Friday, July 27, 2012

Cloth for mama

I’ve pondered for a while on whether and how I should share this subject. I’m not entirely sure what my reader demographic is and I did worry about grossing some of you out.

After thinking about it, I decided to give you all the benefit of the doubt… that you are all mature people open to hearing about new ideas. Even if you can’t or won’t take this on board, it’s still a ‘good to know’ to just be aware that such things exist in the world.

And the thing I’m talking about is this…

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Cloth pads a.k.a. ‘mama cloth’ made by yours truly for my own personal use.

If you’re dabbled in using cloth on your babies, perhaps the thought had crossed your mind or you might have seen references to this along the way during one of your fluffy shopping sprees.

I heard about it early on when I first started my research on cloth nappies. The gorgeous fabrics and designs were the biggest thing that drew me to the idea, but as I was caught with so many other new things at that time, I parked it aside to revisit the topic later down the track.

Months passed by and I forgot about it. Then one fateful day, I had an unexpected ‘red day’ and was caught totally unprepared. You can imagine my extreme irritation and frustration. I resorted to using (of all things) a breast pad (an extremely poor substitute) until I was able to pop out to the shops to restock.

That was the turning point for me.

I was so revved up over my utter indignation over the whole episode, that I went to the other extreme and decided to sew some for myself in preparation for the next cycle so I never have to go through such a troublesome experience again.

There are many benefits to using cloth pads (also called ‘mama cloth’), including…

  • Comfort (trading plastic for velvety soft velour fabric? no brainer)
  • Better for sensitive skin (no more chemicals)
  • Less smell (that signature ‘period odour’ is actually from chemicals in disposable pads, not us)
  • Convenience (no running out of pads again)
  • Cost savings
  • Green/environmental benefits

My own main personal motivation is the convenience. Maybe ‘coz I’m not one of those super regular 28-days women, so stocking up is not an automatic thing for me. Hence having a never-fail stash ready to go is a big plus for my case.

Cost savings is not a major factor as the $5-10 per month is not a real biggie for me, but still good – and it does add up in the long-term.

And the comfort and reduced smell was a nice bonus. All the articles I’ve read say so, but once I felt it for myself, there is no going back.

Plus the eye candy alone is enough to make anyone want to switch…

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I know the whole idea might raise some eyebrows, particularly in relation laundry. All the same principles on laundry for cloth nappies apply here as well: Use a good pre-wash rinse/soak method and have faith in the wonders of your modern washing machine.

Other articles and posts that expand on the topic more:

Consider this a community service message brought to you by LivingSerenely ^_^

P.S. I’m not making these for sale, they are purely for personal use, but there are heaps of options on etsy or just Google ‘mama cloth’ for more.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hakka abacus beads from scratch

Inspired by my mother, I decided to take on the challenge of pulling the classic Hakka abacus beads dish from scratch.

This is my version of the recipe (adapted from My Kitchen Snippets)

To make the dough for the abacus beads:

450 grams taro/yam, cleaned, peeled and chopped
170 grams tapioca starch
½ teaspoon salt

Steam taro until soft (about 20 minutes) and mash while still hot. Mix in tapioca starch and salt. Allow mixture to cool slightly then knead to form a soft dough.DSC01980

Adjust consistency by adding a little water if it’s too dry or more tapioca starch if it’s too wet/sticky.

Pinch off marble sized pieces of the dough, roll into small balls, then press gently in the middle to make a small indentation.

Bring a pot of water to boil, then drop in beads one by one. The beads will rise to the surface once they are cooked. Removed them with a slotted spoon and set aside.

For the stir-fry, the ingredients can be varied to your preference, but here is a general guide on what you can include:

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2 tbsp oil
2 shallots – thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic – chopped
1 chicken breast – diced
1 small carrot – diced finely
4-6 Chinese mushrooms – soaked until soft and sliced thinly
2 pieces of dried wood ears – soaked and thinly sliced
¼ cup dried shrimp – soaked and pounded lightly
Some spring onions – chopped finely for garnishing
1 tbsp of oyster sauce
3 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
¼ cup water
½ tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in wok/frying pan and stir-fry shallots and garlic for a few seconds. Add chicken, mushrooms, dried wood ears and dried shrimp and fry for a few minutes until meat is cooked. Add abacus beads and sauces/seasoning and fry everything together. Dish out and garnish with spring onions.

