May, 2011

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Sentosa @ June 2011

I wrote in January this year that we were planning to take our first holiday with Hannah in June this year, and the list of potential places included Redang, Phuket, Sabah and Langkawi. After considerations regarding expenditure, the difficulties involved in me taking leave for an extended period of time, and Hannah’s needs etc. we decided to try for someplace closer and simpler. Of the two options between Sentosa and Bintan, we decided to go with Sentosa this time round.

Funnily, despite Sentosa being such a popular resort island – among tourists at least anyway – there aren’t really that many accommodation options outside the newly opened Resorts World Sentosa. And the latter wasn’t really an option for us. The thought of squeezing alongside thousands of other visitors to the Casino and Universal Studios during school holiday season was a non-starter.

The three relatively luxurious hotels outside this are The Sentosa Resort & Spa, Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort, and Capella Resort Singapore. We’ve been to the Shangri-La a few times now, and while it enjoys its own secluded beach and is thus directly sea-facing, we’ve not been quite that impressed with the general environment of that property.

The Sentosa Resort & Spa was a second and real possibility and fairly well-regarded by guests. But for its relatively high room price, we concluded we might as well just go for the property that is regarded by Tripadvisor as the top of its heap on the island – Capella Resort Singapore. The latter has a full ‘10’ score on, 4.5 on Tripadvisor, relatively low number of rooms (i.e. less crowded?), and a very big room for its lowest price rooms even. Ling remarked too that our small group friend Ann had stayed in the same property earlier this year in March, and – outside the relatively high prices for the room and in-hotel dining – had great things to say about her stay.


So, one booking later last night; come a few weeks from now, we’ll be heading there. More to report on it when the time comes. Pretty nifty Flickr photostream here too of the hotel. =)

Holidays at Home: Masak-Masak

Our girl is demanding more and more of our attention whenever she’s at home. She often wants me to sit down to play cards or read a book to her. In order to keep her occupied while I cook or clean, I have to come up with things for her to do.

Today’s day 1 of school holidays. I went digging in the kitchen and brought out bowls, spoons, a mini sieve, a mini Vietnamese coffee maker (a gift), garlic cloves, colourful pasta pieces, macaroni and black beans and showed her how to play masak-masak (‘pretend to cook’ in Malay). To my amusement, she was totally engrossed in ‘cooking’. However, my terror began when she wanted to have her bowl of pasta-macaroni-black beans everywhere she went! Sigh, she made quite a din when I told her that playtime was over. *headache* I just finished my act entitled ‘Mommy is angry with you throwing a tantrum’ while putting her down for her routine afternoon nap. Thank God that she fell into a deep slumber in a matter of minutes. Probably worn out crying and resisting mommy.

These days, Hannah would burst into tears if she couldn’t have her way. Yang and I discovered that whenever we offer her a piece of tissue paper in the midst of her sobbing, she would automatically take it to blow her nose and then walk to a dustbin to dispose it. Sometimes we would give her a few more pieces of tissue if her outburst was of a grand scale. The process of wiping her nose and tears helped to calm her down and stop all the crying and wailing.

Okay, more photos of her doing masak-masak!

Yummy Toddler Foods: Tuna ‘n’ Sweet Corn Potato Mash

This dish is really tasty even without the tuna, i.e. vegetarian style. I adapted the recipe from Annabel Karmel’s Tuna and Sweetcorn Stuffed Potato. The original recipe is found in her book entitled ‘New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner’. Instead of using baked potato (which requires a much longer time in cooking), I substituted it with mashed potato.

Ingredients (Serves 1 toddler)

Russet potato – 1 medium, peeled and cut into chunks

Fresh sweet corn – 1/3 cob, remove leaves and silk

Canned tuna in oil – use 1/4 portion, drained and flaked

Mayonnaise – 1 tbsp

Fresh milk – 1 tbsp

Spring onion – 2 stalks, finely sliced

Cheddar cheese (or any cheese you have) – 1/2 slice, break into pieces

Salt – dash

Ground black pepper – dash


1)      Bring a pot of water (add a tsp of salt) with potato chunks to boil. Boil in medium heat for about 15-20 mins or until potato softens.

2)      Bring another pot of water with 1/3 cob of corn in it to boil. Boil in medium heat for 10 minutes.

3)      Remove the cob of corn and place it on a small plate. Pierce one end of the cob with a fork to hold it vertically on the plate. Remove the kernels by slicing them downwards with a sharp knife. Set aside for later use.

4)      Drain the cooked potato chunks and mash them in a bowl using a fork.

5)      Add the tuna flakes, corn kernels, mayonnaise, milk, spring onion, cheese, salt and pepper to the mashed potato and mix well using a spoon.

6)      Serve warm.

This dish is excellent for toddlers who are trying to feed themselves with a spoon. Spillage of food is minimal. Hannah loved this dish as she enjoyed nibbling on the corn kernels.

Dessert is often fruit for Hannah. Fruit is where she gets her source of vitamin C. I never rely on cooked vegetables as vitamin C sources as I do not know how much vitamin C is destroyed by the cooking process.

Hannah’s Progress Report from Playgroup

I used to write remarks and testimonials for my students when I was a full-time teacher. There were certain dos and don’ts stipulated pertaining to our choice of words. No matter how disruptive or unaccomplished the kid was, I was required to word my remark in a positive manner but still be able to suggest the intended meaning. It was quite a challenge for a low language proficient person I was (still am!). It was also an art I’ve acquired over the years.

For example: “Outspoken and sociable, Clara is a live-wire in her class. There has never been a dull moment with her during lessons…” Reality: Clara (not her actual name) is talkative and disrupts an otherwise conducive learning environment in her classroom.

We just received Hannah’s progress report from her playgroup teacher – yes, you got that right, tiny tots do get assessed these days too. We read it with some amusement and agreed or disagreed with some parts – but that’s okay. All children have different pace of learning and we were not too overly concerned if Hannah appeared to be lagging in certain areas of development. But what caught our attention was the overall comments her teacher wrote at the bottom. Hmm, “very smart” eh? The asian + teacher spirit in us caused us to read in-between the lines and connect with a recent report from her nanny about her misconduct at school. See below!

Could that be the idea at the back of her teacher’s mind when she wrote it? Ha ha :)

Flashcards for iPad (INKids)

Since I started picking up apps for Hannah, I figured – what the heck; why not write reviews for a couple of them?

Shortly after picking up the iPad a few weeks ago, I started hunting around for applications to engage our little girl in. Granted, she’s still pretty young at less than two years old, but as blogged elsewhere here, my dislike for the Fruit Company not withstanding, the iPad is a great parenting device.

One app that I tried out was a free version of a flashcards app, created by an Aussie company based in Newcastle, called INKids. This first app of theirs I picked up was called Flashcards. There are several other similar applications on the iTunes store, but this one is pretty slick. Starting up the application also runs up a little audio file that’s of children yelling out the company name. As corny as that might sound, Hannah actually perks up whenever she hears it when the application starts. It’s a great way to associate a product line to kids. =)


Title Menu for INKid's Flashcards


The Main Menu


The Main Menu sorts all the Flashcards into eight sections, for example, Animals, Transport, Bodies etc. There are three other sections; one is a Word Match where you get three possible names for each subject and Hannah has to pick the right one, a Spelling Game that helps kids spell words through matching letters, and lastly a Shuffle facility that mixes up all the Flashcards.

The flashcards are very nicely voiceover-ed with a human. And that’s something I don’t take for granted; because I’ve got another flashcard application by someone else that uses what sounds suspiciously like an automated computer voice, leading to hilarious mispronunciation. All the artwork for each INKid’s Flashcard application looks original too, and are beautifully drawn, iconic; and many of them contain audio samples too for objects or things that make sounds (e.g. animals).


Hannah readily says 'bear bear' when she sees this!


The Settings page.


The application is pretty configurable too. You can enable or disable the automatic pronunciation of words, record your own sounds for words, multiple language support, interval time periods between Flashcards. I would have liked it to be possible for users to add new Flashcards of their own (like in their next application called Futuba – will write about it later too), especially in view that there might had been more cards in the current suite, but oh well.

One especially nice touch is the ability to kiddie-Lock the application. It won’t stop the application from returning to the Homescreen when the iPad button gets pushed, nor back to the Main Menu when Hannah hits the neighboring icon – but at least it’s better than nothing.

The application costs USD3.99. Not as low as some of the other Flashcard apps, but it’s really done up quite well, and I don’t mind paying a little more for quality work like this here. The company has got two other iPad applications, and I liked this one so much I picked up the other two too.

Hannah loves INKid’s Flashcards and it easily gets her approval. =)

Flashcards for iPad (link)

Fun with Chopsticks

No, our little girl doesn’t yet know how to use chopsticks yet, but it’s still an interactive play toy for her. =) This bunch of pictures were taken at brunch @ Sweet Spring at the recent Vesak Day public holiday.


Parenting Tools

A couple of colleagues and I were lunching this afternoon, and the lunch topic veered into the use of iPads as parenting tools. It was quite a funny conversation as we bounced around how the iPad is used as both incentive (“If you do well for this test paper, you will get one more hour with the iPad this weekend!”), and disincentive (“If you make Daddy mad, no more iPad for you!!!”).

I’ve picked up a total of three paid Apps for Hannah so far, and boy – does she go through them real fast! She’s nearly completely exhausted all the content in two of the kiddie educational game Apps already. All three Apps are from the same studio, and two of them are extensible – only thing is that I actually have to find the time first to create and record my own content first.


Armed with the fruit toy, parents can finally have a public meal in peace.


She's become quite the expert in finger flicking across the screen!

More pictures – thankfully non-iPad ones – and during Sunday brunch. =)


This picture is not an accurate representation. Normally, she makes a fuss and refuses to drink sufficient fluids.


This picture is not an accurate representation. Hannah stresses Mommy out on a daily basis!

Not an iPad Ad

Hannah with one of the new kiddie Apps I picked up for her.

REPEAT: This is not an ad for the fruit company!

The Pad

If nothing else, ownership of the iPad has not given me any surprises. The tablet has been commented, praised, criticised, debated and reviewed to death; and like every other gadget I invest in, I didn’t walk into the buying process without having thought it through, and done research. The iPad 2 – like every fruit device that’s come out in recent years – is an engineering marvel. It’s beautifully constructed, inspires confidence in build quality, and enjoys a very wide range of third party accessories to fit every fancy, color preference and wallet-ability.

It’s further supported by an App Store that, still at the moment, surpasses what the Android market has – though this is projected to change by August this year. The Apple iOS is rock stable, and the tablet quite responsive on the overall. I’ve also been able to get it to work properly with my Galaxy S as a mobile Wifi spot – which has saved me a bundle of cash applying for a multisim card for 3G Internet access with Singtel.

That said; my opinion of the Apple OS still has not changed. After experiencing the Android OS, what I can get out of the Apple iOS in terms of customization and configuring it to work exactly how I want it to still pales considerably. It’s just limiting. Even something as simple as, e.g. putting a weather indicator on the tablet is impossible on the iPad – but it’s something that’s standard on my Android phone. All I get are icons and the odd folder on the iPad. No widgets to speak of. No animated wallpaper. No desktop calendar. I want to do any of those, I have to hit an app. And heck no Facebook games or any Flash content.

Hannah on the iPad.

Oh well. I’ve picked up a bunch of children games and interactive apps for Hannah, including a couple of paid ones that’s come out of an Australian development studio. One is for flash cards, and the other a word guessing game; both for a very low price of just a few dollars. Good stuff. Hope that Hannah takes after it soon. =)

Hannah @ 1 Year 11 Months

Aggghh. And we still haven’t thought about what to do for her next month for her birthday!

The last weekend of General Elections was intense though. A lot has been said about it already on blog sites, the newspaper, and on Facebook. Much of it forward looking, but lots of it also resigned, especially in view that a much-loved Minister became a casualty and was out of parliament. And in his place, persons what the newspapers called of unimpressive credentials and riding in the coattails of heavyweights. Many of my Facebook friends were even less charitable, with one friend musing that it was a strange Sunday morning to wake up to a Jar Jar Binks in parliament.

Still, the weekend saw the both of us still watching, playing with our baby girl. She’s not quite taken to the iPad in full board yet (will blog about the ‘toy’ soon). But the E-PL2 at least has been a real help in getting a larger proportion of shots nailed down in focus. =)

Leaning forward and very eager for adult food at Yoshinoya.

An entertainment device for her - plastic balloons at Fairprice supermarket. =)