2

Then stack the three triangles on top of each other to make a tree, and glue them together. Add some pom poms for embellishment, and viola! It’s done. Easy peasy!

Jolly holly wreath with pipe cleaners and pom poms
Here’s a DIY wreath that also practises motor skills. You will need:

Christmas tree decoration about 1.5m in length (we got ours from Daiso)
Pipe cleaners, in a range of colours
Pom poms, in a range of colours.

Make a round circle with the Christmas tree decoration. We made three rounds and secured it with pipe cleaners. EV twirled different coloured pipe cleaners all around the wreath. Then we pasted pom poms on to it, and we had a jolly holly wreath that will take its place at our front door.

Xmas 5

Printed Christmas tree
An awfully simple craft using a recycled cereal box. Here’s what you need:

Recycled cereal box
Green and red paint
Cardboard pieces
Recycled toilet roll

Firstly, cut out two Christmas tree shapes from the recycled cereal box. Then get painting using items ither than paint brushes. We used small cardboard pieces and recycled toilet roll to ‘print’ green and red paint on to the Christmas trees. EV didn’t just print the shape of her cardboard piece; she also decided to use it like a brush and patiently painted the whole Christmas tree. AA on the other hand, decided to paint with the paint brush first, before proceeding to make round prints and hand prints.

Xmas 3

Cardboard Christmas tree with felt glitter balls
This craft required some assistance from mummy to make the felt glitter balls. Other than that, it was a rather easy craft to do. You will need:

Recycled cardboard
Felt, in different colours, cut into circles
Glitter, in different colours
Green paint

To make felt glitter ball, put glue on to a felt circle, then gently apply glitter, ensuring that the glitter covers most of the circle. Leave to dry.

Cut out a Christmas tree shape from the cardboard and paint it green. Leave it to dry.

Xmas 6

Once all the individuals components are dry, simply paste the felt glitter balls to the green Christmas tree. Looks like this will be occupying a space in our living room.

Ho-ho-ho Christmas hat with pom poms
What’s Christmas without a Christmas hat? Here’s a simple one to do, and you’ll need:

Red Christmas hat for children (we got ours from Daiso)
Pom poms, in a range of colours

Xmas 4

Paste the pom poms on the hat, and then pop it on to your child’s head. Instantly adds loads of Christmas fun. (The photo of AA is a little blur, but don't you think he looks so suave here?)

Xmas 7

What Christmas crafts are you doing today?


What is Play Learning Tuesday?

Play Learning Tuesday is a bi-weekly linky hosted by Toddly Mummy where bloggers are invited to share their child-friendly play, learning and craft activities. Taking part for the first time? You might like to read the guidelines here first.

Toddly Mummy

Linking up with:

Tot School No Time For Flash Cards Photobucket Teach Beside Me


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Interview: Christian and Doerthe, from StickerKid

Last week, we did a review about StickerKid personalised name stickers and shared why we like them so much.

Today, I'm happy to introduce Christian and Doerthe Berlovan, the people behind StickerKid. They will share with us the story of how such durable name stickers like StickerKid's was created.


Please tell us more about StickerKid. How did it come about?
That’s actually a longer story as the history of StickerKid dates back to 2004. Originally, StickerKid was founded by Mark, a good friend of Chris, who identified the need for personalized labels when his second son was born and the first started kindergarden. His sons were really little ‘magicians’ early on who managed to lose bottles, toys and even shoes. So Mark and his wife were frustrated by the lost things and the need to re-buy everything (not to mention the drama and stress a lost cuddly toy can create for both kids and parents). Michel, a brilliant engineer and computer expert joined the team and together they developed StickerKid, the technology and processes behind our products making StickerKid the favourite stickers and labels in Switzerland for marking clothes and belongings.

There are many brands of personalisable labels in the market. What makes StickerKid different?
The technology and quality of StickerKid stickers and labels is really unique. The team has spent 7 years to identify the right materials, define and optimize the production process and test the quality of the products over years and in any possible condition (ensuring that we can give a 10 year quality guarantee). Switzerland was a great place for testing the stickers and labels in hard conditions: snow, sun, rain and high temperature differences. All products are made in Switzerland with high quality materials to ensure the products simplify life for parents and kids, withstand any fun activity (be it skiing or spending a week on the beach) and at the same time, be affordable and accessible to all parents.

