Tuesday, January 31, 2012

At Sarah's

We're back from our break and raring to go ... back on holiday! Haha, no no, life back in Singapore has got a lot to offer still, and we're happy to be back. I guess that means that we had a really good break.

Let's start tackling those updates, shall we? After the combined birthday bash at our little home, the celebrations didn't stop - we had a housewarming cum birthday party at Sarah's new house the following Saturday (14 Jan). I've mentioned before on this blog that Sarah is our domestic goddess - she is Martha Stewart in disguise. Last year, she bought an old rundown house and, over the course of many months, turned it into a cosy and delightful home, and she did it all on her own. She literally counted the number of bricks she needed to construct her patio! She also loves to cook and entertain - she whipped up a lunch for our group of friends that day and we tucked in gratefully.

Ryan brought along an alphabet set, which kept him entertained while the adults sat around and yabbered on.

This get together was supposed to be over Christmas, but we could not find a good date for everyone around that time so it got pushed to January, which meant that we got to celebrate Sarah's birthday together with the housewarming. As Ryan's birthday was also coming up, he had a go at the birthday cake as well.

Apart from Ryan, there was one youngster at the party, an 8-year old, and I was pleased to see Ryan spending some time interacting and socialising with him.

It was a lovely afternoon, we had a great time chilling out with friends, talking about everything and nothing in particular. After that pleasant lunch, we had a short rest at home before making our way to the Shangri-La Hotel for a wedding dinner of one of Richard's old junior college classmates. It was a full day, and a good one.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Have a great weekend!

Hi everyone,

Just a note to let you know that we are away in Malaysia! We've been here for a week now, since last Friday, and we'll be back in Singapore on Monday. We're here because of Chinese New Year, of course, and it's been a blur of eating, eating, catching up with family and friends, mahjong, card games, eating, and, have I mentioned eating already? yes eating. Ryan has been surrounded with nothing but love, love and more love.

I have lots to update, but that will have to wait till we get back next week. We still have lots of eating to do, family and friends to catch up with, mahjong/card games to play, and, have I mentioned eating already? yes, lots more of that!

If you celebrate Chinese New Year, I hope it's been a fantastic one so far and that it only gets better! If you don't, here's sending you some Chinese New Year wishes anyway! May the year of the water Dragon bring good health, harmony and prosperity all round!

See you next week!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Amazing Alicia

I have been saving up this post in my mind for a very very long time now! It's going to knock your socks off!

Remember Ryan's goodie bag from the combined birthday bash which I showed in yesterday's post?

As I mentioned yesterday, the goodie bag was prepared by Alicia. Alicia is one of the mummies that we meet up with from time to time, together with some other families. We all have a child born in January 2009. Actually, our little family doesn't join up with the families as often as the rest do, but it's all right because we keep up to date with social networking, emails and sms.

Anyway, back to Alicia. Alicia is the sweetest person and is completely generous. She has given us many, many things that she made for Ryan. When her son Brayden had his second birthday, she prepared a personalised goodie bag for Ryan, even though we did not attend the celebration! The goodie bag was chockful of ... err.. goodies... and the most amazing one was this personalised colouring book which she put together for Ryan. Here are a few pages!

Alicia is very interested in parenting, child development and early childhood education. She does a lot of research and reading up on her own. We talk a lot about those topics and it's always pleasant and interesting. Sometimes we exchange ideas for activities. For example, the shape activity for Valentine's Day that she made (in the photo below) was inspired by the Circle Bear that I prepared for Ryan. In turn, her train shape activity inspired the train texture and shape page in Ryan's quiet book. Mostly though, she is the one inspiring me with her dedication and consistency.

Alicia uses the Shichida Method with her son, although they do not attend the programme. Instead she reads up on her own and gets updates and feedback from other mummies who are using the method. She is the perfect demonstration of what I always tell people about the Shichida Method - the weekly class is just to keep you on track, the important part is what happens at home. Ironically, she is one of the people who helps me to stay motivated in this Shichida journey even though she is not attending the programme. Alicia's efforts in preparing home practice materials put me to shame! Everytime I fall behind on my own home practice, I think of Alicia, and I tell myself to buck up. Everytime I hear a parent from Shichida telling me that she has no time for home practice, or that she is too lazy, or too this or too that, I think of Alicia and I am reminded that, where there is a will, there is a way. 

