Monday, 24 March 2014

Lost in transition

(Updated from my previous post)

Have you ever experienced a sudden power surge in your exhausted and about-to-crash body when you see your child is in harms way? Suddenly, you are able to do the lunges, somersaults and even run at lightning speed.

I have, and on many occasions too.

Just when I thought the need to bend down and pick up another toy off the floor would permanently disable my already aching back, I catch myself diving down and sliding across my hallway to catch my toddler who decided to dive down from my sofa.

Despite being exhausted to the bones, the catch was so perfect that it was worthy of being a golden catch like that in a baseball game.

It's just amazing what motherhood brings out in you.

I remember a time in my past when silence was uncomfortable and unbearable but today, I crave for it (because I've got three who like to jibber jabber, a lot!)

Eating out alone was unacceptable but today I want to be alone when I am having my cup of coffee.

Going out every night and returning at the crack of dawn was a fun but today I hit the sack before midnight and am up before the sun is out.

Watching TV was a daily routine but today, days go by without even glancing at the TV.

A shower meant a lengthy affair in the bathroom. That is time spent looking in the mirror applying my 3 step facial cleansing pack but today I hardly have time to brush my hair and scrunchie has became my favourite hair accessory. 

Lost in transition

My pre-motherhood days used to be filled with a lot of ME time, compared to my days now. When at a shopping mall, it was me head straight to the ladies department and making sure I owned the latest and most fashionable piece of clothing they had. But now my shopping experience has changed and you would find me in children’s department, buying all the little gadgets that are suppose to make motherhood a little easier (only a handful of these gadgets have truly helped).

I used to be part of a dance group and travel around town performing. I even had time (so much time on my hands) to catch premiere shows but now I watch movies months after it has been shown (that’s if I am lucky) or not at all.

Not that being a mother is a bad thing. It has its ups and downs. You may get days where it feels like a walk in the park and moments when you feel like you want to pull out your hair, scream until your vocal chords give way or just run and hide in a cupboard.

Life with kids does change, I shall not say otherwise. From the birth of my first child, my life became all about feeding, changing diapers, potty training, fevers and boo-boos, birthday parties, play dates, school work, sport activities, dance training, Disney cartoons, dealing with crushes, jealousy and anxiety, battling tantrums, power struggles and autonomy.

I become so obsessed with making sure everything was in order and always doubted myself. Wondering whether am I feeding my children the proper nutritional choices? Did I buy the right sized water tumbler so she can easily hold it in her tiny hands? Will she like what I packed in her lunch box? Should I cut down time spent with electronic gadgets - TV/tablet/computer games?

I made my every waking moment about my children. I channelled my raw energy into making sure they had daily home cooked meals, clean clothing, a personal driver and a tutor to guide them with their school work. Despite doing all that I believed a mother should, they were still unhappy with me (frustrating isn't it?)

Stay-at-home-mother, see the word home comes before mother, and that is what I had become. I never knew about it until I had a heart to heart chat with my girls while driving back from school.

My eldest had tears in her eyes while telling me that I am not present. I am around but not available she said. The only time I was truly present and available, was when they had done something wrong and I was nagging or reprimanding them.

I was shell shocked listening to what she had to say but remained solemn because there was so much truth and wisdom in what she said.

I had been dedicating every ounce of my energy into building a "house" instead of a happy home. I had forgotten the reasons for my brave plunge from being a steady and safe income earning working mom to a stay at home, mother. I had all my KPIs (Key performance index) wrong and was behaving more like a domestic helper than a mother.

I am not saying I regret my new job but I had mismanaged it. By giving my all, I had somehow lost myself in the process. I became so rigid and time bound, like clock works or an assembly line worker. There was no more surprises or unscheduled stops. I had become a very mundane person to my kids and friends.

The whole definition of motherhood changed when I was at a friend’s funeral. I had expected her daughter to thank her mom for the endless lunches, stacks of laundry she washed and folded, ferrying them around to school and back and for every other activity, in her eulogy. Instead, she spoke about her mom’s warm smiles and comforting hugs and how her mother had spent her time with her friends travelling and bringing back souvenirs and stories to share with her children. She spoke about the parties her mom threw and how she was always the life of the party wherever she went. The eulogy was about the lessons their mother had taught them, the emotional support, strength and compassion she displayed, the fun filled life she celebrated and the person she was, not just their as mother, but as a woman.

