Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Exercise, anywhere and anytime.

We all know health is wealth and we try our best to stay in the pink of health. There are many reasons and ways to stay healthy that ranges from the type of food we eat, our sleep pattern and how much time we allocate in caring for our body (to name a few).

In the last couple of months, I dedicated a fraction of time to myself. I called it ‘Me-time’, as shared in my previous post, Lost in transition. I used this time to rejuvenate and regenerate so I can be a better me. This has lead me to be a better manager, at managing my time as a stay-at-home-mom.

What started off as an exercise regime to stay fit as a fiddle, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I always thought exercise to be all about toned abs and weight loss but it has given me more. I feel as though I have achieved a holistic and uplifting benefit out of this simple (but hard to do) change in my sedentary lifestyle.

The constant feel good and cool as a cucumber mood has been quite prevalent lately. I am able to tackle mishaps and mayhem, with a lighter and more cheerful attitude. I hear myself speaking to me, “stay calm, it’s just a broken glass” or “so what if she wants to run around the house without any pants!”
Sadly in the past, living with me was like trying to navigate in a land of minefields without a metal detector. I was generally calm but would become surly whenever my Berserk-buttons were pressed, whether intentionally or accidentally. I cannot say that I have exorcised the characteristic of a Berserk Button but am most certainly managing it a lot better now.

There is no magic potion to this change. I attribute it to the benefits of exercising. I started this exercise regime because I did not like feeling left out or be caught out of breath again, whenever I played with my kids in the park. Or to be like the child minder I saw huffing and puffing for air after she had triumphantly rescued her employer’s daughter (a two year old quick as lightening toddler, whom decided to run into a busy street) from being run down by a fast car.

I know this is not an easy feat and if you are a mother to young children, you are most probably struggling to keep your head above water. So asking you to spare half hour out of your hectic schedule, might just make you want to throw something at my face. Trust me, I know that feeling. But if you could just bare with me and read on, you will see light at the end of the tunnel.

Many people (like yours truly) hit the gym or sweat it out whenever possible with the sole purpose, to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle and of course to get a lean, mean rockin’ body. But for the past decade or so, thanks to some scientists, we have studies that show, making time for exercise provides more than mere physical benefits. It has some above-the-neck benefits too.

Mind-blowing benefits of exercising.

Working out is a good stress reliever and excellent happy-mood booster. So if you had a rough day at work or at home and your kids are driving you nuts, it’s time for a break. Reaching out for a bar of Kit Kat could possibly give you momentary relief but if you spend about 20 - 30 minutes working out, you may just end up with a feeling of happiness and euphoria. Exercising increases the level “soothing” brain chemicals like norepinephrine, that can moderate brain’s response to stress and releases endorphins - the feel-good chemical. The “soothing” brain chemicals which increases with exercise is good for lifting you up if you are feeling depressed, helps improve learning and keeps the brain fit. It may keep Alzheimer's at bay too.

While exercise is not a cure for Alzheimer's but it is capable of preventing degeneration of brain cells which happens as we age. So start exercising today because physical exercise is as important as mental exercise, when it come to fending off memory loss and keeping mentally sharp in old age. Think of it as opening a bank account, the earlier you start regular exercise the better your chances at preventing brain cells degeneration and keeping skills like vocabulary retrieval strong.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Since leaving my children behind to head to a gym was not an option and neither was leaving them at home so I can go for a quick jog, I decided to turn my surroundings to be my gym. Every evening (it has sort of become a ritual), I take my kids to a playground (truth be told, they take me!).

It’s the time for them to release all their pent-up energy for being cooped up in school and home. So while they are happily playing, I get on with my physical exercise in the playground. Even if your playground doesn’t come equipped with special exercising apparatus, you can still get a full body workout. Use the bars, swings, steps and even the slide as your exercising apparatus. Equipped with a little knowledge on how to use these, it could bring you a lot of physical goodness, at no cost at all (no expensive gym membership is required).
Triceps workout
Rest both hands on a bar and imagine you are seated on a chair (hips forming a 90-degree angle). Bend your elbows and lower your hips like taking a dip towards the ground until your arms form a 90-degree angle, hold for two counts and return to start. Do two sets of 10 - 12 triceps dips.

