Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nasi Lemak...Enak Sekali!

My simple nasi lemak meal (coconut rice, boiled eggs, cucumber and sambal ikan bilis), tucked in with great relish by all at home.

That was yesterday's dinner. Today I experimented with a bit of angmoh jiak, made jacket potatoes. Sean almost had a meltdown when he saw what he had to eat. Brian made it through. And Eddie pretended to eat, but I later saw he only ate the top bits with the cheese and ham. Grrrr...what shall I do with these Chinamen???

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One more L to add to my initials

Hsien and I were on skype and somehow we came to the topic of learnings styles and did the following Learning Styles Inventory Test. See her results here.

My scores are pretty skewed, just see the diagram.

The scores are out of 20 for each style and a score of 20 or close to it indicates you use that style often.

Logical 17
Solitary 14
Visual 12
Verbal 11
Social 6
Physical 4
Aural 2

I always knew I wasn't an auditory learner, check out my Aural score! I would be the first to nod off at lectures, unless the lecturer was absolutely riveting or he was using lots of visual props.

In future, if I have an argument with Eddie, I'll just tell him to accept that I'm right, cos I'm Ms Logical, end of discussion.


Brian's scores. May not be that accurate as some questions are about experiences he's never had, but his scores are a lot more even than mine. Logic still figures highly, so he's definitely my boy.

Logical 16
Visual 11
Verbal 11
Solitary 10
Social 10
Physical 8
Aural 7

In a previous life, I must have been...

...Peranakan, cos boy, do I love their food. While I hail from Malacca, I have no Peranakan blood running through me. My aunt married a Baba though, hence, since young, I have had the good fortune of feasting on ayam pongtay, itik tim, kueh pie tee etc.

With my kitchen now fully-equipped, I cooked ayam pongtay today. The boys have not had this dish since we left London, and the moment they stepped into the house, Brian's keen nose directed him straight to my stove. Everyone ate heartily tonight. Eddie particularly enjoyed the sambal ikan bilis I made today, most of which I'm saving for the nasi lemak meal I'm planning to cook tomorrow.

I was actually inspired to cook pongtay after reading Stef's food blog last week. And even though I didn't have all the ingredients in Stef's recipe, the dish was still well-received. In Moscow, somehow, everything I cook gets rave reviews and is highly-appreciated. Cos there's no Goldmine, Kiasu, New Fortune Cookie, Pearl Liang etc to escape to! They better appreciate the best Chinese/Peranakan/Malay chef they can find in Moscow, yep, that's ME!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tomato: Fruit OR Vegetable?

It all started with Brian asking me (again) how vegetables reproduce since they didn't have seeds. He asked me this a week ago but I had ignored him.

When he asked me again today, I demurred, "Maybe vegetables do have seeds."

Brian, "No, they don't. If they had seeds, they'd be fruits. Vegetables don't have seeds."

I said, "Tomatoes have seeds."

Brian, "Yes, that's because tomatoes AREN'T vegetables, they are fruits."

Sean jumped in, "That's silly! Tomatoes AREN'T fruits, tomatoes are vegetables."

Some name-calling ensued, and I said, "Go google it."

A minute later, Brian triumphantly say, "See SEAN! You're the one who's silly. The tomato isn't a vegetable, it is a fruit!"

Sure enough, we saw this:

To really figure out if a tomato is a fruit or vegetable, you need to know what makes a fruit a fruit, and a vegetable a vegetable. The big question to ask is, DOES IT HAVE SEEDS?

If the answer is yes, then technically, you have a FRUIT. This, of course, makes your tomato a fruit. It also makes cucumbers, squash, green beans and walnuts all fruits as well. VEGETABLES such as, radishes, celery, carrots, and lettuce do NOT have seeds (that are part of what we eat) and so they are grouped as vegetables.”

By these definitions, a pumpkin is a fruit, botanically speaking. So are squash and zucchini.

Sean feigned disinterest, saying, "You learnt something new today."

Brian, "No, YOU learnt something new, I already knew this."

Unfortunately for Brian, I did a bit more investigation and found out that Sean was right too!

The US Supreme Court decided unanimously in Nix Vs Hedden 1893 that a tomato is a vegetable, even though it is a botanical fruit.

So Sean was right, legally the tomato is a vegetable and Brian was right, botanically/scientifically the tomato is a fruit.

(Just to be more long-winded, saying that the tomato is both a fruit and a vegetable isn't a contradiction because while fruit is a botanical term, vegetable is just a culinary term and its definition has no scientific value.)

