Books - Past and Present

We are on to a brand new week. Chugging along :)

Am I the only one who hasn't cleared stuff from her childhood bedroom after moving out? I had to go over recently to do some massive packing. It was a hot, sweaty and dusty affair. I found old letters/cards from 20 years ago, among other treasures. Yes, I was actually brave enough to read some of those letters, and was left marveling at just how much I have grown up. Haha. 

I wrote previously about my childhood toys, most of which have been taken out for Bubbles to play with when she is at my parents'. I've recently been reminded about keeping selected toys we currently own for the future generation. Timely, as we are looking at a redo of Bubbles' bedroom to accommodate her sister in the near future.

Sadly, our beautiful collection of children's books have mostly been destroyed from a leak in the wall. Thankfully, besides my now-vintage Peter and Jane books, I still have a few other books from when I was a little older - all still arranged neatly on a shelf next to my bed:
I just took a closer look while writing this and noticed that "Good Wives" is upside down. Hmm...I wonder why?! I really wouldn't mind reading all these books again, and relish the thought of possibly having time to do so, giving myself an opportunity to revisit the fictional worlds I did many years ago. These days, most of my reading is done online, and often on the fly (although I always have a stack of half-read books next to my bed). Most hard copy reading is usually in the form of The Economist, and cookbooks - the former only because we are subscribers.

This brings me to my next point: I just borrowed these five cook books from the library. They were selected quickly, and without too much consideration, as I had two kids in tow. I am looking forward to pouring over them and selecting recipes to try. Yes, I already have a small collection of cook books of my own - I should write about them soon. But it was hard to resist bringing some home from the library's vast collection. Hopefully these will lead to more yums from my kitchen.

Kitchen Exploits - Minced Meat & Spinach Pasta (for Kids)


This is one of our favourites. Bubbles loves to eat this, and I love to make it. It is just too easy to throw together.

I love it that we get it all - greens, proteins, and carbs. A no-fuss meal ideal for busy big and little people. You can also substitute pasta with rice - white or brown - something we do pretty often too.

Minced Meat & Spinach Pasta
(Adjust quantities to own needs and taste!)

Your preferred short pasta
Minced meat (I usually use pork)
Fresh mushrooms (chopped to size your kid will eat)
Spinach (roughly torn or chopped)
Minced garlic (we like to use lots)
Corn flour
Light soya sauce
Homemade stock (optional)
  1. Season meat with a little corn flour and light soya sauce.
  2. Cook pasta, drain and set aside.
  3. Fry garlic in a little oil. 
  4. Add meat, mushrooms and spinach (in that order, tossing each new addition a few times before adding the next).
  5. If you have some stock on hand, spoon in some for extra flavour.
  6. Turn off heat.
  7. Throw in cooked pasta and mix.
  8. Serve hot. (Or pop it in an insulated food jar for later!)

Bun's Birth Story - Perfect Timing

This is a long story but a precious one to me because it is a testimony of God' perfect timing for Bun, and for our family. I am glad I finally wrote it:

The Expected Date of Delivery (EDD) for this 2nd pregnancy was 1 June 2012. During gynae checks in early May, low water levels in my womb were detected.

On Monday 14 May, my doctor expressed concern that the water levels were getting too low despite me not showing any signs of labour. She was willing to only give me another 3 days to see if I go into labour naturally and if I did not, she would need to induce me, for the safety of the baby. I knew about the possible dangers of induction, and did not feel comfortable 'forcing' the baby out before she was ready. We prayed either for my water levels go up (I don't actually know if that's possible), or that somehow inducing would not need to be an option.

By Thursday 17 May, I still showed no signs of labour despite me walking as much as my heavy-bellied body allowed me to for those few days. Roboman and I dropped Bubbles off at school and with a heavy heart (for me, at least!) brought our hospital bag in preparation for a delivery to see my gynae. She did a scan and immediately looked grave. Even the nurse by her side looked quite shocked because there seemed to be hardly any water left in my womb. My heart dropped.

Doc then explained that she needed to give me a pill to induce labour, and even if I did not go into labour, I would need to ward by 8pm, as it could be dangerous to the baby. She then did a fetal heart rate check to make sure the baby was alright. Then, just before she administered the pill, she discovered with surprise that I was already 3cm dilated!

