Kids’ craft : River Otters Diorama

River Otters Diorama

This was actually the 4th grader’s school project a few months ago. We had so much fun researching and learning about River otters and making the shoebox diorama together. First she drew the otters’ habitat on paper, and then started building the diorama on a shoebox bit by bit by herself, using mostly recycled materials that we have around the house.

(I actually wanted to show you her impressive habitat draft, but I couldn’t find the photo in my photo album now. Argh! :( Hopefully she still has the original drawing so that I can show u later.)

Here’s my contribution to her project…these polymer clay river otters models. It was our first time playing with polymer clay. My original intention was for her to create her own models. But becos I was too curious, and couldn’t wait for her to be back from school, I went ahead to create these otters first. :P And when she saw my models after school, she loved them so much that she decided to use them instead. Oh well… at least she did color these models herself! :p

River Otters polymer
(Idea from this pin on Pinterest.)

The polymer clay that we used is from Scupley, in translucent color. After the models were oven-baked, we painted them using Acrylic paints and seal it with all purpose acrylic sealant.

The background and river were painted using tempera paint.
river otters project

The tree trunks were made of branches from our yard and she used recycled green crepe ribbons as the tree canopy. The otters den was made using twigs and she used hays (it was boy’s brilliant idea!) that she collected during our trip to a local farm last Autumn as wetlands plants such as cattails/ bullrushes.

River otters diorama

Lily pads were created using recycled craft paper, pipe cleaners and gift tissues. Again, the floating tree log was from our yard. Notice the red crab on the log and fish in the river? Here’s another one…
river otters project

Ain’t they cute?!

Bak Chor Mee (Mince Meat Noodles)

Bak Chor Mee (Mince Pork Noodles)

I have cooked Bak Chor Mee many times before, but the noodle sauce from the recipes that I used earlier weren’t authentic enough, until I stumbled upon this recipe. Because I was already pretty happy with my version of stewed mushroom sauce and fried ground meat, so I merely followed its noodle sauce recipe. This noodle sauce tasted really authentic, I give it a 10/10.

Anyway, if you are looking for a good bak chor mee recipe, I would recommend you to try this recipe first.

I’m documenting my own ingredients list here for my future reference. If you feel like you want to try mine, please be warned though… the vast majority of my cooking is ’seat of the pants’. So, use at your own risk. Heheeee….

Sauce for noodles:
1/2 tablespoon chilli oil (optional)
1/2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tablespoon black vinegar
A splash of fish sauce
Fried shallots

Stewed Mushroom :
6-8 Chinese mushrooms
1~2 Cups Chicken stock
1 TSP oyster sauce
1 TSP dark soy sauce (for color)
1 TSP soy sauce (may add more according to taste)

Fried Bak Chor/Mince meat :
minced garlic (fried till crispy and golden brown)
1lb ground pork
1 TSP oyster sauce
dark soy sauce (according to taste)
dash of ground pepper

Sew Happy : Insulated Lunchbox warmer bag

At least 3 times a week, I would pack hot lunch for the girl to bring to school. The previous lunchbox warmer that we used is just a double layers insulated cloth sheet. Though it does serve the purpose of retaining the warmth of the lunch, but I thought it isn’t as convenient since I have to wrap the bento box with the cloth manually. So, I made this warmer bag instead, using home deco fabric (thicker), thermal bubble sheet (from Daiso) and assorted color felts for the ninja pattern.

Sew Happy : Lunchbox warmer bag

If you are keen to make one yourself and need a tutorial to guide you, here’s one I found on pinterest that is closest to how I made mine.

Happy 2014!

Bye 2013.

Looking back at my 2013, I am very thankful for my family and some close friends. Because of their love and support for me, they made me realized who are the ones that truly matter to me and who truly embraced me as who I am.

I’m also very thankful for some life lessons that I had learned through some disappointments and heartbreaks.

I’ve learned the importance of forgiving people and moving forward. Having hate in your heart, you will end up hurting yourself/your family more than the people you hate. It is so important to let go of the resentment and pain, because these will only hold you back from living a happier life. So, instead of spending your time hating people, try spend more time with the people who love you & you love.

Another important lesson that I’ve learned is that we all need to be mindful of who we are spending our time with; limit your time with negative people, and don’t allow yourself to be that negative person too.

It took me a long while to understand why I was so unhappy the past year. And like those times when I questioned myself why did I belittle my children or not being a positive & supportive friend to my friends, when these clearly made me feel unhappy, guilty and angry with myself. Well, as it turns out, that is the consequences of having negative people too close to my life. I mean I can always tell who are the negative people in my social circle and I never really have a problem with them. But because I’m such an emotional sponge, I tend to let myself take on their emotions and because of that… their negative vibes slowly affected me and then turned me into a negative person too. Anyway, don’t worry about me, if I can talk about it here, it just means that I’ve moved on and on the path of getting better already. :) So you see, having bad experiences actually isn’t all that bad. They actually helped me to learn more about myself, my own issues and weaknesses.

Before ending this post, I would like to wish all of you a very Happy and Blessed 2014!! Be good and stay positive!

I’m looking forward to a calmer, healthier, happier 2014!

PS: If you thought that I was going to write about my new year resolutions, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I just find that making new year resolutions is a waste of time. If I have something that I want to do, I will do it now. I don’t need to wait till January to make the list. ;)

Got to go now.

My Comical Family #20: This is Love!

This is Love!

Happy 15th Wedding Anniversary to you, my DH! ;)

the lazy sahm…

Feeling so proud and accomplished after deep cleaning (cleaned the brush, fixed a small crack, changed a new bag) the vacuum cleaner.

