Thursday, January 27, 2011

Children Toys in Malaysia

No wonder they say raising kids are expensive! Look at the price of children toys and clothes here in Malaysia and you will know why. For a good quality toy here, you will easily need to fork out hundreds (maybe even thousands! I'm not kidding and we are not even talking about the iPads and Wii!). Comparing dollar to dollar, you can easily get three toys for £20 in the UK and £50 can go a loooooong way! Second hand items still in very good condition sell at merely just a few pounds!

One example is the Leapfrog activity table. In the UK, a new one is selling for £35.75 while in Malaysia, it is selling for RM238.00! Dollar for dollar, can you imagine paying only RM35.75 for this item?? Even after converting, it is still shockingly more expensive in Malaysia!

Comparing second hand ones, one was recently sold for RM69 in Malaysia while it is common to see one sold for less than £5 on eBay! Some were even sold at their original list price of only £0.99!

Some solution to this:
1. Extend life of toys by buying second hand or hand over toys to younger children or donate to a charity. Only problem is second hand toy shops are a rare sight in Malaysia and we don't have many relatives to hand us down items while most friends are still keeping theirs for their third, fourth and fifth child  :(  Those willing to sell me second hand items, I'm willing to have a look! Those wanting to have more space at home, send your unused children toys and clothes this way please!

2.  Home made. Sure bought toys come with lots of sounds and lights but when a toy is crafted together at home, there is a sense of pride and achievement not to mention the special bonding session while sparks of creativity fly all over the place! Besides, it is fun, easy, doesn't hurt the pocket as much and green! Check out lots of ideas online or some of our little projects: play dough, five little freckled frogs, marble run and others which I will continue to post here.

3. Exchange. If you can find people who are willing to exchange toys with you for a few weeks or so, this is a great way to save and try 'new' toys on both sides. Just need to place your trust in each other to keep the toys clean and return them in one piece but don't have high expectations when dealing with curious toddlers. Though it is not easy to break the mental barrier of parents here regarding hygiene etc. it may be worth a try! Start with some small inexpensive ones first and if it doesn't work out, you can always scrap the idea.

4. Review. If you really need to purchase toys, spend some time reading reviews online before your next purchase to know what toys are suitable at what age to get the best mileage and have your money well spent. Hopefully I can help by putting some review posts up if I get a chance.

Any other suggestions out there??

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

MOMMade: 'Marble' Run [Homemade Children Craft]

Saw this marble run toy on a friend's Facebook photos and thought we can do something similar to this at home! Spent a few minutes brainstorming for a homemade version and then off to scavenge for the parts in the recycling bin!!

This is what I used:
1 empty cereal box
3 toilet rolls
Marker pen
Super glue/ glue gun
Craft knife

This is what I did:
1. Draw an outline on the cereal box with the marker and cut it out with the craft knife.
2. Cut a hole on the top of the cereal box using the craft knife to insert marble through.
3. Cut the toilet rolls in half. Place and mark where to place the toilet rolls on the cereal box.
4. Make a crease on one side of the toilet rolls using the side of the table so they hold better.
5. Put glue on the creased side and paste them on the markings. Use as it is or decorate with paints or stickers etc.
After testing it a few rounds, I extended the last roll so it goes right to the end.
 I also cut a little opening at the exit so it is easier to remove the 'marbles'.

 I tried looking for some marbles in the supermarket to use this new toy but couldn't find any. The crystal beads I have were kind of hazardous as they are small. Our plastic bottle cap collection worked but doesn't provide the same feel as a round item. So I made some using aluminium foil! Just tear some pieces up and squash them into a ball! Doesn't have to be perfectly round. The aluminium 'marbles' can be of different sizes and you can make as many or as little as you want whenever you want them!

This is what I encountered:
I placed the rolls too near initially and the 'marbles' just jumped right off the first roll so I had to remove and place the rolls further apart.

This is what I will do next time
1. Use either blue tack or not-so-sticky tape to put the toilet rolls in place and do a trial run first before actually pasting them on permanently with glue.

The best part about this toy is
Promotes creativity and helps develop child's motor skills!
It took us only half an hour to construct!!
The parts are easily replaceable!!!
Cost is extremely low!!!!
It is green!!!!!

We were so excited with our new toy that we played with it past Baby O's nap time window which was a disaster as she completely did not want to nap after that resulting in an overactive and cranky little toddler!!

Now this simple and easy one is done, time to brainstorm a more complicated one like this:

Potty Training =

a very clean house!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Almond Thin Cookies Take Two!

This is it! Much better! Much yummier!!! Well, I'm satisfied... Probably still not good enough to sell yet but it's good enough for me, myself and dear hubby! My, these things are super addictive!! We can munch up a whole bunch in one sitting!

As mentioned in my first attempt post, the cookies were too thick so I divided the batter to three this time and tried my best to spread it out as thinly as possible on the greaseproof paper which I fold at the sides to mark as guides so I don't go out of line. I also reduced the amount of sugar to 3/4 cups. I only managed to use about 150g almond flakes instead of the 340g suggested in the original recipe. This time I obtained 9 dozens compared to just 4 previously as I cut them into smaller bite size pieces (that's how they became addictive!)