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P.S. More of my other recipes posted here

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gardening experience with Nathan

DSC01986Last week on one of my SAHM days, I decided to take advantage of the free school holiday activities at the nearby shopping centre.

The highlight for that week was a Dirt Girl World gardening activity – each child got to decorate their own pot and plant a little seedling to take home.

As a general rule I do not like gardening. But I thought it was a good opportunity for Nathan to explore the wonderful world of dirt and soil without me having to worry about cleaning up the mess afterward.

Here are some photos I snapped at the activity…

This is little oregano seedling I chose for him to plant

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He helped to scoop the soil with a trowel and gently pat down the little seedling the assistant placed in the container

Nathan getting engrossed in marker colour choices

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Once we arrived home, we transferred the seedling into our garden
(as advised by the assistants at the activity corner)

The transplanting of the seedling to our garden was not part of my original plan. But I did want to give the baby oregano a chance instead of just dumping it aside. Nathan wanted to “help” so things got a little messy there, but I bore with it for his sake and the little seedling’s.

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I even put my (*gasp*) bare hands into the earth to position the seedling and pat the soil around it properly. The soil felt cool and crumbly in my hands – the texture was not too different from brown sugar and flour. If I could rub butter in flour, I could handle this. For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the thrill those gardening advocates feel fingering the cool earth around their flowers, shrubs and trees. But it was just for a moment, I don’t think I’ll be adding gardening to my list of hobbies just now.

All in all, it was a great first time gardening experience for Nathan, with a bonus addition to our little herb plot.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Stashing up fluff on a budget

I recently wrote about how to get into cloth diapering on a low budget. Despite all the benefits of cloth, the sizeable start-up cost for a complete MCN stash is a major deterrent for some.

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Fluffy new MCNs are beautiful but can add up to quite a bit at AUD/USD30 a pop (images from
Bean Sprout Bubba)

I thought to share some of the points from that post here, but feature some links for readers in Singapore/Malaysia. So here we go… how/where to get cheap cloth diapers:

Pre-loved nappies – some great places to find second-hand nappies:

Buy local – look for local WAHMs and sellers and subscribe to updates for giveaways and promos: Malaysian cloth diaper shops

Check out Ebay – you can score some pretty cheap deals on Ebay (to cut down the cost further, get together with friends or other mums/dads to share the shipping costs)

Go traditional – consider including prefolds or flats in your stash. It’s not that hard to learn how to use them, and they are much easier to clean and care for compared to MCNs.

Go DIY – try your hand at making your own cloth nappies. Here are some useful resources to get you started:

If all else fails – just hunt-up some old T-shirts and turn them into instant no-sew cloth nappies like this and this.

For links and resources in Australia, check out my Bub Hub post.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reading about: The Power of Introverts

Just finished reading:

QUIET – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Absolute top notch recommended read. Here are some insightful points I gained from the book…

The word ‘introvert’ is not a synonym for ‘hermit’ or misanthrope. Introverts can be these things, but most are perfectly friendly. Nor are introverts necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overly stimulating.

Dale Carnergie’s [the writer of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’] journey reflected a cultural evolution… [we] shifted from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality… In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined and honourable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private… But when [we] embraced the Culture of Personality, [we] started to focus on how others perceived [us]. [We] became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining.

There are of course rarely any pure introverts or extroverts in the world. All of us generally fall closer to one side of the spectrum, and possess varying degrees of extrovert or introvert traits.

My own level of introversion and extroversion varies depending on different situations and circumstances, however at my core being, I generally prefer a quiet evening, sipping a glass of wine, alone with a book or with one or two close people.

The key thing I learnt from this book is that everyone, whether they are introverts or extroverts, has the power to stretch ourselves – like rubber bands. We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but within limits. After a stretch, we still need to fall back to our sweet spot to recharge – like rubber bands at rest.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Early thoughts on potty training

DSC01964So today out of the blue during lunch, Nathan pauses mid-bite and says to me “poo-poo”. Now he’s learnt how to say “poo-poofor a while now to tell me when he’d done a poo. So I get up to sniff his bum and peek inside his nappy. No poo.

