"Cooking with Love" competition

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(Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsor post nor an invited event. Just sharing one my first time experience joining a cooking contest)

A friend of mine tagged me in one of her FB's photo, which was an advertising poster on a cooking contest held by the Hougang Mall. I didn't read the whole thing very carefully (as of who's the sponsor and all the important dates, etc). But because it touched on "Cooking with love" and "wholesome recipes", and I was sold, totally. Do you know why? Because it is very close to my heart - see what I am trying to document in one of my on-going effort in my blog in sharing of "1001 healthy cooking kids within 30 minutes".

I managed to send in my entry, which is "三杯鸡" or "3 cups chicken", but I don't like the translated name, so the name I submitted for the contest was "Sweet basil chicken on rice". I submitted on the due date itself, a few hours before it closed for registration. I received a call to inform me that my recipe was selected to be 1 of the 14 recipes to be competing for the lunch, just a few days before the contest. Then a confirmation e-mail after, which was like 3 days before the contest. So everything was in a rush, which was a good thing, so I didn't need to spend time to think about it, let alone practicing for it, LOL!

I only started to be a bit panicky on Friday night. Because the recipe I submitted called for the Thai basil or sweet basil (九层塔). What if I couldn't get that in the NTUC FairPrice at the Hougang Mall? One of the challenges of this contest was that no ingredient can be brought from home, not even sugar or oil. Everything that needed to be used in the cooking must be purchased at the NTUC FairPrice at Hougang Mall only in that dedicated one hour before the cook-off, and within the $100 budget limit. It's not a common herb that many people would use, but a friend of mine had bought it in one of the NTUC FairPrice. 

I haven't been to the Hougang Mall so I didn't know what to expect. To prepare myself, I did some Googling on late Friday night, to see if there is anything I can use as substitute if I really couldn't get the sweet basil, and I got an answer that I want (Google is always so awesome, that's why I love love love Google!)! And the answer is a simple spring onion!

I cooked this dish 2-3 times over the last 1-2 years, and I really like how flavorful this dish is! But the outcome hadn't been nice. I decided to submit this recipe anyway since I know I can comfortably prepare and cook it within 1 hour (that's another challenge of this contest - one hour cooking time was allowed, no a single minute extra). 

So on Saturday morning, I brought along my whole village with me, haha. The four of us, my parents and my brother. They were really poor thing. They got to wait for me for a few hours. They had done window shopping, lunch, library, ice-cream, window shopping again and I still was not done, LOL!

Back to the contest.

It's my first time to participate in cooking contest in my entire life! Yes, true, there is always the first time for everything we do since the first day we were born, right? This is one of the first I so need to record. I somehow felt that my "auntie-ness" is suddenly up many levels once I registered and got my number, lucky number "7". Really felt very auntie at the beginning. Then I saw some young contestants and there were even 3 males (3 out of 14, that's 21%, really not bad, huh!), and that kinda make me feel better, haha!

Getting ready to kick start!

I only realised that Maggi is the main sponsor at the briefing. As expected, extra points will be given if Maggi product is used. I don't use any, and I don't intent to use any just because of the extra points. Have to stay true to myself, haven't I? If product with the "healthier choice" logo is picked, extra points will be given too. Basic cooking utensils are provided, including an induction cooker, and also the basic cooking ingredients like oil and salt. Any special kitchenware had to be brought from home, after getting prior approval. I didn't bring any extra. We were then given about half an hour to shop for our ingredients after the briefing.

It's real fun to shop when you don't have to pay for it. I got all I wanted just below $40 

The most ingredient that I bought was the Chinese Shao Xing wine. When I was looking through the bottles, one kind auntie came to tell me to just buy the most expensive one as only that one tastes decent. So I listened to her. Also I bought a small bottle of good quality black sesame oil. I was very tempted to get a premium quality soy sauce, but since it's provided, I didn't want to waste it. I got a bottle of Himalayan pink salt instead. Since I don't use any seasoning or MSG or soup stock/cubes, etc, these basic condiments of good quality are thus very important for the dish.

At 1pm sharp, all 14 of us started food preparation and cooking. I was very relax as my dish was a very simple, and am very sure one hour was enough for me. I washed up the vegetable and cut the chicken drumsticks into pieces, sliced the ginger, peeled to skin of the garlic and I was ready to cook. Throughout the 60 min, my table was kept very clean and neat, and I think this had helped me in getting quite some points (one of the judging criteria - taste, presentation, creativity, hygiene and I don't remember exactly what else). By the time I finished cooking, everything had been washed and dried, and kept nicely, and table and floor and the cooker are near sparking clean :-P. That's how I would do at home also, so it's more like a habit. Good habit is sure to be kept!

The cheering from the kids sure got me a few more points :-) They really cheered loudly "Mama, jia you, Mama, jia you!" LOL!

Some of the judges came talking to me and I explained to them how I had to substitute sweet basil with the spring onion. They were pretty impressed with that (though I didn't tell them I got the help from Google!) and a few more points were given for this last minute change for my "creativity", I think. And they all said it smell really nice, all thanks to the good quality of the wine and sesame oil, and the chicken are very nicely colored. Another thing that amazed people is that I don't taste my food while cooking. I don't measure how much I put in, I just anyhow pour in based on my gut feeling and the dishes usually turned out just nice (that explains why I am very bad in coming out with a recipe, because I simply don't measure!).

Finally, 1 hour was gone. Dishes were lined up for the 5 judges to sample the food! Can you guess which one was the winning dish from the photos below?

I was talking to my colleague when the results was announced. We kept on talking and suddenly my name was called! We both jumped, literally! And yes, I was the 1st runner up for this contest!!! I really, seriously, honestly didn't expect it at all.

When I received the prize ($500 shopping voucher!) from one the judges, Mr Png Eng Huat, who is the MP for Hougang, he congratulated me, and said to me "your children are really blessed to have home cook meals that is cooked with love!" It really touched me when I heard that, a stranger can understand/feel my 用心良苦!

(Note: I didn't know he is the MP for Hougang! I kinda felt that he looks familiar, and I suspected he must be a politician, but I didn't know it's him, sorry for my ignorance. But I must say, he is really a very friendly and down to earth kinda person, thumbs up!)

And, present to you, the 1st runner up dish - "Sweet basil spring onion chicken on rice"!

I have totally no talent in food presentation. I don't "beautify" the dishes almost all the time, I don't even garnish my dishes. Could have been presented nicer, but this was the best that I could come out with :-) And you may want to ask, how did the dish taste like without the sweet basil? The chicken tasted about the same since the main ingredients are the wine, sesame oil and the soy sauce, which made up the "3 cups". But it's lacking the unique fragrance from the sweet basil. If given a choice, I would always prefer to add in some sweet basil. Those thing besides the brown rice was mushroom cooked in the same sauce, and kinda garnished with the red pepper (I know, looking so ugly, try harder next time, haha!).

It's a good experience which I enjoyed! And the shopping vouchers are surely a big bonus :-) Thank you, Hougang Mall!
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Enthusiastic little cyclist

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Last Sunday morning, we were discussing with the kids where should we head to after their violin class. I suggested cycling, and the kids responded keenly. So off we went to the East Coast Park.

After we have rented the bicycles, I suddenly realised that this is the very first time for Xi Yu to ride a bicycle, at 4 years 10 months old! Such a life of a second child, whose needs and wants are always neglected more often than the first child, comparatively when they were at the same age. Well. Life is never fair, isn't it? I didn't really feel guilty about it, don't have to, really.

The kids are happily cycling while we followed behind on foot (bicycle rental is at $6 per hour, or $10 per 2 hours plus 1 hour free)

After cycling for quite a long distance, they stopped and went for some sand/beach play. You see the slope that Hao Re is trying to climb up, it's quite steep and not easy to. Xi Yu didn't manage to do it, but she never has to worry, because her big brother is always there to help! Up to the top she went with her Gorgor pushed her up all the way, and gave her encouragement that she can do it! There are a few older girls, much older, like higher primary, who wanted to climb up and they gave up without much trying, kept saying it's very scary, very scary. Hao Re was puzzled on how come those Jiejies think so, because he climbed up just like that, pretty effortlessly. That's the different between girls and boys, I suppose.

It's a nice weather on Sunday! Always nice to catch some sun when it's not too hot!

