Monday, March 30, 2009

Sarawak laksa rules!

The verdict is in! The best Sarawak laksa can be found at Top 1 food court at Jalan Ang Cheng Ho, Kuching.

Sis no.4 and family was back for the weekend for the 2nd anniversary of mum's passing. She's a Sarawak Laksa nut, so laksa hunting is always on the agenda when she is home. We went to the one at Jln Ang Cheng Ho on Sunday (we haven't been there for a while) and we all finally agreed that the laksa there reigned supreme. A close second is the one available at Mei Mei food centre at Chonglin Park. The one at Chonglin has bigger and nicer prawns, but when it comes to laksa, I think the most important element of this genius invention of culinary masterpeice, is the soup. The laksa soup at Ang Cheng Ho is just right and more 'kau'... it's just superb... words cannot describe. You have to go and try it. It's somewhere behind Kuching Park Hotel. It is admittedly not the cleanest place in the world, but that is negligible, in view of the fact that it has the most wonderfullest laksa in the world!

Other popular laksa stalls in Kuching include the one at Foody Goody (next to Kuching Specialist Centre, Stutong) and the one at Ban Hock Road, beside the Grand Continential Hotel. I don't particularly like the one at Foody Goody, because the smell/taste of one of the spices used is too overpowering (I think my mum said it was jintan putih or something like that) and it blows off the delicate balance of spices. The one at Ban Hock Road is pretty okay. It was made famous by Anthony Bourdain, who did a taping there for the Travel channel.

I managed to find 2 brands of instant Sarawak Laksa paste at the supermarket. All you have to do is boil then add milk or coconut milk and it's ready to be added to beehoon and egg strip, etc... I got them for sis no.4 to bring back to Singapore and haven't tried it myself. I've been meaning to, I've had one packet in the fridge for a month already (keeping my cheese company).

Apparently, Sarawak laksa was invented by this man who was at the time running the SMB St. Joseph, Kuching canteen. It was such a hit that he started manufacturing the paste commercially, at his house at Green Road. It's the famous Swallow brand. He has since retired though, and the Swallow brand paste is no longer available. There are many other brands in the market, but according to hubby's cousin, the Swallow brand paste tasted better because it was produced the old-fashioned way, using charcoal fire. Anyway, I think this guy should be knighted, or in our case, 'Datukked' for such an amazing invention!

There must also be tonnes of MSG (monosodium glutamate/ Ajinomoto/ Ve Tsin) in the laksa that we eat at food stalls. Usually when we make it at home without MSG, it never tastes as good as the ones at the coffee shops. Hubby used to own a restaurant, Oriental Noodles, where they tried to make Laksa for sale. They never suceeded, even after experimenting with many different ingredients. I think the problem was that they did not use MSG in their food. Good for you or not, all I know is that MSG makes everything taste great!

So, here's to Sarawak Laksa; one of the many reasons to be proud to be a Sarawakian!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Label Fables

I've been all over the place looking for Solomon's rusks. It's so hard to find baby biscuits that do not contain too much sugar or salt. Babies below 1 year shouldn't need to take extra sugar or salt. Number one, their immature organs can't handle and don't need it anyway, and two, they do not know what they are missing if they haven't had it yet right? I especially do not want to encourage a sweet tooth, as diabetes runs in daddy's family.

Last month, I managed to find stick-like teething rusks. I think they were from Heinz and contained no sugar and just a wee bit of salt to make it hard. And boy was it hard, Solomon had to suck on it quite long before anything came off! I bought quite a few boxes and there were none left when I went back for more. Later, I found some Farley's rusks which were labeled 'reduced sugar', I bought two boxes and when I went back later there was only one left. Now, I can't find both these types and I just let Solomon suck on apple, guava and carrot pieces. All the other brands available in the market contain so much sugar, Nestle, Milna... I just don't understand it. The children don't need it, and they are so young, they'll be happy with just about any type of food at all, well most of them anyway. They're happy just sucking on non-edible stuff even! Keys, toys, shoes, clothes, toes, hankies, tv control, hand phone!

