A Montessori-inspired toddler room for Faith

Faith has been co-sleeping with us for many months. In the early days, she slept in her cot and when we thought we had sleep-trained her, problems arose. Teething, to be precise. She would cry in the middle of the night for a few times and I had to drag my feet to her room and soothe the poor fellow. In the end, I was so exhausted that I gave up and got her to sleep with us. I guess she gradually loved the idea and the security that she got from having her parents by her side and in the end, she refused to leave our room.

Poor us.

And we don’t fancy that idea. It HAS to stop.

So I did some reading up of montessori-inspired rooms and in doing so, wanted to chide myself for not doing more ‘research’ before the little one was born. Sigh! Oh, by the way, I am really into Montessori’s principles now and eagerly anticipating the few related books that I have purchased online. More homeschooling ideas. Yay!

Anyway, I have decided to transform Faith’s nursery and to do that, I have to give away some bulky items, namely the cot, playpen, and obviously toys that Faith has outgrown. It is not too hard to part with them since they are mainly hand-me-downs; we are that fortunate (and immensely thankful for the generous givers).

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 This is Faith’s very cluttered room and which has been left empty for a few months. I hope to turn it into a montessori-inspired room with the following ideas:

1. Create a calm environment.

2. Make their space at their scale. This can be anything from a child-size broom to a bed on the floor to hanging art at their level.

3. Everything has its place. On low lying shelves, put a selected group of activities for them to choose from.

4. Clean room without a lot of stuff. 

You may find these five tips for creating a Montessori inspired bedroom useful.

Some blogs for inspiration:

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Let’s just wait and see what the transformed room looks like in a few days’ time!

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A lazy Sunday and a steamed asparagus & fish recipe

How many of you actually take Sunday off and eat out?

I do but when the refrigerator is filled with perishables waiting to be cooked and consumed, I can’t bear to leave them alone. So on this rainy and therefore lazy Sunday, I decided to let the oven do the cooking so that I don’t have to use too much effort to clean the kitchen.

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The FIL is coming over for lunch so I thought of potato gratin ( our family loves it) and a steamed asparagus and fish dish which I saw from here and I thought I should seriously cook it myself.

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The potato gratin is mighty simple. All you need are potatoes, heavy cream, garlic, salt and pepper. Cut the potatoes into thin slices then lay them out on a baking dish. Meanwhile, heat up the heavy cream (I normally use up 200ml) and cloves of garlic (if you like them, put more!). As you arrange the sliced potatoes in slightly overlapping concentric circles, spoon over some warm garlic-infused cream and season each layer with salt and pepper.

This time round, I’ve decided to put some cauliflower on the top layer before dusting the top with gruyere cheese. You can top it up with some herbs too! Bake in 175C oven for about 45 minutes. The dish is done if you can manage to poke a knife through the potatoes easily.

Moving on, we have the steamed fish. First, I place some asparagus on a parchment paper then lemons on it.

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Next are the fish fillets. Make sure you sprinkle some salt and pepper on them! The next time I bake them, I think I would squeeze the lemon on the fillets since I love the taste of lemon.

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The last part would be to put a dollop of butter (about 30g of it) and sliced garlic on the fillets before wrapping it up.

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Bake it in a 200C oven for about 12 minutes and you would have a scrumptious meal!
I garnish it with coriander leaves.

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Enjoy!

That Friday the air got really bad

I have come to the realisation that my family ( = the hubs and I) can be rather ill-prepared for emergencies.

Recently, our city-state has been hard hit by the haze caused by the burning forests in our neighbouring country and today it got really bad. The visibility was low and I awoke to really bad air that caused me to choke.

But my thoughts went out immediately to my little one and my older folks. Dad has been feeling weak since a few days back and this is a concern. Faith is only so young and I wonder how her respiratory system will take to it.

So, we sprang into action. We have no air-conditioners in our apartment and could only rely on fans which couldn’t really cool the rooms and the smell of smoke promises to linger. We have no masks nor air purifiers and our place reeks of ash, smoke and feels constantly dusty despite being cleaned regularly. After placing Faith at my mom’s, I went in search of masks and air purifiers. This attempt was followed by my sis and BIL.

