Kids' Art Easels

Bubbles now has her own little shadow (just as she was mine for a long time).

Bun has been exasperating her sister by trailing her everywhere she goes and copying everything she does.

Her latest favourite 'copy big sis' activity is to pretend to write/draw on an easel.  She does it with such gusto and intensity that it is really entertaining to watch, especially since she does this with the pen caps on.

We have this little plastic easel with a whiteboard, and Bun has pretty much claimed it for herself.

Since this easel is now too small and flimsy for Bubbles, we have decided that it is time to get her a bigger, sturdier one.

I actually quite like the easel from Ikea, but I would love to know if there are other good ones to consider.

Do your kids use the easel from Ikea? I know it is quite popular. Do they like it?

Or would anyone have other recommendations?

Yes Bun, soon you can have this little easel all to your little arty self!

Kitchen Exploits - Super Easy Shortbread Biscuits

A dear girlfriend recently surprised me with a pretty cup and saucer/plate set. She knew I really wanted a nice cup for me to drink my daily dose of coffee, and presented me with a set in a lovely shade of green.

Almost all of the crockery that we own are either from the days Roboman was renting an apartment with a friend, or inherited from Roboman's late paternal grandmother. While the vintage plates from his grandmother are much treasured, the stuff from Roboman's old apartment are simply functional, and quite boring to look at.

But being the practical sort we are, we have been using those plain-looking cups, bowls and plates daily. Perhaps I may sell the whole lot one day to make room for prettier things! Now, is that a need or a want? ;)

Here is the dainty plate that was gifted to me, with some shortbread biscuits that Bubbles and I make pretty often.

This is a light, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth biscuit that is perfect for an afternoon nibble, or popped into a child's snack box. It is lovely to eat on its own, or if you prefer, with a little jam.

I have to reveal that we make the simplest version of this as communion bread for my church. I am part of a team that does the baking, so Bubbles is very familiar with the process.

This biscuit recipe is very friendly for little hands to try. The dough can be moulded into any chosen shape, as long as the dough thickness is consistent so that the whole batch bakes evenly. Younger children can help with poking holes into the dough before it goes into the oven.

If you pick a variation to try, do let me know how it goes!

Super Easy Shortbread Recipe
3/4 cup flour
1/4 block cold salted butter
about 1/4 cup cold water
  1. Preheat oven to180C.
  2. Measure flour and put into a large bowl.
  3. Cut butter into small cubes and add to flour.
  4. Using a rubbing in method, gently use fingertips to break up the butter cubes and coating butter with flour. Keep breaking up the butter and tossing flour around until you get a texture of coarse sand.
  5. Make a well in the centre and add a little of the water. Start clumping the mixture together to form a dough. Gradually add water when necessary, and if you accidentally over-do the water, add a little more flour to even things up. 
  6. Once you have a ball of dough, you can either roll the dough into a thin layer, or use your hands to form little flat shapes. I usually give Bubbles small balls of dough to flatten. 
  7. Place on a baking tray and use a fork to poke holes into the dough.
  8. Bake for 8-10minutes till light brown. 
Super Easy Shortbread Recipe
(4 variations to try)
  1. Replace 1/4 cup of the plain flour with wholewheat flour. (As seen in the photographs)
  2. After poking holes into the dough, paint an egg wash and stick on sliced almonds or sprinkle sesame seeds.
  3. Use unsalted butter and add a little sugar if you prefer a sweet biscuit.
  4. For a sweet crunch, sprinkle brown sugar over the unbaked biscuits just before it goes into the oven.

Volkswagen Family Day - VW Sharan Car Review

As a Rise and Shine partner, my family and I were invited to the recent Volkswagen Family Weekend. I am a little late in writing about this, as it was Bun's birthday last week! We had relatives in town for the celebration, and it was few happy, busy days for us.

In short, I have to say that Volkswagen and Rise & Shine did a fabulous job. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and Bubbles has asked to go again!

There were hot mini burgers, roast potatoes, ice-cream with various toppings, juices, coffee and tea made available for all. I thought the food and drinks were generous, and was glad we came with empty stomachs.

