Saturday, February 28, 2015

Checking Out Jenjarom Happy Village

After visiting Tanjung Sepat for the second time on Monday, my husband, Naomi and I tagged along my in-laws and some of our relatives to check out Jenjarom Happy Village later that day. Jenjarom Happy Village is actually an annual Chinese New Year Lantern Festival with Floral Exhibition held at Fo Guang Shan Dong Zen Temple in Jenjarom, located about an hour away from Seremban and 45 minutes' drive away from Tanjung Sepat.

 Welcome to Jenjarom Happy Village!

When my Sister and Bro-in-Law brought the idea of visiting this place, I imagined we were going to visit a famous touristy kind of temple similar to Kek Lok Si in Penang or maybe a typical Buddhist temple with some food bazaar to celebrate CNY. Turned out, the festival held at this temple was so much better than what I had in mind. This temple's impressive garden was huge, beautifully decorated and had food bazaar too.

The super tree groves are also available in Jenjarom. Lol.

I didn't regret spending my time to do some sightseeing at this place and enjoy the festival. From what I observed, people of all ages who came to visit this place did look like they had real good time and fun here. Adults admired the splendid beautiful gardens and colourful flowers (too bad my parents are not in Malaysia to enjoy this festival!). Kids enjoyed exploring the gardens and taking photos with the cute lanterns and probably the decorations around the temple as well.

These monk lanters can do electronic story-telling at certain hours.

The floral exhibition that this temple carries annually to celebrate CNY was remarkable and so were the cute lanterns that are displayed almost everywhere in the temple's massive garden. Too bad, this festival is not available all year long. To celebrate the Goat Year, the lantern festival and floral exhibition is only going to be showcased to public from 14th February until 8th March 2015.

 When Naomi sat still in her stroller.

For someone who hasn't had the chance to visit Singapore's Gardens by the Bay, like yours truly, visiting Jenjarom Happy Village has indeed partially satisfied my desire to visit that famous Singapore's icon. I had an awesome time enjoying the beauty of the flowers at the exhibition, especially the orchids, and took a lot of photos with them.

Wefie with the husband.

 Real orchids for sale. Price range is RM 250 - RM 1200++.

We arrived to this temple at around 4pm or 5pm. My Bro-in-Law purposely didn't recommend us to visit this temple in the afternoon because that day was scorching hot and the heat would surely make us and the kids dizzy. I think the temple would only turn the lanterns' lights at around 7pm or when the sky gets darker. More visitors would flood this place by evening as they look forward to see the lanterns festival at night. Although I am sure the view of the lanterns at night would be fantastic, dark background tends to look not so nice in photos. As such, I guess our decision to visit this place when the sun's still bright was correct. It's better to take some nice pictures with the pretty flowers and beautiful garden during the day.


 Aren't they beautiful?

When can I have an orchid garden like this? 

Moving on, as usual, Naomi was very active and hyper when we brought her to a place like this. She refused to sit quietly in her stroller when Mom and Dad took a stroll around the beautiful garden and floral exhibition. She ran around the garden non-stop, wanted to ride on the animal-shaped lanterns and pluck the flowers. It was very exhausting to chase her and keep up to her running pace. It was also quite frustrating to stop her doing all the mischievous things like plucking the flowers or riding the lanterns. If I am not mistaken, my husband and I circled some parts of the garden three times just to follow Naomi's routes. 

Naomi and the colourful wind wheels.

One of my favourite parts of the lantern festival was probably the Chinese Zodiac lanterns. They were so adorable. My husband, Naomi and I couldn't afford to miss our chance to take some photos with our Chinese Zodiac lanterns there!

 Dog year for my man.

 I was born in Rat Year.

Which dragon girl is cuter?
 The one I carry or the one in pink?

My husband and I decided to leave this temple earlier because we were drop dead tired that evening. Not to mention that my husband would still need to drive for about an hour to get home. We didn't manage to enjoy the food galore sold at their food bazaar and had dinner in Seremban instead.

What a day! Tiring but certainly happy and satisfied. I love sightseeing opportunity like this and won't mind coming to this place again when they hold their next festival!