The good thing about practicing child-led approach is - we don't need to tell them what to do! They decide what to do based on the environment (and their mood, probably) they are in. We, parents, we just sit and watch :-) There is no need to worry that we don't bring the beach tool (they can play with their bare hands, or pick shells instead of sand play, etc), we didn't bring extra clothes for changing if they get wet (just have to tell them once, no clothes to change, and they decide if they would get wet or not, though secretly I was praying hard they won't get wet), etc. We don't worry unnecessarily (though I still do, sometimes, but my hub is a totally cool man!), and we deal with the situations as the day moves along.

Monkeying around and an ice cream treat!

What makes me wanting to write this post is, something unexpected happened.

After the beach play, we turned back and planned to return the bicycle to the shop and then headed for dinner. Both of them were still within our sights initially. When we were approaching to the shop, we assumed they could recognise the bicycle shop and would stop there and wait for us. Quite a silly thought we have, for that they are only 5 years (1.5 months short) and 6.5 years old! Hao Re stayed quite close to us so we managed to stop him. While for Xi Yu, the poor little girl, she continued on, she cycled pass the shop and continued on and on. We thought she would turn back when she realised we were not behind her. But she didn't turn back. She went straight ahead. By the time we decided that we needed to get her, she was very far away from us. My hub ran (at jogging speed) to catch up with her, it took him 10-15 min!!!

When my hub finally saw her, she was still cycling ahead. My hub called to her, and there was panic in her eyes. But she didn't cry at first. When my hub offered her a hug and to carry her, she burst our crying :-( When she saw me later, she has already calmed down and as if nothing had happened. I gave her an ultra big hug and many kisses to make her feel better. Hao Re was the one who learned the lesson. He kept asking me what would happen if Baba cannot find Meimei.

Lesson learnt for us also. Never apply adult's perspective on children. And as the kids grow older and want to be more independent, we need to think of practical ways, to tell them what to do, and who to call, etc, should similar incident happens again.
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My blogging journey - Part III

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.......continues from "My blogging journey - Part II"..........

What I had not thought of, is, what I have gained from blogging, from being a blogger, from being part of this blogsphere!!! I have gained so much that it really is difficult for me to let go of blogging. Honestly.

There is this saying - the more you give, the more you get. It's so true. But I am so lucky that what I get is so much more precious than what I give, for that I am just sharing what we experience and what we know genuinely and never expect anything in returns.

So you ask.

What exactly have I gained?

Through my blog, I have met many so many awesome friends (hello, there!). Some of them are readers turned personal friends. Some of them are fellow blogger mums. Some of them are already my friends but our relationship becomes stronger because of this blog! Many of my friends were amazed that I am able to become a "local" so effortlessly, and many a time, if I don't say it, people can't tell that I am not a local (but usually I would offer this information voluntarily, LOL!). It's exactly through these groups of wonderful friends that I learned a lot about Singapore, learned a lot about Singaporeans, learned a lot about parenting, and learned a lot about life in general, because they are always so willing to share. Thank you, my dear friends!

It matters to me lots, when a friend or a reader e-mails or messages me how much they have enjoyed reading our blog, or on a particular blog post. Or how useful the information is. It really matters to me a lot. The encouragement and support that I receive, always make me wanna share more.

Social media has become part of our live, for most of us. So the way that marketing companies market their products has changed. They know exactly how powerful the social media is when comes to advertise their products. Many of these companies turn to blogger. Why? For the targeted audiences and the authority of the blogger in that particular niche/field. And also, paying a blogger to advertise for their products is like paying peanuts when comparing to advertising on the main stream media.

So, over the years, I have received many advertorial opportunities - be it product review, paid review, event invite, etc, and I have accepted some. It was very excited when I received the very first e-mail, asking me if I can review their product, write a blog post, and they would actually pay me for that! That was, to me, a dream comes true. I was so happy when I received the very first pay cheque out from blogging. It's not a lot of money, but it did motivate me to want to be a better blogger.

You know what. Let me tell you a secret. I even dreamed of being a full time blogger! I have read a few of those very successful bloggers, who makes big amount of money from blogging. Some of them gave up their full time job and have become a very successful professional blogger. I was so envy. I thought of trying out to be a full time blogger. But obviously I didn't. I dared not try out because we do need a stable incomes. We had no confident that if we could do it, because we are not strong in the technicalities of the blogsphere - SEO, keyword, Google Analytics, plug-ins, html, etc and etc. I tried very hard to digest this information, but it's so not for me. Couldn't really understand how the whole thing works. Plus the fact that I have mentioned - the language barrier that I am facing - that I know I would never be able to write awesome kind of articles.

Then I also looked at other possibilities to make money using the blog - advertisement (Google adsense, nuffnang, etc), affiliated programs, advert space, etc. None of them really works for me, because one really need to spend time to understand the technicalities in order to make money online. Though some claimed that passive income is possible. I don't have the knowledge and I don't have time to experiment on that. I still think it would be so cool that if one can live, or better still, support the family, on the passive income generated from a blog.

So, money making has dropped to become to lowest priority. What I have not forgot is why I wanna start this blog. So I went one (or more) step(s) backwards, and to remind myself of that. It is still very clear to me that I write this blog because I want to note down the growing up of the children, to document our family life. I have not started it for money (what I get is too little to be considered as an income). And I want to write what I want to, and not to write something because I have to or ask to. Stay genuine is definitely one of my blogging philosophies.

I appreciate the opportunities that come knocking on our door. I am very grateful of the products/events that are offered to us, which otherwise would not be made known to us, let alone try it or own it. So yes, sponsors, do continue to write in with the wide range of products, we would consider each seriously. For example, sponsored air tickets for our family to any place is cool, LOL! Though, I have to clarify that I have been a lot more selective nowadays due to the very limited time that I have. And I would only accept those products that we would use and we would give our 100% honest review.

Another point to clarify, I do not like to do giveaways. I feel sorry for our readers who would miss out chances to win something from our blog. But I really don't enjoy the process and it takes too much time and effort, for me. So, sorry that there is no giveaways from this blog, but I hope our blog benefits you from other aspects.

With this, it pretty much sums on our blogging journey.

Oh, and that we have been nominated as one of the Best Family Blog in the Singapore Omy's Blog Award 2014, it is a huge bonus, which we had not dreamed of. So it's okay. We don't need to win. To be nominated is a big hurray for us already :-)

We sincerely thank you for your wonderful support over the years. I thank each and every one of you!

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Food tasting at Marina Square Curry House

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Curry! I love curry! Or I should say, chilli, I heart chilli!!!

The way I eat chilli, and my tolerance level towards the spiciness of chilli always give people a shock, haha! How spicy is spicy for me? Well, let's just say I won't even blink when biting on a chilli padi, neat. My colleagues always give me the stare when I comment some of the chilli are sweet, while they already cannot take it. I am super excited whenever I meet Viv for lunch, because she loves spicy food more than me, and so it means we can go and hunt for spicy food! We often go for the "ma la xiang guo" (麻辣香锅), and we order the highest level of spiciness and we don't feel a thing :-)

This post is on food tasting. So go back to the Marina South Curry House. Sure it attracts me when a shop's name includes the word "curry". So we gladly accepted the invite for some food tasting at their shop at the 100 AM (Amara Shopping Centre).

It is out of our expectations to step in to a eateries with very clean and neat. Simple furniture and simple deco. Made us feel relax to dine in an environment like this.

As soon as we sat down, they were so kind to serve us some very nice cold refreshing drinks, and some snacks. I simply love the freshly made buah long-long juice, absolutely my favorite! I greedily ordered for another mug. You know we grew up in kampung, and we tasted the freshest buah long-long juice, as fresh as the fruits were just plucked from the tree and immediately make into juice. This one we had at the Marina South Curry House, it's the best that we have had in many years! I also like it that we can decide the level of sweetness as the syrup is provided separately. Absolutely must have!

Our food tasting started with some refreshing drinks and yummy snack!

For snacks, the kids like the sweet potato fries, a very thoughtful alternative, and supposedly healthier choice. They finished one whole basket of it. While for the adults, oh, the salted egg fried chicken drum-let is a genius creation! We love the salted egg crab and prawn, but we have never tried salted egg chicken. I was a bit skeptical at first, but upon the first bite, I couldn't wait to bite into the second and third piece. It's really a nice match. Thumbs up!

While waiting for other food to be served, we took a look at their menu. Since they have already pre-prepared some dishes for us to try, we didn't order anything extra, though some of the items on the menu looks interesting. We could order as many dishes as we wanted (they were so generous!), but we are those who cannot see food wastage, to see food left on the plate/table make us guilty, and we must finish all food. So to play safe, we didn't order anything extra.

The menu - quite a wide range of choices and at pretty reasonable price too! Won't burn a hole in the pocket for sure

And so, the most popular, must-try, signature dishes were served!

Red curry chicken - you can choose to have yellow or green curry, which tastes slightly different, different level of spiciness and sweetness. But of course red is the hottest. But to me, the Chilli Queen, it's nothing, haha! But I have to say that the curry is very flavorful, not too much coconut milk, but the sweetness can be tasted, and it goes very well with the rice! If I have to make a comment, I would say the chicken meat is a little hard and dry, if it could be more tender and juicy, it would have been perfect. All 3 types of curry could be cooked with different types of meat, at one's preference.

Toufu with vegetables - this dish is obviously prepared for the kids. Did my kids, who are very used to Mama's cooking, like this dish. You bet! Between the two of them, they finished the whole dish to the last strand of vegetable together with a plate of rice. So need I say more?

Claypot fish beehoon - this is a surprise dish for us! First we didn't expect for a none-spicy dish to be a signature dish. But then, nothing wrong with that, right? The manager told us that the chef insists of using fresh fishes (they get the supply every day), cooks the fish soup broth from scratch, and there is no milk added to the soup based to make it milky! This is definitely the selling point for me. As a mum who spends a large amount of time in the kitchen, I know exactly how to make a fish soup broth like this, they surely cannot save on the amount of fish/fish bones used. The verdict? My hub loves it, he gave it 2 thumbs up. While for me, I totally agreed on the no milk added part, but to me the fishy smell is a bit strong, I thought the fishy smell could have been masked a little bit more (with more ginger maybe?) to achieve the fresh and sweetness of the soup. Fish slices were fresh, but I think it's a bit overcooked.

The signature dishes served to us - red curry chicken, toufu with vegetables and claypot fish beehoon

The overall dining experience has been very pleasant. And yes, we would definitely be back again! Let us know how much you like the dishes!

Open Mon - Sun; 1130 to 2200
  • 100, Tras Street, #03-14
  • Singapore 079027
  • Phone - 6694 8108

Disclaimer: We were invited for a food tasting on a Saturday lunch. All food and drink were provided FOC. No monetary compensation was given. All photos and opinions are genuinely, truthfully, mine (and my husband).
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My blogging journey - Part II

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........ continued from "My blogging journey - Part I"

So, despite my poor command of English, I decided to start a blog to chronologically document the growing up of our children. We found that a blog works well for us, as we could easily find information that we want, like, when was the last time the kid was sick and what medicine we gave etc. With my very poor memory, I couldn't have remembered all this if not for what I have recorded in this blog. And it's really nice thing to read the old posts and to look at the photos when they were young, when they were so tiny, and how much they have grown! When they were young, everything seems to be worthy of a blog post - from the food/drink to pee/poo, from the first step to running/jumping around, from waking up a few times a night to sleeping through - everything was a crucial event and worth blogging about, really.

Later on, when we "upgraded" from a new pair of parents to experienced parents (ahem!), things have settled into more of a predictable routine. I found myself started to share more and more of parenting experience and tips on various topics, including things we do and places we go on weekends, healthy living tips, etc. And over the years, they are more and more people (mostly parents, I would think) know about our blog and some dropped us a message to thank us for sharing the information (how nice these people are!). How many readers our blog has? Well, it's a constantly growing number, and now it's 5 digits per month. It's nothing compared to other popular blogs, but it's nice for me to know there are parents out there reading our blog.
One of the questions I often have from friends -

If blogging is such a hard work, did I ever think of stopping?

Oh yes! Definitely yes! Over the last few years, there were a few times when I thought of stopping this blog. For various reasons, with the topmost reasons described below:

1) Am not a good writer
> As I have mentioned in my previous post, there is language barrier that I am facing. I know I won't be able to write any perfect master pieces, be it in English or Chinese, because I am just not a linguistic person (on the contrary, am a Scientist!), not a person who could express myself well in words. When I read the blog posts from other bloggers, I could just admire how beautifully written their posts are. But I kinda got over this, I just remind myself to be genuine, to write what's coming from my hearts.

2) Too much to write
> As a parent blogger, I have never faced the issue of nothing to write, but I often have problem of there is just too much to write about! We started the blog with the aim to document our family life, so when there are simply too many things that I couldn't put into my blog, I got frustrated at times. And with so many other social media platforms available nowadays, it's not impossible to switch to another platform in replace of a blog. Lucky I didn't make the switch. What I did was to use other social media platforms to complement this blog. So for this blog, it continues to serve as a place where we document the more memorable events, or things that needs to be noted down in more than a paragraph, or two. Short updates are done via Facebook and Instagram, on a almost daily basis.

3) I only have 24 hours a day
> I have to work 9 hours a day (plus another 1.5 hours traveling to and from work), I have to cook and do house chores, I have to entertain (take care) of the kids, and I am not given any extra hour. Oh, I also need to rest/sleep. And oh, I always have to ignore my dearest hubby, and he is very kind to let me do that because he knows I like to blog (sometimes he does complain too!). I only have 24 hours a day. So sometimes I would leave the laundry unfold so that I can do some photo editing, or floor unclean so that I can get a draft done. But the most common struggle is still with sleep. I am trying very hard to change my lifestyle, just about a month ago, and I am giving myself the time limit of 12 midnight and the computer has to be turned off. This is a big step for me as I previously usually stayed up till 2-3am :-( Let's see how this goes. It could mean less blog posts from me, or there could be a change of blogging style/focus. I am certainly putting my health on top of everything else, shouldn't I?

4) Privacy issue
This is one issue that most parent bloggers have to deal with. We worry if we reveal too much information about our kids, our family? Would that post a threat to our safety, the kids especially? There are a lot of discussion on this topic. I had discussed this seriously with my hubby a while back, and we concluded that it's okay to continue blogging and sharing on the social media the way we are doing now, but we follow these 3 rules strictly, on the blog and other social platforms - i) NEVER reveal our home address on the public page, ii) NEVER post where we will be going, we only post about where we have been in our blog and sometimes during the event on FB/Instagram; iii) DO NOT write about any work related topic in our blog, including not to mention where we work, strictly. The privacy issue remains as long as we stay on the blog/social media, but hope this extra precaution helps.

So, yup, despite the struggles, we have decided that our family blog is going to stay :-)

In the next post, I will be sharing with you what keeps me going......

Our blogging journey to be continued in Part III .........
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Our blogging journey - Part I

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By July 2014, I have been blogging for SIX years!

I started blogging on the 24 July 2008, when my first born was 6 months 20 days old, that I officially posted my very first blog entry, .

In my 6 years of blogging, I have published a total of 867 blog posts (excludes this post). So that makes 144 blog post per year, or 12 blog posts per month, or 3 blog post per week, on average. An active blogger, eh? It's a lot of hard work to publish 3 blog posts per week for the past 6 years, especially that I only blog after the children have gone to bed, and after working for the whole day, it means fighting with sleeping time. To blog or to sleep, to sleep or to blog, it often is a struggle. Obviously I choose blogging quite often :-) Blogging has become a hobby, become part of my life!

Our humble family blog was nominated by a dear friend of mine to enter the Omy's Singapore Blog Award 2014. And guess what? Our blog has been shortlisted as one of the ten finalists for the "Best Family Blog" category! Wow, yes, I know, I am very happy and excited! It's such a big achievement in my blogging life! It's not about winning the title, really that doesn't bother me, but what it means to me, is the recognition, it's the fact that parents out there appreciate the information I shared. I always tell myself to share genuinely and generously. To those who appreciate what I share, even if only one blog post that is useful for them, the time that I spend on blogging is so worthwhile!

Looking back, it's definitely a very fruitful blogging journey. Never regretted it, though I had thought about stopped blogging (that would be in Part II.......).
This is how I started The Kam Family blog 6 years ago (oh, wait, I started it as www.babyhaore.blogspot.com, before I got my own domain 3 years later).

It took me a long while to finally started to blog. A few months, that is, it took me a few months to think and decide if I should start a blog. The reason being - I do not have a good command of English. Believe it or not. When I first used English to write something, excluding exam time, it was for my thesis for my final year project in University! My final year project's supervisor was horrified reading my draft that was full of mistakes and funny sentences, LOL! Before that, I had not used English in writing (and speaking) at all. I was from a Chinese educated background, so English to me, was purely for exam, and nothing else. To add on to that, I hadn't read any book in English, except textbooks, until when I was doing my PhD in Cambridge!!! And I still remember very clearly that the first English book, non-textbook, that I read, when I was 26 year old, was introduced by my ex-colleague, and that was Harry Porter! So you need not ask me about any classics because I have read none.

