Friday, May 30, 2014

We Dropped Kumon!

Right after Chiara turned 4, I signed her up at a Kumon center. I think it was around the time when I finished reading Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Believe it or not, she loved it. She's always been great with her fine motor skills, so tracing was really fun to her. Then came the writting and I --- being tiger mother no.2 --- made sure that she produced some really nice numbers. We sat and practiced together. Over and over.

I truly believed she had a future in numbers. For a 4-year-old to do sums between 1-100 easily, I thought it was marvellous. Kumon has a time limit, and considering her age, the teacher would suggest her finish a 10-page book in 20 minutes. All I can say is we had some bad days and some good days. I remember one time she had tummy bug so we stayed at home togther the whole week. I went to the Kumon center twice to get new homework and those were the only 2 times I left the house, if I remember correctly. She delivered all of her homework that week between 7-10 minutes. That was an awesome week, Kumon wise.

Side note --- Yes I did feel bad to have brought up homework when she's sick, but I swear not the first 2 days when she was just hit with the bug and energy-less.

She's been doing subtraction lately and oh boy, homework table is like a battle field, with me being a nag and her writing and playing at the same time. I've tried all sorts of strategies, one being "inviting" some of her stuffed animal friends to "help", but it became more and more of a game, and less and less writing ---- there's a time limit if you remember.

Poor child.... she spents more and more time every afternoon doing homework and it's really getting ridiculous now. It seems the more she does it the more confused she's getting. Today.Is.The.Day! We're taking a big break from those Kumon drills.

What have I leant from Kumon? It's a perfect drilling programme for those who have already learnt some maths at school, the real/funway, and are looking for supplementary practice. NOT for anyone starting fresh not having a clue of what all those numbers represent. All Chiara knows is numbers and they don't mean anything to her. Maths isn't just numbers!

I'm really glad that she showed signs of frustration and we've put a stop to it before I turn her into a number drilling robot. Go play my girl. Well you still have to practice piano, you know?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Homemade Fish Fingers

I stopped buying supermarket frozen fish fingers about 2 years ago, since I'm all into homemade it food or clothes...
Anyway, my little madam started to eat a lot of fish fingers. It's easy, tasty and nutritious --- definitely the homemade version. I was aware of the funny things (like colorant, preservatives, and all the other long chemical names that I can't even pronounce) they put in the supermarket frozen version, thus this homemade version was born.

Let's talk about more about these fish fingers now, shall we?

Things you will need:
400g white fish fillet and cut them into strips
about 80g cornflakes
1 extra extra extra large egg (if your egg is little small, you might need 2), beaten
salt and pepper to taste


Pour your cornflakes in a freezer bag. Seal tightly. Get your rolling pin out and start grinding the cornflakes.... into this:

Beautiful golden crumbs

Season your fish.
From left to right are fish stripes, beaten egg(s), and cornflake crumbs.
Dip your fish strips to the beaten egg, then coat them nicely with the crumbs.

Ta-da. A plate full of happily coated fish fingers ready for the pan.

Drizzle a little oil in pan then fry them in batches. Now you could cook them in the oven as well, but I find they tend to turn out a little dry. Drain the oil on paper towl afterwards.
That's what you serve a fussy eater, with potato mash and apple.
Happy eating.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bows Talk

The sewing is a little slow this week. W've had so many problems with our wifi printer over the months and eventually we took it back to the shop last weekend. But... but I'm a sewing newbie and still building up my PDF pattern range. What am I going to do without a printer?? Try Burda patterns you say? Well..... I just don't understand their intructions at all. Far prefer the ones with step-by-step detailed picture explanations from "boutique" sellers. Yes, taking them to a printing shop will be a great idea, since our printer is not coming home anytime soon.

So while on the look for new things to sew, I organized some fabric stash and found that I was left with a little bit of white shiny linen fabric after I made this Sally Dress. I went to my old and faithful blog MADE and followed a bow tutorial. Used up all the scrap fabric and produced these 3 bows....

Did I forget to mention they are huge??

I attached it to a thin headband and .... madam's not very impressed.

This is sad that I could even find one plain tee. Plain tee with nice soft fabric --- I'm on it.

