Thursday, 21 October 2010

Chocolate please

It has been raining non stop since Monday thanks to Typhoon Megi and the northeast monsoon. It is downright miserable being cooped up in the condo. I can feel my mood going the direction of the rain - down. This calls for a serious dose of chocolate.

This afternoon we made chocolate cupcakes -  Martha Stewart's One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcake. Do they taste yummy ? Well, they provided a quick and hot chocolate fix and they are really easy to make. But I wouldn't call them yummy. Maybe it is the inferior cocoa powder from the local baking supplies shop. I did buy the imported stuff (from wonderful Malaysia). And mind you I wasn't being frugal there, the shop only carries have one type ! The next time round, I am going to try melting a good quality chocolate bar instead of using cocoa powder.

They could be prettier I suppose. I haven't learnt to ice cupcakes yet. I have been browsing the recipes. My arteries stiffen in protest of the amount of butter and sugar required. Between the 5 of us, we have to eat the 18 cup cakes I make. In my mind, I am always dividing the amount of butter/sugar in a recipe by 5. 220gm of butter divided by 5 is 44gm of butter per person. I can't bring myself to do that. Plus, I haven't enough confidence in my cakes to distribute them around the neighbourhood.

Since we are on the topic, here are the other pick-me-up goodies from my store cupboard / fridge.

Omochi ice cream

Happiness in a square- dark chocolate

There's always Kit Kat

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Sunday, 17 October 2010

One Will Stand, One Will Fall

A few weeks back, BK bought Ew 3 Transformer robots.

Ew's idea of Transformers up to the point of that moment was limited to "Transform and Roll out" which is our instruction for setting up the stroller and pushing it along. After reading that, you should be getting the idea that BK got those robots for himself. (Not the first time either if you consider his track record - 2 remote control cars, the model air plane).

Ew was intrigued to say the least. Never mind that those three were not part of the Autobots management team. He loves anything with wheels and mechanics. Here were 3 toys which looked like cars but hey ! you could manipulate them and turn them into robots. He has some ideas about robots from his books.

And so it began - he started noticing other Transformers in the toy store - the fine looking truck called Optimus Prime, the very attractive yellow robot called Bumblebee. It didn't take long for him to learn that Optimus was the leader and the nasty robot was Megatron. Ew was in love ! His mother did not approve of his choice while his father shrugged and secretly thought about the Transformer he was getting for Christmas.

I know, you must be thinking that I am a stick in the mud. We do have a policy of non-violence in our house. No guns, no swords, no fighting, no violent TV eh.. make that not much of any TV. The first time a boy took an imaginary shot at Ew in the playground, Ew had no idea what hit him. With his interest in Transformers, his parents got creative.

Ew:  "Daddy, why is Optimus Prime holding a knife ? "
(Note: We have no idea how this came about. Does Optimus Prime have a sword ?)
BK:  "Er..."
Adelyn looks at BK. The message is clear, although she doesn't say anything "Fix it. You started it."
BK:  "Optimus Prime loves apples. He needs something to help his peel and cut the fruits. "
Adelyn : "Touche Daddy."

My husband is the creative one. Every night for 6 months, he told "Muniandy the Tractor" stories. With a motley crew of vehicles that rally around him - Nunu the small tractor, Amu the tow truck, human friends and animals, Muniandy embarked on different adventures each night. Our hero is now a multimillionaire who owns an amusement park, farms, banana cake factories. Now, "Muniandy the Multimillionaire Tractor" makes the occasional guest appearance on the currently running "Fireman Ew" stories. Both series have been temporarily suspended due to audience demand for "Transformer" stories.

For the past week, BK wove stories of Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Mudflap and Skip guarding apple orchards, sharing fruits and saving crops from the evil Megatron. Ew drank it all up, in awe of these great robots who "Transform and Roll out" to orchards.

Lately, my sweet little boy is into "bashing people into bits" not knowing exactly what it means. I have no idea where he gets it from. I know it is not from TV. I am relieved it is not from TV. I can only theorize that it is a natural development for him as his testosterone levels peak.

Am I sorry that he thinks Optimus Prime is some kind of Johnny Appleseed ? No. I stick to my principles of non-violence. What comes naturally to him will come. I will continue to deny my children any catalyst for violence and hatred. There plenty of that when they go out into the world. What the world lacks is love and gentleness - that I will make sure they get it at home.

Ew: "Mummy, Daddy says that Optimus Prime said "One Will Stand and One Will Fall".
Adelyn: "What's that?"
Ew: "That means one apple will be standing and the other on its side"
Adelyn: "Hmmm...interesting"

I love the man who came up with that.

This One is for the Sisters

Before you read on, I am telling you upfront that this post is about cotton menstrual pads and periods.
I am truly excited to share my positive experience with washable, reusable cotton menstrual pads with the hope that you will be inspired to give them a go. In case, you don't plan to read on, here's my conclusion.

