Canvas Painting at TrehausKids

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I have mentioned before that I would like to expose Faith to different interests so that I could help her identify her strengths and work on it/them. The period before she enters Primary School is a great timing because she has extra pockets of time to explore and we would not be stressed out by the demands of school. So far, we have signed her up for music, swim, dance and Chinese class. She loves all of them except for dance. It’s exasperating to observe her dance movement and attitude during the Twinkle Toes’ sessions that we signed her up for at the Esplanade. We concluded that she does not have interest in it, at least for now.

Art. I think she has a keen interest in it judging by how she could focus on working on an art piece. She has often expressed that she would like to attend an art class and I jumped at the opportunity for her to go for one at TrehausKids during the September school holidays.

The theme for that session is Monsters and Faith was actually looking forward to that session because she genuinely loves the space at Trehaus (she has had very good memories there). Upon entering the class, she settled rather quickly though it was her first time meeting Ms Jessie Chandran.

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Ms Chandran read them the book – Monsters Love Underpants – before getting them to work on a collage and subsequently the canvas painting of the Monster.

Definitely proud of her own work!

TrehausKids is launching regular weekly art classes at the Trehaus Studio, starting 16 September 2016. Helmed by TrehausKids Lead Facilitator and Art Educator, Ms Jessie Chandran, the weekly art classes happening every Friday is set to immerse young children in the world of modern and contemporary art while picking up core skills in painting techniques, colour mixing and sketching.

Every session, Ms Chandran will personally guide a small class size of no more than 8 students and mentor them on drawing, sketching and painting techniques to create their own masterpieces. In these sessions, students will explore different art medium such as watercolour and acrylics with a variety of painting tools to unleash their inner Warhol or Picasso. 😉

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For younger students who are aged 3-4, theme-based art workshops will include storytelling to accompany each session. I heard there will be exciting tales from well-loved children’s authors such as Eric Carle and other famous classics!

While the sister was working on her creative piece, the brother was having a fun time in the next room.

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The art class happens every Friday, starting 16 September
2:00PM – 3:30PM (3-6 years old)
4:00PM – 6 PM (7-10 years old)

Venue: Trehaus Studio
Cost of each session: $35 +GST (non members); $20 +GST (Trehaus members*)
Cost of one term of 4 sessions: $120 + GST (non members); $60 + GST (Trehaus members)

*Trehaus member refers to members on WORK or WORK + PLAY membership packages

More information can be found here.

Musical Exploration at Music Adventurer Workshop 

[Review]

How can you tell which instrument your kid is interested in apart from giving them the exposure to interact with them? At least this is what I believe. Workshops such as the Music Adventurer Workshop seeks to achieve that by getting young kids to explore real music and musical instruments, on top of the basics to introduce and prepare them in this musical journey.

Faith had completed all the sessions of the Music Adventurers Workshop (4-6 years old) by Musichaus during the June holidays (I wrote about the first session here). From those sessions, she was introduced and given the opportunity to play the various instruments such as the ukelele, keyboard, xylophone and wooden percussions. Apart from that, she also learnt musical terms such as Forte (loud) and Piano (soft) and got to play the instruments in 3 and 4 beats during the four sessions.

On my own, I wouldn’t be able to share such knowledge with her because I just am quite handicapped when it comes to music (I can sing all right). I couldn’t even understand the tau gey (musical notes)!

Besides introducing the various instruments, the children were treated to storytelling times in which Teacher Trina would incorporate music and movement based on what they have read. The children were also encouraged to use their vocals to, for example, imitate the sounds of the different animals as read from the story.

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In terms of movement, you bet there were lots of it. We (the parents) sat in for the first and last 10 minutes of each session and I could testify that the kids moved A LOT. So much so that I was a little uncomfortable. I mean, were they learning? It was definitely a different kind of learning environment in which the kids were encouraged to move about, dance to the music and to practise their beats using the instruments.

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After each session, Teacher Trina would give us feedback as to how our kid responded to the lesson. Based on her summary, I asked Faith what she had learnt when we got home and to tell me the musical instruments that she was introduced for that day. And she could! Oh, me of little faith! And I thought she wasn’t paying attention with all those running about. There were also occasions that she could tell me what she had learnt when we read a story that was similar to what Teacher Trina had shared. So, she did learn! It didn’t come immediately of course but she would share her learning with me when her memory was triggered.

I certainly like the idea of incorporating language arts and music in this workshop because I believe they can be intertwined. Teacher Trina termed this as musical story time where percussions and paino were used to enhance the experience of reading. I must also commend Teacher Trina for being patient with the young kids. If you have seen how she dealt with them, you would agree with me that it was truly admirable of her to be able to engage the kids for 90 minutes even though I think that time duration is too long for young children to stay focussed.

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At the end of the day, Faith did acquire some knowledge about the basics of music and the various musical instruments. Most of all, she had fun and looked forward to each session and that’s good enough for me. To me, it’s a good way to spend her school holiday though I’m rather reluctant to crowd her school days with enrichment classes. I’m hoping that Musichaus would continue to hold such workshops in December! Anyway, I have given feedback to Teacher Trina and she said she would consider. 😉

However, if you are thinking of sending your little ones to such a class on a regular basis, these sessions will be conducted every Thursday, 3 – 4pm at Trehaus and they will commence on 7th July 2016. The theme for the lesson is Classical Music and you can find out more via their website.

Trehaus Cowork
442 Orchard Road, #03-01
Singapore 238879
Tel: 9843 8077
Email: enquiries@trehauscowork.com

Disclaimer: Our sessions were sponsored in exchange for a review of the workshop. No other forms of monetary compensation was given and all opinions are mine. There are quite a few good coffee joints at Claymore Connect and since this is a drop off class, you could enjoy some time on your own with a cup of caffeine, i.e. if you enjoy it. 

Musichaus: Music Adventurers Workshop

“Mom, can I don’t go for the music class later?”

My heart sank a little. I had signed Faith up for a music holiday programme – Music Adventurers Workshop (4-6 years old) by Musichaus – that runs weekly for the month of June. Since we will not be going overseas, I thought it would be good to let her have some fun at some art and/or music classes. Besides, she has always enjoyed singing and has shown some interest in playing the ukelele, amongst other musical instruments . When I saw this holiday programme at Trehaus Cowork, I know I have to sign her up and am thankful to be given sponsorship for it.

 

Faith settled in very quickly. Perhaps, it was the non-threatening environment or maybe it’s the warmth that Teacher Trina exuded. Whatever it is, I was glad. Parents were not allowed to sit in the session but Teacher Trina has kindly allowed us to be around for the last 20 minutes just to observe how the children responded to the lesson.

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I left, with her smiling before the camera (I didn’t ask her to pose). Faith was obviously intrigued by the keyboard and was elated to be allowed to play with it.

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I returned at the last 30 minutes to see two kids running around to the sound of music. They were obviously engaged in some form of play and I was shortly told by Teacher Trina that they were participating in the music game – Stop! Or Freeze – for the music and movement section of the lesson.