I'm sure I'll give them a permanent "home" someday soon. For now, I'm putting them for safekeeping, just because, every little handmade thought is precious. :)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bolognese Sauce Gets Sneaky

When I'm not at the sewing machine, I'm in the kitchen ---- my two favorite spots.
I'm always on the look for fresh ingredients, meaning I try to avoid tin food as much as I can.
You can probably find mountains of bolognese recipes on the internet nowadays. I've done a few modifications to suit my family.

Don't get me wrong. I do buy tin tomatoes. That and tin coconut milk are always on my shopping list. I know tin tomatoes are tinned in the best tomato season and thus you get the most flavorful of them. But when I see beautiful roma tomatoes like this, I just can't help myself.

The best way I've learned to peel the tomato skins:
Bring a pot of water to the boil then switch off the heat. Let your lovely tomatoes have a nice swim in the water for one minute. I usually put the lid on to seal the heat.

The skins are so easily peeled off after that. Just look at that.
Now for the rest of the fresh ingredients. I always hide mushroom and/or pepper in the bolognese sauce for my picky eater. This heavily tomato based sauce hides all the other vegetables.
My dear old food processor is a life savor here. It chops off onion in seconds and saves my tears.
You fry the onion and garlic first and while you are doing that, it's time to chop the rest of the vegetables. Just like that, the job is done for you in seconds again.
Put all the vegetables in the pot and fry a little until soft. Brown the mince then pour your tomatoes in. Use a knife or spatula just chop them up in the pot. Pour a cup of wine, add some origano, salt and pepper to taste, a little sugar and let it simmer with the lid off. Sometimes if I feel the sauce is not tomatoey enough, I'd add 1T tomato paste.
I usually serve half for supper and freeze half. One morning's work results in 2 nights' meal. Yum-mmmmy.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sally Dress

When I stumbled on Go To Patterns about 6 months ago, this dress (this is from the designer's own website) immediately caught my eye. I wasn't exactly looking for patterns to sew back then, but I made a mental note that if I can ever sew clothes one day, this dress is a must-sew!

Got the pattern this week and I went straight fabric shopping, and fell in love with this red linen + I-don't-know-what-it's-called shiny fabric. I thought it would be a good combination for Sally Dress.
To me,  sewing is like building a model ship, or putting together all the jigsaw puzzle pieces. It's fun by itself already, but there's so much more. You try to create a look with the fabric of your choice ---- that is if you don't get lost in a fabric store. The sky is the limit here. There are tons of looks just from one pattern.

I saw Rae's #madeforkidsmonth sewing event earlier this month and would like to be a part of it. The thing is that June is not a good month for summery dresses in the southern hemisphere, even worse with the start of Cape Town's raining season. I had to choose this thickish fabric so Chiara could at least wear some t-shirt underneath. It turned out great. The shine on the skirt fabric is not so obvious in the picture, thanks to a grey day. But I'd say it's more than just an every-day dress.

I cut a size 5 instead of a size 4 for my 4-and-a-half-year-old. You can see there's plenty room for her to grow. And it will be a while until her arms are long enough to scratch the bottom of the pockets...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Brookyn Dress My New Challenge

After sewing Janey Dress 3 times over, I definitely gained confidence and was ready for a new pattern. Got the pattern again from Sew Sweet Patterns. Oh boy, was it a challenge for me!

I got stuck first with the lining. It's easy to sew up the lining and bodice together but somehow I found it quite a mission to do some neat stitches at the front in order to hold the lining in place with the bodice. That comes with practice I suppose. Thank goodness I used this small floral pattern fabric in a darkish color. The stitches are almost invisible. ha!
The second challenge was the buttonholes. I had never sewn them before. In fact, I had been avoiding projects where buttonhole (or zips) are involved. But hey since I'm taking this hobby seriously, I just had to give it a go. A few online tutorials (here and here) later, I was still at a loose end. I realized each machine's different when it comes to buttonholes. So I dug out the user's manuel that I had never touched once before. You know what, after some testing on scrap fabric, I made my very first 3 buttonholes. Very proud.
I find this dress most beautiful when it's in motion. So I followed Chiara around while she's on a cleaning mission.
I'm really happy with the way the dress turned out. What makes me even happier is now she asks me to make her new dress all the time. Bet she's got more faith in my sewing skills than I have myself.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Baker Lady Special -- Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chiara's school has this "bakerman/baker lady" tradition. Each child (each mom) gets ONE turn every year.  Last year we made these bread sticks together.