These few brands I found list sugar as their 2nd or 3rd ingredient. Ingredients are listed in order of largest to smallest quantity. So that's a lot of sugar. Moreover, the brand Baby Bites is made in China... I didn't even bother to look at the ingredients for that one. They didn't list melamine as an ingredient in their milk did they? Lots of companies are really sneaky in their labeling. They'll disguise sugar under the name of sucrose, glucose, etc... it's all still sugar. I also try to buy things with not more than 5 ingredients. It’s not very easy; you should give it a go the next time you’re at the supermarket. More ingredients usually mean the product is more processed and further from its natural state.

When we were in Hong Kong, there was this brand of drinking water, Bonaqua by Coca-Cola. In the hotel mini bar it cost HK$10, at a sundry shop by the hotel, it cost HK$2, and at Ocean Park it cost HK$18! Well, anyway, if you look at it's labeling real close, it says mineralized water. Not mineral water ok? It's actually just filtered water and they add potassium something and sodium chloride, which is just the fancy name of table salt! I'll bet lots of people think it's mineral water they're buying.

Even on over the counter medicines, labels are very misleading. Over the counter means it is accessible to anyone. Since the public has access to it, it is up to their judgment to choose what to buy. Thus manufacturers go all out in their labeling to persuade the buyer, they go one step short of making false claims. Look at Panadol Soluble. It says, "for the relief of fever and aches related to cold and flu". ‘Related to’, mind you. You'll be amazed at the number of people who think Panadol is treatment for cold and flu. I think almost half of my customers make that mistake. Technically, the manufacturers have done nothing wrong. But I just think it's very sly marketing.

I have learned to read the small print on labels carefully. Look at butter and margarine. I try to avoid margarine or shortening. It's a human concoction; its original colour is grey and looks nothing like butter. I'd rather not consume something that ants and cockroaches do not recognize as edible. Even a low life form like mould refuses to grow on it! A lot of 'butter' looking products are actually not butter at all. Even those that come in bars, wrapped up in paper or foil. Read the ingredients. It might be called 'Butterlite' but not contain butter at all. Butter should only have milk, milk fat or cream listed as its ingredients. Those with vegetable oil, etc... are fakes. Real butter is much more expensive, some of the brands I know are Anchor, Golden Churn and that one with the star logo. Is it SCS or something? That's why I bake a lot. I want to try and avoid buying too many bakery goods which are loaded with trans fat. They definitely use shortening as it is so much cheaper and keeps better.

Sometimes I wish I had never heard of trans fat, as now I can't give my kids or myself an Oreo without feeling guilty! Why is all the yummy stuff always bad for you? Correspondingly, all the good stuff tastes crap! I had to mask some oats in chocolate chip cookies the other day. We always buy oats with good intentions and always end up with 1/2 of a tin of oats expiring in the cupboard. What can we do? Eating oats is like sucking on slimy dirt! Oh and those bran stick cereal things! My goodness, I do not categorize that as food! It's like eating cardboard twigs! I had to throw away 3/4 of a box because hubby and I could not get ourselves to choke down anymore of that vile stuff. No amount of disguising could save that; bran-stick chocolate cake anyone? The children wouldn't go within a mile's radius of it. I think it would serve mankind better as hamster feed... no, I like hamsters; hamster bedding, yes, that would be more appropriate. On top of being horrid, most healthy food happens to be expensive! Sigh; just give me one large fries, extra salt please.

A little piece of Magic...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hong Kong DIsneyland 2

So, Hong Kong Disneyland. The thing about Disneyland is that is appeals to the child in all of us, regardless of age. I must say I saw more adults than children there. The performances are rather entertaining for grownups. I loved the ‘Golden Mickeys’, a show imitating the Academy Awards. All the famous Disney movie songs were performed splendidly, with amazing costumes and props. There was also a Broadway theatre style, summarized, rendition of The Lion King which I enjoyed. The children liked the singing and dancing High School Musical show and also the 3D Mickey show. That was funny, the kids were actually standing up and reaching out to try to grab things which were seemingly popping out from the screen!

Oh yes, then we have the grand finale, the fireworks display. For the first night, we just caught the show at the sidelines and thought it was pretty cool. On the second night, we reserved seats half an hour earlier, smack front and centre of Sleeping Beauty Castle, the centerpiece of the whole theme park. Wow, I tell you, we didn’t expect it to be so much more spectacular! It was like a totally different experience! The fireworks synchronized with the music just sent you into another, magical world! It was definitely worth the pins and needles! After the show, when everyone was still agape in awe, Eva nonchalantly got up and announced, “Our house also got le”, implying, ‘what’s the big deal?’ You see, hubby spends tonnes of money every Chinese New Year on obviously illegal fireworks. It has become tradition to come over to our house every Chinese New Year eve if you want to see pyrotechnics. So I guess it’s all the same to her, never mind the wonderful songs, impeccable synchronization and super lighting effects! Annie however, was asking how they manage to light so many fireworks so fast. I guess in her mind she sees dad running up and down lighting fireworks with a cigarette lighter!

The rides were more for children though, like Flying Dumbo, Spinning Teacups, etc… Annie was trying to act ‘cool’, like a High School Musical teenager I suppose, so she complained that the Cinderella Carousel and other such kiddy rides were boring. So, when we got to Tomorrowland, we let her go on the Buzz Lightyear ride with her dad. It turned out to be a roller coaster ride in the dark! Annie is truly afraid of the dark, so we didn’t hear anymore complaints after that!

Luckily the children are not crazy about being photographed with the characters. We spent more than half an hour waiting to take a picture with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger! After that, I didn’t bother anymore with Mickey and Minnie, because they had the longest queue. Thank goodness Annie has grown out of that. When we went to Brisbane, a long time ago, Annie was almost 3 yrs old and insisted on taking photos with every character/mascot and refused to leave the theme park until we found some more characters for her to hug! Claire is indifferent to cuddly creatures, I think she might prefer Ultraman! Eva is terrified of them even, which is why I had to be in the picture as well, otherwise she refused to get near them!

One thing though, many of the performances or narration is done in Cantonese. Suddenly, all of Troy and Gabriella’s school mates have turned into Asians and speak Chinese! But this didn’t prove to be much of a problem anyway.

Well, next stop, Disneyland, USA! Wonder how much that would cost? The thought of flying in a cramped plane for a whole day with cranky kids is enough to scare me away from that thought. What more to say covering a theme park many, many times bigger! This shorter trip to a smaller park already drained every bit of energy from us. But like childbirth, I guess we will soon forget the suffering and look back with rose tinted glasses. So maybe in say, 10 years time? Yes, I think that just might do.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hong Kong Disneyland Part 1

Planning this trip myself was fun, because I had something exciting to look forward to... light at the end of the Tunnel of Everyday Drudgery and Exhaustion! I enjoyed surfing the web searching for accommodation and learning more about Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland. All in all, the holiday cost us around less than RM11,000;

Airfare: RM5265
Accommodation: RM2700
Park Entrance fees: RM1020
Transportation: RM400

Food & Shopping: RM1500

Most things were free for Eva (ages 3 and below), like park entrances and MTR tickets. I splurged a bit on the Disneyland accommodation. There are 2 hotels there, namely Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and Disneyland Hollywood Hotel. The former is a 5 star hotel, while the latter is a 3 star hotel. The standard rooms at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel are only slightly more expensive compared to the other hotel. I also read reviews that said for the price they paid, Hollywood Hotel was disappointing. More importantly, they have princesses greeting you at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel lobby (Annie's dream come true)!

When we got there, we were told we could save even more on rooms, if one of us got an annual pass for the theme park. To upgrade the ticket, we had to pay an extra HK$300 (RM150), but saved around HK$1000 (RM500) on the rooms. So a standard room worked out to cost HK$1200 (RM600) a night. It was worth it, as the hotel was gorgeous. It was Victorian style and had huge glittering chandeliers like the ones in Beauty and the Beast! The rooms were great, the kids were 'wowing' at the flat screen tv, huge beds, spacious bathroom and even the Seven Dwarfs toiletries! :) The staff were also extremely friendly and helpful. We saved on park tickets as well, as there was a promotion for hotel guests; one day tickets purchased could be used for 2 days.

It is their attention to detail that sets them apart from the rest. From the moment you step on the train with the Mickey shaped windows (there's a Disney line that brings you to Hong Kong Disneyland), there are 'hidden Mickeys' everywhere, on the carpet, fencing and even manhole covers! The fact that they keep their 'small guests' in mind is also endearing. They provide a cute mini bathrobe, alongside the 2 adult-sized ones, a plastic cup at the bathroom sink and also a small wooden stool which I assume is for them to reach the sink to brush their teeth.

However, the beds are quite high and there are no safety rails, so at night I had to push the chairs up against the bed to prevent Claire from dropping like a durian to the floor! The beds were fixed to the floor so we could not join them and push them up against the wall, like we usually do. As for Eva, we made a 'nest' for her in between the two beds, using the bed covers and duvets! That way she was safe from falling and cozy as well (she also sleeps on the floor between 2 beds at home you see).

Oh yes, another thing that Annie was exceptionally pleased about was the Disney tv channels. We do have Astro at home, but her evil parents cancelled the cartoon channels because we think apart from Playhouse Disney, the other channels mostly show nonsense; think "Cow and Chicken" or "I are Baboon"! We do however have the adult's nonsense channels like Star World and E (double standard! Hey, we pay the bill!). Well, we thought that maybe they would learn to appreciate the other more educational channels like National Geographic or TVIQ. Instead, they are now hooked on shows like "Adi dan Ayah" and "Tom Tom Bak" on Astro Ceria. Sigh, I guess at least they can improve their Bahasa Malaysia. Actually, Claire and Eva's BM is quite good, since Paula the maid can only speak BM. Claire and Eva even speak BM to each other most of the time when they are playing alone!

to be continued... when I can find the time...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Flying Air Asia

I haven't blogged for a week! We just came back from a 5 day, 4 night holiday to Hong Kong. Hubby and I brought Annie, Claire and Eva. Poor baby Solomon had to stay at Grandpa's place with Paula the maid. The way we see it, he's too small to understand and appreciate most things anyway. He'd be much happier at home with his toys and familiar food and surroundings. Besides that, bringing 3 kids on holiday is already a test of physical and mental/emotional stamina. Throw in a puking, pooping 7 month old baby into the equation and I'd rather stay at home, thank you very much.

Hubby and I have already been to Hong Kong once, so we've done the mandatory tourist spots, like The Peak, Victoria Harbour, Kowloon Street Markets, etc... This time around, I planned a no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point, specially-for-kids, theme-park-only holiday. Days 1 and 5 were spent travelling, day 2 at Ocean Park and days 3 and 4 were dedicated to Hong Kong Disneyland.

Before the trip, hubby asked me, "Why only 4 nights?" On the last night of the vacation, he said, "Now I know why!" Essentially, the children are the ones on holiday. We just tag along to serve them. It was seriously exhausting work, we must have walked a few kilometres a day, pushing strollers, carrying too lazy/tired to walk, pre-obese toddlers (Eva aged 2+ is 18kg and Claire aged 3+ is 26kg!), bringing them to the loo every hour and basically trying to squeeze in as much entertainment as we could into a day. I don't think we could have survived another day at the pace we were going. But I guess it's all worth it when you see the kids having the time of their lives!

Well, physical torture aside, we didn't have such a bad time ourselves. The shows at Disneyland were particularly spectacular. Hubby was drooling over the fireworks display, he has a thing for fireworks, firearms, explosives and basically all things destructive. He was 'helping' Annie at the dart gun, fun fair game and fell in love with the Tommy gun-like, battery operated, automatic soft dart gun. Never mind that it was bright yellow. Claire has inherited this love of guns from him. For their presents, Annie chose a Tinkerbell toy, Eva a Mickey Mouse spinning light thingy, whereas Claire chose a Buzz Lightyear gun which shoots soft discs. Let's just hope Solomon doesn't develop a preference for Barbie Dolls in the future.

Anyway, this whole vacation was conceived about a year ago. It was one of those Air Asia 0 fare promotion drives. I managed to buy tickets for us from Kuching to Macau, with the intention of then taking a ferry to Hong Kong. It didn't matter that I had to book a year in advance because hey, zero fare okay? Well, far from RM0, the tickets cost me around RM1500.

Anyways, months later, they cancelled the Kuching-Macau route! After hours waiting on their help line, I discovered my options were to either get re-routed for free, or to convert my RM1500 into credit (nope, no such thing as refunds). Being re-routed would mean flying to KL, then flying to Macau, then taking a ferry to Hong Kong. All the while towing 3 kids, a back pack, a suitcase and a stroller? Bad idea. Therefore I opted for the credit. By then the children were already excited about the prospect of going to Disneyland Hong Kong, so I couldn't change the destination. I did not want to change the dates either, because it was appropriately during the school holidays. So in the end I booked from Kuching to KL, then KL direct to Hong Kong. Since these were no longer 0 fares, the credit didn't even cover the KCH-KL fare; I had to top up another RM3700++. Furthermore, there was a time limit on the validity of the credit, so I couldn't dilly dally. Oh yes, and also booking using credit could not be done online, so I had to line up at the Air Aisa counter at the airport. What fun!

I purchased express boarding as well, because I detest queuing, pushing, shoving and running ala Amazing Race to the plane. Then, just last month or two, they did away with express boarding! Now you can purchase seats at RM20 or was it 25, for hot seats, and RM5 for regular ones. This is a good move, as boarding Air Asia planes is now a bit more civilized. Anyway, I was not informed of the change and when I inquired later, I found out that 'the system' had already allocated seats for us. We were given first row seats most of the time (I must be the sucker who booked the flight the earliest!), but were separated for 2 flights and had to rely on the grace of the other passengers to change seats.

After all this aggravation, guess what? They have now resumed Kuching-Macau flights! Talk about dancing around the coconut tree! All that said, I guess the important thing is we went on a holiday and we enjoyed ourselves. If it weren't for the Air Asia promo in the first place, we most probably wouldn't have gone on this vacation. I have now learnt my lesson though; I shall not book flights more than 6 months in advance. Well, I did book a Singapore flight for November, zero fare ma... Will start after this.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sunday Market

Hubby and I went to the Sunday Market last week. I haven't been there in ages. I remember when we were small, we used to call it the Dirty Market, because it was so wet and stinky, especially at the fish and meat section. That's why we left the kids at grandpa and grandma's house. I was sure they would not appreciate the trip! They'd much rather go to the air-conditioned supermarket where everything is safely sealed in plastic and animals have already been chopped up into the more familiar bite-sized pieces!

Just yesterday my sis told me that she also went to another market at Petanak and brought Alaena, her no.2 along. She's 4yrs old and a real lady, that one. She loves wearing her fake plastic high heels, accessories and pretty dresses. She also helps herself to her mum's make-up and her dad's hair gel. Anyway, when they got to the pork section at the market, she started making gagging sounds and looked about to vomit! Everyone was laughing at her and her mum was thoroughly embarrassed!

Anyways, hubby and I were at the market looking for fresh seafood. He likes those smallish fishes that you fry or grill. We managed to get some super fresh fish and some okay prawns. Just being at the market is an experience. I like going through the jungle produce sections and checking out the strange fruits and ferns on sale. I think the children would like the plants and pets section. There are puppies and rabbits, fish and birds. It's also not that dirty there.

I remember buying chicks and ducklings from the market when I was small. I don't know what happened to them. When we were children, with 6 of us kids, the house was sometimes like a zoo! We've had all sorts of animals passing through. Mum and dad must've been very patient and nurturing, allowing us our pets of choice and letting them reproduce uncontrollably! Big sis once brought back a piglet which she fell in love with during a trip to our then kakak's (house maid) kampung. It grew quite big, until one day granpa slaughtered it!

