Malty Choc Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are one of our favorite things to bake. Generally, most choc chip cookie recipes are simple with relatively few ingredients, hence its suitable as a child’s first few recipes to try out. We have tried out different recipes over the years for chocolate chip cookies, but we wanted to share this particular favorite of ours. This easy malty choc chip cookie recipes is extra yummy (in our opinion) as it has one of our favorite drinks inside…… Horlicks! The horlicks really give the cookie more “body” and as the name mentions, a malty taste….yummm.

Here is the link for the malty choc chip cookie recipe. Malty Choc Chip recipe

We usually don’t keep a ready stock of golden caster sugar at home, so i usually just “pretend” that its brown sugar and add up both quantities when measuring out my brown sugar. Also if am baking to give my parents (who dislike anything remotely sweet), i half the amount of sugar and choc chips as a reduced sugar alternative.

My little chef-ling actually enjoys weighing out all the individual ingredients and using the electric mixer, we have a kitchen aid, but he always find it more fun and prefers to use and hold on to the electric mixer.

We normally use cookie cutters to make the shapes, we spread out the dough into a big rectangle piece on the tray and cut out the shapes when it comes out of the oven before it cools. However, this time, we decided to try free form cookies, and my chef-ling had great fun making different shapes with his spoon (with some help from his fingers as well….). I basically told him to do whatever he wants, just make sure there isn’t any holes….

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On the other hand, i obviously didn’t think through this enough, as some were thick and some were thin, so they were unevenly brown…. still taste great though! Here is our yummy outcome…….

Happy weekend everyone!

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Reading to Children – Part 3 Reference books for preschoolers

Reference books for preschoolers?! Why would preschoolers read or even need “reference” books?! Well, am no tiger mom (at least i don’t think i am..), but when my boy was little, and before he had the concentration to focus on a story, he would leaf through these books and look at the pictures. I would read the captions or the little short descriptions next to the pictures, and it was really engaging for him. As he grew older, he would make sure i didn’t miss out anything when reading to him.

The books are actually very child friendly, with lots of pictures and descriptions are short enough for the kids to understand and hold their focus. With constant reading it’s pretty amazing what they are able to pick up. I literally must have read his favorite dinosaur book a good 50 times so far…least he is now well versed in all the different dinosaurs and whether they are a carnivore or herbivore or omnivore.

National geographic and animal planet have great magazines for kids with wonderful pictures and some activities as well.

Other family favorites are the lift a flap books, which are huge fun for them as well. They would race to open the flaps and get me to read.

We found a series on life cycles of different animals, and was a great introduction to the children on the different life cycles of various animals.

Miles Kelly does a great range of books with great graphics and fun and interesting descriptions.

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But we saved our favorite till last… we found this really fun and interactive book that the kids absolutely love!  The pictures are “darken” and you need a “torch light” to see the animals.

As with all children, pick books with topics that will interest your children. Its pretty obvious what my boy loves, my daughter loves the ocean as well, but her absolute favorite are horses and ponies, i can only imagine the mountain of books i would have if unicorns actually existed….. i wonder what my youngest would like in the future….

1st attempt at a Bento Box

So racial harmony day is here again, and i asked my kids what they would like to pack to school for their class this year. Thought it would a be a great idea to get them to look through my recipe books to choose what they would like, and to my horror (i obviously forgot i had this book), they picked….

IMG_4573Specifically, my son wanted a mushroom sushi and my daughter wanted candy sushi…(this is when i did a silent scream inside), and next thing i knew, i agreed to make it for them…. so here is my attempt at mushroom and candy sushi…

I have to say Miss Shirley Wong’s instructions are really detailed and very accurate. I had a go last year when i first got the book, and Miss smarty me thought i could just wing it and not follow her instructions exactly. Obviously that was a complete and utter disaster, so much so, that i banished the book to the back of the shelf, till the kids found it again this week. So armed with renewed determination, i followed her instructions EXACTLY. For those who wants to have a go, heed my lesson and follow exactly what Miss Wong says and spend some time reading the first few pages as well. The only thing i changed was some of the ingredients to color the rice, since my kids don’t like fishy or seafood flavors.

