Saturday, June 30, 2007

Merit awards for the boys

I've no choice but to post something here after eagle-eyed Wendy spotted a gap in my hitherto continuous daily photo blogging. Some people in this world have very high customer expectations -- I'm just glad someone's not my boss!

Friday is Merit Assembly Day and for the first time, Brian and Sean came home with a merit cert each on the same day.

Brian's was for: always working enthusiastically in Art lessons and for producing work of a high standard - well done!
Sean's was for: always producing fantastic written work and being a brilliant reader. Well done!

Friday, June 29, 2007

School mummies' farewell

A number of children are leaving Year 4 at the end of this term for various reasons and Varsha volunteered to host lunch at her place for the leaving mummies. Loaded up on Indian food cooked by the hostess and English desserts brought by the other mummies. Not really lah, I loaded up on the Indian food mostly...English desserts not so much. Excellent food from Varsha as always.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Kudos to Kat the Kook

We finally found the day to gather at Katherine's house for my farewell mee hoon kuey lunch :) Sean was with us as he had an eye-test in the morning. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get pictures of lunch, we just tucked in immediately. But it was gooooood.

Here are the adorable babies Ian and Valerie. Check out her cute star hairpin.

Sean fell asleep on the floor while drawing at about 130pm, then climbed onto the sofa and slept till 445pm when Varsha drove Brian over from school (it was raining). A quiet moment for the mothers as the boys sleep in the living room while the little princess snoozed in the room.

Seeing that it was already late and raining, Katherine invited us all to stay for dinner. The chef extraordinaire then whipped up this fantastic dinner for all of us (including Alvin and Wilson who came after work, Eddie had to work late) with no advanced notice! Braised pork with tauki, tofu and egg, watercress pork rib soup, stir-fry veg and fried salmon with some onion gravy. Downed with wine too.

Alvin and Sarah dropped me and the kids back at 9+pm, and I immediately plonked myself into bed, very tipsy from that little bit of wine and sleepy from the very full stomach.

Two hearty meals in one day. Thanks Katherine! We had a great time, let's do it again soon! just kidding, don't panic :)

Squished Swiss Roll

I cut a slice of swiss roll, left it on the breakfast table with Sean, went to my computer, and when I came back, this is what he's done to the rest of the roll.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Self-praise is no praise

When Sean does his Kumon work, he would write (sometimes even before starting work) at the top of each sheet praises like Well Done!, Impressive!, Wonderful!, Brilliant!, Excellent! (see picture above).

Today when I picked him up from school, the head of lower school Gina told me she had gone to Sean's class to teach them phonics. When the children were asked to write sentences, Sean started his usual fretting, saying he didn't know how to. Once they got started however, he wrote about 7 sentences.

At the back of the paper, Gina said he wrote:

"I wrote lots of sentences!!"
"I'm impressive!!!"

The teachers had a good laugh over this.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Baby-girl clothes shopping

Eleven dresses, 9 tops, 1 cap, 1 trousers, 1 shorts, 2 skirts: that's my haul over a few days of baby-girl clothes shopping in Mothercare, Next, H&M and Zara. Not for me, nooooo way. But for Eddie's youngest sister who's due to deliver in August. The shopping would have been more fun if I weren't in the midst of moving but still, shopping for baby girls is tonnes better than for baby boys.

Oh, the only thing I bought from Zara was this dress.

Little Kristin (Puay Puay's daughter) wore this when I met up with the Frankfurt ladies a few weeks back, and she looked so adorable in it that I knew I had to get this. £10, marked down from £15...:) See how cute she is.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Drive to the country

Today, we drove to Salisbury, about 1.5-2 hours away from London, to visit Brian's friend Ivan. Ivan left school earlier in the term after his family sold their London house to move to the country. Many Londoners do that, cash in on the high property prices, move to the country while maintaining a small flat in the city. This is what they plan to do, though they've yet to buy their house in the country, and are presently renting a thatched-roof cottage with a huge garden.

