Unsung heroes

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face to face with a life-size hero

There’s a new superhero in town and he is white and furry, has a cute button nose and he sure looks uber-cool in his aquamarine dive suit and matching sailor hat.

Armed with his trusty compass, you can always count on Captain Barnacles and his fellow Octonaut compatriots to rescue and protect all sea creatures in the deep blue.

This is one cartoon superhero I have no worries about my boys emulating. Not only does Timmy learn about appreciating nature and helping others in trouble from the show, he and I have also learnt alot about sea turtles, electric torpedo rays, anemones, sea cucumbers, sperm whales (this is the only time he’s allowed to say the word ‘sperm’) and colossal squids with giant ‘testicles’. My son has trouble pronouncing ‘tentacles’.

Did you know there is an actual fish with a hawaiian name – Humuhumunukunukuapua’a?

Timmy and I did an ocean scene for our art & craft project recently. He had fun painting a wooden shipwreck, sticking colorful pipe-cleaners into modelling clay so they look like psychedelic seaweed, spreading colorful pebbles and glitter glue to make our beautiful seabed, and crushing pink transparent wrapping paper into jellyfish form.

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 I’ve been thinking about the myriad cartoons and TV personalities children nowadays are exposed to, especially since my son is at the age to start exploring concepts of good and evil, superheroes vs villians, what is considered cool or uncool, and what superpowers to have – typical issues adults consider on a daily basis.

It’s really sad that there is only a pitiful number of worthy superheroes that kids can look up to and aspire to be. I’m so sick of seeing every other 5 year old boy wear Batman or Superman T-shirts, don Spiderman masks for every costume/birthday party we’ve been to, consider it ‘creative play’ when they attempt to jump off chairs in restaurants, scale the narrow walls in elevators, growl at old people like they are evil monsters or try to throw wet rolls of toilet paper onto the ceiling to see if they’ll stick like ‘spider webs’.

For now, I think I can still live with Timmy saying ‘testicles’ instead of ‘tentacles’. It is by far a lesser evil than him asking me for a Justin Bieber haircut.

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Oh Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine u blow my mind, oh MICKEY!!!

Did I mention in my previous post that my little boy is having a little Mickey Mouse fetish at 20121017-213155.jpgthe moment?

Maybe it has to do with the cosmic fact that Timmy was born in the year of the ‘Rat’ according to the Chinese calendar. We manage to turn this cute rodent obsession into little creative works of art. It was also a good way for me to spend quality bonding time with my little guy before no. 2 comes out. And who says only girls can sit still for a good 1 or 2 hours holding a paintbrush without spreading colors on their faces and bodies? (Altho’ i must admit waiting for layers of paper mache and paint to dry is possibly the most challenging part of doing craftwork with a kid)

20121017-212437.jpgTimmy loves the storybook – Mickey’s Space Adventure. We’ve read the book to him every night for the last month and he knows almost every single line before it rolls off our tongues. I never knew the world above our ozone layer provided such a rich source of craft ideas for us to create or replicate. Making crafts based on the book makes the story comes alive. We’ve made our own space rocket (complete with fiery flames spluttering from its bottom), drawn an outer space treasure map and even made the Moon, Mars, Saturn and the ‘mystery Planet’ for the space rocket to fly to.

I’ve also bought plain black canvas shoes where I painted Mickey on one side and Minnie on the other. Alan also tried to contribute by building the Disney characters with lego. Our biggest achievement to date is a model of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, built using paper mache, clay, rubber gloves, toilet rolls and tiny lego bits!

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Hansel and Gretel must live here…

or at least the blind witch with the saccharine-sweet candy house in grimm’s fairy tale.

Colmar, a little french town in the alsace region, is just a 1.5hr drive away from Zurich, Switzerland. Last Sunday was wet and cold, and on a whim, we decided to drive to France to have lunch. That’s the beauty of living right smack in the centre of Europe, you don’t need to book a flight to experience a different culture or get cheaper toiletries and groceries from across the border.