The easier of the 2 designs is the candy, much easier, and i manage to do the middle section without any difficulty. (excuse my grainy pictures for this post, i was literally making sushi till 10 mins before we had to leave for school) But i manage to succeed with making candy!! Super pleased with myself! I added normal pink food coloring to get the pink, instead of using what the book recommended.

Moving on with the dreaded mushrooms…this is definitely much much harder, and making the individual rods for the mushrooms spots took REALLY long, and was really fiddly. It definitely didn’t turn out half as nice as Miss Wong’s, HOWEVER, the good news it that the rods don’t have to be perfect to have a good outcome. Again for the coloring, i used carrot juice to cook the rice to make the orange color. For the stalk of the mushrooms, i added mashed eggs into the carrot rice to get the more yellow color.

Remember to cut off the uneven edges before slicing the rolls.

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Its not as crisp, and the edges not as clean, but not too bad as my 1st attempt no?

I even convinced my husband to make some pandas. Was a good thing i had a panda mold and he manage to make some pandas for the kids. Making the pandas are straight forward, just press the rice into the mold (wet the mold beforehand to prevent rice from sticking), stamp out the seaweed pieces and “stick” it on the panda to make their eyes, ears and mouth.

Final outcome:

I might attempt to make another sushi next time…. stay tuned….

Plush Craft – working on those fine motor skills for a preschooler

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newfindWe were at Hamley’s (it’s a large toy store at Plaza Singapura) over the weekend and we picked up something interesting for Sophie. It’s a DIY purse from Plush Craft by Orb Factory. Though I was hesitant to get it for Sophie because it was expensive (S$24.90) and I felt it might limit her creativity with all that numbering, I wanted her to try something that required her to focus and follow instructions. In anycase, this week, my focus was getting her to focus on following instructions and stumbling onto this item helped me achieve that objective.

Prior to getting down to doing an activity, I always have a large tray to set up the required materials. This activity was no different. Out from the box, the fabric were all mixed up and so we got down to sorting the colors (4 colors) and grouping them. After sorting them out, I read to Sophie the instructions that each dot had a number and it represented a color. For example, number 1 represents white fabric. With a pen that they provided, she started by matching the fabric to the correct number and poking it into each hole.

As she was doing it, I wanted very much to try and so did my 3 year old boy. We ended up asking Sophie if we could have a try. I found it very therapeutic and Luke was so pleased that he was able to do it. The box indicated that this activity was for 5 years and above. I guess Luke is ready to try it though he is a little younger. Just remember that there are small parts (the beaded stickers) and adult supervision is required. I am thinking of getting one for Luke, but a plush pillow instead of a purse.

I found that Amazon carries them and some of those kits are eligible for free shipping to Singapore.  Below is a few recommended items that we intend to purchase that ships to Singapore. I have also included the precious purse that we got from Hamleys, but unfortunately, that one does not ship to Singapore. But if you’re from the US, please feel free to use our affiliate link to get the item and we really appreciate your support.

Overall, I really enjoyed this project as did Sophie. We started in the morning for about 20 minutes before heading out to church and continued after her nap for another 2 hours. She was distracted occasionally but she didn’t find the activity mundane at all. She really loved the journey and of course the final product. I think this might be one of our Christmas gifts ideas to our friends and a children’s charity organization.

Affiliated links in this post.
Here are the items that we are eyeing:

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Teddy Bear Pillow
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Fancy Fish Pillow
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Foxy Pillow
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Precious Purse – unfortunately, this does not ship to Singapore

xoxo
Sharon

Family Furniture DIY Project

Lately the children seem a little bored of the usual medium we have been using for painting, so i was thinking about what could i use that would be fun for the children to paint on. Just so happens what we needed some collapsible shelves for when we do our ironing. Husband and i decided to just attempt to DIY our first shelves together as a family.

SO, take a deep breath and……

Step 1, take measurements (husband’s specialty)

Step 2, Get some collapsible hinges from the hardware store and make a trip down to a workshop and buy some plywood cut to our measurements. (Also husband’s specialty)

Step 3, the fun bit – Painting!! We used acrylic paints, and let the kids decide what colors they want to use. Leave it to dry (preferably overnight), especially since my little M decided to splatter and drizzle paint as her finishing touch (i thought it looked very artistic and abstract).

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Paint the underside and again leave to dry.

