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.

IMG_1327

Sugar art disaster on a rainy day

As if working in a humid area is not bad enough, it just had to rain when I was working on some  Christmas figurines.

It all started rather well as I worked on a reindeer…

20131218-202717.jpg 20131218-202733.jpg
20131218-202745.jpg 20131218-202756.jpg

It was a rainy day that day…

20131218-202840.jpg 20131218-202910.jpg

And the reindeer perspired, and then went through a process of melting…

20131218-202946.jpg

A second reindeer has to be made and this time round, I placed it quickly into a container, complete with a desiccating agent.

20131218-203007.jpg

20131218-203019.jpg

These two are preserved, and I made another Santa.

20131218-203037.jpg

20131218-203048.jpg 20131218-203103.jpg

20131218-203141.jpg

The collection of Christmas cake/cupcake toppers.

Hello Kitty Cupcakes

I had another order – 20 Hello Kitty cupcakes – over the weekend and I thought I should just post the process of making them.

I made the toppers a few days in advance so that they can be dried and stored before the actual day of assembling.  They are rather easy to make as long as you have the mould which you can purchased from baking stores like Phoon Huat, Sunlik and Bake King. However, it can be time consuming too. 😉

IMG_8750

 

After the faces have been cut out and dried, I applied yellow fondant as the nose.

IMG_8761

The next step is to do the ribbons. I had made them using the mould but it was way too time-consuming to do that. This time round, I just mould them using freehand. Stick to the ears and dry them.

IMG_8765

Then, ‘paste’ the face to the pink background – circles – which were made beforehand. Dry them.

IMG_8767

Apply black icing as whiskers. I only applied light strokes as I don’t like them too dark. Dry them again.

IMG_8859

Assembling time! The cupcakes are baked and buttercream applied so that the toppers can stick to them.

IMG_8861

My place is rather warm and you can see that sweating happens very soon!

IMG_8866

Since the customer is going to place these cupcakes in the fridge, I cling-wrapped them to minimise sudden change in temperature after they are taken out of the fridge. This is to prevent sweating. Not a very pretty and inviting sight to behold, ya know? ;p

A dino cake for a 1YO

IMG_8832

Some weeks ago, I received a FB message from a mom asking me if  I could bake her son a cake for his one-year-old 20131110-142901.jpgcelebration. According to her, she would gladly support a SAHM for the effort as compared to purchasing one from a bakery. I was obviously happy that someone (a stranger!) would trust me enough to perform this task. Originally, a simple vanilla cake with buttercream was asked for and since the son loves this dinosaur that he often plays with, I came up with the first design.

Subsequently, the mom asked if it was possible to do a cake covered with fondant + a figurine and gave me a budget. Another draft was then made.

Draft 1 | Buttercream cake

Draft 1 | Buttercream cake

Second draft | Fondant cake

Draft 2 | Fondant cake

Thankfully, the mom was rather easy-going and accepted the proposed design very quickly. Love working with such people!

One week before the actual delivery, the figurine was made since it takes time to dry the material. I used full gumpaste for the dinosaur and tried to sculpt it based on the picture I received.

IMG_8689 IMG_8690
To create the desired colour, I combine orange and red. Divide the gumpaste into the various parts of the dinosaur.

IMG_8692This is the first dino that I made which is quite ugly in my opinion due to the cracks.

IMG_8693The second dino. Much smoother and I painted it with the relevant {food} colours.

After the figurine is done, it is left to dry. Since I have no air-con and I do fear that it will not dry in time, I dried it using the fan and it was switched on 24 hours for 2 days! I also wrapped the dino with clingflim as I’m afraid the hands will not stay intact. Thankfully after 2 days, I could safely say it was okay!

Next, a day before the collection, the vanilla cake was baked and sandwiched using IMBC. Since the mom had requested for a less sweet cake, I reduced the amount of sugar and hoped that it would be to her liking. The cake has to be completely cooled before covering with fondant and that’s the reason why I baked it a day before.

 IMG_8787 IMG_8788

Something went wrong after I’ve covered the cake with fondant the first time. The air pockets expanded and they made the cake rather grotesque. Thankfully, I covered the cake the night before and I could redo the whole act on the day of delivery. A few reasons could contribute to the air bubbles but I believe the main reason is that my place is warm and this results.

IMG_8817

Thankfully, there is still sufficient time and I re-covered the entire cake using another type of buttercream and this time round, I made sure that I covered well so that air bubbles could be minimised.