Everyone likes good endings

I was taking one of many breaks from unpacking, surfing the net about 10 minutes ago (slightly past 8pm) when the boys, who had been playing pretend elsewhere, came into the study, sat on the sofa, and I heard Sean telling Brian that he would tell him a story. I typed this out as fast as I could, pretending I hadn't noticed them come in. And word for word, this is what Sean said (note who is naughty in this story):

I will tell a story that starts with a beautiful thing then in the middle it's scary then it's beautiful again.

Once upon a time, there was a flower and it grew so much. Just one day, a lady looked at the flower and said, "Nice, I think I'll pick that flower." And she picked the flower. When she picked that flower, a crocodile ate the leaves. All the leaves except two leaves that were still on the rose.

When the crocodile was in the water, he didn't like the plant, so he spit it out. And when people walked near the water, a naughty big brother came and laughed at them because they slipped onto the puddle.

But one day, a good machine appeared. It made people who were naughty good and left the good people alone. So one day, when the good machine was still there, the naughty boy walked near there, and he got sucked in there and at the end he became good. The machine had lots of good chemicals and the machine sucks the good chemicals into your mouth.

Now the earth had peace and quiet. The End.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hard enough for you, dear boy?

Today was the boys' settling-in conference, an early parent-teacher meeting, and there was no school for them.

Brian sat in with me as the school felt the goal-setting process will be more effective when the child is present. His teacher showed me what Brian had written for his areas of growth. Under Academic, he had chosen Willingness to Make Mistakes. And to do that, his goal was to "Do work that's too hard for me."

Hehe, he's actually giving me the green light!

So that's what we tried to do this evening. After an hour of Aikido of course, exercise before work. Spent about 20 minutes going through a bbc website on finding the nth term of a quadratic sequence.

Found some questions for him to try from this pretty good worksheet.

He's taking quite a bit of time to do each sum, but is enjoying it! Completed No1 and 3 by himself and attempting Question 4 now.
I just found out the link above leads to a different worksheet each time I click. So what happened was while I was typing this, I asked Brian if he finished No4, he said he had, and told me his answer. So I clicked the link to check the answer, and I told him his answer was wrong. But we then realised the link was to a different worksheet now. His answer was right after all.

He's on to Question 7 now.

He's down to 3 minutes for each sum and has completed all 12 sums. More tomorrow.

Yakitoria with the boys


Whenever the boys have weekdays off school, I make it a point to take them out for makan. Unlike in London, they hardly eat out in Moscow as we spend our weekends home (no complaints from them as they prefer home-cooked meals). This was a meal the boys and I had at Yakitoria, a Japanese restaurant chain here in Moscow, when they had the day off from school for dunno what (can't remember, this is a back-post written in October! I remember now, it was Settling-in Conference Day and I had met their teachers before heading out for lunch).

I'm not sure why this is so, but although the dishes taste good, at the end of the meal, I don't get that ummmmmpppphhhh shiok! feeling.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I must be a bad mummy cos...

I don't do any of this!

What the boys get in their lunchbox is rice, some meat, maybe a fried egg, all mixed time for pretty-pretty.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Marco's in Moscow!

Remember Marco? He was packed in the cargo together with all the boys' toys. The only toy Sean brought along with him was dear Mary.

Well, when Sean arrived in Moscow a month ago, besides asking where the snow was, he also asked why Marco wasn't in Moscow, in a very worried voice. I told him Marco was arriving by the toy aeroplane, which was bringing all the toys over, but that it will take some time. At the time, I didn't expect our cargo to take this long to arrive.

He continued to ask about Marco but has stopped since school started. Well, Marco finally arrived yesterday. Not sure how long it'll take for our stuff to be cleared by customs but at least they're in Moscow, phew!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Spice Boys

Brian's first taste of chilli was when I gave him a teensy bit of the spicy kerepek I was eating. He was about 7 months old then. He loved it though his face turned a little flushed. By about 10 months, he was eating roti prata dipped slightly in curry. He absolutely loved it.

By the time he was 5 or 6, he was eating sambal and curry like a pro. In fact, for a few years now, he has been able to take more sambal belacan during a meal than Eddie can (though Eddie has improved vastly from when I first knew him).

Sean, meanwhile, has not wanted to try chilli at all. I thought maybe Brian takes after me and Sean his dad. However, upon turning 5 a couple of weeks ago, Sean has decided that he wants to try lots of new things. So a week ago, he started eating curry. He loved it. Then on Friday, while having curry, he said he'd like to try sambal next. Coincidentally, we went for a nasi lemak party on Saturday and it was there that he tried sambal. He said, "Mmm, the sambal is sooooo goooood!" I taught him to say, "SEDAP!".

Hehe, so it looks like both boys are like me after all :) HOT HOT HOT!

Friday, September 14, 2007

If you have time, take the car, If not, take the metro

That's Moscow for you. If you have time to spare, take the car. If you have no time, take the Metro. The traffic is horrendous. Unbelievable. A week or so ago, Eugene, the station manager, took 5 hours to get home from Domodedovo Airport, when normally it would take 1-1.5 hours.

Today's traffic was particularly bad because of wet weather. Kala arrived at my place at 11.40am; we had planned to meet at 10am. She took 2 hours plus to get from her place to mine, a journey that would normally take 20-30 minutes.

Eddie saw how bad traffic was and decided to come home by metro instead. It took him less than an hour to get home; by car, with today's traffic conditions, it would take at least 2 hours if he's lucky.

So take the trusty Moscow metro*, you won't be late. Truly on time, every time.

* Of course, don't tempt fate by taking it late at night lah. That's just stupid. Oh, it can also be a little disconcerting that unlike in London or other cosmopolitan cities, you are likely to be the only non-Russian/Caucasian-looking passenger there.

Matisse's Gold Fish

I borrowed this wonderful book, MATH-terpieces (a play on the word Masterpieces see) by Greg Tang from Sean's school library the other day. It teaches Math using art pieces from famous artists.

For example, the first page was one of Degas' scenes of ballerinas.

Monet's waterlilies.

There are many more, including Van Gogh, Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso, Dali, even Warhol.

Somewhere in the middle off the book, we came to this page, Matisse's Gold Fish, and Sean exclaimed, "I saw this picture in my school!" Oh, is that so, I said, thinking, let's just get on, learn the Math! (just kidding).

The next morning, arriving in school just on time, I ran ahead of Sean to the corridor where his classroom was, hurrying him too(of course the corridor wasn't empty as in the picture, it was morning and there were lots of people around). I was already past the doorway in the picture when I hear him shouting behind me, "Here Mummy, here is the picture I saw!" Didn't know what he was talking about till I ran back to get him and saw the picture on the wall, Matisse's Gold Fish :)

All they wanna do... stay home and read! This is what the boys do immediately after coming home from school.

Me: Brian, there's a kids' activity for you at 5pm. Sean, mummy will take you swimming.
Brian: But I don't want to go! I want to stay at home!
Sean: I don't want to go either! I want to stay at home!
Me: But Sean, it's swimming, you like swimming right?
Sean: But I want to stay at home and read now.

NO!!! STOP!!! Go change NOW!!!
Boys whine a bit then realise they have no choice. They don't realise I don't exactly enjoy taking them out to do stuff, hey, I'm sacrificing my time too. I want to stay home too!

Eventually, they both enjoyed their respective activities.

One of the things I hope to do in Moscow is to make the boys more outdoorsy. Just get them out doing other stuff, instead of staying home so much. Part of the reason is to prevent them from doing too much near work, which I really think contributes lots to their short-sightedness. And it's just a more well-rounded existence, that's all!

(Brian's chinese name is Kar Wai and Sean's is Kar Weng. I always remember my mother-in-law commenting that because Kar means home, Brian will want to stay home lots!)

Since moving to Moscow, Sean has finally learnt to cycle (with training wheels of course), Brian is enjoying skipping rope lots (at his London school's skipping workshop, he couldn't muster one skip)...I try to take them for walks when the weather's nice, if not, to attend the kids' activities that are organised for children who live in the development. Eg, yesterday Sean attended yoga and Brian did aikido. Everything's conducted in Russian though, but they get by.

And in school, swimming's part of PE, even for Sean's age, and come winter proper, ice-skating will be taught too.

So wish me luck as I try to turn my little bookworms into tough sportsmen :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In vs Inside

Last night, Sean asked this, "Mummy, where do the food nutrients go after they are stored and sorted in the liver?" or something like that, I can't remember now. We googled this and were led to a kids' website on the digestive system. Quite a good site but I've lost it now :(

Well, Brian was with us as we surfed the site, and among others, we learnt that the liver was the largest organ in the digestive system.

This morning, while they were putting on their shoes, Sean asked me to find out what the smallest organ in the body was. I asked Brian and he said he only knew what the largest organ in the body was, "The liver!" he exclaimed.

I said yup, we learnt that yesterday but before I could finish, Sean shouted, "NO! The largest organ in the body is the SKIN!"

Brian was: Huh? The skin isn't an organ...
Sean: Yes, it is.
Me: I think he's right Brian. I vaguely remember reading this before. So, the liver is the largest organ in the digestive system, but not the largest for the whole body.
Sean: The liver is the largest organ INSIDE the body. The skin is the largest organ IN the body.

IN...INSIDE...who knew it made such a difference to a 5-year old. Well, when he comes back from school, I think I'll let him know that it should be, The skin is the largest organ OF the body. IN still implies internal, doesn't it?


Monday, September 10, 2007

Of spiders and atoms...

Dinner table Seanism, out of nowhere:

"Mummy, spiders are interesting,...but atoms and electrons are MORE interesting."

And no, I don't think he understands what atoms and electrons are. But he's been finding spiders interesting and not scary anymore after watching his current favourite movie Charlotte's web so many times.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

And my little boy turns 5

Sean and his little cake with 5 heartshaped candles, celebrating at school. My things aren't here yet, or I would have baked him a cake myself. Our presents for him? A teddy-bear pillow which he needed for his mid-day school rest anyway, and a pot of daisies. We really aren't toy people.

Oh, in the car on the way home from school, he started again, this time asking, "Mummy, was I minus 1 when Koko was 4 years old?" (The boys are 5 years apart).

Camera Pictures 12

Sean drew an ocean scene when we were in Singapore. He said the round thing on the right was a sea urchin. I said I thought it was a rambutan. It was one of the first days we were together after 3 weeks apart, and he was in his sweetest behaviour, and told me patiently and nicely, "Sea urchins have spines, rambutans have hair."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Camera Pictures 11

View from air as plane approached Dubai Airport. Sand for as far as your eyes can see, and a road right smack in the middle.

Camera Pictures 10

Spotted celebrities: Cameron Diaz and Austin Powers! Of course I know his name is Mike Myerslah. Photo taken in Arbat, not sure Novy or Old Arbat, but it's near the state-owned souvenir shop.

Camera Pictures 9

Red Square is apparently a popular photo-backdrop for wedding pictures.

Camera Pictures 8

Saw this long, er, limousine/mafia-car, near Red Square the first weekend that we were in Moscow. Strange-looking machine.

I wasn't the only sampat taking pictures, this fella did too.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Did you ask a good question today?

Who knew asking questions would be so much harder than finding answers! I just spent about 2 hours with Brian on his homework, thinking up questions related to biodiversity, inter-relations in an ecosystem and survival. The homework sheet has a section for the child to fill (to ask questions and find out the answers, if possible); and also sections left for two other people to ask questions, presumably Mummy and Daddy. Jialat, 38 years old still gotta do homework.

One of Brian's questions was "Can plants live in the abyss of the ocean?" and his answer was "Plants cannot live in the abyss because there's no sunlight that plants can use for photosynthesis. However, some animals can live there by using chemicals from the earth and oxygen from plants that live higher up where there's more sunlight."

I spent lots of time on my question, before finding one on the internet which I liked enough, "If a species goes extinct and no one knows, does it matter?" Think about that.

Our education system has ingrained in us to always find answers, but never really to ask questions. So this is really new to us. It's gonna be a challenge, but I'm liking it.

Got this from here:
We should encourage our children to ask questions. A friend once asked Isidor I. Rabi, a Nobel prize winner in physics, "Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like the other immigrant kids in your neighborhood?" Rabi responded:

My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: "So? Did you learn anything today?" But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. "Izzy," she would say, "did you ask a good question today?" That difference--asking good questions-- made me become a scientist!

If we can't answer all of our children's questions, that's all right-- no one has all the answers, even scientists. And children don't need lengthy, detailed answers to all of their questions. We can propose answers, test them out, and check them with someone else. The library, or even the dictionary, can help answer questions.

We can also encourage our children to tell us their ideas and listen to their explanations. Being listened to will help them to gain confidence in their thinking and to develop their skills and interest in science. Listening helps us to determine just what children know and don't know. (It also helps the child figure out what he or she knows.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I'm such a wuss, I've been...

...crying every time I read reports on what Prince Harry said about his mum.

From AFP: The text of Prince Harry's eulogy for his mother, Princess Diana, delivered Friday at a memorial service in London:

William and I can separate life into two parts. There were those years when we were blessed with the physical presence beside us of both our mother and father.

And then there are the 10 years since our mother's death. When she was alive, we completely took for granted her unrivaled love of life, laughter, fun and folly. She was our guardian, friend and protector.

She never once allowed her unfaltering love for us to go unspoken or undemonstrated.

She will always be remembered for her amazing public work. But behind the media glare, to us, just two loving children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world.

We would say that, wouldn't we.

But we miss her. She kissed us last thing at night. Her beaming smile greeted us from school. She laughed hysterically and uncontrollably when sharing something silly she might have said or done that day. She encouraged us when we were nervous or unsure.