My gynae showed obvious relief  that my body was going into labour naturally. She said one can never tell how a person reacts to the induction pill. I was amazed, and relieved. She then asked that I immediately check into the delivery ward, and explained that she would use the more natural option of inducement - the oxytoxin drip. Many women who go into labour are assisted by oxytoxin anyway, so I no longer worried.

We headed to the delivery ward, where I was strapped in and given an epidural. It was exactly 12 noon, and the nurse took a photo for us.

Then, amazingly, I felt contractions soon after! They happened so quickly and before I knew it, I was getting them 5 minutes apart. My doctor was amazed that my body decided to go into labour on the very day she thought she needed to get the baby out.

By 1.30pm, my contractions were so close together and I was dilating so quickly that it was no longer even necessary to give me oxytoxin!

By 3.30pm I was ready to push the baby out, and our dear little Bun was out before 4pm! It was a really fast and smooth labour.

As with my 1st delivery, I requested for immediate breastfeeding. Just like before, it was an amazing experience holding, nursing, and observing my brand new baby. I will always remember these two precious moments.

Bun, at 2.6kg, was much smaller than her sister at birth, but otherwise healthy and (to us) really sweet :)


An Added Bonus
Another sweet surprise came in a while later - we were told we will be bumped up to the Executive Level as the maternity wards were full! I got to enjoy a beautiful room with a Nespresso machine (not that I had any coffee but Roboman and my dad did), and more importantly - a gorgeous bathroom with very nice toiletries. It was a very quiet floor, unlike the maternity ward where there is a constant stream of visitors. I was very comfortable during my stay there, and enjoyed the excellent service. I really could have stayed on for longer!

My 1st meal after delivery. I was SO.HUNGRY.

Cuddles with curious little Bun

Bun was born with a head of very neat hair.
When Bubbles saw her, she thought I gave her sister a hair-cut!
Haha!

After 2 restful nights, it was time for us to head home.
Here is Bun in a lovely 'going home' outfit my sister chose.
You can see little dimples just below the edges of her lips, and the beginnings of many smiles.