If you were a parent, why is it important to use labels like StickerKid?
Of course parents could just mark their kids’ clothes with a pen, but this is clearly not as pretty and long lasting as labelling clothes and things (not to mention that the pen, colour could mark off and stain other clothes in your laundry) with our labels. On top of that, kids in kindergarden cannot read yet, so with the colours and little logos, even the smallest kids can identify their things. And most importantly, choosing your stickers and sticking them on is actually lots of fun for you and your kids.

Aren't all labels the same?
The quality varies heavily. There are of course several good products out there, but take the iron-on labels for example. Many other products hold very well too, but you can never remove them. For our StickerKid iron-on labels, we decided that it is not only important they hold and withstand 45 rounds of washing at high temperature (up to 60°), but also be removable without harming the fabric should you wish to give some clothes to another child or friend’s kids.

Do you have any personal anecdotes to share? Perhaps witnessing a family's or friend's experience of using labels?
We receive many nice emails from moms who share their experience with StickerKid. Much more than the cost saving of finding back their children’s belongings, we love to hear the stories of teddybears that find their way back home. Each of those stories makes our day.

Why did StickerKid decide to come to Singapore?
We both visited Singapore recently and fell in love with the beauty of the city and kindness of the people. With Switzerland being the StickerKid home country, we saw several similarities between the two countries and the people, that is, looking for high quality, genuine products that are unique. In addition, we were very fortunate to find the perfect representative living in Singapore. Josephine and I studied together and met each other again after nearly ten years not having seen each other. When I told her about the project, she started smiling, and a few weeks later, we shipped our first stickers to moms and dads living in Singapore.

Who are the people behind StickerKid?
Today StickerKid is managed by us, Chris and Doerthe, a young Swiss-German couple living in Switzerland. We fell in love with StickerKid the moment Mark told us about it - the high quality of the products, something that is 100% swiss made and the positive moments it creates for parents and kids.

Since you have no children, how did you identity the need for labels like StickerKid? What inspired you to launch StickerKid?
Chris and I are freshly married (10 months) and all our friends already have kids and as you can imagine most topics with our friends are about kids. So if you like, our adventure started at a dinner when some friends were talking about the crazy things their kids lose and the creative explanations that follow - a really great evening with friends. Funnily enough, a few weeks later, we met Mark and he mentioned that he might be looking for a successor to continue the StickerKid journey, and suddenly all was clear for us. And lucky us, here we are now.

I understand that you are planning to have children soon. What would you say is your parenting style? What is your belief when it comes to helping a child learn?
Wow - this is tough one. I guess all parents will understand better than us, that what you think before having kids may change completely when you actually are a parent. But here is our theory (before the reality will catch us): I think we will actually have a different style when it comes to a kids’ learning process. While Chris is the tech-savvy amongst us who loves new technology and believes in its benefits to simplify life and offer tremendous learning opportunities that did not exist before, Doerthe actually loves everything that’s homely and hand made. We hope we can combine both in the education of our kids, equipping them with all the tech-savviness they need in today’s world, while also teaching them to see the beauty of life in little things, such as building sandcastles in summer, collecting leaves in autumn and building a snow man in winter (there is a loooot of snow in Switzerland :)).

What three things do you think is most important for kids to learn in today's world?
● Feel safe and loved. This was always true, but in times with both parents working and many of us having a private and business life that is interlinked, it is getting harder and harder to find time to spend as a family. However, we think it’s important for a child to protect these moments, without phone and blackberry, and just be together as a family.
● Be curious. The world offers so many adventures and opportunities, the more a child can try and get to know, to decide if he or she likes something, the better (be it trying a new sport or instrument, traveling and seeing different cultures, meeting new friends or simply eating something different)
● Be tech-savvy. The world is completely digitalized, so there is no way a child can get by today without navigating the digital world, seeing both the good sides while being aware of the risks.