This year her original idea was to make a big chocolate cake and somehow I managed to talk her out of it ---- I mean for a 4-year-old a big cake involves messy cutting and all. We agreed on some chocolate chip cookies eventually. I'm convinced that even my extreme picky eater gets overwhelmed at the sight of these cookies, no other kids can resist it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Janey Dress As a Gift

Last week Chiara got a last-minute birthday party invite. I just didn't happen to have the time to go gift shopping by myself. If I had to dragged her along, she would've begged for the same present ... double budget oh no.

I had this crazy over-night sewing idea and I went for it.

Another Janey Dress. I got this cute heart side label last year when we made the party give-aways.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How to Make an Infinity Scarf for Kids

The weather's getting chilly in the mornings and evenings and it's definitely time to sew up some scarves. As I'm a sewing newbie, what's easier than an infinity scarf for the kids?

material you will need:
1 x long piece of rectangle fabric 125 x 40 cm
or 2 x rectangles 63 x 40 cm, if your fabric is not long enough
woven or knit

Sunday, May 11, 2014

How to Make Chinese Dumplings

Let's talk about food for a change, shall we?

When Chiara's 5 months' old, I started to introduce solids. And I knew then that I was in for a challenge. So what do you do with picky eaters? Be sneaky. Introducting my sneaky dumplings.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mommy and Me Skirts

I don't know. Maybe it's from watching all those competition TV programmes growing up, I have a thing for matching outfits --- His and Hers, or Dad's Mom's and Mine.... Strange thing is I've never had any matching outfits. I always felt embarrased to wear them I guess.

I just had the right amount of fabric to make a skirt for me after cutting one for Chiara, so why let the fabric wait for another project, right?

We wore these outfits to school the other day and got called "siblings" and "twins"... and we just giggled at each other. Was really fun.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Short Sleeve Janey with a Pocket

I'm still over the moon after purchasing my first PDF pattern Janey. So after I made my first dress last week, the pattern is still lying on the table --- and I admit I'm not very good at tidy-up... The good news is I've got plenty of fabric from some compulsive fabric shopping. So I traced and cut out some more fabric --- really getting the hang of it, and whipped up another short-sleeve version.

After sewing all the pieces together, I discovered a big patch of oil stain on the front panel of the dress (oh great!). The option of unpicking and resewing another front piece is OUT. I also dumped the idea of trying to clean it and then went straight with a pocket. You know how kids are with their pockets...

Perfect simple summer dress.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Circle Skirt + Infinity Scarf Combo

Now I may have taken an intro course at Elves at Work (a great place to get basic knowledge about sewing) a year ago, but really I learnt most from online tutorials especially from a blog called MADE, the simple skirts and circle skirts...They really ignited the sewing enthusiasm inside me and I just can't stop making them, and Chiara can't stop twirling around in them.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Preschool Kids' Apron

Until preschool, Chiara had this "apron-phobia". She just refused to put on an apron. Life at school is not as easy as it is at home I guess. The teacher was more forceful than I am and luckily she's outgrown her "phobia". Since I'm into sewing nowadays, I found an apron tutorial here and whipped one up super quick.

Clearly read too many Vogue Magazines

The letters took me the longest to sew... If I had to pick a least favorite thing in sewing it would be unpicking. So I was extra careful with the letters. Used fabric glue first so I didn't end up with pins everywhere. Job done!

Friday, May 2, 2014

My first Janey Dress

I've been following tutorials and sewing here and there for a while now. Last week I purchased my first PDF pattern from Sew Sweet Patterns. I was determined to sew a dress for my girl. So I chose the easiest-looking (and the most simpliest and beautiful) pattern called Janey Dress. I printed and taped all the A4 size pieces together according to the detailed intructions. Gotta admit that this part was quite fun! Chiara got herself involved and cut all my off-cuts. Good girl with those scissor skill practice.

Here comes the show time. Ta da....


C says "I'm going to wear this all day long". Those little words can just light up your day, not so?  Since it's so easy to make, I'm going to sew up a few with different fabric. Told you I was addicted.