Step 4, finish with a few layers of shellac, (we applied 3 layers). The shellac seems to bring the colors to “life” and it becomes very vibrant.

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Step 5, install and admire the new shelves. Daddy and A had a blast doing their measurements and breaking out the power drill……

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The kids absolutely enjoyed this project and were super proud of their artwork, they keep asking us whether we need to make more shelves. This project seems a tad bit daunting in the beginning, but as with all DIY projects, just go for it and enjoy the process!

 

 

Five stones

featuredOld school or vintage toys are slowly making a comeback, and one of our favorites are our handmade five stones. We decided to do this blog as lots of people when they purchase our five stones ask for a quick demo on how to play. Well, we’re pretty rusty ourselves, our five stones playing skills just aren’t how they used to be back then. So we have added some links to some you tube videos for your convenience on the different stages of playing five stones. We found a couple of videos, though their stages 6-10 seems to vary a little. But have fun playing with whatever version you follow.

Five stones stages option 1

Five stones stages option 2

And if you are interested in making a purchase, just click the link below to go to our shop.

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Five stones purchase

We also sell our self designed five stones in a clutch bag that comes with an appliqued tic tac toe grid and 2 sets of five stones. You will end up with 2 old school games in one clutch bag.

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Five stones / tic tac toe clutch bag

Have fun!

Pizza night!

Our kids absolutely love pizza, but then again, who doesn’t love pizza. In our family, i TRY to make pizza with the kids at least once a month (if they had their way it would be everyday….). We make everything from scratch, the kneading of the dough would be a little hard for the kids at this age, but they are more than happy in measuring out the flour and mixing them. Their favorite bit is of course to make their own pizza! Here’s our recipe below:

Pizza Dough:

My favorite recipe is Jamie Oliver’s simple Pizza Dough recipe, it has never failed me!

Pizza dough recipe

My other pointers would be to add your flour or water VERY slowly, as the texture would change the more you knead it. Also, knead till you have a dough that is slightly tacky, but not sticking to the table.

Also, i use normal plain flour and it works just as well. If you like your pizza slightly chewier, use bread flour.

Tomato Sauce:

2 Canned tomatoes (this would be enough to make 4-8 pizzas depending on the size)

1-2 cloves of garlic (minced)

Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

Vegetables (if you have kids that don’t like their vegetables like mine, this is where i “hide” the vegetables. i usually add chopped up broccoli and / or carrots). Amount depends on how “sensitive” your kids are to the vegetables, add the maximum amount before the kids could detect it in their tomato sauce. I could get away with about a quarter of a broccoli and a carrot. I even manage to sneak in a few mushrooms the other day too!

Anyways, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to your pan, when hot, add garlic and saute till fragrant but not brown. Add your vegetables and saute till soft, crush up any big tomato pieces and let simmer till you have a sauce consistency. Season with salt, pepper and sugar if needed. If you have chopped the vegetables finely, and your kids aren’t particularly fussy, your sauce is done. Otherwise, put your sauce in a blender and blend till smooth. I dare a child to complain that there are vegetables in the tomato sauce now!

Pizza:

Spread the bottom of the pan with semolina flour (to prevent sticking and gives nice crisp), spread your dough with your hands or rolling pin, even out a spoonful of tomato sauce and add whatever toppings you want. Pop into the oven, as an amateur cook, i just crank the oven up to the highest temperature when the children starts making the pizza, and it will be hot by the time the pizza is ready to go into oven. Once in the oven, keep a watch, but it should be perfectly done in about 10-mins (depending on size and thickness of pizza).

Have a go making your own homemade pizza, it really isn’t too hard, and i hope you will enjoy making it as much as my family! I wanted to share the final product once out the oven, but the kids beat me to it and ate it before i could take a picture…..

Story Inspired – Art and Craft with a preschooler

FeaturedStory inspired activities come in various forms such as acting/singing them out, making puzzles or coloring templates and lots more. For me, I use stories as a starting point for setting the stage for an art and craft activity.

This weekend, my daughter wanted me to read The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson. It’s a lovely story about a girl who makes a paper doll with her mother and plays with it in various imaginary stories and finally the paper dolls get snipped into bits and pieces by a boy. But that memory of paper doll lives in her and when she grows up, she does this craft with her child. Overall, it is a very heartwarming story, the illustrations are dreamy and beautiful and the words are very catchy. Our book comes with the audio CD and the children enjoys listening to it in the car or at home.