As parents to be, what is the one thing you think parents should know, but don't?
I think real parents know much better than us, so I don’t feel we are in the right place to advice on this. The one thing we learned from our own parents though is that mums are always right (even if as a child, teenager and even adult you may not see it right away). So maybe there is some advice for dads :)


Thank you, Chris and Doerthe.


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Book Box Thursday + Giveaway: An Alphabet Zoo

As some of you may know, phonics plays an extremely important part in our family, as we try and develop the literacy in EV and AA. There are a couple of phonics books that we use, and today, I’d like to share one that’s been a part of our literacy journey.

Julia Alphabet
Photo: Julia Gabriel Education
It’s An Alphabet Zoo, Phonemic Adventure with Rainbow Bear, written by Julia Gabriel (read her interview on visual literacy here). This is a book and CD set that brings us on an alphabet adventure with Rainbow Bear to meet animals with names that follow the alphabet, such as Andy Ant, Freddie Frog, Ollie Octopus and Uncle Ultrasaurus. Each character is briefly introduced with a voice over, followed by a catchy song that also infuses the phonemic sounds of the alphabets.

What worked for us was the music. The tunes have been playing in our home and on our car journeys since EV was 18 months old. And for AA, he’s basically been listening to it since he was in my tummy. One thing I would like to share: music is a wonderful way to teach. And in this case, it was a wonderful aid in teaching EV and AA phonics, and often, EV and AA will sing or hum along with the songs. Of course, they do have their favourite ones, depending on which animal they like at that moment, but generally, the songs were a hit, and continue to be. This possibly is also due to the fact that all the songs follow the tune. This builds consistency and familiarity, and makes it easy for kids to identify the songs. However, this mummy wishes that the tunes have a bit more variety, for more exposure.

The book is equally entertaining, visually, with illustrations done by Kathy Creamer, a published British children’s book author and illustrator. Each quirky animal character has its own dedicated page and illustration, which infuses many things that start with the same letter within the illustration. For example, for letter K for Kara Koala, the illustration also depicts a key, kite and kangaroo. This means that when listening to the CD, it is possible to assimilate their listening with reading, with additional activities such as asking them to point out a particular thing on the page. More than that, I also discuss what is happening in the illustrations and what they think of the illustrations with EV and AA, to help build their visual literacy, important in today’s world when we are bombarded by visuals of every kind all around us.

An Alphabet Zoo brings together reading, listening and viewing, important literacy skills that we all need to develop in our kids. We thoroughly enjoy it, and we hope that you will too.

An Alphabet Zoo, Phonemic Adventure with Rainbow Bear retails at $29.95. And if you want to add a little more fun and drama, there is even a finger puppet set of 26 puppets that is sold separately at $116.60.

Here’s your chance to win a copy of An Alphabet Zoo, Phonemic Adventure with Rainbow Bear. There are five copies to be given away, sponsored by Julia Gabriel Education. Just follow the intructions below to enter. Good luck!

Terms and conditions:
- Entries that do not fulfill the requirements stated will be disqualified without notice.
- Winners will be notified by email, through the email address provided in the Rafflecopter widget.
- Winners must confirm by reply email, within three days. Otherwise, a new winner will be picked.
- This giveaway is open to Singapore residents only.
- Giveaway starts on 28 November and ends on 13 December (inclusive) at midnight.
- Winners will be announced on this post and my Facebook page by 17 December.

Disclaimer: This review was done with our own copy of An Alphabet Zoo, Phonemic Adventure with Rainbow Bear. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions are my own.


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

6 Care & Share Family Ideas for Christmas

Care  Share
The season of giving is upon us again. Do a little caring and sharing with your family this holiday, and spread some Christmas cheer.

Here are 6 Care and Share ideas that you can do with your family.

Salvation Army Christmas Kettling 2013
Every year without fail, Salvation Army’s signature red kettle pots and volunteer bell-ringers will add an unmistakable Christmas ringing cheer to various shopping malls. As you go about your Christmas shopping, buying gifts for your loved ones, remember those in need as you walk by these Kettling pots and pass on the joy of kindess by giving generously. From now till 24 December, the Kettling pots will be at various shopping malls such as Raffles City, TANGS Orchard, Far East Plaza, Lucky Plaza, Centrepoint, 313@Somerset, Junction 8, IKEA Alexandra, IKEA Tampines, Tampines Mall and IMM.