Home sweet home with my beloved. 

~~~~~
He makes all things beautiful.
In His Time.

The Verandah - Singapore Polo Club

Brunch! A new regular feature in our weekly schedule. We usually head to a kid-friendly place every Saturday morning to enjoy a leisurely big breakfast. So big that we often don't bother with lunch after. Roboman and I do not like crowds, and try to avoid places that are too popular, preferring little eateries off the beaten track.

Once in a blue moon, Roboman takes leave from work on a weekday, and we try to go to somewhere just a little different. We were pleasantly surprised by a recent cafe discovery - The Verandah at the Singapore Polo Club. This place is open to the public on weekdays only.

To be honest, the quality of the food is average, and you shouldn't go there expecting to be wowed by the meal. However, everything else about this place gives it a big plus in our books.

The cafe is literally situated on a verandah of sorts, overlooking a field and a track where riders take their horses out for a trot. See how empty it was on the day we were there. Love. The quiet, relaxing atmosphere was precious. They also have the usual high-chairs and familiar Ikea cutlery, bowls and plates for kids.

As we were there a little late in the morning, with the heat of the sun beginning to make an uncomfortable presence, there were only a few horses on the track. 

However, that was enough to entertain Bubbles, who took regular breaks from eating to watch the horses go by.

After our meal, we took a walk around the place. We saw the horses' stables, where some horses were being groomed. We didn't want to intrude and thus observed from a distance. 

There is an indoor location where riders take lessons. We missed a morning lesson by a couple of minutes. It would have been fun to watch! Bubbles still remembers her first and only pony ride at the Singapore Zoo over a year ago. We really should take her again.

It was an enjoyable morning for us, and we will most definitely head to The Verandah again. Perhaps earlier in the morning, and with another family!


----------

Did you notice her pretty skirt? It is Bubbles' Big Sister present from us when Bun arrived :) From the ever-trendy and affordable Cotton On Kids.

Kitchen Exploits - Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

One of my favourite things to eat is the Chocolate Chip Cookie. I'm not partial to chewy or crunchy versions, and cravings can be satisfied either way. To me, a good chocolate chip cookie cannot be too sweet. It has to have the right balance of mellow sugars and flour. I am partial when dark chocolate is used, and will avoid the white chocolate ones (white chocolate is so. not. chocolate.).

In my current favourite cookie recipe, I add oats more for its nutritional value than taste and texture. After all, you know, I got to sort of offset the (unhealthy) sugars with (healthy) oats - a good source of many good things, as you can read here.

I like this recipe as it doesn't require a mixer, and it uses oil instead of butter. Both pluses in my books because of the convenience it lends to making of the cookies. When cookie-cravings hit, you just want things fast!


I've made these cookies with various combinations of chocolate types, varying amounts of sugar, and different coarseness of salt. When sweeter chocolate is used, I reduce the sugars because I cannot stand too-sweet cookies. When I need to bake, I often just use whatever chocolate I have in the fridge, chopping them up into generous chunks. Thankfully, my brother-in-law likes to gift us with Ghirardelli dark chocolate bars, and I really like to use those with 60% Cacao.

Coarser salt results in some bites being saltier and crunchier than others, making each bite somewhat of a surprise, and the overall experience of eating the cookie a little more interesting. This version is a treat for those who like salty-sweet desserts, and is a rather grown-uppy cookie, although Bubbles loves it too. 

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Ovenhaven and Recipe Source
(Makes about 24-26 cookies)

1⁄4 cup white sugar
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
3⁄4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
2⁄3 cup dark chocolate chunks (60% Cacao)
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C.
  2. Mix the sugars, oil, egg, and vanilla extract in a large bowl.
  3. In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, oats, salt and baking powder.
  4. Pour the ingredients from the smaller bowl into the large bowl mixture and mix well.
  5. Fold in the dark chocolate chunks.
  6. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for about 9-12 minutes, or until the edges brown slightly. (The longer you bake them the crispier they get.)
  7. Leave to cool in the pan for a minute or two, then move to a rack to cool completely.

My First-Born

I was having one of those moments.

There were so many thoughts in my head, but each time I tried to write, the words tumbled out in torrential sentences that only I understand. I was thinking about my first-born, the amazing little person she is. My heart was filled with such an immense gratitude for the privilege of being her mother. I write and re-write, but my emotions continued to dip into my words and mix them all up. So I stopped. I sat for some time scrolling through photos of her. Then I attempted to write again.

She's all of three years now, and so grown-up she is.

She wants her hair long, just like mama. Her hair is often tied messily in a loopy bun. Just like mama too.

She adores shoes. Oh yes she does. She loves to try on shoes when we are at the shops, and wonders when she will be allowed high-heels.

But she's also a little monkey, this one. See how she does her 'double-up'. 

This is my little girl who tells me ever to often that I am not allowed to go back to work. Because your children need you to take care of them she says. One person working is enough. Referring to her beloved Daddy of course.

She comes home every day from school with a card she has made for me, or a dried leaf, or any special something, just to tell me that she thought of me, and loves me.