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According to Teacher Trina, the objectives for this first lesson are to introduce the keyboard to the children which include the black and white keys, playing loud and soft and the musical count of 2 beats. The children were able to answer Teacher Trina’s questions as she summarised the lesson. Good! So, they had been paying attention in class!

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The children were introduced to some percussion instruments namely the tambourine, triangle and the maraca. The percussion were used as they sang along with songs and rhymes such as Old MacDonald has a jungle, Here we go round the Mulberry Bush, Humpty Dumpty, ABCGEFG and Baa baa black sheep. I was told that Faith loved the ABCGEFG song and triangle the most and could count two beats with it.

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Since the theme of this lesson is about tuning in with nature, the children learnt and were given the opportunity to guess the sounds made by frogs, breaking of branches, waterfall, gorilla and the like.

I was really impressed by the passion and patience of Teacher Trina. We had two very energetic preschoolers in the class who were obviously having a whale of a time playing the music game. There were times that they lost focus but Teacher Trina was able to bring them back with her melodious voice as she gave her instructions. I also appreciate the fact that she could give a detailed summary of what was taught during the lesson and provide feedback on how Faith progressed in class. And yes, her passion was clearly exhibited as she shared music-related information and tips with us.

As we left the premise, I asked Faith if she would like to go back for lesson the following week.

A resounding YES.

See, I knew she would enjoy!

Actually, I am the one who is more keen to return to the class. Just reading the description of the next few lessons excites me. It’s gonna be fun!

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There is also a Music Explorers Workshop that is suitable for children aged 1.5 to 3 YO. If you are keen, you could reply via this link (if you have a meetup group account) or just called Trehaus to express your interest in either of the workshops.

Oh, I just want to tell you that the Trehaus Kids Atelier is really an awesome space and you should definitely see it for yourself. Do pop by and have a tour!

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Trehaus Cowork
442 Orchard Road, #03-01
Singapore 238879
Tel: 9843 8077
Email: enquiries@trehauscowork.com

A morning spent at a terrarium workshop

“Oh no! I’m late! I’m late!”

I was panicking as I drove to Hortpark. There was a traffic jam caused by an exit closure due to the SEA Games and I had to think of an alternative route to get to my destination. Alas, there was still heavy traffic along the way and I contemplated turning back home. However, the little girl was adamant on going and kept insisting that she wanted to go to the garden. Thankfully, I heeded her advice. Because both of us had great fun that morning. image Faith and I were invited to a terrarium workshop by the good folks at Actualyse. The workshop itself was conducted by Cath of The Plant Story. By the time we reached the indoor open concept cafe, we were half an hour late and we went straight to making our own terrarium.

imagePhoto: Actualyse

In simple term, a terrarium is a low-maintenance indoor garden in a glass container and is ideal for people who don’t have the time to care for a garden or just don’t have a “green thumb” like yours truly. What you would need is a clear glass container and plants suitable for terrariums. To start making the indoor garden, you would need gravel or small pebbles, charcoal pieces, potting soil and some decoration pieces.

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Initially, I was a bit worried that Faith might not not be up for the job and would create a mess instead but decided that I should just let her try. I must say, she did well! She was careful at every step, perhaps sensing her mama’s anxiety and in the end, she created and decorated her own garden without much mess!

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Obviously, she received help from me who was actually clueless as to what I should do. Thankfully, I met very helpful participants and fellow moms who guided me along.

imagePhoto: Actualyse

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Photo: Actualyse

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This is the end product and I must say the little girl was proud of her work!

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Please don’t drop it!

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Photo: Actualyse Can you sense my joy and pride?

It was a short one hour session (minus our half-an-hour lateness) but both Faith and I had a good time of bonding through working on the terrarium. If you are interested, you should definitely find out more about this workshop whose DIY kit starts from $35/- and workshop fee is at $10/pax or $20/pax for a private session. You can also have the option to add a hand-made Murano glass animal to further personalise your gardens. Everything is provided for. You just need to get ready to play with dirt and not mind the mess (not a lot actually).

image Photo: Actualyse

Through that session, I got to understand Faith a tad more. That she can be an orderly person and is capable of understanding and following instructions and attempting more difficult tasks (at her age). I should never underestimate a 2.5 years old girl! It is much like what the founder of Actualyse, Isabelle Loo, believed in, that each one of us has a unique blend of capabilities and skills, and in setting up actualyse.com, a one-stop education and learning resource portal, she hopes to help people discover the best ways to nurture and unleash that talent.

It’s a reminder to me as a mom, to respect Faith as a unique individual, and to help her discover and nurture her talent(s).

image Photo: Actualyse

It was indeed an enriching and fun session, thanks to the good people of Actualyse who organised it for us. You could get yourself updated on the latest news, information and trends on education and learning via the Catalyst Library at actualyse.com and perhaps, for a start, register and find out your own unique strengths smarts through their simple Multiple Intelligences quiz?

image Photo: Actualyse

The Plant Story HortPark, Singapore. 33 Hyderabad Road (Off Alexandra Road) #01-01 (Beside the Lawn) Singapore 119578 Opening hours: 10am to 7pm daily. Closed on Wednesday and major public holidays.

A day in the kindy … in Paris

These few days, I have been toying with the idea of putting Faith in school. I have had enough of her tantrums and she’s pushing boundaries all most of the time. I have been raising my voice to get my point across and disciplining her and I’m just short of getting the cane to work (and thankfully I haven’t bought it). She’s really getting too comfortable with me. Either that or she’s really bored. At the end of the day, I have a headache and a sore throat; this is worse than my teaching days.

This phase will soon pass, so say my friends. I just pray that I will not scar her emotionally as we go through this period together. *just kidding* On a serious note, I really ought to do more ‘lesson planning’ to engage her. She has grown out of her jigsaw puzzles and is less motivated to want to complete them. And I find that I constantly have to look for more activities through books or the internet just so that she could learn new stuff. If only I have more time….

Thankfully, there is the library and she won’t get tired of new stories. Recently, I read this book to her and at the end of it, I asked if she wanted to go to school, “Yes…”

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Not sure if she meant it. Anyway, I thought of posting some pictures of life in a French kindy as a friend has kindly sent them over to share about their life there.

Apparently, preschool education ( all the way to Secondary school) is free in France though you have to pay for the catered food in school. This year, the French government introduced 4 and a half school days per week as compared to the previous 4 school days. Generally, school starts at 8.30am (though you can put the child in school from 7.30am) and ends at 4.30pm though the children could stay in school until 7pm.

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Each morning, the children place their bags outside the classroom in their rightful position that are marked by their names. As they enter the classroom, they would greet the teacher and have free play while waiting for all the children arrive.

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The children would have storytime, playtime and other learning activities, such as…

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Are these activities that you do with your kids too?

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This board shows the names of those children who will be staying at the canteen for lunch.

