Saturday, March 25, 2017

Summer highlights: Crabbing

From last summer’s beachy highlights… this summer’s highlight was sunset crabbing parties. We found a couple of families who were happy to be our crabbing partners.

There’s something very satisfying about spotting a crab and scooping it up quickly in one swift motion (before it gets a chance to scuttle off or nip your toes). Even more so when the scene is framed against a backdrop of beautifully golden and ombre sunsets.

We started a bit later in the season than most folks, so it took some patience to track down bigger sized crabs that meet the minimum size. But on one of the evenings, we hit a sweet spot and managed to catch decent haul to share between each family. Just enough for everyone to enjoy a light supper.

Freshly steamed crab for supper. So. Good.

Can’t wait for next summer.







Resuming our monthly play roundups

So, now that we’re well under way into 2017, time to roll up my sleeves and get back to play work. Here are some snapshots and notes on some of the things we’ve been doing so far over the past month…


Rainy days and rainbows
Rainy weather is back now that summer is over.

Making drip art rain picture: We used a pipette to drop paint onto paper then slowly tilted paper forward to make paint drip/roll down across paper (children were fascinated observing the paint drip down slowly, and exploring tilting paper in various directions to observe trajectory of the paint dribbling down).


Making a rainbow picture: Colour exploration painting with cards (we dolloped on some paint onto paper and used some old plastic cards to mix and scrape the paint across the paper).


We read a story about a rainbow and talked about the specific colours of the rainbow as well as the number and order of the colours. The children had a go at colouring in a rainbow picture. The activity focused on observing the various colours in a rainbow and practicing pre-writing skills of colouring their rainbow within the lines of each row of the rainbow.



Donuts, donuts, donuts!
Chillier weather calls for some baking.

One of our favourite books this month was ‘The Donut Chef’ by Bob Staake. And of course we got us craving for some real donuts. I used my favourite pretzel recipe to make the dough which we shaped it into donut shapes. We made them glazed (with a simple icing sugar glaze) just like in the story.


We also made some cardboard donuts which the children decorated to their heart’s content with lots of colourful and sparkly embellishments and sequins.


The colourful, sparkly cardboard donuts went on the display at our very own little donut shop on sale for one dollar a piece.



Scissor practice ideas
Some simple ideas I did with the kids for scissor skills practice.

Giving haircuts to paper-towel roll people.


Simple lines and patterns drawn on coloured paper for children to cut along.


(P.S. Some information on scissor skills development and practice for preschoolers you might find helpful)


If you enjoyed this post, you can check out  our last roundup of activities and more of my other play and learning ideas. Stay tuned for next month’s roundup!

Friday, March 24, 2017

My Monkey Princess


I promised myself I had to write something about Gracie.

Before this magical place between toddler and schoolie passes al too quickly.

I always thought that as children get older, I would have more time to blog and write and collect my thoughts. But this is sadly not the case. It’s hard to explain why. Probably it has something to do with juggling between my regular mum role and my daycare mum role, plus having a school aged child bringing back homework and getting piano lessons from his mum.

But back to Gracie…

My darling squishilicious, droll little monkey princess.

Here is my attempt to put together some notes to describe you as you are right now.

Nightly bed buddies:
Momo monkey*
Bao Bao
Mini hoot-hoot
Mini monkey
(*who has a occasional exasperating habit of getting lost under the covers at night and you have to drag poor mummy out of bed in the middle of the night to go hunt for it)

Favourite foods:
Peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, fresh prunes
(pretty much ANY kind of stone fruit… one time you even spotted a plumticot and you insisted that I buy one for you to try… you like to pick one straight off the display at the fresh produce section to weigh and eat on the spot)

Foods you dislike:
(I  cannot for the life of me figure this one out… especially since you will pretty much eat EVERYTHING else in the world)

Favourite animal:
(You are absolutely tickled over the fact that your mama is a born in the year of the monkey)

Things you enjoy drawing:
Momo monkey

Upcoming fourth birthday cake request:
Monkey cake

Biggest phobia:
(I always feel guilty wondering if it has something to do with the near drowning experiences you had last year)

Some of your droll little quirks:
Coming up somewhat crude body part jokes in the shower.
Describing the consistency and shape of your daily bowel movements.
Breaking up your snack into small pieces, assigning each piece a name after a member of the family, and then eating them in a particular order.
Sometimes talking to your food before chomping them down (usually to tell them about their imminent fate)
Specifying what you would like for breakfast the next day every night (it’s always the same thing: toast and cereal with milk).

