Monday, July 26, 2010

Potty Training 101

It’s been exactly three whole months since I pledged on Earth Day to potty train Baby O. In the last three months, I have been on and off going about looking for the first item you need to potty train - a potty. Little did I know that it takes a bit more effort than anticipated. The potties that I have spotted are either waaaay too expensive or not suitable for Baby O’s age. The branded ones cost an arm and a leg - BabyBjorn (RM179), Fisher Price (RM169/ RM199). I am certainly not going to spend RM199 for a ‘throne’! Next in line will be the Mothercare potty at RM70. The local brands like Sweet Cherry around the range of RM20 seems great but they are too small/ low for Baby O’s age. I was excited when I spotted Jusco’s 'seat' potty. It is affordable but seems to be a tad too shallow? That means the bum and the base are only a few centimetres away from each other. Hmm...

While trying to get some reviews online and hopefully direction to where to get a decent potty, I found out that Mummy's Reviews is currently doing a giveaway. And it comes as Bouncy Baby One Size Cloth Diaper! This cloth diaper is proudly made locally in Malaysia by Tiny Tapir - a company that promotes eco-friendly lifestyle changes! You've got that right! Made locally, cloth diapers = GREEN! I have never used cloth diapers before but using all those disposable diapers really made me feel guilty about contributing to the landfills. So I am hoping that I win this giveaway to try out cloth diapers while reducing the number of disposable nappies used as I trying to get Baby O potty trained! Fingers-crossed!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Food Strike

Ok, it's not really a strike but Baby O has been EXTREMELY fussy with food these days especially after her bout of flu. She used to eat everything under the sun! Meal time used to be so easy! My pride swells each time someone comment on how easy it is to feed her. Recipe books for babies and toddlers made me snicker thinking 'I don't need that!'. Oh, how things have changed!

The most drastic would be her formula milk. She absolutely refuses to drink any milk now when she used to gulp them down. I feel so sinful throwing all the expensive milk down the drain! I tried concealing it in scrambled eggs, cooked with oats, made banana milk shake but nothing worked. Hang on, the one time it worked was when I put the milk in the fridge in order to keep it from going bad so that I can try it on her again later. She actually drank the lot! Hmm... Anyway, I have meanwhile made sure she has enough calcium in her diet by adding cheese into my cooking or giving her a pot of yogurt. We bought Kraft's Cheezels Biskitz for the first time as an alternative snack to just cheese alone because it says it is made with read cheese. Baby O seems to enjoy them.

Baby O is also currently not into most foods she used to eat - carrots, pumpkin, brocolli, sweet potato. I suppose she had too much of a good thing? These were kind of like her staples since she started solids. Maybe she got bored? On the bright side, she still gladly eats plain steamed rice and plain toast and will gladly take 'Na-na'  (bananas) or other fruits - 'Pa-po' (apple), 'Pa-po' (yes, they sound the same but this time it means pomelo!), 'Gwaek' (grapes) and 'Sss' (raisins).

Meanwhile, this Mama has a lot of homework to do to search for recipes for the little one! Let's start with some all time favourite - pasta!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Baking project no.2 - Footballer cake

Two more sleepless nights (and black food colouring spilled all over my white top - thanks to Baby O for helping) to get this done for my bro’s mini family celebration over the weekend. Plus another few nights tossing and turning in bed before that thinking of a design. He’s a *cough* ManU supporter as well as a Simpson fan. I was torn between a Bart Simpson figurine or a footballer. Somehow went for the footballer since it was World Cup fever and all...

My footballer (only one attempt this time! Yay!) ended up looking a lot more proportioned and satisfying compared to the previous beach girl figure on my beach-themed cake. I think the head and hair looks better too! However, fondant is SO difficult to work with as it is a lot softer so they will melt and make the figure sink down. I had to add icing sugar and corn flour to harden it as much as possible but too much of it causes cracks. 

I used the same carrot cake recipe but kept it in a cool place and not in the refrigerator this time. The carrot cake tastes softer when not refrigerated. However, the cream cheese frosting this time is too sweet and too liquidy to spread on.

As usual, I loved the part where I put on the details. The footballer's eyes look better than the beach girl's, I think. I added ears this time too. I molded the football, details of the jersey the night before putting them on the figurine so that they will harden which makes it easier to handle. I also thought of crafting a goal post initially but ran out of time which was probably a good thing since it was only a small cake say about 6 inches in diameter with not much space to play with. And since it was a small cake (we don't really eat a lot of cakes at home and the seven of us couldn't even finish this one), there weren't many details I can play with vs the beach-themed cake.  That meant I could spend more time 'perfecting' the footballer itself. Fun! Fun! Fun!

We had to ferry the cake back from Penang to Ipoh for the celebration. Sadly, Mr Footballer didn't arrive in one piece. His right foot fell off and this was later followed by one of his arm. He also sank a little into the cake. Need a solution to this. I suspect it is because of the amount of icing and corn flour added to stiffen the fondant to prevent it from sinking. Too much causes cracks as mentioned and this leads to a higher risk of things falling apart after being put together as in the case of Mr Footballer. The icing/flour also makes the fondant looks matte instead of glossy like some of those cakes I see online. Hmm.. Need more excuse to practice!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

More compost update

I went to check on my compost two weeks ago to see if I should turn it again. When I remove the cover this time, I discovered tonnes of big, fat (ok, this is not for the squeamish!) maggots!!! They were all having a big, fat maggot party! Ewww!

Well, I sort of expected it as I have read somewhere before that a compost heap that is too wet may attract some of these creepy crawlies. I must have incorporated too much vegetable peelings and fruit skins in there without adding enough 'browns' such as dried leaves, twigs and branches. The other possibility is I may have watered the compost more than I needed to in a humid country - I have yet to search for a composting site from a tropical country for help in this area. One last cause could be due to the addition of egg shells. Some suggests to wash the egg shells before crushing them into the pile while others say just dump them in. I did the latter which might explain how I created maggot haven!

On the other hand, I did also read that maggots help with the decomposing process and their by products are actually great addition to the compost! We went back to our hometown over the weekend and when we got back, the compost heap has reduced in height quite obviously thanks to all the action going on! So the question is, to keep or not to keep our little friends (or foes) the maggots??

Anyway, I have stopped watering the heap of compost and added more dry fallen fir tree leaves into it and gave it a little stir (sorry to be such a party pooper, Mr and Miss Maggots) to dry the heap a little. I actually prefer the heap decomposing without the sight of these wriggly stuffs. I haven't seen them today after changing the moisture level of the composition. Let's see if it is bye-bye maggots in the next few weeks!

Note: After writing this post, I did a quick search and found Composting in Singapore, a great sight for beginners starting a compost with tonnes of pictures and info. They mentioned that our hot and humid weather is perfect for composting (thus I shall stop watering the heap and let it decompose under our brilliant tropical climate naturally). They also mentioned that the larvaes of Black Soldier Flies (BSFs) are compost friends! Ok maggot-y thingys, you can stay. But can you like remain at the bottom of the compost heap so I don't get goosebumps every time I need to remove the cover and throw in more materials to feed you? Oh, and bravo to Composting in Singapore for their effort in starting a compost bin even though they live in an HDB flat in Singapore as well as sharing all the great info on their site!

Note 2: Sorry no pictures as I can only bear to lift the cover up, dump more materials in and close it back. Maybe when I gather more guts next time round!

Ooooohh... This Mama can't wait!

I have since 5 minute ago watered my first crop! In three separate pots are the seeds of okra (ladies fingers), chilli and pumpkin. And planted in the garden plot itself are ten garlic bulbs! I didn't know it was that easy to plant garlic! Just put a bulb every 10cm or so of compost mixed soil somewhere with plenty of sun, water and wait! Just wished my compost was ready to be used. I am just hoping to see some shoots sprouting out of the soil soon!!! Fingers crossed! Watch this space for updates!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baby-O Talk

Baby O started saying words like Mama, Papa, Mum-mum, Nen-nen since she was about nine months old. At 14+ months now, she is in a different phase of life yet again as her vocabulary swells. Nowadays, if something drops on the floor, she’ll go ‘ak, oh!’ in a very deliberate manner which makes me smile all the time.

Her favourite words are probably:
More!’ - She says this after every single song playing on the CD and when she is ready for the next spoon of food.

MmOi’ (Don’t Want in Cantonese) - This word came naturally to her as we don’t usually use much Cantonese around her! Nowadays, if you ask if she wants something, she’ll either respond ‘MmOi’ or nod. Makes life a lot easier though she doesn’t always mean what she says!

Aik!’(Lights) - She’ll shout excitedly ‘Aik!’ when we come to a stop at every single set of traffic light. And she expects us to respond to her excitedly too! Otherwise, she’ll keep harping ‘Aik!’, ‘Aik!’, ‘Aik!’ till she gets a respond!

Aahh!’ (Water) - Previously, water was ‘Ter’. After observing how her gung-gung (grandpa) drinks his water and goes ‘Aaahhh!’ after that, she has ‘Aahh!’ down now as water, or anything liquid including washing liquid! Yikes!!!

Pa-pau’ (I want to be carried in Mandarin) - She says this while clapping her hands and then opening her arms up to be carried.

Mou-more’ (No More) - Said while shaking her hand to indicate that something is not there or has finished.

Ma-men’ (Amen) - This is one of my favourite! Said after we finish saying grace before our meals while clasping her hands and with opened, eager eyes.

Nen-nen’ (Breastmilk) - This is probably the mother of all words! Especially when she hasn’t been well lately and relied a lot on it for comfort. If she gets a cent for everytime she mentions this word, her university fees would have all been paid for!

Muck!’ (Milk) - Another one of my favourites! Because of how it sounds coming from her. Regardless whether it's in a cup or its powdery form in a container.

She can also fill in the blanks to songs and words in her books which amazes me at times. I will deliberately blank out a word at the end of a sentence and Baby O usually surprises me when she fills it up with a word that sounds like the omitted word!

Other than that, she is always grabbing her toy phone or our mobile phones and goes ‘Pa-po’ (Grandma in Cantonese) or ‘Ou’ (Hello), before continuing her pretend chat which goes something like this ‘Ou, oh... aau,.. oh.. ou...’

On the baby sign front, I wonder if it has benefited us at times. She started saying most words that she has been taught to sign since she has been more vocal. So she has never really used the signs. However, there were occasions when she did sign to communicate to us like when she wanted to tell us there were fishes in an aquarium or pants when she sees a dog and recently ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when prompted. I feel that it was more through communicating to her all the time since she was a baby, telling her things from a mundane house chore to our whole life story and by repeating the words and songs that she has picked up these words. Wonder what other moms out there have to say about baby signs?

Egg Omelette

Baby O is almost back to her old self after being down for more than a week! I am so glad to see her gaining her appetite back and with a vengeance as well! She is happily gobbling up her usual rice/porridge with veg, fish/meat/tofu and sometimes asking for more! But before that, I had to ‘trick’ her into eating just that little bit more to keep her nourished through this period.

My Cheesy Toast was a success but the Egg Omelette was hit! What I used this time:
One tablespoon each of onion, wholemeal bread, broccoli, tomato, and chicken meat all chopped finely.
One egg - beaten
30ml formula milk
One teaspoon unsalted butter
One slice cheese - cut into pieces
A crack of black pepper

The milk, bread and black pepper were added into the beaten egg. Melt butter in a non-stick pan (perfect for omelettes and pancakes!) on low heat. Fry onions till fragrant before stirring in the broccoli, tomato and chicken for a quick fry. Pour in the egg mixture and give it a little stir till the egg forms pieces here and there. This is to ensure the omelette cooks through without having the outsides burnt and insides uncooked. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Flip the omelette over to cook other side. If you can’t flip the omelette over without it hitting the ceiling and landing on the floor (like yours truly!), try sliding it onto a plate (should be easy-peasy with a non-stick pan) and then cover the pan over the plate before flipping it. The other side should cook in another 5 minutes or so.

