Monday, 29 June 2015

Steam Fish - The Easy Way

You probably know now that I cook dinner at times even though I work.  After more practice, it has become easier now as we try to decide what we want to eat on weekdays on the weekend before.  I am writing this down, partly to be able to look back at what I have cooked during this period or even how I manage to pull everything off in years to come.  It is also partly to encourage full time working mums - to let them know that it is not an impossible feat to have home-cooked dinners on weekdays.

With a fresh sea bass, it is not difficult to cook a steam fish as good as that in restaurants, at probably 1/3 or 1/2 the price.  Served with a soup or vegetable and rice, it will make a healthy and balanced meal.

We bought this seabass during our trip to Ah Hua Kelong.  Read about our adventure here.

Steam Seabass


1 seabass (approx. 500gm)
4 thinly sliced ginger
1 slice ginger, julienned
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 sour plums, slightly smashed
1 tbsp light soya sauce
2 tbsp water

Spring onion


1.  Place ginger slices in a deep plate.  Place fish on top of the ginger slices.
2.  Drizzle light soya sauce and water over the fish.
3.  Scatter the tomatoes and the sour plums beside the fish.
4.  After the water in the steamer is boiling, steam the fish for 8 mins.
5.  Remove and garnish with the spring onion and parsley.

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Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Language Boutique - Reading Explorers

When The Language Boutique approached me and emailed the courses available, Jolly Phonics and Reading Explorers caught my attention.  Jolly Phonics being something I started looking into a couple months back and as for Reading Explorers, it sounded very much in line with our interests and getting the boys to enjoy reading.

Over the summer (oh well, we do not exactly have summer in Singapore, but for international schools, they have summer breaks / holidays which sometimes overlap with the Singapore's school holidays), The Language Boutique will hold seven weeks' worth of group classes for all ages and abilities which are designed to be fun, interactive ad engaging.  

For the Reading Explorers course that D attended, there were 5 books introduced - one new book each day.  Together with the books introduced, there were activities such as craft work, charades and yes, some worksheets.  I also learnt about International Baccalaureate ("IB") and how each of the IB learner profile will be touched on and possibly applied even after the course.  We believe that the way to start children to read is not to simply shove the books to the children, but to let the children enjoy the process of reading a book.  When the boys were young, we used to form songs out of the simple few words in the storybooks.

Two of the 5 books read during the week long course
With a maximum of six children per class, each student gets a lot of attention from the teacher in the 2.5 hours class.  In D's class, there were Koreans, Australians and Indians.   Sarah, the teacher for the Reading Explorers course, is from Canada.  It was a chance for D to interact with the different nationalities, probably even trying to understand what everyone says.  Definitely an experience for him as he hardly interacts with different nationalities - which is something B and I think is important as English is one of the most spoken language internationally.

Photo credit : The Language Boutique
I really like that each day, after a book is read, the children were given activities to do and from those activities, the children actually learn new words, new forms of expressions, new verbs and even synonyms.  What they bring home everyday is also different.  As I mentioned earlier, an IB learner profile was also touched on.  Unknowingly, the children learnt words like being a risk-taker, communicator, thinker and so on.  Now, D knows what is meant by a risk-taker and in fact it helps in certain situations when we asked if he wants to be a risk-taker and try!

A letter to Goldie (D's name for the whale) after they read Dear Greenpeace.  D's first attempt in trying to write a letter and at just 6 years old, he tried his best.  What is encouraging is that he now wants to write a letter to someone special!  To me, it is such little ways to encourage him to write sentences and how fun the class was that he did not realize that he is actually learning something.
D looks forward to the class everyday for that week and now, he tries to use the word "Pardon?" instead of "Huh?" when he wants the other party to repeat himself / herself.  

Conducted at The Language Boutique's sister language school, Manhattan English Language Studio, it is in the Bugis vicinity, 5 minutes walk from Bugis MRT Station.  Adults may take a walk in nearby shopping centers while the children enjoy the classes.  There will be breaks with healthy snacks served.  How creative are the folks at The Language Boutique as fruits are served in various ways:

Photo credit : The Language Boutique
Photo credit : The Language Boutique
Reading Explorers is one of The Language Boutique's popular classes and this meant that some children actually enroll for two or more different weeks.  Thus, the books read may be different each week but how the courses will be conducted will be similar to what D experienced.

With Teacher Sarah
If you have a child whom you want to introduce the fun of reading, you may want to have a go at this week long course.  Seriously, gone were the days you ask a child, especially those learning to read, to sit down and read a book by himself / herself. 

Can you guess which sentence was contributed by D?
Photo credit : The Language Boutique
About The Language Boutique
The Language Boutique is an independent tuition school which specializes in personal one-to-one English or Maths tuition for children ages 3 to 18 and takes place at any location that is convenient for the student, usually at their homes.  Their lessons, conducted by native English speakers, are designed individually to respond to each student's specific needs.

For more information, click here to visit The Language Boutique website and here for its Facebook Page.