We have been to Colmar several times and it never fails to put a smile on our faces when we see the charming little townhouses with its fairytale-like quality. The rainbow colored buildings are more beautiful in winter when the streets come alive with christmas markets and the smell of gluhwein and roasted chestnuts, and at night, the soft glow of the street lights give it a surreal feel and you really feel like you are transported into the medieval ages.

P.S: Colmar is also about 15 mins drive from the closest KFC outlet. (there are NO KFC fast food restaurants in the whole of Switzerland!!!) We were tempted to drive there for take-away but my husband didn’t want his car to smell of greasy chicken.

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how much is that piglet by the window? alsastian cuisine is influenced very much by its german roots and feature many pork dishes like roasted pork knuckles and sausages served with a huge portion of sauerkraut. 20120422-193636.jpgmany memorabilia and serving dishes feature traditional alsastian way of life


Chip off the old block

I was looking through all our family travel photos for a new feature wall project I am working on. I can’t help but laugh at my enthusiastic efforts in dressing my husband and son up in similar styles. Well, I’m a first time mum and a shopaholic! My husband is usually game for anything (except for the pastel pink shirt I brought him 6 years ago that he still refuses to wear to work, and oh yes, a cowboy-style shirt for casual fridays too!!)

I hardly dress my boys up now like Doctor Evil and Mini-Me because my little boy is beginning to have his own sense of style now – he will only wear anything that has Lightning Mcqueen or Thomas the tank engine on it.

Here is a past collection of ‘daddy and me’ fashion:

These are a few of my favorite things

Oh happy days! I’m loving the early spring blooms and the endless sunny clear skies!

These are a few of my favorite things to do in Spring:

1) Changing my table setting

2) Visiting a farm and getting a warm furry welcome from these wooden bunnies

3) Making heart, star and poo-shaped(my son’s favorite) beef burgers

4) Chalk graffiti

5) Ponies on the playground



6) Happy smiling kids



7) Easter bakes and crafts

the price of being green

A blog post has been circulating on facebook, written by a guy who went to the supermarket and was reminded by the young cashier to bring his own bag in the future, and that all the environment problems that we now face are because his generation didn’t do enough to ‘save’ the earth. Of course he refuted by talking about his generation’s way of life with fewer energy-wasting appliances, re-filling old bottles and walking to work instead of driving cars that emit too much toxic fumes etc.

here is the post if you are interested to read: http://gaasedal.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/anyone-over-the-age-of-35-should-read-this-as-i-copied-this-from-a-friends-status/

I must admit I am not much of a ‘greenie’, but I try to do what I can by reusing plastic bottles, printing on both sides of the paper, doing my 10-year series assessment books 2 to 3 times before my A’ levels, using the ‘weak’ flush option if I am just peeing (altho my husband complains I always leave toilet paper floating in the bowl), and I try not to waste food by eating my son’s leftovers, and my friends’ leftovers if we eat out.

Living in a high rise apartment in Singapore most of my life, it was a way of life to throw all types of trash down a long rubbish chute with little care of the noise of glass bottles splintering into a million pieces down 24 storeys, or any notion of recycling plastic or glass items. Most people I know cannot sleep without air conditioning, otherwise you end up drenching your bedsheets with sweat because of the 80% humidity. Almost everyone owns a car despite the efficient and extensive public transport system, costly road tolls and parking fees. Shopping is the 2nd favourite past-time of Singaporeans, and most hardly worn clothes or old models of iphones or electrical appliances can be easily disposed of when the ‘garang-guni’ or ‘rag and bone’ man comes by and takes them away for you. He even pays you a token fee, usually $0.50 to $5 for your junk.

Switzerland must be one of the top ten countries that puts great importance on energy saving efforts, research into using cleaner fuels, recycling and keeping the environment clean and green. Afterall, what is Switzerland without their creamy snow-capped mountains and cows running carefree-ly on luscious green fields. This year, the ruling party with their proposals to reduce the number of foreigners moving into Switzerland lost their majority stake to a new party with a serious green agenda.

I find sometimes being green comes with a price. And it doesn’t need to be monetary.