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The menu is pasted on the wall so that parents will know what they have for lunch every day.

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Shhh… nap time and every child has a bed of his/her own.

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Women are really more enticed to work with such a school system (free and ample activities to engage the children) though I’m personally not fond of the idea of having the kid away from the parent(s) for such long hours daily. But that’s just me.

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_y7N4tJJL7n8OBCYXPW8CV3OMaxSGQB9pyf4gunSUZYX=w567-h524-noDuring mid-afternoon, the kids would be having their snacks and outdoor playtime until their parents fetch them. If the weather is not good, the children stay indoors and for after-school care activities (for those whose parents could only fetch them later than 4.30pm).

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There are definitely a lot of activities going on in a day for these kids in the kindy and I wonder if I could enrich Faith to such an extent. Possibly, if I could spend some time planning her curriculum which I hope to update on this space if I ever get around to doing that. Of course, I need to be realistic as to how much I can do since I…I… have to mind the other chores. #lifeasaSAHM

I hope I am writing this post with some coherence. #ilacksleep

Reflections on Language Power 蓝格子, 跑啊!

I left the theatre with  a thankful heart.

Thankful that I had spent an afternoon attending a most inspiring talk about the power of language and to be wowed again by the beauty of the Chinese language. Yes, Chinese and I thought I had a most wonderful lesson in years conducted by the very eloquent and unassuming speaker, Eeva Chang.

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I have ‘known’ Eeva Chang since I was a young kid, having listened to the radio programmes on Rediffusion during those early years. It is perhaps how I started to learn to speak in Mandarin in the first place since our family only communicated in Cantonese during those days and right into our Primary School years. Being able to see Eeva on stage and listen to her speak in crisp, clear Mandarin is a real treat in itself.

Eeva started off by sharing about her background and illustrated how the power of language could change lives and society by drawing examples from renowned figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Jack Ma (Chairman, Alibaba Group), to name a few. Indeed her own life and success can be largely attributed to her language ability and … her voice. Thus she urged the audience to do that ONE thing upon reaching home – to do a recording of our voice and listen to it for our voice has a face to it and we can use our voice to make an impression on others. Our voice can determine or change our destiny and indeed it has, in Eeva’s own life.

The following are three points that spoke to me:

Language is not inherited but imitated

Eeva illustrated this point by getting the audience to match the language spoken by two children to that of their respective parents just by listening to the recording. It clearly shows that the child will learn to speak in a way that is similar to his parent(s) for he first learns the language by listening. Language is not inherited and having a good language environment is crucial for language acquisition. In her years of working with educators, Eeva observed that many children are afraid to speak in Mandarin but are more conversant and confident in English. She attributed that to the lack of a rich Chinese language environment in Singapore.

I concur with Eeva on that and as parents, I think we have to make extra effort in our speech if we want our child to learn to speak well. I have been speaking to Faith in Mandarin with the (hopefully) right intonation and I have friends who asked me why I have to speak in such a manner. The above is exactly the reason why I do that. As a language teacher myself, I know full well that the child imitates how the adults speak and we have to make effort in speaking properly. That definitely applies to English too. Speak to them in standard English for this will impact on their writing ability in future. They will learn Singlish in no time at all since our language environment fully supports Singlish. Don’t leave the job of speaking well to the teachers. It has to start with us, parents.

And, no baby talk please, for the younger ones. We are just NOT helping them by doing that.

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The importance of joyful learning 

This is nothing new to us, that learning takes place when children (or adults) find a topic interesting and will naturally be motivated to want to find out more information on their own accord. Interest is thus generated and children don’t have to be forced to learn. They will find that learning can be enjoyable and desirable results (be it tangible or intangible) can be achieved.

Makes sense?

But how often have we asked our children to learn something that we deem as beneficial but which they dislike? Self-assessment is required here, dear parents. An easier method is to ask your child how he feels about attending certain classes that you have planned for him. If he likes it, that’s great! If not, why?

Learning must result in application. If not, why do we have to learn? Similarly for children, they must see a need to apply their knowledge and skills before setting their mind on acquiring them. The ability to apply is an achievement for them!

Visualisation in language

What do the above mean? Simply put, it means getting the person to visualise an image(s) when we mention a word(s). A word has an image and meaning attached to it and the word comes alive to the person.

An example was given. Eeva asked a local girl how old she was and the little one replied, “Five years old.”

However, when she asked a Chinese girl the same question, the answer was, “I am six this year and I am going to school next year.”

This illustrates that the number 6 has a special meaning to the latter girl and it is not just a number to her. More often than not, when we teach words to the children, we fall short of getting them to understand and visualise the words so that the children could use them effectively. They are not just words on the cards or boards but they have an image and feeling attached to it.

Another example to illustrate the same point was given. In getting the child to construct a sentence using ‘good girl’,

#1 student wrote, ” The sister is a good girl.”
#2 student wrote, “My sister helps the old lady to cross the road. She is a good girl”

#2 student thus can visualise the words ‘good girl’ and that translates into his writing.

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I left the theatre feeling thankful that I was given this opportunity to hear her speak. It came at a time when I was on the brink of giving up speaking to Faith in Mandarin. I used to be strong in that language but because there is little need to use it once I entered tertiary education, I found myself getting weak in the Chinese language. So, communicating with Faith in Mandarin can be a difficult task at times when vocabulary is limited.

Still, the language does occupy a special place in my heart. I’m not sure about you but when I listen to certain Chinese songs or poems, I could feel a tug at my heart. And when I hear good Mandarin being spoken, my heart is lifted; it almost feels like you are listening to someone singing. I want Faith to acquire the Chinese language and to achieve that, it has to start with me.

Things that I want to improve on is the way that I communicate with her. I would need to explain more in detail of a certain word to her and not just, “This is xxx.” Visualisation is so important!

I would also need to mix less of English with Chinese (I have a tendency to do that!) and to start learning more Chinese words! Thankfully, I have friends who are passionate about having their children learn Chinese and having them come together during playdates is a good way to get them to communicate in Mandarin too! Another way is to listen to the Chinese radio stations so that both Faith and I could listen to good spoken Chinese.

Last words: A social entrepreneur with a passion for the Chinese language

This last bit is not about the talk but the speaker herself. I was moved by Eeva’s effort to continue to fight for the language which is her love. She bought over Rediffusion at a time when many thought that it was a dying radio station (at least I thought so) and revived it. Read more about the history here. She continued to exhort educators and parents to bring Chinese alive to the children through educational talks and shows. She did share that it was difficult to get sponsors for this talk show because many companies believed that not many would be interested in such a show and the inevitable question arose, “What is there for me (to benefit)?”

I sighed at such a remark.

Does money have to be tied to everything we do? Can it not be for passion or because the society can benefit from it? Businessmen would probably laugh at my naive remark above and that’s probably the reason why I am not a businesswoman in the first place. I think I will turn bankrupt in no time at all. But then again…. sigh!

I’m grateful then for the few companies that came forward to support her cause and I find myself doing likewise.