Alicia is a powerhouse of creativity and I am always bowled over by her work, because it is so beautiful and professional. The home practice materials that I produce are adequate for their purpose but not pretty at all (to be frank, they are very much like the materials in Shichida class). Alicia, on the other hand, takes the trouble to make her materials absolutely impeccable and beautiful and, if I didn't say anything, you would think that they were store-bought.

Let me show you more!

Alicia made these worksheets in the style of the Shichida printsheets (hers are much nicer!). She gave Ryan a set. I'll show you a few pages. This page says "Draw the strings for the balloons."

This page says "Draw a line from top to bottom connecting two pictures."

This set of worksheets that she made is about identifying the odd one out, which is a game we play regularly in Shichida.

These are for sequencing.

These are for photographic memory games. She made stacks of these!

These were also made by Alicia, inspired by Shichida material.

These are ESP paper scenes which she made.

Flashcards by Alicia.

Have you fallen off your seat yet? Jaw on the floor? Let me add that Alicia works full time in an office so all this is done outside of that as well as on top of all the things that most people have to do (family time, household duties, errands, etc). Truly, I take my hat off to her - for her dedication, for being so hardworking, and for her generous spirit. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Birthday Bash!

On Sunday, 8 January 2012, we had a combined birthday celebration for Ryan and four other children born in January 2009 - Matthias, Brayden, Rou Ern and Victoria. The families gathered in our little home for dinner, adult conversation, children playtime and birthday festivities. It was still very early for Ryan's birthday (which is on the 22nd), and I'm not sure that he understands what a birthday is, but he had fun nevertheless.

We set up a ball pit and a small bouncy castle on the upstairs terrace but it started to rain so the children did not stay up there for long. When they migrated downstairs, they were very well occupied and entertained with all the toys in Ryan's room and in the living room. I realise now that we have enough toys to entertain at least five active toddlers! It was pretty amusing seeing the children together, beginning to behave like little adults. One funny scene was when Matthias and his family arrived, with Matthias asleep. Ryan let him sleep in his bed and the four children cheekily stood around his sleeping body with curious looks, seemingly deep in discussion over his fate.

Our dining table was full of yummilicious food! Ern's family brought homemade mushroom soup and homemade pig trotters bee hoon. Richard and I went around our estate and bought East Coast specialties - curry fish head from Casa Bom Vento, salt-baked chicken from Serangoon Salt-Baked Chicken (which despite its name, is on East Coast Road), and prawn paste chicken. Victoria's family brought fresh fruits, briyani rice and some rendang. Matthias and his family came with nuggets and french fries, and rojak.

Richard and I took care of the decorations - we set up some birthday banners and some balloons. We actually made a replica of The Very Hungry Caterpillar with a string of balloons - one red balloon and 6 green balloons. On the red one, I stuck on eyes and mouth cut from sticky-backed felt, plus ears made from pipe cleaners wrapped in crepe paper. Unfortunately, overnight the red balloon burst (I had a spare red one which burst as well) so we were left with a string of 6 green balloons which looked like, well, just balloons. I suspect it was the balloon contracting overnight and bursting because of the tension caused by the felt that was stuck on it. Next time, I'll just draw on the balloon. Richard thinks it was the dog, but then again, he blames almost everything on the dog.

We ordered a 1-kg birthday cake from Sugarholic, designed with the theme of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". Alicia made mini banners with each of the children's names and the families took turns with the birthday song and candle-blowing, after which the five children had a combined song and candle-blowing!

After indulging in the yummy cake, and cleaning up the rest of the food, it was time for presents! Thank you, our friends, for the lovely presents! 

You can see from the photos here, which were taken quite late into the party (which only started about 6.30 pm), that Ryan is looking tired. Earlier in the day, he had his swimming class and Shichida class, but skipped his nap. Despite the busy day and insufficient rest, he was very well-behaved, not cranky at all, and was more than willing to share his toys with the other children. Prior to this occasion, he's had only one child visitor at a time rummaging through his stuff (not counting his cousins, who are way past his age and uninterested in his toys), so I was wondering how he would take to four children descending uncontrollably upon his territory and possessions. Fortunately, he took it in his stride and I think he enjoyed himself. He was a sweetie.

I think all the children had a good time because they left reluctantly, with some of them declaring that they did not want to leave at all! The party ended about 10.30 pm, and each child left with a goodie bag prepared by Alicia.

