Saturday, November 29, 2014

Natalie's Birthday

The last time we were at Urban Playground, it was Bub's birthday and even though he went nuts there with his friends, I lamented that I didn't get to play much on the giant inflatables while everyone else did. Since Natalie's birthday was held there, I rubbed my hands in glee that I could now bounce, run and slide to my heart's content this time around. Think of it as a more fun gym session where I could burn off calories ;)

The birthday girl was so thrilled with her pressies, she refused to let go.

This spot was hands down one of the coolest attraction for all the children. They ran down the slides repeatedly into a cosy, colourful ball pit. There is something so relaxing and fun just chillin' in there. Hubs, can we please have one at home, pretty please? *puppy dog eyes*

This was the best inflatable they had for the bigger kids. It's a very steep (but soft and squishy) wall filled with velcro patches. You take different coloured cloth strips and try to stick them on the velro - which sounds a lot easier than it actually was. Bubs and I were trying to see who could get to the top.

I challenged Kelly to it and Hubs had photographic evidence that it was a tie ;) It was so much fun that I ended up ripping my jeans at the knee, LOL. In case you were wondering, even the both of us couldn't reach the top most corner.

We quickly replenished all the lost calories with lunch. I was flabbergasted with all of the yummy cookies that Kelly baked from scratch, including a modern version of kuih bangkit that was lighter and more airy.

The birthday girl was thrilled to bits with her very pretty and sweet Hello Kitty cake. Happy Birthday, Natalie!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Smitten Kitchen's Brownie Cookies

To be honest, I was skeptical when I saw this cookie recipe on Smitten Kitchen because I was wondering how good can this be when there are so few ingredients required and it was so simple? No out of the ordinary ingredients were required, no fancy smancy techniques either. Really?

Still, as both Hubs and Bubs love anything rich and chocolaty, I decided to give this a try.

Brownie Roll-Out Cookies*
Recipe from Deb’s mom
3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (225 grams) lightly salted butter, softened (Deb note: I don’t really see “lightly salted” much these days, so I used one stick salted, one stick unsalted)
1 1/2 (300 grams) cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (approximately 60 grams — weights can vary a bit depending on brand. I use the “good” stuff–Droste, Galler or Valrhona –but I can assure you that my mother only used Hershey’s growing up, so your choice)
Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Whisk dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
Roll out cookie dough on floured counter. Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top. (It does disappear once baked, though, so don’t overly fret if they go into the oven looking white.) Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes (the former for 1/8-inch thick cookies, the latter for 1/4-inch cookies) until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

A couple of changes (as always) I made:
  • Cut down the sugar to 1 1/4 cup as I usually find American dessert recipes too sweet. Substituted the butter to unsalted.
  • Used Dutch processed cocoa. This is near to impossible to find at supermarkets, even Cold Storage in Penang so I was lucky to find a baking supply shop that carries this (I Home at Tg Bungah) 
  • Under baking these gems is the key! I overbaked the first batches and they became like biscuits instead, crisp and brittle. If you prefer a soft, pillow-y texture, keep a careful eye on them in the oven and pull them out 1 - 2 mins ahead of time. They continue to harden whilst on the wire rack.
Bub's favourites all lined up: cookies, Lego minifigs and fruit. Nice way to spend the afternoon.

The cookies are intense with a rich, chocolaty taste and go down beautifully with a tall glass of cold milk. The toughest thing about this simple recipe is portion control - don't tell Hubs and Bubs that I hid them right at the back of the fridge :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

3 Things

Literally small things that put the hugest smile on me for this week.

Mum's home made cheok hwa (Nonya jelly) that Bubs and I fight over with. These are made from agar agar strips but what makes them different is the unique, hard and almost bouncy texture. She makes them in these rabbit moulds that are older than I am.

Sneaky little Bubs for sweet talking his grandparents into splurging on the robot from the cartoon Big Hero 6. He knows that I draw the line at overpriced movie merchandise so he pointed it out in the Toys R Us Christmas book making puppy dog eyes at my parents. The thing now is that since he got the toy already, we're now thinking of bringing him to the cinema to catch the movie.

