Thursday, October 31, 2013

Learning from messy play

As all mums can relate, one of the things we try to minimise as much as possible with children is: MESS. We put on bibs, we place mats or sheets under highchairs at meal times, we try to contain play time to a specified area, and phrases like “be careful” and “please hold it properly” are constantly on repeat mode like a broken record.

But sometimes, we should give free reign to allow some messiness to happen. Why? Because it’s educational, it’s stimulating and just plain fun… well for the little ones anyway. And chances are, if you don’t allow them a messy outlet, it will explode out in some other way.

If you’re up for it, here is something pretty cool Nathan and I played with recently...

It’s called Oobleck (also seen in Dr Seuss’s book) and it’s pretty funny stuff.

Here is the recipe:

  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-2 drops food colouring (optional)

Mix everything in a big bowl or pot until it comes together in one big gloopy mess. You can scale the amounts up or down according to the same ratio of 2 parts corn starch to 1 part water.

I had intended to leave Nathan in his messy play while I bustled around in the kitchen. But every so often he would keep yelling out excitedly “Look at this mummy!” or “Come and see this, mummy!”. So I came and looked. And as it turns out, I got sucked in as well. Because this is seriously some funny gloop.

This concoction is a type of non-newtonian fluid. Which means, it acts like a liquid when being poured, but behaves like a solid when a force is applied to it.

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We tried grabbing a handful of it, and it clumped together as we picked it up. But once in our hands, it oozes apart like liquid.

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We smooshed it and rolled it... and it started coming together. We could almost form little balls and shapes with it –but only just almost... the moment we stopped rolling, the shapes we formed oozes apart again.

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Ooblecky non-newtonian fluid. Hmmm... even mummy can learn something new.

When was the last time you got messy with your little one?

[Other messy plays you might be interested in: ice cube painting and water painting].

 

Linking up to June’s Little Lessons
Ang & Kaz’s Fly on by Friday
and Eva’s Mummy Mondays

Monday, October 28, 2013

A sleepy update

Just an update on my earlier post on sleep, or the lack of it. Thankfully baby girl had a couple of good nights here and there this past week. I managed to get up to five hours for a night or two. Not quite the six hours I was aiming for, but I’m happy with that for now.

I was feeling pretty good about my five hours until I read this. Turns out without sleep, our brains basically turn into one big toxic wasteland. All of a sudden I could actually feel those evil toxins literally building up and choking my brain.

The hubby was very sweet and voluntarily offered to take the graveyard hour shift on a weeknight (even though he was working the next day) to help resettle her if she woke and try to get her to stretch a little bit more so mummy can shut her eyes a tad bit longer (“Thanks, hon”).

Some precious photos of the little sleepyhead...

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When she sleeps, she really can sleep!

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I was snapping away for a good five minutes and she didn’t even stir.

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I finally had to gently nudge her a bit, it was time to wake up anyway.

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Good morning sunshine!

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Have a great week, everyone!

 

Linking up to the IBOT party

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My little wilds

Everyday I am always blown away at how so much both wildness and sweetness can be encapsulated in such a little person. Two to be exact.

One moment, superman is zooming all around the house. The next moment, I feel little limbs clambering up on my lap, two hands clasping my face and a cheeky whispered “I love you, mummy!” in my ear.

One moment, the tiniest person in the house is screaming the place down, so loud I am sure the house two doors down can hear (all because she is getting her hair washed). The next moment she is all coos and gurgles and heart-melting smiles.

One moment, I am bent over sweeping up a million crumbs and spills and messes (and it’s only breakfast time). The next moment comes completely unprompted sweetness in a “Thank you for cooking the pancakes for me, mummy

In the midst of all the wildness, these are the moments I live for.

Ah, my giggly, wiggly, chocolate-covered, wide-awake little wilds

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I am your parent,
            You are my child

I am you quiet place,
            You are my wild

I am your calm face,
              You are my giggle

I am your wait,
               You are my wiggle

I am your dinner,
                       You are my chocolate cake

I am your bedtime,
                   You are my wide awake

I am your lullaby,
                 You are my peekaboo

I am your goodnight kiss,
                     You are my ‘I Love You’

          –Marryann K. Cusimano

 

That’s definitely one thing I can say about parenting.
There’s no end to the surprises.

