Self care: Learning something new

One of the things that I’ve been told that I like to advocate is lifelong learning. Well, there seems to be some truth in it. Probably because of my inquisitive nature, I do want to learn new things, whether I am able to masterfully grasp it, that sometimes remain to be seen.

So we signed up a for a session of watercolour painting as part of our recent team-bonding activity. It was pretty fun but I’ve often thought of painting and art as being therapeutic. It was something that I would like to continue and so after the 2 hour workshop, I bagged myself and went home with new paints, brush and art paper. I was raring to go – transforming ideas that I had in my head to paper. That didn’t turn out too well, unfortunately.

Refusing to give up (for now), I decided to pick myself up and then relied on the internet to read up more ideas. It seemed to work and I do enjoy coming up with new artwork for the little one.

So I will get there with more practice. It is my hope one day to just paint food illustrations of the food and drink that we get acquainted with during our travels. A friend of ours has done that and I often marvel at her work. So I hope to achieve that one day.

Presenting my art journey (in order of sequence, so hopefully you can see the improvement):

 

New Zealand – a little something for everyone!

This is a re-cap of our annual family holiday that we took in 2018. YIKES! I know.. but it has been a crazy couple of months, with work at the Company and then work at MAPL (retail peak season), it’s like I finally got a chance to take a short break on my own and just chilling on ME time when the Bub goes off to bed.

But blogging has always remained close to my heart, so here’s an attempt of putting down the memories as I clear my back-log of photos/ posts.

Why New Zealand?

When the Man asked where we should go for our annual trip, I suggested New Zealand. Mostly because if we didn’t want to go back to Europe and a trip to the US with a young kid does sound quite daunting. New Zealand was a country I had wanted to head back to for friends with young kids who have been there do give it a thumbs-up for being close to nature. Also, I visited New Zealand when I was a teenager and it would be nice to go back to visit a country and see the changes that it has undergone in the last 20 years.

For our trip to New Zealand, the Man decided to use a travel company to plan our family holiday. We knew most holidays in New Zealand are self-drive but driving on holidays are also quite stressful – planning the route, making sure that the hours on the road are not too long for the driver, rest-stops, etc – the Man didn’t want to deal with this. I wasn’t going to be a good navigator, so we decided to leave the planning of our holiday in the good hands of the people who knew the ins and outs of the country instead.

As for the itinerary, we did have a couple of things that we wanted to incorporate on our holiday, such as golf for the man as well as sight-seeing for both me and the Bub. Because the Man and I are both big on wine and food, we wanted an itinerary that would be curated to suit our needs.

What we did as a family?

We couldn’t quite call it a holiday in New Zealand if we didn’t visit the Hobbiton Movie Set tour. This was done on Day 2 of our holiday where we didn’t quite adjust to NZ time yet and was horribly late in meeting our guide. The weather was also very deary and cold. We needed to be out at the set for a good 1 – 1.5 hours and so we braved the rains/ winds, dressed the Bub as warm as possible and decided to put forth our best smiles for the camera.

The tour coupled with anecdotes from our guide made it very enjoyable. We did catch Lord of the Rings and could associate with a couple of familiar scenes from the actual set. The Bub was probably tired from the cold so the Man did his fair share of weight-lifting as we meandered around the tiny set.

Fun fact! The Royals were also in town when we arrived in New Zealand and we visited some of the attractions before they did.

We (or least I) get a thrill out of saying ‘We did it first!’ before the Royals did. The Redwood Treewalk at Rotura was very enjoyable as the weather was cool and being up in the trees felt pretty surreal. The kid was also very adventurous in being the first to complete the tree-top walk. Competitive indeed!

Day 4 of our holiday, we took a private boat-ride on Lake Taupo where we experienced Taupo’s crystal clear waters. We sailed past the famous Maori Rock Carving which is only accessible on the water and it’s a must-see in Taupo.

We also opted to fish while on board as the area is protected and to fish in the lake, a special license must be obtained. Thankfully the weather cleared up quite a fair bit and sunshine greeted us as we both tried our hand at fishing.  The Bub also wanted in on the fun and was a tad disappointed when the fish she caught got away. We had to pacify her a little and tell her to try harder.

What we did in Queenstown:

In Queenstown where we spent the remaining 5 days of our holiday, we took a chartered plane ride to visit the famed Milford Sound. It was very beautiful admiring the alpine scenery and rainforest from the top. I think what would have made it more enjoyable on the almost hour-long plane-ride is if it could be accompanied with commentary or some music. The Bub was obviously very soothed by the ride that she fell asleep almost immediately after the plane took off. We were supposed to do a cruise back into town but because the weather had been bad while we were there, it was cancelled eventually.

We also enjoyed the Ben Lomond High Country Station private tour that saw us on an ATV zipping in and out of the countryside while stopping by to say hello to the thousands of sheep that were grazing on the hills. The little one enjoyed this up-close-and-personal touch with nature very much and was super thrilled by how the ATV could maneuver through tiny roads and river streams.

All in all, this trip to New Zealand saw us bond as a family and allowed us or rather me to fully rest from the hustle and bustle of city/ normal life. I really have been so worn out with work and it was good to just to not do anything and just turn in early to let the body rest.

I’ve only just scratched the surface on what we did on our holiday! Will probably try to find time to blog about where we stayed and what we ate in a follow-up post! Till then, dreaming of our next holiday already.

 

Precious photos for the Christmas holidays

We’ve done our family portraits with Hart from Tomato Photo since the Bub is 7 days old and have gone on to take at least 2 more other shoots with him. We haven’t quite done a shoot with the Bub when she was between 2 to 3 years old so when Hart asked if we wished to update our family pictures. I thought it was timely to do so since we were also celebrating our 11th year wedding anniversary.

A photo-shoot with a 3.5 year old child wasn’t as easy as compared to when she was a newborn or a little toddler just learning how to walk/ run. Halfway during the shoot, she would have a mini meltdown, but all through it all, Hart was always very patient. We booked ourselves a staycation at the Ritz and so it served as a location for our photoshoot as we didn’t want to move from place to place. As compared to our previous shoots, I also wanted something a little more dressy so we decided to dress up in matching shades of red.

I’ve also kept my hair  a little longer now so I opted for a more feminine style this shoot and tied mini French braids. Do quite like the effect and wish that I could tie my own hair daily. Haha..

We even managed to sneak in a couple of shots with just the two of us while the Bub ran off to do her own thing for a little.

Super pleased with all our shots from Hart.. such precious keepsakes as we know update our photo-wall with these beautiful photographs coupled with happy smiles all round.

Food and wine for the soul

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

We probably live by this mantra at home and our bellies were filled with a full heart when the Man hosted our pals at home with a Spanish feast of cured ham that he hauled back from his Spainish holiday.

That’s not all, the Man even cooked a hearty slab of beef on our Bruno using the grill plate attachment and it was so good. As you can imagine, it went straight into our bellies. No time for food shot!

Mid-week and we are dreaming up another home-cooked meal using our Bruno this weekend. What shall it be? Korean BBQ or Steamboat? Hmm…

 

Fab and Forty

*blows off the dust from the blog as <gasp!> I haven’t been updating this space as much as I would like to. I’ve been really busy of late and to be honest, after putting the Bub to bed and sorting out some admin stuff for Cote Maison, the thing I really want to do is to lie down, turn on Netflix and then drift off to be.

But I can’t just let the month of September (my fave month for obvious reason) pass without documenting my milestone of turning FORTY. Yes, I am now an OLD FART or HAG! Haha.. but you know what, I embrace this new age for like what others have told me, it’s a number. Life goes on pretty much the way it is and I’m a whole lot more confident of what is to come.

I had plan on a quiet and cosy celebration but my dearest family and friends wouldn’t let me turn forty without a big bang – bless their hearts so here’s a round-up of the festivities!

First up, a “surprise” hi-tea session with my ever youthful bunch of mama-pals that I met via social media. It’s amazing how social media has connected us and we eventually became fast friends in the last three years. Dear Mag planned on this surprise hi-tea session and insisted I take a Fri afternoon off work. The surprise was sort of ruined because I couldn’t take the day off from work so eventually she had to let the cat out of the bag on what she had planned. I felt super bad for I know the effort and the kind gesture in wanting to surprise me.

But all worked out well for I did manage to take the afternoon off to enjoy it with these dear ladies over some chi-chi bites and a cuppa of coffee. Thanks dearies for the surprise planned. 🙂

Next up, I scooted off to Seoul on a 4-day trip with my old-time pals from my 20s. It’s been nearly 10 years since we got together on a holiday and my birthday made for a perfect excuse to do so. So that’s what we did and boy was it an intense trip for we also squeezed in a hair appointment and beauty treatment for each of us. The icing on the cake for this trip was another “surprise” dinner that the Man specially arranged with the girls at Gaon. The surprise was let out of the bag a week before we left but I guess it still worked out fine for I had no idea where we were supposed to head to for dinner. I still think that it was memorable!