Best things about you
Your mesmerizingly big sparkling chocolate brown eyes (makes my heart skip a beat every single time).
Your throaty, husky voice (you can literally growl at people when you are feeling grumpy or angry).
Your broad rainbow spectrum of dramatic expressions and moods.
Your ‘can do’ attitude toward anything and everything (“tough as nails” as they say).
The way you easily flick back and forth from princess mode to ninja/police officer/fire fighter/ninja mode.
The fact that you happily munch on raw carrot for a snack.
The way you can fall asleep anywhere in five minutes (once you finally calm down and lay still).
How people often remark how much you look just like me when I was your age (maybe that’s why I just cannot get enough of gazing at your adorable little face… it’s like looking at a mirror of three-year-old me).




Love you forever baby girl.

Friday, March 03, 2017

What I’ve been reading lately

One of the best ways to learn about others is to have a peek into some of the books on their recent reads list. Early last year I discovered that I had access to a massive online library of eBooks through my local library. So I’ve been chomping down a good variety of all sorts of books over the past year. Here’s a peek into some of noteworthy reads I’ve enjoyed lately. It might also give you an idea on some of the thoughts and ideas that I have been reflecting and chewing on as well.


When Breath Becomes Air
What makes life worth living in the face of death
by Paul KalanithiTitle details for When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi - Wait list(Cried buckets of tears over this one…
a very raw and real reflection on death)


Being Mortal
Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Atul GawandeTitle details for Being Mortal by Atul Gawande - Available(More bucket loads of tears shed over this one… especially at the end. And the author also raises a lot of
thought-provoking questions on preparing for living out the closing chapters of our lives)


The Stuff of Life
by Lawrence HillTitle details for Blood by Lawrence Hill - Available(An interesting read packed full of great trivia and facts, interweaved with personal reflections
and stories from the author, which gave the book a good pace for reading)


A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
by Atul Gawande
Title details for Complications by Atul Gawande - Wait list
(Intriguing read which will make me question everything my doctor tells me even more…
and turn me into one of those annoying skeptical patients doctors loathe!)


A Brief History of Death
An illuminating look at the complex ways humans face death and the dying
by W. M. SpellmanTitle details for A Brief History of Death by W. M. Spellman - Available(A different perspective of looking at human culture and history through the lense of death)


A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah HarariTitle details for Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari - Wait list(Still halfway through this one but thoroughly enjoying it so far… Lots of thought-
provoking ideas challenging conventional theories on our anthropology and history)


The 10,000 Year Explosion
How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution
by Gregory CochraTitle details for The 10,000 Year Explosion by Gregory Cochran - Wait list(This is a totally different perspective from the ‘Sapiens’ book with a different take on our evolutionary history--focusing on genetic changes in our DNA that fueled the wave of civilization that swept over us in recent history) 


The Magic of Reality
How we know what's really true
by Richard Dawkins
Title details for The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins - Wait list
(A good read… I enjoyed the spotlight on some these familiar myths and
stories and exploring some of the potential origins behind them)


Why Science Does Not Disprove God
by Amir AczelTitle details for Why Science Does Not Disprove God by Amir Aczel - Available(A refreshing read for me to flip over to the theist view on science and our origins… the ideas here feel very
comfortable for me but now I bear in mind that this is only one of the many perspectives out there,
however the author definitely presents some very compelling arguments)


Beyond Belief
How we find meaning without religion
by Hugh MackayTitle details for Beyond Belief by Hugh Mackay - Wait list(I found the ending and conclusion rather abrupt and unsatisfying,
but overall it was thought provoking read)