Admire the vacuum cleaner.
*5mins later* Put it back in the closet.

Floor vacuuming can wait.

Bento #33: Mid Autumn Festival

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to you all!
祝大家中秋节快乐!

It totally slipped my mind that today is mid-Autumn festival. Life has been especially busy for us since we came back from a 2.5 months of summer vacation in Singapore, and kids went back to school shortly after. Now that the kids are more or less settled back to their daily routine, I re-started my long overdue de-cluttering project again. This time, however, I’m not just working around my home, but my mind too. :)

Anyway, here’s the impromptu lame attempt of a mid-autumn festival theme bento that I prepared for my daughter today. :)

mid autumn festival bento

Snack : steamed taro bun and apple (in case you are wondering, that is a chinese lantern pattern!)
Lunch: Char Siu (BBQ pork) rice

Back to school! (Bento #42)

My firtborn is now a 4th Grader! How time flies!!

To make her first day of school a special one, I started doing my research on pinterest (Join me if you haven’t do so!) for inspiration and made this back-to-school bento yesterday. :)

Lunch box:
back-to-school bento

Contents:
Fried rice wrapped in white egg sheet, school bus made with cheese, grapes and homegrown cherry tomatoes. :)

Snack box:
back-to-school bento

Contents:
Pencil shaped cheese stick (decorated with nori), Kueh Lapis (aka thousand layer cake which I got from Singapore. :) ), apple and a book origami lunch box note.

If you are interested in making the book origami for your little one, here’s a pretty good tutorial video. Check it out!

Pros and Cons of the Obama Administration on American Education

* This is a guest post. *

Barack Obama has focused much of his attention on education. Still, there exists a tremendous amount of disagreement over the impact of the president’s policies on both higher education in America and education at the lower levels. How has the administration’s policies shifted the educational world? As Jennifer Epstein of Politico.com writes, the results are mixed. Here are some pros and cons of Obama’s policies and their effect on education.

Obama’s positive effect on education
One cannot discuss the president’s education initiatives without first diving into the stimulus. Back in 2009, states were struggling to keep up, and many were cutting budgets for teachers and classrooms. The administration poured money into the states through the stimulus package, and this helped those states stave off mass teacher firings. Many education experts believe that this had a positive impact on education overall, as the consequences of lay-offs would have been devastating for students.

In addition, the administration has taken positive steps on the question of No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era program designed to help out at-risk students. Obama’s administration has given states the ability to apply for waivers. Under the waiver initiative, states can opt out of the No Child Left Behind requirements if they can show that they have a better program in mind. Through 2012, 19 states had chosen this route, and this helped relieve the burden on these states. While No Child Left Behind might have seemed like good policy at the time, it put difficult and often unmeetable standards on states.

The administration has also done a tremendous amount of work with higher education. In trying to help students afford online college degrees and traditional programs, the administration has bulked up funding for the following programs:
• Federal Pell Grant
• Public service student loan forgiveness
• Military education funding

Obama’s negative effect on education
Many critics claim that Obama and his administration have been sloppy in their dealings with teachers’ unions. Some have criticized the president for being too beholden to unions, while others have blasted the president for sticking it to unions. Overall, the president has championed charter school initiatives that could have a negative impact on teachers and the students that depend on them. Whether or not this falls into the positive or negative category depends upon your political perspective.

Under the president’s watch, student loan rates have risen in 2013. While the president took good steps to lower rates during his first term, he could not stop the Republican majority in congress from raising rates on new loans. This will make college more expensive for people who have to borrow that money. Though this will not have an impact on students who have already taken out the loans, it will force difficult decisions for those kids who can’t afford to pay college out of pocket in the future.

The high cost of education today

*This is a guest post by S.Alex*

Parents have more choices now when it comes to schooling their children. Many mom’s have decided to stay at home and teach their children themselves. They do this for a variety of reasons, but it is not easy to do in the least. As the different school boards in each state raise the bar for education, the rules constantly change. Intervention strategies have become a large part of education now, so they can identify children who are struggling with their studies.

As kids reach the more senior grades of their pre-college school career, more emphasis is put on college level lessons to prepare them for the rigorous curriculum they will have when they get to college. Whether they earn a scholarship, their parents pay for it or the students work their way through it, in today’s job market you have to have a degree to get anywhere. Preparing your kids for this is certainly not easy.

The exorbitant costs of college are making it more and more difficult for kids to be able to go to college. The student debt crisis is over $51 billion dollars, with the interest rates about to double on the first of July. Finding scholarships can be challenging for everyone. Therefore, even if you find a scholarship to help pay the costs, living expenses are high. Because of this, kids should find the best credit cards to apply for based on their specific means- preferably an undergraduate-friendly card that’s more lenient on younger adults.

Many minority kids are able to find scholarships specifically for them, but not everyone has that luxury. The competition for scholarships is amazingly high no matter what ethnic minority you come from. Parents are struggling to help foot the bills, which is not easy in today’s economy. As a parent, I know that without a college education, my kids will go nowhere fast.

If you are smart, you will start a college fund for your kids the day they are born. You don’t have to put a lot into it, just make sure that the account will make money over the years. It probably still won’t cover everything, but it will take care of the major portions of the tuition and that is a big help indeed. Talk to your banker about what is the best way to begin a college fund and what kind of account it best. They are more than willing to answer all of your questions. After all, that is what they are there for.

Even with a college education, finding a job is not easy. There are tons of applicants and just as many of them have the same education as you. Picking a major that isn’t already overrun with people is difficult. You literally have to gauge the job market and try to predict what will be the next major occupation hiring by the time you have your degree. This is not an easy task to do, but with some work you can show your children that hard work will lead to great jobs and success.