Just for you, my readers...
If you would like to sign up for any of the summer courses at The Language Boutique, quote "B.C.D.E. That's Us!" when you speak to the friendly folks there and you get a 10% off!  A pretty good deal I would say.  

And yes, for those who are already in schools, it might clash with the school hours.  However, for those who are only in schools for half days or pre-schoolers who only attend 3 hours of school each day, I think it is a good exposure for the children.   

Disclosure: We are sponsored by The Language Boutique for the Reading Explorers course.  No monetary compensation was received.  Unless otherwise stated, all opinions and photos are true to my own.

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Monday, 22 June 2015

Hong Kong Day 3 - Off to the Happiest Place on Earth

I have taken too long to write this Hong Kong Day 3 post.  With the memory failing fast, I do not wish to forget the good times we had on one of the Happiest Place on Earth.

You guessed it?!  We went to Hong Kong Disneyland!  Please read here and here for Day 1 and Day 2 of our Hong Kong trip last November.

As check-in time is 3.00pm for Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and we decided not to visit Disneyland on that day, we did a late check-out from our city hotel.  Before that, we had the usual Hong Kong breakfast - Dim Sum and bought the famous Jenny Bakery cookies and nougats.

I was introduced to Jenny Bakery's nougats by a colleague and later found out how famous this Jenny Bakery is.  People queue for hours and there is a limit to how many boxes one may buy.

We went to the Tsim Sha Tsui outlet in the morning, slightly after the doors were open.  Thus, the wait was probably only 5 minutes.  Know what you want to buy as they expect you to give your orders once at the counter.  Any hesitating or discussing is a no no (or risk getting scolded :P).

I find the melt-in-the-mouth butter cookies pretty yummy but the coffee flavored ones are kind of too strong - you can actually smell it from a distance.  However they are all pre-packed in the Teddy Bear tins, which means no choosing of the kind of cookies one wants.

Jenny Bakery Outlets

Tsim Sha Tsui: Shop 24 Ground Floor, Mirador Mansion, 54-64 Nathan Road 
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon (MTR Exit D2)
Tel: 2311-8070 
Open : 9am - 6:30pm

Sheung Wan: 15 Wing Wo Street, Ground Floor
Sheung Wan MTR Exit E2
(opposite Sincere Department Store,
behind Grand Millenium Plaza)
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Tel: 2524-1988
Open : 10am - 7pm
*Stores may close earlier if goods are sold out*

Back to going Hong Kong Disneyland…

We avoided the peak hours when taking the MTR to reach there…  Just so we could take the Disneyland Train!

One of my best investment - a baby / toddler carrier from Boba!

We decided to splurge a little and stayed at the Kingdom Club Room and we totally loved it!

Perks of staying at the Kingdom Club are that we get to enjoy the lounge delicacies - complimentary dining selections throughout the day, personalized service including a separate check-in and check-out area which is at the lounge and last but not least, the Kingdom Club Kids with crafts and bedtime stories.  There is something else that my boys cannot stop talking about and which I believe is exclusive for Kingdom Club guests.  Read on to find out what it is…

All rooms can accommodate up to 4 adults.  If you have a baby, you may also request for a crib.  Do you see a bed guard rail on one of the beds?  The little details - it is already there when we went into the room.

Tell me, how not to love this place?

As we checked in around 3pm, we decided to explore the place.  Not before we have some cookies and beverages at the club lounge.

Maze-ing around...
There are 2 pools in Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.  Due to the weather getting slightly chilly in November in the evenings, we had fun in the indoor pool instead of the outdoor pool.  Life vests and towels are available should one require.

How cute are these boys...
Happiest Place on Earth - Snacking while watching Disney cartoons.  Another indulgent.

At the club lounge during the sunset hours of 6pm to 8pm, there is a selection of appetizers with complimentary beer and wine among other beverages.  I cannot remember how many servings of that xiao long bao the boys had.

Having had some appetizers at the club lounge, we had our dinner proper at Walt's Cafe - a cafe within the hotel.

The kid's meal, Macaroni and Cheese with fruits.  Everything is Mickey Mouse, my son exclaims!

The little kid in B and I - we just can't resist fries.  :)

Back to the club lounge before 8pm for our wine to end the day, while the kids wait for the surprise.

Ta-Dah!  Mickey in pyjamas!!!  We were very lucky that it was Mickey as it could be other Disney characters.  Them in pyjamas is the highlight of this trip and why we stayed in the Kingdom Club.

A good night sleep before we embark on the Disney journey on Day 4!

E decided to bunk with his brother and we asked for another bed guard which they promptly sent to our room.  Now, that's good customer service.  :)

If you ask me if it is worth the extra buck staying in the Kingdom Club, I would say, if you have time to make use of the facilities and enjoy the extra perks, then yes!  Some people visit Disneyland in a haste, to explore Disneyland in the shortest time possible but for this trip, we made a point to relax for at least half a day just so we could enjoy the perks.  Especially the dining selections, wine and beer.  