So this time its:
227g SCS butter; unsalted
1 large egg
3/4 cup white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

150g almonds flakes
Whites of 1 egg (for glazing)

Shall let the pictures do the talking:

Spread batter out thinly
Sprinkle then press almond flakes down firmly
After baking for 12 minutes
Glaze with egg white then cut with sharp knife

Back into the oven for another 5 minutes
Cooling on wire racks before being eaten!

A break after a break

Waaa-ay too many things to blog about, waaa-ay too little time! I always need time to readjust my schedule back after getting my routines thrown off after a holiday especially with a toddler now. Holidays are great! But surviving the aftermath is tough.

Anyway, thankful that this time round the flight was only a little over an hour. Since we went on AirAsia, it was thoroughly up to us to provide ALL the entertainment on board. This time round:

1. we couldn't choose to fly around nap or sleep times as flights were limited. So gearing up with activities was extremely crucial! Reading a new book and colouring with crayons helped most of the journey this time. As did watching the plane take off and looking at the clouds. Yes, window seats are a good options for active toddlers!!!

2. I gave Baby O raisins during take-off and landing as before. We also let her munch on a bagel on the way back. She actually slept on the flight back. Managed to knock off not long after take off all the way till we landed! (Miracles DO happen!) We could see though that she was fiddling with her ears even in her sleep probably from the discomfort of the cabin pressure. Thankfully she continued to sleep through! Oh, thank You, Lord!!

3. Baby O somehow limited her time in the stroller. However it was still good to have a lightweight stroller around anyway for putting a sleeping baby in (if and when she falls asleep) or putting your shopping in!

4. I have to take note to pack a few more extra sets of clothes for Baby O next time or be prepared to do laundry. Remember there's a lot more to experiment and lots more opportunities to get dirty when you are in a new place!

That's that for during the trip. Now don't forget that there's also preparation before the trip:
1. Remember to notify a trusted neighbour/ friend that you will be away (and for how long). Get their help to keep a lookout for you and collect mails/ newspapers while you are away.
2. Install a timer or get someone to switch on the lights at home.

3. Have a check list of things to bring - passport, chargers, extra batteries, formula milk, snacks, etc. When you have a toddler, it's a different ballgame altogether compared to when you were packing just for yourself. 
4. Basic things to check but often overlooked: weather/temperature, currency, plug-points, passport expiry.
5. Have enough rest before the trip (and take things easy when travelling with a toddler!)

Ok, time to catch up a little on the other stuffs! Hmm... maybe not. Someone's awake... ;-)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Almond Thin Cookies

Every Chinese New Year, I look forward to a few yummy goodies usually only available around this festive season. Almond thin cookies is one of them. However, due to the price increase in things like sugar etc., we consumers have to pay more for our Chinese New Year goodies including my favourite almond thin cookies! A small container of these cookies were seen on sale by the road side for RM17! And each 1-inch square cookie only had two miserable almond flakes on them. So I decided to try and make them myself. I found a few sites online but this {one} looks closest to what I am craving for though not quite there. The author did give a warning in her title (Not-So-Thin Almonds!). I gave it a try anyway.

This is what I used:

227g SCS butter; unsalted
1 large egg
Less than 1 cup white sugar (I reduced about 1 large tablespoon)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

100g almonds flakes (original recipe calls for 2 cups or 340g but when spread out, I only managed to use about 100g)
Whites of 1 egg (for glazing)

This is what I did (copied directly from {site} with minor adjustments):
    •    Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.
    •    Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.
    •    Sift together the flour and salt and slowly add to butter mixture. Mix until just blended.
    •    Divide batter in half and place each half on in the centre of two greaseproof paper.
    •    Dip a spatula in warm water and spread batter to cover the entire baking sheet, making sure batter is spread evenly. Lay a thin layer of almond flakes and press gently into dough.
    •    Bake each sheet about 12 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven.
    •    Cut hot cookies into neat 2-inch squares. Glaze cookies generously but gently to prevent displacing almond flakes in the process. Return to oven and bake until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent over-baking.
    •    Remove from oven to a wire rack. Slide spatula under cookies to loosen. Cool completely on cookie sheets. Store in airtight containers with layers of wax paper between layers

This is the result:
Also not as thin as I would like them but with enough almond flakes for each bite!

This is what I encountered:
I had a problem spreading the batter evenly and thinly on the baking sheet. So the thicker parts of the batter were still soft inside. This is also why I only managed to make 4 dozen cookies instead of 6 as per original recipe.

I find that the cookies were still too sweet even though I had reduced the amount of sugar. Otherwise, it would have been almost perfect!

Another problem is cutting them without displacing the almond flakes. The almond flakes just didn’t stick even though I pressed them down firmly before baking.

This is what I will do next time:
There must be a way to get the batter spread out evenly and thinly. Place another greaseproof paper on top and roll out using skewers at the side as guide to thickness perhaps? Divide batter into three instead of only two? Mine is only a small oven anyway. (Can't wait to get a proper built-in oven!)