I want my children to grow up in a happy, healthy and holy home but I was doing just the opposite. Had this new job scope as a stay-at-home-mother been an employment, I am pretty sure my children would have fired me.

I learnt a big lesson in life from my friend and her children. One should never lose sight of the woman you are - the ‘me’. Kids won’t remember the times I am forget to pack their lunch, iron their clothes, made them wear unwashed school jerseys (blushing as I confess to this), napped while they had to do their homework or used a tub of ice cream as a substitute for a birthday cake.

But they will remember the way I smiled, played and laughed with them in the park. Allowed them to play with their food and make cake pops out of a crumbly cake and the night we spent lying in the living room with a basket full of laundry that needed to be folded and kept away. The day we performed together on stage, dived in the deep clear waters for snorkelling or our first sunrise by the beach.

Motherhood changes you in ways you would have least expected, I kid you not. These changes can happen willingly and slowly take over your pre-child lifestyle. I have embraced these changes and some changes have helped me become a better person because it has taught me to love unconditionally. With a little self discipline, I am certain I would be able to find the equilibrium and not be lost in transition anymore.

And after trawling across blogspheres out there, I slowly begin to realise I’m not entirely alone and unique in thinking like this. I’ve come across quite a few testimonial write-ups about mothers from different cultures and backgrounds going through the same guilt-process as I have. So I hope my sharing my fears here and the ideas that would work to overcome them, would add on collectively for the greater good for all mothers out there.

Be the best mother you can, while being your best yourself.


Lets get connected:

Now you can follow me by email (fill email address here) to get new post notifications delivered directly into your mailbox or you could follow my Facebook page Life Simplified to get more recipes and tips in making life a little more laid back or we can connect via twitter.

Thank you for stopping by at A Cuppa For My Thoughts


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Hot + Humid = Horrible!

The month of March did not start off well because the clear blue sky was blanketed by a thick layer of smog that turned the morning sun looking like it was an orange kryptonite. Although this may not be a new experience, it still manages to surprise, baffle and anger me that we have to deal with this year after year.  

This picture was taken at 8am but looks more like it's 7pm

And this year we had it bad because - as if having to deal with the lung burning and throat itching experience wasn't enough - the taps in our home had run dry, thanks to water rationing works carried out by the local council due to the dry season (no rain). They claimed that many water reservoirs were affected by this dry spell thus drastic actions were needed to be put in place. So expect no water to flow from your taps for every two-days-period, until the rain returns.

A lesson learnt.

I used to get very annoyed whenever I had too much laundry to do. My kids could not help themselves and would change clothes numerous times, in a day. Their excuse, "it's just too hot!" But since we had this water problem, I only had one load to wash! I was pleasantly surprised and glad to learn that my little angels (I definitely have to say they are angels, as who else will do what they did, even without me asking them to) pitched in, by not changing clothes so often.
Although not having fresh water flowing daily from my taps is quite bad but with proper planning and ample storage, we managed to make it work. But the hot and humid weather was beyond my control. The only thing I could do was manipulate how we reacted towards it.

"Plenty of water!" I kept repeating like a broken record. Each child received a bottle and I made sure it was emptied several times in  day. The aim was to drink 2 - 2.5 litres a day. I swapped their small school water bottles to a 1000ml tumbler (which they were not very pleased with) and before they hopped into the car, after school, I made sure they had finished the water in their tumbler.
Keeping well hydrated and staying indoors as much as possible were the only couple of things I could control to ensure they did not fall sick. Last year when the haze hit us in mid-June, (which was the worst by far) I was like a drill sergeant, keeping everyone and everything cooped-up in my house for days! It was not a pleasant experience but I learnt a few things from it and am more practical about it this year. For instance, learning the right time to circulate the air in the house with the air outside, which by the way is early in the morning or after sundown. But be sure to do it on days when the air outside seems reasonably good and constant monitoring of the Air Pollution Index (API) reading would help.
If you must travel outdoor, get proper masks (which renders to be useless especially for young children, according to my paediatrician because they keep removing it or it does not fit properly, even the children sized masks)  and avoid touching your eyes and mouth.