I am probably the most anxiety riddled mum when it comes to Bubs. Hubs jokes that I even worry about not having anything to worry about. So ... not ... true ... well, maybe, just a little. Anyway, I went through Bub's drawings and these sort of reassure me that every child learns at his/her own pace. The tiny lion was sketched back in August in quick little scribbles. The bigger, colourful one was done just last week; I was surprised at the amount of details Bubs put in this time around, he coloured in the blue sky, green grass for the lion to run. All in good time :)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Clay Leaf Bowls

I have always been a voracious reader and my mantra for everything in life is: research, research and more research. When I was pregnant, I read up every single thing I could about pregnancy, giving birth, complications. When Bubs was teeny tiny and still months away from starting solids, I devoured baby nutrition books and Google-d recommended first foods (Bub's first meal was avocado by the way). I even read reviews about skincare before buying ... sad but true ;)

I digress.

I now add a couple of children art and learning sites to my bookmarks and after spotting this fantastic idea, Bubs and I decided to try making leaf shaped clay bowls ourselves.

You'll need:
A couple of broad/big leaves, preferably with thick veins or interesting shapes
Clay. I used air dry clay from Daiso
Cling wrap
A bowl considerably smaller than your leaf

We went around on a leaf hunt - note to myself: remember to bring a small pair of scissors, I think I butchered some stems trying to pluck the leaves off. The idea is to go for big, interestingly shaped leaves. I wish we could find something similar to maple leaves around our neighbourhood but apart from palm fronds, we found these broad leaves. 

Due to his extensive and superior Play Doh experience, Bubs was given the task of rolling out the clay. Do you usually roll the pin towards or away from you? Hmmm, the mysteries of life.

Press the leaf with the vein-y side down so you'll get nice imprints onto the clay. If you're kiasu like me, I then put the baking paper on top on the leave and rolled the pin again gently to make sure the veins get embedded deep into the clay.

Use a sharp object (like an opened paper clip or a nail) to cut out the leaf shape from the clay. Since Bubs was around, we used a plastic, disposable knife.

Line a small bowl with cling wrap inside it. The smaller your bowl, the deeper your leaf clay bowl will be. A good size that I found was a small Chinese rice bowl - the type that you usually find at restaurants.

Gently push the clay leaf into the bowl, taking care not to crack the clay or smudge the top too much with your fingertips. Remember the veins of the leaf go up.

Let it air dry overnight inside the bowl. The next day, remove the clay leaf from the rice bowl. The bottom will still be damp and slightly pliable. Leave on a piece of paper (damp side down is fine) to air dry.

Now comes the fun part. Prepare paints and decorate to your heart's content.The original post recommended acrylics but since we only had Crayola washables at home, that's what we went with.

We tried to do yellow speckles on red by using the toothbrush method. I'm thinking of getting metallic colours in future as I think they'll pop beautifully against the bright background.

Et voila! The proud artist and his masterpiece. If you want it to be extra glossy, you could get clear acrylic spray to seal it. Do bear in mind that these are not food safe. I plan to use these to keep small knick knacks and other treasures that are precious to a 4 year old magpie :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Play Date

Bubs has been on a couple of play dates but the other day when my friend Kelly had to run some errands, she asked if we would mind watching Nat for a few hours at our place. Nat's a couple of years older than Bubs and Kelly repeatedly assured me that he's totally independent and would be tear-free at her absence.

With fingers crossed, we gave it a try at being parents of 2 for a while.

The 2 boys started out with Play Doh which easily kept them occupied for at least an hour. They rolled, moulded and sliced out food to feed Cookie Monster.

After they got bored, we left to them their own devices, figuring that they could entertain themselves with the amount of toys that they had on hand.


The 2 of them could power an entire nuclear plant with the sheer amount of energy they had. They chased each other around shrieking at the top of their voices, they bounced on the sofa so hard that I worried more for their knee joints than the sofa springs, LOL.

Hubs figured the best way to let them burn off their energy was to pop floaties on them and bring them down to the kids' pool since it was an exceptionally beautiful day. It was a brilliant idea, they were such water babies! Nats and Bubs splashed at each other, ran in and out of the pool since it was relatively empty.

Bubs very proud of his transition to arm floaties instead of the doughnut float and kept pumping his arms up and down - almost like a chicken flapping its wings - each time he ran out of the pool.