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Anyway, here’s a little bit of how we did up our paper dolls.
Supplies:
Paper A3 size (I used a 190gsm as I wanted a sturdier paper to hold the fabric)
Freehand drawing of a doll (if you need a template, click here. Please adjust size accordingly)
Fabric, paper scraps, ribbons
Embellishments (optional)
Crayons,markers
Scissors
Glue

Place the paper landscape wise, fold it into an accordion style with 4 inches each segment.
Draw the shape of the doll, have the ends of the hands and/or legs reach the end of the paper so that when you cut, it will connect.
If using template, print out the template, cut it and paste it on your paper, and cut out the shape. Alternatively, you can trace the outline of the cutout.
Set the table with materials for the child to work on
I used a school glue, and poured it into a plate and provided a brush for my daughter to use.
We had this “gluing station” where all the gluing took place on a cardboard so as to minimize the mess.

If the paper is thick, it might be better for the adult to cut out the templates or if your child is older you might like him/her to give it a try to cut it out.

My suggestion would be to read the story a few days before hand, have your child interested in making their paper dolls. And on the day of the activity, read the book then invite your child to work on the activity when you have the paper doll template and materials are ready.

My daughter and I took about 2 hours from start to finish making the paper dolls and decorating them. This is the first time she tried cutting fabric and it was not easy because I did not give her a fabric scissors which would be too heavy and sharp for her to handle. But she was persistent and she succeeded in cutting out some shapes and a dress for her doll. She did a series of girls and I made a series of 3 boys and 1 girl.

We made up names for our dolls and tried to make them rhyme. It was hilarious figuring those names during dinner!

My 3 year old joined us for the last 20 mins and was interested in coloring parts of the doll. Do be prepared for the younger kids to accidentally rip the hands apart. My son did that while daddy read the story to them at bedtime this evening. I fixed it by using a metal paper fasteners.

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Story telling before bedtime
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Paper Dolls with paper fasteners

 

There are so many stories out there that one could possibly use it as a source of inspiration. We have done Dr. Seuess Green Eggs and Ham where we cooked our eggs and ham green,The Very Hungry Caterpillar where we used balloons to print the shape of the caterpillar and Mr Seahorse using colored tissue paper to let it “bleed”.

xoxo
Sharon

Affiliate links based on the books I mentioned above. Please note that there is no extra charge when you use these links. Thank you for supporting us!

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Reading to Children – Part 2 Books for preschoolers

In Part 1 I shared you some books to start introducing your babies and young toddlers to start reading. Reading to children – Part 1

Part 2 is books for preschoolers, those 3 years to about 6 years. Reading is something really personal for most, interests and hobbies greatly influence and determine what sort of books we enjoy. For me, i try to mainly buy books that fit my children’s interests, but every now and again, i will introduce them to a new topic that i feel is important or just something that i would like to expose them to and learn about. When my son was younger, he was hitting and was unable to share, so i got these books to open up the topic and talk more on a daily basis on what he should do when he gets angry etc. Of course books alone didn’t solve it completely, but it definitely helped his awareness and gave him some insight into his actions.

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Or when i wanted to teach different body parts or even something simple like the life cycle of plants. Finding a book with those topics can serve as a great introduction to whatever you want to expose them to.

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  1. Picture Books

These are simple story books with very vibrant, wonderful illustrations that supports the story line. Some have no words, some have a few, some even come with a touch and feel component as well.  The very hungry caterpillar is a great book to start introducing books to your children, the illustrations are eye catching, with a simple story line and few words. It also comes with  touch and feel components and is very engaging for the children. There are also plenty of talking points you can have with your child. Definitely one of our favorites. Or something even simpler would be picture books with a singular words, almost like flash cards in a book form with better illustrations. Surprisingly, kids do enjoy these types of books too, as they love the pictures and it is easy for them to process. (It’s terribly dry for parents to read it over and over again though….)

