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Finally, a Beef Stew Recipe that We (especially Mommy) Like

Beef stew slow roasted italian 4 blogOf all the beef stew recipes I have tried over the past few years, none of them consistently results in moist, tender beef with a reasonably full-bodied broth.

I tried using both chuck tender cuts and stew meat cuts for the stew. Results were hit-or-miss kinda thing and most of the time I  ended up serving dry meats. I almost wanted to give up until I chanced upon a lovely food blog which featured their Italian beef stew.

Although red wine is found in the recipe, using red grape juice as substitute can still produces a yummy stew that is worthy to be served to guests. Yang is a teetotaler and I don’t drink wine as a beverage at home. Hence, not having to add wine to the stew is a big plus.

Now, the recipe still uses chuck tender cuts and I decided to try out a different cut, shin of beef, after reading up on Delia’s recommendation based on her mom’s recipe and knowing my MIL’s preferred cut for her Chinese-styled beef soup. So, gotta listen to your mothers. LOL :)

Finally, I’m so glad to see that tomatoes have no place in the broth. Me thinks the taste of tomato complicates the taste of a hearty beef stew.

At last, moist, tender beef cubes in delicious broth! Ahhh, my search has come to an end. I have a beef stew which I could call my own and feel like a great cook whenever this dish is served.

Credits must go to Donna and Chad from The Slow Roasted Italian for sharing the recipe with the world. :D Below is the recipe modified to suit our family’s tastebuds. It’s a perfect one-dish meal served with steamed white Jasmine rice.

Ingredients (serves 2 adults & 2 toddlers)
• 450 g beef shin – trim fats, sinews/silvery white outer layer, cut into 1.5” cubes
• 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp paprika
• ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
• 1 tsp salt, divided (to taste)
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tbsp unsalted butter
• 1 shallot, diced
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 2 cups home-cooked chicken stock (unsalted)
• 1/2 cup red grape juice
• 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
• ½ tsp dried Italian herbs seasoning (I think this is important to the overall taste)
• 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks (becos’ there’s a rabbit in Yang. JK. Seriously, forget about potatoes. Carrots complement this dish better.)
• fresh parsley to garish, optional

1. Trim hard fat (which does not melt during the cooking process) and silver skin (white and silvery looking) from beef shin and cut into 1.5″ cubes. It takes about 5 minutes, but don’t skip this step. It is so worth it.

2. Combine flour, paprika, pepper and ½ tsp salt in a medium ziplock bag. Seal and shake to combine. Add beef and shake until well coated.

3. Warm olive oil in a French oven over medium low heat (to avoid burnt meat), once you can feel warmth when holding your hand 6 inches from the pot, add butter.

4. Once butter has melted, remove beef from flour and shake gently to remove loose flour. Place coated beef in the French oven, one piece at a time and then brown on all sides. Cook in two batches. Turn pieces until all sides are browned and remove them and set aside in a bowl. Once the first batch is cooked, add the second batch and repeat. Remember, watch the heat. Don’t let the meat burn as the French oven can heat up quickly.

5. Meanwhile, prepare shallot and garlic. Shallot should be diced and garlic minced. Set aside.

6. Once all beef is browned and removed, add shallots and garlic. Cook until translucent. Add grape juice and deglaze by scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the oven. Add chicken stock, Worchestershire and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine. Return beef to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer and cover. Allow soup to simmer for 1.5 hours.

7. Meanwhile, prepare carrots and set aside.

8. After about 1.5 hr of simmering, add carrots. Stir to coat vegetables and cover. Cook for another 30 minutes or until carrots are fork tender. Taste broth. If necessary, add additional salt to taste (mine needed ½ tsp).

About done :D

About done :D

9. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired. Serve hot with steamed white Jasmine rice. Bon appétit! :D

Tuck in!

Tuck in!

p.s. French oven is preferred for its even heat distribution.

Yummy Baby Foods: Mash something something

Feeding Peter solid foods has been a different experience altogether as compared to Hannah’s. Hannah readily accepted almost any type of food I introduced to her. Peter was almost the total opposite.