The result is a savoury egg omelette packed with wholesome goodness and a little twang from the pepper even a sick baby can't resist! Baby O ate more than her portion of it and I gladly finished up the leftovers! Mmmm.....

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Wonderworld Work Bench ‘N’ Box

This is such a beautifully crafted toy with vibrant colours! Since Baby O is only 14 months and this work bench is recommended for 36 months and above, I intend to only introduce her to the hammer and nails while keeping the rest like the nuts and bolts and screwdriver for future use so that she will not get bored of the toy by the time she is ready for it. Anyway, toys should be rotated to reach their maximum potential.

Work benches are recommended at this age as it works the motor skills and improves creativity amongst other skills. (Baby O creatively used it as a sitting stool!) Activities like shaking a maracas or hammering on a work bench also help babies/ toddlers to release stress! This particular Wonderworld Work Bench ‘N’ Box is made of environmentally-friendly replantable rubber wood and water-based non-toxic colours. When not in use, the bench can be flipped over and turn into a carry tool box. Made in Thailand and available at a pretty reasonable price of RM106.90.

Precious Ones Educational Toy Store

Someone recommended us the Precious Ones toy store which stocks up on wooden toys here in Penang. It’s located just a few houses (converted to shops) away from the famous Penang Char Kway Teow stall on the famous Lorong Selamat, Penang. To be honest, if we were not told about this place, we wouldn’t have found it. As you approach the front, there are three different entrances leading to three different businesses! That explains why the signboards are so crowded and confusing. Inside Precious Ones, you will go agog with the plethora of educational toys available! All packed in one-third of the space allocated to them. From cloth books to DVDs, wooden work benches to cook stoves, growth charts to crafts. We couldn’t spend too much time in there but this will definitely be one place I will go to to purchase toys for babies/ toddlers in the future!

Location: 56, Lorong Selamat, Penang, Malaysia.

siTigun Bicycle Pit-Stop Café

We've been wanting to check out this place and finally managed to drop in for breakfast this morning.

siTigun is a nice little carefree hang-out park-your-bikes café with the word green in mind. Don't expect air-conditioning or expensive ice-blends. Instead siTigun serves home-roasted, rich Robusta coffee (from Bali, Indonesia), home-made croissants and cinnamon rolls amongst others. We like!

Why a bicycle pit-stop café? The owner, Tigun Wibisana used to travel around on his bike searching for the right place to settle down. If you're looking for a relaxing place to exchange conversations over a cup of roasted coffee in one of Penang's heritage buildings, check out siTigun!

Location: 15 - 17 Jalan Nagore, Penang

This Mama’s little kitchen helper

Since succumbing to the flu a few days back, Baby O has been stuck to me like glue as she reached the peak of her separation anxiety. Preparing meals was T.O.U.G.H. with no one around to keep her occupied and away from me. The TV (only used in times of desperation) didn’t do any good either. She also refused to stay in her playpen in the corner of the kitchen even though I am in sight. I was getting a little fed up with my limitation. Quick! Think of a distraction! Out came a colander, some measuring spoons, an empty plastic container and an empty (and clean!!) milk carton. My sous chef instantly went to work to dish up the most delectable (and invisible) gourmet dinner while I stir-fried some vegetables and cooked steamed rice! Ahh... another ‘genius’ moment! *Gleam!*

