Saturday, 31 July 2010

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Smile & laughter.../Smil.../笑口常开...[xiào kǒu chánɡ kāi]


Our little toddler, J, has been smiling and laughing a lot, each time he looks at us or interacts with us or others. Daddy and I are not the type that smile a lot. I remembered that when J was very young, I tried to teach him to smile by making a conscious effort to smile when I was in front of him... when I am changing him, etc. I remembered reading somewhere that your baby will reflect your attitude and countenance. So I tried to smile at him. Finally, our baby learned to smile - that brought a lot of joy to us!!! That was more than a year back...

The burdens of life lately have weighed down my heart and I have forgotten to smile.... But J always greets me with a smile and laughter, that reminds me that I should smile back. J is teaching me to smile. How funny, I taught him to smile, but have forgotten how to smile myself. Now he is teaching me to smile. Funny, how God can use toddlers his age to teach me important lessons about life. It really humbles me... It also teaches me that whatever you teach others, you will learn it back from others.

The Bible says:

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." - Proverbs 17:22

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

May I be able to learn and apply this lesson... like a little child... like little joshua :-)
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Good & Bad Fats & Oils in Food/Gode og Dårlige Fedtstoffer og Olie i Mad/好与坏的脂肪[hǎo yǔ huài de zhī fáng]



* Nuts contain both monounsturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Nuts are classified here in the category of predominant fatty acid.

It is not true that all fats are bad. For babies and toddlers, they need the good fats for brain development. As adults, we need good fats in our diets to prevent Alzheimer’s disease in our old age. Fats are also needed to hold essential fatty acids (EFAs) and the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

There are 4 types of fats:

1. The good fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (i.e. avocado, olive oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, cod)

2. The bad fats – saturated fats (i.e. butter, cheese, dairy products)

3. The worse fats – trans-fatty acids from man-made fully hydrogenated fats (i.e. deep-fried food stuff, chips, commercially prepared baked food such as cakes, cookies, pies, etc.)

4. The worst fats – trans-fatty acids from man-made partially hydrogenated fats (i.e. margarine, commercially prepared baked food such as cakes, cookies, pies, etc.)

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Additional Information:
The good fats are unsaturated and there are 2 types of unsaturated fats:

1. Monounsaturated fats - found primarily in most vegetable oils (i.e. avocado, olive and canola/rapeseed)

2. Polyunsaturated fats - found primarily in fish, nut and seed oils (i.e. Sunflower, safflower, walnut, soy, corn)

Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help lower your blood cholesterol level when you use them in place of saturated and trans fats.

Furthermore, the fats we need are called Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). EFAs are the fats we must get from our diet, because our bodies cannot manufacture them.

There are only 2 fatty acids that are considered essential:

1. Alpha Linolenic acid (LNA) – found in Omega-3 fatty acids

2. Linoleic acid (LA) – found in Omega-6 fatty acids

These 2 EFAs are both polyunsaturated fats and make up a large percentage of our brain tissues.

Omega-3 (LNA) is found in cold-water fatty fish (i.e. cod, mackerel, salmon and tuna), flaxseeds (contains a high amount), walnuts, soy beans and olive oil (contains only small amount)

Omega-6 (LA) is found in sunflower seeds, corn oil, safflower seeds.

The bad fats to avoid is the saturated fats found in animal and daily products such as beef, pork, chicken, lard, butter, eggs and a few vegetables such as palm oil and coconuts. Saturated fats are called saturated, because they contain a maximum amount of hydrogen (i.e. they are saturated with hydrogen).

The worse fats to avoid are the man-made trans fatty acids (TFAs) found in margarine and confectionery.

TFAs are produced either by adding hydrogen to monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats or by heating food containing oils to high temperatures. Manufacturers do so to improve the texture of food such as margarine and cakes as well as to extend the shelf-life of products and fats. TFAs is a very cheap way to make fats less prone to rancidity. Therefore deep-fried food contains lots of TFAs.

The worst fat to avoid is the partially hydrogenated oils. They are are worse than fully hydrogenated fats. If an oil is only partially hydrogenated, the part that has not takne on hydrogen – the unsaturated part – is open to the formation of TFAs. TFAs are carcinogenic and have found to raise the bad cholesterol levels in the bloodstream and lower the good cholesterol levels.

Although we need some unsaturated fats in our diet, nevertheless, an overabundance may lead to serious health problems. Polyunsaturated fats, when consumed in excess, may lower HDL (the good cholestrol) levels in the blood stream.

Monounsaturated fats are the only fats that have managed to keep a clean bill of health through all the scientific studies.

References:
Pg 510 of Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron



Friday, 30 July 2010

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Home-made Healthy Basic Italian Tomato Sauce/Italiensk Tomatsauce/西红柿酱[xī hóng shì jiàng]




Makes 1 L

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
- 1 kg of tomatoes (preferably cherry tomatoes for more flavour)
- 5 stalks celery chopped
- 1 red bell pepper
- ½ stalk of leek (white portion only, finely chopped)
- 2 large onions chopped
- 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- 2 TBS cooking oil
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- 1/8 tsp paprika powder (optional)
- 2 TBS ground oatmeal (to thicken the sauce)
- Herbs such as oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary (optional, I use one whole plant each)
- ¼ cup white or red wine (optional)
- ¼ cup of cooked beans (optional)

Directions:
1. Puree the tomatoes together with the fresh herbs and set aside.

2. Heat cooking oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and fry the garlic until golden.

3. Add leeks, onions and dried herbs and fry until onions turn golden.

4. Add wine to balance the flavour and fry for 1 minute to evaporate the alcohol.

5. Mix some of the puree tomatoes with oatmeal in a separate bowl.

6. Add puree tomato mixture, the oatmeal mixture and salt and stir for a couple of minutes.

7. Add paprika and simmer over low heat for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

8. Remove from heat and drizzle with olive oil.

9. If you wish to have a smoother texture, puree it in the blender again. Otherwise, it is ready to serve.

Tips:
1. Serve with pasta and sprinkle with parmesan cheese for a quick meal for your toddler.

2. Use as base to make pasta meat sauce.

3. Use as base sauce for pizza.

4. Use as base for tomato soup.

Storage:
Can keep for 5 good days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.

Nutritional Value:
Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. They are also a very good source of molybdenum, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, chromium, and vitamin B1. In addition, tomatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, folate, copper, niacin, vitamin B2, magnesium, iron, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, vitamin E and protein. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants.

Tomatoes have been shown to be helpful in reducing the risk of colon and prostate cancer, and reduce bad cholesterol levels.

Tomatoes and broccoli-two vegetables separately recognized for their cancer-fighting capabilities-are even more successful against prostate cancer when working as a team in the daily diet, shows a study published in Cancer Research.