Try with only 3/4 cup sugar next time. 

Try baking with a layer of egg white glaze first before cutting as another measure to get the almond flakes to stick to the cookie besides pressing them down firmly.

This is what it costs:
SCS Unsalted Butter RM8
Prai Sugar RM0.50
1 Egg RM0.50
Flour RM0.50
Almond RM4
Vanilla Extract RM0.10
TOTAL: RM13.60 for 4 dozen cookies
Hidden costs - electricity, labour, time.

This is small scale, homemade, with good quality ingredients. Imagine using big cans of cheap margarine etc..

Will definitely make more soon! Hopefully can get some decent ones out for Chinese New Year!

{check out second attempt: Almond Thin Cookies Take Two!}

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

This Mommy Loves???

Recently, Baby O has been calling my Mommy instead of Mama... 'Mommy pau-pau (carry)', 'Where's Mommy?', 'Mommy there!'...
Question is, how did she know that I was also Mommy??

Enduring Forever

Dear Hubby gave me a clue to this year's Christmas present - Enduring Forever.. I was trying to look for the answer on Google but just couldn't find any. Yesterday was when I 'received' the present. It's (as I suspected) a treatment at the spa! How thoughtful. Dear Hubby knows I need those knots on my back fixed!

Enduring Forever (EF) is a spa with an English themed setting. Very different from the other typical Balinese, Thai or Zen themed spas indeed. We accidentally discovered it one of those days out in town and thought the exterior very appealing.
My appointment was for noon but I was half hour late as I got lost! Still not familiar with the routes here. The pouring rain didn't help either causing traffic to crawl.

As I went down the walkway and neared the entrance, the door opened and a young girl (whom is also my masseuse) greeted me and swiftly brought me through a series of nicely adorned hallways to a dimly lit room, all decorated with a touch of English charm. She then handed me a disposable bra, panty and shower cap and told me to change into them. She also informed me that we will start with a foot scrub before proceeding onto the body scrub and then left me to undress.  I must say that this is the first time I see a disposable bra (which is basically just a piece of tissue-textured material placed across the chest and tied behind)! Even spa resorts like Tanjung Jara and Four Seasons in Bali do not provide these. Nice to know that there is an option for those who want to keep it more modest.

My masseuse came back into the room and gave me a foot scrub. She told me the salts used helps in removing dead skin cells and has whitening properties. During the scrub, I managed to find out her name (whom we shall call A from now on), that the establishment is only half a year old and owned by a local. After that, I was told to lie on the massage bed for the body scrub. To my surprise, the bed has a thermal blanket which keeps it nice and warm. They really do think of the little details. The scrub lasted about half an hour. I found out then that this is A's first job. So she only has about six month's experience. Hmm...

After the scrub, A brought me to another room with a tub for my 'fitness bath'. She told me to lie in the tub filled with warm (more to the hot side) water on a mat which has some 360 holes. Eh? She then explained that 15 minutes inside the bath is equivalent to having worked out for 3 hours! Hmm... Besides, the bath helps with firming, detox and slimming... Wow... (while trying to suppress a little laughter of disbelieve of such wonder). A then switched the bath on and the mat started 'boiling' bubbles around me. So that's what the 360 holes are for. A dimmed the lights and left me for the next 15 minutes. I tried to close my eyes and relax in the 'pot of soup'. After a while, I started to feel like I was floating in the middle of a vast ocean with thousands of squid surrounding me squirting ink on my face! Hmm.. this bath thing is not really my cup of tea. I never knew 15 minutes can last soooooo loooong... but hey, if it slims, firms and detox and leaves you thinking you have done 3 hours of gym........... At some point, I started to even feel a little dizzy. Sea sickness? The squids has not stopped squirting ink on my face!

When the whole floating in the sea experience ended, I actually did feel tired, as though I had just worked out! A came with a cup of ginger tea and asked if I was feeling light-headed. She told me to continue sitting in the bath for a while and relax before changing into another set of disposables for my massage.

Back on the massage bed, A started my Enduring Forever Treatment massage on my back. I did feel a little more relaxed after the fitness bath but a more experienced masseuse would be able to tell that I was trying hard to relax my shrugged shoulders. A more experienced masseuse would also be able to identify and focus on the tonnes of knotted muscles on my taxed back. However, being a young apprentice, A did everything wholeheartedly, drawing long slow moves, no short cuts unlike some experienced masseuse.

I started to relax more during the second half of the massage but didn't doze off unlike most times. Honestly, I would have preferred to have a longer back massage. Overall, it was still a pleasant experience and I felt pampered. Thanks Dear Hubby for the wonderful gift!

Note: No photography allowed so the above pictures are taken directly from their brochure.


And a Happy New Year! Hope the start of your year has been good so far! We had a wonderful holiday season but as with all holidays, it's the after that I dread. Now that the laundry's finally done, house dusted, floors cleaned, babe's asleep and brew in hand, let's get this blogging business back on again!
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