At 6 months, it was a real challenge to get any food pass his lips. And he enjoyed making a show of spitting bits of food noisily out of his mouth if we could shove it in before the clam-down. Cooking tiny portions was another challenge as we prefer not to cook in bulk and then freeze in small portions. I have a thing about feeding our children freshly cooked food. Porridge was rejected at the start. However, we had some success with avocado, sweet potato and carrots. It was with a lot of perseverance that the little prince finally opened up to the idea of eating something that is not milk or water.

His nanny has been feeding him porridge on weekdays and I try to provide variations on weekends. Not much variation actually. Just a change of the source of carbohydrates from rice to potato and do a mash up with an orange veggie, a green veggie and a meat. I like this mash-up meal as it is quick and easy to prepare. It is tasty too – Hannah often asks me for leftovers. Below is the recipe for Peter’s mashie meals.


  • 1 small potato (I recently discovered Australia’s red potatoes available from NTUC. It makes a creamy, yummy mash)
Creamy Australian red potatoes

Creamy Australian red potatoes

  • 1/2 a small carrot stick (about 6-7 cm long)
  • 1 broccoli floret (or 4-5 spinach leaves)
  • 1 small piece of fish (I alternate between threadfin and salmon) or minced lean pork or chicken


1. Prepare a boiling water bath (I did this with a covered wok over a gas stove.)

2. While waiting for the water to boil, peel and slice the potato and carrot thinly. Spread them out on a porcelain plate.

3. Steam the plate of veggies for 7 minutes.

4. Slice the broccoli thinly (or chiffonade the spinach leaves). Wash and place the meat in a small porcelain saucer.

5. At 7th minute, open up the water bath and place the saucer on the plate and spread the green veggie over the potato and carrot. Cover and continue steaming for another 7-8 minutes.

All steamed and ready for mashing

All steamed and ready for mashing

6. Once time is up, remove the plate of steamed food and mash them up. Pour the leftover liquid in the saucer and plate into the mashed up food to moisten it. Test the consistency of the mash and add a bit more hot water to soften it if your baby prefers it softer.

Soft and tender veggies for mashing

Soft and tender veggies for mashing

Nice consistency for Peter

Nice consistency for Peter

7. I usually place the small bowl of mashed up food in a hot water bath to keep it warm while I feed Peter.

Sometimes I pack this mashed meal in a small tupperware to feed Peter if the family is going to dine out. I would bring along a small bowl and then request for hot water from the restaurant to heat up the meal before serving Peter. My tupperware can sit directly in the hot water bath and it takes only minutes for the heating process. Peter would be fed while the rest of us wait for our food to be served. Then we can all eat in peace – or so we always hope.

My next challenge is to get Peter to accept fruits! Urgh.


Sewing Project #1: Baby Bandana Bibs

So I’ve hinted strongly at Yang what I’d like for my birthday present last year. He gave me a ‘are you sure?’ kinda look when I told him that I wanted a sewing machine. I want to be empowered to make alterations to clothing and sew simple things you see.

So far, I’ve managed to

  • replace loose elastic bands on Hannah’s shorts with new ones instead of throwing them away;
  • replace the loose elastic bands on Peter’s fitted bedsheets; and
  • alter the length of Yang’s new pants.


Now I dream of sewing quilts for the family and dresses for Hannah. However, free time is hard to come by and hence these dreams are distant realities. Anyway, I got myself started on something small recently. At the rate that Peter was drooling, the number of bibs we had couldn’t meet the demand. So the idea of sewing bibs came about. I browsed the Internet for ideas and tips and I got intrigued with bandana bibs. The initial prep work took up some time as I did not have all the necessary tools to begin with. I learned something new: fat quarter fabric! Ha, what a neat piece of cloth to sew small items like bibs. Fell in love with it. I also found a little online fabric store (local some more!) that sells lovely fabrics. Gosh, I think I’m addicted to acquiring beautiful fabrics.

4 different fabrics used for Peter's 15 bibs.

4 different fabrics used for Peter’s 15 bibs.

I sewed 15 bandana bibs for Peter using 4 different fabric designs. I also experimented with different absorbent materials (e.g. terry and nappy cloths) for the backing. Am quite happy with the results and especially so with all the bibs being put to good use. Nobody can say that they have the same bibs as Peter because these are one of a kind! Hee hee :)

Bandana bib cups the jaw and hence can absorb more saliva.