For more information, visit Salvation Army Christmas Kettling 2013.

Boys Brigade Share-a-Gift & Wish Tree
Beyond just donating money, why not get the family together and buy tangible food gifts such as rice, milo, instant noodles, biscuits and cooking oil for the less privileged in our very own society. Not only does this bring cheer to them, but the gifts from also go a long way to bringing them relief. This significant event has been held annually since 1988 that mobilises more than 3,500 Boys Brigade officers and Boys, and hundreds of other volunteers to collect gifts from thousands of Singaporeans, for distribution to the needy in Singapore.

Alternatively, fulfil a wish at the Wish Tree. Just pick up a wish tag with the beneficiary’s name and wish, get the gift indicated on the tag, then return the gift to the Tree.

For more information and the locations of collection centres and Wish Trees, visit The Boys Brigade Share-A-Gift.

World Vision Tree of Life and Gift Catalogue
Buy a chicken, a pile of blankets, a health pack, stationery or even clean water for vulnerable children and their families. As you warm the hearts of your loved ones, warm the hearts of those living in impoverished countries like Blangadesh, Vietnam or even Africa at World Vision’s Tree of Life at various shopping malls, such as VivoCity, NEX, Liang Court and White Sands. This special life-giving tree holds photo cards of needy children across the world and meaningful, tangible, practical gifts for them, in the form of food, clean water, clothing, education, medical help and tools for livelihood. Besides these Life-Changing Gifts, you can also make a long term commitment to sponsor a child, and help his or her entire community.

For information on the locations of the Tree of Life, visit World Vision Tree of Life.

Alternatively, you can also refer to the Gift Catalogue, an annual catalogue that lists the real needs of these children and their families.

IKEA Soft Toy for Education campaign 
If a soft toy is one of the gifts on your shopping list, why not get it from IKEA and do good at the same time? From now till 4 January, for every soft toy that is bought, the IKEA Foundation will donate £1 (S$1.70) to fund education programmes worldwide supported by UNICEF and Save the Children to help children in disadvantaged communities.

Spread the love even further by donating the soft toy you’ve just purchased into any of the special bins and IKEA will match your gift one for one. These soft toys will be shared with the beneficiaries of Food From The Heart (FFTH) during their monthly birthday parties.

If you would like to dig deeper into your pockets, take part in IKEA’s Soft Toy Christmas Tree charity auction to bid for a one-of-a-kind Christmas Tree. 16 Trees have been decorated with soft toys by kids from FFTH, radio DJs and media personalities and will be auctioned off on 7 December at IKEA Tampines and December 8 at IKEA Alexandra. Proceeds will go to FFTH.

For more information, visit IKEA Singapore.

Watsons Helping Hands Programme 
Buy boxes of tissues and spread some Christmas love at the same time. For every limited edition box tissues, mini hankies or travel pack purchased, Watsons’ Helping Hands Programme will donate ten percent of the proceeds to the Chen Su Lan Methodist Children’s Home. Nine colourful illustrations done by the children from the Home are featured on these limited edition boxes and packs, and are based on the theme ‘I Believe in Magic’, reflecting their hopes for the future. These tissue sets are available at all Watsons stores from now till Feburary 2014, and Watsons hopes to raise $20,000 from this initiative.

Visit Watsons Singapore for more information. 

Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Relief
Spread a little Christmas cheer to the folks in Philippines, who recently suffered the wrath of super Typhoon Haiyan, even as they are barely recovering from an earlier earthquake. Immediate needs include water, sanitation, food, shelter, health and nutrition, child protection and education, as well as psychosocial support.

Help by contributing funds to the affected communities, through the following organisations:
Mercy Relief

What are you waiting for? Let's care and share with our families this season of giving!


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Interview: Julia Gabriel, founder of Julia Gabriel Education

Reading, writing, spelling. All these boil down to one word - literacy. When it used to be just literacy of words in print, in today's world, we are constantly challenged by more than just the printed word. We are inundated by visuals, images on the TV and on gadgets, thanks to technology. 

