Monday, May 29, 2017

Monthly play roundup: May

We’re almost halfway through the year! Every day is a buzz of activities. So much so that it’s often hard to decide on the favourites to feature on this roundup. But here are a few noteworthy ones worth highlighting…


Lego Gadgets and Toys
Thanks to Nathan’s and Grace’s Lego stash and some creative building, I was able to add some cool new toys to our indoor play area: A Lego paper crimper, Lego scales, Lego fidget spinner, Lego circle drawing machine and a Lego candy dispenser [lots more ideas on frugalfun4boys].



Magic Show
The kids have been showing some interest in magic lately, so for fun we put together our own little magic show with some real bona fide magic tricks. We made our own magic kits which included a disappearing coin trick and a magic wallet. Here’s a little video snippet of the disappearing coin trick in action.



Sheep and Ducks
We read some Mem Fox books about sheep and ducks, including ‘Where is the Green Sheep’ and ‘Ducks Away’. One of the children’s favourite games using our felt board pieces is ‘Find the Green Sheep’ and colour matching game. The children then their own game and story boards to take home to play out the story themselves.



Portuguese Bean Soup
We read some books about cooking and food and found a simple recipe for Portuguese Bean Soup. I set out all the ingredients and a portable stove. The children were thrilled to do some real hands on cooking, preparing all the ingredients and stirring everything over a real stove. And we ate it all up for lunch afterwards.



If you enjoyed this post, you can check out  last month’s George Marvelous Medicine science and cooking activity and more of my other play and learning ideas. Stay tuned for next month’s roundup!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Grace and Nathan’s Marvelous Medicine

We’ve been working our way through more Roald Dahl chapter books these past few months, including ‘The Witches’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’ and ‘George’s Marvelous Medicine’… and having a blast I must say.


This weekend as we were midway through ‘George’s Marvelous Medicine’, we had a little intermission to bring the book to life by concocting up our own version of the marvelous medicine.

Materials and equipment
Food colouring
Containers, cups, bowls
Assortment of kitchen utensils (spoons, whisks, pipettes, syringes)


Nathan and Grace spent close to an hour mixing, pouring, stirring the coloured waters together to make their ‘medicine’ mixture. And then came the magic bit--I set out some bicarbonate soda and vinegar and instructed the children how to mix them into their medicine to create a marvelous fizzy effect.


Afterwards the insisted on bottling up a sample of their marvelous to keep.  But it was purely for research purposes. I would definitely NOT want to venture a taste of this weird concoction. You never know what effects marvelous medicines can have on you. Better not to risk it.


Instead for a special treat, I set out a few sweet ingredients for the children to concoct their own sweet ‘medicine’. As it was an impromptu idea, I had to raid my fridge and pantry for whatever sweet liquids I could find: grape juice, rose cordial and lemon-lime cordial.


[If had time to put more preparation and planning into this activity, I would set out various freshly squeezed or blended fruit juices for the children to mix together their own healthy ‘medicine’].

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, check out the previous ‘bringing books to life’ activity we did based on Roald Dahl’s ‘The BFG’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Bar by Bar

I just had to take a bit of time to record my feeling of immense pride at this moment.

For this little guy.


This week at school, the music teacher had planned a ‘Performance Week’ where each child was free to prepare a song or dance or play a musical instrument in class. “To give them an opportunity to perform in front of an encouraging audience”, as she put it.

And Nathan apparently took the spotlight that day.

I spoke to the music teacher afterwards to get the lowdown…

“He did very well! He was the little superstar of that day!” she told me.

“Oh, I’m sure every child performing was a little superstar in their own right”, I said modestly.

“True, true… but I have to say, he was definitely a cut above the rest. Most kids at this age just go up and play something they made up on the spot just for fun. But I can see that Nathan put a lot of effort and preparation into his performance”, she assured me.

Nathan’s proud recount of the experience with a beaming face…

“I played really well! Everyone clapped. So many people put up their hands to tell me that they liked my playing. They all asked me to play the song again**. So I did! And the teacher said ‘Well Done, Nathan!’