Bandana bib cups the jaw and hence can absorb more saliva.



Peter’s drool rash

Red angry drool rashes on his cheeks and chin.

Red angry drool rashes on his cheeks and chin.

The SON is a champion drooler.

Between Hannah and Peter, one is an occasional leaky tap while the other is an OPEN tap. Peter started drooling when he was about 2 months old. Initially I thought he might be teething but hey, wasn’t that a bit too early? This boy loves to suck his fingers and smear saliva all over his face, ears and neck. To make matters worse, his bed sheets and waterproof sheets were constantly soaked through and he would sleep on his tummy with his cheeks plastered onto the wet bedsheets. Consequently, he developed drool rash with his cheeks and chin being the hardest hit.

My first reaction was to clean his face and hands regularly, before and after every feed. With quiet resignation, I have been taking out his bedsheet and waterproof sheet from his mattress to blow-dry with a fan every time he wakes up from a nap. I’d then tuck in the air-dried sheets back to the mattress just before his next nap. I do this about 5 times a day. Because he overwhelms his bedsheet with so much saliva, I need to change it every 2 days. Yeah, we have that many bedsheets.

ARGHHH!!! Somebody turn off the tap!

To treat the drool rash, I tried the steroid cream prescribed by his pd for his acne prior to this rash thing. It helped but it also lightened his skin tone and thinned out his skin. Definitely not a long-term solution. As usual, I searched the Internet for ideas to treat this condition. I was inspired to try Aquaphor but this product is not available locally. (This is a crime!!) Next, I bought California Baby’s Calendula cream but the rash didn’t go away. Wasted $$. I also tried his diaper cream, Desitin creamy. Well, it wasn’t an effective barrier between the skin and saliva. I started digging my stash of baby skin products bought previously for Hannah. Found her Mustela Stelatopia moisturizing cream – saw only a little improvement. In the end, I’m left with a tube of pure aloe vera gel to experiment. I took a skeptical glance at the colourless substance and wondered what healing agents it could possibly contain to treat the rashes. I was on the verge of giving up. Checked its expiry date and duh, it expired 6 months ago. I couldn’t care less and so I applied a thin layer on Peter’s rashes.

I was so wrong! Miraculously, the angry rashes on Peter started to tone down. Amazing! The inflammation subsided. I diligently applied this humble-looking gel about 3-4 times a day, each time making sure that his face was properly wiped clean with a damp cloth. I also ensured that the gel dried up on him first before letting him do his usual antics with his hands. The rashes didn’t disappear overnight but they gradually went away. Hooray!

So my friends, do not judge a book by its cover, nor a gel by its colour. LOL :P

P.S. If you know how to fix a ‘live’ tap, I’m all ears! :)


‘Chopchop’ Salmon Congee

With no. 2 now in tow, home-cooked food has become a nice-to-have item. We try to cook on the weekends but weeknights are often defined by take-out dinners. Thank God that Hannah is fed home-cooked meals by her nanny on weekdays and well, the adults can get by with eating junk. Hee hee. Things should change for the better (hopefully) when Peter become less dependent and mommy gain yet another higher level of multi-tasking and speeds!

Whenever I think about cooking a meal, the first thing that comes to mind is how fast it gets done. Previously, congee required at least an hour of cooking in order for us to enjoy its softie-smoothie texture. One has to stand at the pot to stir regularly so as not to let the rice grains get stuck to the base. So the idea of cooking congee always get tossed out because it was time-consuming and quite laborious.

That, however, changed recently.

Thanks to the sharing by the mommy who runs the blog Food4Tots, cooking congee is no longer a time-consuming activity. In the past, I used to grind rice grains to increase the surface area:volume ratio so as to increase the rate of cooking. Well, the faster way to date is to freeze pre-soaked rice grains. The science behind it: when water in the rice grains become ice crystals, they rupture the cell membranes to release starch and at the same time also create internal cracks in the grains. So when the frozen grains are cooked in boiling water, they break into tiny bits (increase surface:area) and absorb water faster and release the starch sooner. Fantastic right? Many of us know that it is a bad idea to freeze vegetables due to the damage caused by ice crystal formation while few have applied this fact to quicken cooking of rice to make congee.

Oh, I digress. Back to the salmon congee. I usually use white fish (e.g. threadfin) to cook congee but recently discovered that salmon tastes just as good in congee too. In fact, I like it more. The omega 3-rich fish makes the taste buds and tummy really satisfied at the end of the meal.

Here my recipe for a quick salmon congee. Serves 2 adults and 1 toddler. I added minced pork for more flavour.



  • salmon fillet – about 300g, deboned and sliced as desired (make sure that the salmon is fresh)
  • minced pork – 150g, marinate for at least an hour
  • uncooked white jasmine rice – 1 cup
  • century eggs – 2, deshelled and cut into small pieces
  • garlic – 3 cloves with skin intact, washed and smashed with blade of knife
  • ginger – 3 slices
  • salt – 1/4 tsp
  • light soy sauce – 1 tbsp
  • white ground pepper – dashes
  • corn starch –  1-2 tsp


  1. Wash and then soak the rice grains for about 10 minutes. Rinse, pack the rice in a sandwich bag, tie and freeze overnight or for at least 4 hours.
  2. Marinate minced pork in soy sauce, pepper and corn starch in the fridge for at least an hour.
  3. Place the frozen rice grains in 2 litre of water in a big pot. (I used a non-stick pot to reduce the need for stirring) Add garlic and ginger. Bring it to boil.
  4. In the meantime, cut the salmon into slices (about 1 cm thick), deshell the century eggs and cut into small pieces, and use your hands to form little minced pork balls and lay them out on a plate.
  5. Once the water has boiled, stir the congee every now and then (especially if your pot is not the non-stick type). Don’t cover the pot. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes in medium heat or until you get your desired texture. Add some water if the congee gets too thick for stirring. (You could also continue with step 4 if you didn’t managed to prepare the items earlier on)
  6. Add the minced pork and give the congee a few rounds of careful stirring to cook the meat. Add salt and stir.
  7. Let the congee come to a boil again and add salmon slices with any of its juices. Gently stir to separate the fish slices if they are clumped together. Turn off the heat. Cover the pot for a minute or so. (Note: It is important not to overcook the fish. Otherwise it would become tough to the bite. Not so tasty lah.) Remove ginger and garlic if desired. Serve the congee in bowls topped with century egg. Enjoy!

p.s. Even Yang was surprised by how fast I could cook congee since I learned of this method. :)

A 16-month long birthday project

It all started with my mother in-law’s 70th birthday last year. I wanted to give her something meaningful. I find gifting older folks rather challenging as they usually desire very little from the material world. So after scratching my head for ideas, I settled on stitching up a photograph after chancing upon an online cross-stitch company that can convert photographs into cross-stitch artwork.

We didn’t take many photographs with our MIL as a family and so I tried to search for photographs of Hannah with her ‘nai nai’ instead. One photograph stood out from the rest where my MIL was helping Hannah in a colouring activity. However, the background was too complicated (that means the stitching would kill me). Eventually, I decided that I needed to take a photograph with a plain background. As our ang mo friend Matt was staying with us at that time, I asked for his help to take some orchestrated poses of Hannah holding a card that read a birthday greeting in Chinese. I couldn’t wait for Yang to return home from work to get the job done then. Matt did great. Thanks, Matt! :)

The photo selected for stitching.

The photo selected for stitching.

The contact person from the cross-stitch company was very prompt in communication and my cross-stitch kit arrived in a matter of days. And so the stitching begins. But soon a huge realisation dawned upon me…

The rendered version of the photo for cross-stitching.

The rendered version of the photo for cross-stitching, 80 different colours in total.

…that I couldn’t finish the cross-stitch in a month’s time for my MIL’s birthday. I made do with giving her a photo frame with 3 photos of Hannah holding the card but with slightly different expressions. Oh well.

The long journey of trying to finish the cross-stitch began, with no end in sight. Let me put it this way, even with a plain background, the stitching was very tedious. Because it was a photo, a tiny mistake can be conspicuous and ruin the whole artwork. The counting of squares, the colour of threads, the pressure applied in stitching, etc, must be perfect.

The finished work - all ready for framing.

The finished work – all ready for framing.