The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
by Reza Aslan
Title details for Zealot by Reza Aslan - Wait list
(A fantastic and gripping read… and I really enjoyed being able to compare many ideas and perspectives of this iconic person and the historical setting of the familiar biblical stories from a broad range of historical sources instead of just the traditional religious sources I have been so familiar with)


The Silk Roads
A New History of the World
by Peter Frankopan
Title details for The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan - Wait list
(A bit of a heavy read… I am still just about one-thirds of the way through this one… after all it is trying to tackle the history of the WORLD in one book which is quite a feat for both author and reader, but lots of meaty stuff here presented in a very digestible form, but will take a bit of time to chew this one)


The Economics of Just About Everything
The Hidden Reasons for our Curious Choices and Surprising Successes
by Andrew Leigh
Title details for The Economics of Just About Everything by Andrew Leigh - Available
(Great, great read! Really had lots of fun reading this one… I thoroughly enjoyed the surprising way
the principles of economics underpin pretty much EVERYTHING around us)


Life Below Stairs
True Lives of Edwardian Servants
by Alison Maloney
Title details for Life Below Stairs by Alison Maloney - Wait list
(I liked the great detail this book goes into on every little aspect of servants on the Edwardian era, from what they wore,
how much they earned, their daily routine… essentially more trivia and facts to add to your knowledge bank)


The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
“This book makes see the natural world afresh”
by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Title details for The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey - Available
(Never has the life of a snail seemed so absorbing… the pace of the book is a tad bit slow, so I’m still less
than halfway through this one, but it’s still a nice leisurely read to turn to every now and then)


Adventures in the Queer East
by Benjamin Law
Title details for Gaysia by Benjamin Law - Available
(Another fun read… and funny as well… the pace is light, but underneath the humour, you catch a
glimpse of the darkness and heartache behind the colourful characters explored in this book)


My Holiday in North Korea
The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth
by Wendy E. SimmonsTitle details for My Holiday in North Korea by Wendy E. Simmons - Available(Completely mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, and downright laugh-out-loud insane… each anecdote and story in the book
just kept getting more bizarre and ludicrous than the one before … truth really is stranger than fiction!)


The Chrestomanci Series
The Chronicles of Chrestomanci (Entire Collection, Books 1-7)
by Diana Wynne Jones
Title details for The Chrestomanci Series by Diana Wynne Jones - Available
(This was an absolutely enchanting read! Reading this series brought me back to exactly the same place I was in when I first read the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ and ‘Wishing Chair’ series for the first time. Totally different stories altogether, but it’s just that familiar feeling of being transported deep into my imagination. Dianna Wynne Jones is the same author that wrote ‘Howls Moving Castle’. And if you liked Harry Potter, this series will be right up your alley)


Enchanted Glass
A brilliant, intricate and magical novel from the Godmother of British fantasy
by Diana Wynne Jones
Title details for Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones - Available
(I picked this one up after I finished the ‘Chrestomanci’ series, just to get more tastes of Diana Wynne Jones’ magical parallel universes… a bit different, but similar undertones in her style which is thoroughly enjoyable)


So what’s been on your list recent good reads?

Monday, February 20, 2017


[Anecdotes from our Chinese New Year holiday in Malaysia]

So we come to my favourite photo from our entire holiday.

This was taken at the backseat of my parents’ car during our little day trip to Kundasang.


I have many fond memories of family trips up to Kundasang, sitting in the backseat of car just like this. Except this time, it was sans the company of my two brothers, and in their place were my own two children with my hubs.

There were a few changes to the landscape since the last time I visited, and some new upgrades and additions to the facilities. Apart from that, the air and the atmosphere smelt and felt exactly the same.


The featured itinerary for this trip was a visit to the Desa Cattle and dairy farm.

Some people call it the little ‘New Zealand’ of Sabah.


We got up close to some calves and goats to feed them some grass and milk.
(the grass cost RM1.00 per bunch and milk cost RM1.50 per bottle)

Both the children and the animals simply couldn’t get enough of it.