As it was Mother's Day weekend, there was a lovely pampering corner just for mothers, where various OTO massage machines were placed for mothers to use. I managed to get a much needed leg massage while nursing Bun in here.

There were many activities planned for the kids, and this tricycle area was Bubbles' absolute favourite. Although she rides a bigger bicycle at home, this set-up with road markings and signs was really fun to her. We were there early so she had the opportunity to ride several times.

Social enterprise Nutriville was there to organise several food art activities for children, including coffee painting, vegetable printing, and working with dough. The simple art work made nice keepsakes for children to take home.

Of course, besides participating in all the various activities, we were also there to test drive the VW Sharan! We bought a new car just last year, so Bubbles knew what it meant to go for a test drive, and was terribly excited. This is how the car looks from the front:

We had to wait a while for the VW folks to fit in two VW car seats for our girls. I thought it was visually appealing to have such matching seats (considering our own our orange and brown!). Bun was facing forward for the very first time, and she too, was thrilled to be in a different car. She kept smiling and waving to the sales rep who was seated in front! Like that:

The dashboard, and my dashing man('s knees) ;)

I am one of those people who knew close to nothing about cars before I owned one. We bought our first car in 2008, and prior to that, I wasn't even able to identify many car brand logos. Yes, I was that bad. I am proud to say that I have come a pretty long way since then, mostly due to car education from Roboman, and reading his many car magazines scattered around our home.

That said, I will focus on describing a few key features that I really like about the Sharan - the technical features can be found in the last photo of this post, and also on the VW website. If you are familiar with the VW ads where members of a family wear helmets, that is for the Touran, a popular mini-MPV model. The Sharan is a newer model, and bigger car.

As expected for a VW, the 7-seater car is well-built and sturdy. The interior is spacious, and its seats had comfortable leather. The drive was smooth, and the car was nice and quiet.

I first noticed that the windows have built-in sun-shades. I love this practical feature! It serves its purpose while looking neat and beautiful. When aesthetics are considered along with real needs, it is a big plus in my books!

The car boasts a moon-roof AND a sun-roof. For those who are unfamiliar, the former is a glass roof, and the latter a roof window that opens up. As our current car also has a moon-roof, I must say that it is an excellent kid-friendly feature - it is great for distracting crying babies and especially fun when there are pretty Christmas lights to view! The sun-roof is an added bonus, and will be great for cool evenings - to get in some fresh air. Of course, the entire thing can be closed up at the touch of a button too; for hot, sunny days where all you want is shade.

As a family with young ones, and frequent live-in guests, we were especially interested in boot space. The back seats fold completely flat, excellent for large objects like suitcases and such. Otherwise, boot space is still generous, even with the seats up. We could easily fit two our our strollers in there.

I guess the most telling was when Bubbles declared during the test-drive:  
I really like this car, Daddy! Can you buy it?

If we haven't bought a similar (albeit smaller) car so recently, I would be singing the same tune!

Kitchen Exploits: Mother's Day Red Velvet Cake

I baked something beautiful over the weekend to commemorate Mother's Day. It was not for my mother however, who does not like sweet treats, but for a group celebration among close friends.

This, is a deliciously moist red velvet cake. I used this recipe by The Pleasure Monger, and am so happy that I did. My friends said it tasted like red velvet cake from a well-known bakery in town!

I have only eaten red velvet cake (and it was a cupcake) once ever in my life, and so I don't have a taste benchmark for how a good one should be. It was thus encouraging that the friends enjoyed it and likened it to good red velvet that they have eaten. 

I followed every step in the recipe except for two:

1. I didn't have Dr Oetker food colouring, so I used a teaspoon of what I had, and additional water to make up 40ml. The shade of red of my cake can be improved!

2. I forgot to add butter to the frosting (oops), hence the ugly crack after refrigeration. I bake in such a rush these days that I make mistakes like these more often than I should.

Despite these two changes, the cake turned out beautifully. I am tempted now to make it for Bun's 1st birthday, although it does seem a rather grown-up a cake for a baby's birthday, don't you think?

Do you like the little flags I made?

