Monday, 25 April 2011

Pizza and Bagels

When I turn my oven on, I aim to make the most of the heat by creating two delicacies. I started today thinking about pizza for dinner. And I have been thinking about bagel the whole week. Since I watched Bob Blumer (Glutton for Punishment) learn how to make bagels, I have been dying to give it a go. While my pizza dough was proofing, I made a batch of bagels.

The pizza dough is Jamie Oliver's recipe. I make half the recipe and use a wholewheat flour / bread flour mix. Both organic. I rolled the crust thin but it didn't turn out crispy. Probably because of the wholewheat content. Toppings were homemade bollognese sauce, pineapple, mushrooms, organic capsicum, tomatoes, onions, cheese. There was enough to make 4 pizzas. We ate 2.5 for dinner, that leaves 1.5 for lunch tomorrow. Wholesome and yummy!

I tried a new bagel recipe. My usual one is from The Arthur Flour 'A Dozen Simple Bagels'. Today I came across this one from Hubpages which I thought was really simple and fuss free (no mention of malt powder or substitutes). It actually uses the same technique which Bob Blumer was trying to perfect. Cool ! Cause that was the whole reason I wanted to get my hands dirty was to try this technique.

I haven't eaten any of the bagels yet but I must say the shape of my bagels are looking a lot better than batches before.

I am compelled to confess my boo boo. When one tries to do too many things at a ago, like make pizza AND bagels, one tends to make mistakes. Especially if one works like me, I look at a recipe, and try to memorize the steps cause I don't like to refer to a paper while I work. I shaped my bagel, dipped them in poppy seeds and then remembered that oops....... that should come after I boil them. Anyway, most of the poppy seeds stayed on.

A Hmmmm point: This recipe calls for the bagels to be turned over while baking. I have not done that before. I did it today. It was messy cause the bottom of those bagels had stuck onto the reasonably oiled tray and bits came off. When the bagels were done, those bits from the bottom got stuck to the top. So although, they are shapelier, they are looking a bit pock marked. I think I will skip that step the next time. After all, I didn't see Bob doing that.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

"To Ew, for reading your first 13 words"

In a previous blog, I shared my frustrations teaching Ew to read ("You can't make him read or write, but you can make him not want to"). Out of the window went Siegfried Engelmann's "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons".

I didn't give up. I am just doing it differently.

We continue going to the library. Ewan loves his reading (as in being read to). He demands for it. He whines for it. When I lost my voice for 2 days and told him I couldn't read. My 4 year old told me "Reading is very good. We must do more of it." and "Mum, you can whisper the story to me if you can't read." I continue to surround him with books, books and more books. I shared my woes with Aunt Gloria in Ohio. She homeschooled 4 kids. She is the guru of homeschooling. At Christmas, she sent us a whole box of books!

I sound out words "to myself". When I am reading a book to him, I deliberately pause and sound out words e.g. "C-A-T cat". I don't make any demands of him. Sometimes, he gets annoyed because the story is stalled but he just thinks that I need to do that for me to read well.

I make up silly song with words spelled out in the lyrics. I can't think of an example of a song I created at the moment. There is a song that they play at Toy-R-Us that is really catchy and it goes something like "B-A-N-A-N-A, banana" over and over again. My kids learn things that are rowdy, loud and silly, easily.

I build his confidence by asking him to read the words in the story which I know he has memorized. "Once upon a time, there were three ......" I pause. He says,"bears". I praise. I applaud him for reading the word. I tell Po-Po. I tell Daddy. Everyone congratulates him. Ew acts nonchalant but I know he is pleased because he is doing it more now. He doesn't protest as much.

I deliberately spell out a word, sound it out, say it out load. As we read on and the word appears again, I ask him to help me read it. He does. Sometimes, he doesn't. That's ok too. We read the "Fantastic Mr Fox" for a month. The word "fox" was everywhere. When we were at a Thai restaurant last weekend, the chief waiter's name tag said "FOX". I turn to Ew and said, "Ew, can you read the Uncle's name on his tag". He looked away. A little embarrassed. I felt triumphant. I knew he knew it. Learning was reinforced in that incident.

When I see a word that means a lot to him example a food he likes, I point it out. I say "Hey, you like cheese. I think you should know the word cheese, so we can buy more when we're out shopping."

I label a few things around the house. Richard Gentry suggested it in his book "Raising confident Readers: How to Teach your Child to Read and write, from Baby to age Seven". I have only done it once. The labels are falling off and looking tacky. My house is looking  tacky. I am not sure if it works. Seeing the word in a book, I ask Ew to check if the label for "door" is still there. "Are you sure?" I ask. He spells it out. By the way, I was quite demotivated reading it because my child does not even fit the phase 1 Richard advocates. But he does have a few good tips here and there.

Last week, I bravely counted the words that Ew can now read. 13 words - bear, bus, toy, car, cheese, door, fox, train, cat, pig, No, dog, "I can't remember the last one". I made a really big deal of it. I wrote out all the words on different coloured cards. I punched a hole in the corner of each card and tied it together with a pipe cleaner. I told everyone about the words. Everyone wanted to hear him read and he did.

Ew told me he should be rewarded with a book from my secret stash (The Box). I present him "Rumpelstiltskin".  In it I have scribbled, " To Ew, for reading your first 13 words"


I have lost my voice. I can squeak, I can whisper but I can't do my usually ongoing narrative for my kids. Nevertheless, I had to keep them occupied for some peace in the house this morning. I reached for The Box.

The Box. Whenever I go to the stationery shop to buy a birthday card, I pick up a bunch of other little items to make it up to NT$100. The stationery shop gives a 10% discount on purchases above NT$100. These knick knacks go into the The Box. There are treasures to be found in the market too. The Box is not a physical box but rather a bunch of items hidden in high shelves and deep drawers, that I can reach into for a quick reward or to entertain.

Out came the multicoloured pipe cleaners. The colours and texture was enough to make them stop squabbling and calm down.

We googled pipe cleaner crafts. It is surprisingly popular. We started at  Disney Family Fun. There is a quick video which shows you the basic steps called Pipe Cleaner Tips & Tricks. Twist, coil, insert, connect, bundle. The kids quickly decided they wanted the dinosaur. So I made them these Pipe-cleaner-saurus.  It is not a replica of what's on the website but that's creativity.

Check out those eyes !

Black eye peas never looked so mournful on a dinosaur
Do a search on the Disney Family Fun website and you will find a whole lot of other ideas for pipe cleaners. Michaels is another cool website for crafts. Of course it is an online store first, but look under Project >> Kids / Teachers and there are fantastic crafts for kids. Check out the Chenille (the posh name for pipe cleaners) Bunnies and Chicks for an Easter project.

At Martha Stewart's you can create a whole zoo out of pipe cleaners. Check out Squidoo as well for other recommended websites.

Show the kids a few examples and then let them at it. That's what I am going to do the next time.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Spring on our Balcony Garden

It is lovely to go out on our balcony garden these days! All the green peeping from the soil and buds on the plants. Here are some of our stars. We also have tomato seedlings, a beet root, and a type of vegetable which is appearing in every pot.

Lemon blossoms looking pretty and perfuming the room
(Background: Looking down at the park from the 14th floor)

Pea flower

Our pea shoots are growing in a mix of coconut coir and organic matter in
stacked planter which we built

The harvest
Don't laugh - I am optimistic

Strawberry tartlets are technically from my kitchen not garden but
strawberries are one of the spring fruits that we are now enjoying