We had both been working together really hard on piano this term. So this was definitely a proud moment for both of us. Though I never in my life imagined I’d find myself in the piano teacher’s seat, with my own child as the student.

People always warn us against being our own child’s tutor.

“You cannot be your own child’s tutor… it’s emotionally impossible!”

“Somehow you can stand stupidity in other children, but never in your own child”

“They will make you vomit blood I tell you… VOMIT BLOOD!!!”

The last remark was from my own dad when he at one time made an attempt at tutoring me in math. [Almost] every session would end in tears for one reason or another.

Hubs and I have had many philosophical ‘discussions’ on the subject of extra-curricular classes and activities for our children. Should we send them to learn piano, violin, or to sports, ballet or maybe art class? I was inclined towards just letting them be and not inflict the same torture I had received when I was a child.

“Let them pick it up when they are older if they are keen on it” I said.

“But how will they know if they like it unless they are exposed to it?” hubs countered.

We went back and forth on the subject at length. In the end I agreed to have a go at introducing Nathan to a few basics on the piano and see how things progress from there. We decided not to send him to formal piano lessons. One--because it costs a fair bit of money. Two--I didn’t want the bother of having to become one of those chauffer mums (at least not so soon). And three--I might as well put the expensive piano lessons I had received as a child to good use.

The two main resources I used were Mr Hoffman’s YouTube channel and this book. Both resources I would highly recommend (btw this is not a paid post). Especially the Mr Hoffman YouTube videos which are great for just dipping your toes in the water to see if you or your child show any early inclination to the instrument or to music in general.

The lessons kicked off very well at first. Smooth sailing. Then they petered out a bit when the hurdles began to surface. Deciphering notes and musical symbols. Getting that pinkie finger on the left hand to work right. Increasing the tempo of songs. And just generally exercising and coordinating those ten little fingers to build up all those new neuron connections in the brain.

“I can’t do this! My fingers don’t want to work properly! It’s TOO HARD!” cue tears and slamming of piano keys.

It took every ounce of moral fiber within me not to bark at him to buck up and get over himself.

“Nathan. I promise you that you will be able to play this song”

“No! I can never, EVER do it! It’s too hard!”

“You will. Maybe not today. But you will be able to play every note in this song. I promise you.

“But how? I can’t get anything right. My fingers keep getting mixed up.”

“This is how you do it. Bar by bar. One bar at a time.”

That’s how it’s done. Bar by bar. That’s how you do piano. And that’s how you do life.

Anyway, at this point hubs decided it was appropriate to dangle a small carrot* to get over this hump.

I was not keen on the idea initially.

After all shouldn’t the object of doing something be for it’s own sake?

But hubs assured me that it was a tried and tested method for generations.

I admit that it definitely helped to keep things moving along.

Then once we were past the hump, Nathan discovered to his surprise that he was actually enjoying it for it’s own sake after all.

And that’s how it’s done.

Bar by bar.

With a little carrot every now and then to keep things moving along.


[*P.S. A snapshot of some of the prized carrots waiting in the wings in the carrot vault…]IMG_20170407_122746_912[*P.P.S. It should be noted that the carrots have been dangled before the prospective recipient however no carrots have been officially awarded as yet. Carrot awards are subject to final assessment and review by the keeper of the carrot vault.]

[**P.P.P.S. For those who are interested to know, the song Nathan chose to play was ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’. Initially I had suggested that he play a slightly more complex song which showed off a bit more technique. However Nathan insisted on his choice. “It’s much better to play a song that everyone knows, mummy--then they can enjoy listening to my playing”. And it turns out the little PR man was right.]

Sunday, March 26, 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.







Saturday, March 25, 2017

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)

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).
Your darling way of lisping over certain words (“It’s berry, berry yummy!”, “I want the Lellow cup!”, “I’m feeling a bit gwumpy”).
The way you like to add a extra syllable to some words (“I’m sitting down ni-cerly”, “The witch is very ug-erly”, “I pat him gen-terly”, “I running so quick-erly”, “Don’t talk so loud-erly”, “This feels lover-ly--that last one always reminds me of this song from ‘My Fair Lady’).

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: