Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas goodies

Window display at The Original Maids of Honour, where I usually have scones and tea with the boys and some other lady friends. The food looks really attractive, but on closer inspection, nothing here really tickles my fancy. Too Englishy perhaps.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Scientist Apprentice*

*Title by Brian (who's having a sleepover at his classmate Cristobal's house tonight)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Waterstones revamp

Went to Chiswick with Sean today and discovered that Waterstones has completed its revamp. I love the kids section, those orb-seats are really comfortable and eyecatching too. Wish I had a few of these for myself.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Lunch for London newcomers

We had Wilson (the new RMM) and his wife Katherine, together with Jenn Hui (Ed's new assistant), over for lunch today. They arrived in London about a month ago and with Ed soooo busy the past few weeks (yesterday was his first off day in 2 weeks plus), we were only able to invite them over today.

I woke up at 7am to start with the preparations. Boiled wintermelon soup and cooked Prima chicken rice. Also stir-fried baby pak choi with prawns. The chicken rice was a hit, all thanks to Prima. Even a cooking imbecile like me can get it right, so anyone else can do it. Prima's great.

Sean had an eventful day today. He saw his very first rainbow, or so he claims. It could be true, I'm not sure, but if so, gosh, this boy's so deprived! The sky had been really dark and gloomy when he woke up. He was so pleased to spot the rainbow that he couldn't stop talking about it.

Oh, last night I cooked salmon again. On Friday, I made a disastrous effort at being adventurous and the salmon was really 'hard to swallow'. I fared so much better doing it the Tried and Tested way, and the boys gobbled my Easy-peasy Salmon up in quick time last night.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pizza and bowling fun for Brian

Brian wanted me to post this picture of his toy aeroplane. He got it today as a party favour. It was his schoolmate William's birthday and the celebration was at Pizza Hut followed by bowling (Brian's first time trying bowling). I don't really know the birthday boy as he's from the other Year 4 class. Brian plays IT (tag) with him and some other boys during break and lunch everyday, and as a result they've become good friends. The other five boys at the party today, Harry, Theo, Max, Ivan and David, are from William's class.

After dropping him off at noon, Sean, Eddie and I had McDonald's at the bowling centre, then drove off to do Chinese Supermarket shopping. We're having guests over for lunch tomorrow so I needed to stock up on some fresh produce.

Sean kept asking for his koko the whole 2.5 hours that Brian was at the party. Yet when they get together, they start to bicker. I finally had enough of their quarrelling and Brian's incessant complaints/whining to me about his brother that they really faced my wrath this evening. They're getting along now. The peace had better last, or they'll be getting more training from me very soon.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Recipe adventure gone wrong

My attempt at being a bit more adventurous in my cooking didn't turn out very well. For dinner, I cooked baked salmon with ginger for Brian as he loves salmon. He was a sport and ate up both pieces of salmon even though I knew he didn't like it. I wouldn't have been able to finish even half a piece. It was that bad!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sean's Schonell Reading Test

I'm back at my Mac. My Mac wasn't sick after all, other Mac users also made complaints to Virgin Broadband too. Virgin's service was just excellent and they've solved my problem, so I'm happy again.

This morning, while using my old pc, I found some old journal entries about Brian. One of them went like this:

June 2001 (Brian at 3 years and 8 months).
Brian did the Schonell Reading Test and his scores were off the roof! He got 55 out of 100 words right and came in at a reading age of 10 and a half!! Some of the big words he could actually pronounce accurately were attractive, gradually, smolder, applaud, disposal, orchestra, knowledge, campaign, forfeit, plausible, prophecy, soloist, slovenly, classification, institution, pivot and adamant. I thought that was just pretty darn cool.

After reading that, I quickly got Sean to try the test, expecting the worst. He actually did quite well, at 4 years and 2 months, he got 68 words right, translating into a reading age of almost 12. A week ago, while voicing her concern about the 'huge' gap between Sean's emotional and intellectual development, his Montessori principal did mention that he was reading at 10-year old level but I didn't believe her.

Though one would need to discount the reading level results by quite a bit because Schonell doesn't really test reading, which is about comprehension; it only tests decoding (ability to sound out words). So Sean has a Decoding, not a Reading, age of about 12; we can live with that : )

See how they've changed

During my pre-Apple days, I used Picasa (a digital photo organiser) a lot on my old pc. Since this wonderful freeware is not available for Mac, I have reluctantly been using the utterly confusing and useless iPhoto. Now that I'm back using my pc (Virgin broadband is investigating my Mac problem), I'm getting reacquainted with good ole Picasa again.

And in Picasa, I found this old photo taken in my childhood buddy Irene's house back in 2002. It's of Brian with Irene's two lovely girls, Elise and Prisc. Don't they look cute together?

And see how they've grown. This other picture was taken at my Singapore place this year. Pardon the awful quality (it was taken with my mobile phone). Who do you think has changed the most?

Irene and I go back a long, long, way (Pri 1) and our firstborns (Elise and Brian) were born 3 days apart. My heart aches thinking about how fast our babies are growing. Soon, our firstborns will enter their teens and I am so not looking forward to that...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Autumn morning

This picture was taken in the morning outside our balcony terrace. The scene looks so peaceful and pretty, doing little to forewarn me of the stressful day I was about to have : (

This blog was posted on Thursday using my old PC. I had to download my Canon utilities software into this pc just so I could upload photos. This option makes me slightly less edgy about the problem I'm having with my Mac.

This is what I wrote on Wednesday:
I'm so frustrated. My gmail & blogger & flickr suddenly refused to work today. Can't send email (I can read them though), can't upload photos, some pages don't load properly. So till this is resolved, I'll not be posting anymore, it's too frustrating.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Life Skills 101

Brian has been showing keen interest in learning to cook and today I allowed him to help me with a new dish called Braised Chicken with Onion, which I was improvising from an earlier dish I cooked last week, Braised Pork Ribs with Onion. I figured since he's always sniffing around the stove looking famished while I'm cooking dinner, he might as well start making himself useful in the kitchen.

And never one to let his older brother take the limelight, here's Sean demanding to have his picture taken.

As part of his education in the 'school of life', Brian has been trained to bathe Sean, change Sean (when Sean still needed help), unload the dishwasher and fold clothes. Well, not really trained, more like I said, 'Please, Brian, help mummy okay?'. He's keen to please, so he does as he's told and then it becomes his responsibility (that's how it is in the working world what, you work on a project, you get stuck holding the baby forever, so better learn now than later). Ed thinks I'm being mean and doesn't like seeing his first-born do these chores. I don't think I'm mean, I pay Brian 20p for every load of dishwashing unloaded and 30p for every load of clothes folded...he he.

And here it is, Braised Chicken with Onion. Very easy to cook and yummy too. Likely to feature as a regular dish in my limited cooking repertoire.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Serves me right for dissing bandaids

Yesterday I declared that we're not buying bandaids for the next 10 years, and today I had to use the darn thing for the first time in months. Was cut while slicing apples for Sean. The cut looks nastier than it actually is though. It's already healed now, thanks to half a day of protection by Bandaid.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Band aid overdose

Still in springcleaning mood, I cleared out my medicine drawer, and found that we have unknowingly accumulated quite a stash of bandaids, 160+ of them to be exact. The worse thing is I know there are probably more boxes lurking elsewhere in the house. I'm not buying another bandaid for the next ten years!

Feeding the Leongs

Our grub for the week. I still have some pork ribs as well as a whole corn-fed chicken in the freezer, as such there's less meat than usual in this week's shopping list. The boys are into strawberry yoghurt for the moment. Will continue to buy these till they're tired of it. As for me, I'm into pate again, which I spread on toast for my lunch, easy-peasy.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Comfort food

The children had steamed chicken, ABC soup and babi pongtay for dinner. I've given up being adventurous cos everyone here is a creature of habit when it comes to food. I myself love babi pongtay with sambal belacan on rice and could live on that for months I think.

Nothing more comforting than a warm dinner after being out in the cold. I was soaked thoroughly today on my way to Brian's school. When I left the house, there was only a light drizzle so I thought my waterproof winter coat would offer enough protection. I couldn't be more wrong. By the time I got to his school, I was soaking wet.

Hoping for much better weather this weekend.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Books to cherish

With Sean having moved on to fluent reading for some time now, it was time for these toys, flashcards and books to find a new home. Two lady friends here are due to have their first babies in March 2007 so they'll need these more than we do.

But there are still some books that I just can't bear to part with, not yet anyway.

They've been read and loved so thoroughly especially by Brian and were instrumental in instilling the love for reading in both our boys. Among the many good and warm memories I have of the boys and these books:

- Brian enunciating 'boa constrictor' so clearly at 2 years old when reading (then from memory) Carle's Polar Bear;
- Dancing with Brian to the rhyme of Boynton's Barnyard Dance and doing the same with Sean 5 years later;
- Both boys shrieking in triumph when they find hard-to-spot items in the I Spy series;
- The many nights that I doze off to sleep while Brian (and Sean years later) stays awake reading on and on;
- Sean waking up to his first view of snow when in Frankfurt and how I quickly took out The Snowy Day to read together;
- Brian insisting on my reading Jamberry with him, a board book I found uninteresting and tedious;
- Me laughing out loud while browsing a copy of Dinosaur's Binkit and knowing I had to have it despite the price.

The thing I love about these books (as opposed to some boring 'readers') is that they are repetitive without being condescending. The illustrations are beautiful and in Boynton's case hilarious. Kids pick up loads of concepts without even realising it, eg:

- Learning to count from the beautiful rhymes and pictures of My Love for You;
- Learning similes and to love yourself just the way you are from The Mixed-Up Chameleon;
- Counting down (minus) from Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed;
- Colours from Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?;
- Animal sounds from Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear?;
- Days of the week and some counting from The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Looks like I'll be keeping them for future grandchildren! (Note: Brown Bear was first published in 1967, before I was even born, and is still well-loved by millions around the world some 40 years later)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

From toybox to bookbox

I brought this Ikea toybox along from Singapore when we moved to Frankfurt as I had found it extremely useful for storing toys. It followed us to London but has since metamorphosed into a 'bookbox'.

The decision to turn the toybox into a bookbox was borne out of necessity, we just have too many books. While the bookbox helps, there are still tonnes more books in other parts of the house. Where do toys go then? Toys just don't last very long in our house, not that things get broken, but parts go missing as I'm not good at keeping things together. So most of them end up in the bin after a while. Or are given away. What the boys are left with are the newer toys, their precious soft toy friends, lego sets and wooden blocks.

Another way toys meet their demise in our house is when the boys commit some major misdeeds which require a stern lesson. I have no qualms about throwing brand new toys when the boys make me mad enough.

Oh, the reason the books look neatly stacked is that I did some long overdue springcleaning yesterday. I give it 2 days max before things get messy again. Any more than 2 days will be a minor miracle.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Christmas gifts to Kenya

Brian's school organised a project to send Christmas gifts to children from Joodon Primary School in Kisumu, Kenya.

Each family is limited to a shoebox size of gifts. We found a Nike box, stuffed it with colour pencils, a stencil set, a geometry set, books, marbles, a soft toy, a Gap jersey, a box of pencils and a wallet. The brown envelope contains 3 pounds to cover freight charges. All I need to do now is wrap the box up with nice Christmas present paper.

I think it's a great way to instill the spirit of charity in children, or for that matter, adults too! Brian always, and I mean always, tugs furiously at me to spare some change whenever he spots beggars, buskers, donation boxes etc. I get irritated when he does that, and shush him up and hurry along, sometimes imparting nuggets of 'wisdom' about How not everything is as it seems, or Charity begins at home, or my favourite You think I print money is it?

Perhaps I've been doing that too often and of late, he's been giving me a funny look and keeps asking, "Why don't you want to donate? We have enough, so we should give." His heart's in the right place but the cynic in me wonders if the beggar is richer than I, or how much of my dollar goes to the intended recipient (NKF didn't help matters).

But the guilt trip he's laid on me is working, and so in the spirit of Christmas, I shall attempt to be less scrooge-like from now on, if only to set a good example for the boys. Really.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Math with Sean

Sean wanted to stay home today. I agreed on the condition that he does some work in the morning. I gave him the sums on the left column. He started off really well, completing the first four sums in his head. The writing was also neat. After just four sums, he started fidgeting, as his handwriting shows. He did the next two sums using the 'keep the big number in head' strategy. The rest were pretty straightforward and completed quickly, though the writing leaves much to be desired.

Somewhat motivated, I prepared the right column in the afternoon. He was having none of it, probably remembering that the deal was just work in the morning. I had to use some minor threats to get him to do his work. His extreme lack of motivation is reflected in the horrible handwriting. He finally completed it, but not without plenty of whining and bargaining.

I have my hands full with this little fella.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Meet Cristobal

Brian's best buddy from school, an Argentinian boy called Cristobal, came by today for a playdate/sleepover. I don't know why they get along so well, but they do. His family also relocated to London at the end of last year and will be here for 3 years.

Cristobal's quite a talker, and being the eldest of 5 children, is an expert at terrorizing younger kids, as Sean had found out from a previous sleepover. But kids learn fast, and Sean copes by learning to be nice and reining in his tantrums. As such, he doesn't get excluded too much now.

Lunch was at Pizza Express, the boys then spent the day playing x-box till dinner time, had their bath, and are now choosing a dvd to watch. They just chose Prince of Egypt.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

London at 5pm

This photo was taken outside our balcony terrace at 5pm. I'm not looking forward to my nights beginning at 3pm. Nevertheless, I can still bear it as long as it doesn't get too cold. The prediction earlier had been that this would be a mild winter. But today I read in the papers that "arctic blasts are on their way" and temperatures could dip to -14C in February and March. Makes me think perhaps I should plan a trip back to sunny Malaysia for Chinese New Year.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sean's first Enid Blyton read

When Brian was about 4+, I bought a whole lot of 2nd hand Enid Blyton books (there are multiple stories in each book) from Yahoo auctions in Singapore. I remember the first of those books that Brian read was The Magic Clock.

Today, Sean started reading The Magic Clock by himself. Previously, he would insist that I read one paragraph, and he reads the next, and so on. But today he spent about 40 minutes reading the book's stories by himself, very quietly, till he fell asleep on the couch.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The diet needs to start now

Sean, sitting on me (facing me) while I'm surfing the net, asks, "Mummy, are you having another baby?...because your tummy is getting fatter."


Meet Bonkadinka

Before we went to Paris, Sean drew a picture of his favourite toy tortoise Mary with her teacher whom he called Bonkadinka, also a tortoise.

In Disneyland, he caught sight of this plush turtle in the merchandise store, started talking to it, and said it was Bonkadinka (he didn't seem to mind that Mary's teacher had turned from a tortoise to a turtle). If you find the turtle somewhat familiar, it's actually Squirt from Finding Nemo.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

And I'm back with my boys

One day I'm in Singapore, the next I'm back. I missed the boys so badly when I was away, even though it was just for a night (two nights in London). While I was away, Brian's spots healed a lot. He'll go to school tomorrow. Today Ed sent Sean to school and brought Brian to the office since I wasn't around.

It was a very productive trip. Renewed my international driving license, saw Dr Chua for scaling and other teeth-related stuff, bought some necessities, ate kueh pie tee at Wheelock Place, caught up with some friends albeit only through the phone, collected my mail from agent, and the main aim for the trip, attended the MOE briefing where I found some good information to help me in school choice for Brian. Oh, finished two books too, Freakanomics (freakin' great) and The Kite Runner (excellent read, still on my mind now).

I was glad to be back though. And I miss having mum around. Gonna give her a call soon.

I just remembered, I even managed to squeeze in a Clarins body massage at Wheelock Place. It's always quite impossible to get an appointment but I just tried my luck, walked in and happily, someone just cancelled. Unfortunately, no kicklah the massage. Not strong enough. My London masseuse (who comes to the house) does a better job, and at only 25 pounds/hour, is a lot cheaper than the S$125/hour Clarins massage.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

View above the clouds

Photo was taken on flight back to Singapore. The sun was setting I believe, and we were probably flying over some part of Asia then.

Foggy in London

Just a few days ago, Ed and I were talking about how the weather in London is so different from what we thought it would be. Yes, you do get some grey days but no more than in Frankfurt. Most times, the weather is actually quite nice; cool and even sunny. We also never experienced the famous London fog that we read about in Charles Dickens' novels, till today, that is.

The signboard in the photo could only be seen when we got up close. Everything around us was shrouded in fog. At first, suku me even asked if it was the haze (!) till I remembered I wasn't in Singapore yet.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Since mum arrived 2 months ago, Ed and I have been playing mahjong almost weekly at the big boss's house. It's been loads of fun. There are usually two tables, which I dub the professional table (where Ed plays), and the amateur table (where I play). On a typical night, the pro table plays 3 rounds while our table only manages 2.

I once played on the pro table, gosh, it was really fast and nerve-wrecking, but exhilirating at the same time. Best of all, I had my biggest win during that session, 43 pounds. My track record at the house has been good, one loss in 7 sessions. Tonight I won 12 pounds.

With mum leaving tomorrow, my mahjong run will have to come to an abrupt halt too. Feeling the withdrawal symptoms already....

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Meet Marco

Found a picture of Marco drawn by Sean. I've placed the real guy next to Sean's drawing, see any likeness?

Marco is a Beanie toy I bought in Rothenburg (Germany) when we were holidaying there last year with the Tans and Seows. His (or her?) real name is actually Rainbow but Sean calls him Marco.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

WARNING: Not for the faint-hearted

You've been warned. Look away now if you've got a weak stomach. Today's photos are absolutely gruesome!

I really didn't expect Brian's chicken pox to be this bad. It's all over his body and face and popping up on his palms and fingers. He gets so itchy he just jumps and jumps about to stop himself from scratching. I feel itchy just looking at him. I'm applying aloe vera to the spots, and it relieves the itch. Once the scabs fall off, I'll be applying Vitamin E, it's supposed to reduce scarring.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Spots galore

Well, it's confirmed then, Brian has chicken pox. His looks very likely to surpass Sean's in severity. Angry red bumps are appearing all over his body, face (especially around the lips) and even on his head. He's itching to scratch them. Thank God I have boys, no need to worry so much about scars.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Perfect timing

This morning, I noticed raised spots on Brian's neck and back. Decided to keep him home. If it is indeed chicken pox, then it would really be perfect timing; Sean's spots healing just before our Paris trip and Brian's appearing right after.

Goodbye Paris... was definitely better the second time around.