In addition, tomatoes are a very good source of fiber, which has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels, keep blood sugar levels from getting too high, and help prevent colon cancer. A cup of fresh tomato will provide you with 57.3% of the daily value for vitamin C, plus 22.4% of the DV for vitamin A, and 7.9% of the DV for fiber.

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Additional Information:
I am making my own tomato sauce because I enjoy it, and nothing beats the freshness of home-made tomato paste or sauce. Store bought tomato ketchup or pasta sauce also tends to contain additives and preservatives and high in salt. Thus, it is definitely healthier to make my own. But although it is definitely healthier to make my own tomato sauce, it does take time and it is also more expensive than buying a jar or bottle. The ingredients alone cost about 70 DKK or 17 SGD for 1000ml.

In this picture, I actually made 2 litres, and thus I used double the ingredients and double the cost - 140 DKK or 34 SGD. The bulk of the cost actually went to the fresh herbs, so if you want to reduce cost, use less fresh herbs and more dried herbs instead.

For toddlers: I store it in ice-cube tray in the freezer, and take 1 cube out to thaw and pour over home-made pasta for J. I also like to thaw one of the broccoli cubes and add it to J’s pasta. Tomato and broccoli is a good team for promoting good health.

For the family: while making this sauce, if I have pureed red or kidney beans in stock in ice-cube tray, I will throw in a few cubes into the sauce to sneak beans into our diet. I prefer to keep it plain and use it as a base for my pasta, pizza, etc. I then add other meat and vegetables later, depending on what pasta sauce I would like to make.

References:
http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=44

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/tomato-sauce-from-scratch.html

http://www.sheknows.com/articles/3403/how-to-make-authentic-italian-tomato-sauce-like-the-olive-garden

http://ezinearticles.com/?Amazing-Italian-Herb-Garden-Tomato-Sauce&id=2928937

http://healthycooking.suite101.com/article.cfm/basic-tomato-sauce-with-garlic-and-fresh-herbs

http://www.apinchof.com/italian_flavors.htm

Thursday, 29 July 2010

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Chinese Peanut Lotus Root Soup/花生莲藕湯 [huā shēng lián ǒu tāng]


Recipe from Jannie Sze Silfverberg

Serves 4

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 5-8 hours

Ingredients:
- 1 fresh whole chicken or 500g of pork ribs
- 1 cup peanuts
- 5 pieces of lotus roots (I use the dried ones available in Copenhagen)
- 8 red dates
- 8 pieces of dried scallop or 1 dried cuttle fish (to give sweetness to the soup)
- 1-1.5 litres of water
- 1 medium size carrot, cubed (optional)

Directions:
1. Dump all the ingredients into the electric slow cooker and cook for 5-8 hours.

Tips:
1. To prevent choking hazards, blend the peanuts for toddlers. This also aids digestion.

2. Puree the left-over peanuts from the soup and freeze it in cubes. I will spread it on J's rye bread for lunch in the day care.

Nutritional Value:
Peanuts have a high source of nutrients with over 30 essential nutrients. They are high in protein and energy and have a high content of unsaturated “good” fats. Excellent for brain health and circulation and blood flow. Peanuts also contain a high amount of anti-oxidants that help slow down the process of aging.

For Babies:
This soup is NOT for babies under 1 year old, as peanuts are known to be high allergen food. However, boiled peanuts have a lower risk of causing an allergic reaction over roasting (as some studies have shown). Furthermore, generally speaking Chinese babies are not so prone to allergies compared to European babies, probably because the Chinese genes are used to all kinds of food through the centuries... haha. I tested it on J by giving him a little bit of the meat at 11 months, and he took it well, in fact, he loves it so much and asked for more. He has no allergic reactions to it.

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Additional Information:
This is a very nutritious soup. Instead of making rice, when I don't have the time, I dish out the ground peanuts, puree it and feed it to J on a separate bowl.

This is a very traditional Chinese soup, a Chinese delight not many Europeans will like. This is not my Significant Other's favourite. I didn't like this soup as a child when my mother made it in our home, but love it as an adult and I miss it so much when I am in Denmark. I drink and eat it quite often now. J, perhaps due to his half-Chinese genes, loves it even as a toddler :






Updated 26 January 2011:

After almost 11 years of being marrid, I am pleased to say that I was pleasantly surprised that he said it tasted very good when I made it today. I know he didn't say it just to please me, because he took 1 big bowl and asked for second helping. It must either because my Significant Other's taste buds have finally converged towards me, or that my cooking skills have improved tremendously :-P
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Part 2: Toddler's Menu Planning + Daily Consumption Log for Toddler

While planning on returning back to work, our primarily concern was pure survival... we made a schedule on how we could make the day work, who to pick up Joshua from the childcare, how we can put dinner on the table, doesn't matter whether the dinner is decent or not, just as long as we have food on the table at 5pm daily. Therefore, it is usually easy western meal every day, as it is easier to prepare western meals.

After five months of being a working mom and 5 months of practice, our family has established a good routine to survive and thrive. I am now ready to fine-tune those areas for improvements. In a cross-cultural marriage, I wish very much to enrich our cultural experience. Of course, taking into account nutrition. I have now made a generic weekly menu planner for Joshua and the family.

Thus, my daily goals are:

1. Breakfast - Super Porridge Breakfast

2. Lunch - Danish Open Sandwiches during weekdays, Yogurt during weekends and finger food

3. Dinner - Finger food and table food including meat and fish

I need to have a short meal/feeding time, so that I can go to work. It is important to have easily digestible food, so that toddler can absorb the optimum amount of the vitamins and nutrients from the food. At the same time, it is also important to practice fine motor skills with finger food, and to have meat and fish in the diets. By having this daily plan of easily digestible porridge in the morning and finger food in the evening, I would be able to achieve all the above.

My weekly goals are:

1. Three times a week western food, three times a week Asian food, and once a week free-and-easy, where I will serve food from other cultures, if I manage to find the time.

2. Two times a week fish dish.

3. Three times a week egg for Joshua.

And, of course, I have put it all in an Excel overview, so that I can just follow my plan in an auto-pilot mode for efficiency :-)

Furthermore, there are now additional challenges with toddler meal time. I am getting a little paranoid, as Joshua seems to be eating very little nowadays. I have read that babies in-take of food drop after the first year, but sometimes, Joshua seems to be surviving on just "pure air". After recording his food in-take in a "daily" log (I don't do it daily, only on days when I feel that he is not eating much), I am relieved and actually surprised to see that actually Joshua is eating enough of the bare minimum to thrive.

I found a very good worksheet from "The Super Baby Food". Toddlers usually eat 2 good meals a day, if one is lucky, if not just 1 good meal. Thus, this book recommends that if moms can squeeze in one good meal - breakfast, moms can cruise through the day, even if toddler is not eating. I make sure to give Joshua a power breakfast. If he finishes his breakfast, I can relax even if he eats very little for lunch or simply only "flirting" with food during dinner. So far it is working.