I’m actually interested to get Faith to attend any suitable courses organised by Eduplus, a school founded by Eeva. Alas, there is no such course for her because she is too young! Oh well, Faith has just got to wait and learn from her mother in the meantime.

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Eeva’s Language Power talk show in exchange for a blog review. No compensation was received and opinions are mine.

[Reflections] The joy of teaching your baby, Part II

This is my reflections on part II of the seminar on Discovering the joy of teaching your baby. It is easier to stomach than Part I, I assure you, and much of what the speaker, Janet Doman, shared was rather logical and practical. She didn’t promote the institute’s programmes but brought the focus on the parents and what we can do to enhance the learning of our child(ren).

1. It’s all about joyousness

This is the underlying philosophy of all their programmes. They believe that all babies can learn anything and everything and we need to do so with joyousness, to have a good time with the babies and experience something great with them. Babies can sense if we enjoy being with them or if we are really present when we are with them.

Oh, this is something that I’m so guilty of not doing. There are so many instances that the little one wants my attention and desires that I play with her but I’m just caught up with other things to do. At times, even when I’m with her, I’m actually not. I definitely need to slow down and prioritize! I need to be present and have a good time with her!

2. Less is more

We are bombarded by many programmes out there which seem attractive and beneficial to the child’s learning but Janet’s advice is that we choose one programme that is irresistible to us, focus on doing it well and reap the rewards. Once we have done well with a particular programme, then can we try a new thing and start doing it modestly and build on it.

I admit I’m a bit stressed up as to what I should teach Faith because there are so many things that I want her to learn and she is at a stage when she is receiving and learning so fast. I recognise that I shouldn’t ‘touch-and-go’ but go deep into an area that we want her to learn and she is interested in. I need to take time off to reflect again. This will warrant another post.

3. Go faster

Kids like things that are fast and zippy and we adults do things that are generally too slow for them. I’m not sure if you have encountered this: When we are reading a story to Faith, many times she will flip the pages before we could finish reading that page. WE ARE TOO SLOW FOR HER. This is also what have been shared to us when we attended Pamela Lim‘s seminar on Reading. A child’s mind works incredibly fast during the first years and we are just too slow for them. Arghh! Btw, her seminar provides some interesting insights on a child’s beginning years and how reading is important. I certainly hope I have the time to pen down some thoughts.

A point to note is that we are often too slow to add new materials as children always want something new to learn (once they have a grasp of certain concept?). Don’t show the same thing over and over again to the child. This is DEADLY, so said Janet. Arghh! Mothers out there, let’s share resources! ;p

4. Be more sophisticated

With regard to books, we shouldn’t stay with simple books/words all the time. Children can progress to more sophisticated ones (words). Oh yes, I believe!

5. Find out what your child likes

This is rather commonsense but how often do we really take time to observe and find out about their interests. What’s worse is that we want them to learn something that we have planned for them but they are not interested in. What do you think will happen? Frustration! Oh, I have often encountered this when I try to get Faith to learn, say, colours. She is particularly slow and looks uninterested and often turns away when I teach her. This is her way of telling me that she doesn’t like it. As much as I want her to know the various colours, I know I can’t force her. It’s off to other things and when she is interested, she learns it really fast and that really amazes me.

So, I’ve learn to observe, observe, observe and cater to what she is interested in BUT at the same time, not giving up what I want her to learn (weave it into the things that she likes to learn). Heh. Alternatively, we can also ask our children what they want to learn/do and even at a young age, they will be able to tell/show you. We need to learn to communicate with these young ones because when they feel we understand them, their affinity for us will multiply and we will also encounter less tantrums! I find it so true!

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:: Some other points that I want to be reminded of:

– Kids want respect from us. They know they are loved (because we say that all the time) but they want respect from us too. They tell us that they want respect by showing us that they can do certain tasks. Again, look for signals from them. E.g. Young kids want to feed themselves but often we take over because of the mess they can create. We are undermining and not respecting them as a result.

– Kids need structure and they need a predictable life. They need to know what to do next. They learn rapidly when things are in consistency or when our words are consistent. Failing to do so and we will have them test boundaries.

Great things happen when you put kids with their parents.

Disclaimer: The hubs and I were invited to attend the recent Discovering the joy of teaching your baby seminar by Glenn Doman in Singapore. No compensation was received and opinions are mine.  

Toddler Busy Bag Exchange (under 3YO)

I was introduced to this term – Busy Bag Exchange – via a meetup and thought the idea is brilliant.

Basically, a busy bag is a simple, fun and age appropriate activity that will keep your child engaged for a while. You can throw one in your bag to take out at a restaurant, on an airplane, use it at home or somewhere else when you need some time to get something done! This, this and this are cool examples.

In an exchange, each parent chooses a busy bag to work on and give to all the other parents at the exchange. During the exchange they swap bags and each gets to leave with a variety of activities for his/her toddler!

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I’m listing the various activity ideas and hopefully I’ll be able to work on some in preparation for Faith’s homeschooling activities.

Oh what busy and fun days ahead!

Holistic learning @ Gymnademics

Time flies and we have completed one term of lessons at Gymnademics!

Faith progresses from the Cruzero to Pre-fellowship class under the recommendation of the teachers who have observed her since the first lesson. The latter class is no doubt more challenging as compared to the previous one. With the use of word cards, picture cards and encyclopedic, Faith learnt about her neighbourhood and items used in daily life which was the theme for the few sessions that she attended. The husband and I were not left idle since we had to help her to match the words with the pictures, for example.

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Even the physical activities are a tad more challenging and Faith got to practise her balancing, manual and mobility competencies. It feels like an obstacle course no less and is really fun, from my perspective. Faith, being the youngest of the group, was slow in getting through each part of the obstacles but under the constant cheer and beckoning of the teachers and parents alike, she managed to clear them. What an encouraging environment!

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I am obviously thankful to be given the opportunity to try out the lessons with Faith for a term.  The teachers are a dedicated group of educators and even take down notes about Faith’s development through the activities conducted. This is made possible with a relatively small class size of no more than nine kids. The environment is conducive for learning and activities are fun, purposeful and engaging! Above all, I like it that the lesson is holistic in the sense that Faith gets to learn about language and science, music and movement and participates in physical activities all within that one hour. The parents get to learn together with the child and receive a parent-child bonding package so that we can reinforce the learning at home. Isn’t that a bonus?

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I guess what benefits me as a parent is that I could use what I have learnt from the session to further teach Faith at home. This is especially helpful since Faith is not attending any other lessons and I could adapt the resources provided for future homeschooling activities.

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I love it when Faith enjoys each lesson. 

[Giveaway] If you are thinking about trying out Gymnademics classes, here is a wonderful opportunity to do so. Gymnademics is giving away THREE trial class passes worth $58 each at ARC (Alexandra Retail Centre). You can then go through the lesson for yourself (together with your child, of course) and decide if you want to continue with them. Sounds good?