The Kinfolk World

It has been a while since I have read a book from cover to cover in one sitting. It is something I miss however, and do try to get some reading done by having my half-read selection of books peppered around the house. (Okay, maybe "pepper" is a bit of an exaggeration, it is more like a sprinkling of a few.)

Recently, during one of my late nights where sleep was sacrificed to quench supper cravings, I sat down to eat, and read this entire issue of Kinfolk Volume 7.

The beauty of its words and photographs drew and kept me in its world page after page, until I regretfully reached the back cover. It helped, I am sure, that this issue featured ice-cream, had beautiful colours of spring used liberally, and showed projects that we can actually do here in Singapore's sunny and wet weathers.

At the end, it dawned on me that while Kinfolk is not quite a book, something was to be said about its hold over me to have read every page without interruption. I am always in awe of artistic talents, and this publication has, very obviously, been created by gifted team of people.

This explains what Kinfolk is all about:

And this is one reason why we like to serve ice-cream :)

So here is my public service announcement...

Kinfolk Volume 8 is now available for pre-order. I have been stalking its appearance and accidentally pre-ordered three copies!

Kinfolk Volume 7 is still available, as is Volume 6

Now, if only I can get my hands on Kinfolk Vol 1!

Baking failures

So it is not like I haven't been messing about in the kitchen at all, but that the little I have done hasn't resulted in much good.

I have been trying out some cake recipes, mainly in preparation for Bun's 1st birthday. The thing about cake is that I can get a whole bunch of photos without worrying about my food getting cold. However, a nice photo does not mean the cake tastes good! (or good enough for me to write about!)

At this point, I have to thank a few friends and a kind neighbour for accepting my not-so-great creations. Otherwise, my fridge would be saddled with more cake than we can consume!

Therefore, sorry, I don't have a recipe to share yet, although hopefully I will soon, given that her birthday is coming up in a couple of days! Gulp.

A lychee mixture squashed between some failed sponge cake:

Keeping it simple with sweet mango and toasted almond flakes:

Don't ask:

Do you like my new, bright pink cake stand? It comes with a transparent dome cover too. I got the stand+cover for a steal (S$10)! Mighty pleased!

Speaking of buying stuff for the kitchen, I have been told that ToTT is having a Mother's Day Sale till 12 May! There are discounts of up to 30% on a selected range of products, including special bundles.

Go check out the sale if there has been something you are eyeing. I wouldn't mind this elegant Boska Cheese Knife Set!

ToTT's opening hours:

Mon‐Fri: 11.00am‐9.00pm
Sat, Sun & PH: 10:00am‐9:00pm

Getting things done

Oh, hi!

Oh dear, it has been 2 weeks since I got my hands on a computer and written on this page. I do feel like a crap blogger these days! This year, it seems, has been a tough one as far as getting-things-done go. Especially things that require time away from my children.

In my plans were a number of projects blog-wise, that started promisingly with a mini makeover. I also wanted to experiment more in the Kitchen, and I did for quite a while until I had to consciously choose sleep to make up for an increasing sleep debt.

I have also been terrible at contributing towards the online community that used to be so much a part of my life. Jack-in-the-box behaviour - where I randomly pop in to make quick, almost desperate attempts to skim through blogs, forums, and FB groups/pages to catch up and leave a comment or two - seems to be all that is manageable these days. Most of these pop-ins are done on my smartphone while breastfeeding Bun and when Bubs is either in school or asleep.

We really hope Bun sleeps better soon (she averages 2 ultra mini naps a day, and sleeps 10.30pm-7.30am with 2-3 wakes a night) so that we have longer blocks of time to actually get things done! I have her 1st birthday celebration to plan for, a work project scheduled next month to prep, and a number of home projects to tackle. Her Paed reckons she is just one of those babies who has boundless energy and does not need as much sleep. She thinks that Bun will sleep better once she starts walking, and can be properly exhausted by bedtime!

Still, we are thankful to have experienced good portions of much-treasured family time. A recent stay-cation was a fantastic getaway, a refreshing pull out of the mundane. I hope to write more about it soon, and leave you now with a few photos: