November, 2011

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Christmas Tree!

Though we’ve been staying here at The Rivervale for five years now, we’ve not gotten a Christmas tree for our home before. The catalyst this year round is Hannah – she’s fascinated with the Christmas tree lights! So, over the weekend we went on a spree around Ikea Tampines and the Giant Hypermart next door to pick up what we needed to set it all up. I didn’t have a strong persuasion on the type of tree, apart from that I really prefer a artificial one – and only because I didn’t want to have to do major clean-up with a ‘live’ tree after Christmas!

Many pictures to follow. =)


Looking in a spectacularly happy mood throughout. Ling wanted a 1.6m tree, but Ikea didn't have it - so we picked up a 1.5m tall one from Giant.


The one we decided on was a pine tree type . At SGD119, it cost quite a bit more than the others on display, but what we got was a pretty nice tree that looks like a pretty good facsimile of the real thing.


This is what it looks like straight out of the box.


... and after an evening's decoration! We got a box of assorted baubles, about three different light strings, several small dolls, the star topping off the three, and several others. Didn't finish using them all - too many. Total expenditure was about SGD210 - ouch!


Hannah thoroughly fascinated.=)


Yep that's about her mood right now!


Got her to pose for the camera.=)


Gleamings from ‘Positive Discipline for Preschoolers’ Book: Revenge

Playing with sand @ East Coast Park

Out of the four mistaken goals in misbehaviour, i.e. undue attention, misguided power, revenge and assumed inadequacy, we have not observed the last two in Hannah so far. *keeping fingers crossed*

So, this post is especially for you, Matt. :) BTW, I’d be sharing mostly from the book.

The intention of a toddler taking revenge at others is to make them feel as bad as he/she does. Scenario: Mommy had a hectic day and when she returned home and saw that her daughter had messed up the living room by spilling orange juice onto the floor for the umpteenth time, she immediately yelled at her and called her a naughty girl. The mommy cleaned up the mess and declared that the daughter won’t get to watch her favourite cartoon programme on TV that evening. Later during bedtime, the daughter refused to let mommy read to her saying, “Don’t want mommy! I want daddy!” Mommy felt hurt and discouraged that her own daughter rejected her after all that she has done for her.

Sometimes I reprimand Hannah for unintentional misbehaviour. The most recent incident was her spilling water onto the floor when trying to reach for a new Dora mug left standing on the dining table. She really made quite a mess and my immediate reaction was “Hannah, why did you spill water again!?” and I angrily took the mug away from her hand. She looked remorseful and on the verge of bursting into tears. Thank God I caught myself in the act soon enough and tried to make amends by asking Hannah to fetch a rag to mop up the water and use a calm voice to teach her to ask for permission to touch new things. I recognised that I was partly responsible for the spillage as I should have known better that a new brightly-coloured Dora mug within reach was a big temptation for a curious toddler.

This is only her 2nd time at the beach

We hope that Hannah wouldn’t become the vengeful sort of girl. So far, she always seek to reconcile with us whenever we become angry or upset at her misbehaviour. Her usual approach to reconcile is to stalk the parent and ask to be carried in a teary manner. Another approach for lesser crimes is looking at us with a smile and persuading the parent with “mommy happy…mommy not angry…”

According to the book, we would be motivated to tackle the unpleasant revenge problem if we begin to see that a hurtful child is a hurting child. Instead of responding to the child with punishment, we could choose care and support. The rationale is that if the child is feeling hurt, it does not make sense to make him/her feel worse.

Below are some steps towards reconciliation:

1) Deal with the hurt feelings of the child: Speak to the child that you could see that he/she is feeling very hurt for what you have done. Acknowledging his/her feelings would make him/her felt understood and valued in the family.

2) Apologize if you caused the pain: There are times when a child was really at fault and other times when he/she is only partially at fault. If you have over-reacted or blown it out of proportion, swallowing your pride and admit that adults aren’t always right could go a long way. Quoting from the book: “Children are delightfully quick to forgive, and you may discover that the hugs that follow apologies bring you even closer.”

3) Listen to your child’s feelings: Ask sincere questions to allow your child to articulate his/her feelings verbally or non-verbally (if the child is too young) with body gestures such as nodding. This helps to deepen the sense of trust between parent and child.

4) Make sure the message of love gets through: Telling your child how much you love him/her and how important he/she is to you heals the pain tremendously. Both will become fast pals real soon.

5) Make amends, not excuses: Once the hurt feelings are dealt with, both the parent and the child need to address the problem created in the first place. In the scenario of the spillage of orange juice above, mommy could offer to the daughter a rag to wipe up the spill and assist her in the cleaning.  If the daughter refused and retreated to one corner, the mommy could take this opportunity to teach by kindly cleaning up the mess and wordlessly proceed on with the rest of the evening. This requires patience and role-modeling.

The above strategies are recommended for preschoolers. :)

Yummy Toddler Foods: White Radish Corn Pork Soup

Thanks to her nanny (who is a Cantonese BTW), Hannah grows up with tasty and nutritious Chinese soups for her meals. Ann (our church friend) once commented that it was the simmered soups that Hong Kongers drank daily that gave them their good complexion. Complexion aside, I’m thankful that Hannah has developed a preference for soups as they contain much of the natural goodness from the ingredients used.

We are talking about clear soups which are simmered on low heat for hours here.

Ever since Hannah started joining us at our dining table for dinner, I have been making an extra effort to prepare a pot of soup so that she could continue to enjoy it and at the same time ensure sufficient fluid intake. She could easily down a bowl of soup at the end of the meal.

Lately, Hannah picked up a new eating habit. She loves to eat corn on cob that is cooked in soups. I usually chop a cob into small chunks for my soups and Hannah would hand pick these sweet morsels and bite the corn kernels off methodically.  If I didn’t stop her, she would have finished up all the corn in the pot of soup! Eating corn on cob can be quite additive LOL :)

Anyway, back to the recipe of the soup I wish to share today. Tis the season for white radish now as you could see them appearing in large quantities at supermarkets. When they are in season (winter and spring), they are so plump and juicy. Read somewhere that this root veggie is a poor man’s alternative to ginseng, i.e. it has many wonderful nutrients and properties to promote good health. While very low in calorie (hello, dieters!), the radish is rich in anti-oxidants (especially Vitamin C), minerals (e.g. iron, magnesium, copper and calcium), phytochemicals and fibre.

Super flavourful soup :D

The recipe for white radish corn pork soup is easy peasy. :)

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • White radish (~15 cm long or half of a long radish) – keeps well in the fridge for 1-2 weeks
  • Fresh sweet corn on cob (1 cob, remove leaves and silk) – avoid keeping corn in the fridge for more than 3 days as it will lose its sweetness and increase in starchiness
  • Pork soft bone OR spare ribs OR prime ribs (300 – 350 g)
  • Dried red dates (pitted) – 3
  • Candied date – 1
  • Water – 500-600ml (add just enough water to cover the ingredients)
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp


1) Peel the radish and cut into bite-sized chunks. Put them into a medium pot.

2) Use a cleaver to chop the corn into 4-6 chunks (individual preference). Throw them into the medium pot.

3) Brush the skin of red dates in running water to remove dirt and rinse. (I used a cheapo toothbrush for the job). Place them into the medium pot

4) Rinse the candied date. Place it into the medium pot.

5) Add water until all the ingredients are just covered, about 500-600 ml. Bring the water to a boil.

6) In the meantime, cut away the fats from pork, if any, and cut the meat into bite-sized chunks. Blanch the pork in boiling water for a few minutes.

7) Once the water is boiling in the pot, use chopsticks to transfer the blanched pork to the pot and let it boil for a few minutes. Make sure all ingredients are covered in water. If not, just add a little more hot water.

8) Cover the pot, reduce the heat to lowest and simmer the soup for 2 hours.

9) Season the soup with 1/4 tsp of salt, stir briefly and turn off heat. The soup is ready to be served. Goes well with steamed white rice with cut chilli padi in premium light soy sauce as condiment for pork. :)

Re-entering the Kitchen: Prawn Mee Soup

My first Christmas gift from my hubby was a beautiful Peranakan cookbook. I was very much a novice at cooking then and hence was intimidated by the great number of ‘strange’ ingredients and unfamiliar steps in most of the recipes found within.

5 years later (our wedding anniversary is around the corner!), I have gained some confidence and average skills at cooking. Just a few weeks ago, I started saving prawn heads and shells from the prawns after peeling them as I thought it would be such a waste to discard them since they could be used for flavouring prawn soup. And one thing led to another. I realised that my Peranakan cookbook has a prawn mee soup recipe and I felt that it was high time to give it a go.

The soup is the star of the dish :)

The recipe shared below is an adapted version as I didn’t include all the ingredients from the cookbook and had also incorporated other ingredients some of which were suggested by online food bloggers.

Ingredients (serves 2 adults and 1 toddler)

Pork bones – 2 big ones (I bought one pack from Sheng Siong)

Pork spare ribs – 350g

Prawns – 10-12 medium

Prawn heads – about 30 prawn heads saved earlier from other dishes and froze in the freezer

Fish cakes – sliced

Kang kong (water convovulous) – picked the leaves with some stem portion (amount is up to individual preference)

Carrots – 1 big, peeled and cut into chunks (to satisfy my husband’s craving)

Garlic – 3 cloves, skin intact, crushed

Star anise – 1

Cloves – 4

Black peppercorns – 1 tsp (I didn’t have these and substituted them with ground pepper)

Brown sugar – 1 tbsp

Light soy sauce – 1 tbsp

Yellow noodles – 1 pack (about 420 g, we had leftovers)

Water – 1 litre

Vegetable oil – 1 tbsp


1) Start thawing the prawn heads by running tap water over them in a sieve for a few seconds. Set aside to thaw further.

2) Bring a pot of 1 litre of water + carrot chunks to boil. In the meantime, blanch pork bones and spare pork ribs in boiling water.

3) Once the water is boiling vigorously, add the blanched pork bones, spare pork ribs, garlic, star anise, cloves and peppercorns. Let it come to a boil again and let it boil for a few minutes. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to the lowest and simmer for 2 hours.

4) Start peeling the prawns by removing the heads (add these to the batch of thawing prawn heads) and shells but leaving the tails intact. Devein the prawns by inserting a sharp toothpick in the back of the prawns just below the visible vein and lifting it out. Rinse the prawns and keep them under cling wrap in the refrigerator for use later.

5) Heat up the wok and then heat up 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Stir-fry the prawn heads until fragrant (about 5 minutes). Flame off.

6) Scoop out 1-2 ladle of soup simmering in the pot, add to the prawn heads and stir to dissolve the juices stuck onto the wok. Transfer everything in the wok into the simmering soup pot. Increase the heat to bring the soup to boil again and then cover the pot to continue simmering at low heat.

7) About 15 minutes before the 2 hours of simmering is up, blanch the kang kong, fish cake slices and noodles in boiling water separately. Portion the noodles, kang kong and fish cake slices into 3 serving bowls.

8) Remove the prawn heads and pork bones from the soup and bring it to boil. Place all the refrigerated prawns in a sieve and cook them in the boiling soup until just cooked (don’t overcook them!). Portion out the prawns in the serving bowls too.

9) Season the soup with brown sugar and light soy sauce. Adjust the taste according to your preference. Remove scum from the soup if any. Ladle the soup, spare pork ribs and carrots into the serving bowls. Serve hot with a dipping dish of cut chilli and light soy sauce! Yums :D

2 Years 5 Months 1 Week and Making Faces!

There was a family of four – parents and a young boy and girl – right behind us in the lift at Ang Mo Kio Hub this morning. The mom remarked how cute Hannah looked, and then told her two children this:

“See the little girl in front? So young already carry books to read. You two must also follow OK…?”

We didn’t do an about face, but that certainly didn’t stop Ling from chuckling. If only they knew! True enough, Hannah loves to read. But she carries books out of the home often only because she wants to hold onto something when we’re out – whether it’s toys, books, or my iPad. =)


Looks can be deceiving.

Our girl has spent most of this past week with Lentor grandparents. Her nanny had asked for the week to take advantage of low airfares to go on a vacation, and it so happened that grandparents were free to take care of Hannah. There was a bit of ferrying around between Rivervale and Lentor, and it worked just as well too that I was headed to my NS camp early each morning too so I could get a ride part of the way.

Hannah is increasingly adept at making poses on requests too. Not all the time of course, but often enough so that every so often I can get some really memorable pictures. Like the ones below.=)




Re-entering the Kitchen: Chawan-mushi (Japanese Steamed Egg Custard)

My mom used to make steamed egg custard for us when we were kids for as long as I could remember. Hers was the Chinese style: egg + water + minced pork + light soy sauce -> steam for 10-15 minutes and serve. It was common fare and nothing to rave about really.

Now, the Japanese has elevated this simple egg dish with a dash of dashi, sake and delectable ingredients. It is no wonder that the Japanese style egg custard has found its way to the menu of Japanese restaurants while their Chinese equivalent is somewhat confined to the home kitchen.

The recipe I used for chawan-mushi is a modified version from a cookbook. It is quick and easy to prepare.

Ingredients (makes 2 cups, each of 200 ml capacity)

  • Eggs – 3 large, lightly beaten (avoid creating too much bubbles)
  • Instant dashi powder – 1/4 – 1/2 tsp (can be bought from a well-stocked NTUC and Cold Storage. See picture below)
  • Light soy sauce (mine’s Kikkoman’s premium light soy sauce) – 2 tsp
  • Sake – 1 tsp
  • Fresh shiitake mushrooms – 1, brush off dirt, sliced
  • Spinach leaves – 10 –  20 leaves, rinsed (The number of leaves will depend on the type of spinach used. Chinese spinach leaves are thinner and hence more should be used.)
  • Prawns – 4 small / 2 medium, shelled and *de-veined
  • Marinate for prawns: 1 tsp light soy sauce + 1 tsp sake
  • Water – 300 ml

Instant dashi powder cuts down preparation time.


1) Marinate the prawns in light soy sauce and sake for about 10 minutes. (optional)

2) In the meantime, blanch the spinach leaves in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain them using a sieve and press the excess water out of the sieve with the back of a spoon. If the spinach leaves are large, chop coarsely.

3) Divide the spinach leaves, mushroom slices and prawns equally and place them into 2 porcelain / ceramic chawan-mushi cups. Tea cups and ramekins work as well but bear in mind that the holding capacity may differ.

4) Start the steamer.

5) Fill a measuring cup with 300 ml of water and dissolve instant dashi powder in it. (I simply shook a bit of powder out of a 5 g pack, stirred to dissolve and tasted it to determine whether more powder was required. Personal preference lah. It is better to use less than more.)

6) To the instant dashi broth, add 2 tsp of light soy, 1 tsp of sake and 3 beaten eggs. Stir gently to combine well. Pour the egg mixture through a fine sieve into the 2 cups leaving 1 cm space to the rim.  Cover the cups with a plastic cling wrap (this is to prevent condensation from dripping into the egg mixture during steaming).

7) Place the cups in the steamer, cover it and steam them in medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. Make sure the cups do not come into contact with the boiling water..

8) Once steaming is done, carefully take out the hot cups and remove the cling wrap before serving.

Other common ingredients used for chawan-mushi are crab sticks, chicken pieces, gingko nuts, carrots and Japanese fish cake. Feel free to use what you like.

*Devein the prawns by inserting a toothpick under the vein in the centre back and gently lifting the vein out.

Hannah: Days of Growing Up

Hannah is fast growing away from her budding cuteness as a junior tot.  She is taller now and not easy to carry her in our arms for too long. And that simple innocence in her round eyes and pure happy delight in her giggles – I’d miss them when she is past that stage. *Emo-ing*

But we have a consolation. A good video camera to capture those precious moments so that we could enjoy her little-ness anytime. Below is a small selection of these moments we managed to save.

1) Hannah trying her first popsicle (alas, it was too sour for her!). I love her tender ‘bye-bye’ at the end of it.

2) Hannah at her favourite playground. She always asked to watch this video clip. :) And she always laughed at herself when watching it.

3) Hannah upgraded to using adult spoon one of the dining-out occasions.

4) Hannah enjoying herself in front of the video camera. :)

Work-in-Progress – Part 2

It’s the Holiday Weekend! Though a good part of it was spent back at a camp on Saturday morning completing what should be – absolutely – the last of my Individual Physical Proficiency Tests for what should also be my last in-camp training stint. Believe it or not; at 39 years 12 months, I’m the oldest person in my Company in this call-up! And there’s been no end to jokes and friendly-ribbing from my unit mates this time since my name’s the first first in any nominal-roll print out and there’s no hiding the fact that I’m a very old soldier. =)

We had another one of our cheap thrill visits to see our new work-in-progress place. This time heading to the 12th story of Block 142 to see how the construction’s going on.


A very different view. And we got a good look inside our specific unit even from this vantage point. It's the leftmost block in this picture, and counting the fifth level up (or the fourth balcony).


We were actually surprised at how close some of The Minton's blocks were to the HDB areas. Our block is still alright since it's sandwiched between two blocks, but the brochures certainly didn't highlight this fact.


Hannah looking uncharacteristically sombre, but she's been singing a lot lately - all songs taught to her at her playgroup.=)