What you need to do is to share with me ONE consideration that you will make when choosing an enrichment class for your child via the comment’s section in this blog post.

– 3 winners will be chosen at random
– Giveaway is only open to Singapore residents.
– Ends on 26 March 2014
– The winner will be announced on this blog post and on lynnlly’s facebook page the following day.

All the best!

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 Gymnademics is an early enrichment centre for children from 5 months to 5 years of age. They adopt a holistic approach towards early childhood development, by incorporating both intellectual and physical activities in the classes. The curriculum is designed to be purposefully fun and engaging for both parents and children and is built upon the foundation of the Glenn Doman method. To find out more about the classes at Gymnademics, do visit the website or their facebook page.

Disclosure: Faith is given a full 10 sessions package by Gymnademics for review purposes. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

UPDATE: The THREE winners randomly chosen by Faith are Estella, Jo and Irene! Congratulations! We will be in touch with you shortly!

A caking week

So this past week, I have been getting up at half past 5 daily so that I could get ready to walk Faith to Dad’s place. You see, for these two weeks, I am learning from some awesome and talented people on constructing beautiful cakes. So, someone has to take care of Faith.

I miss Faith and my family, to be honest. Much as I am privileged to be able to learn wonderful cake decorating techniques, I find myself not able to fully devote my mind and heart during the session. I would think about Faith and wonder how she is doing. I guess the good Lord knows that I cannot do a good job if I were to be a working mum and thus made me choose the SAHM’s path.

And by the time I reach home each day, there is little time left to interact with the little one. Guilt overtakes. Sadness engulfs the soul.

One more week and I’m back to my full-time mommy duties.

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Gymnademics at the ARC

For a while now, I have thought of enrolling Faith in some gym/ enrichment classes. You see, being a Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM), I have the privilege of interacting with Faith all most of the time. I read, play, do grocery shopping and take a walk with her, amongst the many other activities that we engage in. HOWEVER, there are times, oh, many times that I do not know what to do with her. Basically, I have run out of ideas! Fellow SAHMs, do you face the same issue?

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After browsing parenting blogs like those of Candice and  Adeline who share their experiences on Gymnademics, I emailed them about their trial class since I wanted to check out the environment for myself and see how Faith reacts to the class. But the sleep-deprived mom soon forgot about it until I received an email from the centre, inviting me to visit the outlet at Alexandra Retail Centre (ARC). It’s a timely reminder, so I thought, and made an appointment to go down.

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We were warmly greeted by the staff and Joseph, the GM, walked through the programme with the hubs and me. The studios were visually colourful and child-friendly. Faith warmed up to Joseph minutes into the sharing and then busied herself with the musical instruments. She was really engaged with them as the hubs guided her to explore the instruments. No need Mama already!

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After the brief introduction of the gym and what they do, I was all ready to enrol Faith in the class when I was asked if I would be interested to be their ambassador for a term. Why, yes, of course! This will be an awesome opportunity to learn more about Gymnademics, her vision and beliefs.

I am all eager for Faith to start and am thankful that the centre allows BOTH parents to be with the child during each lesson. So, that means all of us can learn together. I am also informed that the parents would be given some materials after each session so that they can reinforce what was learnt during the lesson at home. Let’s just see if this is true. 😉

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Faith is going to start the lesson in about two weeks’ time and she will be attending the lesson at the ARC’s outlet. Apart from the fact that it is quite a distance from our home, I guess the other factors are still good and enticing enough for us to attend the class there. They include:

1) It is within a sheltered walking distance from Labrador Park MRT (circle line)IMG_2824
2) There are many F&B outlets at ARC (so we will also be exploring the makan places here!)
3) NTUC (can do grocery shopping!)
4) Parking is free on weekends (yay for those who drive!)
5) We can explore the area like the Hort Park, Henderson Waves, Labrador Park, etc after the session ( means family outing!)

I will be sharing Faith’s progress at Gymnademics for sure. Do stay tune as there will be some give-aways in future posts.

To celebrate the new outlet at ARC, Gymnademics is offering some opening specials when you sign up for a class package by 30 Nov 13:

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Gymnademics @ ARC
460 Alexandra Road
Singapore 119963
Tel: +65 62717569
Email: info@gymnademics.com
Facebook Page

Cake decorating basics

If you ask me, I’ll reply you in true honesty that I don’t like to work with sugarpaste/fondant or gumpaste. Fact is, these sugary stuff hates humidity and I happen to live in a tropical climate with high humidity so playing with them is a difficult, if not troublesome affair. The one way to counteract such difficulty is to work with them in an air-conditioned place but my humble home has only fans. So…

Despite that, I find myself more and more interested in making those beautiful cakes out of fondant. Each time when I browse the web for ideas, they never fail to attract me and I guess I will work against the odds to make fondant cakes.

To equip myself on using these materials on cakes, I enrolled myself into Wilton and PME courses and these are some of the take-aways (better to record them somewhere in case I forget!).

On colour wheel

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Complementary colours are colours directly across from each other. Example : Yellow and Purple,  Orange and Green. Complementary colours make each other look good even though they are complete opposites.

Neighbouring colours are a group of three to four colours sitting next to each other on the colour wheel. Example : Yellow, Orange, and Red.

Monochromatic colours refers to a colour choice but using either less or more gel paste to make a bolder or lighter colour. Example: Light pink, Medium pink, and Dark pink.

Triad colours are three colours spaced equally apart on the colour wheel. Example: Green, Orange and Purple.

colour wheel chart

One of my coursemates has the above chart, and commented that she found it useful especially since she is into craftwork as well. Her designs are always beautiful and has the most desirable set of colours on her cakes. I must hunt this down!

On fondant and gumpaste

The term used in UK is sugarpaste while in US, fondant is used. Gum paste is mainly used for flowers or figurines (in my opinion and especially so in our climate!), while Fondant is used for covering the cakes.

To store them, mould them into logs and coat with a layer of vegetable shortening, clingfilm and then ziplock them before storing in air-tight containers.

In general, the lifespan for both is 18 months if unopened or refer to the expiry date found on the packaging. If it is used and stored well (the remaining amount), it can last 6 months. However, if it is opened and used, it can only last 1 month.

To make the ‘glue’ to paste the differnt parts of flowers or models together, break about 1/4 teaspoon of Ready- To-Use- Gum paste into very small pieces in about 1 tablespoon of hot water.

For the past few weeks, we worked on these:

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Fabric roses
Embossing and painting of plaques

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Making of fruit basket
The cloth is made entirely from fondant. Reccommded colours to dust on fruits are sage, lime and cinnamon.

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Ribbons and drapes

IMG_8283A Christening cake for a girl

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A ballerina

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My finale cake – The Very Hungry Caterpillar – and with this I receive the Professional Diploma Certificate in sugarpaste from PME. I enjoyed the whole process of learning how to decorate cakes and my instructor makes every lesson really relaxing and fun indeed. I’ll miss her and my wacky coursemates!