Sis no.3 loved fishes and was in charge of the aquariums. She has since then managed to find a husband who is 'fish crazy'ier than her. And their house now has fish in every corner, in every type of water receptacle imaginable.

The rabbits were mine. I loved feeding them and watching them wash their faces. I always thought they were such convenient pets, with hard, usually dry, pellet-like poo, cleaning up after them was easy. I still remember the morning before school, when I found Sara's mangled body on the ground. She'd escaped from her cage and the dogs got to her!

I don't know where the cats came from, and I lost count of the number of batches of puppies and kittens we went through. Now cat poo is by far the stinkiest of all poos... no actually, duck poo is seriously stinky too! Puppies were the cutest. I can't remember it, but my sisters tell me that one pooped on my head while I was playing with it. When she got home from work, mum was surprised that I had actually taken my bath early that day.

Little brother was responsible for the smelly duck dynasty out back. It started with a pair of cute ducklings from the same Sunday Market. After a while they were not that cute anymore. Then they started laying eggs! He asked dad how the eggs came about, and dad just said, "magic". Trust dads to give just that type of answer. When they reproduced and grew bigger, mum started giving them away to family and friends. So, when people came over, he would take a chair out to the garden and sit, guarding his precious ducks!

Well anyway, the Sunday Maket in fact opens on Saturday and closes on Sunday. So by Sunday afternoon, you might get to bargain a bit. However, both of us are not very good in the art of bargaining. My mum was a real pro at that. We definitely need more practise. Will bring the kids along on the next trip!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Want to do some charity?

I remember reading about Jet Li's charitable organisation, One Foundation. His life changed after a near death experience during the devastating 2004 tsunami. He was holidaying in the Maldives with his family when the tsunami came and swept him, his 2 daughters (1 and 4yrs old) and his nanny away. Luckily they survived the ordeal (his wife was safe in the hotel room).

Anyway, that experience made him re-evaluate his life and he vowed to devote more of his time to help the less fortunate. He found out that, in China especially, a lot people were doing well financially and would love to give back to society. However, they do not know how and where, and trust is always an issue. You need to know that the money you are giving actually reaches the people you want to help. There are plenty of cases of crooked organisations, where money is channeled into the wrong pockets.

So, he came up with the One Foundation, where people pledge just one yuan a month. If everyone did that, it would add up to billions! He advocates transparency, so they hire external auditors Deloitte, and they post annual reports on the web.

Well, now I'm inspired to do more on my part. My dad is involved in quite a few social welfare and church projects. Currently, they are trying to raise funds to build a Catholic church in Betong, a rural area in Sarawak. They are selling raffle tickets at RM30 for a book of 10pcs and generous sponsors have donated many amazing prizes.

The first prize is: 1 unit 1 1/2 storey intermediate house at Block 25, Muara Tuang Land District, Kuching.

Three 2nd prizes: 1 unit Honda Motorcycle each

Five 3rd prizes: 1 unit Samsung 42" Plasma TV each

Ten 4th prizes: 1 unit Samsung Washing Machine each

Twenty five 5th prizes: 1 unit Sharp Microwave Oven each

Fifty 6th prizes: 1 unit Sony DVD Player each

One hundred 7th prizes: 1 unit Pensonic 12" Table Fan each

Sure beats the usual hampers and toasters and such...

1. Must produce original coupons to claim prizes.
2. To claim within one month.

3. cannot be exchanged/redeemed for cash.

4. to be claimed at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Sri Aman. Tel: 083-320528
5. Draw Date: 30th September 2009

I'll post the results here as well...

So, if you haven't already guessed... I'm asking you guys to buy tickets. They'll be available at my shop, Pal Pharmacy, at RH Plaza, BDC, tel.:082-460299.

Or, I figured how you can buy without coming to my shop. Bank in money at any Public Bank cash deposit machine (acc. no. 3125166026, Pal Pharmacy), then fax me the bank-in slip that comes out, along with your name and phone number and email add. I'll tell you your ticket numbers and of course inform you if you win! So, you'll have to trust me a bit :) Promise I won't steal your house or plasma tv!

My fax number is the same as my phone number: 082-460299

You are most welcome to help me sell tickets as well. Initially, I was just approaching friends and regular customers/friends at my shop. Then last night, the chairman of this project passed away quite suddenly after a stroke. He also happens to be my husband's relative. So I thought they'll be needing even more help now. I am also always thinking of doing more charity work next time, when I have more spare time, more money, when they kids are older, etc... The usual excuses. Why not now? Procrastinating is not in anymore! Proactive is the word! Go, go go! (I hope to maintain this 'drive' for as long as possible!)

So, all of you, please contribute! Now, now, now! Don't wait... the good intentions usually get buried under work and stress after a while! Then you'll have to wait for the next wave of inspiration!

Good luck! Remember, if you don't win, you would still have done some good! Even if you are not a christian, you would have benefited someone less fortunate than you. Extra merit points in heaven! haha..

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Annie had her school sports day on Saturday. It was drizzling a bit, but not enough to douse the children's excitement. It was refreshing to see all these kids with so much spirit; they looked like they were ready to take on the world! Remember when we were like that? *Sigh* Those were the days. I think we as parents should nourish this spirit and try our best not to taint it with our own jaded and negative views of the real, big, bad world. There will be plenty time enough for them to learn later on in life. For now, it's just so great to see kids so carefree and just being kids.

I remember when my sisters and I were small, we could laugh endlessly at just about anything! The type of side-splitting, out-of-breath kind of laughing! I'll bet this kind of laugh has medicinal properties! When my kids are at it now, my first instinct is to tell them to keep it down. Then I realise that I should be happy that they're so happy. Isn't that what we are toiling for day after day? Their happiness? And also our retirement fund of course :)

Anyway, Annie participated in the 'fun games' event. They had to run with a beanbag on their head and the first team to complete would win. She was a bit disappointed, as her Purple House team came in third and they didn't get prizes. Other than that she enjoyed herself screaming for her house, eating Hot Cup noodles and getting diabetes from the free Milo!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's actually easy to make bread!

I was watching Jamie Oliver making bread. He makes it look so easy! Forget all the recipes which tell you to let knead the dough for ages, then let it rest for half an hour, then punch it down, then let it proof again for half hour, then roll it out, then let it rest again till it doubles in size, etc... These recipes are why I've never tried making bread. It must be a conspiracy between recipe writers and bread making machine manufacturers!

Anyways, I modified a bit and here it is. All you need is 1/2kg flour, a packet of dry yeast (11g), 250ml water, a handful each of salt and of sugar and whatever you want to stuff it with (I used sandwich ham, hard boiled eggs halved and... cream cheese!). Just dump everything but filling into bowl, mix till comes together. Then, knead about 5 mins and roll out flat into a rectangle. Put filling in centre and fold up the 2 long sides to wrap up the filling. Shape the length into a circle on a tray, rest for 15 mins then bake at 190 degrees Celsius for about 1/2hr. Oh ya, rub top with oil before baking for a crunchy crust. So, so simple.

It was real yummy, though Jamie Oliver used mozarella and parmesan cheese and also parma ham, which sounds much yummier! In the end it was hubby and me who ate the thing, as usual. Gave the other half to dad. Will have to try the other recipe for the kids. Jamie Oliver made double the amount of dough and the other half he filled with Nutella chocolate spread, bananas and nuts! Ooooo.... For sure the kids will like that one! Might have to pick out the nuts for Eva though.