IMG_8790 IMG_8822

Roll out fondant to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Since this is a 8″ by 3″ cake, I rolled to a circle of diameter 14cm.

IMG_8823

Sometimes, when we cover the cake, it may not be a perfect job but no worries, borders can always cover up the imperfection. This is meant to be the grass on the sides of the cake and then I covered another stripe of chocolate fondant over it as the mud/ ground. The fondant is chocolate-flavoured and tastes not bad!

IMG_8824 IMG_8825

Once these are done, the rest can be quickly assembled.

IMG_8820

These should be made beforehand so that they are a tad dry during assembling.

IMG_8826

 IMG_8838 IMG_8834

This cake will only be consumed the next day and I certainly hope there will not be any major problem!
Dear cake, please do your part to satisfy the family and the birthday boy.

IMG_8841

Clingwrapped and off to be delivered.

Complimentary cupcakes for the boy to play with. Hah!

Complimentary cupcakes for the boy to play with. Hah!

Lessons learnt and changes to be made in future:

1) Cover the cake with chocolate ganache to ensure smooth covering and prevent air bubbles
http://www.artandappetite.com/2009/11/ganache-instead-of-buttercream/

2) Cake should be covered, assembled, delivered and consumed within the same day, if possible.

3) Press down the layers of cake after sandwiching with buttercream to prevent any trapped air

4) Consider installing air-conditioner?

About air bulging after covering cake fondant

http://cakecentral.com/t/686940/fondant-and-buttercream-bulges-air-bubbles

http://www.deliciouscakedesign.com/blog/?tag=air-bubbles-under-fondant

http://www.artandappetite.com/2009/11/ganache-instead-of-buttercream/

For Vanilla Cake (Yields an 8 x 2″ cake)
I made 2 portions for this cake

2 3/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. I used 2 8-inch tins. Line the tins with baking paper.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder together.

3. In a standmixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter for about 1 minute. Gradually add the castor sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar has almost dissolved.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each addition is incorporated.IMG_8723

5. Add the vanilla extra and beat until combined.

6. With mixer on low speed, add a third of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add half of the milk and beat. Repeat and then add the remaining flour mixture and beat until combined.

6. Spoon mixture into baking tins. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until a fine skewer inserted comes out clean.

For Italian Meringue Buttercream

You will need:
190g caster sugar
38g water
75g egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature, in cubes
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Make sure the sugar is dissolve in the water and cook the mixture until it reaches 120C. This will take from 5 to 10 minutes. After the sugar is dissolved (while continue boiling), I would wet a pastry brush and wet the sides of the pan to prevent sugar from crystalising.

2. While boiling the sugar  syrup, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 115C degrees, start to whisk the egg whites on medium-low speed until soft peaks are formed. The sugar syrup is still being boiled at this time. When it reaches 120C, remove from the heat source. reduce the standmixer speed to low and drizzle in the sugar syrup from the side so that the hot syrup doesn’t splatter.  Raise the speed to high when all the syrup is poured in and continue to whisk until the mixture cools to room temperature (or when you can touch the steel bowl , 5 to 10 minutes.IMG_8786

3. Only when the meringue is cool enough should you begin to add the butter. I gauge using my sense of touch. If I can hold on to the sides of the steel bowl of the standmixer comfortably, it’s at the right temperature. Reduce the speed to medium. With the mixer running, drop in the butter, 1 tbsp or cube at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding another. The mixture may deflate and begin to look curdled. Just raise the speed to high and continue to add tbsp-size pieces of butter, making sure each is completely combined before adding more. When all the butter has been added, the frosting should be smooth and thick. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

Feedback from customer: Thankfully the air bubbles did not show up! They were happy with the workmanship though they find that the cake is firm ( not much of a choice, I’m afraid!) and a bit too sweet. So, that means I still have to reduce the amount of sugar!

WW | A look at my dining table

So this is a messy dining table in my apartment currently because I’m working on some cake orders due this weekend.

A sneak peek.

20131106-134408.jpg

20131106-134416.jpg

20131106-134423.jpg

This dining table should be back to its usual state after this week. I just hope da man won’t mind that much! ;p

Linking up with

Thursday, almost there.

Completed WR with the relevant parties. Yay! This also means I can go on leave in peace since the other areas can be covered by someone else.

So, Faith, if you want to come out anytime, you can!