Hence I had no confident to write in English, though my English did improve after living overseas for a few years and that I use mainly English at work. But my vocabulary is very poor, and so I often struggling in finding words to express myself in the exact way that I want. I often have to write the sentence or passage with whatever words that I can think of, and hence I can never write a beautifully expressed article. I had thought of writing the blog in Chinese, which I am much proficient in, but I am very bad in Han Yu Pin Yin, so that means it would take me a very long time to write (type) a post in Chinese. Though I know I can express myself better in Chinese.

The final decision came when I was reading a friend's blog. She might not know it. But it's her blog posts that inspired me! She wrote it so well, she expressed her love to her child so beautifully. I know I would never, never ever, be able to write like her, but it made me wanted to write something, to have some documentated memories for our children, in words and in photos. There won't be beautifully written articles, but every post comes from the bottom of my heart, it's written out of LOVE.

It's okay to have far from perfect English. Doesn't matter. I just want to note down their growing up, I want them to know how much we love them. I want to have a record of our family as much a possible. So please pardon me for my poor English, and excuse me whenever you spot any mistakes, ya :-)

And so, this is how our family blog started.

This is one of the collages that I made to be placed on my blog a few years back, and it had stayed on the blog for quite some time, because the kids are just too cute! 
Our blogging journey to be continued in Part II............
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InterContinental Planet Trekkers Dinner Party

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It got me very curious of what a Dinner Party could be, as I have not been to one. So when I received the invite from Ogilvy PR, on behalf of InterContinental Hotels and Resorts, to attend the launch of a brand new InterContinental Planet Trekkers Menu specially designed for children and co-created by child food experts, Michelin-starred chef, Theo Randall, and nutritionist, Annabel Karmel, I knew I must go.

It's about food, child food, nothing got me more interested than this. And I saw Annabel Karmel, who is the nutritionist that I look up to, especially during the early growing  up years of my kids. I learned how to prepare puree, and some simple and nutritional food from her (books). And I saw Michelin-starred chef! How often would you come across a menu designed by a Michelin-starred chef? I really must go!

So we went. On Saturday, 21st June 2014, we attended the dinner party, there were about 20 children and their parents. A dinner party is, well, just like any other party. It's all about food and fun! Plenty of food had been prepared for the little ones and the adults too. And there was balloon sculpting, which never failed to entertain the children, and magic show, which again, always well-like by children of all age!

Chef Randall gave an introduction of the food that he created on the Planet Trekker menu, which starts from starters, main course and dessert. All are specially designed for the enjoyment and health benefits of the children.

Chef sharing of how's the Planet Trekker Menu created. Photos taken with my very trusted Xperia :-p

When it comes to food, it's best to let the children be the taster. Really. Because they don't lie, and they don't need to say any kind (read: pretentious) words to please anyone. Don't you agree?

For my 2 children, they are very different when comes to food. Hao Re loves to explore new food (like the dad!) but he doesn't eat a lot, but he really knows what good food is. While for Xi Yu, she is totally opposite. She eats a lot more (even more than Hao Re though she is 1.5 years younger!). But she doesn't like to try new food. It's very difficult to persuade her to try any food that she hasn't seen or tasted before.

So this little man got very excited when he saw the food on display. He already wanted to start eating from the display set, LOL! When the food was served, he literally was eating non-stop, he got his hands on every thing from starter to main to dessert!!! His verdict is - very nice! I asked which was his favorite, he said all, so I just have to trust him (okay, except that he doesn't eat salad). As expected, the little girl was not too keen on trying out, but good thing was she liked the pasta and polished up one big plate, and she loved the meat patty in the burger (she didn't eat the bread and the salad though).

Very happy sampling food that was especially created for them!

For the fun part, although it's simple, the children were very well entertained. Hao Re particularly liked the magic show, he still talks about it till now. He immediately volunteered to be the assistant when the magician as for a volunteer. He was usually very shy and never agreed to be on stage publicly on volunteering basis. This was his first experience and he loved it! And the little girl, she was totally so very funny! She didn't want to get any balloon made from the balloonist. Because what she was aiming for was the huge balloon hat that the balloonist was wearing! She bravely went to ask to take it home when the event was about to end, and her request was fulfilled by the kind soul :-)

It's time to party! Lots of fun they had!

Now. When do we adults think of the food? We cannot only listen to children right, can we?

To me, the food meets the criteria of 色香味俱全 - look, smell and taste are all thought of. And it's simple. And with no processed food involved. So yes, I do agree that it's a great food creation that children may like. While for my hub, who is quite a foodie, he thought that it's a bit too salty for some dishes for children's standard.

The new Planet Trekker menu is now available at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts throughout South East Asia and will be available globally by the end of July 2014. So, if you happen to stay in one of their 181 hotels in more than 60 countries, you may want to let your children try out the some of the dishes on Planet Trekker Menu. Enjoy!

(Disclaimer: We were invited to attend the Dinner Party. All photos and opinions are genuinely mine. No compensation was made for the publication of this post)
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The SIX years old molars!

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Today on the topics about teeth.

Now, the fact :--
We all know that babies grows their first tooth at about 6 months old, or later for some, and some could be as late as 2 years old! and then the second, third..... ten..., and then the pre-molars, and finally the molars, and they would grow a total of 20 teeth to consider a full set of baby teeth.

Photo taken on 4th July 2014 - I got to cooperate to show me the healthy set of teeth they have :-) 

(Side track a bit - Hao Re grew his first teeth when he was 6.5 months old and that was my 2nd blog entry 6 years ago, where has my baby gone?!! And Xi Yu had 4 teeth when she was 9 months old. I just did a search on my blog, and oh goodnees, I blogged when they had their first teeth, then when he had 4, 6 8, 10......, till they grew their full set, imagine how much time and attention I spent on them!! Wish I were that patient and gentle and kind Mama once again......)

Back on track.

We all know this, right?

And then when they are about 6 years old, some earlier, some later, they would start to drop their baby teeth and the permanent teeth would be out. Hao Re dropped his first 2 front bottom teeth when he was 6 years 1 month old. And this drop-old-grow-new-tooth process would happen again and again into their primary school years until all 20 baby teeth to be dropped and replaced by new teeth, and also growing new ones till they have the full set of adults teeth, i.e., 32 in total.

Though the wisdom teeth might not grow out till much later, so some adults could only have 28 teeth for their whole life, or for some, the wisdom teeth do come out, but are extracted later due to various reasons. It's not that common that a person would have a full set of 32 teeth for most of their life. I had the full set of 32 teeth for a brief few months or years, can't remember. Then I had to extract 2 of my wisdom teeth and then another 2 more. So I have no wisdow (tooth) left, LOL!

Okay. That we all know, also, right?

But what I and some of my mummy friends did not know is that, there are new teeth growing BEFORE the baby tooth is dropped! I TOTALLY DIDN'T KNOW THIS! All this while I thought all the baby teeth would drop and get replaced first before other new teeth would grow, or at least most of the baby teeth drop before new ones grow. I was so wrong!

This was how I found out. We were having dinner and Hao Re suddenly complained to me that he felt gain of his gum near where the molars are. He had no single complain before this. So I took a look (when he finished chewing and swallowed what's he's eating) and saw his gum was very swollen and I saw new teeth erupting out of his gum! I couldn't believe my eyes but I stayed calm. I counted his teeth, and there are 20 + 4 erupting molars! I swore my heartbeat was bumping double the amount. How could this happen and I thought something very wrong might have happened to his teeth.

As what I always do, I messaged the hubby, and as what he always responses, he said nothing could go wrong. Asked me not to panic, waited for him to come home to take a look. He said the worst scenario is to make a urgent appointment at the dentist, what's to worry?

Right, silly me. So panic for what? Just 4 extra teeth only, mah! I googled but couldn't find the information that could help. Most mentioned about the 20 baby teeth, and the 32 adults teeth, or the replacement of baby teeth.

But the me inside still cannot let go, so I quickly posted a HELP! on my FB wall:

And I received quite a number of responses from my dear mummy friends (thank you, you all!). Some shared that it's normal, and they saw that in their children also (most of my mummy friends have children of about the same age as Hao Re or Xi Yu). A dear mummy friend told me there is a term called "the 6 years old molar"! So I googled that and bingo, all mystery solved!