 

Linking up to June’s Little Lessons
and Kaz & Ang’s Fly on by Friday

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Just another ordinary Wednesday

Kicking off the morning with a visit from a couple of little superheroes. No biggie. Just another ordinary Wednesday for us here...

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Any other mums to mini-superheroes out there? Are you a superwoman-wannabe? Don’t be. You already are a superhero in the eyes of your family.

Reading about stopping the pursuit of the illusive superwoman.

You absolutely have to try this simple to-die-for peanut butter frosting with some crazy cake.

And what baby monitors, disposable diapers and car seats used to look like

  

[I am an avid collector and curator of all sorts of linky treasures, I aim to share one or two little treasures here every month]

 

Linking up to Sakura Haruka and My Little Drummer Boys

Monday, October 21, 2013

Is the eight-hour sleep really a myth?

At this present season of my life, sleep is a precious commodity which is in tremendously short supply for me. I am currently (just barely) surviving on a sleep deficit one day at a time. How I long for just one night of respite to have at least six hours of continuous unbroken sleep. I am begging for one night, please. Just ONE night would make all the difference, I’m sure.

I came across this article on the myth on the eight-hour sleep...

“...Historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks... a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep. During this waking period people were quite active. They often got up, went to the toilet or smoked tobacco and some even visited neighbours. Most people stayed in bed, read, wrote and often prayed...”

I for one think that ‘the myth of the eight-hour sleep’ is a myth in itself today. But maybe it’s simply because at the moment I am not given a choice: There is a great difference between waking up in a leisurely fashion in the middle of the night (preferably on a Saturday) and stretching your arms back pondering happily what you’d like to do, VERSUS having your gritty eyes painfully forced open at the sound of the baby monitor blaring loudly in one’s ear.

They say one should treasure every single moment of parenthood. EVERY single moment. Seriously? That too is a myth. There are plenty of moments of parenting that I truly treasure. But lack of sleep is really not one of them.

Yes, I know the years are short. I know this velvety milky baby smell will not last forever. I know my little ones will soon grow out of their little-ness all too soon. And I know the magic of their pure sweet innocence will someday fade away. I know.

But is it okay if I simply do not want to savour this feeling of sleep deprivation? In the end the image this bleary-eyed woman with dark shadows under her eyes staring back at me in the mirror will eventually be forgotten. And all I will remember are just the good ones.

For now, this is what I want most in the world: Sleep. Six hours of it. All in one go. That’s all.

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Linking up to Essentially Jess @ IBOT

Friday, October 18, 2013

Make your own cream cheese

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I love cheese. One of my favourite grocery indulgences is picking up package of fresh cheese from the deli counter… ricotta, mozzarella, feta, haloumi, I love them all!

I have always wanted to learn to make my own fresh cheese from scratch at home. However at the moment, I am lacking quite a few of the essential equipment and ingredients needed to do so. But then I came across this amazing and easy recipe for homemade cream cheese.

I’ve tried it out for myself a few times and I assure you it is totally doable. And you will be pretty blown away by the results.

What you need:

  • 1 kg of natural unsweetened Greek yoghurt
  • Half a teaspoon of salt
  • A cheesecloth or muslin bag
  • A fine sieve or colander
  • A large bowl

Mix the salt with yoghurt. Then pour the yoghurt into the cheesecloth and place it into the colander. Stand the colander over the bowl and leave in the fridge overnight.

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The next morning, the whey would have completely drained from the yoghurt, leaving behind a thick and creamy kind of ‘cheese’. Tip the cheese out of the cloth and save the whey for another use.

It tastes awesome drizzled with honey and some fresh bread.

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You can experiment with different flavours by mixing in various spices and herbs in the yoghurt before setting it to drain.