And I’m thankful to be able to spend my birthday with the Bub and my dearest family. Thank you for making time to spend it specially with me.

Last but not the very least, ending the flurry of birthday celebrations with this special Man who masterminded most of the surprises. From the surprise dinner in Seoul, a surprise home-cooked dinner at home with the BFF and the Teos (we didn’t manage to take many photos) and then a dinner at our fave restaurant Odette, thank you for all that you done. My love tank is filled and full indeed.

 

Home-made ice-cream with Bruno Dual Ice-Cream Maker

Took advantage of the National Day holiday to use our new ice-cream maker from the Bruno family. I guess one of the perks of being on the Cote Maison team is testing out the equipment/ appliances before we actually sell them online. My better biz-ness other half, Libby, does more of the heavy-lifting in this area which is good for me as I am totally undomesticated! Haha…

When I told the Bub that we are going to be making ice-cream on Singapore’s birthday, she was beyond thrilled. And just like that, I scored myself a little elf in the kitchen who willingly helped to mix all the ingredients. Well, a girl’s gotta work for her own food (ice-cream in this case).

If you are wondering if it’s going to be difficult to make the ice-cream and whether getting another device would end up being a white elephant in the kitchen. Well, hopefully this post would put your worries to rest. The Bruno Dual Ice-Cream Maker is actually a compact device. Making ice-cream with this is also quite a breeze. The basic ingredients for a vanilla ice-cream only comprises of just four ingredients that are readily available in the supermarket. It’s that simple!

Thought I better list the recipe here (in case I forget us well).

Recipe for Vanilla Ice-cream
Serving size: makes 1 scoop, pls increase proportions for double/ triple scoops of ice-cream

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons of whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons of full cream milk (we use Hokkaido full cream milk)
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Method:

  1. Before making ice-cream, ensure that you freeze the Bruno ice-cream cups 12 – 18 hours prior in the freezer (ideal temperature between -18 to -20 degree Celsius)
  2. Place ingredients in refrigerator first before mixing. Alternatively, you could mix the ingredients together and then place the mixture into the refrigerator for 15 – 20 minutes to chill the mix.
  3. Set up the Bruno Dual Ice-cream maker. Take chilled mix out of the refrigerator and then take the frozen Bruno jugs out.
  4. Set paddle whisk in the Bruno jugs and then slowly pour in the chilled mix into the jugs.
  5. Wait for 15 – 20 minutes for the ice-cream to be ready. It should be of a soft serve consistency. If you wish for it to be harder, remove the ice-cream from jug, place it into a container and then pop it back into the freezer for another 30 minutes.
  6. As the ice-cream has no preservatives, best to consume it within 3 days.

Some tips we learned:

  • The maximum of liquid in each jug should not be more than 200 ml. Please do not pour more as it will overload the jug.
  • Also important to note that you should turn on the device and then slowly pour in the mixture into the jugs. Do not pour in the mixture prior and then turn on the device as the mixture will ‘pop’ out of the jugs when the air is incorporated during the whisking and the ice-cream expands with insufficient room in the jug.
  • Do not use a metal spoon to scoop ice-cream out of the jug as it will scratch the jug. Use a spatula or a wooden spoon if possible.
  • Once the cup is used, please wash and dry and let the cup return to room temperature before putting it back into the freezer again. Reason being if the cold insulated liquid is not thawed completely and put in the freezer, the cold insoluble liquid may settle hard and the ice cream may not work well.

Okay the pic of the ice-cream sure doesn’t look pretty but it really does taste great. It’s fresh and we are looking at really limited preservatives.

Here’s a short video that we did of how simple it is to operate the Bruno Dual Ice-Cream Maker. Best part? If your child is an ice-cream monster like mine, you can even get your child interested in making his/her very own ice-cream.

Can’t wait to make our next batch of ice-cream and to experiment with other flavours!

Signing off – your Undomestic Goddess:
j0anne

Decor for the ‘I want adventure in the great wide somewhere’ Birthday Party

So, the Bub turns three this coming week and I decided that it will be nice to throw a little birthday celebration for her at home. When she was much younger, the Man had wanted to throw a birthday party for her, but I figured she would not have much memories of the occasion and honestly, it was more for the parents.  But it’s kinda different now that she has more friends and for this Mama, it was nice to commemorate this occasion with family and friends who have seen her grow up.

The venue for the party was to be held at home, a week just before her actual birthday. Since our garden was big enough to fit a bouncy castle, I thought it was a good idea to rent it so that the little ones can jump around in the garden. On timing of the party, I decided to hold it in the morning cum early afternoon. Party-planning started as early as March/ April (well, simply because I like to plan things ahead where I can) and when I told the Man of my idea, he rolled his eyes and exclaimed, ‘Who throws parties so early in the morning?!’

To be honest, I don’t understand why no one wants to throw parties in the mornings then? My rationale for doing so? Kids hardly ever want to sleep in. In fact, they will wake you up at 7am in the morning usually demanding for a milk feed followed by play. Having a party in the morning means that they will be sufficiently occupied and hopefully burn off all that raging energy so that they will be suitably tired for their afternoon nap giving their parents some peace in the afternoon.

That said, I did have to do a market survey of sorts so I went round to ask the Mama friends I was going to invite and most said that they will turn up for the party if we hold it at 10.30am – 11am so I eventually settled on the timing for the event.

Next, on the theme. This was kind of tricky especially with toddlers who you think would know what they want. Bub was quite a Beauty and the Beast fan from Feb/ Mar this year, so I took a chance and decided that her party will be largely centered around the BATB theme with colour schemes of Blue and Yellow that will be featured on the party decor.

For the invite, I could go with the ‘Be Our Guest’ theme but I thought the Adventure theme would be a little more apt given that the Bub could practically sign the whole verse from Belle’s reprise of the movie. So I used the verses ‘I want adventure in the great wide somewhere’ as the overall theme for her party and incorporated the decor to suit the theme.

On the backdrop, I’ve always been quite fascinated with the paper wheel backdrop and it seemed like it was something that I could replicate at home. So I ordered these paper wheels ahead of time from TaoBao and stashed it aside till it was time to do up the backdrop. To mount these, you can use the 3M mounting hooks (thanks Bowlerena for the tip) and just play around with the placement of the different sizes.

Enlisted the help of my helper so this took us about 1.5 hours to mount on our wall. We had extras so we did up the side wall too with a simple display.

Putting together the elements to fit the theme. The felt board was a lovely item to add as part of the decoration. Or if you have a lightbox, you could also include this as part of the decor. The other Beauty and the Beast related merchandise such as Lumiere (was loaned by Mama Libby) and the Mrs Potts and Chip tea-set was purchased ahead of this party to be used for the home. Have to add that it definitely came in handy. Lastly, a birthday pinata would be a fun item to have for the kids. So the hot air balloon with the Belle doll in it is actually a customised pinata that I made specially for the event. Turned out to be a fun decor to add around the house too!

I need to add that our house isn’t entirely child-friendly and with nearly 16 children majority of them being under the age of 6 under one roof, I did have to try and make it friendly for them. So we shifted our furniture a little and this heavy coffee-table to the corner of our living room. It didn’t turn out half as bad for I managed to find more Beauty and the Beast related merchandise to add on the table. This eventually became our default gift table for me to place the gifts that our guests brought as well as the goody bags that I have prepared for the little ones.

On her cake, I was worried about her changing her mind for you know how it is with toddlers, they can hardly make up their minds. One day, she would tell me that she wants a Rapunzel cake, the next day, she would request for a My Little Pony cake. Thankfully, the days leading up to her party, she was fixated with Belle again. Enlisted the help of Mayvis from The Pastel Pantry (search her IG account) to conceptualise a birthday cake from a scene with Small town Belle in it and it was a gorgeous cake creation. The birthday girl gasped and exclaimed ‘This is amazing!‘ when she laid her eyes on it with her tiny little hands covering her mouth. Witnessing her joy and marvel at the beautiful cake was such a magical moment and I’m glad we did splurge a little on customising this one-of-a-kind cake for her. I hope in years to come, she would remember it for I do remember some of the birthday cakes that my mom had specially ordered for me during my birthday parties.

I’m going to finish off this post on decor for the Bub’s party. Am still waiting for the photos from the party from our photog, so I will share more of those when the photos are all. The Bub was also very lucky to receive this hand-illustrated print by Kat (IG account: LetterSoiree) as a gift which definitely was put to good use as a decorative piece for the party.

Till then, I’m recovering from the Bub’s party and it’s round 2 come Friday when she celebrates it in school. Well, at least it will be a cosy crowd.. I just need to convince her that she now needs a My Little Pony birthday cake instead of a Belle Cake for I ordered a rainbow cake for her. GULP! Wish me luck!