Family 

Our priority this year is to spend time together as a family and being there for the kids. As a fairly new family of four, we are slowly getting used to the new dynamics at home, meeting the needs of an energetic and sensitive toddler and of course, a now 8 weeks old baby. Not everyday has been smooth sailing, but I suppose “Crazy” is our new middle name.

I think 8 weeks is a relatively good time to look back to see how we have come along. The beginning was extremely tough on everyone for various reasons. It was tough on Theo who has to now share his parents with his sister, although he has been fairly good about it. It was tough for me to “let go” and let Daniel “run the show” because I’m the control freak at home. And it was definitely tough on Daniel to take care of us all while surviving on little amounts of sleep since Theo was ill. 

However, as the weeks progressed, we got better. I’m not saying that everyday is easy, but we split the responsibilities and get things done. When Mia’s crying drive me insane, Daniel takes over. When I feel like I’m missing out on alone time with Theo, as long as Mia’s been fed, I’ll get to play with him. We’ve been batching cooking healthy meals as much as possible and spending less time in the kitchen so that we can pay more attention to the kids. 


As we approach the end of winter, the days are longer and less bitterly cold, and I think that makes everyone feel more positive too. We head out more feeling energised. 


Just last weekend we brought Theo out to ride his bike. He did 3km! It was a good workout for me too as I babycarried Mia in the Manduca. 

It might sound like an ordinary day just walking around the neighbourhood, but it felt really special to me. There were lots of laughter and Theo had fun. 


I love doing outdoor activities with him. In fact, I prefer being outside when the weather’s good to being indoors. Daniel has also brought Theo to the playground after Kita and that boy just enjoys it so much. He hates being picked up from Kita because he loves playing with his friends, so I hope he’ll be happier leaving if we brought him to the playground to continue playing.

 

I’ve also noticed that Mia’ more relaxed when she’s outside during the weekends when Theo’s home. Well, Theo can be really loud when he plays (banging, screaming, running around) at home and that sort of stresses her out and that stresses me out as I’m afraid she’s not getting enough sleep. Being out is good for her as she gets to nap and even when she’s up, she’s pretty chilled and just looks around. 

I love this little family of mine. 🙂 

Play Date Cookies Gone Wrong…Terribly Wrong

We’ve been trying to arrange play dates with Theo’s friends regularly on weekends. Since they all are at Kita full-time on weekdays, we parents know how difficult it is to contain the energy our kids have in apartments especially when the weather doesn’t allow for outdoor play. Therefore we take turns to allow the kids to trash each other’s homes…well, so to speak.

I thought it would be a great idea to bake some Chocolate Chips Oatmeal Cookies for Theo to bring over to his friend’s place on Sunday and since Daniel brought Mia out for a walk, it meant Theo could have my undivided attention. It was a great opportunity to spend precious Mama-son time together.


He was very excited to bake with me. Not only did he help bring all the ingredients to the table in the living room for me, he listened to every single bit of instruction I gave. Trust me when I say this is rare!!! 


The kiasu, tiger mum in me read somewhere that the stirring helps build motor skills that are required for writing therefore I just sat there and let him mix everything in the bowl. I’m often tempted to go down the old school method of how I was taught to write the alphabet (repetition, and endless copying) which wasn’t fun from what I can remember, hence I do try to wreck my brains to do more fun activities with Theo. 
 

I was quite surprised this afternoon that he didn’t put any of the dough in his mouth. Just 2 months ago when we tried Christmas baking together, he was preoccupied with tasting more than actual preparation. Even the chocolate chips were safe. Something must have clicked in his head! 


This is the bit that I was particularly impressed. He scooped spoonfuls of dough and placed them separately on the baking paper while I shaped them. Never once did he attempt to mess them up. Throw back to pre-Christmas 2016, he was using the spoon to spread dough on the baking paper as if it was butter. What a huge improvement! 

While I did help to measure ingredients and guide Theo with the instructions from the recipe, he was allowed to do the rest himself with minimal help.

The biggest role I played in this was to cook the cookies in the oven. And guess what? I burnt them!!! Burnt them charcoal black!!! I could have buried my face in the kitchen and cried but Mia was hungry and had to be fed. 

Despite me burning the cookies Theo made excitedly for his friends, he said “I had a fun time baking with you, Mama!”

I suppose it’s the “experience” that matters this time round. We’ll be bringing strawberries round for the play date tomorrow. 

Storytime

I started reading to Theo when he was only a day old in hospital. If I wasn’t feeling amazingly groggy due to the general anaesthesia I had, I would have probably pulled out the storybook I brought along in my hospital bag. 

Before he was born, I was determined to make sure that he enjoys being read to. I get super animated when reading to him and I surrounded him with books and more books. I knew that reading from a young age would expand vocabulary skills and most importantly, it was special bonding time for us. 


One of the things we did was to make sure he had easy access to his books. Even though he loved putting everything in his mouth, and wasn’t the most gentle babies towards books, we didn’t want to stop him from getting books out himself.


And I’m so glad we cultivated this reading habit from young. Till now, he still asks for stories to be read to him. His collection has got bigger and he still goes to the shelf to select books he wants to flip through by himself. 


But what’s really satisfying and made my day was him taking books to sit beside his little sister and telling her stories. 


It just seemed like the most natural thing for him to do with her. And she fussed,  he tried to calm her down by describing scenes in his book and asking if she liked them. 

Best quote from him while reading to her, “Everything’s alright Mia. I’m reading to you.” 

Korokke (Croquette)

Korokke is a Japanese deep-fried dish usually made up of potatoes, meat, vegetables and seafood. More than a decade ago when I was a student in Tokyo, frozen korokke was part of my weekly grocery shopping because I love them so much. I didn’t know how to cook back then, and I wasn’t interested in cooking either so convenience food which is readily available in Japan was often on my plate. On hindsight, I now know why I put on so much weight during my year abroad!


I saw that Just One Cookbook has a Korokke recipe and since Nami-san is a very reliable source for homecooked Japanese recipes, I gave it a go myself.  

The one thing I changed in the recipe was instead of deep-frying, I baked mine in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes. Healthier option! 

While it is a time-consuming dish to make, I would love to create different variations of Korokke using this as the basic recipe. I would like to add some carrots, celery to the meat korokke and make a separate cheesy korokke too. I’ll keep you updated on my success (or failure!). 

Banana Loaf

I would be lying if I said I don’t feel the stress of having a toddler and a newborn. Often, I feel like snacking on massive bars of Cadbury milk chocolate, drinking hot chocolate with mini marshmallows and whipped cream and tablespoonfuls of Nutella. But I know if I let myself loose, I’ll end up with a toddler, a newborn and a miserable weighing scale. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to go on a diet (not especially since I’m tandem nursing), but I do want to eat more healthily whenever possible.


So tadaaahhhh!!! I made myself a Banana Loaf over the weekend. I used 3 large bananas, less sugar than suggested in the recipe, and added a dash of cinnamon to the mixture. 

It was a hit with Theo, his friend and my friend. However, my husband hates bananas so he wouldn’t even touch it. I’ll have to find a good (healthy) chocolate cake recipe just for him. 

Tuna Pasta Bake


It has never crossed my mind to cook tins of tuna in a tomato based sauce. The idea intrigued me as the recipe made it look so easy afterall and that’s just what we need during the “survival” weeks with a new baby. 
This dish is far too massive for 2 adults and a toddler so I kept the leftovers in the fridge and had it for lunch the next day. It really saves time and effort – we don’t have to spend as much time standing/ cooking in the kitchen. That means we have more time for the kids, less stressful evenings (even a tiny bit less stress helps create a more positive environment for our family) and have more time to pursue our interests if the kids are asleep. 

Our Clubfoot Journey: First Review in 2017

Last Friday, Theo had his review with the Orthopedist. As much as I was looking forward to knowing how he’s progressed after physiotherapy, I was also feeling the pressure. I was afraid they won’t be pleased with his feet. However, I’m really delighted that both his heels have dropped and they’ve adjusted the angle of his boots slightly so that he can walk more normally in the long run.


Even though it was a rather cold day, it was bright and sunny. So we walked to the hospital and back – more than 4km in total and I was physically up for it even though it has only been 1 month since Mia was born. It turned out to be a leisure walk which we haven’t been able to do so together as a family for ages. 


City life can be rather loud with busy traffic on the roads thus making it hard to hear each other as we walked, but it was nonetheless time well spent with the boy who enjoyed observing thin ice floating down the river and trains going over the bridge. 

The walk must have meant a lot to Theo because when he joined me in bed this morning, he said “Mama, I had a fun day walking yesterday”. 

Homemade Chicken Nuggets – Jamie Oliver and Amber Kelly

I was addicted to chicken nuggets when I was pregnant with Mia. Everything else tasted like iron to me except chicken nuggets. However 9 months ago, I wasn’t aware of this lovely crispy homemade chicken nuggets recipe by Amber Kelly

What’s so special about them? Well, they are coated with cornflakes! That’s what give them the extra crunch. And I love that they turn out looking like Gold Nuggets! Just in time for Chinese New Year and coincidentally, it’s the year of the Rooster. 

Thank you Daniel for making them! 

Spaghetti Meat Sauce 

If you’ve read about the versatile Ragu recipe we tried from Jamie Oliver, you’ll know that Daniel and I are challenging each other to get better at cooking. Since he came home with 2kg of mince, we’ve been experimenting with different mince recipes. So here’s mine – Spaghettti Meat Sauce from Just One Cookbook


If I’ve learnt anything over the past week, it’s that it is really easy to make our own sauces. They taste healthier, more natural and definitely more rewarding. It made me ponder what goes into bottled sauces but I’m hesitant to read food labels for fear of what I might see (maybe I should start reading!!!). 

I love the fact that I can throw in lots of carrots and celery into the sauce, making it a healthy dish. At this time of the year when we fall ill all the time, I’m trying to get us eating more vegetables. Adding red wine definitely gives the dish more flavour too. Also, it’s such great comfort food especially since it’s minus 10 degrees Celsius today! 

The Versatile, Easy Family Ragu – Jamie Oliver

Almost 4 weeks have flown by since Mia was born and I think it’s pretty safe to say I’m less of an emotional wreck these days. Some days are overwhelming but generally, I think I’m doing fairly well (Here’s when everyone jumps in to say how lucky I am as my husband is on Parental Leave for a year and that their lives/ circumstances are so much tougher. Post-birth competition – whose life sucks more is the winner.) See? I only said “less of an emotional wreck”. Get it? Get it? Hehehe.

After almost 4 weeks, we’re slowly easing away from frozen pizzas and toasts for dinner, and that’s if we even have time to eat. We’re looking into batch cooking and freezer-friendly meals for the family. The idea is great for families like ours who are trying not to kill each other during stressful times, and these meals will be life savers if we fell ill (we do so often since we’ve had kids!). 

The first dish Daniel made is the easy family ragu from Jamie Oliver which is so versatile as it can be used as bolognese, for lagsana, chilli con carne etc. 


I was pleasantly surprised by how light but fragrant the sauce is compared to one of the bottled sauces I always get from the supermarkets. I love that we added so much real vegetables such as carrots and celery into it all in one pan. And it works out to be cheaper than a bottled sauce too. 

As it was Daniel’s first dish that he experimented with, he didn’t make more to freeze but since I love it so much, he’ll be making more in the week to freeze. 

The recipe can be found in the video (or link shared above) which has very clear and instructions and tips from the man himself (Jamie Oliver, not Daniel!). 

Anyway, knowing us, it would be boring to just let either of us cook whatever meals in the kitchen. Our competitive nature means this has to be turned into a cooking challenge. Up next – Japanese Meat Sauce from me! 

Mia’s Birth Story

On the 27th of December 2016, we welcomed our little girl who decided to make her grand appearance a week earlier than expected.

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On hindsight, she could have been born 4 days earlier if I had known what was happening to me. However, I was kept busy with Christmas preparations and a sick toddler who was down with Bronchitis.

On the night of the 26th, I didn’t sleep a wink. Daniel slept with Theo as the boy was rather poorly so I was in the room myself. I remember my tummy feeling rock hard the whole night and I simply couldn’t get up to change positions. Occasionally I would text Daniel to come in to help me. Despite all that, it wasn’t alarming enough for me. It was supposed to get worse if it was the real thing, right?

However, things got just a teeny bit alarming on the morning of the 27th which made me decide that we should head to the hospital just in case. Given my history of a placenta rupture, I didn’t want to wait around at home. I thought to myself, “If this bloody placenta was to rupture, it jolly well rupture when I’m surrounded by medical professionals in the hospital!!!” (Flashback to what the midwife at the hospital said, “If your placenta ruptured again and you’re not at the hospital, all you can do is pray hard.”)

CTG showed that I was getting some contractions (even I knew that!). The doctor did some swab and tests which confirmed that my amniotic fluid had ruptured. The hospital was quick to administer antibiotics and arrange for a c-section (which I opted for right from the start) that very afternoon.

As it was the festive season, our friends were out of town so we couldn’t get any help. Even if they were in town, we weren’t comfortable leaving a sick Theo with anyone else because people need to be comfortable to administer his seizure medicine should he have one. Hence, I decided to go into the Operating Theatre myself without Daniel (again).

It wasn’t an easy decision. True, I knew there would be such a possibility right from the start, but when faced with reality, I was SO SCARED. I was lying down in the preparation room shivering and they didn’t allow Daniel to come in to see me because Theo wasn’t allowed in. Fortunately, the doctors and midwives who took care of me were very supportive. They gave me lots of assurance and hugs. They cracked jokes to lighten the atmosphere. They tried to take things off my mind.

Looking back, the worst bit of my c-section experience wasn’t the fact that I was cut open awake or that the wound hurts. It was the epidural. The pain I experienced when I was injected FOUR times on my spine was something I’ve never experienced in my life. Not even my worst contraction was as painful as the epidural. It wasn’t the injection that hurt. It was when the medication entered my body. The pressure it created on the left side of my back near my kidney was excruciating. And all I could do then was hold on real tight to the hands of the doctor whom I’ve met the first time and screamed for them to stop. Of course they didn’t stop. And guess what I found out today? I had FOUR jabs because the anaesthetist missed “THE POINT”.

Once the epidural took effect, everything went on pretty smoothly. Within minutes, Mia was born healthily and placed on my chest pretty much a couple of minutes after being checked by the paedetrician.

So yes, I am now a very proud Mama  two beautiful kids whom I’m so blessed to have.


I’m also recovering physically well while we get accustomed to family life of four. It will take us a while to resume normality but we’ll get there one day.

Christmas Tree Shortbread


I’ve completely lost track of time and my mind. Unlike the first pregnancy, I don’t feel completely prepared this time round even though dates have been set. It’s probably because Christmas is this weekend and I’m just really excited about it – pretty much as excited as my 2.5 year old toddler. 

I actually thought Kita would be open on the 23rd December and had planned to make cookies for Theo’s caregivers. Except, the 22nd December was the last day and the cookies weren’t ready. It would have been a shame to not make them since I had all the ingredients ready. 

It was my first time “playing” with fondant and there is still a lot to learn – how to roll it out thin and even would be a good start. Now that I know where to get these ingredients, I’m feeling brave to want to decorate Theo’s 3rd birthday cake next year! We shall see how it goes…

With Christmas this weekend, believe it or not, I’ve not got Christmas dinner ready whatsoever. I couldn’t find roast beef over the past couple of days and thought we might have steak instead. We went to the supermarket and steak was sold out! I’m going to spend Christmas Eve hunting for steak. Daniel suggested chicken as an alternative BUT BUT BUT I’ve already planned to make red wine sauce for my plate of beef so no way am I settling for chicken this year. 

I hope you’re better organised than I am for Christmas this year. Merry Christmas!!! 

Christmas Cookies 

2.5 year olds are such great fun. If we look beyond the bad days they have which involve them screaming “Mine!!!”, “Noooo!!!!”, “Do it myself!!!”, they are actually really adorable little individuals who are so full of curiosity and creativity. 

Last weekend, we were invited to a friend’s place for a mini Christmas party for our kids to get together. We’ve known each other for approximately as long as our kids have been born thanks to coincidentally having the same post-natal midwife and having attended the same post-natal recovery class together. My friend very kindly offered to allow her place to be trashed by the 3 kids by organising a baking session.

I was skeptical, really. I’ve tried baking at home with Theo and each time he just wanted to eat the dough. He wasn’t interested in stirring whatsoever. But yesterday, he actually rolled the dough with my help and cut out shapes. Yay! I feel like he’s progressed a bit since I last baked with him a month ago.


Well, this cheeky man did manage to sneak a tiny bit of dough while I wasn’t looking but his Papa caught it on camera. Guilty as charged!


He really enjoyed decorating the cookies with colourful sprinkles. And licking his fingers every so often to taste the sugary bit. 


Tadaaaahhhhh!!!! Those are the cookies we made together. It was messy but that was to be expected. However, we had 6 adults to 3 kids hence cleaning up was a breeze. 

Now, will I have my own baking session with Theo this week just before Christmas??? I’m tempted to do so because it was so much fun but can someone else help clean the place and the boy up please? 

Char Shu for Ramen

My favourite cut of pork is the pork belly. I never liked it when I was younger because of the layers of fats but now, I enjoy the tenderness of this cut of meat in various dishes. One of my favourites would be Char Shu that can be easily done at home for Ramen. The recipe is originally from Nami-san of Just One Cookbook


Compared to Chinese Char Siew, Japanese Char Shu is much simpler to prepare at home as it is braised in sake, soy sauce and sugar. 

The end result is slices of tender, juicy, mouth-watering, and savoury pork belly that go well with Ramen or even plain steamed rice. This is yet another highly recommended recipe from Just One Cookbook! 

37 Weeks Bump Shots

It took us 37 weeks before we had 5 minutes to spare to do some bump shots at home. With a toddler. 


Compared to the first pregnancy, this one has been rather smooth sailing which is great. I can’t imagine having to care for a toddler who is consistently sick on a monthly basis (3 consecutive weeks since the start of winter) and having to worry about another unborn child.

Baby Mia has been good at letting us feel her presence by being over-the-top active all day long on most days. Unlike her brother who we played classical music to while he was in the womb to get some sort of reaction, she is definitely one who takes initiative to let her presence known however busy we get. 


As the shoot was over and done with really quickly, we didn’t get any shots with Daniel in since he was the photographer. But I got my little sweetheart to join in as he is really excited about bringing his little sister home from hospital. 


As I’m writing this, I’m already 38 weeks. Baby Mia weighs approximately 3.1kg and 50cm long already. That sounds like a huge baby to me given that we have another 2 weeks to go. Theo was 3.5kg when he was born but he was 5 days late. Good luck to my poor lower back! 

To be honest, I can’t wait to get over and done with being pregnant this time round. I feel extremely heavy, clumsy and get so tired easily. I can’t wait to bounce back and be active with Theo again. The last trimester has been such a pain because I can’t do anything much (read fun in his terms) with him. I can’t run with him or after him. I can’t bring him out on his bike alone for his own safety since I’m not as quick as him. I can’t bring him for long walks because it tires me out. Hence, I’m really looking forward to getting a decent level of fitness and health back to enjoy time with both my kids in the following months. 

Believing in Father Christmas

This Christmas is going to be a little different. We will be celebrating it in Frankfurt instead of England as Baby Mia is due to be born on 3rd January 2017. Christmas feels different partly because Theo, who is 2.5 years old, seems to believe in Father Christmas and is very excited about the presents he will be getting. 


If he had the final say, he would decorate our Christmas tree with buses, cars and trains instead of round baubles. 

I think it’s amazing that little children believe in Father Christmas. It just makes the whole season so magical, hopeful and simply beautiful. As far as I can remember, I don’t think I ever was made to believe in him. Christmas was awesome in my family (involved extended family, games, amazing food etc) but I knew presents came from my relatives. 

We’ve had Daniel calling me up pretending to be Father Christmas to speak to Theo. That went so well! That boy was just super happy to get a call from Father Christmas! I don’t know when the magic ends, but I hope he’ll have fond memories of it all. 

Stickers are fun 

Did you like collecting stickers when you were a child? I remember having countless sticker books where I kept all my stickers and sometimes I would bring them to school to “trade” with my friends. 

I managed to get a few sets of vehicles themed stickers at a great price from Lidl a couple of months ago for Theo. They were so cheap that I regret not getting more (I didn’t know back then if he would be interested). 

You would think “What? What’s the point of playing with stickers? Such a waste of money!”

Well, actually it’s not. Playing with stickers help toddlers build and refine their motor skills. When Theo first started with stickers a few months ago, he could never peel the really small stickers. He didn’t have the patience for that either. But now, he’s fully capable of peeling off big and small stickers thus refining his pincer grip. 


It also helps with visual scanning. While he plays with stickers, I’ll ask where certain objects are and he has to look for them to stick on the paper. 

The letters you see above actually spell “ambulance” but the activity we were doing didn’t require him to spell the word. He doesn’t know that “A” sounds like “Ah” (ie phonics) but recognises the letter to mean “Apple”. So we play along by calling “A” as “Apple”, and “E” as “elephant”. He then pretends that the elephant eats the apple and so on. 

I love doing such activities with him because he gets so focused, and descriptive of what he’s doing. It’s 20 minutes of me sitting next to him having some funny conversations about the “scene” he’s created on the paper. 

I’ll need to get more of such stickers! Perhaps reusable ones next time! 

Melissa and Doug Water Wow Reveal Pads 

I am a huge fan of Melissa and Doug products. Not only are they affordable, they are of good quality and educational. 

Theo loves anything vehicles related – be it toys, books, clothes, cartoons or activities. And I try my best to feed his interest as long as the activity in question benefits him. 

Theo isn’t the kind of child who would sit still to draw or colour. Not at home at least. He might scribble a few lines and that would be the end of the activity in 1 minute. However, I wanted to introduce him to some sort of “pen control” skills. Therefore, I bought the Melissa and Doug Water Wow Vehicles Reveal Pad for him to try it out.
It is actually more of a paint brush than a pen (aquadoodle would be better if you wanted a “pen”). We both enjoyed the activity together so much. It’s not merely using a water brush to reveal pictures. On the top sheet, it shows you items that you can reveal. It’s a little like treasure hunting. 

We looked out for things such as birds, doors, helmets, barriers etc and described the pictures as they were revealed. 

The pad is made of very strong cardboard that doesn’t get damaged easily when it comes into contact with water. There were times when Theo would be excessively painting a particular spot but the cardboard remained intact – no signs of damage whatsoever. 

I wished there were more sheets to the pad but you can also get farmyard, animals, fairies, princess, and dinosaurs themed ones separately. It was a good 40 minutes spent together “painting” and it was mess-free!!! A great activity to do together especially on evenings when Papa gets home late and I’m too tired to play rough with the boy (he usually does that with his dad). I would imagine it to be a great activity for those who need activities to keep kids occupied when traveling or when waiting at restaurants too – especially kids who can already do such activities independently. 

3-ingredients Sausage Cheddar Puffs

With Christmas just round the corner, I’m experimenting with different fuss-free, quick and easy recipes for upcoming kids’ parties. 

I bought the pastry from the supermarket instead of trying to make it myself. So here’s how I made these simple sausage cheddar puffs.

1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees cels on fan mode. Place a couple of cheddar slices on pastry followed by the sausage.


2. Roll it up.


3. Cut it up bite size.


4. Bake for 15-20minutes.


Definitely what I’ll be bringing to a kids’ Christmas party apart from the usual chocolates and cookies. 

Frankfurt Christmas Market 2016

Last weekend we had family visit us from England and we visited the Frankfurt Christmas Market together. 


To really enjoy the festive spirit, you’ll have to be at the Römer where the massively tall Christmas tree is annually. 

What I love most about the markets at this time of the year is that no matter how grey and miserable the weather gets, colorful displays of sweets, baubles and decorations will brighten up your day. 

One of the things I often check out are the tea light holders. They are often painted with Winter scenes and when illuminated, they are so gorgeous. 


This year I also managed to try some chocolate coated pretzels. I’m usually not a big fan of regular pretzels as I find them a little tough. However these chocolate pretzels were soft! I’ll definitely be back at the market to try the bitter chocolate and white chocolate ones. 

We will also be checking out the smaller markets around Frankfurt this weekend to get some decorations for our first Christmas tree. Pretty excited about that! 

A blog on my three greatest loves – family, food & travels

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