It took me 16 months from start to finish. The project was interrupted by work (as usual), tiredness from pregnancy, time spent with Hannah, and then birth of Peter. We just presented the actual gift to my MIL last week. Finally! :D And Yang was suggesting that perhaps I could start another cross-stitch project. No, thanks! I need a break. Besides, I want to make quilts and dresses for Hannah with my new sewing machine. I’m also looking forward to cooking and baking regularly again. On top of it all, I also need to look into renovating and moving into our new house.

Close-up of the stitches. I love the look of the toes the most. :)

Close-up view of the stitches. I love the look of the toes the most. :)

Was it a waste of precious time making this gift which would just sit on a piano, a chest of drawers or hang on a wall? Well, part of me knows that I could have spent the time with my family. But I did have an epiphany one night when I was stitching alone while the kids and hubby were all asleep…like certain odd coloured threads that didn’t seemed to go into the correct squares initially, there are times in my life that didn’t make sense at all. Till I see the whole picture, I just have to trust and follow the instructions – just like God who has a grand design for my life and sometimes things seem to go wrong. Let me learn to simply trust Him and move on. (I know, so cliché right?)

Materials for this project.

Work in progress.

The girl is already a year older by the time this project was completed.

The girl is already a year older by the time this project was completed.

Second Post Partum: Week 9

This is a random post.

Updates on Peter…

His facial acne had become worse and developed into what his paediatrician called neonatal eczema. I almost used neoderm (a cream containing steroids that can eradicate bacterial and fungal infections) on him but decided to pay a visit to his paediatrician to get professional advice. Glad that we did as his paediatrician informed us that the steroid strength of neoderm was on the high end in the spectrum of steroid creams for children. She prescribed Zaricort for Peter and recommended the use of moisturizer. His eczema improved greatly after 2 applications. Now it is almost non-existent. BTW, I like this paediatrician better than Hannah’s. Her name is Dr Tan. Both of them are good but Dr Tan shares her knowledge and experience freely, is thorough and patient, and helps us cut down on medical expenditure. A-star for her :)

Eating wise, Peter has been drinking both breast and formula milk. More of the latter actually. I plan to stop breastfeeding after 3 months as my supply has been diminishing when he began to sleep more. He drinks Dumex’s Mamil Gold formula milk but during the recent contamination of NZ milk, I’m thinking of switching to Similac. And oh, I would like to share about his milk bottles. Instead of using Bfree bottle as before in Hannah’s case, I tried Pigeon’s Peristaltic PLUS wide-neck BPA-free bottle after reading many positive reviews about it. Peter took to it instantly – absolutely no nipple confusion. Other plus points are: only 4 parts to clean, valve to prevent build-up of negative pressure and BPA-free. The Japanese has done it again. And this brand is also cheaper than Bfree. A sure winner IMO.

One reason many friends have been giving to encourage us to have no. 2 is the fact that Hannah started sleeping through the night when she was 5 weeks old. The assumption was that all our babies would therefore be like her. True? False! Week 5 came and went and Peter still woke up in the middle of the night for milk. I was starting to worry whether Peter would be one of those babies who couldn’t sleep through the night until they were way pass one-year-old. Then, he started to show signs of sleeping through the night. One or twice in the following weeks, he slept through but woke up very early, like five-ish in the morning. Come week 8 the miracle occurred. He slept through between 8-10 pm to 6-7 am. I’m really thankful that I could have my sleep back again and quite soon. My energy level started to recover from then on. Yay. :)

Updates on the mother…

Sigh, I’ve been rather depressed over my mummy tummy. The second pregnancy really disfigured my body. I couldn’t locate my waist and looked 5 months pregnant. The thought of returning to work with colleagues and students asking whether I’m pregnant with no. 3 is dreadful. From the Internet, I realised that I might have diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles, due to pregnancy. This condition often causes the mummy tummy. True but I also can tell that I have a thick layer of blubber on top of my abdominal muscles which needs work. Besides doing abdominal exercises to close the gap between the abdominal muscles, I need to do aerobic exercises to burn off the fats. Tried swimming but I didn’t feel much calorie loss even after doing 16 laps in our condo pool. Read up that running is probably the best fat-burning exercise in terms of effectiveness where time is concerned. So I switched to jogging. Wah, my legs felt like lead the first time I hit the pavement for a jog. I can’t remember exactly the last time I actually jogged. Hmm, perhaps 2 years ago? I persisted and have been jogging on and off for about a week now. From jogging around our condo I upgraded to jogging around Punggol park. It was nice to jog in the park because the sight of other joggers improves my morale somewhat about doing the exercise. Last night, I felt good enough to cover 2.4 km in 20 minutes. Timing wise needs work but it is progress nonetheless. :)

We would be getting the keys of our new place soon and this means that we need to look into renovation now. Yang and I have been sourcing for ID and ideas for our new place and the process has been time-consuming and exciting. Yang will be sharing more on our renovation journey.