Busy Bee

Since going back to school this week, time just whizzed past like nobody’s business. Stepping out at 6.15am, I only got to leave the workplace at 5pm daily (that’s the earliest). There are so many things to catch up on. These last 2 weeks have been brutally exhausting to the staff and people kept falling sick.

For some of us, after classes in the first half of the teaching hours, we are down for report writing all the way till we end work. It’s terribly brain-draining. Oh! My poor colleagues.

I.Don’t.Enjoy.This.Part.Of.My.Work.

Each day, I was so tired that I could fall asleep quite immediately which is a good thing. And then when it comes to Friday night, the body seems to know that I am free the following day and refuses to get a proper rest. Like now….

*_*

What is a good school?

Opening Address by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the Ministry of Education (MOE) Work Plan Seminar, on Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 10.00 am at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Convention Centre
 

What is a good school? A good school is not one which produces straight As or top honours per se; a good school is not merely ‘good’ relative to others. Rather, it is one that caters to the needs of its students well. Given the diversity of students, there cannot be a single ruler to measure success.

A good school needs to know who their students are at the point of entry, studies their needs and strengths; states what it would like them to become when they leave the school; then exercise diligence and imagination to get there. A good school creates a positive experience for each student – allowing him to acquire the basics, but more importantly, making him a confident and lifelong learner. It provides a supportive and appreciative environment for teachers to experience the joy in impacting lives. A good school is student-centric and allows teachers to do their best for every child.

The end has come

Four months flew past just like that. It seemed not too long ago that we attended the first lecture with all the expectations spelt out. Assignments poured in relentlessly and then we got the hang of things. The laughter that we had with the many good lecturers is something to cherish in our hearts. Their words inspired us. By their actions, they showed us how to light the path for others. Their grace humbled us and we were changed in one way or another.

Would we go back to where we have left off when we return to our jobs? This is perhaps the fear that some of us have. It’s so fast-paced you can hardly breathe, let alone think and reflect. One comfort we can take is that we would surely lose those extra pounds that we have gained in those 4 months. The place we work in is a great gym. =p

These are my group members for curriculum project. We were still hard at work a few days ago since we had to present our project to the school and the cohort. How ‘fortunate’. And the following was when the presentation was over and again, a pic of us having the final meal at Bollywood Veggies with the rest of the cohort.


I met a lot of passionate educators in this course and many really want to make a difference. I came across a lot of mothers too who showed much concern about me, giving me advice and helping me with this and that. What privilege! Though it is a real pity that I could not participate in the regional trip with my members, I must say the whole experience was enriching and I’m sure Faith has learnt a lot too!

All good things must come to an end. And am going back to reality the following week. Jitters again. What would life be like?

The end is near

One and a half more weeks to go before we go back to reality. My Group 6 people, after internal presentation.

Children see. Children do.

What kind of a parent would you want to be?
What kind of teacher would you like to be?
What kind of a leader would you desire to be?

Preschool education

Two articles to read:

Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world.

Vital Voices for Vital Years

Went to the PCF Teachers’ Convention Exhibition and was amazed by what the kindergartens’ teachers are doing in the classrooms. If the children are learning all these prior to their entering Primary One, then I think it’s time for us to reflect  how we can better smoothen the transition.

 

 

 

Joe and Dough

I have taken a liking to artisan bread since my days at Boston. These types of bread are not mass or factory-produced but are hand-baked by the bakers themselves. Naturally, special attention is paid to the ingredients and the process, and a return to the fundamentals of the age-old bread-making tradition set artisan bread apart from soft, preservative-laden commercial ones.

[Source]

When A got us to visit Joe and Dough, I was excited. Browsing the website, I was enticed by the photos of the bread and pastries and was looking forward to the visit.

We went to the outlet at Suntec City (just outside Carrefour) instead of the one at Hitachi Tower. It has an inviting environment and I felt as if I was transported to a cafe in another country. The owner, a primary school friend of A, showed us great hospitality and welcomed us with pastries and coffee. According to him, this outlet is actually a franchise. He actually started off with the cafe at Hitachi Tower whose clientele is mainly professionals and expats. He was, first and foremost, more interested in bringing in coffee beans and serving good coffee to his customers. He also looked for gaps in the F & B industry and saw that not many cafes served artisan bread and quality baked goods. That basically set the way for him and his gf and after he graduated from college in Australia, they set up the cafe.

Of course, now people are more aware and educated about the food and coffee that they consume, having travelled much and studied and worked abroad. They are also more willing to part with their cash for quality sandwiches such as those served in J & D. Pricing and branding are important to keep the business thriving and the cafe is now undergoing rebranding.