This book is highly recommended. I have used it since I started Joshua on solids when he was a baby. I have started to record in a "loose" way the amount and food Joshua eats on a daily basis. I am attaching it here in the following link to share it:

https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B8uGpq3ubWWCOWU3NTNmNzQtOGY0MS00YmYzLTk2NjAtMDkzMjgyNTY1YTQ1

Please do not stress if you are not the type who uses Excel to organize your thoughts or do your planning. This is part of my personality, and I actually truly derive a lot of joy and fulfillment doing it. For those who don't, please do not compare yourself with me, who is the freak, and freak out. But if it is useful for you, you can use it in general to get some inspiration on how much food a toddler should eat and gauge for your own child.

References:
Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron

http://www.great-workout.com/nutrition/vegetables

http://www.babycenter.com/0_7-superfoods-to-boost-any-kids-diet_1745746.bc?bclink=bullet1&scid=adhoc_20100618_cobrand_tyson:3&pe=2UyYa5h

http://www.babycenter.com/0_10-nutrients-that-every-child-needs_1201019.bc

Note:
Unfortunately Goggle Docs doesn't not support spreadsheet so well, so if you want the whole Excel file, just write to me and I will send it to you.
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Nutritional Value Overview in MS Excel

I did a research on nutritional value while I was expecting J and having my maternity leave. It includes the nutritional requirements (daily amount requirements of protein, EFAs, vitamins and minerals) of children from 1-3 years old, children from 4-8 years old and adults. I thought I will share it :-)

https://spreadsheets0.google.com/ccc?key=tTDpf-lDNaMEVlu_CQ1oAIA&hl=en#

Those rows line highlighted in yellow are common and favourite food of our family.

Furthermore, the following are 10 essential food for toddlers (7 recommended from http://www.babycenter.com/ and 3 from other sources). I have

1. Avocado - for the good fats it provides for brain development of children as well as lowering of bad cholestrol for adults.

2. Blue berries - nickname as "Brain berries" for its believed benefits to brain development.

4. Oats

5. Salmon - again the EFAs in the form of omega-3 is good for brain development.

6. Spinach - this is a super green vegetable known for its high iron contents.

7. Sweet potatoes

8. Yogurt

9. Walnuts - the shape of walnuts look like brain, and are nickname as the "brain nut".

10. Almonds - is a super nut containing the most nutrients

Needless to say, I have incorporated all these into J's super power breakfast on a mix-and-match rotation basis. I have to work on incorporating more blue berries into J's diet though.

These food are also good for adults. Being a working mom is a very demanding task and responsibiltiy, and I have to take care of my own nutrition. Thus, I am working on incorporating all these into the family's nutrition. But one step at a time, I will first start with J :-)

References:
http://www.great-workout.com/nutrition/vegetables

http://www.babycenter.com/0_7-superfoods-to-boost-any-kids-diet_1745746.bc?bclink=bullet1&scid=adhoc_20100618_cobrand_tyson:3&pe=2UyYa5h

http://www.babycenter.com/0_10-nutrients-that-every-child-needs_1201019.bc

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

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Chinese Stir-Fry Tofu/Kinesisk Stegt Tofu/豆腐[dòu fǔ]


Recipe adapted from Rasa Malaysia
Serves 4

Preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
- 1 block of fresh or boxed tofu (soft or silken) cut into small cubes
- ¼ cup minced pork (3-7% fat)
- 2-3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 stalk spring onions (chopped into small rounds)
- 2 TBS cooking oil
- ¼ cup frozen de-shelled shrimps (optional)
- 1 cup vegetables such as broccoli florets or peas or 1 red/green bell pepper chopped (optional)
- 1 egg (optional)

Brown Sauce:
- 1 TBS oyster sauce
- 1 TBS shaoxing wine
- 1/2 TBS soya sauce
- 3 TBS water
- 1 TBS ground oatmeal (to thicken the sauce)
- 1/2 tsp Chinese sesame oil
- 2 dashes pepper

Directions:
1. Cook, blanch or steam broccoli and put aside (optional)

2. Heat up a wok and add cooking oil.

3. When the oil is heated, add garlic and stir-fry until light brown.

4. Add in the ground pork and stir-fry to break the ground pork into smaller lumps, then follow by shrimps and tofu.

5. Do a quick stir and add the brown sauce mixture.

6. Gently stir-fry the tofu and bring the sauce to boil. Add the broccoli, peas or red/green bell peppers and chopped spring onions, do a few quick stirs. If you want, crack in an egg at this stage and stir until it is cooked, dish out and serve immediately with brown rice.

Nutritional Value:
Tofu is a very good source of manganese, iron and protein. In addition, tofu is a good source of selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, copper, calcium and magnesium. When the curdling agent used to make tofu is calcium salt, the tofu is an excellent source of calcium. Tofu is known as a cholesterol-lowering food, along with other heart and health benefits.

Fish aren't the only good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Tofu provides 14.4% of the daily value for these especially beneficial fats in just 4 ounces.

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Additional Information:
Tofu was first used in China around 200 B.C. Legend has it that it was discovered by accident when a Chinese cook added the seaweed nigari to a pot of soybean milk, causing it to curdle; the result was tofu. Tofu is sometimes called "the cheese of Asia" or “soya cheese”. Traditionally, the curdling agent used to make tofu is nigari, a compound found in natural ocean water, or calcium sulfate, a naturally occurring mineral. Curds also can be produced by acidic foods like lemon juice or vinegar.

I managed to rush and buy some grocery and made this dish for dinner after work. Daddy and J love it. Daddy usually does not like tofu, as he finds it plain and tasteless, but I guess the oyster sauce helped. But J loves it. I didn’t believe that fetus actually can taste what the mother eats, but now I am beginning to believe it. J loves all the food I love including rather spicy food such as pepper, but doesn’t like the food that Daddy likes such as yogurt or cheese. Could it be that he got used to my food since he was in my tummy?

When planning J’s menu, my goal is to have a green vegetable and an orange vegetable every day. Thus, be it Chinese or European dish, I evaluate it on its nutritional value. I make sure that this dish is very nutritious and balanced by adding in the vegetables such as broccoli, peas or red pepper bell, although this dish would taste as good without it. I usually like to add broccoli, but if I don’t have time, I will just pour in some frozen peas straight out from the freezer. This recipe uses oatmeal as thickener instead of the usual cornstarch. On “egg” days – 3 times a week for J, I will also crack in an egg. And finally, of course, you get the protein from the tofu.

Traditionally, this Chinese dish is cooked with minced pork, but if you don't eat pork, you can also substitute it with minced chicken or minced beef.