Jenjarom Happy Village
Address: PT 2287, Jalan Sungai Buaya, 42600 Jenjarom, Kuala Langat, Selangor
Admission fee: Free of charge
Opening hours: 10am - 10pm (14 February - 8 March 2015)

First Day in the Nursery

Few days ago, my husband called the child care centre or nursery (Taska) near our house that we've checked before and queried whether they have any slot available for Naomi. They said yes and she can start right away in March. However, based on their first meeting with Naomi few weeks ago, one of the teachers suspected that Naomi looks a bit hyperactive. As such, they would like to have their principal to observe Naomi for a day (full day) in their nursery to see if Naomi can adapt well in their nursery and the teachers can handle her. I asked the teacher if one single day would be sufficient for them to observe Naomi and see if she fits their center, considering that it'd be Naomi first day and everything is brand new for her. The teacher told me that a day is enough for their principal to observe Naomi. Well, then. No choice for us, right? (I understand that Naomi is a very active and strong-headed kiddo but to be honest, as her parent, I was perplexed and somewhat offended when someone who barely knew Naomi labelled her as a hyperactive toddler. Nevertheless, if she really does have this issue, I do want it to be addressed asap.)

27 February 2015: Naomi's first day at the nursery.

Anyway, my husband and I agreed to let the nursery observe Naomi for a day at their place. Yesterday, the last working day of February, marked Naomi's first day staying in a child care centre.

At about 8am yesterday, my husband and I drove Naomi, who just woke up, to the day care center. She was the first kid to arrive in the center yesterday morning. After we're briefly introduced to the centre's principal, Naomi was asked to sit on one of their colourful dining chairs and given her breakfast - banana cake slices or honey star cereal (sans milk). Naomi asked for the cereal.

In the beginning, Naomi was very clingy to her Dad and kept holding on my husband's leg. She refused to sit down. At this point, I predicted that we'd surely have to encounter a tearful drama episode when we left Naomi in the nursery.

Few minutes later, two little boys came in and joined Naomi for breakfast. Another boy came in and he was crying when his mother was about to leave him at the center. Naomi kept on looking at the crying boy curiously while popping some cereals into her mouth. My husband and I took this opportunity to sneak our way out of the nursery and leave Naomi there.

Naomi and her first lollipop.

At home, I kept my phone by my side, all the time. I made sure I didn't silent it like I often do. I was worried if the center would somehow call me and ask me to come over because Naomi's crying murder or something.

That call, thankfully, never came.

2y5m: Naomi plays music with a spoon at the nursery.

I drove to the center at around 5.15pm to pick Naomi up and hear the principal's feedback and decision on taking Naomi in her child care center. I was gladly surprised to hear that all the teachers including the principal gave pretty good comments on Naomi's behaviour yesterday. Naomi didn't cry at all in the nursery, ate her food well (in fact, I was told that my child ate 3-4 small bowls of macaroni for lunch), played well with the other kids (which meant no problem with her social skill), didn't use much of her pacifier (as she noticed the other kids didn't use pacifier), said few words (ball - ball, 什么来的 plus a couple more words I can't remember), didn't throw tantrums, showed very excited expression when the teacher let her see a cricket he caught some time ago, wore shoes by herself, drank water from the cup and understood the teachers' commands.

Stylo milo picnic in pyjamas. 

However, one of the teachers said that Naomi still had problem in sharing stuff with other kids, refused to brush her teeth and couldn't take her nap very well in the nursery. She didn't want to sleep on her allocated bed and only fell asleep for a while when she finally got super duper tired. She made one of the teachers carry/hold her to sleep. I was also informed that Naomi got incredibly excited and turned her very hyper mode on when she joined the nursery's Friday morning outdoor activity and picnic in the garden. The principal reckoned that Naomi sometimes becomes very hyper perhaps because she's very lonely (no peer kids) and often keeps herself busy alone at home so every time she sees places with lots of people or kids, she releases her major excitements this way.

Happy Naomi and the cricket. What's with your hair, gal?

To conclude, Naomi got accepted in this nursery and will start attending the nursery full-time (8am - 6pm) beginning next Monday! I am so relieved and happy. I look forward to see my child grow, learn new things, make new friends, develop her speech and most importantly, have fun in the nursery. I really hope everything goes well for her! By the way, some of the teachers did warn me that Naomi might cry when we drop her to the nursery next Monday because by now she already knows what to expect when we arrive to the nursery.