(The whey that is left behind actually has a lot of nutritional properties in it. You can mix it in with smoothies and juices, if you don’t mind the sourish taste. I also found it great in pancakes)

 

Linking up to DinoMama and The Multitasking Mummy

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Helping in the kitchen

When Nathan started showing interest in what I was doing the kitchen, I started trying to think of ways I could include him in my cooking activities. Hubby does not cook, so I handle ALL the cooking in the household alone. So it would be nice to train up a little helper to accompany me in the kitchen.
 
Initially I didn’t think there was much he could do. But at a moment of inspiration, I thought of letting him begin with helping to prepare his own simple snacks for morning/afternoon tea.
 
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Helping to peel bananas for afternoon tea
 
I sliced up some bananas with the skin on. Then I let Nathan peel the skins off by himself and place them into a bowl. It’s such a simple little activity, but he absolutely enjoyed it.
 
The bananas must have tasted extra yummy that morning simply because he helped to prepare them.
 
It’s never too early to start learning to help out in the kitchen.
 
 
Linking up to June’s Little Lessons

Monday, October 14, 2013

My quirky little girl

My baby girl officially turned 3 months old last week. She is growing so fast!
 
She’s just emerged from a really stormy wonder week… unsettledness in sleeping, poor appetite and rounding off with an extremely painful episode of blocked milk ducts at my end *ouchie* (due to the poor feeding). But hopefully we can now be rewarded with a period of some sunny weeks for now.
 
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There are very few things in the world that can't be cured with a smile!
 
Little Grace’s personality is starting to shine through beautifully. She is definitely turning out to be very different from her big brother. Here are some of her unique traits and quirks…
She loves sitting upright – this girl absolutely hates lying down on her back or even her tummy for extended periods. She insists on being held upright to see all the action happening around her. Our Jumperoo has been especially handy for this. She spends most of her wake-time sitting up in it watching what everybody is up to.
 
She insists on being carried facing outwards – unlike her big brother who loved snuggling against my chest in the baby sling, Grace is always trying to turn her head around or tilting backwards to see what is happening. So the only way she is happy being carried is upright and facing outwards. No cradle-carry for this girl!
 
She is the most talkative little baby – I don’t remember Nathan being this verbal as a baby (although he is a huge chatterbox nowadays). She is constantly cooing, gurgling, goo-goo-gah-ing and experimenting with different sounds. Perhaps with the constant chatter from her brother, she feels the need to keep up with the conversation.
 
She laughs and cries easily – It’s so easy to evoke a smile and laugh from little Grace, much to the delight of everyone. All it takes is a smile, a tickle or a song to make her pretty face light up. On the other hand, she can swing almost instantly in the other direction. The minute she doesn’t like something… the way she is being held or being ignored a second too long or getting hungry for milk, her lower lip starts trembling and quickly turns into pathetic wails in the next second.
In spite of or maybe because of all her little quirks, Grace is a very much loved little person in our household. Her big brother absolutely adores her and enjoys making her laugh and including her in his little games and plays.
 
I am soaking up all her baby-ness as much as possible…
 
Her velvety milky baby smell,
Her soft chubby folds,
her teddy-bear-like cuddly-ness,
 
Before it all fades away.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Linking up to Jess at I Blog on Tuesdays and Susan’s Motivational Mondays.

Friday, October 11, 2013

An impossible cake

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Every now and then, mamas  crave for something sinful and sweet… preferably with a touch of chocolate. Running after a toddler and breastfeeding a baby is really hungry work. I’m not really the sort of person who has their fridge and pantry stocked up with junk food and sweets. But I usually have all the basic ingredients on hand to whip up an indulgent treat when the craving hits.

One evening I found myself longing for a bite of some chocolate cake… however being the end of the week, I was out of some core ingredients. Butter. Eggs. Milk. All necessary elements required to make a decent cake. Or so I thought.

Then I found this impossible recipe. A cake with no butter, eggs and milk. They’re calling it Crazy Cake. Because you have to be crazy NOT to try it.

It’s soooo easy to make, no creaming butter and sugar or electric mixers required. Apparently it can even be mixed together straight in the baking pan, no bowls necessary.