If Ken and I were still without kids, I think we would not be so worried but now with a 7-month-old, it is a different story. I remember when we were in Boston and were facing 2 rounds of snowstorms which crippled the state, we did not even stock up a lot on food items as compared to the locals. Our emergency backpack was empty. We did not have torches or batteries or candles and the hubs just went ‘don’t get too worried about it’. But now, we can’t do that. The baby’s health is our main concern and our elderly folks too.

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Buildings no more!

Imagine my anxiety. As I drove to the mall, the visibility was low at noon and when I reached my destination, stores after stores displayed notice that the needed items were all sold out. I worried for my folks at home too who helped to look after the three young kids. I was in frenzy and for a moment at a loss of what to do until my sister replied in whatsapp, “Go home!”

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Queued for > 1 hour for air purifiers

Thankfully, the hubs took leave and helped us to look for the items and in the end, he had to queue an hour for the air purifiers and the three of us joined him in the end. It was really tiring but I’m glad that at least the home doesn’t reek so much of smoke anymore.

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Smells good for now

I don’t know when the haze will ease. I don’t recall having much problem in the past. At least, it didn’t get so bad until it stays in my memory. Looking back, today was quite an adventure. I could only imagine what my sister and her family went through when Mt Merapi erupted a few years back and they had to flee.

Will tomorrow be better?

Wordless Wednesday: Organising

Before I even fork out some $$ to buy more shoes, it’s better to keep track of what I have thus far.

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Linking with

When the CL left

The day Jenny (Confinement Lady) left, I felt a tinge of sadness.

That would be the last day that she would prepare my breakfast at 7am sharp and it was always bee hoon with vegetables and lean pork cooked with ginger. It was also my last practical session for bathing Faith. Before she left, she washed all outstanding clothes, cleaned up the whole apartment, scrubbed the toilet and returned the kitchen just as it was on the first day she stepped in. Impressed. And then, she left, leaving me with a big pot of pig trotters cooked in vinegar. ❤

Thereafter, I was on my own. Thankfully, the hubs came back in the afternoon to make sure that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed.

Life with a baby is so different. I become very mindful of time and make sure that we will not be out for too long lest she asks for milk (shopping and feeding is still a very new concept to me). Before we knew it, the whole afternoon was gone after we  did some grocery shopping!

Thankfully, Faith is relatively easy to look after. She wakes up for milk and then goes back to sleep. At night, she only wakes up twice which is manageable for me but I must say it is tiring.

Faith has also gotten used to breastfeeding now. Phew! Right now, I just need to practise how to do so when I’m out.

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And the following day, I had a Ngoh Hiang party on her full month with my colleagues. Managed to prepared four dishes to go with the Ngoh Hiang, thanks to the hubs who helped in one way or another. Didn’t manage to bake though. Sad!

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What a nice way to spend her full month. There was much laughter in the apartment though it was a tad too loud. Wonderful times. Thank God for that. =)

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Housewarming #2

I wish the new oven is my friend. As it is now, I have yet to fathom the true temperature even though it is reflected on the knob. My baked products either come out overcooked (thus looking less than palatable) or undercooked but giving the impression that it is charred.

Over these few days, I have discarded the bread that I have baked and yesterday, the orange almond tart which was meant for my friends at STB.

Sigh! Despite that, I’m glad to have a short catch-up session with our ex-colleagues, many of whom have moved on to schools after the stint. We seemed to have drifted a little but that’s rather expected. Hopefully, the meet-up will continue…

This time round, only food is captured.

Simple fare

Dorine bought cupcakes from Twelve Cupcakes. Always a crowd pleaser.

Something chinese and my green tea financier

Instead of egg mayo with ham sandwich, I did it with choux pastry. My version of egg and crabstick mayo with ham profiteroles.

Ken bought Oreo Cheesecake and I must remember not to use serrated knife to cut it.

JJ and JL intrigued by the butter cookies that are shaped like dogs.

Housewarming #1

So the housewarming season begins!