This one exercise targets your chest, shoulder and core. The basic planking is achieved is by standing on your feet and elbows, parallel to the ground. You could also use a swing to do a suspension planking which is more challenging because to balance your upper body on a swing, you will need to fully engage your shoulders, chest and core to be straight and tight. Hold the position for a minute and increase this hold as you progress in your planking.


Calf raises
This targets your calf. Find parallel bars, steps or curb and raise your body by raising both feet (and not with the help of your upper body) up to your toes (like a ballerina dancer) and hold it to a slow count of 10 before returning to standing position. Perform three sets of calf raises.

We all know lunges are good because it targets your entire lower body and core but wait till you try suspension-lunge! This variation using a swing will require you to concentrate on balance and stability. Start by balancing on one foot while placing the other foot (back leg) on top of a swing. Slowly extend your back leg behind you as you lower yourself towards the ground into a lunge and your front knee forms a 90-degree angle. Hold for a while and return to start. Perform two sets of 8 to 12 lunges on each side.

Full wheel pose
This pose is widely practised by Indian classical dancers and yoga practitioners. It strengthens your whole body, especially the thighs, shoulders, arms, wrists and spine. While helping you soothe your stress and increase energy level so you can tackle another day feeling fresh and revamped.
The best way to achieve this is by playing tag. The short distance but quick sprints trying to avoid being tagged are excellent. Playing football is another good option.

So there you have it, some ways to get off the couch to achieve a healthy you with the help of your little ones.
Tis time to ditch your hand phone at home and lace up on your next visit to the playground. If these benefits are not good incentives, do it for the children. Once they get into this routine, you will have a great workout buddy, who like clock works, will persuade and talk you into taking them to the playground.

The only bad workout is one that didn't happen.

Disclosure: I am not a trained nor certified personal trainer. These workouts were not designed by me but all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

For some healthy recipes, please head over to my Recipes page

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Thank you for stopping by at A cuppa for my thoughts

Saturday, 10 May 2014


Mother's  Day is celebrated worldwide. Just like many other celebrations, Mother's Day must have been made up to gather all your thank you(s) for the whole year. But even then, your mom won't get all gangster on you if you forget Mother's Day.

A mother will not get upset if you forget to thank her for the gazillions things she does for you because her wanting gratitude buttons were switched off permanently the day you were born. Instead she was given the ability to withstand and endure much more than what she could before she gave birth to you.

A mother is special because...

She will allow you to walk in on her while she is peeing.

She will chase away cockroaches and lizards although these insects can make her jump on a chair.

She will order and share food she knows you will like even if she had her heart set on spicy Nasi Lemak.

She will stay hungry just to watch you enjoy and fill your tiny tummy with the food she cooked for you. And after that, she will most probably help you finish up your food.

She will learn the lyrics to your favourite songS and sing it loudly wherever and whenever you ask of her.  

She will update herself with the current music bands and dance songs.

She will start living safe and healthy because she cannot bare the thought of you growing up without a mother.
She will head straight to children's department when out shopping.
She will forgo her adults only parties and spend the weekend watching cartoons or playing games with you.
She will most definitely put her personal style on hold and wear clothes covered in spit and vomit marks which will not bother her.

She will have one accessory on her and that would be hair scrunchies, on her hair and wrist.

She will spend hours on YouTube searching for new recipes and latest hairstyles for you.

She will stay awake at night sponging you when you have fever.

She will hug and sit on the toilet bowl with you when you have diarrhea.

She will change many bed linens when you are being potty trained.

She will let you cry and be angry with her but she will not fight your battles for you.

She will start a fruits and vegetable garden because she wants to feed you organic food.

She will learn to sew buttons and stitch your school badge because you keep ripping them off.

She is happy when you are happy and she is sad when you are sad.
She will be the first to get out of bed to  prepare a hearty breakfast for you to have and take along as you leave the house.
She won't mind it if you arrive home after dinner and would make hot parathas while you shower.
She always prays for you to be safe and happy.

I am so thrilled God gave me an opportunity to experience motherhood. I cannot express how lucky I am to be a mother and to have two mothers who will do anything for my family and I.

Happy Mother's Day.

Lets get connected:

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Thank you for stopping by at A cuppa for my thoughts

Friday, 9 May 2014

Tofu power (Philips)

Tofu is a hearty and versatile yet  simple soft food that can be cooked in many different ways or even eaten raw. Tofu is high quality protein that provides healthy fat, calcium, folic acid and iron for growing children and it is also famous amongst vegetarian as a meat substitute (some call it the poor man's protein).

Tofu is produced by grinding soybeans to form a milk like substance, which is then compressed and left to coagulate. If you don't desire to make your own tofu, fret not as it is easily available and is very affordable. But be careful when purchasing tofu and ensure that the soy beans used in making these tofu are Non-GMO and are not laced with certain chemicals which help prolong the life of beans and stop early sprouting. Organically grown beans would be a good choice.

There are 2 main types of tofu
1) Silken/Soft tofu - very soft, smooth and contains a lot of moisture, usually sold in tube form. This can be eaten raw or steamed for a couple of minutes.
2) Regular tofu - comes soft, medium firm and very firm, usually sold in a tub filled with water. Is very famous in stir fries and usually retains it's shape even after frying.

Tofu is quite good and safe for children because of its soft texture which makes it easy to chew.

Today's recipe is Fried tofu

Preparation time: 35 minutes (inclusive of the draining time but you may omit this step if you are pressed for time)
Cooking time: 25 minutes

The ingredients

A block of Organic Non-GMO firm tofu
2 Tsbp Cornstarch
1/4 cup rice flour or cornmeal
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste (optional)
2 Tsbp Olive Oil

The method

Preheat the Airfryer to 185'C.
First you must drain* the tofu and cut it into unanimous cubes or into bite size pieces. In a separate bowl mix together cornstarch, rice flour and cheese (I forgot to add cheese because I was too busy taking pictures with my camera phone). Place the cut tofu pieces into the mixture and coat well.
Drizzle oil onto tofu and transfer into the preheated Airfryer basket. You will need to cook these tofu in a couple of batches because you cannot overlap them. They must be neatly arranged to ensure you get an even cooking. Since I wanted perfectly golden cubes of tofu, midway through the cooking process (at 7 minutes), I over turned each tofu instead of shaking the basket (like you would do when frying chips).

Since I made more than just a block of tofu, I had to cook in several bathes and at the end of the cooking process, I was quite impressed to see how little oil was left in my airfryer tray and the tofu weren't very oil to touch either (as apposed to my deep fried version).
*How to drain tofu:
Wrap tofu in a couple layers of paper towels and place on a plate. Cover that with a second plate and place something heavy on top of the second plate to help press the tofu. This will help drain water out of the tofu. After about 20 minutes remove the paper towel and wrap with some fresh pieces of paper towel and repeat the process for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Serving suggestion

For my toddler
You can prick some toothpicks into the fried tofu of just serve them direct.
She had this with some clear chicken soup.

For the rest of my family
Sprinkle some salt and pepper and serve tofu with some homemade chilli sauce or whatever you are having for lunch.

We had some ginger clams which by the way can be made in the airfryer if you have the baking tin. My demo airfryer didn't come with it, so these were fried in a wok.
The tofu were fried to perfection and looked like little golden nugget. It had a crispy exterior which gave way to a tender whitish flesh at each bite and were  not too oily to touch. This thanks to the it's Patented Rapid Air Technology which allows you to cook your food with up to 80% less fat.
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed Dietician/Nutritionist and the information provided is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, cure or treat any medical or other condition. Always seek the advice of your Heath provider prior to starting any diet.

Some important notes

Key Features
  • Patented Rapid Air Technology - combines hot air with grill component to 'fry' food
  • In-built time - lets you set cooking times of up to 30 mins
  • Adjustable temperature control - cooks food at steady rate up to 200'C
  • Food separator accessory - lets you cook multiple food items at th same time without mixing the flovours
  • Integrated air filter - reduces vapours and odours

  • 30 minutes timer with auto shut-off
  • Product dimension (W x H x D) 287 x 315 x 384 mm
  • Capacity 800gm
  • Weight appliance 7kg
  • Cord length 0.8 m
  • Voltage 230v
  • Ready signal and temperature light
  • Cool-touch handgrips
Retail Price
  • RM1,190
Disclosure : I have not received any compensation writing this review. I did receive a demo Air fryer (which has been returned) to help me share my experience using it. This article was featured in Babytalk magazine (May 2014 issue)

Life Simplified note: You could premix tofu with the batter and refrigerate it. But the batter has to be thicker than the recipe given above because tofu tends to sweat once its cut. 
Thanks to Philip's Airfryer, I am able to serve freshly fried food every time with a little advance planning and prepping. Life is so much simplified with these wonderful small kitchen appliances.  