After a minute or so, he paused and called out “poo-poo” again – a little more earnestly this time. But after another check, still no sign of poo. I was a little puzzled. Then on a whim, I decided to whisk out the potty set I had and plonk him down on it.

He was midway through a poo as I plonked him down, but he managed to make a small deposit successfully.

I cheered and hoorayed enthusiastically after he finished and let him examine his poo afterwards. He was extremely fascinated with it.

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My potty training attempts have been fairly erratic over the past few months since I got this potty set. I had read up on early potty training methods, but always found it challenging to make Nathan sit still in the potty whilst waiting for something to happen.

I decided not to force it and just see how things went. It would be pretty stressful constantly hovering over my child and nagging him if he needs to use the potty – especially if he has no inkling of what on earth I’m talking about.

I once read a quote that said “…in the long run, it doesn’t matter if they are toilet trained at 6 months or 3 years… eventually they will be trained”. Maybe he’s ready now or will be soon. In any case, I’ll take it one step at a time and let him learn at his own pace.

I might wait until the weather turns warmer so he can run around in plain underwear and won’t have to fiddle around with long trousers/pants and layers of clothing. Plus managing the increase in laundry (due to accidents) would be less of a hassle in sunny weather.

In the meantime, I’ll be reading up and getting all geared up for the plunge. If you have any thoughts or tips on the whens and hows, do share!

Some interesting articles I’ve found on toilet training:
http://toilettraining4toddlers.blogspot.com.au/
http://www.littlellamas.com/2009/08/potty-training-101.html
http://www.memoriesoncloverlane.com/search/label/Potty%20Training

Saturday, July 07, 2012

New toys

Filler post sharing some new things that I recently received…

#1. Baby Beehinds wetbags from Bean Sprout Bubba.

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#2. Cute outfits for Nathan – pressie from a friend’s recent trip to Thailand. Each set features the most adorable little tails. Perfect for when summer comes round.

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#3. New phone courtesy of my mobile phone provider as a reward for renewing my contract with them. Been very occupied exploring and downloading new apps and tools.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Blast from the past:The best friendships

It’s been a pretty rough week this week… with major work deadlines due, flu/cold/cough bugs, fevers and ear infections… the works!

Instead of bogging this post down with whining and complaints, I thought I’d share an old post (from 2006) I stumbled across which made me light up inside and gave me the strength to park the complaints aside…

The Best Friendships

I want to write a few thoughts on my childhood friends. During my recent trip back to KK for Chinese New Year, MH and I went out for coffee with some of my old comrades. Irwin was back in KK too... it was soooo good to see him because I hadn't seen him in ages. I can't explain how I felt. It was a little different from meeting Wini and Janice because I still see them a little more often. But seeing Irwin again made me remember the days gone by at youth fellowship and serving together as leaders and in the worship team. It all seems like it happened only yesterday... but then again as I watch the new generation of youths jumping about the church, it can also seem so long ago and I feel strangely older... not old (because I am not old yet)... just old-er.

We met at the Coffee Bean at Damai... which was where Burger King used to be at in "our time". Sigh, again I cannot explain how good it felt to be sitting together with Wini, Janice and Irwin, reminiscing about the old days and teasing each other about past crushes and the personal dramas we lived out together. I cannot believe how close the bonds of friendship still remain... I never realised those friendships forged in our youths were truly friends for life.

So many things to remember, it would take books to fill it all... so much to remember... Camping out in the hall togetherat the BCCM retreat centre in Kundasang... The silly ice-breaker games we played at JYF meetings every Saturday... JYF committee meetings that lasted for 5 hours... the gossip and drama of who-liked-who back when... we even when as far back as sunday school days when the boys wore socks up to their knees and shorts pulled high up their waist... and the silly boy vs girl debates we used to have in class...

I haven't laughed that hard in ages... I always need a good laugh every now and then... the really painful ones that bring tears to my eyes are the best. Those were good days.

I reflected that I can't always control when and how people walk into my life. These are people that are part of the community I was born into. In a way they are just like part of my family as well. To a certain extent I suppose I can control the people who become my friends. But the best friendships are the ones that just happen. These friends are more than just friends but truly brother and sister.

So when I think of happiness, I will think of vanilla ice-cream, Christmas, family reunions, as well as friends... like these.

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