Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Although we have been in the woods for three years, this is the first time the boys put on a halloween outfit and go "Trick or Treat" with their friends! We started early at 5pm, thinking that we could end by 630pm. The boys were so happy that they wanted to go to another part of the neighbourhood. And so, we extended the fun by another hour. They sure were happy and tired the next day, since they went to bed later than usual.

While the boys and their friend were busy knocking on doors, I was busy admiring the Halloween decorations put up by the residents in our neighbourhood! I was glad to have my camera with me =D

Pumpkins! It's fun carving pumpkins! We were happy to see these pumpkins sitting on the lawn. Love the expressions on them!

Here's another cutie! Isn't it creative?
I have a friend living in another state who painted all her pumpkins ... Red, black, and yellow. Ok, rather, she got her boys to paint the pumpkins, since she's heavily pregnant. She turned the orange pumpkins into Angry Birds! And there were logs of wood for her "pumpkin" birds to sit on!

Apart from pumpkins, there were the tombstones .... here's a cute setup ...

Tombstones and pumpkins ....

We found this at the front door of an apartment ... Erh, I loved the spiderweb, but the white cloth stained with handprints was a little too much for me ... even the inside of the apartment was dimly lit ... spooky!

Facing the same apartment sat a tombstone with skulls and bones scattered around, against a backdrop of trees and sandy ground.

The boys found it thrilling and fun. And they were happy with their little pumpkin "buddies".

And they loved having their "buddies" filled with candies!

That's a almost bucket full of candies! The boys had been warned about the frequency and number of candies they can eat. Candies are not a regular item in our pantry.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Horrible Math!

Heard of the series of books called "Horrible Science"? My boys love reading this series of books. Apart from the facts, they especially love the humor. On my end, I am putting together a compilation of Darling son KW's Math problems from school. I call the compilation "Horrible Math". However, there is no humor involved here. I know the teaching of Math in the woods is far from that back home, but I'm really disgusted at the way the problems are put together and the way they are being taught. If you are easily disgusted, do not continue reading. Else, let's proceed to go down the disgusting lane of Horrible Math!

Simple question, right? Find the area of the parallelogram. You know the formula to find area, you know your multiplication table, you can easily work it out. So what is the fuss about? Square Centimeters. We do not write the words when dealing with Math questions and numbers. Throughout the worksheet, I see the words "square meters" and "square feet". I'm a little disgusted, having to write down the notation throughout the worksheet and highlighting it to my son. Ok, the disgust is mild. Let's move on. Note that this is question number 3 on the worksheet.

Question Number 2 on the same page. A question that requires the students to do fraction multiplication. Did he learn that in school? No. It requires the kid to know how to convert the fractions to improper fractions, to know how to multiply, to divide, then convert from improper to proper fractions. So I had to spend some time teaching my boy all the above and let him do a few extra questions to make sure he really understood what was going on. The level of disgust definitely went up a notch. Not because I had to teach him, but I felt that the curriculum planning at school is poor!

What do you think of this? Question 4 on the same page. Yes, the kids learn lattice multiplication in school, a very different method from what they teach in Singapore schools. His teacher went through the normal way of multiplication, prior to giving them the worksheets. So the kids have a choice of using either method. Fine. But look closer. This is decimal multiplication, which they were not taught at all. So I spent another considerable amount of time revising with him two digits by two digits multiplication, followed by decimal multiplication. Level of disgust at curriculum planning and lesson planning went up at least two notches!

The final question on that page! I should be happy, right, since I'm at the last question? But no! My jaws dropped when I saw this question! I was already sitting with my boy for at least an hour, going through the worksheet, teaching him fraction and decimal multiplication. My boy was exhausted after an hour of learning and relearning new things. He is after all, a Primary 3 student if we are back in Singapore!

Looking at the question, he knew he had to do division, and he could form the equation. But when trying to divide, I could see that he was going to cry. He didn't feel good after going through questions 1 to 5. Demoralising. When you get a worksheet to do at home, you are supposed to be apply knowledge you learnt in school. Yes, and No. The depth of teaching is very shallow in school. This was when I knew I had to stop my lesson with him. "Let's just use the calculator", I told him. I am very against kids at his age using calculators, and I always remind him not to use it when doing simple calculations, since it is required by the school to have a calculator in his desk. The level of disgust is super high, but it has yet to reach its maximum ... read on ....

Looks like a simple question, right? It is, just that there is no space provided for the kids to do their working. All the teacher requires is the answer. How does the teacher check the understanding of the student when there is no working? A wrong answer could mean "No understanding, cannot do, therefore, wrong answer". It could also indicate that the kid understood the question, but a careless calculation led him to the wrong answer.

Lack of curriculum planning, lesson planning, in depth practice, and checking of the student's understanding. And that's Chapter 1 of my Horrible Math! I need a break ....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Can you see a cat above the words "BOO"?
Can you also see that the cat and the words are sitting on top of a rice skull?

Having a rice skull, complete with sunken eyes is kind of cool, isn't it?
It's not that difficult to do rice skull either. I was only half right. It was not difficult to shape the rice into a skull. But it was kind of time consuming and challenging to put in the eyes and mouth, especially if you want a cool looking skull. Mission aborted after I shaped the rice. Instead, I used my mini halloween cat cutter and cut out the cat from a slice of cheese. That was easy. Then the words "BOO". I don't see a point in "undoing" the rice skull, so I just left the cat and words on top of it. Better cute than cool, right? Lesson learnt ... don't attempt anything "cool" without doing your homework the night before!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Let's Make It!

Darling son YW had wanted to show how to make the windmill. I agreed and he happily went about teaching me. As my little teacher went ahead to demonstrate how to draw, cut, fold and tape, I quickly took pictures and then went back to be the good attentive student =D

Take a pice of rectangular paper. Draw two diagonal lines as shown above.

Cut along each line, halfway. There are four lines to cut.

Pick one corner of the paper. Fold the cut half towards the uncut line. Tape/glue it down at the tip only.

Go to the second corner of the paper. Do the same as before. Fold and glue.

Proceed to the third corner. Fold along the uncut line and glue the tip down.

Now the last corner! Fold it and tape it.
Start stamping, drawing or coloring!
Let the fun begin!
Let's get crafty!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween Crafts

Are you ready for Halloween? I definitely am! See, I even receive a special mail from a mysterious little kid!

Darling son YW was watching "Sid, The Science Kid" on a lazy Sunday morning. This week's programme was about Halloween. Halfway through the show, I heard my little boy's footsteps as he started running up to his room, and then down, back to sit in front of the TV. I was wondering what he was up to. After the show, he came and showed me this.

Wow! No wonder he was looking for paper, pencil, and scissors!
I told him I liked it very much, and was very impressed that he learnt something interesting from the TV show.

"Do you think you can make it even more exciting?", I asked him.
And all I gave him was this set of self-inking stamps.
And he came back to me with the following ....

Ok, the one he did was without the edges being ink, and minus the stick. But I love the drawings he did after stamping ... the happy suspended in the air spider and the "scary" vampire. I asked him if he would like to make it even more interesting by having the sides of the paper inked. He had seen me done it before, and he would like to try it too. And so, I showed him and then passed him the ink to do it. Then I added a straw to the back and added a black ribbon.

The final product! He was so pleased with it that he wanted to show me how make it! All over again! Kids can be so creative. One will be amazed at what they can come up with when one let go and let them explore!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Braised Black Vinegar Chicken

I saw this recipe of Braised Black Vinegar Chicken over at Little Corner of Mine. I love it when I find recipes for ingredients or items which I have in the pantry, but are not used frequently. In this case, Black Vinegar. The man and the boys love this dish. They love the gravy in their rice. And I'm sure my father-in-law will like this dish too, as the chicken is cooked till very soft. Good for the elderly who has problem chewing their food.

In fact, I have been cooking this dish for a while. But I just realised that I did not post the recipe on my blog! This is such a simple dish, I'm sure once you try it, you will cook it frequently! I omit the green onions, an item which I do not have in my pantry most of the time. Since the boys do not take spicy food, I left out the chilli (though I love spicy food!). Sometimes, I add some sliced carrots in to cook with the chicken.


8 Drumsticks, or
12 Chicken Wings (3 joint, cut and discard tip)
10pcs Black Mushroom (soften in hot water)
3 Shallots, slice
1 Small piece of Ginger, slice
2 Carrots (cubed or sliced, optional)


2tbsp Black Vinegar
3tbsp ABC Sweet Sauce (Kecap Manis)
1tbsp Light Soy Sauce (I use Low-Sodium Soy Sauce)
1tsp Sugar
10oz Water (I use water for soaking mushroom plus water, just enough to cover chicken)

1 tsp Sesame oil and enough vegetable/cooking oil for frying the chicken

  • Wash the dried mushrooms.
  • Reconstitute the dried mushrooms in hot water.
  • When soften, remove the mushrooms and cut them into smaller pieces.
  • Pour the water for soaking the mushrooms through a sieve, to remove the impurities. Add more water to get about 10oz of fluid. Set aside the water for later use.
  • In a pot, if you have a big one, add the sesame and cooking oil. I do not have a big enough pot, so I use a wok, and later, transfer the chicken drumsticks with the sauce into a pot to braise.
  • When the oils are hot, add the shallots and ginger slices.
  • Fry till fragrant.
  • Add the chicken pieces and fry for while.
  • Add the mushroom pieces and mix well.
  • Add the water for soaking mushroom and water (together adds up to 10oz) and the seasonings.
  • Let it boil for a while.