We are going to have another birthday celebration for Ryan on the 22nd, when we are back in Malaysia with our relatives. Still can't believe my little munchkin is turning three!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A new season

I had such a relaxing break in December! It was so good. We spent a lot of time at home, being very domestic. We've been staying in our condo for one year now, and it's nice to feel settled in, to be comfortable enough to hang up more pictures on the walls, and to feel like the "seniors" whenever we see new residents around the development.

The sun is finally shining, mighty and proud! Our bamboo seemed to dry up almost overnight after a day (or two) of non-stop sunshine. I was worried at first and virtually drowned the bamboo watering it, until Richard told me that the bamboo was just changing its leaves for the season, like an autumn molt. Well, I'm not sure that's true (as there is plenty of bamboo around the estate which is still green) but the change in perspective opened my eyes to the beauty of the brown and gold leaves, and my mood changed instantly. My irritation at having to pick up the dried leaves that flew into our living room evaporated instantly. I was happy. It's amazing how putting on a different pair of eyes can make all the difference.

With the change in the weather, it was back to outdoor activities, like swimming!

We did a lot of cooking over the holidays - stoved chicken, spaghetti bolognese, fried noodles, some simple Chinese dishes, etc. I kept forgetting to take photos because most of the dishes are dishes which we've been making for years now so they seem pretty ordinary to us. I did manage to snap these few shots of the last couple of dishes (using my phone) to share with you.  

This is the stoved chicken mid-preparation.

There is a bed of potato slices at the bottom, then there is diced carrot and sliced onion, plus some bacon. Some herbs go in too, plus seasoning. The browned chicken pieces go in next (there were more pieces than just the three you see in the photo) and then more carrot and onion. The potato slices get layered on top of all that until the whole thing is covered (the second photo here was taken while I was halfway done with the potato layer). Add chicken stock or stout, depending on your preference. Smear some of the bacon fat on the top, and the whole casserole goes into the oven. It can also go on a fire on the hob like a stew, in which case the chicken should be cooked through first before going into the casserole. We like this dish a lot and have made it many times.

This one is a simple Chinese dish - chicken with lots of ginger, chilli and spring onion. The original recipe was a Western recipe with honey, I modified it by replacing the honey with oyster sauce. We eat it with noodles. A messy picture, couldn't be bothered to clean up - was hungry!

We had friends over for mahjong a few times. The routine is that Richard and I will take turns to play while the other accompanies Ryan. A mahjong session (3 rounds) takes an average of 6 hours or more, so there's a lot of time to fill. We play with him in his playroom, sit with him and watch a video, and sometimes Richard will drive him out to have something to eat. Sometimes, we will stay in the living room and hang around the mahjong table (because the accompanying parent wants to watch the action!). Sometimes, Ryan will want the attention of the parent who is playing, so he will ask to sit on the parent's lap while the game is going on. He's been very well behaved at the table - he doesn't fling the tiles around or mess things up, so he's always welcome. He even participates in shuffling, stacking and arranging the tiles!

These shots were taken two or three mahjong sessions ago. Ryan took my shawl and spread it out like a picnic blanket, set up the iPad and lounged around. He only lasted a few minutes though - he much preferred to sit with me so he came over to where I was and climbed onto my lap, leaving his picnic behind.

Anyway, a new year and a new season is truly upon us now and I've run out of excuses to keep the Christmas decorations up. Chinese New Year is fast approaching so I need to shake off the rabbit and welcome the dragon!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A different point of view

Here's the phone dump! Enjoy!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ringing in 2012

On New Year's eve, we woke up later than usual after a late night with friends (we played five rounds of mahjong with them...). Our day was pretty relaxing, the details are fuzzy to me now but I think we went to IKEA in the early afternoon and came home for a swim in our condo pool. Ryan took a nap soon after that and Richard and I settled down to watch "Thor" on DVD. Ryan woke up for the last part and soon it was time for the countdown to the new year.

We watched the Marina Bay fireworks from our upstairs terrace. Ryan was pretty intrigued, he exclaimed, "Planet!" I guess the round ones did sort of look like planets! Anyway, here are just a few photos of the fireworks. Unfortunately a construction crane was in the way. Just pretend it's an artistic sculpture.

New Year's Day is quite fuzzy to me too, but according to my trusty camera, my boys went swimming at our condo. I stayed with them for a bit to snap some shots before running up to cook our dinner. 

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