Cooking Chinese dishes in Denmark definitely is not cheap and tofu is still considered to be rare or a delicacy in Denmark – at least to me. I bought this organic tofu from the health store near my place, since as a working mom, I don’t have time to go to Chinatown to get the tofu. This tofu alone cost 36 DKK or 8.50 SGD, but it saves me time. All in, this home-cooked dish probably cost me around 10 – 12 SGD. I wish I am now in Singapore, and would be able to buy affordable tofu to my heart content!

Sharing my Chinese cultural heritage with our son definitely comes with a high (financial) price, but what better way to share it with J than through the Singaporean way – through food and the stomach! We have counted the cost, and paid the price… (and will be paying for the next 20 years!). It also makes me count my blessings to God that we can afford to put food - and specifically Chinese food - on the table. And what about my dream leather mulberry bag? It certainly does look further and further away from my reachability now! But I have no regrets :-)

References:
http://rasamalaysia.com/home-style-tofu-recipe/

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=111

http://www.soyfoods.com/soyfoodsdescriptions/tofu.html

Monday, 26 July 2010

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Almond "Hummus"


Recipe adapted from the Raw Food Coach

Preparation Time: 20 minutes excluding soaking almonds (the grinding takes the most time)

Ingredients:
- 1 Cup soaked almonds
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1 small clove garlic
- 1 lemon
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 TBS fresh parsley
- 1 tsp fresh basil

Directions:
1. Break almonds, garlic and lemon juice in a blender until you achieve a smooth consistency. Add a little water if necessary.

2. Add all the other ingredients and blend.

3. When you are done, taste-test and add more salt, herbs or garlic as desired.

Tips:
Spread on green vegetables such as the leafs of baby spinach, lettuce or on crackers and pita bread.

Storage:
This recipe will keep in the fridge for a week.

Nutritional Value:
Almonds are a very good source of vitamin E and manganese. Almonds are a good source of magnesium, copper, riboflavin (vitamin B2), zinc and phosphorus. Fortunately, although one-quarter cup of almonds contains about 18 grams of fat, most of it (11 grams) is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.

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Additional Comments:
I love this popular Middle Eastern dip, hummus. It is a very delicious as a snack or appetizer with cracker or bread. Hummus is the Arabic word for "chickpeas," thus this recipe is not traditional hummus per se. Compared to traditional hummus recipe made of chick peas, this recipe is a lot easier, but it taste extremely similar to hummus made of chick peas. Thus, if you like hummus, you most likely will like this. Almonds are very nutritious too.

I tried this out for the first time today and Daddy and J really like it. I use 1 large clove garlic, but think it is too much, so I should reduce it next time.

The portion on the picture is not the full portion that I made from this recipe, but a small portion I took out for the appetizer this evening.

References:
http://karenknowler.typepad.com/living_in_the_raw/2006/05/recipe_almond_h.html

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=20

Sunday, 25 July 2010

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Healthy Cream of Mushroom Soup/Champignon Suppe/奶油蘑菇汤 [nǎi yóu mó gu tāng]



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Healthy Mushroom Pasta Sauce/Champignon Sauce/奶油蘑菇酱 [nǎi yóu mó gu jiàng]


Serves 4

Preparation and Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
- 500g shitake mushrooms (I prefer to use a mixture of fresh shitake than portabella mushrooms for more taste)
- 25g of frozen shrimps deshelled type (this is used to replace chicken stock called in many recipes for soup)
- 2-3 stalks celery chopped
- 1/2 stalk of leek (white portion) chopped
- 2 large onions diced
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 1/4 cup white wine (optional)
- 3 TBS ground oatmeal (to thicken the sauce)
- 1 cup low-fat fresh milk
- 3 TBS cooking oil or butter
- 2-3 slices of organic chedder cheese that you slice yourself (optional)
- 1/2 cup of natural yogurt, greek yogurt or fromage frais (optional)
- Chopped parsley or chives for garnish (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Heat pan with oil or butter and fry garlic, leek, celery and onions on high heat until lightly brown, then add mushrooms and continue to fry on medium high heat now until the mushroom turns brown. Then add the frozen prawns.

2. Add salt, pepper and white wine and boil for 1 minute.

3. Meanwhile mix well ground oatmeal and milk in a separate container and then add it into the pan after the wine has been boiled for 1 minute.

4. Stir for 2 minutes or until the sauce thickens

5. Reduce heat and add cheese until melt.

6. Stir in yogurt (be careful not to boil)

7. Garnish with parsley and serve with pasta or potatoes

Nutritional Value:
Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium and a very good source of iron. They are also a good source of protein, dietary fiber and vitamin C.

Mushrooms contain higher concentrations L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant, than either of the two dietary sources previously believed to contain the most: chicken liver and wheat germ.

Testing mushrooms consumed in the U.S., the team found that shiitake, oyster, king oyster and maitake mushrooms contain the highest amounts of ergothioneine, with up to 13mg in a 3-ounce serving. This equals forty times as much as is found in wheat germ. This is followed by portabellas and criminis hand lastly white buttons. White buttons contain up to 5 mg per three ounce serving-12 times as much as wheat germ and 4 times more than chicken liver. The good news is L-ergothioneine is not destroyed when mushrooms are cooked.

In addition, shitake mushrooms are said to revigorate the immune system and good for the heart.

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Additional Comments:
I was searching the internet for healthy mushroom recipes, but could not find any. This is my own creation. Many recipes call for the use of heavy cream, or if not, flour to thicken the sauce. I don't like to use flour in my cooking... as I don't think it will taste good. I found a way to thicken the soup that is delicious and nutritious by using oatmeal ground into powder. Thus, I substitute the flour used in many recipe with ground oatmeal. I like to add cheese into my mushroom, because it enhances the taste as well as giving it a good rich texture. Also it provides lots of calcium to the sauce. This is a very healthy and nutritious mushroom pasta sauce. It is creamy and thick, without having to use heavy cream :-) Daddy likes it very much, and J too! However, if you are used to sauce with cream, you most likely will not like this sauce.
I realise that it is very important to use a good cheese. I use ordinary slice cheese, and it turned out rubbery in texture. I found this organic cheddar cheese that really enhances the taste of the soup:
References:
http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=122

http://www.mahalo.com/how-to-make-mushroom-soup

Saturday, 24 July 2010

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Make an effort to learn your spouse’s language


If you ask me what the MOST challenging aspect of a cross-cultural marriage is, I will tell you straight away without any doubt that it is learning the language, if you are married with someone whose country language is not English. Learning a foreign language… it is easier said than done, especially if you only start to learn it late in adulthood.

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How to survive and thrive in a cross-cultural marriage?


This is based on my 10 years of experience, in the Danish-Singaporean-Chinese context.

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Tang Dynasty Poem: 咏鹅 [yǒng é]



咏鹅

鹅 , 鹅 , 鹅
é   é   é

曲 项 向 天 歌
qū xiàng xiàng tiān gē

白 毛 浮 绿 水
bái máo fú lǜ shuǐ

红 掌 拨 清 波
hōng zhǎng bō qīng bō

Video Demonstration:


Literal Translation:
Goose, Goose, Goose
Bending neck up singing to the sky.
White feathers floating on the greenish water,
Red feet paddling out gentle ripples.

Author:
This poem was written by a Tang dynasty poet called Luo Bin Wang (approx. 640-684), who came from Wuzhou Yiwu, located in today’s Zhejiang region in China. The poet received very fine education from a young age, and had already made a name for himself as a poet during his youth. Together with Wang Bo, Yang Jiong and Lu Zhaolin, they were referred to as the "The Four Masters of the Early Tang Dynasty". It is believed that this little poem was written by the poet when he was only 7 years old!

Modern Translation:
This poem is an appreciation of goose. The repetition of the word “goose” three times in the first line expresses the joy and excitement of children when they first discover the sight of a goose. The last three lines capture vividly the poise, manner and special air of goose. Those white geese swimming leisurely in the lake, making high noises with their necks and heads high up towards the sky, as if they are chit-chatting among themselves, as if they are singing with gusto, and even more so, as if they are singing to the sky. The geese are swimming around in the water, their pure white body contrasting with the greenish water and their red feet gently paddling the water, creating soft ripples.

This poem evokes the picture of a very relaxed, joyful, wholesome, beautiful and carefree atmosphere and describes the world as seen in the eyes of children. This is the way innocent and carefree children first get to know about life and the world - full of joy of discovery and optimism… just like the bird dashing towards the big nature… lively and elated. This poem up-lifts our spirit by drawing us away for a moment to forget the heavy responsibility as an adult, and experience the heart and carefreeness of a child, which allows the child to have the simple ability to focus its interest in the appreciation of geese.

My After-Thought:
This poem reminds me a lot of the expressions of J when he sees the ducks swimming at the lake near our home… when he sees a dog passing by him… or when he sees a bird at our balcony. J is so full of joy and excitement, and he never fails to pass on the joy to Daddy and I. Whenever the regular pigeon-pair makes a visit at our home, Daddy will drop everything and bring J there to get a close look, even if J is in the midst of having his breakfast! The joy of seeing J’s joyful expression is worth it for Daddy to drop everything, including J’s routine!!!

This is a very child-friendly poem, and it is one of the poems that my neighbour has taught her 2.5 years old daughter to recite. Among all the other poems, this is also the poem that my neighbour’s daughter chose to recite for us during one of the Chinese playgroup sessions, and her mother told us that this is her favourite Tang poem.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

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Homemade Singaporean-Chinese Mee-Pok (Modern Version)/Singaporeaner-kinesisk Nudler/新加坡中式面条[Xīn jiā pō zhōng shì miàn tiáo]


Ingredients:
- 2 cups wholewheat flour
- 3 eggs beaten
- 1 TBS olive oil
- 1 - 2 pinch salt (if you intend to eat it dry, use 1 pinch; if you intend to use it in soup, use 2 pinch salt)
- 5 TBS water

Directions:
1. Beat eggs with salt and olive oil.

2. Mix with flour until you get a stiff dough.

3. Knead well using hand or handmixer (10-15 minutes), and add a tablespoon of water at a time.

4. Flour your table top, tear off a portion of the dough (can divide into approx. 5-6 smaller doughs in total)and roll it out with a rolling pin until very very thin. As you roll, flour it, so that it won't stick to the surface.

5. Fold 3-4 folds (and as you fold, flour it) and then cut it into noodle strips with knife or scissors, and then unfold it.

6. Boil a small pot of water and boil the noodles for 2 minutes until cooked.

7. Drain and serve :-)

Storage:
Pasta can last a long time (1-2 weeks) if kept in a cool dry place or the fridge. You can freeze them in the freezer up to 2 months in ready-to use portions.

Tips:
1. You can serve it with sesame oil, oyster sauce and chilli oil, as shown in this picture.

2. You can add it to soup and you have yourself a bowl of Chinese noodle soup :-)

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Additional Comments:
After making home-made jam, I can't believe that I have now proceedws to making home-made Chinese noodles!!! Before J came along, I haven't been as productive as until now. Motherhood is doing me good. Things I never had an interest before, nor found the time to do, I actually manages to do it, after I became a mother!

Another factor that drives me, I guess, is being away from home and missing food from home... I miss Singapore SO MUCH, I have resorted to making the noodles myself. It is also a determined heart of steel to share my heritage with J, so that when he is older, he will get a taste of Singapore.

This is a very nutritious noodles, as it is made of whole wheat and eggs. However, it is probably not the healthiest way to eat it, as I have eaten this mee-pok with oyster sauce and chilli oil. But I have decided to indulge myself :-)

The difference between making Italian pasta and Chinese noodles, I have researched over the internet, is the time one uses to knead the dough and the thickness one makes the noodles. Both types of noodles share the same ingredients. Chinese noodles are smooth and slip down your throat, unlike Italian noodles, which are chewy. Thus, one has to knead longer to "work" the gluten and roll hard to achieve the thinness in Chinese noodles. All of which takes longer time. But I much prefer the Chinese noodles - I am forever a true blue Singaporean!!! However, if I run short of time, I don't mind making do with Italian pasta noodles instead.

Whole wheat mee-pok is not in the most traditional sense, Chinese noodles. It does break easily, unlike Chinese noodles made with normal wheat flour. If you want it to taste as smooth as possible and for the noodles to be as long and flowy as possible, when you hold them with your chop-sticks and slur them down your throat, you would need to replace the whole wheat flour with normal wheat flour.

J tried this "mee-pok" plain today for the first time, but without those seasoning of course, and he made me soooo happy, because he ate it happily. Nothing beats the joy for a mother to see her child enjoying her food... I wonder what my own mum felt, when I was a child...

References:
http://foodwithapassion.blogspot.com/2007/06/homemade-egg-noodles.html

Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron Pg. 335

http://www.cfood.typepad.com/


Sunday, 11 July 2010

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Managing Challenging Mealtimes for Toddlers

J, 16 months, is getting picky about food. He tells you clearly what his will is. He only wants to eat a particular food on the table, and ignore all the rest, such as vegetables. He only selects the baked or stir-fry food, and refuses those which are boiled. I do not wish to take one food out at a time (such as first vegetable, then rice, then meat), as we would like to have all the food on the table and eat them together. I have done some research and will be trying out the following ways to deal with it.

1. Start with small portion
Start with small portion with a variety of grain, vegetable and meat, and let the child request more food.

If he stubbornly refuses to eat certain food (such as vegetable, and you know it is a submission issue), but finish a particular food (such as meatballs or dessert), insist on him finishing his plate before re-filling it with that food and other food.