It started off with our CG and as always, I was a tad anxious over all things small and big. “Will there be enough food?”, “Would they be bored?”, “What shall we do to entertain the kids?”…

All these worries were unfounded, of course, because the adults were busy catching up with one another and the kids were happily chasing one another down the hall and into the short corridor between our rooms; they had gone ‘crazy’. It was a pleasant noise, an indication that all were engaged.

For record’s sake, we ordered 3 sets of shepherd’s pies (classic chicken, classic beef and teriyaki chicken) from a company I adore, a packet of potato chips, 30 BBQ chicken wings from Blk 85, my version of salad (complete with parboil cabbage, quail eggs, baby tomatoes and black pepper cocktail sausages with oriental dressing) and Konnyaku jelly. Two bottles of ice wine and sparkling wine and TH’s Pecan Pie completed the whole dinner menu. I tried making green bean casserole but failed miserably and the whole portion didn’t make it to the dining table. Something was just wrong!

Above: The uncles at the corner.

Note: I must remember to take pics of food!

The reason why they were in the kitchen is because they wanted to get the cork out of the wine bottles! Waiting…waiting…waiting…wine connoisseurs.

The whole experience had been wonderful. It would have been perfect if not for the very warm weather. Everyone was perspiring, poor them but the conversation was really spontaneous which as a host, you would very much want that to happen.

The Sngs gave us a housewarming gift which I found meaningful and encouraging. With the gift comes a note and I found comfort in the words. What a wise woman Jo is and I guess only a person who has experienced similar-type- of- situation (in this case a mother) with Godly wisdom could deliver such a message. Oh! And more maternity clothes! Yipee!

   

I love having guests over even though it means stress for me. The hubs can attest to that. Hah!

Step-by-step

We are one step closer to owning our apartment!

1st appointment is over! Thanks be to the folks at home and CG!

Middle East Restaurant
472, Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA

My love affair

I am unfaithful. I committed infidelity.

I had a long standing relationship with bags. I love bags and have many since Secondary School days. I could spent hundreds of dollars on one. Remember Chantal Thomass? Sonia Rykiel? Jean Paul Gaultier? ELLE? Those were my love when I was schooling.

Starting work, I upgraded to the bigger players like Coach, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Longchamp and Burberrys. Suddenly, I found myself being able to own the bags I have been eyeing/ coveting when in school. Can you understand why I am so broke now?

Not that I don’t love bags now. I still do but they no longer hold a big portion of space in my heart. Something else has filled that gap. I’m not sure if it has to do with age. Perhaps?

I love those kitchenware and baking stuff now. Every week, I would go to Marshalls and admire those pots and pans and dutch ovens. Last Wednesday, I saw a twin PINK non-stick round grill by KitchenAid. What beauty! And then more Le Creuset pots were on the shelves!

Le Creuset! Oh my, these French stuff! I am drooling even as I am writing this post. They are so beautiful, both on the stovetop and on the dining table. Oh, they are those prized possession you should be placing on your kitchen shelf. I mean, who wouldn’t love them, seriously?

If you don’t know what I am talking about, you could refer to Sunday Times’ Lifestyle (14 November 2010) on Appetite for luxe gadgets. More Singaporeans are aware of these lovely things, perhaps a result of more travelling and studying/working overseas. While our counterparts in the west have enjoyed these products for many years, we are introduced to them only recently (in a mass-market sense).

Source: ST (14 November 2010)

As the report went, each of these Le Creuset’s pots (and I believe they are the cast-iron ones) cost between S$300 to S$600. Like bags, they can last a long time, a few generations, if you take care of them. And they are evergreen; they are not fads. Unlike cars, they do not depreciate in value and do not have to be scraped in a number of years’ time. Some people change cars in a matter of 5 years but these kitchenware stay with you for a lifetime!

I’d rather invest in my kitchen now. Ok, I am aware that we don’t have to buy luxury products to whip up good food (although you absolutely need fresh produce) and perhaps I am consumed by consumerism (something my dear hubs has always abhored). But, pray, allow me to indulge. =p

LC outlet @ Wrentham Village

So, I’m looking forward to Black Friday @ Wrentham Village. I will be in the queue for Le Creuset and see if I could get some good deals.