Do note though that I DO NOT encourage Baby O to play in the kitchen. I had to ensure that she is in a safe corner away from where all the action take place. Somewhere I won’t trip on her or her ‘equipments’ on the floor. Whenever I move around, I made sure she has not suddenly appear near me especially when handling the knife or hot water! Pot and pan handles are turned in and nothing is jutting out from the work top that will tempt her to reach up for it. She also understands not to open drawers and cupboards around in case they catch her fingers. I usually only work in the kitchen when Baby O is safe in the playpen, seated on her high chair, having a nap or when someone else is looking after her. She is however not entirely forbidden and frequently makes and appearance in the kitchen so she knows what is going on in there. Who knows? I might have a Nigella Lawson in the making!

Cheesy Toast

Since her flu a few days back, Baby O’s appetite dropped tremendously and she lost 300g. I can feel less of her and have been trying to get her to eat by offering her everything under the sun. I managed to leave a bowl of toast, raisins and cheerios (the only thing that she will eat at the moment) on the coffee table for her to pick and place into her mouth as and when because she will not sit in her high chair and finish them up like how she would normally do. Surely she can’t survive on a toast-raisins-cheerios diet! Had my thinking cap on and stormed into the kitchen to prepare something that she’ll hopefully not refuse - Cheesy Toast!

I chopped up some onions, about two florets of organic broccoli, a strip of organic red bell pepper and a tablespoon of free range chicken drumstick. I fried the onions with very little olive oil in a non-stick wok. (I know non-stick woks are a no-no to chefs but they make life so much easier and a little healthier!) Added the drumstick and fried for about 3 minutes till brown before adding the pepper and broccoli. Fried them for another 3 minutes. I then spread the concoction onto a slice of wholemeal bread and put slices of cheese on top before popping it into the oven for 2 minutes. When ready, I cut the slice up into bite-size pieces. Baby O chomped up all the carbohydrate, protein, iron, vitamins, calcium and left only two little pieces which is a vast improvement compared to what she has been eating the last few days! Ureka moments like this (although just plain common sense to others) makes me feel like such a genius sometimes! :-D

p.s. Beware of cheesy fingers all over your furniture!

THE flu

This is the first time Baby O has been down with a flu in her 14 months of life - a mild grade fever, phlegmy cough and a leaky nose. I have never seen her so unwell before! Her eyes are droopy, red and watery. She even vomited for the first time from the amount of mucous accumulated in her throat. Peaceful sleep through the night is non-existent at the moment. Naps is down from 2-3 hours to only an hour plus. Separation anxiety is at its ultimate peak and she hangs on to me 24/7. However, she still managed to keep her little spirit up (and mine) by smiling and laughing at our silly antics. 

It’s tough. I expected her to lose some appetite but it’s no to yummy yogurt, no to ridiculously expensive formula milk, no to organic oats, no to tasty free-range chicken stock porridge with organic broccoli florets. So what has she been eating then? Mainly, make that Only toasts, raisins, cheerios and bananas! Unfortunately fruits like kiwi and apples gave her diarrhoea. Fortunately she regularly goes for a sip of water throughout the day.

We have been observing her initially but finally decided to go to the paediatrician to stock up on some medicines yesterday. Our paediatrician is great. He said that paracetamol is not necessary if the fever is not any higher than 38’C and he does not prescribe any anti-diarrhoeals in the clinic. I’m glad we’re on the same boat. As a healthcare professional myself, I don’t take and do not recommend medicines unnecessarily. Sometimes the body just needs to fight the illness to be stronger.

However, Baby O is such a druggie. She loves taking medicine. Maybe she just loves the novelty of taking medicine from a syringe. She’ll say ‘More!’ after a dose and she’ll point in the direction of the kitchen leading to the bottle of paracetamol! This time round, one of her medicines has to be dissolved in a spoonful of water before being administered. She didn’t want it from the spoon but gladly stuff it in her mouth from a syringe! Hmm....

It’s the weekend!!

... and I’m about to embark on a blog posts frenzy!
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