  • If using a wok, transfer the contents into a pot and continue to let it simmer for an hour or till the chicken pieces are cooked through. Cook longer if you want the meat to be really soft.
  • If you are already using a pot to fry the chicken pieces, then just let it simmer for an hour or till the chicken is cooked.
  • If adding carrots, add them half an hour into the cooking time, since carrots cook faster than chicken.

A great dish to cook ahead of time. All you need to do is warm it up during dinner. Now that I have finally posted the recipe, I don't have to look for it through my long list of bookmarked recipes the next time I cook it =D Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sambal Tumis Paste

We visited Boston in May, and met up with a Singapore friend who happened to be in that area for a business trip. He was so kind to bring for us Chicken Rice Paste, BaKau, Chilli Crab Paste and many other sauces!

Since hubby dear would be having lunch at home, I thought I would try cooking lunch using the packet of Sambal Tumis Paste. Instead of having it as a dish, I used it as a sauce for noodles! Oh, the taste of home ... however bad my cooking is, one can't go wrong with these sauces from home =D

Heat up the pan. When the pan is hot, add a little oil. Add the prawns when the oil is hot.

Add the sauce and water, according to the instructions on the package. When the sauce is heated through, and the prawns are cooked, switch off heat. I added in some cooked cauliflower into the sauce.
Can you spot them?

Have your cooked noodles ready on a plate. Scoop the sambal prawns and sauce over the noodles. This dish is easy to prepare. Did I mention it was yummy too?

The weather has been good ... cool and sunny. Amazingly, the leaves were still hanging on the branches! This autumn is really beautiful! So I took my camera with me when I went to pick the kids up from school. Check out the blue sky and colourful leaves!

It was a pleasant walk from home to school. I was glad I left the house earlier, took a leisurely stroll to the school, and enjoyed the beautiful colours of Fall.

And this pile of brown oak leaves greeted me when we got home. The wind blew them off the branches, and those on the ground just got "swept" by the wind into a pile =)

One thing I learnt since entering the woods ... Take time to enjoy the simple things in life.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dancing Zombie

A drawing of the Dancing Zombie, in Plants VS Zombies! Yes, my boys are I are playing the game, and instead of requesting for Angry Birds to be included in their lunch, they now ask for .... ZOMBIES!

Since I did the zombie last week, I thought adding a cheese wig to the zombie should not be too much of a problem. It was quite a breeze, except that the cheese kept breaking when I did those glasses!

Check out the broken pair of glasses on the zombie without the eyeballs! Ok, I had fun putting the eyeballs into the pair of cheese glasses =p

Cutting out the cheese wigs was a simple task.

I even had some time left to have the boys pick their food pick for their lunch! My little daring chose the star. Why? He said, "The Dancing Zombie is a Rock Star". Then he suggested, "How about including the other dancers?". Boy, he really thinks that his mom is a magician! With the wave of the wand, the other dancers pop out from under the rice, hahaha!

The elder boy chose the simple musical notes. Dancing and music. Makes sense. In his opinion, the star could be a little too glamorous to his taste. He likes things simple. The little one on the other hand, is game for anything new and interesting, glamorous or not. It doesn't really bother him.

And we will continue fighting the zombies this evening, after they are done with their homework (school and mom's given work).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall Foliage

Fall is my favorite season. It is cool, and on a good sunny day, it feels great to stand under the warm sun, and yet, not perspire. And I love the "show" put up by the trees during this season!

Look how pretty the leaves are, with the sunlight shinning through the branches.

Love the colour combination on the leaves ... green, rich red, and brown.

Soon the leaves will turn brittle and brown, and cover the ground outside our apartment.

This is our fourth Fall in the woods. The fall colours for the last three seasons were not as vibrant. The weather was either too cold, too wet with freezing rain, too windy, or too hot. If the leaves did change colour, it didn't survive a day with the crazily blowing wind. But this year is different!
Just the right temperature, with not many days of strong wind.

A little bird flew and rested on a tree branch just outside my bedroom window. Is he inviting me to go out for a walk?

And so, I did. These colours greeted me as I made my way out of the estate. I love the pink!

I drove by this maple tree many times, but never got a chance to take a photograph of it. It's amazing how many things you get to see when you find time to walk and appreciate the beauty of nature.

Most of the leaves on this tree have turned orange. A nearby maple tree has its leaves turning brown. The weather had been hot for the last two days.

The tree glows, when the sun shines on it.

Fallen red maple leaves on the sidewalk.
Time to rake those leaves in your lawn.

Walking, looking around ... and UP.

Remember to look down too. I like the way the tiny yellow leaves fall and line the sides of the road. Will try to take a photograph of it.

Spotted some pretty flowers along the way.

Maybe I should bike the next time I'm out to check out the colours =D

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