We were sooo exhausted when Nat's uncle came to pick him up. Bubs loved having a playmate around and kept asking when is the next visit. For those of you that have 2 boys or more, I salute you!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Vintage Books

My Mum called me over the other day with the most exciting discovery ... she found boxes of my old books! Some of my books were handed down to me by my aunts and they belonged to them when they were teeny tiny so we're talking books that are quite possibly more than 30 - 40 years old.

As I carted home boxes full of there literary treasures and sorted them out, a wave of nostalgia struck me. The soft, worn pages comforting below my fingertips, that intoxicating smell of old paper, the vintage water colour illustrations ... for a moment I was transported back to when I was the same age as Bubs and lost in the pictures, trying to make out what few words I could read. It was as though I stepped back into time and any moment, I could see my parents, shoulders unstooped by age, hair still jet black, arms still strong enough to lift me up into the air.

There were small stacks of Ladybird books with the same beautiful pictures as I remembered them. Scribbles in blue pen as a young me tried to mimic my Dad by writing my name on the pages. Bubs wagged his finger at the writing and said "naughty mummy wrote on the book" :) Yellowed, thin comics ranging from horror comics (Dad's), super heroes (again, Dad's) to relatively new ones like the Dandy, Beano.

I was grinning from ear to ear and hugging these tightly to my chest - She-Ra books amidst other 80s treasures like Jem and the Holograms, My Little Pony - what can I say, I'd a Dad that couldn't say no to my request for books and I am a product of the 80s after all ;) Bubs was really fascinated with these and wanted to know what other cartoons did I watch back then ... wish I could find books for the Wuzzles, Fraggle Rock, Gummi Bears ... remember them? :)

Quite possibly the most heartwarming sight to me, Bubs sitting very quietly lost in reading. Even Hubs couldn't resist a chuckle when he saw Bubs glued to the same spot, his nose buried the pile of literary treasures. Here's to hoping that he has fond memories of them to last him into adulthood.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Boat Noodles

Having read this rave review about Thai boat noodles on Eve's blog, we decided to drop by on a weekend.

Boat noodles, in Bangkok, are traditionally served in a bowl with minute portions because back then, it wasn't easy eating piping hot noodles in a broth filled bowl on a swaying boat. Don't be surprised if you end up eating more than 5 bowls at a go because the portions are seriously tiny!

The Thai boat noodles at the CF Food Court close by Weld Quay, serves them in a decent portion for RM6.50 with a generous serving of either chicken or pork.

Eve told us to go for the chicken so we heeded her advice and she was right! The chicken drumstick was so tender, the meat was literally falling off the bone. The soup was very tasty and fragrant, for some reason - it reminded us of beef noodle soup. Bubs enjoyed this and didn't need any further encouragement to polish his off.

They are generally opened from lunch through dinner and they have a Facebook page. Go check them out! :)

Monday, November 10, 2014

3 Things

Some of the stuff, new and old, that made my week :)

My Mum found all my old books for me kept in boxes at their place and I've been excavating them to bring them home bit by bit. These brought back so many memories for me. I think most kids of the 80s in Singapore and Malaysia will remember the Mooty series. These were my first introduction to Asian literature and I remember being in awe that I could relate so well to a book that had the lead character in Japanese slippers and cicak (lizards).

This butterfly pea flower for blossoming. I found the pods from a neighbour's plant and grew them from seed. It's cute that even though I never told Bubs the name of the flower, he exclaimed "it looks like a butterfly!" The only downside is that the flowers only last for about a day before wilting.

We have finally packed up Bub's cot because it was getting far too tiny for him. Instead of training him to sleep on his own in his room, we shifted his mattress over to our room *blushes* yes, we are still co-sleeping. We were worrying initially that he'd miss his cosy little cot that he has slept in since birth. He did shed a tear or two when we packed it up but the moment he saw his bed sandwiched between the wardrobe and our bed, he became so excited.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fashion Friday: Shades of Blue

I have toned down a lot over the amount of shopping I do and tried to stick to a budget. While successful for the most part, I can't resist adding a few items to my wardrobe every now and then ;) Here are a couple of recent buys and not very coincidentally, in blue, one of my favourite colours.