It's absolutely normal that a 6 years old (or thereabout) to grow new molars before the baby teeth start dropping. And very often the child won't complain of any pain, if his jaw has enough room for the molars to grow, and if the alignment of the teeth is good that they growth of new teeth won't get in the way of the existing molars. So the molars just erupted out without anyone knowing. Just like that.

So now Hao Re has 24 teeth - 18 baby teeth + 2 permanent front teeth + 4 new molars. Gosh, would I able to keep track of this? LOL!
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Fly with Super Heroes!

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We went flying with the Super Heroes on a Saturday in June, in Singapore!

That's a pretty cool idea, right? Especially for those super heroes lovers, like our dear Hao Re. So when the Mount Faber Leisure Group sent us an invite to attend the event - DC Comics Super Heroes Cable Car Experience, we gladly accepted the offer!

The kids were excited about the event so when I asked them to change into their super heroes costumes, they happily obliged to. But they don't have any DC Comics Super Heroes, only have Spiderman / Spiderwoman ones. So it's time for Spidey to meet his friends, also not a bad idea right :-)

We drove up to Mount Faber where the event was held. We just had our (late) breakfast so we didn't eat any of the food provided. The kids were happy with their mocktails (unlimited supply) and while us adults are happy with the coffee and tea provided (also unlimited!), enough to keep us happy.

Spidey sipping their mocktails. It's pretty refreshing! 

After a short introduction about the event, the kids were invited to make a super heroes cape with some felt clothes. It's nice for the kids to get their hands on crafting, as we have not been doing much arts and crafts at home, lazy mum, me.

We are a very cool pair of parents (ahem!), you know why I said this? Because we let the children do what they wanted to do with their cape. We didn't help much and we didn't stop them from doing what they wanted to do, and we didn't change their idea. Yes, the outcome was not as nice, comparatively, but that doesn't matter, the more important is - they made the cape themselves, and not us parents who did it. From the designing to drawing/writing to cutting and pasting. Hao Re did get help from the daddy to draw him a nice spider. My dear hub was willing to help because before Hao Re asked for help, he did try to draw one on his own, but it didn't come out well and he was totally not happy with that (which he later persuaded Xi Yu to stick that not-so-nice spider on her cape, haha). So Hao Re ended up with a pretty cool spiderman cape (but then, spiderman doesn't have/need a cape, LOL!) Xi Yu one was much simpler, she wrote whatever words she wanted to write (she always prefers words than drawings), cut out whatever shapes she wanted and stick them on, plus the spider "donated" by Hao Re.

The kids with their super heroes cape, 95% made by their own! The mask is provided by the organiser. 

And, we were ready to fly!

Once we got on to the cable car (not available for all cable cars, you must let them attendance know that you want to board one with Super Heroes), you need to run the special apps called "Fly With Super Heroes" (available on both Apple and Android platforms) on your smartphone (best to pre-download before flying). Run the apps and scan one of the codes inside the cable car, and one of the super heroes would fly in to your cabin! There are 4 different DC comics Super Heroes that you can fly with - Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman. You can let the attendance knows who you want to fly with, and he should be able to accommodate to your request (well, at least our requests were attended to despite the weekend crowd, they are all very helpful and friendly!).

We fly with Batman, Superman and Green Lantern! See who's the happy and excited one?

I shall not give you too much details so that you can go experience it for yourself, though the photos above should have given you some ideas. The reason why you didn't see Xi Yu in any of these photos was because she was not interested at all. Even when we offered to get on a Wonder Woman cabin, she declined. Probably is the girl thing, LOL! For us adults, well, we were not all that interested, but still, it's a new experience and we played along to make the little man happy, hehe.

This special cable car installed with the special in-cabin Augmented Reality technology allows you to fly with the DC comics Super Heroes is available from now till 31st March 2015. So if you have a kid, or two, who loves Super Heroes, especially Batman, Superman, Green Lantern or Wonder Woman, don't miss this opportunity for them to experience this.

Make a visit to Mount Faber, Harbour Front, or Sentosa Cable Car station to ask about this, of to purchase the tickets. You may also visit their website to find out more about this. Package is also available, or if your little ones really like, you can consider to sign up as member so you can fly as often and as many times as you want throughout the year!

Disclaimer: Our family was invited to experience "Fly with Super Heroes". We were given the chances to take as many cable car trips as we wanted on that day, though due to our schedule, we took 2 round trips from Mount Faber to Sentosa and back. No monetary compensation was offered. All opinions are mine and photos were all taken by me too.  
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The Giving Tree

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I was feeling all very excited to be involved in giving back to the society - "The Giving Tree" project runs by Gumtree Singapore.

"The Giving Tree" is Gumtree's corporate social responsibility project, which aims to connect with the disadvantaged children in Children's Aid Society's Melrose Home, hoping to make a little difference in the lives of these children. Through this project, Gumtree hopes to encourage the spirit of volunteering and giving back to the society.

I have the privilage to be involved in this project. Gumtree contacted me and told me about this project, which I gladly agreed to join. They provided me with a credit of $150 so that I could purchase gifts from Gumtree for the children.

In Singapore, Gumtree has over 600,000 unique visitors and over 10 million page views every month, about 170,000 live listings and over 6,000 new listings per day. The power of the platform is the ability to fulfill the core need of finding immediate value across a range of categories, especially in housing, jobs, goods and services. It’s now the leading classifieds site in the U.K, Australia, South Africa and Singapore, with a high-profile presence also in Hong Kong, New Zealand and Poland.

To purchase a gift for the children, I went to the Gumtree Singapore website to search for some suitable toys for the children. The website is quite easy to navigate. There is a pretty comprehensive product listing or since I knew what I wanted to get (which I discussed with my children and decided together as a team), I used the search function to do a keyword search. The filter function is helpful to narrow down the items listed. Product information and seller information are provided for the items that I was interested in.

The good thing about Gumtree is, in my opinion, that it serves like a "middle man" to help connect the buyers with the sellers or vice versa. Once the seller information is found, buyer could contact the seller directly to work out the deal. This is unlike other online shopping portals which you purchase the goods from the website. The experience has been quite pleasant and I found the toys that I wanted and contacted the seller to confirm the purchase in slightly more than 10 minutes.

There was a chance to interact with the children through some activities that Gumtree had arranged on the 15th June 2014. Unfortunately we didn't manage to arrange for someone to care for our children so we had to miss out on the opportunity to connect with the children.

It's such ashamed that we couldn't hand the gifts to the children on our own. Gumtree representation helped us with that instead. I sincerely hope the toys that we got for them would bring them some joy in their life! 

Melrose Home is organising a Fund-Raising Dinner at Mandarin Orchard on the 25th July 2014 for the Children's Aid Society - Melrose Home. The children would certainly appreciate your support and generous contribution, which will go a long way towards providing a safe environment filled with hope and courage for the children! The Home requires a monthly average of more than $150,000 for it's operation, and the major part of the Home's operational costs need to be raised through donations from generous well-wishers. 

For more information about the Fund-Raising Dinner, please visit their website at www.childrensaidsociety.org.sg, or you can e-mail vidya@childrensaidsociety.org.sg if you would like to make a different to the children's life at Melrose Home. 

Thank you for your support!
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What I need is rest, rest, rest and sleep, sleep, sleep

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I have not been feeling so tired, so lethargic for a long long time :-(

Age is, definitely, catching up. I was down with a very nasty infection last Monday, as in 8 days ago, and I still have not fully recovered till today, that I am still coughing bucket and there is still lots of phlegm stuck in my upper respiratory system. I am fully functional at work and at home, but with pretty low energy level.

Really no joke to be forty. 

During those days when I was still young, I would easily bounce back within 1-2 days. In fact, it's so rare for me to even fall ill to begin with. When I was living in England for 3.5 years, from the period of 2000 to 2003, I hadn't visited a GP, not even once (wasted the free medical provided, haha!), and I hadn't been absent from my laboratory for the whole 3.5 years because of sickness. Back then, I was 14 years younger! These 14 years really had done something on me. In Chinese, it can be aptly described as 岁月不留人!! 

Okay. To be fair to myself. This time round I could tell that it's not a viral bug, but more likely a bacteria infection (based on the trend of fever I had, and for a total of 72 hours!), so it does take longer to recover if it's a bacteria infection given that I do not take any antibiotics. 