Our town council hands out a yearly calendar listing the schedule for the collection of cardboards (usually once every 2 months), newspapers (once every month), and Christmas tree and other plant waste. For our apartment, the rubbish truck only comes once a week to take our trash away. Those with young kids would know how quickly your rubbish bag gets filled up with soiled nappies and milk cartons. We usually store all the stinky soiled nappies on the balcony, that is why the balcony, with an awesome view of those creamy snow-capped mountains is hardly used. Each 35-litre rubbish bag costs about chf 2, and if you leave your trash out much earlier than the stipulated day of the week, you run the risk of your trashbag being ripped open by deranged dogs or crazy pent-up youths; or civic-minded neighbours reporting you to the authority after they’ve rummaged through your smelly compost and found some form of identification like a letter with your name, or a soiled nappy, especially if you are the only family with kids. (they fail to realise some older adults use nappies too). My husband use to do a secret run in the middle of the night to throw bags of soiled nappies into the public waste bins opposite our house along the lake. I think someone must have found out what he did and changed the bins to ones with a very narrow opening.

Every Saturday morning begins with a 3-min drive down the road to the recycling area to dispose of our brown, white, green glass bottles and plastic containers.

We had a family outing last Saturday morning to The Big Dump to dispose of some large wooden crate boards and chunky styroform pieces. My husband bought me a massage chair from Singapore and it was delivered in a huge wooden crate. Thankfully we got the help of 5 muscly friends over New Year’s to carry the chair up 3 storeys of stairs and into our bedroom. The massage chair weighs 120 kg, but together with the wooden box it came in, it weighed 200kg. (This is to give you some idea how heavy the wooden boards that I have to help my husband put on top of my little Audi S3 were).

Going to the Dump is quite the experience. We were the 2nd last car to drive in, (it closes at 1130 am on Saturday and we arrived at 1115am), and there was still a long queue of cars waiting to go to the Dump. All the cars have to park in designated lots and wait for the dumpster guy to come and assess the amount and type of rubbish you are disposing. We were told our rubbish cost chf 50 (!!!??!!!), and that we have to carry them to the dumping containers all by ourselves. I thought to myself, why are we being penalised for disposing our rubbish???

We left our son in the car backseat and planned the best way to hold the wooden boards without getting any splinters into our palms or getting poked in the eye by the few sharp nails sticking out from the sides. I was cussing and telling myself if we were in Singapore, we could easily hire a truckload of bangladeshi workers (and this is not a joke) and pay them peanuts to take away the wood pieces. I dragged the boards, along with whatever shred of dignity I have left, up the flight of stairs and do a clumsy toss/swing of the rubbish into the dumping containers. There was a lady with full-on dark grey eyeshadow, dirty-blond pigtails and thick gloves ploughing through all the rubbish to see if there are any knick knacks she could savage. I suspect she comes here quite often.

I don’t know if I will live long enough to see the reward of my back-breaking efforts. Perhaps the end of the world will come soon and the alps will be flattened to the ground when they get hit by an alien fireball. The Swiss’ costly efforts in building artificial lakes on the mountains to pump out artificial snow would all go down the drain then. Or maybe we will all die from breathing the toxic fumes from smelly nappies.

My husband told me the last time he went to the Dump to dispose of our old furniture when we were moving house, a group of scavengers cheered loudly as one guy waved something in the air.

The lucky guy had found a stash of porn DVDs in one of the bags in the containers.

Well, at least the videos would get a new lease of life in someone’s bedroom.

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Nope, the New Year is not here yet…

Well, that’s according to the Chinese lunar calendar anyway. The Chinese New Year falls on the 23rd of Jan this year and we will be flying to Australia to celebrate this important holiday with my husband’s family.

I used to take these festivities for granted. More often than not, it simply meant having extra public holidays and that it is time for me to book my getaway to Phuket or Krabi! To anywhere in the world actually. As long as there is no loud flute/cymbals/drums/more clanging cymbals-New Year tunes playing in shopping malls and elevators. (this reminds me of the time when my husband, my 2-month old son and I were stuck in the Singapore Flyer and had to endure almost 7 hours of Christmas jingles playing over the intercom. Did I mention it was a TECHNO soundtrack that was playing in ‘loop’??!!)

Chinese New Year is typically the one time in the year you get to see ALL your relatives who never fail to ask whether you have a boyfriend, when you are getting married, when you are having kids; or compare with one another how well their kids are doing in school. In my primary and secondary school days, it was the best opportunity for my mum to hassle my relatives on my behalf to buy a raffle for my school’s never-ending fundraising drives.

I was in Singapore last year over the Chinese New Year period and met up with my cousins and ex school mates. Many of us have kids now, and the festivities seem to take on new meaning when you become a parent. I must say, kids relish in the celebrations the most. They get to stay up late on the eve of Chinese New Year because the later you stay up, the longer your parents will live – that’s according to tradition. They also get to feast on many goodies like pineapple tarts, loveletters (rolled up thin sweet wafer biscuits) and bak kwa (bbq sweet meat), and receive red packets filled with money from the adults.

Seeing our extended families come together to exchange well-wishes and the new generation of my cousins’ kids, nieces and nephews playing together, the culturally-jaded (and over-exposed to western media) me is just starting to realise how much our cultural heritage defines our identity, even if we don’t speak our mother tongue fluently or can hardly remember how to write our names in Chinese characters.

Yes, sometimes it takes living away from people similar to you in culture and language to make you cherish these traditions, and to want to teach your kids about them.

We will be having a Chinese New Year reunion lunch with a few other Singaporean families this weekend. We will be having steamboat, or what the Swiss would call, Chinoise fondue, where you dip all types of meats and vegetables into a tasty broth. Singaporeans favorite pasttime is eating, and I know we will be eating from lunch ’til dinner, and have many bottles of the spiciest chilli sauce on hand.

To get into the festive mood, Timmy and I decided to make some Chinese New Year decorations. We made some goldfish with paper plates and colored paper. To the Chinese, goldfish symbolises good luck and fortune. Hope the New Year brings more blessings to our family!

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Nutty ideas

Our neighbour just returned from his holiday home in Burgundy, France, and gave us a bagload of walnuts from his garden. I swear there must be at least 300 whole nuts in the shopping bag!

I was trying to get some ideas online for kiddy crafts to make with walnuts and there aren’t many innovative suggestions. I love using walnuts for baking and salads, but the prospect of cracking 300 nuts open prove too daunting a feat for me. Besides, there are only so many walnut-shelled turtles, mice and googly-eyed faces one can make.

The next best thing to do with walnuts is… to give them away as Christmas gifts! That way, I don’t have to stress out about getting turned-out fingers from cracking nuts, hordes of squirrels breaking into my house, or the potential weight gain from yummy walnut cakes! I am now seen as the thoughtful friend who bothered to make THE effort to give them the gift of luurrve…..

I’ve given some walnuts away to a few friends today. I suspect they will be having a restless night thinking what to do with those damn nuts!

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This is just a third of the walnuts we got

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Home-made gift tags using gold paint and scrunging the paper into a ball to get this effect20111207-171200.jpgChild labor…

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Timmy is pretty nifty with the scissors20111207-171408.jpgThe end product

20111207-171438.jpgMy happy helper (with a mouthful of apple slices)

Aye Aye, Sailor boy!

I was inspired by our recent trip to the Italian Riveria to redecorate my son’s room nautical style. I think anyone thinking of giving their kids’ room a spruce should give this a try. It is fairly easy to find and make things related to the seaside and beaches. Kids enjoy picking seashells, learning how to tie nautical knots and paint wooden hanging ornaments too. I reckon I have another 5 years before my 3 year old decides he wants to cover the walls with his favorite rock band/superhero posters and insist on us painting his ceiling black.

Transforming the bed into a ship
Hand-painted wooden nautical motifs
Hand-sewn bunts using felt and vintage fabric
Hand-painted seagull motif on fabric to hide cluttered shelves