Collage 2017-02-20 16_08_01

And the sweet end to this excursion was the grandparents’ promise of gelato ice cream.

Chocolate. Naturally.



Parting shot with our official trip sponsors.


If you’re interested to find out more about visiting the Desa cattle and dairy farm in Kundasang, I recommend the following sites:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Museum

[Anecdotes from our Chinese New Year holiday in Malaysia]

One of my favourite childhood ‘playgrounds’ was the local state museum of Sabah.

When I was a child, entry was free for everyone. So every now and then we’d beg our mum…. “please, pleeeeease, can we go to the museum today?”. By some adult mysterious reasoning we could never guess or fathom, every now and then she would say okay.

I can remember the exact flow of almost every single display area almost by heart. From anthropology and natural history, to the ceramics display, all the way down to the local indigenous section. I enjoyed listening to my mum talk about the different artefacts on display. Then afterwards our favourite final stop was the heritage village with actual models of traditional longhouses where my brothers and I would revel in climbing up and down the ladders and running across the bamboo floors of all the different indigenous houses.

I was determined that my kids would share the same joy.


But as it often goes… reality does not always align with expectations.

“Mummy, it’s so hot!”

“This is boooooring!”

“My legs are tired!”

“I’m hungry!”

“Can we go home now?”

But being the little troopers they are, they duly followed me through all the different sections and displays and listen to me rattle on about the different artefacts and items of interest.

And it was not all that bad really. They were definitely interested in studying the lifelike animals on display in the natural history section, and venturing inside a life-sized model of a burial cave (“very spooky, mummy!”) and being weirded out by the display of human skulls in the headhunter’s gallery.


It was a very surreal feeling walking through all the familiar galleries and sections around the museum. The layout had remained almost completely unchanged since I last visited this place probably more than 20 years ago. My favourite section was always the ceramics gallery. I enjoyed studying the intricate patterns and designs of the ceramic pieces from all the different historical dynasties. Unfortunately I couldn’t do much of that this time round. This was one of the children’s least favourite section, although we did pause at a ceramic pillow on display which Nathan could not believe people actually used to sleep on.

Finally after navigating our way quickly through the remaining sections inside the museum building and adjoining block, we headed outside to the heritage village to look at the display of longhouses. We opted to cross over to the village via this suspension bridge. It was easily one of the safest suspension bridges I had walked across in my life. But to my urban Aussie kids, this was considered almost real jungle level adventure.


It had rained quite heavily the night before, so the ground was fairly muddy in some spots… which my kids did NOT care for at all and they expressed their displeasure very loudly. But when we finally were in sight of the heritage village, I think even they had to admit that those longhouses looked pretty cool.


They were eager to explore every single longhouse in the heritage village (despite the bother of having to step over the muddy spots) and Grace even tested out what it felt like to sleep on one of those pillow blocks like the ceramic one we saw inside the museum earlier (except this one was made from wood).

Collage 2017-02-19 16_42_09

Joy shared.


If you’re interested to find out more about visiting the Sabah state museum, I recommend the following sites:

Sunday, February 12, 2017


[Anecdotes from our Chinese New Year holiday in Malaysia]

First item on the agenda of our Malaysia holiday: a trip to an old school barbershop to get trimmed up for the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities.

I have very vivid childhood memories of visiting an old school Chinese barbershop like this. Sitting up on those black leather chairs that go up and down--on one of those small wooden planks propped up between the armrests. Breathing in the distinct barbershop smell of wet hair, shaving cream, talcum powder and aftershave.


One barbershop. Two very different reactions to the experience.

Grace thoroughly enjoyed the entire ceremony. She took it very seriously and sat very importantly up on the seat, following the cues of the lady barber to angle her head this way and that.

Nathan’s was a nightmare experience. He told me afterwards that he was terrified that the lady barber would accidently snip his skin with the scissors and draw blood.

Collage 2017-02-12 14_56_00

Afterwards, the lady barber kindly rewarded them both with a couple of lollies. So that was a sweet end to the experience. Lollies always make everything alright in the end.