A little word-smith, she rattles off non-stop, and asks a thousand questions. "Why Mummy?" "What happens if, Mummy?" being the two popular queries. The latter sometimes leads us to co-creating gorgeously out of this world stories that leave us both collapsing into chuckles, in each others' arms.

She has grown to be very aware of people and situations around her. She notices when grown-ups are upset, and tells us not to be so, and to be nice to each other. Smile, Mummy, I want you to smile?

She can rattle off not only classmates' names, but also which countries they come from, what shoes they wear, what each brings in their snack-box, and who is potty-trained! She tells me what so-and-so does, and requested for her hair to be tied this way, because a certain Miss C, an older schoolmate, has her hair tied with many braids too. Very fancy she says. And oh, Miss C has a brother in my class. He has curly hair.

With this awareness, there are now a few children she firmly calls friends. These are the ones who were invited to her recent birthday party. She squeals (sometimes shrieks) with excitement when she knows a play date has been planned, or if she sees some of them at the playground. She wants to make things for them, and talks about what they could be doing at any time of the day.

Funnily, she has grown to dislike having her photos taken more than ever. I inwardly groan whenever I am asked to produce a photo for special occasions, because I really don't have any nice ones. So I often hold her smiling face and imprint it firmly in my memory. 

How has she been as a newly minted older sister? I think she's still figuring this one out. It hasn't been easy for her, especially when it comes to reduced time alone with Mummy. She has been learning though, putting her finger to her lips as she creeps into my room when I put Bun to sleep. Always getting clean diapers for me when Bun needs to be changed. Earnestly asking Is mei-mei asleep now Mummy? Yes? Now can you play with me/read to me/eat with me? while cocking her head in the cutest way.

But I pray she will get there. That both my girls will be loving, close and firm friends. The type of sisters who do all sorts of things together, and talk till late into the night, pretending to be asleep when Mummy steps into the room.

This is her, and her baby sis. Both wearing similar denim pinafores because she insisted it must be so.
 
But of course she had to groan when I insisted on a picture ;)

Kitchen Exploits - Pizza & Soda Bread

When it comes to whipping up meals, it is too easy for me to only consider the food options for Bubbles, and in due time, Bun. After all, any interested new mother would focus quite a bit of energy on churning out wholesome food for her kids. However, it has been through conscious effort to also consider Roboman's preferences, as it is my way of working for the betterment of our relationship.

Thankfully, while he has grown up being fed with excellent food, coming from a Peranakan family of amazing cooks and bakers, there are a few things he really likes that are not too difficult to make.

Like in any learning journey, there are failures as well as successes. I was cheered on when my basic chocolate and vanilla cakes were given the thumbs up from him. It is important to me when he gives a passing vote, as I personally didn't grow up eating many of the things I am now learning to make, and don't have a reliable enough taste reference point to know for sure if something is good. (Although I hope that in due time, my taste-buds will become more discerning).

One recent success is the making of pizza from scratch. He certainly adores pizza. I don't care much for it myself, but have learned to make it with toppings that I too, enjoy. This recipe came recommended to me, and I found it pretty alright, although I do plan to try other recipes in the future, just to compare. If you do try this, let me know how yours turned out!

Pizza Dough and Pizza Sauce recipes from the Kitchen Boss
I made several of these with a variety of toppings. This one was with juicy prawns and arugula.

Now that I have shared a happy success, would you care to see a failure? This one though, was a nice-looking failure. It looked so pretty out of the oven, that I couldn't help but take photos of it. I have been on a quest to try different types of bread, and this one is a simple soda bread without yeast. I wanted to try it because yeast-less breads take a shorter time to do, as proofing is not required. However, I don't think I will be doing this again, as I really did not like the strong baking soda taste it has. I am not sure if I did something wrong, but I think for now, yeast is the way to go for breads!


Having said that, it could simply be a personal preference of mine. My visiting sister-in-law, a true-blue bread lover, didn't mind the taste of this loaf, and finished most of it over two days. I'm thankful that we didn't need to bin it!

Bubbles' 3rd Birthday

One of the happy things that happened recently was the celebration of Bubbles' 3rd birthday. She turned three last month. (Yes, THIRD birthday - how did it all happen so quickly?)

When I broached the subject of a birthday party, Roboman's response was: Aren't we just going out to dinner?. But because he is/was such a dear, and let me have the last word on this, we did have a party in the end. He was, however, adamant about not including adult friends (unless of course they happen to be parents of Bubbles' invited guests) and subjecting them to a kiddy party - something I too agreed.

Once we decided on the party theme, I spent a few weeks reading sea-related books with Bubbles, and doing activities related to the theme. We also made a trip to the Underwater World - a visit that made quite an impression on her - especially with regards to sting-rays and sea worms!