The owner definitely has a flair for the business and the industry and he shared with us the many concepts that he abides in. The F & B industry is not an easy one and many disappeared within a few years. So, instead of focusing on just cafes, he also owns the production factory of the bread and pastries and they supply to many cafes in Singapore. I was surprised!

He definitely knows his stuff and he went on sharing about his views for about 3 hours! Whoah! I was actually more interested in the food (sorry, I’m not very business-inclined) and in the end, I bought the Bacon Mushroom Melt sandwich and the blueberry yogurt tart for breakfast the next day. I’m definitely going back for more!

[Source]

LS Kindergarten

I must confess that I know very little about the world of kindergartens. Most of the time, I wonder what they are doing. I know from some CG members that it is not easy to be kindergarten teachers (I could empathise) so today is a good chance for me to find out more.

One of our team members managed to get us into Living Sanctuary Kindergarten and this school was being mentioned by PM Lee before in one of his speeches so it would be a privilege to get to know more by visiting the school ourselves.

The P, Elsie Tan, received us warmly. It’s a pity that the school follows the holidays of MOE schools. Otherwise, we could have watched the lessons in action.  Basically, this private kindergarten follows closely the guidelines set by the MOE’s Pre-School Branch but focuses much on learning through play rather than churning out and having pupils to complete worksheets. She believes too that getting the children to focus too much on academic scares them away and instead of getting the children to be curious and interested in learning, the reverse could result. I am personally impressed by the amount of work and hands-on resources the teachers make for the pupils. They have different learning centres modelled after real-life environment (e.g. supermarket, airport, science centre, cafe, etc) for the pupils to take on different roles and learn about the community. What fun! Talk about authentic and experiential learning. This school has it! Of course, basic numeracy and literacy skills are taught.

One of the challenges that the school faces is the expectations of the parents. Some of them are not happy with too much much ‘play’ and wanted the school to focus more on academic. The P stands by the mission and vision of the school and such parents eventually pull their child out. Thankfully, the number of such cases is small and majority of them trust what the school is doing. This kindergarten is popular among parents and they even need to ballot or queue for the enrolment!

Truly, if you don’t agree with the vision of the school, why bother to enrol your child in that school and then give problems to the staff members?

I must say I quite like this school and LS Kindergarten has been visited by many PCFs and polys and they are sharing with some MOE personnel in the afternoon; they must have done something right. =) Maybe I should enrol Faith in this kindergarten in future?

Allow me to share my humble opinions on the skills children should acquire by the time they enter Primary School. These are thoughts after teaching my P1 kids and I hope that I will bear these in mind when I have my child.

1) Social skills (sharing with one another, taking turns, being patient, etc). I have had children fighting over the simplest thing because they wanted it first. They have very little concept on sharing and when I related this to the parents, their reason is, “He’s the only child.” No excuse for that. I have quite a few pupils who have no siblings and they are willing to share. It’s the parenting, folks.

2) Communication skills. I have seen a wide spectrum of the display of such skills, from whining and insisting his own ways to being able to articulate and reason with adults. Again, it’s the effect of what we do at home.

3) Basic phonics knowledge. A little will help a lot.

4) Basic numeracy skills. Real-life examples will help a lot. We don’t have to teach them the operations.

5) A love for reading. Reading opens their little world and causes them to be curious about the environment around them. It helps greatly in their literacy.

6) Handwriting skills. There is a proper technique, ya know?

7) Responsibility. Children need to be taught that there are no maids in schools. They have to learn how to pack their bags, put the books back on the shelf and to take responsibility for their own actions. Please don’t do everything for them! And be a role model. Traits are caught, not taught.

One of the things parents can do to help them in their linguistic ability is to speak in proper English and Chinese (or any language/MT) to them. It’s difficult to get them to understand the rules of language (AKA grammar) when all the while, they have been exposed to non-standard language. Colloquial English has its place but if you want your child to have a good start, speak properly!

Happy Teachers’ Day

Happy Teachers’ Day to all you hardworking educators all there, who believe you can still make a positive impact on the pupils under your care. The 8 % increase in salary should have long been implemented, especially those whose starting pay was a few hundreds dollars and have been in service for a mighty long time, compared to the new teachers nowadays. It’s an adjustment of our pay, which means we have been underpaid all along. Please read and infer well, dear public. Having said that, the extra cash (I hope I do receive in the end) would be of so much help!

 

 

Have a wonderful rest, folks.