I really feel so lethargic. Especially after one full day of work. I could still hold myself in one piece to fetch them from childcare centre, cook dinner, serve them dinner, see them play, see them take shower on their own, and see them get themselves ready for a bedtime reading, read them a book each, do whatever I need to do (very ultimate bare minimum), and then, I just KO, totally KO, from 10pm till the next morning. So with the long night sleep, at least I could wake up fresh the next morning, go to work full of energy, and then I start to "deteriorate" after lunch. Gonna pick myself up from the floor, or table top, with a big cup of strong coffee, and I survive the day. 

Probably I will continue to be so for a few more days. So people, very sorry for the long hiatus in this space and sorry for the posts that I supposed to come out with (for activities that we attended during the past 2-3 weekends). I really have to nurse myself back to the pink of health, before I could spend some time on some writing. 

Health is paramount. Drink plenty of water during this crazily hot weather (I drink 2-3 litres of plain water a day to beat the heat!). Stay healthy, everyone!   
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Primary One Registration for Permanent Residents (PR)

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We have become a pair of parents since 6.5 years ago. Meaning our first born is going to Primary One next year!!!

I wrote a (one and only) blog post about primary one registration back in October 2012 - 'Primary One Registration - from a PR's perspective', and it amazed me that my thoughts are still stand!

What's changed is that the rules for the Primary One Registration - more changes have been made to benefit the citizens, to make sure that the citizens are well taken care of, to have a good chance to enter the schools of their choice.

What does that mean for permanent residents like us? Well, very good news actually. If you are like us, who will be registering your first born, who is a Singapore PR, for primary one, then let me share with you the good news!

We do not have to do anything! Yeah! 

No need to do research on which school is good or better (because MOE promises yet and again that every school is the same, every school is good school, don't they?), no need to register to do parent volunteer (because chances are, no one is going to accept you), and no need to be confused of the very complicated registration phases (because PR is only eligible to register at Phase 2C and 2C supplement).

Even for Phase 2C, which would happen from 30 July to 1 August 2014 (see the Infographic below), please be reminded that you stay calm, do not take leave on 30 and 31 July. We only need to get ourselves busy on the 1st August 2014. On this faithful day, it's the time for us to register our kid for the primary one. You have to check with the school of your interest (which I think would 99% be one that is near enough to where you live, since all those popular ones won't have anything left for this phase for PR), how many places left for grab. Remember that you don't rush to register your child on the 30 July 2014, it's not to our benefits to do so. Remember earlier in this post I mentioned there were changes made, one of these changes are to reserve 20 slot for Phase 2C. But same as every phase, whatever places are to be filled by citizens first regardless of distance. So it could be deceiving that there are still lots of places left for Phase 2C, it's not true, not for PR anyway. So I repeat one more time - wait till 01 August 2014!

Source of photos - www.moe.gov.sg

If, says, by the last day of Phase 2C, 01 Aug 2014, there are only 5 places left, unless for a very solid reason, like the school is just right next to you, you may want to give up this school and go register at your 2nd or 3rd choice instead, if you have any. Why? Because if there are only 5 places left, and there are 5 citizens have decided to register at this school at Phase 2C only on this very last day, then these 5 places go to these 5 citizens, even if they live in Bedok but want to register at this school at Jurong West. Even if you stay right next to this school, but because you are a PR, places are not up for PR to fill up with until ALL the citizens have been filled, regardless of where they stay.

My tactic would be (ops, I am talking about my tactic here, meaning actually I lied, I didn't just sit and do nothing. In fact, I did read quite a lot and hear quite a lot that I think I know this registration process way too well! I admit, I mean, it's really fun to read all this stuff, so uniquely Singapore, I do genuinely enjoy reading this sort of information, seriously, haha!) to try my best to secure a place at Phase 2C. The reason is that if you take the gamble and try to register at the school of your choice that have very few places left at Phase 2C, if you are really bad luck and don't get it, then you have to wait until Phase 2C Supplement.

And when it reaches to Phase 2C Supplement, >90% (my wild guess) of the eligible 6 years old have already secured a place. Schools that have vacancies left for Phase 2C Supplement are really not that popular. And the worse is, when there is no more school near your house has vacancies left for Phase 2C Supplement, then congratulations, just pray that you are able to register at a school that is still not too far away.

Again, good news. As a PR, we sure get a place for your child at Phase 2C Supplement. The government is so kind to ensure that every PR child have gotten a placement before all the remaining vacancies in all the schools around the island opened up for Phase 3 registration, which is for foreigners. Hey, at least we as PR still have some sort of priorities, not that bad after all!

So, it's just about 50 days to go! And it's only 13 days to the start of Phase 1 registration!!!

Good luck to all my dear fellow mummies, regardless at which phase you are going to register your child for Primary One, wish you all the very best!
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Grocery shopping with kids

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It's a solo parenting day on Sunday while the hub needed to get some work done. We didn't have anything planned, except their violin class (Xi Yu started learning violin on 08.06.2014) in the afternoon. We don't usually have problems with mornings as the day is still fresh and they won't be bored with their toys and stuff, yet. By afternoon, they could get a bit bored, sometimes, which we don't usually have any problems either if the daddy is around.

I didn't want to take any chance since it's a solo parenting Sunday  (sounds like a real serious business, and it is!), so I have been thinking what to do with them after their class. The sun was scorching hot so I didn't wanna do outdoor. I so desperately wanted some air-con so I thought why not going for a grocery shopping trip. We have brought the kids to do grocery shopping numerous time. But this time, since we have time to do a little bit of planning, I decided that maybe we can come out with a shopping list.

I started with the list, to write down some of the stuff that I need in the kitchen. Then I asked the kids to take a good look in the fridge, and around the house, to find out what we need to top up with. We're going to do MAJOR shopping, like filling up the entire shopping trolley kinda shopping, which we need to do every few months, and when hub is with us, today's exception.

Working on their shopping list - the girl writes, the boy draws, perfect combination!

Then I went through the list with them, confirming on the items that we need to get. A total of 17 items on the list!

I always, always, always love grocery shopping, than shopping for other stuff! I could be at the supermarket for hours if I am allowed to. Just love to spend time there. When I do grocery shopping alone, I could go to any supermarket, no issue. But when with kids, I prefer a big one with reasonable aisle space, and not too crowded. Since we were on the way back home from town, I chose the NTUC Finese at the Thomson Plaza (one of my favorite places for grocery shopping).

Ready to shop! So looking forward to find the first item in the list

We often encourage them to sit inside the trolley and then we push them around. That's the easiest way to shop with the kids, don't you think? You can do your shopping a lot more efficient, if they agree to sit in it, that is. Really. Trust me.

I just pushed them around aisle by aisle. They would call out to me to stop when they spotted something that they needed to get which was on the shopping list. The item got crossed out when it's placed inside the trolley, and they took turn to do that, which was really a breeze for me (I had thought of having 2 lists to avoid fighting). When they got more stuff into the trolley, Hao Re automatically got out from the trolley and walked and pushed the trolley with me instead.

Both are working very hard to read and check on the shopping list

Since we were not in a hurry for anything and we did enjoy the free air-con, we did the shopping very leisurely and slowly. We took more than an hour to pick up the exact 17 items on the list, plus an extra item that Hao Re requested, yogurt.

Busy with loading and unloading. It's fun!

So they even helped me to upload all the stuff onto the cashier counter. They have to stand inside the trolley in order to put stuff onto the conveyor belt, there is no other place for them to stand and still be able to pick things up from the trolley and put on the belt. The cashier (auntie) must have repeated 108x for them to sit down and to careful of falling :-p Hao Re has this habit of arranging things in a particular neat order, so he loves doing this.

The end results of our hard work - 17 + 1 items

They asked me questions about why I want to buy a particular brand and not the other. So I took the opportunity to tell them about organic vs non-organic food, the source country of the items, labeling, etc. I explained to them the reasons why I choose that particular brand out of the many other choices. They listened with full of interest! I hope they have keyed in the information into their memory.

Healthy eating and living starts from young!

So, if you are squeezing your brain on what to do with the kids, plan a grocery shopping. And share with us your experience, would love to hear them!
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Fencing for kids

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Hao Re has always been interested in trying out fencing. It's no surprise as he likes sword and fighting. He didn't really understand that fencing is a sport. He thought that it's a game that he can play fighting with friends.

He first saw fencing at one of the shopping malls where there were on-going fencing classes and I think he had watched it briefly on the TV also. He asked us a few times if he can try out fencing. So when Absolute Fencing contacted me on offering us a free trial at their fencing club, I immediately accepted the invitations! However I didn't tell the kids until the very day itself, as I didn't want to answer the kids 1001 when would be THE DAY for fencing. Over excited kids are challenging, LOL!