Fondant needs to be dried so the best way to do so in our humid climate is to leave it in the air-conditioned place while I use the fan. Imagine the electricity bills! I thought this post is useful.

Will be posting The Very Hungry Caterpillar cake next!

Do the right thing

Just a day ago, I learnt a lesson which I want to pen down on this space.

You see, I have been attending some cake decorating classes for the month of July and this place that I go to does not have carpark lots nearby. It is located along the main road but there are private houses behind the shop and those residents park their cars outside their houses (along the road) since they do not have any parking space within their premise (think shophouses). If I am to find a parking lot, I would have to walk a distance. So, as you have guessed it, if there is any parking space outside those houses, I would well, erm, park my car there.

This practice was continued until yesterday when I received a note on my windscreen.

Hi, please park your car along XXX road. As you are NOT a resident, you shouldn’t park here. You are inconveniencing the elderly and invalids. Please do the considerate thing. 

What do you do after you read that note? I can only think of two actions:

1. Ignore since I am not going to be there forever. Besides I am just parking for a few hours.
2. Repent.

To be honest, my heart was heavy as I drove back home. The roads among these houses are narrow and space is a constraint. I am also taking up the parking space of these residents. To some, it may be a small thing. Besides, many are doing the same thing. So why should I pay a few dollars for a parking lot when there is free space for me to park my car? This bible verse came to me straight away.

“But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. Genesis 4:6-7

It is NOT RIGHT of me to do that.

So today, I found myself a parking lot, paid for it and went for my class. As I walked towards my destination, I saw this old man on his crutches (I met him a few times already for the past few lessons), seemingly telling me that he approved of my actions. Perhaps he is one of those whom I have been inconveniencing all these while.

My spirit is lifted again.

Do the right thing. It’s ok if you think that I’m a fool to do that. I’ll gladly be one for Jesus.

Joy of Learning Workshop

I had an overdose of caffeine and definitely, information.

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I was invited to attend Fisher Price’s Joy of Learning Workshop which was held this morning and to be totally honest with you, I was skeptical at first. Will it be another of those workshops which tries to entice you to purchase their products at the end of the session? I need to have an open mind, I know and boy, am I thankful that I went.

Perhaps I am just a newbie in this motherhood journey but I find myself soaking in all the information that I receive about parenting from various sources. Because my learning style leans more towards auditory, visual and kinesthetic, workshops suit me perfectly.

The workshop started at 9am but I was early and treated myself to a complimentary cup of Nespresso coffee (couldn’t decide if I want TWG or Nespresso). I figured I would need all the attention to take in the important information later.

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There wasn’t a real booth selling Fisher Price products wich was a pity because I would have wanted to buy something for Faith. It would be good use of time to browse the items for those who were early too but oh well, it’s really not a big deal.

The participants started streaming in slowly and we didn’t commence until 30 minutes after the stipulated time. It’s a tad disappointing but perhaps it’s just me – I’m not very fond of lateness. Ok, I need to practise mercy.

Thankfully, the presenter, Carrie Lupoli, got the workshop to a good start. She is IMG_1933one lively individual who shares her invaluable experience and knowledge with the audience. I was engaged throughout in this interactive workshop. I don’t think it is possible for me to consolidate my learning in just one post and definitely cannot complete it within a day because I have my responsibility to perform as a mother. But yes, I hope to share what I have learnt with you and it will be an on-going thing.

For a start, I’ll just share this graphic with you which I have gotten from Carrie Lupoli’s facebook page. Her page is a good resource guide so if you want to get updates, do LIKE her. 🙂

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First message: The first FIVE years of life is when the most significant growth and development occur in a human.

Questions to ask (myself): Who is the person in charge of facilitating this growth and development and how will he/she go about achieving the desired outcomes (which is ultimately his/her goals of parenting).

Food for thought and I’ll be back.IMG_4273

But one thing that I will certainly be doing (application) is to be consistent in documenting Faith’s milestones.

And no, I didn’t buy anything from Fisher Price (no proper booth anyway!) but I got a whole lot of parenting info from this workshop and a bountiful goodie bag to bring home. Certainly hope that Fisher Price would conduct similar events again. It’s worth the fee that one pays.

Disclosure: I was invited by Fisher Price to attend the Joy of Learning workshop for review purposes. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are mine. Where pictures or information belong to others, I will always try to have them credited as such.

CSCA – BREAKFAST PASTRY (VIENNOISERIE)

Back to pastry class again and this time it’s evening class – 4 hours each – from 6pm to 10pm and yesterday, it overran. The poor hubs was waiting outside for me. Hopefully, he won’t have to wait that long in winter.

Our instructor is Master Pastry Chef Delphin Gomes. Since he’s French, his English is heavily accented. He doesn’t believe in following recipes, preferring that we know the concepts and thus what’s in the notes are just the ingredients for the different pastry products – croissant, brioche, puff pastry, custard, etc.

His class is light and entertaining, yet challenging and fast-paced at the same time. Time is crucial when rolling out the dough. The longer you roll, the worse it gets. And chef went to every one of us to make sure we roll out the dough well before folding them.

It’s all about rolling, rolling, rolling yesterday.

Croissant dough, folding into thirds – one turn.

Chef showing the window pane.I realised I really need to have my brioche dough get kneaded well before adding the butter. Yup, the recipe book doesn’t say that. Like Chef commented in jest, recipe are bound to fail, so that they can come out with more books. =p

The bulging dough. Risen.

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For keepsake.

We subscribed to the ST so that we could be kept abreast of the developments in Singapore though I must tell you my main reason is because I want to continue to catch up with Sumiko’s and Colin’s articles on Sunday Times =p.

I know we have heard or perhaps, read enough of Mrs Lee’s passing. I am attaching MM Lee’s eulogy because theirs is a beautiful love story, a life-long committment that they have held fast to each other. The honeymooners class could use this as their sharing and we could perhaps learn from them.

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Honeymooners’ class – Lesson 2

The weather took to a change suddenly and from 76 F, it dropped to 50F on Sunday. It’s certainly time to layer and as the colder weather approaches, I wonder how we could really tahan winter.

Anyway, it’s our second lesson for the honeymooners class. This time round, instead of the usual facilitators, a couple who had attended the course came back and facilitated. Some of the topics shared were on Consummate love, stages of love and of course the love languages which we know more of.

Perhaps, let’s talk about the love languages. The hubs and I had a discussion prior to the lesson on this and we determined that his predominant love language is words of affirmation whereas mine is acts of service. This is evident in how I like to bake and cook for him, making sure he has enough for every meal. He, on the other hand, will ALWAYS encourage me when I’m down and feel bad or belittle myself. And then we also realised that the love language(s) that we express is the love language(s) that we want from our partner. For e.g., I felt loved when the hubs made the effort to make the bed and boil the water ever so often now (since our last communication) and recently, when I was sick and needed medication, he went to the pharmacy first thing when it opened its doors to business. To him, he felt loved when I encouraged him in in his studies and trusted in him in the things that he was doing.