For more recipes, please head over to my Recipes page

Thank you for stopping by at A cuppa for my thoughts

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Friday, 2 May 2014

Mio Solo challenge #4: The grand dad challenge

Hands on dad

Fathers today are more hands on with their kids than fathers were a generation or two ago. Many fathers share the workload of childbearing and other households chores with their partners, so it is very unsettling when you hear a father proudly announcing "I don't change diapers!"
Don't think women these days can tolerate her man sitting in the living room watching television and shouting for a cold bear from across to hall while she is frantically preparing dinner and attending to her wailing baby. Enough said, I trust you get the picture.

For today's challenge we travelled a few hundred kilometres because grand dad is the best candidate for this and also to celebrate his birthday. A visit to grandparents is always very exciting because grand dad does a lot of fun stuff with them. Task him with children duty and he would probably do it better than I. But when it's diaper changing time he'll carry them over to grand mom and watch from afar.

Deciphering the diaper code

With a promise that he would be dealing with clean diapers and great company for his dinner party, grand dad agreed to take the challenge. It ended even before I could run and grab my camera. He grabbed the diaper off my hands and immediately put in on my toddler.

He agreed it is quite straightforward to put on and remove Mio Solo cloth nappy though he wasn't certain about the adjustable poppers but found it rather interesting after I explained its purpose.
Although he did not do much diapering when he first became a father, he still remembers how the diapers looked because he used to shop for them. He commented the large velcro straps on Mio Solo were a better alternative to sticky tape like straps that were on disposable diapers. With velrco straps you can readjust the nappy if the fitting isn't snug or uncomfortable looking.

So there you have it, opinions of a non-diapering person. Mio Solo is simple and easy to use even without referring to the instructions. If grand dad can do it, so can you.

Carrying his grand daughter after successfully putting on cloth nappy

Today was exceptionally good because I managed to write my blog and help prepare a fabulous dinner.

Hope you enjoyed my Day 5 and final Mio Solo challenge.

Please refer to the link provided to know more about other challenges I did over the week and a little about The Evolution of Diapers.

Have a grand day and wishing you and your family a good night.

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

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Diaper Challenge #5: Washing and drying

Before I get into the washing and drying, lets understand that these cloth nappies are unique and need special care when washing. Wrong detergent can affect the performance of your cloth nappy. You will need to get detergent which is :
  • Dye & fragrance free
  • Phosphate free
  • Has no brighteners or fillers
  • Enzyme free
  • Has no fabric softeners in it.

Banishing the bugs

Soiled nappies can pose a threat if not washed properly on time and that is why it is recommended to wash nappies at 60'C. This would help kill most mould/mold, mildew and other bugs that may grow on your soiled nappies if kept too long.
So I don't keep my cloth nappies longer than 48 hours, in my nappy bucket.
It also helps if you give your soiled nappies a quick rinse before throwing them into your bucket.

Lock & Load

Unique pull-out tabs on the absorbent core

The pull-out tab system is a brilliant idea. It makes removing the absorbent core so easy. I also like that the absorbent core is fitted to the nappy so there is no chance for it to go missing.
Before loading your washing machine be sure to secure the fold back laundry tabs. This will ensure the nappies don't get stuck to each other during wash which may hinder some essential parts of the nappy from being washed, especially if they get bundled up.

Natural bleach

On a hot sunny day, it took approximately half day (8am-2pm) for these nappies to dry thoroughly. Having the absorbent core exposed, reduced the amount of time taken for them to dry. Although there is no mention on how to dry your nappies, I like to hang them horizontally on my cloth line with the stay dry lining exposed. The sun acts as an excellent source to bleach my nappies looking white and stain free.

What I used:

These detergents are a little hard to come by but you can use any other brand as long they are safe for cloth diapers. Usually the soiled diapers in my house don't make up a full load after 48 hours and it is an awful way to waste energy and water if you run the machine without a full load. I personally hate seeing my machine half empty, so I would throw in my towels, wet baby wipes and bibs.  

Hope you enjoyed my Day 4 challenge review and don't forget to return for more challenges.

Please refer to the link provided to know more about other challenges I will be doing and some interesting information on The Evolution of Diapers

Have a grand day and wishing you and your family a good night.

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