That's all for the updates for now. I'm off to reviewing and filling a bunch of child care centre registration forms for Naomi now!

P/S: The above lollipop was not a reward and got nothing to do with Naomi being accepted to the nursery. Someone gave her a mini Chup-a-Chup when Naomi threw great tantrums at the supermarket last night. It's Naomi's very first lollipop and she didn't even know how to eat one before this because in the past 2.5 years, my husband and I were very strict in indulging Naomi on sweets. Darn! I hope Naomi won't be asking for lollipops and we don't need to pacify her with sweets every-time we bring her to the mall or supermarkets. I'm not too happy with her lollipop experience last night.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Naomi Comic Issue #10: Naomi and the White Rabbit

As part of our CNY break, we went to Tanjung Sepat again on Monday and had the opportunity to go to Kuan Wellness Ecopark for the second time.

We planned to have a look at their bird nest shop this time around but Naomi was not cooperative and was very angry when she saw her cousins were eating lollipops and she was not (She had phlegmy coughs hence the sweets absence). As such, my husband and I brought her over to the mini zoo, just opposite the shop, at this Ecopark to kill the time while waiting the others to finish shopping.

This time around, Naomi scared no more when we asked her to feed the rabbits. In fact, she went gaga over feeding the rabbits to the point that she forced the rabbits to eat the carrot sticks even though they have not finished eating the ones in their mouths. There was a couple of times too when she innocently asked for more carrot sticks from other kids as she ran out of hers. An older boy was so kind to Naomi and gave Naomi one carrot stick from his bag but in return, I gave him another carrot stick.

Here's a short comic to depict the above scenario.

Issue #10: (Motherly) Naomi making the white rabbit to eat more carrot. 
Can you tell it screamed "Help me?!"

Naomi had so much fun at this zoo, especially when she had the chance to feed the fawn, rabbits and fish. Not sure if the rabbits feared her after the feeding session although Naomi seemed to fond them so much. She loved petting the rabbits which to be honest, looked pretty dirty.

If you had ever watched the animated television series called Masha and the Bear, Naomi is probably the real-life version of Masha. Adventurous and mischievous (at times) little girl.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Making Melt-in-Mouth Pineapple Tarts

Dong dong dong chiang... Dong dong dong chiang!

CNY is coming soon and as per my husband's request, I baked his favourite CNY sweet treats, pineapple tarts, in the past couple of weekends. All this while, I always thought that making pineapple tarts is A LOT of work so I seldom make them. Last month, my husband showed me a picture of CNY cookies sold at a Laksa restaurant and when I noticed that a small jar of pineapple tarts costs RM 25, I told my husband not to buy any pineapple tarts this year. I'd bake 'em.

After browsing some pineapple tarts recipes online and comparing each recipe's ingredients and methods, I decided to use a simple recipe that doesn't use too many kinds of ingredients. I've tested this recipe twice in the past weekends and made about 4 small jars of pineapple tarts thus far. A jar of my pineapple tarts went to MIL's house last Saturday and I was surprised to find out that my in-laws and nephews finished the whole jar by Sunday night. I gave another jar to MIL on the next day.

My second attempt of making pineapple tarts this year.

Here's the melt-in-mouth pineapple tart recipe I used that is truly a keeper. They are fuss-free, easy (and enjoyable) to make and don't take too much time to mould or bake.

Melt-in-Mouth Pineapple Tarts

Ingredients:
  • 1 stick Unsalted butter (about 225-250gr), at room temperature
  • 300-350gr Flour plus few spoons of extra flour, if needed
  • 50gr Milk Powder
  • 3 tbs Icing sugar
  • 2 Egg yolks
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 400 gr Store-bought pineapple jam, rolled into small balls

Tutorials:
  1. Sift flour and milk power. Set aside.
  2. Cream butter, vanilla extract and icing sugar until pale by using electric mixer.
  3. Slowly add the egg yolks to the butter mixture while keep beating.
  4. Gradually add flour and milk powder mixture onto the creamed butter by using spatula and mix well until they form soft dough. Add few spoons of flour to the dough if it is too wet. I stop adding flour by the time I see that the dough doesn't stick to the bowl any more. Make sure you don't add to much extra flour for the dough, else your pineapple tarts will be hard.
  5. Take a pinch of dough to cover the pineapple jam filling and roll into round balls. 
  6. Gently press a cookie cutter on top of the pineapple tart balls to form the floral shape.
  7. Bake the pineapple tarts in a preheated oven (170 degree) for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
** The above recipe produces around 60-65 pineapple tarts, depending on the size of the pineapple tart balls you make.