So, it really pays to talk to your partner and find out the love languages each displays/expresses/prefers.

What’s your love language?

At the Public Garden

Wendy's came to Spore but we chose to eat it in Boston =p

Oh, we forgot to update. We received invitations from 2 Singaporean couples to their homes. One, to have dinner and the other to visit their place and perhaps have a swim in their condo’s heated pool. Woohoo! Such hospitality!

And somehow or another, we are now involved in the International Fellowship and attended their leaders’s meeting twice, just over the weekends. Hmm…we thanked God that well, He has placed us there and that we are to serve and not to be served. =)

Gone to be slaughtered…

…and I came out alive. Phew!

Today was the fourth and last lesson of the course that the hubs signed me up for. It was really dramatic and traumatic for me. I’m glad it’s over but at the same time thankful that I went through the course.

During the first lesson, we were taught some moves and I took it gladly as a form of exercise, just like kickboxing! As the lesson progressed, we were told that there would be simulation and I was filled with fear. However, I thought it would be good to go through it and to apply all that we have learnt and well, it is one of those classes that you are given the licence to HIT THOSE BALLS! Oh yeah!

It was terrifying, no doubt. There were 3 sets of simulation that we needed to go through. The first one was all right, just using one of the strategies. But for the second and third set, I was petrified. I mean, I am only a petite Asian girl facing 3 burly men who were taller than me by slightly more than a head and their sizes? Double of mine! Psychologically, it didn’t really help. When I got out of the room during the second set, I was gasping for air. I was light-headed and was not sure if I could pass out. Thankfully, there were trained nurses around who tended to me and I was all set for the last one. I really wouldn’t want to give it a miss!

All the girls  made it. We were shown how we reacted through the video (we were taped throughout the process) and I thought I used my kicks well! I don’t think it was hard but they were repetitive (Ken said cos I run with high cadence and thus it was reflected in this class too. Hahah). Oh! During one of the sets, the man just lifted me up in the air without much effort! Damn!

I’m glad it was over but I was thankful that I attended. It has, at the very least, raised awareness on how we could react if we were attacked. In the afternoon, while on the T, there was this huge man who was sitting opposite and he was (I think) trying to get my attention by making a lot of remarks (which I couldn’t understand at all!). Then, he came over and sit in front of me with his side facing me! I was terrified! But at the same time, I was already practising in my mind the moves that I would make and was also ready to shout “GET BACK” should he attack. The lessons have indeed given me enough confidence to face such an adversary.

So, ladies, if you have the opportunity, go for the course. BTW, it is the RAD course I’m referring to.

Vocabulary

In my reading of the cookbooks, I came across terms/methods which LOOKED familiar but didn’t really make sense to me. So, I resolved to look them up! These are taken from CIA’s Culinary Boot Camp.

Basket method
A method for deep frying in which the food is placed in fryer baskets, which are then immersed in the fat. The preferred deep-frying method for breaded items and many small items such as french fries.

Blanch
To cook an item briefly in boiling water or hot fat before finishing or storing it. Blanched food is usually cooled, or “shocked”, immediately after cooking in an ice-water bath.

Braise
A cooking method in which the main item, usually meat, is seared in fat, then simmered in stock or another liquid in a covered vessel. The cooking liquid is then reduced and used as the basis of a sauce.

Broil
To cook by means of a radiant heat source placed above the food.

Caramelize
To cook an item until the sugars in it brown. The temperature range in which sugar caramelises is 320 F to 360F.

Parboil
To rapidly boil a food (usually a vegetable) to minimise cooking time and retain colour and texture. An item is never parboiled longer than 7 minutes. Parboiled vegetables are usually shocked in ice water and held to be finished before service.

Poach
To cook gently in simmering liquid that is 160F to 185F. Shallow poaching is gentle cooking in a shallow pan of simmering liquid. The liquid is often reduced and used for the sauce. Deep poaching is gentle cooking in which food is completely submerged.

Saute
To cook quickly in a small amount of fat in a pan on top of the stove.

Sear
To brown the surface of food in fat over high heat before finishing by another method (e.g. braising or roasting) in order to add flavour.

[Notes] On baking

Chopping chocolate

Place chocolate bar or block on a cutting board and press down on it in several places with a large, sharp knife to break it up. For more finely chopped chocolate, hold the tip of the knife in place with your free hand and move the knife in an arc, making small chops as you go.

Creaming butter

Creaming the butter for cakes and cookies is crucial. Beating the butter – often with sugar – before other ingredients are added creates air bubbles that make your baked goods high, light, and tender. Have butter at room temperature before creaming.

Whipping egg whites

Begin with eg whites at room temperature and a bowl that is absolutely clean and free of any fats or oils. Beat egg whites at moderate speed with a wire whisk or an electric mixer. When foamy, increase the speed. Beat until whites form stiff, stable peaks but are still moist and glossy.

Whipping cream

Chill a metal bowl and the beaters for your electric mixer in the freezer at least 15 minutes before you begin. Pour cold whipping cream into the chilled bowl and beat on medium-high speed until medium-firm peaks form. Don’t overbeat or you’ll wind up with butter.

Source: Food Network Kitchens Cookbook

Brown Butter Blondies

Sabbath Sunday is a rest day for Christians and I, too rest from cooking =p, well almost. We spent the whole morning in Church and were treated to a good lunch, all prepared by the worshippers themselves!

Back home, after dinner and checking out the fridge, I realised, to my horror again, that the cookies were running low. In fact, it was left with the pathetic one piece and I sprang into action. More baking! So it was Brown Butter Blondies today! And after cutting the blondies into smaller pieces, I really think I ough to purchase a serrated knife. =p

This is a relatively easy stuff to bake except for the clarified butter that is needed and which has to be heated again until it turns a deep, rich brown.

So a little about making clarified butter. Clarified butter is whole butter, cooked long enought to separate the milk solids and water from the pure butterfat.

 
– Slowly melt at least 1 cup (250g) unsalted butter (cut into pieces) in a small frying pan over low heat until it is foamy on the surface.
– Pour the melted butter into a small glass bowl or measuring pitcher and let stand for a minute or two. There are three distinct layers: milk solids (proteins) on the bottom; clear, yellow liquid (butterfat) in the middle; and foam on top.

 
– Use a spoon and carefully remove the foam from the surface. Pour the clear liquid into a clean container, being careful to leave the milk solids behind in the bowl or pitcher. Discard the milk solids.

To make brown butter, heat the clarified butter in a frying pan over low heat until light brown and fragrant. Immediately remove from the heat.
Cooking butter until it is a deep, rich brown, before it darkens and burns, produces a nutty-flavoured butter that enhances the traditional blondie. French chefs call this brown butter beurre noisette (hazelnut butter) because of its nut-brown colour and taste.