The bread turns out a bit hard like French loaf and other western breads. If you like softer breads like Taiwanese style ones you need to add egg and milk I think. Will try that next time. I think my kids will prefer a softer bread. Eva would prefer not to chew at all if she had a choice! Anything soft and nothing black! She'll pick out any black specks in her food, however microscopic. Her favourite food is rice and she usually only allows soup and egg to be added. I know, I know, will have to try harder to introduce variety into her diet. Sometimes I'm just too tired and lazy to go through the whole 'please eat your veggies' routine, if its plain white rice she wants, then give her plain white rice!

Claire on the other hand will eat just about anything. All children are such individuals, totally different from their siblings. Annie, at 7 yrs old, already thinks she's fat! That's just crazy!

Hubby is now trying to lose weight to see if he can stop depending on his diabetes medication to bring his blood glucose down. He wants to eat bitter gourd everyday! Yucks! Luckily, he actually loves fruits and vegetables. He can drool over fruits at a fruit stall the same way I drool over chocolates at a sweet shop! I don't understand it. Now all this has started me thinking about that Old Gold rum and raisin chocolate in my fridge. Mmmm... The kids don't like the alcohol in it, so I have no choice but to keep it for myself! :)

So, anyway, now I have a new project to look forward to. Chocolate bread.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sick again!

Sigh.. Solomon and Eva are sick again! Eva must've gotten a bug from school and passed it on to Solomon. Now they're both on Augmentin. Solomon's only 6 months old and this is the third time he's on antibiotics! I think he's broken the family record. Well, at least it's not Hand Foot and Mouth disease. There was 1 case in Eva's school this week. It's a good thing that her school is very honest and careful. They check mouth, hands and feet every morning before washing hands and they will inform parents straight away if there are any confirmed cases. Her principal says that the health ministry has predicted a Coxsackie outbreak this year. Hip hip hooray...

Solomon hit 38.8 degrees Celsius last night. Luckily Eva's fever wasn't so high. Poor Solomon was feeling miserable and couldn't sleep from midnight till about 2:30 a.m. So of course mummy had to entertain him. I'm so glad that in about 3 years time I don't have to do this fever night watch thing anymore! At his age, old folks say they get fevers all the time, when they're teething, when they get their jabs, when they're learning something new? I don't know the logic behind that last one. Maybe the new task overloaded their brain? Er...

Anyway, Solomon's been putting things in his mouth since he was 3 months old and people have been saying he's teething since then. I still don't see any teeth. I'm not worried though, my nephew Bryan got his first tooth at the age of 1!

Now I'm debating on whether to get all the kids vaccinated with the new pneumococcal vacine. I think I most probably will, but I haven't yet decided whether to vaccinate Solomon now or after he turns 2. If he gets it now, he'll need 3 jabs. After the age of 2 you only need 1. Seeing as Solomon gets sick real easy, I might go for the 3 jabs. Not cheap. Each jab is around RM300 if I'm not mistaken. Multiply that by 4 kids, or 6 if Solomon goes now! Decisions, decisions... It is already routine in western countries though.

It's gambling, like buying insurance. There's not a very high chance of contracting meningitis, but if you do, the consequences can be dire. Then there's also short term side effects but those are not serious. What worries me more is, as with everything that is relatively new, you do not know what they might uncover say, 10 years down the line. The pharmaceutical industry is an extremely lucrative one, it's all about money and it is well known to have made mistakes before. The most famous one being the Thalidomide Disaster, long time ago in dunno what year, 1960 something? That was real sad. Pregnant mothers took a new morning sickness drug and many children were born with deformed limbs.

Well, what about stem cell banking? I did that for Eva and Solomon. There isn't that much you can do with cord stem cells yet. Moreover, research is moving in the direction of using adult stem cells harvested from the spine, which will render cord stem cells redundant. However, there are still some uses for it and since it isn't all that expensive, I don't see why we shouldn't do it. If a time comes when you need it in a matter of life and death, what price are you then willing to pay? Cord stem cells are usually more useful for siblings than for the baby himself. So I thought it would only be fair to Eva if I banked Solomon's as well! I did it with Stem Life. I think there are only 2 companies in Malaysia. The other is Cryo Cord. Stem Life is more established, in my opinion.

Okay better go see to my two sick babies!
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