I still have some pineapple jam leftover and plan to bake more pineapple tarts in the coming days using the above recipe for the actual CNY stock at home. We need to present our guests with some CNY goodies on the table when they visit us, don't we?

My first try!

BTW, two weeks ago, I had my husband to watch over Naomi while I got busy in the kitchen making his requested pineapple tarts. In my quiet time, it took me about 1-1.5 hour to bake a recipe of pineapple tarts from scratch. Last week, my husband was out stationed and I had to take care of Naomi while baking some pineapple tarts. Alas, the process to produce pineapple tarts that supposed to take max 2 hours became a half day affair as I had to stop making the dough several times and moulded the tarts in few batches to take care of my girl. Good thing, my pineapple tart results last week were not a flop despite the slow processes.

Glad that I baked you.

Finally, you should utilize the egg whites leftover to make some Almond Flakes Flat Cookies. They are delicious too!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kindergarten vs. Child Care Centre for Toddlers

I used to be the kind of parent who was very adamant of not rushing my toddler to go to school before she turns 3. I was even anti putting my child to a child care centre no matter what. I always had believed that child care centres are meant for very busy working parents or lazy parents.

To top it off, I had these ideals of giving my child the freedom of play and fully receiving our care 24/7 at home, that includes home-cooked food, comfortable bed for sleeping and a room full of toys just for herself before she officially enters the schooling world. Further, I was literally very concerned and scared with the possibility of exposing Naomi to germs, bacteria or virus that other kids may spread to Naomi at school. I thought Naomi should grow older and build better immune system first before going to school.

Naomi, 2 years and 4 months old.

Recently, my ideals about sending Naomi to school earlier than 3 y/o were slowly turned upside down. My husband and I were more than eager to send her to school or child care centre now when she is not even 2.5 y/o. Why, you wonder?
  1. We don't see any significant improvements on Naomi's speech until now. We think that now is the time to make her socialize or mingle with other peer kids, on top of the speech therapy that she is going to do next month, so she can learn speaking our language faster. Naomi is often frustrated in conveying her message or intention to us and we too, are frustrated, in understanding her baby language. 
  2. My husband and I are both busy working on weekdays; hence these days we need to resort to MIL to take care of Naomi during the day. At night, we are pretty much flat out to provide our kid with interesting activities to keep her busy for hours so she usually watches some cartoons or kiddie songs on TV before bed time. My MIL doesn't mind taking care of Naomi but we both thought it's better to place Naomi in an environment where she can get proper kid and learning activities as we aim to reduce her daily dose of TV time as well. Naomi loves watching TV a tad too much if none of us accompanies her to play or does kiddo activities with her.
  3. Nowadays Naomi catches flu, coughs and runny nose quite frequently due to weather changes or virus from God knows where. Like her paediatrician said, kids getting virus from other kids at school is a matter of sooner or later. Naomi will still have to go to school anyway and the most important thing now is to encourage her to speak. There's a kernel of truth from his advice, right? Naomi stays at home most of the time, yet still gets sick too. Therefore, we might as well send her to school earlier than planned for much better reason.
Painting with Naomi on weekend.

As such, this morning, my husband and I went to check a kindergarten and a child care centre around the neighbourhood area. Convenience plays a key role in selecting school for Naomi so we only considered these two since both are not located far away from our house.

Kindergarten (Tadika)

At first, we checked out a kindergarten that is just few blocks away from where we live. This kindergarten is one the franchises of a well-known kindergarten brand in Malaysia. I have certainly known its brand very well because my nephews went to one of its branches when they were younger and I've read their brochures few times before. I have no doubt of this kindergarten's quality because my nephews are doing exceptionally well now in their primary school after graduating from this kindie.