1) The cottons pads are superbly comfortable
2) I did not experience any leaks and staining of bedsheets / panties
3) They are easy to wash & dry - with the right handling
4) With a simple and not inconvenient life style change, I am protecting mother earth

I got my supply of pads from Nice Cloth Diaper, an online store that sells cloth diapers, cotton menstrual pads and natural home products. I got to know Sin Dee who runs the store a few years back when I started cloth diapering. I am inspired by Sin Dee and her life.  My word for Sin Dee is "passionate" (that wasn't the first word that came to my mind when I met her). But now, that's my word for her - passionate about life, the environment, spirituality, her girls, her products. There is something about Sin Dee that is beyond what I can describe - it's a quiet spiritual quality, a fine balance she sets between the worldly and the spiritual. Well, enough about Sin Dee for now. This is getting too "Eat Pray Love".

The cotton pads come in a variety of designs and sizes - just like the disposables. Sizes include 1) panty liners 2) regular 3) long and wide. They all have 'wings' cause that's what holds them in place on the panty. There is a tiny button (a press start?) at the bottom of the wing. Each pad comes with a towel insert. You have the option of increasing the absorbency by adding your own inserts e.g. a thicker towel.

When shopping, I was drawn to a very pretty print called 'Butterfly'. I could very well imagine how the 'Butterfly' will looks like with tomato ketchup. But I couldn't resist. I rationalized that I would be the only person to see the soiled 'Butterfly', so I threw caution to the wind. Anyway, the 'Butterfly' was not available in the numbers I wanted and Sin Dee recommended 'Microfibre' (another design). My current favorite is Microfibre. Strong stomach or not, save the pretty white prints for something that you wear on the outside.

Microfibre and Butterfly

I made sure I got enough pads to discontinue using disposables at my very next period. I was determined to go cold turkey.  This is my algorithm to determine how many to get - (maximum number of pads needed on a heavy day x 2) + 1 spare. I opted to 'regular' for day use and 'long and wide' for night.

When I got the stocks, I  was really excited. The "Butterfly" is really pretty :). And for the first time since, my first period, I looked forward to getting my period. Whoo whoo!

Of course, I had apprehensions about the whole thing. You will too. But I found my fears to be unfounded.
Firstly, would the pad would stay in place? With the disposables, there is a strip of glue which runs from end to end. With the cotton pad, it's the wings hugging the panty in the middle. Nothing at either end of the pad. I found myself checking the position throughout the day but the wings held on well.

The thought of washing soiled pads freaked me out. I was determined to find a system where the actually scrubbing I had to do was minimal. And here it is. I got a rubbish bin with a lid and filled it about half full of water. With each change of pad, I removed the soiled insert and threw both the pad and insert into the bin. With enough water in the bin, the stains diffused out of the inserts and pads in a few hours. Diffusion happens when molecules move from an area of high concentration to an area of lower concentration. Minimal scrubbing -  I simply rubbed some soap on each item and rinsed it out.

Keep in here after use

Like the cloth diapers, if it is changed while one is out and about, you will need to prepare a bag to carry it home in. There are some nice wet bags available that will do the trick. I saw some in Daiso for about USD1. The neat thing about the pads are they fold into a small square which is held in place by the wings and button. This makes them very portable.

Neat !

The pads and towels dried quickly. On some days, when I washed them at night, they were dried by the next morning. I still maintain that it is better to have enough supplies for at least 2 days. Now that I know that I will be continuing this, I will probably get more so that I can be more relaxed about washing.

I love my washable, reusable cotton menstrual pads. My glad rags make me glad that I have taken another step in the direction of a more natural life that serves me and the environment. You could too !

Have Car will Travel - Part 1

Last weekend, we got ourselves 4 wheels in the form of a Toyota Camry 2.0. It was our little experiment to see if BK could drive on 'the other' side of the road, if we could navigate our way around Taipei & Taipei ++, and most importantly the impact of a car on our life in Taipei.

During our past year in Taipei, we moved around on public transport - mainly taxis, the Metro, train and well, we did go on the bus once just for fun. As we zipped around Taipei in the back seat of a clean and comfortable taxi, we would agree that not having a car is such a relief - no need to worry about parking / service & maintenance / depreciation etc. etc. BK would even joke that we should club him on the head should he talk about buying a car. Occasionally, we would shake our heads at the manic driver or lament a stinky cab but being chauffeured around felt good for a while. Lately, the lamenting became more frequent as we seemed to have become a magnet for crazy drivers and displeasing cars. Also repeating the instructions to our condo for the millionth time was becoming a chore.

So, on a lovely Saturday morning, we took the two very excited kids to pick up our wheels of independence.