My Japanese friend, Himiko, taught me that if he throws a tantrum, bring him down from the high chair and tell him that he can come back when he has calm down and is ready to return to eat. Be consistent and don't relent. And it worked when I tried it on 5.11.2011 (2Y8M). Repeat this again and again, and if he throws a third or fourth tantrum, then this shows that he is not hungry. Take the food away and tell him that meal time is over. If he is hungry, he will learn his lesson.

2. Use your child’s name
Say, “J, place your hands on the side of the highchair please” or “J, do not drop your food” or “J, be patient, mommy is coming with your food”.

3. Move his high-chair to a boring spot
Do this when you have the time. Keep him on the high chair until his meal is done. The battle of will would began, and if this is the first time this method is used, it may take 1 ½ hour before the child surrender and eat his food.

4. Use a timerSet the timer and when it goes off, the meal is over. If your child hasn’t finished his meal, he will lose his snack or milk bottle for tomorrow.

5. Teach the concept of taking responsibility for own action
If he makes a mess under his high-chair on purpose, when the meal is over, put him on the floor and ask him to help you clean up by asking him to hand you some of the peas. Say to him, “We made a mess, so we have to clean it up together.”

6. Teach your child to sign “please” and “thank you” with his hand
With the “please” sign, your child learns how to seek what he needs by asking rather than telling you. In the context of meal time, you might want to take his little hand and sign please with him, saying to him, “Let’s do please” then give him his food or drink.

7. Keep him on highchair until the whole family is doneThis is a good habit even if it means to offer some bite-size snack or bring a toy to the highchair.

8. Relax
If your child refuses to eat vegetables and grains for a period of time, don’t make too much of an issue out of it. Continue to make mealtime relaxed and fun. His taste for vegetables and grain will return unless you turn eating them into a power struggle. This contradicts with point 1, and had made my parenting inconsistent. I have found that point 1 worked. Once one gets past the struggles described by point 1, meal time will become relaxed and fun. It would be a joy whether it is meal time at home or at someone's else place. My Japanese friend, Himiko, taught me this. I followed her advice and now I am speaking from experience, now that J is 2.5 years old. Point 8 didn't work for me until I was determined in implementing point 1 full force.

References:
Pre-Toddlerwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam

Toddlerwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam

http://www.babycenter.com/404_should-i-discipline-my-baby_6884.bc

http://www.babycenter.com/0_the-discipline-tool-kit-successful-strategies-for-every-age_1475318.bc

http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/discipline.html#

http://www.wholesometoddlerfood.com/Toddlers.htm
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Discipline (12-18 months pre-toddlers)

We are getting more and more challenged with the issue of discipline. J, 16 months, is now capable of knowing when he’s doing something he’s not supposed to do*. He will look at me with the glint in his eyes. Here are some ideas suggested by books that I will be trying out to deal with it:

1. Give instructions, not suggestions

Avoid asking whether he like to go to bed. If it is bed time, put him to bed with all the kisses, hugs and prayers and leave. It is not the child’s option. Neither is leaving the playground, coming to the highchair or lunch or wearing shoes in a rough yard. Give your instructions or correction in firm and calm tone. Don’t yell, as he is likely not to even listen due to fear. Don’t use “ok” to end your instructions. Say, “J, we are going to be leaving the store. I want to hear a ‘Yes, mommy’”.

2. Use the child’s name, require eye contact and yes mommy

Do not give instructions without first getting your pre-toddler’s attention. Start around 12-14 months of age. When you are face-to-face with your child, take his chin in your hand, look into his eyes, say his name and give him your instructions: “J, place your hands on the side of the high chair please” or “J, do not drop your food.” This will help him to focus on your instructions. The child who is allowed to look around while mom or dad give instructions will often struggles with compliance because his attention is divided. When your child he is about 16 or 24 months of age (depending on when he learns to talk), pause after calling his name, require a “yes mommy” response from your child, then an eventual “yes mommy, I am coming, etc.” after you give instructions.

3. Be consistent and resolved

The child who is corrected consistently when he fails to obey is better adjusted than the chld whose discipline is inconsistent or incomplete. “Stop” must mean stop, “No” must mean no, “Do not touch” must mean do not touch, and “Do not move” must mean do not move. Attempting to reason with a pre-toddler or toddler is not commendable. Lead, direct and guide him in the confidence of your wisdom.

4. Get him involved in daily tasks

This helps to defuse some of the most common tantrum-provoking situations. For example in the supermarket, hand him a box of item you are purchasing and let him drop it behind him into the cart.

5. Validate child’s feeling, then deliver discipline message and re-direct

Show understanding before delivering the discipline message. For example, J snatches a toy car from another’s toddler. Echo what he seems to be thinking and feeling by saying, “You want the truck”. This validates his feelings and helps him to calm down. Once he is calm enough to listen, deliver the discipline message, but stripped-down version: “Don’t snatch, don’t snatch, it is Erik’s turn. You do not take Erik’s toy, that is unkind. You can have this block instead”. Return the toy car to the other kid and substitute another toy for J. If J repeats his tantrum, repeat the whole process again and make sure that you mean business.

6. Don’t try to talk your child out of tantrum

You may be encouraging him to throw more tantrum by rewarding it with attention. To be effective, he needs a sympathetic audience. When he is at the point of throwing tantrum, he is not listening to anything you say anyway. So stop talking.

7. Loss of privilege

The child that drops his toys on the outside of his playpen will learn soon enough that it does not come back.

8. Isolation and time-out

If he is disruptive in his play group, isolate him in another room. If at home, isolate him to his crib, bed or high-chair. With tantrums, isolate him to his crib or bed. He may get out of isolation when he is calm and happy. J would grunt when he didn’t get what he wanted. He would point to the object and ask again, and if the answer was still “No”, he would throw a tantrum. Put him in his crib to get self-control at the first sign, and the tantrum won’t follow. If tantrum follows before isolation, isolate him to the crib or in the playpen until he calms down, which may take 10 minutes or longer.

9. Praise him when he is behaving well

Tell him, “It’s great that you stopped playing with your toy car in the balcony. This means we have more time to play with water-can and containers during bath time”.

10. Nap

If nothing works and your child continues to be difficult, it is most likely that he is tired. It is not discipline that the child needs, but rest.

I should not feel discouraged. According to Toddlerwise, obedience for this age-group (up to 2 years old) means that a child complies with your instructions at least 60% of the time. This means that you are working towards total compliance 60% of the time. The walking, talking and exploring toddler is in process and he cannot give you 100% obedience because he is not capable of doing so.

* Book says that often around first birthday or “between 14 and 40 months, a toddler’s intellect matures sufficiently to allow meaningful interaction with adults and other children. The transition between action and understanding is what makes the toddler years so hectic for young moms” – Toddler-wise.