Since we visited the kindie during schooling hours, we were not allowed to look around the inside of the kindergarten but had brief discussion with one of the teachers. She said the school usually accepts 3 y/o kids but nowadays their youngest students are the 4 y/o kids. Since Naomi is younger then she will have to join the 4 y/o class which means she will have to slowly follow the 4 y/o activities or learning modules. The school uses 3 languages to educate the children. This kindergarten is quite new and they only have about 10 kids and 3 teachers in total. Naomi can start going to this kindergarten any time after CNY. The teacher convinced us that all of the students there are all healthy and they seldom fall sick so I should not worry.  

The monthly fee for half-day school is very affordable but realizing that Naomi will have to join the 4 y/o kids for her first school - I think I am gonna give this kindie a pass for now..

My toddler brushes her teeth, often on her own will.

Child Care Centre or Nursery (Taska)

As planned, the three of us checked out another kindergarten we knew that is even closer to our home. I've never heard of this place anywhere else in Seremban before nor received any brochure about it. To be honest, this place was really not in my priority.

When we arrived to this kindergarten, a lady who opened the door told us that she is actually not operating a kindergarten. They are running a child care centre. Hearing this, my heart sank a bit and I thought of going home immediately. Child care centre was not in our plan. However, her colleague, came out from the centre, greeted us and invited us to come in. 

Soon, one of the teachers explained us about the child care centre that they are running and how it is different from normal kindergarten. This child care centre only accepts kids aged 1-4 y/o. The teachers are very specialized in handling toddlers. Kids older than 4 y/o will have to go to kindergarten.

The following are some interesting points that I found really surprising about sending toddlers to a professional child care centre instead of kindergarten. I made the below comparison based on the particular child care centre that my husband and I went to this morning as we have not surveyed other child care centres that are not in our neighbourhood (assuming that other child care centres in Malaysia run their business pretty standard/similar to the one we checked out as I think child care centres operations in Malaysia are governed by law).
  1. Child care centres promote more freedom and relaxed child caring experience than kindergarten because they don't want to stress kids with complicated or demanding study syllabus. Hence, they don't teach toddlers to read or write when they are still 2+ or 3 years old and don't bombard toddlers with assignments let alone homework. 
  2. Child care centres provide a more individual approach in caring each kid. The teachers carefully observe our kids development every day. They'll notice whether our tots are behind certain developmental milestones or require special care thus giving them different treatment.
  3. Child care centres teach toddlers to do self-care and daily routines, such as toilet training, holding a cup, eating without assistance, taking the pants off, putting on clothes, etc.
  4. Child care centres maintain certain ratio that is in accordance to the government regulation on the number of certified teachers to teach a group of kids. For example, 1 teacher for 5 kids.
  5. All of the teachers generally have passed certain courses to teach in the child care centre. Kindergarten teachers are trained to teach kids academically but they do not have trainings on child psychology to ensure kids' psychological welfare or development.
  6. The toddlers' early education program and activities are grouped based on their age and they cover areas such as social, emotional, language, early literacy, mathematical concept, creativity, physical, etc.
  7. Sometimes the teachers bring the kids out to get some fresh air and explore nature in the neighbourhood.
  8. Their discipline methods for toddlers are usually time-outs (standing in the corner) or a gentle hit on the hand palm while telling them the mistakes they just did. Teachers will then reconcile with them shortly after disciplining the naughty ones.
After personally checking the hygiene of the child care centre and listening to the teacher's explanation on the above and other things such as their facilities, timetables and daily food provided to the kids, my husband and I are keen and more excited in sending Naomi to child care centre instead of kindergarten. We feel that a child care centre will provide Naomi a more well-balanced environment with activities, learnings, care and knowledge that are truly tailored to her age, abilities, developments and needs so we, her parents, have lots less things to worry about her spending her days there.

The teacher also assured us that any milestone developments or happenings take place will be reported to the parents accordingly. This child care centre even asks the parents to check the centre's Facebook page so parents can view the kids activities at the centre. Not bad, huh? Or maybe this is a common practice in today's kindergarten world - I am just too novel to all this. In addition, we noticed that every kid who just arrived to the child care centre was given hand sanitizer before joining the other kids - this practice scores a plus value indeed. 