Bad API is dangerous to people with a history of respiratory trouble and young children, as their respiratory system is still developing. So exercising and running in the park is a big NO. However with careful planning, you can still get your daily dose of exercise, indoors.

I turned my house into a gym. Used the staircase for some cardio exercise and turned my household chores into an aerobic session, which was not only good for me but got the kids involved too. End result, clean house and tired-out kids who were eager to hit the sack.


On a lighter note

When water becomes too much to take. 

The humble beginning to my coconut water journey
Although water is the best liquid, nothing cools you down like a tall glass of chilled fresh coconut water.
Chilled coconut water with coconut water frozen ice cubes 

To jazz up coconut water, I added some frozen berries and other fresh fruits I could find. I tried it with pineapples, strawberries, kiwi, lychee and mango. I've yet to try rambutan and durian (it's not n season yet).

But honestly, I don't think I will reach for durian. That might just make my coconut water too creamy.

With fresh blueberries and coconut flesh

On very hot days, you can turn coconut water into shaved ice and serve with some fresh fruits or syrup or popsicle.

The popsicle was quite simple to make. I added some fresh fruits like berries, mango and golden kiwi into some fresh coconut water and left it to freeze for 4 hours or longer.

My older kids were not very pleased with it (thanks to all the store bought-sugar coated ice creams they are used to!) because it was not sweet enough nor was it anything like the popsicles they are used to.
However my young toddler enjoyed the popsicle very much - guess her taste buds are still 'virgin' and are not accustomed to 'outside' food yet - It certainly was a better alternative to sucking ice cubes.

Perhaps on my next attempt I should add some sweet syrup or honey in the coconut water before making the popsicles, in my bid to convince my older kids that homemade ice creams can be good too!

Lets get connected:

Now you can follow me by email (fill email address here) to get new post notifications delivered directly into your mailbox or you could follow my Facebook page Life Simplified to get more recipes and tips in making life a little more laid back or we can connect via twitter.

Thank you for stopping by at A Cuppa For My Thoughts

For more recipes, please head over to my Recipes page


Linking up with Greta


Monday, 10 March 2014

Cake in a pressure cooker?! (Philips)

Baked by a tween

Today my daughter decided that she wanted to bake a chocolate cake. I wasn't too thrilled about it because it's a messy affair and I don't fair well with mess. But I relented for it was either bake a cake or be glued to the TV watching cartoon network. Plus a promise to clean up afterwards played a big role in convincing me to let my little sidekicks take the lead in this activity.

It was a win win situation because my kids were off the couch and I will get dessert for dinner. Plus a new small kitchen appliance (demo pressure cooker from Philips) was in the house and this was the best opportunity to test the bake function on it.

I was forced to agree by my kids to let them be fully responsible for the whole baking process i.e. from weighing, scooping beating and/or mixing the ingredients to transferring the ready cake batter for baking (which by the way are good mathematical learning tools). My task was to supervise and intervene only if they needed and asked for me. As interesting it may sound, this actually took a lot of deep breathing and staying calm techniques on my part. It involved a lot of biting my tongue and holding back from taking over their task each time I saw flour sprinkled on my kitchen counter, greasy tiny hands staining my microwave handle and water spilled on my kitchen stool. It was hard but I managed to pull it off! (for someone with somewhat symptoms of an obsessive cleaning disorder, this was a feat).

To keep things simple, we used a quick and easy recipe:-
One pan bake cake

After years of baking cakes in the usual manner way; cream butter with sugar and then add dry ingredients, I was thrilled (but a little doubtful) to try out this new recipe. It was brilliant because I could mix everything in the same pan I was to bake in. Which also meant, few greasy pans to wash afterwards.