References:
Pre-Toddlerwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam

Toddlerwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam

http://www.babycenter.com/404_should-i-discipline-my-baby_6884.bc

http://www.babycenter.com/0_the-discipline-tool-kit-successful-strategies-for-every-age_1475318.bcage_1475318.bc

http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/discipline.html#

Saturday, 10 July 2010

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Healthy Fresh Dessert Cream


Serve 4

Ingredients:
- 150ml fromage frais
- 2 TBS maple syrup
- 1 pinch of vanilla bean

Directions:
1. Mix the ingredients together

2. Serve with strawberries or cut fruits

References:
http://www.madmor.dk/show.php?action=single&get=70
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Zucchini Chips/西葫芦[xī hú lú]

 


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Oven-Baked Fish 'n' Chips/Fiskefilet/炸鱼排加炸薯条



Ingredients:
- 1/3 cup bread crump (rasp) or rye flour
- 1/3 cup wheat germ (optional)
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
- Sprinkle salt and pepper
- 1 egg
- 1 – 1 ½ TBS olive oil
- 500g or 5-6 pieces of plaice fillets (rødspætte)

Directions:
1. Mix ingredients 1 – 4 together in a flat plate

2. Beat egg and olive oil together.

3. Dip fish into egg mixture to coat it, and then roll fish into the dry mixture to coat it.

4. Bake for 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180°C or fry on pan with a little oil for 2 minutes on each side.

5. Serve immediately.

Tips:
1. You can also serve it with tempura sauce.

2. For a healthier version of chips, you can serve squash chips (see next post for the chip recipe).

Nutritional Value:
Plaice is an outstanding source of B12 and also contains plenty of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D. The fat content of plaice varies, entailing a corresponding variation in the amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

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Additional Comments:

Here is a healthy and delicious substitute to the fried fish n chips. I experimented making it several times to get it right. I found out that by adding olive oil into the egg mixture, one could achieve the “pan-fry” effect from the oven. Adding wheat germ enhances the nutritional value of the batter. Enjoy :-)

For those who live in Denmark, you can find the "rasp" without E number from Superbest, and the parmesan cheese without E number from Føtex. I prefer the taste without the parmesan cheese.

The Danes like to eat this fish fillet on their ryebread as a Danish open sandwich.

References:
http://www.theworldwidegourmet.com/products/fish/plaice/

Thursday, 8 July 2010

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Hold on to your roots, embrace the good and discard the bad


At some point in time while living overseas in a cross-cultural marriage, this searching stage will hit most, if not all, and most will have to deal with it. Each will find his or her way. For those who come after me, I share my experience below.

Monday, 5 July 2010

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Homemade Danish Strawberry Jam Without Pectin/Hjemmelavet Jordbær Marmelade/草莓酱[cǎo méi jiàng]




Ingredients:
- 1kg strawberries
- 400g sugar
- 2 limes squeezed (optional)

Directions:
1. Rinse strawberries with stem on, then remove stem to prevent water-logging.

2. Add sugar and lemon and let it sit overnight in the fridge to “marinade” it. You will notice when you take it out from the fridge that the strawberries have exuded lots of juices.

3. Pour the mixture into a large pot (to allow foamy expansion that will occur when boiling).

4. Bring to boil over high heat until foamy, and stir down the foam.

5. Lower heat and simmer so that the jam is bubbling but not boiling over.

6. When strawberries have turned limp, scoop some of the strawberries out if you like your jam with recognizable strawberries, otherwise, just leave it.

7. Test for doneness by taking a spoon of the syrup and placing it on a cold clean plate. If it stiffens up and forms a layer instead of running over the plate, it is done. If not, continue simmering.

8. Once done, add back the whole strawberries into the pot.

9. Pack them in sterilized jar. For canning instructions, please see this link:

http://www.pickyourown.org/jam.htm

OR

You can also just keep the jam in an airtight container in the refrigerator if you don’t bother with the sterilization work.

Storage:
- 1-2 months in the fridge, indefinitely in the freezer or 1 year outside with sterilization.

Nutritional Value:

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. They are also a very good source of dietary fiber and iodine. Plus, strawberries are a good source of potassium, folate, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, copper, and vitamin K.

Strawberries also contain an array of beneficial phytonutrients, including flavonoids, anthocyanidins and ellagic acid.

Strawberries not only look like a fruity heart-shaped valentine, they are filled with unusual phytonutrients that serves as potent antioxidants. Strawberries' unique phenol content makes them a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit, and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one.

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Additional Information:
I can’t believe it!!! I made strawberry jam this evening for the first time!!! I have been reading about it, but thought that the process is too time-consuming and tedious.

It’s strawberry season in Denmark (very short, sometime between 23 June to 18 July only), and we went strawberry picking last Saturday. It was our first time and it was an unforgettable wonderful experience! We picked about 3.5kg of strawberries. I wondered what to do with them, and so I decided to take the courage to try at making my own strawberry jam, after J was put to bed.

I have been doing some research over the internet. Most recipes either call for pectin as preservative, use lots of sugar, or are very cumbersome. I have adapted the recipes by taking the best advice from each recipe, and this is one of the simplest recipe using only 3 ingredients, doesn’t require slicing or crushing the strawberries, and uses only half portion of sugar for one portion of strawberries.

Though quite a lot of hard work, it has actually been very cozy and exciting. The strawberries cooking in the pot exuded a sweet candy smell in the whole room... making it very memorable. If I have the time, I wish to make it again with J when he is awake. He would have enjoyed the sensory experience.

The finished jam still needs to be cooled down, thus, I am not sure whether my strawberry jam will turn out looking like jam or more like sauce, since I use less sugar. I will find out tomorrow, but it doesn’t matter to me, as what matters is that it smells good and tastes good. Florian is my gauge. He test tasted it, and said that it was sweet enough.

I intend to give 1 jar to my mother-in-law. Danes in general like home-made things. I think of my mum… I clearly remember that once in a while she used to make pineapple drink or jam. I wish I could give a jar to her… she would be so proud that I have “graduated” to making jam in my cooking progress… but she is so far away... in Singapore. Oh how I wish sometimes that I have my mother just beside me… sharing parts of my life…

I use nartural brown sugar (also called raw sugar) because it may have more of the nutritional molasses present, but normal sugar can also be used.