Our first stop on  ID (Independence Day) 1, was RT Mart for our weekly grocery shopping. Never mind, we were there later than usual and the best fish was taken. We were on a high from our new found freedom. We shopped at leisure because we did not need to rush on to one of the nearby restaurants to get a place for lunch. We did a sushi take away and brought our food back home to eat in comfort. Man ! It was actually fun to remember where we parked and push our shopping trolley to our car.

That same evening, we drove to Danshui - a seaside town. We had been to Danshui before by MRT. It took us about 40 mins, 2 train changes and jostling with dozens of strangers all with the same idea for a sunny weekend. This time, we sat in the comfort of our own car and the estimated time for the journey was 25 minutes according to the GPS. We soon found that estimated time of arrival a moving target as we, in the tradition of all travellers, got lost. That was also when the first of our challenges with the GPS became apparent - I call it "what's in a name"

"What's in a name" is a two prong problem - first, the inconsistencies of spelling a Chinese name in English. Is it Min Quan or Min Chuan ? The GPS spelt it 'Min Cyuan' ! Secondly, what in the world is "Danshuihanshunamxi" ? We had to know the exact name of a location as used within the GPS system. To cut a long story short, we didn't see the Danshui Lover's Bridge that night.

This is what we missed !
All was not lost, we took the GPS out of the car that night and looked up our destination for the next day. But I didn't get too far in my preparations as the GPS ran out of battery really soon ! Grrrrr....

ID 2 - Fulong Beach / the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area

We packed and we packed and we packed loads of stuff for our day trip to Fulong Beach. YES ! for a change we were going out in out own car and really we could pack that boot to the brim with every item of our whim and fancy -the whole basketful of snacks including Kit Kat, the huge 2L Thermos,  that extra pair of slipper, the just in case t-shirt but no, no let's not take the umbrella :) And yes take the milk powder but forget the milk bottles, dear.

We loved the drive to Fulong Beach although it poured. We passed many promising places such as Juifen which we said we will be back to explore. The sight of the sea was thrilling. We were dying to stop and take in the view. With the maestro of  a navigator, the GPS and a stroke of luck, we chose Bitan Recreational Area. A stroke of luck - cause we had no idea what was there and it was good AND we left just as the 3 bus loads of Chinese tourist pulled in.

It costs 50 yuan to enter the Bitan Recreational Area to park your car. You get a parking coupon which shows you a pretty picture of the lighthouse at Bitan on a sunny day. Ah ! The potential of what we could have seen and done. We borrowed an umbrella and took our basketful of snacks down to one of the food court tables. Well, maybe food court is not the right word - there were 4 stalls selling almost identical cooked food and 2 peddling various items including Alleluia ! umbrellas.

Armed with our newly bought umbrella, we took turns walking in the rain to see the grey green waves crash recklessly on the rocks. Daredevil fishermen clad in protective rain gear, stood on the rocks, bravely casting their lines. Fishing must be good in this parts - cause there were lots of them, braving the rain and waves, casting away. There were also little crabs clamouring all over the rocks.

The sights in the food court were equally enthralling. The 4 identical food stalls were selling various seafood. Fried mackerel seems popular. I saw a man buy a fried fish in a little paper bag. He held it by the bag and tore of chunks of fish like it was a fried drumstick. A family in the next table ordered a plate of huge prawns, starchy seafood soup, seaweed soup and check this out - mackerel soup. Mackerel soup was a clear broth with the mackerel - cut in two sitting in it. The first thing the father did was to scoop our an eyeball and shout " Who wants an eyeball?". The 2 kids both shouted "Me!" and he said "Well, one eye each" and proceeded to distribute the delicacy fairly. Hmmm...

The map of the area reminded us again of what we could be doing instead of watching people eat. And no, we didn't feel too inspired to eat the same. My kids are not eyeball eaters.

We continued our wet journey. As soon as the drops stopped, we made a stop. The name that appeared on the road signs was "Aodi" / "Audi". We stopped out of a need to show the kids something. Something happened to be 'sotong boats'.

Ew complained about the smell of the sea and covered his nose. He was more keen to jump into the puddles. Ae was crazy about being allowed on the ground (we didn't take her shoes out of the car in Bitan), we had to restrain her from running off the edge of the pier.

Another short drive and we arrived at our destination - Fulong Beach. We had seen Janet frolicking on Fulong Beach on Fun Taiwan. Fulong Beach is the site of the Sand Sculpture Festival. What Janet forgot to mention is you have to pay to get in. The entrance fee for an adult is 90 yuan. For a child of 3, 10 yuan. For a toddler - free.

Pay and the troll let's you across the bridge to the beach
The kids had a blast. It drizzled but we didn't have the heart to keep them away from the sea or the sand.
When the rain got heavier, we retreated under a tent and continued our digging. Finally, it was the dark clouds threatening more rain that sent us heading home.