Before this, my husband and I never intended to put Naomi to a child care centre full day because we found no reason of why we must make her nap in a mattress in the day care while we have a nice King Koil bed at home and we live close by? However, the teacher advised us that if parents would like to seek the teacher's assistance to toilet train their kids, then we'd need to put the kids in the child care centre full day; else their potty training efforts will not be consistent and wasted. For this reason, I was even more confident in putting Naomi in the centre full day, at least until she is well toilet trained.

The only drawback is that child care centre's monthly fee costs more than double than the kindergarten's. Nevertheless, after thoroughly considering the costs and the benefits that we get from each, my husband and I are more comfortable in sending Naomi to child care centre first before sending her to normal kindergarten.

Anyway, now that we've made up our mind to put Naomi to the child centre we checked out this morning, I was told this afternoon that this centre's children quotas for the coming months are already full. SO UNFORTUNATE! The centre's principal didn't tell the teacher we spoke to this morning that there are few more kids coming to their centre. The child care centre here in Malaysia, by law, cannot take too many kids more than their allocated quota and a government officer checks on their premise every three months.

What a shame! I was already super excited about sending Naomi to this child care centre instead of kindergarten this year or even next week if possible... Now Naomi is in this child care centre's waiting list instead. Sigh.

So how?!

:( :( :(

**P/S: The above information on child care centre was based on my conversation with the centre's operator/teacher, not from online sources.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Making Almond Flakes Flat Cookies

How are you, world?

Sorry for the silence in the past few weeks. Some of you might have thought that this blog is dead or dying but it's not. LOL. I've just been very busy lately that I was barely able find quiet time to write something here. On my free time and weekends, I prefer to detach from my laptop - so that's another reason of the blogging silence.

January was a busy month indeed and it flew by pretty fast. Now we're already in February and CNY is coming in just a couple of weeks' time. Another break to look forward to. Although I am busy on weekdays but these days, I try to bake some CNY cookies on weekends because I don't want to miss baking for festive seasons!

I've actually been baking some pineapple tarts in the past two weekends for CNY. Pineapple tarts recipe that I used called for egg yolks as part of the cookie dough ingredients (will share that recipe separately) and as usual, I didn't want to waste the egg whites leftover afterwards. As such, last Saturday morning, I turned the egg whites to make some yummy and crispy flat cookies with almond flakes that very much tasted like Lidah Kucing (Cat's Tongue Cookies). These flat cookies, which recipe I found here, are so easy to make and the best part is, we don't need electric mixer to do the job! This recipe is a winner to make use some egg whites leftover.

My first attempt in making Almond Flakes Flat Cookies.

Below is the recipe that I used for making the Almond Flakes Flat Cookies. As my husband and I don't really like the taste of almond essence so I used few drops of vanilla extract for making the cookies instead.

Almond Flakes Flat Cookies

Ingredients:
  • 90gr Flour, sifted
  • 100gr Castor sugar
  • 60gr Unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 Egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Almond flakes

Tutorial:

1. Prepare two baking trays and line them with baking sheets.

2, Mix together flour and sugar in a big bowl. Make a well in the center.

3. Add melted butter, egg whites and vanilla extract to the bowl and stir the mixture with the flour and sugar until well combined with a wooden spoon.

4. Cover the mixture with a cling wrap and rest for 1 hour.

The cookie batter should be very thick after resting it for 1 hour.

5. Drop about 2 teaspoons of the mixture onto the lined trays. Spread the mixture to a 6cm round and sprinkle the top of each cookie batter with flaked almonds.

Try to spread the cookie batter as thin as possible.

6. Bake the flat cookies for about 7-8 minutes in a preheated oven until golden brown.

7. Once the cookies are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool in the trays for about 30 seconds.

8. Carefully loosen and lift the cookies with a spoon and transfer them to a wire rack or plates to cool completely. Store the cookies in an air-tight container.

Happy Naomi eating her fresh sweet treat after she ate her breakfast.

These cookies were so delicious that I kept on munching some of them every day. They're best eaten with a cup of hot Milo, me thinks! By the way, these cookies are already gone by now, just 3 days after I baked them.