She — like our father — was determined to provide us with a stable and secure childhood.

To lose a parent so suddenly at such a young age, as others have experienced, is indescribably shocking and sad. It was an event which changed our lives forever, as it must have done for everyone who lost someone that night.

But what is far more important to us now, and into the future, is that we remember our mother as she would have wished to be remembered as she was: fun-loving, generous, down-to-earth, entirely genuine.

We both think of her every day.

We speak about her and laugh together at all the memories.

Put simply, she made us, and so many other people, happy. May this be the way that she is remembered.


Goodies from Sascha's Dacha

Last Monday, Sascha, the company driver, lugged a bag filled with cucumbers, a big jar of strawberry jam and 3 melons (I think they are melons), all the way by metro and bus from his home to ours, in the morning, when he came to pick the boys up for school. These are about as organic as you can get, as he had brought them back from his Dacha, kind of weekend country home. Moscow city is relatively deserted on weekends as Muscovites leave for their dachas.

At first, I didn't know what to do with the melons, but I tried boiling them with chicken and yum, they worked like wintermelon. I later sliced them and fried them with garlic, hae bee, and a bit of oyster sauce, also yum. Sascha has another recipe which calls for slices of this melons to be dipped in flour, salt and pepper before being deep-fried, sounds yum too.

Today, after another weekend at his dacha, again, he brought us two huge jars of jams, one looks like strawberry but may be raspberry and the other is blackberry maybe. Sascha doesn't speak much English, so I can't ask him. He made gestures about how these are good for children to take so that their lungs will be healthier when the cold season arrives, or that's what I gathered.

The thing is, I haven't even used up 5% of the first jar of strawberry! What am I gonna do with these 2 new jars?

Jam anyone?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Times-tables Time

Back in London, I found some old timestables worksheets that my mum had made for Brian to complete years ago. I was gonna blog about it but lost the sheets after a while. Knowing timestables is no big deal, but Brian was less than 3.5 years old then, and he was doing his 12 timestables easily. You see, a few months after turning 3, I had signed him up for Abacus, and he 'mastered' his times-tables. I remember him scoring 100% in his first test ever.

However, he quickly forgot his tables after we moved home and stopped Abacus classes. Which meant that he never really understood the concept, and was merely rote-learning. In any case, I always felt that mastering timestables requires memorising; that was how I learnt them anyway.

Background: In recent months, Sean has been fond of asking us all, including my mum, what we were doing when we were his age. Also what my mum did when she was my age, what I did when I was Brian's age, when I got married, how old I was when I gave birth to him etc.

In bed tonight, he asked me what Brian was doing at his age. I suddenly remembered videos I made of Brian when Sean was about to be born, ie, when Brian was approaching 5 (Sean turns 5 this Friday). So I told Sean that Koko knew lots of stuff about galaxies, and Sean quickly said, "I know about galaxies too!". And I said, "Oh, Koko knew his timestables when he was very young." Sean retorted, "I know my timestables too!" Brian of course challenged him, "So what's 7 times 6!"

Sean: It's 7 sixes!
Brian: Not in sixes, what's the answer!

Now I have not taught Sean timestables after my experience with Brian. In any case, I'm not very good at teaching Sean; if I attempt to teach him something new, he resists and covers his ears. I do know that he has figured out simple sums like 3 fours equalled 12, and after his recent trip back to Malacca, he started talking about 2 twos being 4, 3 threes equalled 9, 4 fours 16, 5 fives 25, 6 sixes 36, etc. Maybe my sis taught him, I don't know.

But this is how Sean came up with the answer to his brother's question.

Sean: 6 sixes is 36.

Then he uses his fingers to add another 6, counting on from 36, to reach the answer 42, and correctly said, "7 times 6 is 42". Brian and I clapped for him. Brian tested him for 8x6, 9X6, and 10X6, and he got them right. I tried telling him to just put a zero behind any number for ten timestables but that's when he started covering his ears again...still, I was happy that he understands the concept of multiplication.

I didn't believe timestables could be learnt without memorising but now I think it can actually be done.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Camera Pictures 7

These are the hotdogs and pancakes (teremok) that I wrote about earlier.

The sausage is stuffed into the test-tube shaped bread, together with the sauce of your choice. Those of you sniggering, your dirty minds need washing! (I recommend Vanish.)

It's spelt Tepemok but remember in Russia, P is R, so it's pronounced Teremok. There's all kinds of fillings, even caviar, but I've only ever tried mushrooms and ham.

They're quite yummy when hot.