The only problem? How to ship them back to Singapore and the possibility of mom fighting with me over them (though the probability of the latter happening is rather slim).

My wok is almost dead.

My wok is dying. It has been peeling for a few days now and I don’t really know how to cure it. I tried oiling it again and am half afraid to use it too. So, these days, I only use it to steam food.

As a Chinese brought up with stir-fried food, I know it would be soon that I have to call for help. So, an SOS call was made to mom this morning and all she asked was, “What did you do to the wok?”

I don’t know! I seasoned it the first time I used it and also constantly oiled it after washing and drying. I did what I should. Then she asked, “How much did you buy the wok for?” “A few dollars.” “You cannot buy cheap woks!”

You get what you pay. A wok doesn’t really cost a bomb, unlike those dutch ovens but I know too that a few dollars worth of wok could only produce  that much of a result or last that long. I also acknowledge that it could be how I take care of the wok. Perhaps, I just didn’t preserve it well. My mom took care of her equipment and protected them. She would scold us if we turned on the heat too high and constantly observed how we used and washed them. I guess those were her prized possession and having us tamper with them carelessly made her heart ache. After all, those good ones cost almost a grand for a set (I was actually amazed when she disclosed that). My mom’s wok (or those set of cookware)is as old as I am and is still working fine. The current one that I have lasted 2 months. What a shame.

The hubs suggested getting one on Black Friday but I don’t think I can wait that long for a wok. A skillet works fine, by the way, but it’s just different stir-frying using a skillet. The handling is…just weird. Wrentham Village where we would be going houses 2 kitchenware brands – Le Creuset and Calphalon. I don’t believe Le Creuset has woks. Calphalon stores them but they cost a bomb. I am no professional and I won’t spend so much on a wok.

So, I did my research and came across Joyce Chen’s wok. She’s a chef whom I know naught of but the review on her wok is good. A little about her: Joyce Chen opened her first restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1958. She found that the selection and quality of Chinese cookware in America didn’t live up to her high standards… so she developed her own. The wok which I have eyed is relatively affordable – $28 for a set of 4 items as compared to Calphalon’s at $75 for a similar wok.

Meanwhile, I will try to resuscitate my wok. But there is a high chance that it would be replaced. Mom’s warning was “Stop using it” but let’s just try eh? The wok is a bit too heavy for my wrist as well which I fear constant use of it could resurrect the old injury I had.

Saving on kitchenware is not quite a wise move because it cost more having to buy new ones to replace them. Good ones save in the long run; they could even serve as heirloom/dowry! =p I, for instance, would love to have my mom’s kitchenware!

Almost there.

You could just imagine my joy when we chanced upon Hong Kong Supermarket @ Allston (heard it just opened! Woohoo!). The building looked Chinese all right and when I entered, I was jumping for joy when I saw the all-so-familiar stuff! So you know that I am a true-blue Chi-na-pok. I told Ken to brace himself as I went down the aisle to pick up all the necessary sauces and condiments for cooking and yes, I could cook at last! The bill came up to a fair bit but for initial start-up, it was ok because in the long run, we would save more from eating out. Things here were definitely not cheap. But, well, we will made do.

 
Off to Bed Bath & Beyond @ Park Drive and bought our bedsheet and some household products. I wish we had a car then because that would mean that we did not have to make multiple trips here and there. So, at the end of the day, after dinner, I just plonked into bed. Zzzzzz…. Thankfully, Ken was always there to help. Somehow, I feel he could make a good house-husband. kekekeke.

Random pics from yesterday’s shopping. We are almost done with our home!

Donuts, anyone?

Before…

After…

Cosy corner

The rather stocked-up kitchen

Can you see some familiar bottles? Yes, I can!

I have conquered the cabinet in the bathroom. Well, I’m afterall… woman! =p

Initial start-up

We were up at 3 plus in the AM, couldn’t sleep no longer and went to do online research…for a bed. The management had earlier emailed Ken that they would not be supplying the additional twin (looks more like a single) bed and thus we had to go buy a decent-sized one for us.