References:
http://www.dk-kogebogen.dk/opskrifter/visopskrift.php?id=9371

http://www.pickyourown.org/jam.htm

http://www.justhungry.com/strawberry-jam-copious-detail

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_sugar

 11 June 2016

11 June 2016

Sunday, 4 July 2010

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Food stuff management/ Levnedsmiddel forvaltning/粮食管理[liáng shí guǎn lǐ]


As I begin on my journey of making baby food, and graduating to making family food, the amount of food stuff grows. I was getting tired of always having to unwrap packaging and wrapping them back again with rubber-bands, etc. I have to find a way of organising them, and I think I have found a good way from the internet. A labelling machine from Brother really helps if you like. I love to organise things and perhaps administration is my greatest strength. Thank God I managed to organise my kitchen and food stuff before I have to start work in a month's time!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

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Tang Dynasty Poem: 静夜思 [jìng yè sī]


静夜思


床 前 明 月 光
chuáng qián míng yuè guāng

疑 是 地 上 霜
yí shì dì shàng shuāng

举 头 望 明 月
jǔ tóu wàng míng yuè

低 头 思 故 乡
dī tóu sī gù xiāng


Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEW-n20BFJg

Literal Translation:
The moon light shines brightly before my bed,
As if cold frost on the ground before me
Raising my eyes to gaze at the moon,
Bowing my head and think of home.

Author:
This poem was written by the famous Tang poet, Li Bai (701-762), who came from the region of China near Tianshui, Gansu province.

Modern Translation:
The poem depicts a quiet night leading to thoughts of homesickness. Using plain simple language in the poem, the poet vividly captures his feeling of homesickness. It illustrates the power of the nature to evoke deep, thought-provoking in people. The poem is very short – it only contains 20 words – yet it manages to depict simply, clearly and naturally time, environment, atmosphere and the subtle action by the character that shows his heartfelt longing... homesickness.

My After-Thought:
This is a very famous Tang poem that I learned when I was a child. Reading it really brings back childhood memories and feeling of homesickness... I think of my mum and I think of the famous Chinese song that uses this poem as lyrics. This poem expresses very well some of my feelings... although now I am too busy to allow myself a quiet night to dwell on any heartaches from being away from home.



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Blanket Time (for Babies/Pre-toddlers/Toddlers 14 – 20 months)

I heard about the concept of Blanket Time from “On Becoming Babywise” By Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, a Christian-based parenting book. J has been running around when we are in church. One time when we visited a friend’s place, he was going around into people’s rooms. Then another time, he was taking toys from the host’s toddlers, as if he was in his own home! It is hard to bring J as guest to people’s homes.

I wanted so much for J to be able to do blanket time. But this is probably my greatest challenge, and I don’t think I will ever achieve it. But I will try, and it is alright if he doesn’t achieve it. There are still many good things both J and I will learn in the process.

But I so pleased that J achieved real Blanket Time today!!! He looked at picture books while I busied myself in the kitchen in the morning. I walked around, and he pointed out the pictures to me while on the blanket. I told him the name of the object in the picture without being with him on the blanket. When the timer went after 5 minutes, I told him that Blanket Time is finished and started folding the blanket. He understood and went to play with his push cart.

What is Blanket Time?

Blanket Time is a form of structured independent playtime, where babies/pre-toddlers/toddlers play on their own on a blanket, where mommy chooses the time, the place and the toys baby should play with. Blanket Time is very useful when visiting friends. You will know that your baby will be able to entertain himself, and will respect people’s property not to run around the whole house touching people’s things.

What are the objectives of blanket time?

1. To teach focus skills – so that baby does not jump from one toy to another without really exploring it

2. To teach parameter skills – so that baby is willing to stay in a place, although there is no playpen gates to restrain him

3. To teach obedience and self-control – so that baby will be willing to listen to the instructions of mommy and daddy

When to start?

Blanket Time is suitable for babies 12-24 months. You can start to get familiar with it before baby learns to crawl at around 8 months, however, that is not real blanket time, since he/she would not be able to get off the blanket by himself. Blanket Time training should start around 14 months for crawling or walking babies. I started J when he was around 14M3D old.

What is the ideal blanket size?

I use a 155 x 120cm blanket and it is a comfortable size. Not too big that it is unmanageable, not too small that it is too restrictive for baby.

What toy would be suitable?

It should be a toy that has some novelty effect, or could hold his attention for some time. For J, it is a couple of books or stacking rings. Don't worry, however, about changing toys too frequently. It is alright for the same toys for a week as it will help a child to play with what has been given to him.

How to implement blanket time?

1. Start with only 5 minutes at a time consistently every day or once a week

I started with J for 5 minutes with a timer every Saturday morning right after breakfast and potty time (since I am a working mom, I couldn’t do it during weekdays). If J is showing interest and wants to play longer, add more time. You can always add time again, but once you set the timer, you should not take time away. Slowly work it up to 15 minutes, 20 minutes and 45 minutes.

2. Choose a quiet enclosed spot at home

I chose a place at home where it is less distractive, which is along the “corridor” of our bedrooms. In this way, he could not go anywhere.

3. Start by having blanket time together

I sat with J on the blanket to read a book or two. This helps him to associate good feelings with the blanket – cozy time with mom on the blanket with a book. I did this for about 4 consecutive Saturdays to allow him to get used to it gradually.

4. Move to having blanket time together in an open space

On the 5th Saturday or so, I started by having our Blanket Time together along the corridor, followed by a session of Blanket Time together in a totally open space. I took the blanket downstairs and placed it on the floor beside the sofa in the living room, where there will be no natural boundaries provided by the corridor. I sat with him on the blanket together with some toys (not books, as I knew he would protest, and I did not want him to associate this experience with books) and put the timer to 5 minutes. Whenever he felt tempted to walk away, I would bring him back to the blanket, with much protest from him, of course! But I persisted on for 5 minutes until the timer rang. I did these two sessions for another 3 weeks.

5. Start getting further away from baby

After 3 weeks, I did the same routine, however, this time I tried to sit on the sofa just beside the blanket, instead of being with him on the blanket. In this way, I am not on the blanket, but am near enough to put him back on the blanket, if he strays and protests. J protested and cried and wanted me to play with him on the blanket. I brought him back to the blanket saying, “J, you need to stay on the blanket and play with your toys until the timer rings”. He protested and cried each time I brought him back. I persisted for 5 minutes. Five minutes was up and the timer rang - that was our blanket time session - pretty uneventful. This went on for weeks… I was feeling like I would never achieve Blanket Time, but I told myself that I have at least achieved Reading Time on the blanket together. Not many babies are willing to do that. And so I continued to persist for weeks…

Then finally one day, today 3.7.2010, he willingly sat down on the blanket when I laid the blanket down in the living room with some books on it. He stayed there and looked at the pictures books, with eye contact towards me, and also just alone looking at the books. I told him that I will be doing chores in the kitchen, and talked to him while I was doing chores, and he on the blanket. I walked around the living room, and he pointed to the picture in the book to me. I will tell him what that was, while still doing my own stuff. The timer rang, and the Blanket Time ended. J stayed there willingly without protesting or walking out of the blanket. J succeeded after about 2 months!!! He is 15M28 D today.

References:
http://havingfunathomeblog.blogspot.com/2008/10/13-everyday-objects-to-put-in-toddlers.html

http://www.babywisemom.com/

On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam




On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam is available from Amazon:


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