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2. Rhyming books

Personally, rhyming books are my favorite books to read with the children. Some of the books that you are able to find now are beautifully written with stories that will interest your child. Our favorite is The Whale and the Snail by Julia Donaldson. Actually, we love all her her books and we practically have all of them. Dr Seuss is another of our favorites and my children are currently obsessed with Dr Seuss books. We have been reading at least one (max 2 – one for each child, otherwise bedtime reading will never end…..) Dr Seuss book every bedtime. Both Julia Donaldson and Dr Seuss are great as they not only have great story lines, detailed illustrations, but also fun rhyming when you read and the main sentences get repeated, which helps their understanding and comprehension.

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3. Wordless books

Wordless books essentially are just books with only pictures. They are great in getting your child to be imaginative, as they can tell their own story based on the pictures. Now that my children are older, i get them to take turns to tell their own story, and it’s wonderful to see how the same pictures will have different stories told by different children.

This book of bedtime stories isn’t exactly considered wordless, but they have quite a few pages with few or no words. The picture shown is one of their favorite pages, and we can literally spend a good 10 mins EACH telling a story of that singular page alone.

4. Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhymes are great for building on phonemic and phonetic awareness (important for the child to have, to be able to read later on). Which is why people have been constantly singing children’s songs and nursery rhymes to babies and children for generations. And its also why rhythmic books such as Dr Seuss and Julian Donaldson are great as well. This is our book of fairy tales and nursery rhymes that i found in Popular bookshop,  I’ve had it for almost 3 years now and i still haven’t finish reading everything to the children, as they each have their favorites and they just want to listen to the same ones over and over and over…..

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Some books are also meant to be “sung” such as twinkle and the Zoo train.

5. Fairy tales / Folklore / Bible stories

These are fun and fascinating for children, but definitely meant for the older preschoolers, as the stories tend to be longer, and the average 3 year old may not be able to sit through it. Unless you find fairy tales for toddlers that are summarized  / condensed versions. Bibles for kids are great as they have children’s version which are condensed to about 2 pages. So the child doesn’t lose interest before the story is over.

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6. Non Fiction – Look out for Part 3 in our reading to children series.

And for those who are looking to start their children actually reading, these are our choices for right now. I picked those topics which they are interested in, and made sure they are simple and short. And when i started, i would just read and point the words with my fingers as i read, after a while i asked them to read out some sight words. And slowly after, when its time for bedtime reading, he would pick 1 to 2 books (depending on time) for him to read. He would choose 3 -4 sight words to read plus one new sight word. And the benefits of family story time is that the younger child would tag along, so my middle child who is 3 1/2 years is able to read simple sight words as well, since god forbid she loses out to her brother…

 

My children absolutely love reading and they genuinely love stories of any sort. But if you give them free rein to pick their own books, it becomes clear what their interests are. These are my son’s (who is 5 1/2 years) favorite books right now. As you can tell, he really loves his dragons and dinosaurs, and gravitates to towards those topics. The enormous crocodile and The Lorax is way to hard for him to read, but he is able to read most of the Cat in the Hat comes back and Green Eggs and Ham. To be fair though, he has memorized them rather than actually reading, but the rhyming really helps him remember. He is reading more of the simpler books like his Paw Patrol series.

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My little girl has obviously different taste in books, she is turning 4 soon. I am quite sure i could recite Dr Seuss’s Sleep book in my sleep…..and dream of unicorns at night….

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So these are our family’s stories, just remember to have fun and enjoy the reading process. What i found most fulfilling is watching the children grow from just pointing and touching simple board books, to reading The very hungry caterpillar, and actually enjoy and look forward to listening to stories. As they grow older, you could see them start being immersed in the stories that are being told. Nowadays when my children decide not to take their nap for whatever reason, i always insist that they “swap” their nap for rest time in the reading nook, and they would just flip page after page just “reading”, well more like imagining and making up stories while looking at the pictures for a full hour. Worth to take note that in the beginning, pick “easy” books with simple story lines so that it is easy for them to follow and understand, which will in turn motivate them to read more.

More challenging books (i.e. chapter books), should also be read to them. Even though it is way too hard for them to read, in my opinion, i feel that it is good to read to them (in parts), so they can start being immersed in stories and it shows them in a way the next step up in their reading life. Pick a fixed reading time daily, and you will find your child looking forward to snuggling up to you to listen to the story.

Share with us you’re family’s favorite books and happy reading everyone!