Info and recipe are from Essentials of baking and Culinary Boot Camp (CIA).
Continue reading

Lesson 1.3 How to make vegetable stock

In case any one of you are wondering about the previous entry on Amour doux, that is actually a post that I need to submit for a contest on Project Food Blog. I’m not entering to win but I find the challenge really challenging and so I participated. Well, you could of course vote for me if you find that I am good enough. In any case, I would be trying out the challenge whether or not I am moving on to the next stage. =)

For today, the lesson from my MS textbook is on how to make vegetable stock. For this recipe that is to follow, the vegetables are lightly browned to give the stock intense flavour. This is helpful especially since there is no base of flavour provided by meat as compared to the previous two kinds of stock.

I basically use celery, carrots, corainder (because I love it), onions and garlic for the stock and of course, how could we do without oil, pepper and some salt?

The 3 steps are basically browning the vegetables, making the stock and then straining it.

Browning the vegetables.
Heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add chopped onions and cook, stirring often until they begin to brown. Add celery, carrots and garlic. Cook and stir occasionally until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Making the stock. Pour in enough water to cover vegetables by 1 inch ( for me, 2 inches). Add the herbs (corainder) and the remaining onion. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook (uncover) for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Straining the stock. Pour stock through a fine sieve into a large bowl. pressing on vegetables to extract as much flavourful liquid as possible. Discard solids. If not using immediately, cool in an ice-water bath before transferring to airtight containers. Vegetable stock can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 3 months; thaw completely before using (Martha Stewart’s Cooking School).

Let’s just see how I would use my vegetable stock next. Hmmm….

Storing fresh produce

The following are the ideal storage conditions for some of the most comon fruits and vegetables.

Potatoes, sweet potatoes: Store unwashed, in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated place – not the refrigerator.
Onions, shallots, garlic: Store at room temperature in a dark, dry, well-ventilated space – though not with tubers. Each emits a natural gas that causes the other to rot.
Stem vegetables (celery, asparagus): Store in the crisper section of the refrigerator in sealed plastic bags.
Buds and flowers (broccoli, cabage, Brussels sprouts, artichokes): Store in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper.
Tomatoes: Store at room temperature on the countertop – never in the refrigerator.
Lettuces, herbs, salad and cooking greens: Soak separated leaves in cool water, then spin dry in a salad spinner. Store loosely packed inacontainer with a damp paper towel over the top, then covered with plastic wrap.
Mushrooms: Store, unwashed, in a single layer on a plate, covered with a slightly damp paper towel on an upper refrigerator shelf.
Berries: Store unwashed and covered with plastic wrap in a single layer on a paper towel-lined plate in the refrigerator.
Apples, lemons, limes, oranges: Store in plastic bags in the crisper section of the refrigerator.
Peaches, melon: Let sit at room temperature for a few days to soften, then store in the refrigertor for 3 to 5 days.

Source: Food network kitchens cookbook.

Lessons on baking

These days, besides looking at cookbooks to provide me with ideas to prepare for meals, I have been reading up on cooking and baking. No, I’m not talking merely about recipes.

Take for examples, the book Baking Boot Camp gave me insights on the use of various types of flour, bleached and unbleached, leaveners, stabilizers, blah blah and how they react with one another to give you different products. Baking, in a nutshell, is simple science- chemistry and physics – subjects that I absolutely have no liking to. =p

Chef Hinnerk as mentioned in the book, considered cooking a more artistic activity than baking because we can play around with things and change them frely up until the very last minute. Baking is more scientific. One must stick to a certain fundamental proportions in order for the product to turn out right. And once the baked good is in the oven, that’s it – we can’t tinker with it.

True, isn’t it? How many of us actually wait anxiously around the oven, pacing up and down the kitchen, checking to see if our baked stuff is all right? The timing is a guide but we need to use our senses, smell and sight and touch to make sure it turns out well.

Going on, Chef Hinnerk continued to comment that while cooking can involve a seemingly limitless number of ingredients, the basic ingredients for baking are very few (agree!). Even so, each has a distinct purpose. The 3 categories of functional ingredients in baked goods are the stabilizers (flour and egg), the liquefiers (fat, sugar and a range of liquids) and the leaveners (either natural or chemicals). Just a few basic ingredients can result in a wide variety of baked goods, depending on how they are used. Each time we substitute an ingredient, change the proportions or handle the ingredients in a new way, we will get a different result. That’s where both the science and the artistry come in.

Such information is just, but a few % of the content in the book. There is the information on conversion of measurement (I’m glad CIA advocated using scales!) which I would fail in if I were to have a class on it. I mean, there are different formulas when you convert different things (i.e. dry ingredients and liquids).

I’m just through to chapter 4 of the book and I’m overwhelmed. That, with the ‘textbook’ that I am reading – Essentials of baking – made me respect baking more. We sure can follow recipes and do up a good pastry but to understand how certain things work in a particular way, you definitely need more knowledge.

Oh yes, the following is what I have to cover for baking.
– Cookies, bars and brownies
– Quick breads
– Cakes
– Pies and tarts
– Custards & souffles
– Chocolate
– Pastries
– Breads
– Sauces, toppings and fillings
For each category, there are a few items to bake. Happy baking!

Lesson: 1.2 How to make chicken soup & Hainanese Chicken Rice

This is the second dish that the hubs has requested recently and I’ve decided to overcome all the inconveniences and attempted this! I found a wonderful site, steamy kitchen and followed the step-by-step instructions. I shall give the credits to the blogger but highlight the important points here.

Coincidentally, this dish tied in nicely with lesson 1.2 and through the making of this dish, I learnt some precious lessons. I’ll use the pics to highlight the salient points.

OK, I cheated. I should be using the whole chicken instead of the breasts only. However, there are only 2 of us eating and so… Before that, I scrubbed the parts with kosher salt to give it a smooth touch, washed and applied salt again and then stuffed ginger and spring onion in them. I poured in cold water until 1 inch above the chicken.

Yes, I have my own dutch oven. But since this is only 3 qt, I couldn’t put in the whole chicken right?

Skimming! An important step and is critical to the soup’s success, since the impurities from the chicken would cause the broth to become cloudy.

Giving the chicken a cold bath will stop the cooking process, keeping the meat soft and tender and giving the skin a soft and firm texture.

Fry the ginger and garlic, together with the rice and cook with the chicken broth!

I totally enjoyed making this dish. The aroma of the chicken just filled your kitchen. Totally worth every hard work!

the trio

The three ingredients I can’t live without are…
chilli, garlic and onion.

For this reason, I love laksa to bits (especially when I add more scoops of those spicy stuff), curry and mee siam. Give me the hot stuff!
Garlic and onion are great for stir-frying and taste good when we use them for soup.

I can’t fit corainder in but it is my love too.
To store herbs, we can either store them in the fridge in a ziplock bag between layers of barely damp paper towels or we can store them in a bowl of water at room temperature, as we would a bouquet of flowers. Keep them in a cool spot, out of direct sunlight and change the water daily (not sure if this will work in tropical climate back home).