Many people do not know that Hong Kong Disneyland has a Magic Access program.  It is like an annual pass for which the member gets to enjoy different benefits depending on the membership tier signed up.

We signed up a Silver Magic Access for D as the membership for child is cheaper.  With the membership, we are given discounts for hotels, merchandise and f&b.  He can access Disneyland for free on certain days which are mostly weekdays but that did not bother us as we went on weekdays.  Depending on the period of trip, the different tiers offer different discounts, most significant for hotel stays thus do your homework and decide which one is the most worth it.  Drop them an email with the dates of travel and the cast member is always helpful in providing the best combination.  Well, they were very helpful with my queries.

Apart from booking via their websites, 3rd party websites and travel agents, you know how else to make a stay at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel slightly more affordable.  Especially so if you visit more than once a year.

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Sunday, 21 June 2015

Happy Father's Day! Cupcakes with Love from the Boys~~

Happy Father's Day!!!! 

D insisted I help him with the making of cupcakes for his Daddy.  I have a cupcakes recipe book, with many cupcakes recipes and pictures.  When D flipped through that book, he dismissed many cupcakes, even his favourite.  He knew just which one to make when he spotted it - Chocolate Banana Cupcake.  Because his Daddy loves banana.  And he reminded me to buy the ingredients.

Do you know why the banana slices are turning slightly brown?  When it's done by the kids at home, it takes time...
Sometimes one may wonder if a child remembers or even bother to remember.  D's gesture reminds me that although the children may be up to mischief at times, disobedient at times but deep down inside him, he bothers, he knows.

Taking turns sifting the flour.
First time trying to crack an egg.
Finally using the apron I bought almost a year ago.
All eyes on putting the bananas properly.
All smiles!  Happy with what they have done!  Daddy had to eat both cupcakes in one go. 

Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

(makes 12 cupcakes)
(adapted from Cupcakes with attitude by Benjamin Wong)


125g self raising flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
125g unsalted butter
125g brown sugar - I used 100g
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional) - I omitted
1 tsp vanilla essence - I used vanilla extract
100 - 150g bananas, roughly mashed

Sea salt caramel frosting (see below)

Banana slices


1.  Preheat oven to 180 degree celsius.  Line cupcake tray with liners.
2.  Sift flour with coca powder.
3.  Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer at low speed until well blended.  Gradually add eggs and mix well.
4.  Add flour mixture and cinnamon if using.  Beat till well incorporated.
5.  Mix in vanilla extract and gently fold in bananas using a spatula.
6.  Spoon batter into the cupcake liners until 3/4 full.  
7.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove and rest cupcakes in tray for further 5 minutes before removing and placing on wire rack to cool completely.
8.  Spread a thick layer of sea salt caramel frosting on top and garnish with a slice of banana.

Sea Salt Frosting


200g unsalted butter or vegetable shortening - I used unsalted butter (removed from fridge and cut into cubes 15 minutes before use)
200g icing sugar
2 - 3 tbsp water


50g unsalted butter
80g sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup - I used maple syrup
30g heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt


Prepare the buttercream as follows:
1.  Beat butter in electric mixer for about 2-3 minutes on medium speed.  
2.  Add icing sugar and continue beating until well incorporated.
3.  Gradually add water, 1 tbsp at a time to achieve desired consistency.

Prepare the caramel as follows:

1.  Heat butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil.  Stir occasionally.
2.  Once boiling, turn heat up and let it boil for another 2-3 minutes.
3.  Remove from heat and allow the caramel to cool down.  It should still be of a pouring consistency.
4.  With the buttercream in the mixer, slowly pour the caramel into the buttercream.  
5.  Beat at high speed until well blended.  Add salt and mix well.
6.  Use immediately or store covered in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Steamed Egg - Using the Oven

D: Mummy!  You know this is like the one we eat at the restaurant?  Really!  It's the same!

B asked if I felt happy hearing that?  Happy is an understatement.  Over the moon perhaps?  Not because he says it was like the one we ate at the restaurant but because of the satisfaction of him and the family enjoying the food I cooked.

The wonder of this "steamed" egg is that it is actually steamed in the oven!  I will put in those cute little fishcakes next time.  :)

Steamed Egg 
(adapted from The Asian Oven by Jo Marion Seow)
(Serves 4)

2 tbsp bonito flakes
250ml chicken stock or water
1/4 tsp salt (if water is used)
3 eggs, at room temperature
Shiitake mushrooms 
spring onion

1. Boil the chicken stock or water with the bonito flakes.  Turn off the flame and let the flakes sink to the bottom.  Strain it and discard the flakes.

2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius, 160 degree celsius for fan-assisted oven.

3. Break the eggs into the stock and stir gently.  Gently to avoid making too many bubbles.  Add in the salt and stir together if water is used instead of chicken stock.

4.  Divide the egg mixture into 4 individual servings.  Top with spring onions, mushrooms (if any).  Cook in the oven for 12-15 minutes.  

5.  Serve immediately.

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