 

Crazy Cake

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 tbsp. cocoa
1 cup white sugar (I reduced the amount to a 3/4 cup)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp.  salt
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp.  vanilla extract
5 tbsp. vegetable oil 
1 cup water

Directions
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Combine first 5 dry ingredients. Make 3 depressions in the dry mixture – two small, one larger.

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Pour vinegar in one depression, vanilla in the other and the vegetable oil in the large one. Then pour the water over everything.  Mix well until smooth.

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Bake in a greased cake tin or pan for 25-35 minutes.  Check with toothpick to make sure it comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan before removing.

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The result? A super soft and moist cake that was ready to eat in less than 40 minutes from start to finish. Now that is crazy!

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This great article on the LA Times mentions that the history of this cake can be traced back to World War II, when rationing forced bakers to deal with shortages of key ingredients like eggs and butter.

If you’re interested in the science behind what holds this cake together: In a normal cake, eggs and flour supply the protein required to set and hold the cake. Without eggs, you don't have much to hold the cake together. Using vinegar as a substitute creates an acidic batter to help the proteins to set faster. Also, forming the three holes, then pouring water over all and stirring allows the oil to float on top of the liquid, letting the water get directly to the flour to form gluten.

I’m filing this recipe in my my four ingredients category. Technically there are more than four ingredients in this recipe, but I think the absolute simplicity of this recipe warrants it to be categorised under this tag.

 

Linking up to a DinoMama's Foodie Fridays

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The sweetest kiss

On one morning this week, I heard the pitter patter of little feet coming down the hallway to our bedroom. I knew who it was. It was my almost 3-year old boy coming to make me start my day. It couldn’t be morning already.
 
I glanced at the time… 6.15AM!!! An hour early before our supposedly official start to the day. So I shut my eyes tight and laid there as still as I could. Hopefully my son would get the hint and creep back to his own room.
 
After a moment, I heard his tiny footsteps next to my bed. I felt a soft nuzzle against my face and a little kiss planted on my cheek. Then the pitter-pattering little feet tiptoed out again. That was all he simply came in to do.
 
I laid there completely stunned and swept off my feet.
 
That day I learnt that the sweetest kisses are the most unexpected ones. No special occasion or reason or agenda required.
 
A spontaneous family cuddle moment… no special occasion
 
Linking up to June’s Little Lessons

Wordless Wednesday: What’s on my fridge

Today I’m linking up to a couple of parties to show you a brief glimpse at my kitchen…

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Apparently what we put on our fridge says a lot about us… here’s a look at mine

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As you can see it’s very minimalist. We’re not big on magnets. All mostly very practical stuff. Just a couple of special photo moments, a recipe I’ve jotted down to try, some forms and bills to settle, emergency phone numbers and of course some lovely artwork on display…

  • The photos are one of me and hubby during our pre-wedding photo shoot and the other one is taken with my family during a visit back to see them in Malaysia
  • The handprint art is a Father’s Day card Nathan had made for his daddy at daycare.
  • The little lobster is a souvenir gift from my ex-colleague from Seattle
  • The yellow paper is my mum’s recipe for Mee Tomato which I am still trying to perfect
  • The purple form is Grace’s passport application for an upcoming trip back to Malaysia

What’s on yours?

~~~

Linking up to Ai Sakura’s Wordless Wednesday and Mama J’s A Look At My series

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The big chop

So just before my due date, I had gone for a final hair trim… I had my bangs tidied up and some soft layers added in my long locks. It had taken me over four years to grow my hair to this length.

However since the arrival of baby, my long hair was mostly tied back or bundled up out of the way. My long, silky locks had turned limp, tangled and frazzled with the lack of care and attention.

After a couple of months of my hair just being there but not really being there, I decided to take the plunge and go for it…

 

Behold, this is me going for the big chop!

When I told the hairdresser what I wanted, her immediate response was “Wha-- are you sure? It must have taken you years to grow your hair this long!”. She was quite apprehensive and repeatedly asked me if I was absolutely sure I wanted to crop it all off. I was just all cool and nonchalant and told her to dive in.

Throughout the session, she kept checking and asking to make sure she wasn’t cutting it too short. “You are so brave!” she said. I told her “It’s really okay. Hair will always grow back!”.

Despite the constant annoying checks and questions (I prefer my haircut sessions to be quiet and relaxing) she did a pretty good job.

 

Voila! Presenting my new summer look

I feel so liberated after shedding my long locks and am totally loving this fresh new look on me.

The pixie cut a.k.a. boy cut… do you dare?