I got this flouncy pale blue skirt with a cream lace trim from Princess Diary and it's so casual that it's perfect for the weekends with just a plain tee. I tried dressing it up with a shell pink top that had an embellished neckline and liked how the colours went together.

I've a fear of double denim so it took me a pretty loooooong time to get onto the chambray shirt bandwagon. I liked the fit of Uniqlo shirts and the dark wash together with the cute print made this an instant purchase for me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Harvest Festival

Bubs recently changed schools because of the operating hours so when his new school organised a Harvest Festival for parents, I was more than delighted to take a sticky beak at how he interacts with his new friends. He solemnly recited some chunks of his speech "Dear fathers and mothers," and sometimes sang songs about pulling a carrot at home, which made us look even more forward to the actual day.

Bubs was in his element! He welcomed us, sang and dance so earnestly. I think the Harvest Festival served as a mini concert for us, which was a bonus because we didn't have to pay for costumes or tickets *cheapskate mum alert*

He even sang songs in Hokkien. Ti or or, bi lok hoh (the sky is dark, it's going to rain)  my Mum-in-Law was chuckling hard at this one.

We were invited outside for some fruits and crudites. The children had made these buns for us earlier and they were still very hot to the touch!

Bubs talks a lot about these bunnies and how they feed them carrots.

We went in for the grand finale. The teachers put on a very cute puppet show and I was amazed at how quietly the children sat there, paying close attention to it without a single peep.

Before we left, the children proudly showed us the display corner that was covered with fruits and vegetables. Happy to see Bubs enjoying his new school :)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bangkok: Part 3

It was such a whirlwind trip and I really wished we had loads more time to do more stuff together as a family. I was frantically trying to balance, work, family time and shopping (poor Hubs had to do a lot of the babysitting, although as he shrugs, that's nothing new).

We did manage to sample some eats. I'm surprised at how affordable food in Bangkok is compared to Penang. A whole, fresh coconut is 19 Thai Baht (about RM2). We managed to have a pretty decent meal that comprised of mains, desserts and more desserts at Siam Paragon. I'm still kicking myself for not being able to try all of the coconut ice cream, it was so hard to find vendors. The one at iberry (ground floor of Siam Paragon) was really good, dotted with tiny chunks of frozen coconut.

Dinner was at Nuer Koo (pronounced as 'Nua Kooh' and not "Nuclear" as I was calling it) is located at the 4th floor of Siam Paragon. Famous for their prize cuts of beef used in soups and noodles, they often have long wait lists so it's best to go before peak times. Hubs accused me of picking this place based on the pretty collection of  blue and white crockery displayed on the wall ;)

The beef shoulder served with white rice was very hearty and rustic. It had a home cooked vibe and the accompanying chilli sauce served with it was fantastic.

Traditional noodles with beef balls and other various "jelly bits".

So many people have told me that After You dessert cafe is a must try in Bangkok so we headed down again to the ground floor. I was warned in advance about the long queue but thought it was a myth ... until we really were confronted with a queue of about 6 ahead of us.


Pancakes and shibuya toast.They were fluffy, not too cloyingly sweet but very filling. On hindsight, we should probably just have stopped at one.

Anantara Sathorn kindly gave us 2 free drinks at the Zoom sky bar which is the rooftop on the 40th. The view was superb and given that it was our last night in Bangkok, the weather miraculously cleared up enough for us to enjoy a spot of people watching there.

It was one of the best nights we've had. We relaxed, sipped at our fresh coconuts and the service was out of the world fantastic even though the staff knew that we were using the free coupons and didn't add on any other extras.They even giggled and patted Bub's cheek when he did the traditional Thai wai and said "kapunkap" (thank you).

No one even blinked when Bubs broke out into his dance moves along to the funky music ;) Yes, I know, we are either the world's worst or coolest parents to bring a 4 year old to a rooftop bar. Rest assured, not a single person was smoking, wish I could say the same about Penang kopitiams.

I felt sooo scruffy in a grey tee and jeans. Note to myself, no more tees on trips!

We headed home the next day with a baggage filled with goodies and hearts full of happy memories. Bangkok, parting is such sweet sorrow, til our next meet again! ;)

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