We, the 4 of us, supposed to try out fencing as a family. But I chickened out at the last minutes as I thought I would enjoy it more watching them (and taking photos), what a good excuse, LOL! I was with them the entire session though (and not busied myself with my phone).

What surprised us was that even Xi Yu was so excited with the trial! She eagerly changed into the fencing suit, put on the gloves, and listened to and followed the instructions enthusiastically. Really is a big surprise to me. While for Hao Re, it's expected. He truly enjoyed the session and asked if we can go back again the next day before we left the club.

The class started with the trainer telling the participants some basic stuff about fencing. All of us know nothing about fencing, so it's new knowledge for us adults too! Then they continued with the basic postures and steps.

Starting off the class with so much enthusiasm!

And then the excited moments came! Learned how to use a weapon! The kids are really amused by the gloves that they have to wear and how to hold and use the weapon.

Looking pretty pro, huh!

And the excitement didn't end there. They were given an opportunity to "fight" too! This is the part that the boy loved most. He is very competitive in nature. He likes competition and he wants to win. He got to fight with his sister, and as expected, he won, and that got him all excited and kept asking about when to come back again.

With the full gear, including the electric jacket for a real fight

The whole trial class lasted quite long, almost 1.5 hours. They were a bit inorganised hence dragging the class over 1 hour. I wish they could have been more organised and the class can be run more smoothly. Nevertheless, it is really a nice thing for the kids to try on. The trainers/coaches are patient with kids (though one of them is not that friendly, the other are) and they are able to engage the kids well. The room is big enough with very high ceiling so we have got the very roomy feel, and the though the set up is simple but it's just nice.

We were considering seriously if we would like to sign the kids up for the class. We would really want to. But after considering the fact that Hao Re is still taking his violin class, which would last for quite some time, plus that he would be starting Primary one in a few months(!!) so we decided that fencing has to wait. We lazy parents don't want to busy ourselves with any additional enrichment. We would probably let him try again after he settles down with his new adventure at the primary school.

If your children are interested in fencing or you are interested to introduce fencing to your children, there is a good news for you! Absolute Fencing is opened up free trial sessions for our readers! Click on the link to sign up for a free trial (quote "The Kam Family" upon signing up).

If you sign up for classes/programs after the trial class, you will be given a free T-shirt (while stock available, limited sizes) if you quote "The Kam Family".

Disclaimer: The Kam Family was offered a free trial lesson at Absolute Fencing, and monetary compensation has been given for the write up of this blog post. All opinions and photos are genuinely originated by The Kam Family. 
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传统节日的传承 Chinese festivity inherited

I successfully made some yummy Cantonese glutinous rice dumpling last year for the Dragon Boat Festival (or Dumpling Festival, aka 端午节). I called it a success because I managed to replicate what my mum made for us, in terms of the taste and the look of it. Not perfect, but good enough for a first timer.

I was very, very proud of that. Because that means I would be able to pass down this tradition to the next generations! I hope my children and my grand children would be interested to learn this.

Some of my blogger friends asked that if I could show them how to wrap the dumpling after reading my post last year. I remembered that very well. I don't know why. I probably have selective memory as some of the things would stay permanently while some won't stay more than 5 minutes. I digress.

So this year, I offered to organise a "dumpling making party" - a few mummy bloggers came to our house and I showed them how to prepare the ingredients and how to wrap dumpling. They have some hands on practice with the wrapping and the outcome was really not bad! Out of the nearly 100 dumpling that we made, only 2 "burst" :-) Okay, some of the dumplings didn't come out very nice shape and some near to bursting, but it's still edible nonetheless. I didn't plan that well and I didn't spend enough time with each of them to explain and to show them how to do the wrapping. Also, you know what would happen when there were 7 women in one room - talking non-stop, literally, LOL! I must say it's a really fun session!

I have 2 other close friends came over in the afternoon on the same day to continue with the wrapping. It's a lot more quiet (I wonder why, LOL!) and I could spend time with each of them and to "supervise" on their products. The afternoon batch did come out nicer, hehe.

I am, again, very happy this year as I don't have to wait till my children to grow up, but I can already pass down this tradition to my friends! I tell you, it's such a nice feeling, I felt like such a big satisfaction! Maybe I shall plan for a (better) session next year, and maybe the year after next! Anyone wanna sign up?

And this is the refine version of the recipe that I posted in my previous post:

How to make Cantonese rice dumpling 广东咸肉粽
(NOTE: 1kg of glutinous rice makes about 30 piece of the Cantonese rice dumpling)

- 1 kg Glutinous rice (to soak in water for at least an hour, strained. Fried it till dry up, then add seasoning, which I use salt, sesame oil, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce. You want to make it tasty (so make sure you add more salt, light sauce than what you would add in normal cooking) and with nice color.

- About 30 cut pieces of 3-layered (fat and lean) pork. The size of each piece in each rice dumpling is up to individual preference. Marinate with generous amount of five-spice powder, that is to cover each piece of meat thoroughly with the five-spice powder, a bit of salt, sesame oil, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, leave it to marinate overnight if possible.

- About 30 pieces of dried shitake mushroom (to soak in water till soft. Squeeze out the water the fried it till fragrance, season lightly with salt/soy sauce, if preferred)

- A small bowl of dried shrimp (to soak in water till soft, for a few hours). Squeeze out the water the fried it till fragrance)

- About 30 pieces of chestnut (to get those disheveled ones from wet market to save preparation time. Soak overnight till soft and remove any residual skin, and then fried lightly, and add seasoning).

- (optional) A big bowl of 眉豆 (black-eyed peas) (to stir fry and add a generous amount of five-space powder, and a little bit of salt). I realised this is really quite a unique Cantonese style, and only commonly found in the northern part of Malaysia. Only Cantonese style rice dumpling put this bean, while others don't. We love this beans, so it's a must for us. See photo below (top left).

- (optional) salted egg yoke. Some must have this, but not for us. You can buy ready made salted egg yolk from the wet market. I cut them into smaller pieces and each dumpling I only add 1/4 to 1/6 piece. See photo below, top right.

Oh, and of course, the dumpling leaves and the string for tying the dumpling. Dumpling leaves to be cooked in boiling water for a 10 minutes or so to soften the leaves (also the clean and sterilise the leaves thoroughly). Rinse/wash with water to remove any residual and let it dry at room temperature, or you can use a clean cloth to wipe it dry. Some trim off the end before wrapping. While for me and my mum, we prefer to trim of the ends after wrapping.

All ingredients prepared! Ready for wrapping!

Wrapping part you may want to refer to my previous post to have some basic idea. Or you may search for youtube clips or from other blog. I didn't take any photos this year, so I couldn't show you the steps.

One tip to share is that, if you are a busy mum like me, and couldn't spend the whole day preparing for the ingredients and do all the wrapping, you could prepare the ingredients beforehand and keep them in the fridge (which explains all the ingredients are in storage containers as I cooked each ingredient separately whenever I have some pockets of time).

Then it's the cooking! Make sure all the rice dumplings are soaked totally in a pot of water (you need a big pot for that). Bring to boil and then let in cooked in slow fire for 2.5 hours (just enough heat to continue boiling it like how you would slow-cook a pot of soup, i.e., still bubbling hot but not overflowing). Yes, it is 2.5 hours, no less. After 2.5 hours, take one out and test if it's thoroughly cooked. If not, cooked it for another half an hour or as needed.

So, are you up for the challenge? Make your own rice dumpling next year and pass on this tradition!
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Are you interested to peek into a FTWM's 'After Work Hours'?

Are you a full time working mum* (FTWM)? Have you ever wondered what do other FTWMs do after knocking off work after a long day at work?

*Full time working mum means a mum who spend at least 8-9 hours of her precious time at work, any less than that is not considered full time

We are a pair of working parents with 2 kids. We are the lucky ones who can have full control of the kids and take the full responsibilities of the kids' growing up, as both sets of grandparents are not able to help out and give all sorts of advises as they reside in Malaysia. So we parent the kids exactly as how we want, total freedom. We have not engaged any live-in helper as we don't buy the idea, so we ended up doing all the chores on our own (thanks to a very hands on hub who is very willing to help out!), which isn't too bad as we have cut down the cleaning schedule to the ultimate bare minimum. We insist to cook most of the time, including weekdays, for the health benefits.

On top of that, the hub often has to work late and hence arrive home late. So I am with the kids on my own on most working days, like 197 out of 200 days. Am not complaining (though it did take me some times to get used to this), as the bond that I have with the kids are just too precious.