What has become of literacy in the 21st century, and what are the challenges that we face as parents? How do we develop literacy in our children? How important is bilingualism in today's world?

I'm very happy to introduce Julia Gabriel, founder of Julia Gabriel Education. Think literacy, and the name Julia Gabriel is one of the key names that come to mind. An accomplished storyteller, performer, speaker, lecturer with a Masters in early childhood education, Julia has written and recorded television programmes for Singapore's Ministry of Education. She shares with us her insights into 'literacy in the 21st century'.

What is literacy? Is it just about knowing how to read?
Literacy is the ability to make meaning from language. It has five forms – reading, writing, listening, speaking and viewing (through technology).

How important is literacy in today's technological world? Why?
Literacy is even more vital today because communication has become global. In this century it is more necessary, and more complex, to communicate and interpret meaning across cultures through technology. Viewing was recognised as an additional and vital form of literacy about 10 years ago.

The term 'literacy in the 21st century' is increasingly used. What does it mean? What kind of challenges does it present to parents? What can parents do about it?
Literacy in the 21st century involves understanding many different forms of literacy (eg the language we use in text, a formal letter, academic writing, spoken formal and informal language are all different) and the appropriate uses of each in different situations. The challenges that parents can rise to involve exposure to different forms of literacy and engaging children in many different areas of language and text.

Is visual literacy part of this? What is it? Why is it important?
Literacy is essentially the ability to speak, listen, read and write. Today, as so much of our communication is through technology, the breadth of literacy has extended to include viewing communications other than words: For example, images. There are so many images in our communication now (in magazines, newspapers, television, advertising on hoardings, buses and cereal packets, and on the internet), that we recognise visual literacy, the ability to read images, as an important skill for our children to learn.

Visual literacy involves the ability to understand, to see and to think graphically, using and interpreting different layouts, fonts, graphics and images (photographs, paintings and drawings) that all form part of communication. The overall look and feel of print, its layout and illustrations, all contribute to the texture and meaning that help us to understand the writer's intention. So, yes, visual literacy today is important para-language or additional means we can choose to add to language, to communicate our meaning. For example, in speech, we also use the face, hands, eyes and body to convey shades of meaning. In text, or written language we can shade what we say using various forms of visual literacy. This makes a HUGE difference... For example the SIZE of words in print lets you know how IMPORTANT they are; different FONTS and COLOURS all add to the meaning.

Literacy is complex and challenging and its growing and developing constantly! When I was in school we had to learn to write. Now children have many additional means of expression available in print. The development of literacy skills takes time to deepen. The first level in reading is the ability to de-code letters into sounds and eventually words, before reading comprehension becomes important and requires critical thinking to understand the depth and shades of meaning behind words. Poetry is a good example of this. Similarly, visual literacy begins with understanding the meaning in illustrations, art and graphic options and develops to include the ability to critically evaluate a chart, map, layout and design for suitability of function.

How does a parent nurture visual literacy in their children? Can you share any tips?
Parents need to stay abreast by reading widely, going to the library with their children, and talking about the print and visuals they see in the environment, because their children’s literacy will leap ahead of their own. A parent’s role is to talk about visual literacy, converse, discuss, challenge and critique what they see with their children so it is alive and valued in the family. Parents can talk about what they see in print adverts, on labels at the supermarket, in logos of companies that bombard us as we walk down the road. Consider the distinctive shape of Apple, the swoosh of Nike, the arches of Macdonalds. All these form the visual literacy we learn to recognise and "read." Ask children what they mean to them. Which do they like? Why? Talk to children about their views on what they read, see and experience.

Enjoy, read and share poetry with them. Poetry is art in words and shows children how they can use the look and feel of writing to add to the meaning. For example Lewis Carroll's "The Mouse's Tail" from "Alice in Wonderland is written in the shape of a tail, a distictive mouse's tail! Shape poems 'show' as well as 'tell' the story, incident or person they describe, much as headlines in a magazine or newspaper advertisement do. I believe that if parents are readers and are interested in the developing world, their children will be too. What's more, their children will still want to share their ideas with them and bring home their findings to discuss, long after their ability has outshone their parents' as it is bound to do, in time.

