Friday, 25 September 2015

Bento

Packing lunch for the kiddos is new to me. The children didn't stay past lunch in their school in Singapore, nor did they do so when they first started school here in Seattle.

This academic year, though, Little Man is at school from 9am till 3pm, and I pick Little Lady up after lunch at 12.15pm.  I figured that since I have to pack a lunch for Little Man, I might as well pack her a lunch as well, rather than cook another meal in time for her lunch after picking her up.

However, it is tough thinking of what to pack for lunch every day!  Well, for me, at least.  So what do I do?  Turn to the internet for inspiration, of course! Oh my goodness!  The wealth of ideas out there!  I mean, look at these examples! Calvin and Hobbes!  Spongebox Squarepants! Super kawaii!
Source
Source
Source
I know myself.  I do not have the talent to do anything close to that.  Nor do I have the ability to wake up early enough to do so.

So I looked at the more western options, and came across these easy to prepare ones:
Source: http://www.bentoschoollunches.com
Source: http://www.craftionary.net/

Source: http://www.easylunchboxes.com
These are definitely more manageble. However (I know, I know, I'm so hard to please), many of these feature lots of processed food (ham, biscuits, cheese) and sandwiches.  Not sure why I'm reluctant to give them too many sandwiches as I ate a lot of them for recess as a kid.  I guess my mindset at the moment is still very Asian - need to have rice.  As for processed foods, I try my best not to include too much of those in meals I make for the family.

Don't even get me started on the choices of bento boxes out there!  I want to buy them all!!!

This was one of the first bentos I packed for the kiddos, when they went for Summer Camp.

It is fried rice, with a Siew Mai, mini strawberry muffin, and apple slices.  The boxes are part of a Lock and Lock set my Mum gave some time ago.

Join me as I embark on my Bento Adventures.

Do you bento? Do share in the comments!






Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Fun Friday: Remlinger Farms

I am extremely tardy in writing about our visit to Remlinger's.  We actually visited several weeks ago, but I'm only updating now.  *paiseh*

We visited Remlinger Farms with our friends who are also our neighbours.  In addition to U-Picks during strawberry, raspberry and pumpkin season, they are also a little theme park.  When we visited, there were no U-Pick in season, which was just as well, as we were there for the Theme Park.  

We had separately bought tickets from Groupon at a roughly 30% discount, so look out for that if you can.  We arranged to meet there at about 11 am.  However, we ran late, so arrived at about 11:30 instead. The queue was looooong.  So if you intend to visit on a weekend, be there early!
Some of the many cut-outs to take pictures with.


We really liked the place.  It is catered for families with young kids.  It had many rides, almost all of them suitable for younger children.  Even Little Lady, who is not very tall, qualified to take most of the rides.

Their favourite was the one with the flying corn.  They also went on a mini train kiddy ride and a canoe ride on their own.  Little Lady had fun on a carousel, and as a family, we went on an actual train ride, sat in a spinning cup, and had a ride on antique cars.  There were more rides, such as a mini ferris wheel (which was not working that day), even a roller coaster!  We didn't have time to go on all the rides, so we'll have to return for another visit some time.

There is also a petting zoo, which I do not have pictures of, as I was queuing up for the train ride at the time.

The kiddos also went on a pony ride. The queue for the pony ride was sooooooooooooooo long.  It was worth it, though.  They had so much fun.  Little Lady was first assigned to Peaches, but her friend, whose pony came first, was too nervous to mount her pony, so Little Lady got on, to reassure her that it was not so scary after all.  I reminded Mr Cuppa to take photos since he was accompanying Little Man.  And so I got a photo of Little Man's mount, without Little Man.  Ah well.

Something that I thought really cool, and that the children had great fun in was the Hay Maze and Hay Jump. They made a maze out of hay bales, and instead of a ball pit, they had a 'hay pit', that had a climbing wall at one end.  Both kiddos had loads of fun running, jumping and falling.

As luck would have it, the school is having a field trip the Remlinger Farms in a couple of weeks.  Yay!

In the market/gift shop, you can score very fresh fruit and vegetables, and their many varieties of pie.  We tried the Dutch Apple Pie, and it was yummy!  I was glad to see it available at our local QFC (supermarket) at the same price.

So if you're in the neighbourhood, do consider bringing your kiddos to Remlinger Farms for some wholesome fun!  Do check on their website for dates before you visit though, they're closed from mid-autumn till mid-spring.


Sunday, 30 August 2015

SG 50 Celebrations

This is a special year for Singapore. She is half a century old!  That is actually very young, in the grand scheme of things, and compared to many countries around the world.  However, for a country with only one natural resource (people - sadly, that resource is running dry too :( ), she didn't do too badly.

Last year, knowing that we would be away this year, I booked a room the the Fairmont, overlooking to bay to catch the NE Show.  Being away this year meant that we missed the fantastic aerial show put up by the Black Knights.  I also missed the live streaming of the National Day Parade.  Although I tried, I just was not able to keep my eyes open.

We celebrated by having a BBQ with lots of Singaporean food with fellow Singaporeans and a Malaysian-American family.
Fried Mee Siam, Ramly Burger, Otah, red and white Logan Almond Jelly.  Our American friends contributed yummy Tuna Pasta, Cheesy Zucchini, and Raw Cookie Dough (no egg no wheat flour), sadly we didn't get any pictures of those - too busy eating. 

Two weeks later, we joined the SG50 celebrations organised by the Seattle Singaporeans Meetup Group. It was a massive celebration with 300 people, mainly from the Pacific Northwest, but also with some coming up from San Francisco, LA, even New York and Hawaii!  Singapore Ambassador to the US, Mr Ashok Kumar Mipuri was the Guest of Honour.

The place was decorated in red and white. They sold Prima and noodles by Nona Lim, for those who want to make Singaporean food at home.  Highlight of the lunch was the laksa!  Very, very yummy!

Each family who registered early enough received a SG50 Fun Pack!  Yay! Old school flag erasers, the Singapore scarf, Singa!  The tables were named after street names in Singapore, and we were seated at Mandai Road.

The children's outfits were from Elly, a Singaporean establishment.  I was trying to decide between the red and white set (for obvious reasons) and this year's CNY set. In the end, I went with this year's set, because the fabric is called 'Home', and features Singaporean icons such as HDB blocks, buses, the Dragon and Pelican playground structures.  I wore my paternal Grandmother's kebaya top.  (Note to self - get a sarong to go with it.)

It was really nice to be surrounded by Singaporeans and singing national songs.  It was a good National Day celebration away from home.

Happy SG50, Singapore.  We miss you.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bath Dough DIY

Some time back, a friend of mine introduced me to a really cool product, Lush Fun.  It is like play dough, but soap/bubble bath.

It reminded me of a simple two ingredient play dough I had seen around the interwebs.  The original two ingredients were corn flour (aka corn starch in the U.S.) and conditioner.  Since I wanted to use it as soap, I replaced the conditioner with liquid soap! Genius, right? Mix the corn flour with your favourite shower gel, and you get play dough which doubles up as soap!

Because I like to complicate matters, I used more than two ingredients.

Instead of shower gel, I used Dr Woods Unscented Baby Mild Castile Soap which I bought off iHerb.com (use LOG568 for a $10 discount).  I intentionally got this particular soap because it is unscented, as I wanted to add my own scents.  I also added some food colouring.

To make my bath dough, I used
1 cup corn flour
1/2 cup liquid soap
food colouring (optional - I only added two drops)
13 drops essential oil (optional - I originally added 8 drops, but the scent was barely noticeable, I then added 5 more drops, but that ended up too strong for me. The kids didn't mind, though.)

After the kiddos chose the scent and colours they wanted for their bath dough, I dumped everything into their bowls and let them mix it up. You could just mix them up with your hands, but neither of them are particularly fond of sticky stuff, so they preferred to use tools.

Once the wet and dry ingredients were more or less incorporated, I hand kneaded the mixture (because sticky).  I had to add a little more corn flour to Little Man's dough, and a little more soap to Little Lady's, to get the correct consistency.


The resulting dough was very soft, smooth and silky. Little Man and Little Lady had great fun making the play dough and playing with it after.

They each brought some when it was time to have a bath.  Because the soap I used did not have a lathering agent, it did not produce any bubbles.  However, if you're using normal shower gel (with SLS or SLSA in the ingredients), it should bubble up nicely.  Let me know if it does if you go that route.

I really love the bath dough because it is multi-purpose.  The children play with it as they do play dough, and instead of throwing it out when it gets old or mouldy or icky, we just take a bit to bathe/shower with every day! No waste!

Do try it out and let me know how it goes!

If you would rather make ordinary play dough, you can try this recipe.

*****
Little Man - 5 years 2 months
Little Lady - 3 years 1 month

Friday, 24 July 2015

Summer Celebration

The thing about summer is that there is so much to do!  And not enough time to do them all. 

Take two weekends ago for example.  There was the Summer Celebration - two days of festivities, including a parade, boat rides, a festival/carnival/fairgrounds, fireworks etc.

However, we also had a birthday party to attend, and a Day Out with Thomas.

 
We managed to see the parade on Saturday before going to the birthday party for lunch.  Unfortunately, we were all to tired out to make it to the park for festivities and fireworks when we got back.

On Sunday, we managed to stop by for a Norwegian Pancake breakfast.  Yummy crepes cooked on a barbeque topped with your choice of jam, honey and sugars (normal, cinnamon or powdered).  There was a fairground with lots of inflatables, rides, entertainment and even more food.

Unfortunately, we had to rush of to attend the Day Out With Thomas at Snoqualmie, so we could not stop to play just then.  We promised to make a day out of it and go back after we were done with Thomas, but by the time we got back, they were done for the day (and summer!). So the children could not play on any of the inflatables or rides.  They were really good about it, and enjoyed themselves on the playground, though.

Next year, I'll need to plan better and ensure that the fun stuff that we want to do don't clash.  :)





Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Blueberries!

It's summer here in the Pacific North West. And apparently, something that one must do in summer is pick your own fruit!  There are many farms which cater for people to go and pick their own fruit, known as "U-Pick".  There are U-Pick for all kinds of berries, even peaches and cherries!  We had already picked strawberries. We gave raspberries a miss and didn't realise there U-Pick cherries and peaches were available. Anyway, the U-Pick farms for cherries and peaches are rather far away, with cherry season over by the time I realised they were an option.

We arranged to pick blueberries with a friend this weekend, and discovered that there is a farm not far from our place, Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm.  It was established in the 1940s, and is owned and managed by the Bellevue Parks and Community Services Department to preserve the agricultural heritage of Bellevue.

Walking to the blueberry bushes with their pails.  We brought our own pails simply because we had two small ones, just right for them.  Blueberry bushes are taller than strawberry plants.  Which is less back-breaking for the adults.

Having fun picking blueberries.  There were still quite a bit of small, unripe blueberries on the plants, which means that we're not at the end of blueberry season yet.  The big, blue ones are the sweetest.  The purple ones still rather tart.   Some plants were rather bare, but the less accessible plants were still full of berries, so you just have to hunt for them. 

The little rascals soon discovered a quicker way to fill their pails with blueberries - by taking them out of my bucket.
 
So, what to do with the blueberries we picked?  Obvious choices would be blueberry muffins and blueberry pancake. However, I don't really like muffins, and the children don't  like stuff in their pancakes. 

So, I searched the internet for ideas and these five called out to me:
3) Blueberry Lemon Popsicles (hmm... it seems blueberry and lemon pair well together)

I'll try some of these out and let you know how it goes.  If I don't finish the blueberries first, that is. I find myself grabbing a handful whenever I walk past the kitchen counter.


Thursday, 16 July 2015

Day Out With Thomas


Little Man and Little Lady both love Thomas the Tank Engine.  So when I found out, shortly after moving here, that there would be a Thomas event at the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, I knew we could not miss it, and bought the tickets online, about four months ahead. 
 
We were supposed to be there an hour before our scheduled train ride, but I left the tickets on the dining table and only realised it when we were almost there.  By the time we got there with the tickets, we were just in time to join the queue to board the train. Phew!

It was a short ride - just from the Snoqualmie Depot up to the Snoqualmie Falls and back.  Each child received a Junior Engineer certificate after the ride.

One cool thing about Thomas was that his eyes move and his face changes!

The grounds around the were open only to ticket holders, and there were many other activities available. The children were given a map with four stations to visit and collect stamps from.  They met and had a picture taken with Sir Topham Hatt, played with trains at one of the numerous train tables, had temporary tattoos done, played with sand, bounced in an inflatable bouncy castle and had a ride on a track maintenance car.  There was a stage where local performers sang and entertained the crowd.


There was even a Punch and Judy show, which is so quintessentially British.  It was nice to hear some British vocabulary.  The show was rather violent -  Little Lady didn't enjoy it much, but Little Man was very amused. 
 
Day Out With Thomas is not specific to Snoqualmie, but is an annual national tour organized by HiT Entertainment.  If you're in the States, or will visit it soon, check out the schedule if you'd like to catch Thomas.
 
It was a really fun day out with the kids.  There was just enough to do, not too little and not too much.  I think it is most suitable for toddlers and pre-schoolers.  Older children might find the activities a little childish.  I'm glad that we sprang for the tickets.  It is one of the few activities where Little Lady really enjoyed herself.  While she is content to follow her brother and do whatever he does, she does not always have fun, so I'm glad she genuinely enjoyed herself this time.
 
 
 
 


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Friday, 10 July 2015

Turmeric Chicken and Basmati Pilaf


Moving to the US has meant that I cook every day.  Eating out is a lot more expensive than back home, as the option of hawker food is not available.  Being here also means that I can no longer rely on Yati to cook for us.  Neither can we run to my Mum's or my Mum-in-law's place for a meal.  So I cook.

Strangely, I hardly cook Western dishes now that I'm here.  Back in Singapore, I used to do both Eastern and Western.  I think subconsciously I must be wanting to hang on to my roots. I guess it is similar to how I used to speak more dialect when travelling.  I remember on a trip to the Middle East with my Dad way back when, we conversed mainly in Teochew, even though my command of the language was rather sucky.  I can't do that here because Mr Cuppa is not Teochew and does not understand it. :(

One day, we ran out of Jasmine rice.  Fortunately, I had a packet of Basmati rice on hand, and so I decided to make a pilaf.  A pilaf is basically a savory rice dish where the rice is browned in oil or butter before it is cooked in liquid. This makes the grains distinct and separate. It originates in India, but is found all over Asia and the Middle East.  Depending on where it is from, you can find pilafs with vegetables, dried fruit and nuts, fish and meat.

My version is with chicken, because I am lazy and like to cook one dish meals. Actually, if you add in the dried fruit, nuts and chopped capsicum, it would be a one dish meal.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't have any of these ingredients on hand when I cooked it for the first time.  Good thing is, the kids loved it!  The rice is fluffy and fragrant, and I did not have to remind anyone to eat when I cooked it.  The second time I cooked it, I had dried fruit and nuts, but I still didn't add them in as I didn't want to run the risk of the kids not eating it with all the additions.  I still provided them, but as optional extras to add at the table.  Little Man tried some, but Little Lady wanted nothing to do with the extras. :)

Ok, long story later, here is the recipe (at last).


Turmeric Chicken with Basmati Pilaf
(serves 6-8)

Tumeric Chicken

8 pieces of chicken (drumsticks / thighs)
1 tbsp ground tumeric (or more – make sure the chicken has a nice colour)
1 tsp salt
  1. Season chicken pieces with salt and tumeric.
  2. Mix well and leave to marinate while preparing the rice.

Basmati Pilaf

4 cups basmati rice
1½ medium yellow onions, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground black pepper
salt for seasoning
½ cup dried fruit (chopped dried apricot / cranberries / raisins) *Optional
½ cup toasted almond slivers. *Optional
oil
3 tbsp unsalted butter (more or less)
water or chicken stock to cook the rice (sorry, can't give a quantity as I eyeballed it – basically I used the same amount of water to cook normal Jasmine rice)

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  2. Wash basmati rice until water runs clear. Drain well and set aside. (I put into a strainer and left it to drain while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.)
  3. Heat oil into a pot/pan and brown the chicken, skin side down first.
  4. When skin is golden brown, brown the other side. Chicken does not have to be fully cooked, since it will continue cooking in the oven.
  5. Take out chicken pieces and set aside.
  6. Lower heat and add butter to oil.
  7. Add onion and fry till fragrant and translucent.
  8. Add the garlic, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon and fry till fragrant. (maybe half a minute)
  9. Add rice, salt and pepper and mix well. (To be honest, I didn't add any salt at all.)
  10. Add water or stock. (I used up some leftover stock, but didn't have enough, so topped up with water.)
  11. Arrange chicken pieces on top of rice.
  12. Cover pot and place in oven for about 30 minutes.
  13. Remove lid and bake for about 10 more minutes if you wish to for more colour.
  14. Remove from oven and serve.
  15. Enjoy!

Note: The dried fruit and nuts can be added to the rice at the table, after removing the chicken, then mixed in. I didn't as my children don't like it, but they were available for others at the table.

Postscript:
Many apologies for the lack of photos. I know it makes for a boring blog post, but I'm still not used to taking photos of everything.  I just do, you know?  Got hungry tummies waiting.  Cannot waste time taking the perfect shot. First time I cooked this, I didn't even get pictures of the finished product!  Luckily I remembered this time. :P



Friday, 19 June 2015

Free Fun Friday: Children's Season - Masak Masak 2014

Ok, so this post is about a year late. 

Sometime last July, we were at the National Museum of Singapore for the Children's Season 2014.  Specifically, we were there for Masak Masak: My Childhood 2014. On the Front Lawn of the Museum was Playgounds on the Lawn, with inflatable, bouncy castle versions of the iconic Singaporean heritage playgrounds, the Dragon and the Watermelon.

Inside the Museum itself, there was Play@National Museum of Singapore, a then new area to introduce the concept of museums to young children through fun and interaction.

They tried their hand at making their own diaoramas at the paper art installation on level 2 - "Rouleaux" by French artist Anastassia Elias.
The children had fun playing with giant versions of marbles, sticks and five stones, set up in collaboration with students from School of the Arts.

They tried their hand at making their own diaoramas at the paper art installation on level 2 - "Rouleaux" by French artist Anastassia Elias.
Amazing what can be done with toilet paper rolls!

Also on the second level was the installation by Spanish artist Guixot, "Sculpture Scribble".
 
*****

http://www.museums.com.sg/cs15

Children's Season 2015 is now on!  In addition to Masak Masak 2015, there are many more activities taking place over 19 museums across the island.  For more information, please visit their website.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Wordless(ish) Wednesday - Strawberry Picking

We went strawberry picking over the weekend.  There are a few  U-Pick farms around, but we decided to go to Bolles Organic Berry Farm on the recommendation of our friend Cindy.  x
 
  We were greeted by a small tentage.

Are there any strawberries left for us?
 
Found one!
 
Pull.
 
Little Man feeding Little Lady strawberries.
 
Say "Strawberries!"
 
Taking a break.
 
Our loot - self-harvested organic strawberries and local honey.
 
Due to the unseasonably warm weather, the strawberries were small, and the season short.


Friday, 12 June 2015

America's Car Museum

One really nice thing about the Seattle area is the number and variety of museums around.  A couple of weekends ago, our friend, WL, stopped by Seattle for a visit at the tail end of his business trip in the U.S.  Although he would have been happy to just hang out at our place, we decided to let the kiddos expend their energy at America's Car Museum down in Tacoma. The museum contains about 500 mostly vintage cars from the private collection of one Harold LeMay, a successful local businessman.  Apparently, his family own and run the LeMay Family Collection Foundation, which has another 1500 vintage cars!

 Some of the cars in the museum.

Hood Ornaments!

Tickets cost US$16 per adult, and kids 5 and under enter for free (yay!).  There is a little cafeteria on the mezzanine, which is open to the public (no tickets necessary).

Taken from the mezzanine.

Past the ticketing counter (on the main level) is the gift shop.  Upon walking through the gift shop, we were greeted by vintage Ford trucks.  The museum is set up such that we walk down ramps for four levels, with cars of all kinds all along the way.

The children were rather bored of cars, until we got to the Family Zone.  There is a build zone, where children can build their own wooden cars out of the various available parts. Then, there is an amazing race track where the kids can place the cars they built onto it to race each other.  Little Man had so much fun with this.

In addition to the race track, they also had a wooden road system with the main highways of the contiguous United States.  What I like about this (and had never before seen in Singapore), was that the play table had holes cut into it, so that a few kids could play together without getting in one another's way.

There was an old arcade racing machine (free) there as well.  Everyone had a go at it, including Little Man, who was really pleased that his legs were long enough to reach the paddles.  He did really well too, and beat all the adults. Little Lady was unfortunately still too short.

They also had another gaming area, the Speed Zone.  This one was more for the adults, with racing car simulators at US$8 a go.  There was also a slot car track which cost US$3.










It was a nice place to visit.  Lots of fun for car aficionados and children alike.  Do drop by if you happen to be in the area.

*****
Little Man: 4 years 11 months
Little Lady: 2 years 10 months

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