Mid-week thots

So, this week will see my course mates flying off to the respective countries for the regional visit as part of the MLS course, except for the four of us mothers and mother-to-be (me).

To be honest, it feels yucky not to be part of this exciting and maybe, laborious journey. Granted that it will mean more work for the participants but it also means much laughter and sharing of resources among them. Each day, as I read the whatsapp messages by my group members, I felt a bit sad. They were having so much fun (and headaches) planning for the trip and I am not part of it.

If I do not like such trips, maybe it won’t be a big deal to miss it. But I love such opportunities to learn and what’s more, this time round, it’s without students! Already, I have to opt out from leading a group to Beijing in May after knowing that I’m pregnant and now this. Sigh!

So while they are all going off, the four of us have to stay back to plan our own learning in this city in the garden. Dr Khong asked us to plan it such that it would be exciting and meaningful for us. Gee, I don’t know how to achieve that. We just have to make do.

This feeling sucks.

I know I have to be positive. Some would say, “You have to prioritise! …Taking care of the baby in you is more important… This is called sacrifice….and it’s just the beginning.”

Ok, whatever. Anyway, it’s a choice that I’ve made and I’ve to stick to it. =p

Teachers’ Day lunch organised by our class comm. =)

Ok, so below would be some suggestions to make my weeks interesting.
– Read and plan for department. OK.
– Visit cafes. OK.
GO running.
– Go swimming. Hmm, should I invest in a swimsuit at this point in time?? Hmm..
– Bake! OK.
– Go hiking. Hmm, maybe!
– Do up Faith’s room. OK.

The Wanderlust Experience

At the heart of Little India, you will find this 1920s school building (which happens to be the first site of the school I’m working in) that has been transformed into a hip hotel. Wanderlust is the third boutique hotel (after Hotel 1929 and New Majestic Hotel) that is set up by lawyer-turned- boutique hotelier Loh Lik Peng in Singapore. This was after he opened The Waterhouse at South Bund in Shanghai and Townhall Hotels and Apartments in London in 2010.

The 29-room boutique hotel is designed by four local creative agencies as he finds that local designers add more much local context into their designs. As we were introduced to the rooms at the various levels, we couldn’t help but be awed by the different designs and concepts. The rooms are not big to begin with but each has its character. As the spokesperson mentioned, they didn’t want their guests to feel that they were staying in a shoebox apartment so the designers have to work with the space constraints and come up with brilliant ideas and quirky concept.

Clearly, boutique hotels are not everyone’s cup of tea. They cater to a specific group, those who are well-travelled and it’s often people from the fairly wealthy younger set. They do get some interesting corporate types who are in industries like video-game design and architecture. Surprisingly, according to the staff, quite a bulk of their customers comes from the locals and the others are tourists from Germany, UK, etc. Boutique hotels do not have the facilities of normal hotels but they differ in terms of their designs and concepts which tend to be able to provoke one to look at things anew.

The above is a open-air Jacuzzi on the second floor of the building and when you enter the building on the ground floor, you will see different kinds of chairs, sofa and even a dentist’s chair! Many of these pieces are designer furniture which the owner has a penchant for and they, do fit into a boutique hotel.

Our group with the GM (she looks so young!) and another staff (on my right). It was a great experience and the next time I’m in Shanghai, I will check into The Waterhouse at South Bund (dear hubs, do you get the hint? =p)

Continue reading

Teach with Phonics Skills Chart | Scholastic.com

I thought this is rather helpful.

Teach with Phonics Skills Chart | Scholastic.com.

Leaving…again.

It’s not the first time that I bid farewell to my family at HWS. However, this time round, it’s less painful since I can always go back to catch up with some work and eventually still be back for good.

These six months have been enriching, though frustrating at first. There’re so many things that I need to know and new staff to befriend. Relationships need to be built, without which I find working a tad less joyful.

I wouldn’t say I have already reached (oh, definitely not!) but certainly I am more aware of the current situation and can act in more confident manner. Alas, just as I am getting the hang of things, I have to bid sayonara, this time for professional development. Hopefully, I will come back stronger in my knowledge as a leader.

And now is the time to read! Yipee! I hope I can really find the time to do so!

TGIF

make avatar The thing about a self-directed work attachment is that you have to come up with your objectives. The organisation will try its best to make sure you learn all that you want but there will come a point when the activities become fewer and learning, stagnant. It’s time to rack the brain again to think of what to learn next. And, yes, I do need the discipline to write the report and read the incoming reports. =p