Experiences of a Second-time Mom: Delivery, Breastfeeding & Confinement

Here I am into the third week of the Chinese 30-day confinement feeling the need to pen down some thoughts and events for keepsake. Pardon my lack of sobriety if my writing appears strange.

The Birth of Peter

With Hannah, it was the appearance of ‘show’ (the discharge of bloody mucus plug from the cervix) that signaled us that I was about to go into labour. With Peter, my water bag broke around midnight while I was already in bed but awake. I felt a pop in my belly and thought “hmm, water bag?” but was too lazy to get up. Then I felt what I thought was the initial but real labour contractions where a mild ache was felt on the back. I began to feel slight dampness on my shorts and decided that I better get up to confirm my suspicions. True enough, I was ‘leaking’ on my way to the bathroom and when I stood in the bathtub, the water gushed out. I panicked. I quickly rinsed myself clean and woke Yang up. We started getting ready our bags and Hannah in 20-30 minutes and called a cab to go to Thomson Medical Centre where I was to delivered Peter.

After checking that my cervix was dilated 1.5 cm, the nurse on duty admitted me into the birthing ward. When the contraction pains were reaching my endurance threshold, I asked for the epidural to be administered. The process of administering the epidural this time was significantly more uncomfortable. And I experienced one side effect of vomitting. Other than this, the rest of the labour process was just lying in bed waiting for the contractions to cause the cervix to dilate to 10 cm before pushing the baby out. My gynae was out of town and he had arranged for a replacement gynae in his absence to deliver our baby. The replacement gynae was a friendly Dr Lawrence Ang and he arrived around 6-7 am to check on me. He remarked that the dilation process was fast and the cervix soft and that I could push the baby out soon. By 9.13 am, Peter came into the world with just a couple of pushes and daddy was put on the spot by the doctor to cut his umbilical cord. And I thought we might have a casaulty after that. Lol. :D


Well, I thought I got it right the second time. Despite my great weakness straight after delivery, I opted for total breastfeeding during my 3-day stay at the hospital. With what my episiotomy wound, vomitting and general tiredness from labour, I breastfed Peter and his suction was good. But once we were home, my supply couldn’t keep up with his demand during the rest of week 1 and I resorted to supplement with formula milk. Big mistake? Peter started preferring formula because it required less effort to suck. My milk supply has definitely improved from Hannah’s time but Peter has a bigger appetite. He is a strong boy too. Sigh, I guess my breastfeeding efforts will diminish over time again.


We got a different confinement lady (CL) this time as the previous one was unavailable. I prefer the current CL because she doesn’t impose the traditional Chinese confinement practices on me, was flexible in the choice of ingredients used for dishes and wasn’t constantly wanting to engage me in chatting. We got one domestic incident though. She chipped the tip of our precious Japanese hand-made chef knife by using it to separate frozen meats. At least she didn’t melt our stove area which the first CL did. Lol. :)

I’m thankful that my parents in-law have been very helpful in buying and bringing foods and fruits on a weekly basis for my CL to cook or prepare for my meals. My mom has been coming over too and didn’t utter a word about following the dreaded confinement practices or questioning the CL about me. I confess that I still feel quite stressed out whenever she pops by during this period.


Throughout the pregnancy, we were concerned about the effects of Peter’s single umbilical artery (SUA) on his health. He was given a clean bill of health by his pediatrician on the third day after an ultrasound check on his two kidneys. Really thank God for a healthy baby boy.