The recipe:

195gm Self rising flour

200gm castor sugar

20gm unsweetened cocoa powder. Must be sifted

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

75gm unsalted butter (if using salted butter please omit the 1 tsp salt from the recipe)

200ml warm water

1 tbs freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice (could also be replaced with vinegar)

1tsp vanilla essence

The method:

Melt butter and let it cool.
Since I was a little sceptical about this one-pan cake recipe and didn't want to scratch the pressure cooker pan, I gave my kids another bowl to mix the batter.
You start by combining and mixing all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add vanilla essence and lemon juice to the jug/mug of water and pour this mixture into the dry ingredients. Then add the melted butter and mix to combine all the ingredients. Do resist the temptation to overbeat your batter (I had to intervene because my kids were at it like it was a punching bag) and if you see slight lumps in the batter, it is fine.

Grease your pan with some butter (although this is not necessary as the pan has a non-stick coating to it) and pour the cake batter into it. Carefully put the pan without shaking it too much into the pressure cooker and select bake function.

Don't forget to switch the valve to bake, on the lid (I always tend to forget to switch back the valve from pressure-release to cook, until I notice the vapour blowing out!). Baking time indicated 45 minutes which gave them ample time to clean up and put away the utensils they used.
Viva Electric Pressure Cooker HD2139/62

Usually my kids would perch themselves on my high stool like birds on a tree and watch how the cake transform from a wet liquid into a solid yet soft and spongy texture. But no peeking into the pressure cooker was possible.

The baked and ready cake looked wonderfully soft and fluffy in the cooking pan but it didn't rise very high or maybe the pan was too deep. I wasn't entirely sure if my cake would make it in one whole piece when sliding down the pan and landing onto my cake tray. True to my concern, the cake although slid out easily, didn't make it one piece but the kids were ecstatic nevertheless.

My daughter tried to cover cracks in the cake with some home made chocolate ganache but it didn't work because the cracks were too big and deep. That's when I remembered how much fun the kids had decorating cake pops at Samelan. So that was just what we did. We made cake pops out of the soft and crumbly textured cake.

What you need to do- Cake Pops

Let cake cool completely, cut off the edges of the baked cake and crumble into a fine pile of crumbs. Add some ganache (the best to make chocolate cake pops) or any kind of frosting (butter cream or cheese frosting) and use your clean hands to mix together the frosting and cake. The amount of frosting required will depend on the texture of your cake (a good rule of thumb is to start with a small amount and then add more frosting if needed). As long as you are able to form your cake batter into small balls (about the size of a golf ball) you are good to go. Refrigerate these balls for 1-2 hours or pop them into the freezer for half an hour or so.

Once the balls hardened, you can coat these balls with any coloured frosting and decorate it with some colourful sprinkles, candies or sugars. The possibilities are endless when kids are having fun with their food and allow their imaginations run wild.

You will need to first dip your lollipop or satay stick into the ganache (or frosting) and then into the cake ball, gently pushing it until the stick is mid way into the cake ball. Then dip each ball straight down into ganache until the ball is completely covered (try not to swirl you cake pop in the ganache or it may fall off the stick). Remove the cake pop and gently tap off any excess coating from it and decorate while the coating is still wet. 

You can enjoy the fruits of your labour immediately or pop it back into to the refrigerator for a couple of minutes to allow the decorations to set.

Image taken from Wilton's website

Product Specifications:

  • 14 cooking menus
  • Non-stick pot
  • Comes with a ladle, spatula and measuring cup
  • Preset-timer of 24 hours
  • Keeps food warm for up t 12 hours
  • The pressure valve is auto-release to ensure safety during cooking.
Retail Price : RM499

Other wonders this gadget can make in matter of minutes and retain its goodness

Mixed lentils which is high in protein and good for toddlers

For more recipes, please head over to my Recipes page

Thank you for stopping by at A cuppa for my thoughts

Lets get connected:

Disclosure : I did not receive any compensation writing this review. I did receive a demo pressure cooker from Philips (which has been returned) to help me share my experience using it and all opinions are mine alone. This article was featured in Babytalk magazine (March 2014 issue)