Thankfully, I am actually coping very well. Or rather, I am very used to this already as I have been doing this for the past 6.5 years. Plus, I really do not have any other choice/option, so I just have to bite the bullet and do it. Just do it, that’s my motto. Do it with love, do it because I am the mum/wife, do it because I enjoy to be able to provide for the loved ones.

I have to say that it’s been very easy recently (since about half a year or so back) as the kids have grown up. When I looked back half a year back, or one or two or three or four years back, I seriously have no clue how did I pull myself through some of the tough times! And I might not be able to say the same half a year later when Hao Re starts primary school (think of the homework!). But right now, this very moment, it's the easiest time for me. They are 6.5 and 5 years old now. At this age, they are very independent, and they are easy to please.

People have always commented that my kids are those easy to take care type, and asked me how did we "train" the kids. Though I am born in the year of Tiger, but I don’t even roar, haha! We are all for positive parenting and so there is no punishment in the household and we have never owned a cane. I don't really know what kind of "training" had worked for them, but somehow, the kids learned to be independent, learn to take care of their own without the needs of hard training or nagging (yay!), and they behave reasonably well be it at home, at school (only praises so far, LOL!) or in public (haven't received any complain yet). So yes, they are, in general, pretty easy to take care of. Best of all, there isn't any sibling rivalry issue to deal with and they have never fight (physically) till date, so that kinda save me lots of headache and time.

Free play time - do what they want to do, alone or together

Sorry for the long-winded introduction. So by now I hope you have an idea of what kind of challenges I have as a FTWM.

So this is what I, a FTWM, do in the evening, after work hours, on a typical working day.

6pm: Arrive at childcare centre

6.30pm: Arrive home (home is only about 5 minutes drive away from their school, but more often than not, they want to play at the playground for a while before heading home)

630-7.00pm Once reached home, mum goes straight in to the kitchen and start preparing for dinner, while the kids enjoy their free play (they do not need me to accompany them at all, and they know and they decide what they want to do). They seldom disturb me in the kitchen. Sometimes they do offer to help out, and I would let them but I don't proactively ask them to help as I only have 30 min to put dinner on the table, so less disruption is always good

7.00-7.45pm Dinner time (where we sit down to eat and chat and sometimes read some books while eating)

7.45-930pm Free play again. It could be anything, and it's entirely up to them. They decide - play toys, read books, draws, paints, pretend play, Lego, do a craft, practice violin, etc, almost no limits as to what they want to do, even if they ask for outdoor playground, I would bring them to, except gadgets and TV. Gadgets have been limited to almost none. TV time is granted based on their "performance", which would be assessed when there is a request, if no request, TV is out too.When they need me, they would ask, else I would just sit besides them and rest and do some small chores in between, or something bake. I use my smart phone during this period of time, but I do not watch TV and I do not switch on the notebook at all.

9.30-10.00pm Bedtime routine

10.00pm Light off. Kids sleep on their own after 18x round of good night hugs and kisses. Mum off to do whatever chores left to be done and  then it's time to chill (do "own" stuff, aka me time!). There are so many things to do during the me time, and so ended up there are a long list of things remain incomplete, lots of books waiting to be read, and tons of photos to be sorted, and blog posts to be written. Too many things, too little time.

Look at the schedule. It does look like a very simple and easy to follow schedule. But if you are a mum, especially if you are a FTWM with 2 kids, like me, you sure know that it is not easy at all, especially after a long day at work and you still have to cook and to entertain and all that, all alone. But I can assure you it's doable. I have known a few mummy friends who do the same as me and we all enjoy doing it.

Let me share a few tips with you.

1. Decide on your priorities
Let's face it. No matter what and how, we only gonna have that few hours with the kids every day. We definitely can't do EVERYTHING! Decide what's most important to you and your family - learning, playing, eating, homework R&R, etc. And thus your time and energy should be spent on the top priorities. For us, I think it's pretty obvious that to stay in the pink of health is our main priority, hence the insistence of cooking home cook meals as often as we could. Everything can wait but a healthy home cook dinner is a must, for us.

Simple, wholesome, balanced - that's the keywords that make our kids eating healthily

2. Set the right expectation
Know your limit and set the right expectations, for both you and your partner. Take me for example, there is only me on most days, and I want to focus on preparing for meals and then the second one on the priority list is to play with the kids. So cleaning of the house have to take a back seat. Both me and my hub have agreed that mopping would be only done once a week, laundry every 2 days, dishes can be left till next day, dry laundry can be unfold (wet one must be hung up on the same night though), living room can be left untidied, toys can be left unkept if the kids haven't kept properly, etc. Don't stress on what you can't do, but focus on what you can do. If a common expectation from both parties can't be met, then go back to the priority list and re-prioritise.

3. Encourage them to be independent
Whenever we see that when the time is appropriate, we let our kids to learn to be independent - take shower, go to toilet, read books, play toys, brush teeth, self feed, etc. Let go as much as you can and let them take responsibilities of themselves. But not just throw them to do whatever but to see them through the process, support them and encourage them, the helping hands should still be offered whenever they need it (but not "abuse" it), until they have enough confident to do it on their own.

4. Child initiated play / learn
This works perfectly well for us. Like I said, I totally couldn't be a Tiger mum, especially when comes to the play time vs homework or more serious/academic stuff. I couldn't stop them from playing and to ask them to do homework (I have no problem to stop them from playing when it's time for bed though). Maybe it's the age, as I feel that preschoolers should be allowed to play as much as they can. So I totally leave it to them to decide what they want to do. Hao Re is learning violin since about a year back, but I have never made him to practice every day (though I should) and luckily he is able to catch up with the class, so I let him be. He can be practicing every day for the entire week, or totally no practice, all up to him. And we have also decided that there should be no structured sit down kinda learning at home, again, not for preschoolers. Maybe next year, I don't know. For now, it's play and play, and play. We leave the structured learning to the childcare centre, and so far we have only heard good feedback from their teachers, and so we should let it be.

5. Put away (or limit) electronic gadgets and TV
We used to use TV and gadgets to "babysit" the kids. We thought that it would give us more time to do chores etc. But, no, wrong. We realise that the kids behaving so so so much better and so much easier to deal with after we cut them off from gadgets and TV. We provide them with enough play materials and books to read and the environment for them to play. Often these physical toys and books are a lot more engaging, on a long term basis. Gadgets and TV have become their rewards and pampering nowadays.

6. Have a routine (but don't have to be die-die following it)
The schedule I wrote above is kinda our daily routine for the weekdays. But we don't stick to it very strictly. It all depends on what actually happens on the day. They can play a little longer, go to bed a little later (though 1030pm is the ultimate bedtime, as I want them to have their eyes closed before 11pm, strictly, no negotiation). Or if I can see that they are tired that day, play time would be cut short. Sometimes we skip home cook food and all, and go out for a library visit or park visit on weekday evenings.

Having said all these, of course there were times when I was so tired that I didn't even feel like talking, let alone cooking etc. On those bad days, I either just bite the bullet to still follow the normal routine but to make them sleep earlier, or I would declare it a take away + TV night, so I can rest lying down on the sofa when they watch TV. I don't beat myself up to be 100% perfect. I try my best, I always try, and that what matters.

Finally, my big secret reveal! Actually, I had been secretly trained to be a Supermum, the FTWM version, which can be programmed to the SAHM version when there is a need to! And guess what, I passed the exam with flying colours and was given the costume, the certificate and all that stuff. But of course I don't anyhow show my Supermum power, and the costume would only be donned for special occasions. LOL! You know I am kidding, right?

How do you manage during the "after work hours"? I would love to invite you to share on my blog if you are interested to share, just drop me a message, ya :-)

This post is part of a blog train hosted by Christy from Kids 'R' Simple on "A Peek into the After Work Hours of a FTWM". Read about how 21 FTWMs from Singapore Mom Bloggers handle their kids and household everyday from 1 June to 21 June. The aim is to give other working mums motivation, ideas and support to deal with the everyday demands of juggling work and family while keeping sane. We will be happy to hear your story, tips and even an encouraging word will make our day! Share your thoughts in the comments!

A Peek into the After Work Hours of a FTWM

Tomorrow, peak into the life of The Loving Mum and her family and read about how she maintain balance amongst all the things that are going on in life of a parent.

The Loving Mum is a full-time working mother of two girls, Ayra and Zara. She enjoys crafting and creating photo projects with her family. Blog of The Loving Mum is a channel for her to share her mini adventures with her love ones and shares about the things she is passionate about.

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