Is there any way to make the home a conducive environment for promoting visual literacy?
Yes, definitely! Read, discuss, share and fill your home with books, magazines and periodicals that you read together or view on line with your children. Make literacy in all forms a shared activity and interest for the family.

If I let a child watch TV, or play with the iPad, am I not nurturing visual literacy, since they are 'visual mediums'?
Beware! Many Apps and gadgets are addictive. The research is not yet long enough to be conclusive but the evidence is there. Monitor your child’s exposure to TV and limit particularly time spent using Apps on computers, and smart phones; limit time spent and also be sure to be involved with your child during these times.

Looking at literacy in general, can you share tips on how parents can nurture literacy in the home environment?
Read, talk, converse, discuss, share, write together, read together, play together, use language, communicate. Everyday conversation is the foundation of all language and literacy.

Let’s look at bilingualism. How important is bilingualism in today’s world? Why?
The more languages a child learns, the more the intelligence is stretched through new neural connections, so bilingualism (equal fluency and ease in two languages) gives your child an advantage over monolingual children. As our communication and connections become more global in nature, our children need to know how to communicate with other cultures so other languages are clearly advantageous, too.

What can parents do to nurture bilingualism at home?
Try to enable your child to learn languages through associations: one person, one language. So maybe Daddy speaks English, Mummy speaks Mandarin and you decide on one of these as a common code for when you are all together. Alternatively you can tie the associations to times of day. For example meal times and bath-time in Mandarin. I have seen this work successfully in many families. For a child to be truly bilingual he will need equal exposure to both languages, so roughly equal time and importance placed on each. Make sure you have an equal number of books and games and frineds to play with in each language too.

When is the best time to nurture language and bilingualism in children? Would they become confused if parents use too many languages to communicate with them?
Start at birth or before if possible by singing and talking to your child in the womb! Learning languages is child’s play if we start early when children are “programmed’ to learn and at their most senitive to hearing the different patterns in each language. The first three years are the most sensitive time. More than one language doesn’t confuse children if parents keep the associations clear for them, as above. They are too smart for that – it’s parents who worry and limit children’s potential to learn.

Nowadays, there are pre-schools and kindergartens that offer English-focused, Mandarin-focused and Integrated curriculums. In your opinion, which is most beneficial? If parents can only send their children to either English-focused or Mandarin-focused schools, what can they do to nurture appreciation in the other language?
In Singapore, school curriculum is all taught and communicated in English; this is our most important language. Mandarin is only a second language, or Mother Tongue subject, in school. It depends, really, on what parents can support at home. If you can support speaking Standard English at home, then you may choose a Mandarin focused preschool but if you can’t, do make sure your child has exposure and a focus on the Standard English he will need in school, when he’s young enough to learn it easily. To nurture appreciation in the other language find activities with Standard language speaking teachers – drama, art, dance etc – that your child is motivated to do and enjoys, so that he learns the language effortlessly while engaged in the activities.

Please tell us more about yourself. What inspired you to set up Julia Gabriel Education? How many children do you have?
I studied how to teach, and how children learn, when my son was five and I realised that I was ill equipped to help him learn optimally. I studied to be a Speech and Drama teacher because that was the subject that had helped me gain confidence and ability to communicate expressively as a child. I was a very shy child so I know how important confidence is to underpin all learning and communication. Later, I did a Masters degree in early childhood education to broaden my learning and became a researcher. I love my work and have been really lucky to find my passion through my children. Today I research language and learning and train teachers in my philosophy, EduDrama. I have two adult children. Mark, aged 38, and his wife Aggie teach with me at Julia Gabriel Centre. My daughter Emma, aged 32, lives in London. In Julia Gabriel Centres around the world I am fortunate to have many more children and I also support and am actively involved with 64 Shan children in an orphanage in Chiang Mai, Thailand.


Thank you Julia.


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Happy cupcake monsters

Here's an extremely creative result of an 'Invitation to Play' tray.

With just a few beautiful polka-dotted cupcake paper moulds and a few goggly eyes, EV stretched her imagination and created these little faces. She drew what she called 'smileys' on them, and calls them her Happy Cupcake Monsters.