Thank God too that Peter was born after the terrible period of haze in Singapore where the PSI soared to 400. The air is definitely cleaner now for breathing. :)


Towards the End of Third Trimester: Baking Rock Cakes with Hannah

I have put on at least 10 kg during this pregnancy and am feeling easily tired in the last trimester. I promised to bake rock cakes with Hannah a month ago and since both of us are having school holidays now, I better keep my promise.

Rock Cakes - Hard on the outside, soft on the inside.

Rock Cakes – crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.

We went to supermarket this morning to buy a tray of eggs, the missing ingredient for the recipe, and started baking in the late morning. It was a simple recipe to follow and within 30 minutes the rock cakes were baking in the oven. I got Hannah to help in measuring the ingredients using the digital weighing scale, whisking dry ingredients, pouring ingredients and rubbing cold butter into flour. She was very excited since last night when I announced that we were going to bake the rock cakes together on the following day. She reminded me to buy eggs the moment she woke up in the morning and fished out her apron from her drawer to get ready. Below is the recipe we used.


  • Plain Flour – 100 g
  • Baking Powder – 1 tsp
  • Cold butter – 50 g
  • Castor sugar – 50 g
  • Raisins – 25 g
  • Egg – 1
  • Salt – pinch


1. Preheat oven to 190 °C. Grease the baking tin.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl to mix well.

Whisking the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Whisking the flour, baking powder and salt together.

3. Cut cold butter into small chunks and rub into the flour mixture.
4. Add sugar and raisins.
5. Add egg and whisk to a stiff batter.
6. Use 2 metal spoons to scoop and unload the batter in small heaps onto the baking tin.
7. Bake for about 15-18 minutes until lightly golden brown.

Rock Cakes_Baking in the Oven_2 FB

8. Take out the rock cakes to cool before serving.

Want to try my rock cakes?

Want to try my rock cakes?

The secrets of language acquisition in infants and toddlers

This is probably the final segment on my gleamings from the book ‘Nurture Shock’ by PO Bronson & Ashley Merryman.

A disclaimer here first – I’m no linguist and definitely not anywhere close to being regarded as a language expert. Where the English language is concerned, Yang speaks and writes better than I do. I had to sit for a English proficiency test in order to gain entry to a local university. You get the idea :)

The authors of the book has a chapter devoted to exploring why some children pick up language skills sooner as compared to others. In other words, why do some children speak sooner, better and more confidently than others? According to findings, baby DVDs did little to encourage infants to grow in the area of speech. So, save your moola on buying into all that hype. It was observed that infants learn faster from watching real humans speak than being parked in front of the black box watching educational videos. They learn best by watching how your mouth and facial muscles move as you speak. Monkey see, monkey do. That’s the current wisdom. :)

Hannah has taught Pluto how to surf board.

Hannah has taught Pluto how to surf board. We did not teach her how to do this though.=)

Another interesting observation was that children progress faster when other persons around them respond to topics that interest them. For example, if a child point her finger excitedly at a dead flower on the ground and her grandmother picks it up and talks about it in a similar tone of excitement, the child will often quickly absorb new vocabulary associated with the moment. I’ve seen a mother who put her daughter down when her kid alerted her to a little bird that flew over them. The mother dismissed her daughter’s interest and observational skill and muttered something like her daughter was only interested in birds. Perhaps the mother was not in the right mood. But it was an opportunity lost.

I noticed that Hannah learn better when I let her rope me into her daily chatter about her nursery school, toys, games, etc. I simply ‘played’ along with her enthusiasm in various subjects. I’d casually slip in new words or proper grammar in my communication with her and leave it up to her to pick them up. And she would almost always subconsciously or consciously copycat me to express herself in the topic too. And it has been amazing how the young brain could so effortlessly remember those new words which were uttered only once sometimes.

Since the beginning of nursery school this year, Hannah has developed a positive attitude towards learning the Chinese language. I don’t know what is her Chinese teacher’s secret formula but I do know that Hannah is fond of this particular teacher. She often mentions her in our conversations. My guess is that this Chinese teacher practises “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” (quote by John C Maxwell). Children are also sensitive and sensible towards the level of care shown by people around them. In the area of language, I believe that head knowledge and the heart must work hand-in-hand to bring out the best in a child’s development. And a head start in language acquisition should help a child communicate her needs and feelings better and reduce unnecessary frustration that growing up brings.