This year, I didn't wield a camera at all during the party. On one hand, it was great that I was totally immersed with the present, but on the other, I am disappointed that we have very few nice photos of our guests and the party on-goings. Thankfully, because I have had a few months of learning to focus on the things that truly matter, I got over my disappointment much faster than I would otherwise have.

Nevertheless, here are a few snapshots (of non-moving things) from that afternoon:

At the Door

A Jellyfish-y Craft
I was thrilled when I heard about two of our guests who insisted on taking their jellyfish wherever they went after the party that weekend. The materials used to make these were all stuff I already had at home - a great $$-saving activity! Wonderful for someone like me who has taken some time off from work.


Sea-themed Cups and Paper Napkins

Fruit Cuppies for the kids 
My dear friend came by one day and dropped off a whole bunch of gorgeous Sea-themed party ware. These cups and napkins are just two of them!

A Fruity Fish
A brainchild of my mother and sister

Chocolate Birthday Cake and Vanilla Cupcakes

I made a promise to myself to learn to bake so that I can make cakes, breads and cookies for my kids. I want them to have memories of baking aromas from the kitchen, and be able to make requests for home-baked goodies. Hurray that I managed to do it for the party! I, the one who served up a flat cake at a Home Economics examination years ago, thereafter declaring that I wanted nothing to do with baking. May this will be an encouragement to all who wish to bake but feel that they cannot. I was in that mode for years!

I did spend a couple of weeks watching YouTube videos, testing recipes and trying out cake decorations - causing our home's electricity bill to shoot up as a result. (I also slept very little. Oops. Thank you adrenaline.) The cakes were obviously not perfect, but I did get a couple of compliments, not just about how they look, but also how they taste :) Most importantly, Bubbles enjoyed them!

Besides cake, we also served "Octopus" sausages (sadly I don't have any photos of those!), tuna sandwiches and sushi.

Chocolate made with Sea Creature Moulds
Given as part of a 'Find the Yellow Fishes' Scavenger Hunt and gobbled up fairly quickly by a few kids.


Party Favours!
Origami paper with instructions on how to make various paper sea creatures, 
and a bottle of bubbles each.

The kids were all sent downstairs towards the end of the party with some bread to feed fishes at a pond in our estate. Then, it was free and easy playground play with lots of bubble-blowing.

It was a fairly simple party to put together, and Bubbles did enjoy herself having her closest friends around. However, she did tell me a couple of days later that she didn't like the part where everyone sang her the birthday song! This, along with the fact that she refused a birthday celebration in school, confirmed what I have long been suspecting - that my dear daughter really does not like being in the limelight. This is an insight that I hold dear, and a preference of hers that I want to respect. This may very well change how we celebrate her birthdays in the future too! Let's see.

The day after her birthday, my dear Bubbles came up to me and said pointedly: Mummy, I will be turning FOUR soon.

I know, baby. Too soon.

----------
- Images on cupcake toppers from 3 Dinosaurs Ocean Pack.
- I unfortunately lost the link to the Sea Creatures image I used for the welcome sign and the chocolate wrappers. If you are the image owner or know of the link, please do email me so that I can add the link here. Thanks!

Hey Bun, meet Blogophere

What a ride it has been since my last post!

I thought I should start by introducing the newest member of our family - my little cheerful Bun. This is her, at 4.5 months:

God must have known that we needed the extra lift, sending us this wee bundle who generously hands out happy gurgles and heartwarming smiles. I am immensely grateful for her cheerful disposition despite the not-quite-ideal pregnancy. Someone quipped that she should be one of the ushers at the church service we attend, since she dishes out smiles to everyone so readily!

She looks quite like her sister did, but in a smaller size. While Bubbles hit the 95th-97th percentile in height and weight for most of her 1st year, Bun hovers around the 10th. At 2 months, Bubbles was heavier and taller than Bun was at 4. 

I guess I am not a very reliable oven!

When was the last time you were THIS excited about a new toy?

Her hair, of course, is her crowning glory. We've had countless strangers come up to talk to us because of the generous crop she has. I love nuzzling up to it, and know that I will miss this once her hair grows longer and flops down permanently.

Gorgeous blooms I received after the birth of Bun

So how has it been being a family of four? I have two answers to that:

One would be the blissfulness of being a mother surrounded by beautiful kids, with a supportive husband who is a loving father. Our lives are full of baby chuckles, funny conversations, storybooks, languid swims, cycling, scooting, drawing, painting, crafting, singing at the top of our voices, and pretend play. Oh, and freshly baked aromas, many hugs, cuddles and kisses, kiddy parties, picnics, library visits, hanging out at playgrounds, and play dates with small person friends.

It is really all of that.

Remove the rosy tint and you will also see a life where adult 'me-time' starts only after 10pm, and sleep is never enough. Days pass where the brain feels numb from the repetitiveness of baby and child-minding - the endless diaper changes, cleaning bums, feeding, burping, lulling babes to sleep, managing tantrums, school runs, reading a book so many times that it can be rattled off from memory, and answering 'Why' and 'What happens if' questions all day. It is the sheer demand of tuning in to their world, to keep them fed, cleaned and entertained. Schedules are constantly being jigged and juggled to keep the domestic machinery moving, with the aim of reaching a perfect balance somewhere, somehow, sometimes.

More than ever now, I remind myself to Eliminate and Concentrate, even as I dip my toe once again into this world of my old friend, the blog.