Proud mummy moment.


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Friday, November 22, 2013

Review + Worldwide Giveaway: Stickerkid labels that last wash after wash after wash

Kids own so many things, sometimes, even more than an adult. From water bottles and bags to pencil cases and notebooks, it's easy to misplace their belongings. And with two young ones so close in age, that's an even larger number of belongings to deal with. And when they reach schooling age, the chances of their items being taken by mistake becomes higher, especially if they are similar.

Label their belongings, you say? Sure, provided they don't fade over time. This is one gripe I have with the labels that I have tried. Sometimes, the labels lose their stickiness after several washes, and start peeling off. Which means that I have to constantly remember to replace label after label.

Sticker 2a

When I received a set of Stickerkid labels, I admit, I doubted its quality. From the plastic packaging that it came in, it looked just like other labels that I've tried. Nothing that different to the eye. So it seemed.

What surprised was the quality of the labels. Stickerkid labels feel like extremely soft plastic. Because of this, it doesn't tear easily or crease easily either. While some labels end up having air bubbles trapped beneath them when they are being applied, it is easy to squeeze any trapped air bubbles from underneath a Stickerkid label, thanks to its softness. 

And no wonder. Stickerkid stands by its promise to use the highest quality material to produce the best possible, most malleable stickers which can be applied on nearly every surface. All products are manufactured in Switzerland, and the folks at Stickerkid are extremely careful and meticulous in selecting the materials, papers to make the labels. Over the past seven years, they have continually improved the product, and I must say, it is of extremely good quality.

StickerKid 2

I also like how customisable Stickerkid stickers are. The background colour, font colour, font type can be customized; even a cute logo can be added on the bigger stickers. I asked both EV and AA what their favourite colour was, and they both unanimously chose blue. To give them further ownership of the labels, in the hope that they will fall in love with them, I got them to chose their favourite icons themselves. EV chose a bus while AA chose a helicopter.

The stickers come in a variety of types and sizes, such as small, medium, large, extra large stickers, shoe stickers and iron-on clothing labels. And they are highly resistant too, to water, microwaves, washing machines, fridge and even the freezer.

This is what we received:
1. Small 1-line stickers, which are great for pencils or other thin items
2. Medium 2-line stickers, for mugs or small notebooks
3. Shoe stickers, designed to fit snugly into shoes, with an option to include a contact number in case kiddo gets lost
4. Iron-on clothes labels, easily applied with an iron and can be machine washed up to 45 times at 60. The labels can also be removed by reheating.

StickerKid 3

These labels were a hit with EV, of course, given her love for stickers. She had a fun time picking the exact sticker to use and finding belongings to stick them on. She even put AA's name sticker on items that they shared. As you can see, she didn't want to keep to the recommended 'use' of the stickers, and opted to use the shoe stickers for her new journal instead.

Sticker 1

High quality and easy to stick on different surfaces. These personalised stickers are a big help in helping us identifying the kids' personal belongings. Yes, this mummy is super pleased.

Worldwide Giveaway!
Win a My First Pack of 156 personalised Stickerkid stickers (worth SGD49). The pack includes:
- 32 large stickers
- 14 shoe stickers
- 60 small stickers
- 50 clothes stickers

Just follow the instructions below to enter. Good luck!

Terms and conditions:
- Entries that do not fulfill the requirements stated will be disqualified without notice.
- Winners will be notified by email, through the email address provided in the Rafflecopter widget.
- Winners must confirm by reply email, within three days. Otherwise, a new winner will be picked.
- This giveaway is worldwide.
- Giveaway starts on 22 November and ends on 6 December (inclusive) at midnight.
- Winners will be announced on this post and my Facebook page by 9 December.

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Readers of Toddly Mummy will also get to enjoy a 10% discount off all products, excluding shipping cost, on Stickerkid. Just enter the code 'ToddlyMummy2013' (valid until December 2013, excludes shipping cost) when you check out!

Happy shopping and labeling!

Disclaimer: EV and AA received complimentary sticker samples from Stickerkid for mummy to review. Their names were edited for privacy purposes. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and images are ours.


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

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