Anyway, before Ivan left, his mum Laura (one of the few friendly British faces I see in school), had asked that we take a train to Salisbury to see them. Two weeks ago, she called again to say Ivan really missed Brian (feeling's mutual) and arranged for us to visit them. I managed to convince Eddie to drive us there, instead of me lugging two boys on the train, which I would have done, for Brian's sake.

On our way to Ivan's place, we made a detour to visit Stonehenge. Sarah had warned me not to have high expectations of Stonehenge and so we went ready to be underwhelmed. Indeed, the pile of erm, rocks, were quite small, as you can see from the photo I took from the car on our way home after Ivan's.

At Stonehenge, after paying £16.80 for our tickets, it started to drizzle lightly. We managed to go closer, took some pictures to show we've been there, done that, after which we all ran back to the ticketing office...and then the rain stopped. Sheesh. But not lingering on meant we got to Ivan's place right on time for Laura's yummy lunch.

As usual, we lost our way but miraculously found the house right before lunch. There's no house number nor house name, the only description I got from Laura was that it had a thatch roof. We were supposed to call her once we were on Baverstock Lane, but surprise surprise, there was no network reception there. Luckily, when we passed this house, I saw by the window-sill a papier mache sculpture children from Brian's school had made this year. That was how we knew this was the house.

Eddie chatted with Jon while I watched Laura put in the final touches of her roast. Brian spent much of the time playing upstairs with Ivan while Sean drew in the living room with Lucy.

The house is really old, check out this antique stove, have you ever seen anything like this? It's not in working condition anyway.

After a delicious English lunch, we had tea in the garden. When you step out of the house, what you see is this.

Look to the right and you see a huge weeping willow. Walk past the weeping willow through a small lane and you reach another big garden, where there's a swimming pool (covered now) and...

...a huge trampoline. Lucy's not playing as she sprained her ankle in there two weeks ago.

Sean gets some help from Laura.

With the family cat Stars.

Goodbye country, hello city...we headed back at 3pm, as Eddie had a mahjong session at 6pm. We really enjoyed the hospitality accorded to us by Laura, Jon, Ivan and Lucy and hope to return the favour if they visit us in Moscow.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My kind of homeschooling

At his old Montessori school, the unstructured curriculum allowed Sean lots of time to do what he was most interested in and his teachers said he would draw about, read and talk lots about the universe and human body, his two pet topics.

Among the many drawings he would come home with were these two, the first on the black hole and the second on the lunar eclipse.

And there was the one on phases of the moon as well.

However, since starting proper big boys' school in April, he has stopped drawing such pictures. I'm not sure why, maybe cos the curriculum is more structured. Instead, he'd draw pictures of mini-beasts (this term's Science topic).

Anyway, because of an incident in the morning, I kept the boys in and homeschooled them. Both of them did their work very diligently, with no complaints, lest Mummy had another meltdown. Work stopped at lunch and I left them to do what they wanted for the rest of the day. In the evening, Brian found this drawing on the floor, which Sean must have drawn in the afternoon; it was the Sun, Pluto and Earth.

Referring to the sun, he wrote "The sizzling and The powerful and The gigantic sun!" and "That is hot" and "Powerful rays". Referring to Pluto, he wrote "Tiny Pluto" and "This is cold" and "ice on Pluto so Pluto is cold" and to the Earth, he wrote "Warm Earth" and "That is warm" and "Countrys".

I think I like homeschooling, in very small doses.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Top of the world feeling

Boys on the upper-deck of a double-decker London bus. If I'm not wrong, this is Sean's first time riding on the upper-deck. On long bus rides, I do enjoy the view from the front of the upper-deck. It's a good feeling.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New lunch menu at Ma Cuisine

Sean and I had lunch at Ma Cuisine. Picture left to right; crab soup, cheese and hollaindase sauce with croutons for the soup, and from the set lunch menu crispy duck salad and sole with prawns and salmon. I'm not too thrilled with their new set lunch menu, Sean even less so. He only ate bread with butter and I had to finish the rest of the food myself :(

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mahjong Madames

Had a 3-round mahjong session with Lisa, Helena (whose husband is taking over Ed in London) and Lisa's friend Shirley. Had to play a defensive game due to the lacklustre luck I was having. At times, the cards were quite nice, but there was just no finishing power. Was happy that I did make a few Heavenly Twins, one of which was a limit game due to the addition of 2 flowers (6-tais is our limit).

At the end, the hostess was the sole winner. Lisa won £51 from Shirley £29, Helena £20 and me £2. Win or lose, mahjong is ALWAYS fun.

I've grown accustomed to Lisa's House Rules, which I'll try to list down today lest I forget next time:
1. Cze Mor everyone pays/Otherwise only thrower pays (Rate: 2 tais (40p/80p), 3 tais (80p/£1.60) 4 tais (£1.60/£3.20), 5 tais (£3.20/£6.40), 6 tais (£6.40/£12.80))
2. Minimum 2 tais to win (Optional for last game: Minimum 3 tais to win).
3. Limit is 6 tais. But there's also Double Limit for 13 wonders and Kang Kang Woo (self-picked Pongs), I'm not sure what the rates are, gotta double-check again.
4. Concealed game add 1 tai.
5. All Pongs (2 tais)
6. Heavenly Twins (4 tais)
7. Half colour (2 tais)
8. Full colour (4 tais)
9. Full colour sequence (5 tais)
10. Sequence Peng Wu (4 tais)
11. Current wind, Own wind and Dragons (1 tai each)
12. All dragons (6 tais)
13. 13 wonders (Thrower pays £25.60, others £12.80 each; if cze more £25.60 each)
14. Kang Kang Woo, must be self-picked (£25.60 each)
15. All 4 flowers (extra tai)
16. All 4 animals (extra tai)

Aaaaahhhh...Acupuncture :)

These are the needles used by my acupuncturist Ling who operates from my GP's office. Visited her today, my 6th session. The crick in my neck that's been with me forever disappeared after 5 sessions but I'm still seeing her for a slight ache in the middle of my back.

Everyone tells me, and I know it myself, that the best cure for my aches is just get my butt away from the computer chair, but...easier said than done.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Same venue, different baby

Attended SUKA's appreciation lunch at Awana, where I had taken a picture with Baby Valerie yesterday. Also there was little Ian, 3 days older than Valerie. Here's the cutie.

How he's grown in 3 months.

I don't seem to be able to carry a baby without people saying I should have Number 3. Everyone who passed me while I was carrying Ian had to tease me, so I quickly handed him back to his mummy Sarah. And he had actually fallen asleep in the short time he was in my arms, so sweet :)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Awana! Adua! Atiga!

Me and Valerie hanging out in Awana, a high-end Malaysian restaurant on Sloane Avenue. The post title is a play on the restaurant's name; Awana, Adua, Atiga is actually Malay for "A one, A two, A three".

Katherine (Valerie's cute mummy) and I were in Awana as the guys were checking out the venue and equipment for tomorrow's SUKA (Singapore-UK Association) appreciation lunch, together with the rest of the organising committee. After an hour plus, we all proceeded to Goldmine for lunch where the team continued to discuss the programme for tomorrow. Katherine and I were just happy to eat and listen : )

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Spending time with Valerie

Time flies, little Valerie is all of 3 months old now. Katherine is having a much easier time these days. They came by to have a simple lunch at home with me. Sean loves having Valerie around, as you can see from the photos. :)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Big Bang Love

Sean to me 20 minutes ago, "I love you so much that it starts at the beginning of life before the Big Bang."

If you wondered how many light years ago that was, then you'll be learning something new today.

Last weekend, Brian and Sean were running around Gevin, pretending they were planets orbiting very quickly around him.

Gevin asked, "How many light years does it take you to orbit me?"
Brian corrected him, "Light year is a measure of distance, not a measure of time. A light year is the distance light travels in one year."

Hee...Gevin said he knew this but had forgotten -- as for me, I'm sure Brian told me this before, but I still always associated light years with time, not distance. Hopefully, after writing about this, I'll always remember what a light year really means.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cupcake-making lesson by...! Varsha has been asking that I give her a lesson on making cupcakes ever since I made some for her boy Neil's birthday.

She drove me home after our boys' morning assembly performance of Little Red Riding Hoodie and I invited her up for coffee. As we both had no plans for the day, except for my 10am appointment with a moving company, I suggested that we have the long-awaited cupcake lesson then. She was really pleased with that.

We baked about 3 batches and then headed out for lunch. Came back home after picking Sean up at 3pm and the fun part began. Decorating! We decorated 12 cupcakes for Matia's birthday this Friday, which both Brian and Neil will be attending. Simple decorations, cos we were rushed for time.

Varsha left at about 4.20pm to pick Brian and Neil up after clubs. She dropped both of them off for a playdate, which later became a sleepover. I continued to decorate the rest of the cakes, some of which were eaten by the boys as quickly as they were being decorated. These are some I made with the gorgeous heart-shaped cupcake cases from Hsien. Love these cases so much.

Jubraj with Varsha

I had told Varsha about Jubraj, this Indian restaurant which is quite near our place and she remembered this, so suggested we try it this time. Ate quite a lot for just two of us; king prawn curry, chicken tandoori, okra, pilau rice, nan, prata and pappadum. Varsha enjoyed the food, as did I.

Mistaken identity

Something funny happened tonight. Neil decided to sleep over after a playdate, and we (except for Eddie who wasn't back for dinner) all went to sleep at about 9pm.

Sean slept with me while Neil and Brian slept together in the boys' room. When Eddie came home, he went to the boys' room to check on them. Strange...First he wondered why Sean suddenly became so big (Neil's slightly smaller than Brian). Then he looked closer and got another shock, why's Sean's hair so black? Third, he got a shock to see Sean's skin so dark, he thought Sean fell down and got bruised. When he went nearer, Neil's big eyes opened and stared at him. He got a big shock. I had such a laugh when he told me about this...soooo sotongggg!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Science at home 7

...actually this is Science at school...not home. Haven't done any Science at home experiments in months :(

Brian's on the topic of Sound in school. Here are the boys fooling around right after school with the paper cup phone Brian made today.

Dictated by Brian:

"You need 2 paper cups and 1 long string. Make a hole at the bottom of each cup. Feed each end of the string into the holes and tie knots so that the string doesn't come out of the hole.

First we talked to each other with the string loose. Then we talked to each other with the string tightened and straight. When the string is loose, the sound doesn't travel properly, and you can't really hear anything. But when the string is straight and tight, you can hear every word very clearly. This is because when it's tighter, the vibration travels further and you can hear it better.

If you cross the string with another paper cup phone, all 4 parties can talk to one another as long as the strings are tight and touch each other. That's because the vibration goes onto every part of the string.

Sound travels in vibrations and the sound travels when the string vibrates. If you touch your throat, and you say something, it vibrates, that's where the sound comes from, your mouth just shapes the words."


The real explanation from How Stuff Works:

When one person talks into his/her cup, the bottom of the cup vibrates back and forth with the sound waves. Imagine the bottom of the cup moving back and forth very quickly (1,000 times per second or more) with the sound waves of the speaker's voice. The vibrations travel through the string by pulling the string back and forth. Therefore, the bottom of the second cup should start to vibrate back and forth just like the bottom of the first cup is vibrating, producing sound waves. The second person can hear the sound waves and can therefore hear what the first person says.

This is not much different from how a telephone works, except that electric current replaces the string in a telephone. In an old-style telephone, the person speaking vibrates a metal diaphragm. The diaphragm's vibrations rapidly compress and uncompressed carbon granules, changing their resistance. A current passing through the granules is strengthened or lessened by the changing resistance. At the other end, the rapidly changing current runs through a speaker and causes its diaphragm to vibrate back and forth, so the second person hears the first person speaking.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

C'mon let's do some Kumon

Speaking of Kumon, Brian attended Kumon classes from the time he was 4+ till 6+, he didn't enjoy it; Kumon emphasises speed, and he just couldn't write fast enough given his weak fine motor skills. I think it almost killed his love for math. BUT even though it was a lot of rote learning and mindless practice, I believe Brian did benefit from Kumon.

I had actually compiled all of Brian's old Kumon worksheets when we left Singapore for Frankfurt, and there were lots. At the time, Sean was too young, only 2, but having spent all that money on Kumon, I thought Brian's worksheets could be reused when Sean was older. When we moved to London, again I lugged the entire set over.

Till today, I do not know what the heck possessed me, having lugged the worksheets from Singapore to Frankfurt to London, to suddenly decide on one springcleaning day to think, "Oh forget it, Sean will NEVER do these worksheets. He just won't!" and I threw the whole lot away!!! Sean was 3+ then.

I really regret that moment of springcleaning folly. All I have now is a small stack of worksheets that Varsha (Brian's friend's mum) gave me recently. Sean has been doing them, with much reluctance and incessant complaints. He doesn't realise how good he has it compared to his koko. If anyone knows how I can get hold of more Kumon worksheets without attending classes, leave me a note. Gotta start cracking the whip!

Monday, June 11, 2007

LOL...Naughtee Auntee Wendee...

...blogs about Seanie boy here.

Baking with Babypowder

Having Wendy aka Babypowder aka My Baking Guru with me this week has been extremely beneficial. We baked twice, first was her specialty Raspberry Friands, and the second was my idea of the perfect chocolate cake.

The chocolate cake passed Wendy's taste-test, and if my baking guru says its good, then it must be good. She also assured me that I could easily use this same recipe to make chocolate cupcakes. Baking klutz that I am, I didn't know cake recipes could be used to make cupcakes...duhhh...

So this morning, I made delicious chocolate cupcakes. Thanks to my baking guru, I've got a great chocolate cupcake recipe now, something I've been looking for for some time. Yay!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sweet juicy strawberries

After lunch today, we dropped by Bayswater to buy Four Seasons roast duck rice for dinner and Kew Retail Park for some last-minute shopping before the Pngs leave for Frankfurt. At Marks & Spencers, I found these huge King Strawberries. Wendy and I were at first skeptical about how sweet such huge strawberries would be but they turned out fantastically sweet and juicy. I'm definitely buying more.

We tried dipping the strawberries in double cream, Brian loved it this way, the rest of us not so much. I later found out the Tans were enjoying these very same strawberries too :)

Had an early dinner of roast duck rice with the Pngs before they left the house slightly past 530pm. Gevin is like a big kid, it's as if I have a much older son besides Brian and Sean, that's all. Wendy is a fuss-free, low-maintenance, kind of gal. I can leave her alone and she'll find her own thing to do in the house, mostly channel-surfing for food-related tv shows.

My kind of house-guests. It was fun having them around.

Yauatcha with the Pngs

Since Wendy arrived on Tuesday night, we've managed to do many of the things we planned to do/eat; baked (twice), Japanese food at home, shopped at Kooks Unlimited, ate stinky garlic-sambal-kicapmanis rice, calimaki, chasoba...She also watched Avenue Q, a musical, with Gevin, which they both raved about, ate lobster noodles and peking duck at Mandarin Kitchen and Four Seasons roast duck (twice).

Today, their last day in London, we headed out to Yauatcha. Yauatcha was actually recommended to me by the Pngs when they were last in London more about half a year ago. The food is just so delicious, my only grouse is they don't allow photography. Dunno what their problem is. But check out the dessert spread that Wendy managed to shoot before she found out photography wasn't allowed.

I managed to take some photos though, secretly; Lula (a tea cocktail which had vodka in it), charsiewbao, crispy aromatic duck, beef horfan... spring rolls, charsiew and prawn cheong fun, turnip cake with chives and eggs, spinach cube...oops, that's when I got found out...:) ooooo, snoooty. Well, when the food's this good, I can live with some snootiness.

It was my first try of the tea cocktail Lula, and I got a bit tipsy during and after lunch, how hopeless am I?

We also bought macarons home. Half a dozen for £5. They are so pretty aren't they? They look better than they taste though :(

Other than the macarons, we really enjoyed our lunch, everything was superb and mouth-watering, Thanks Gev & Wend!!