So to Craigslist, Target and Ikea we went. The first two were recommended by friends who told us that we could really find good deals in there and of course, it’s always good old Ikea we go to if we lack any furniture. Problem was the transportation. As we currently had no car, we could not transport the bed or any purchase back home. Of course the solution is to pay for movers but that cost a lot. Ikea was way too far away for us and we eventually struck it off.
 
We were on this mission for a good 3 to 4 hours until the hubs gave up and suggested a morning jog around the reservoir. Might as well. I felt the more we fussed over it, the more uptight we became. We decided that we could just go back to BC and asked the representatives for advice.

Saying a prayer, we left for BC to tidy up all the admin stuff that Ken had to do, including his health report submission, student card (hey, I’ve got one myself!), opening a bank account and the registration of the courses. It was tiring walking around the campus and having to look for the different people. I don’t recall my going to grad school as so confusing! But of course, we are talking about international students now and definitely more procedures to be made. It was fun though and as we entered the Lynch School of Education, I could feel myself wanting very much to study too! Oh, btw, I would be going for the Orientation too! (me am very kaypoh =p).


After settling most of the stuff (phew!), we decided to do some shopping at Coolidge Corner as recommended by Meghan, the rep at the International Students Office. We wanted to go there primarily to look for beds as she hinted that we could find good bargain there. However, one store captured my eyes and we basically stocked up on kitchen stuff. Now, at least we have kettle, pans (I’ve got pink ones!) and bowls and in no time at all, the kitchen would clearly be stocked up and I could cook! I am getting sick of those food out there (for the record, we only had one meal today).

And you know what? When we opened the door to our apartment, we were overjoyed! An extra bed was placed next to the previous one! They have given us another bed! We could save a lot from it! Ken later revealed that it could be the email that he wrote to them. Whatever it was, we were thankful. Thankful that we did not go ahead and purchase online in the morning. Thankful that we were distracted to buy kitchenware. Thankful to the Lord mostly for his provision. =)


Our abode for the next 1.5 years.

 

Backdated Beginning… by… the Beng

So I was supposed to inaugurate this blog, but as usual, dear wife got off to a quicker start. I can never get myself to blog for very long. This is quite possibly my fourth blog ever and I doubt if I’ve even hit a total of 10 posts in all.

Take heart however. Since wife is in on this with me, we can all expect it to last substantially longer…

It’s been only slightly more than a day since we’ve touched down at Boston and a little more than 48 hours since we left Changi Airport, so there really isn’t all that much to report on.

I guess all I can give you is my perspective on what the wife has already shared. Have no doubt however that it will be unique, witty, entertaining, and most of all… extremely quotable. It will, in a pinch, also cure cancer. Possibly.

So my take on what has happened over the past 48 hours is this.

I agree with my wife. Completely. Unreservedly. Wholeheartedly.
She isn’t even threatening me in any way while I’m typing this. Seriously.
(She probably will once she reads this though… =p)

In summary.
We arrived safely in Boston despite a rather frightful start to the flight process at Changi.
We caught ALL our connecting flights despite the first flight leaving more than an hour behind schedule, and later having to stand in line for more than an hour to clear customs in Chicago. (For every connecting flight, the gate closed within a few minutes of us getting on board the plane…)
All our luggage arrived with little incident (some spilled shampoo) despite having 3 out of the 4 bags that we checked in separated from us on the final flight. Yes, it did take longer than they initially promised, but they thankfully got it to us before we checked out of the hotel.
We managed to get a late check-out, and thus had the opportunity for ample rest between our two trips lugging our bags from the hotel down to our new place.
We met friendly people along the way who helped to point us in the right directions.
We got a room facing the back, which meant less breeze because of the other houses behind, but also quite a bit less noise since it isn’t facing the road.
Through all the challenges, wife has helped me see the positive side of things.

So right now, we’ve been told that we’re not getting an extra bed, so we have a couple of options:
1) Starve ourselves so we can better fit the two of us into a single twin bed. (Why is it called a twin when there’s only one of it?!)
2) Learn to sleep sideways. Which would leave our legs hanging over the side, but at least there’ll be ample space for the both of us. And about 4-5 other visiting friends when you all come to see us.
3) Buy a new bed.

I’m sure something good will come out of this. =D