~~~

Linking up to Jess at IBOT

Monday, October 07, 2013

How to score some cake

So operation toilet training has been going really well at our household. The whole process has been pretty labour-intensive but also interspersed with plenty of light-hearted and funny moments which has helped ease things along.

Here’s one recent funny episode: Hubs was sneaking in a quick snack of cake before dinner. He was promptly caught by our little man who has a very sensitive radar for these sorts of treats. Here is the conversation that followed…

[I should mention that whenever Nathan initiates doing a pee or poo by himself without any prompting, he can claim a little treat in the form of a small chocolate chip]
Nathan: Daddy! Daddy! Can I have some cake?
Daddy: Erm… no, you already had a chocolate chip just now. 
[Nathan then runs over to his potty and squeezes out a few drops of precious pee] 
Nathan: I did a pee! I can have some chocolate, yes? *innocent face
[Hubby and me burst out laughing at this point. I start moving towards the jar of chocolate treats. But Nathan had his plan all laid out already…] 
Nathan: *With a cheeky grin* Wait! I don’t want chocolate. How about cake?
He got his wish. We just couldn’t resist such cleverness, cunning and cheekiness.

That’s my cheeky little man!



Linking up to Susan's Motivational Mondays

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Our toilet training journey so far

After my first initial foray into toilet training, it's been a slow and winding journey. We've had several false starts and countless accidents along the way.
 
But recently in just the space of the last couple of weeks, we've finally found our groove. Nathan is now semi-officially nappy-free (except for naps and night time).
 
When my mum was recently here to visit, she took the opportunity to give Nathan an intensive toilet training boot camp. She excitedly talked up the potty experience, meticulously guided and prompted him to take toilet breaks at frequent intervals and patiently cleaned up numerous accidents.
 
However, progress was still slow. He didn't seem at all bothered about the wetness and mess and had to be constantly reminded and dragged to the potty to make a deposit every single time... and he would rather let an accident happen and continue playing than stop to answer the call of nature.
 
But a few weeks ago, I noticed a great improvement in his toileting. He was regularly responsive to my potty break reminders (no fussing, nagging or dragging required) and his nappies were always dry at each toilet break.
 
We were on such a perfect streak, so on a whim one morning I decided to take off his nappy and let him try wearing undies again. As the weather was now turning so nice and warm, I let him run around in just plain undies to make it easier to pull them off and on by himself.
 
We started with two accidents on that first official undies-only day. Then one accident the next day. And then we were pretty much accident free on day three onwards. There was an odd slip up here and there. But it's been now over a week, and I think I can confidently say that we are finally on a roll.
 
I'm really proud of my little man for finally stepping up to the plate and being so initiative and positive about the whole process.

I don't claim to be an expert, but I thought I'd share some of the little things we did which I think helped in our situation:
  • We had two potties placed at different parts of the house to save a potential long run all the way from one end of the house to the other just to get to the toilet in time.
  • We positioned one of the potties around the TV area so potty-time doesn't become a major deterrent during a really exciting programme (I plan to gradually shift the potty further away and closer to the toilet over time)
  • Once the weather was warm enough, we let Nathan run around in just undies so that he would be immediately conscious of any accidents and to make it easier for him to pull them off and on himself.
  • We rolled up the carpet and put some protective sheets the couch to make it easier to clean up any messes and accidents

The next step for Nathan's toilet training would be to practice using the 'big' toilet, then try going nappy-free outside the house, and after that move on to going nappy-free for naps and eventually through the night.
 
If you have any tips on moving on to toilet training for naps and through the night, do share them with me.