Saturday, 30 November 2013

Is it a bag or a seat?

Holiday season in my house usually means many short trips visiting family members and a chance for cousins to reconnect.
Most of my siblings live close by but we hardly get a chance to meet up because of the hectic city lifestyle and not forgetting the crawling jams too.
So school holiday seasons are always eagerly anticipated with good fun and lots of sleep overs. It is the time when my kids metamorph.
During school holidays almost everything freezes and becomes laid back. Even the treacherous traffic jam does not bother us as much because there is no clock to beat.

We (my brothers and sister) would take turns chaperoning each other's children. It can get a little overwhelming (imagine 4 to 6 young children aged 5 - 14 years old, under one roof) but well worth it, watching these younglings mingling and building a stronger relationship. Even I benefit by getting some some quiet time with my husband and going for a long overdue, late night movie when the kids are away.

My kids are young and require booster seat to ride in a car. In the past they had to carry along their booster seat and a backpack each time they had a sleepover. But thanks to Trunki's Boostapak, my daughter can now pack her clothes and a little more into the Boostapak itself. No need for extra backpack and no more excuses of not strapping up in the car. She managed to fit clothes to last 2 days trip, toiletries and even a toy.
There is still plenty of room left to fit more stuff

It's also very useful for carpooling too. When traveling in a different vehicle for her tennis lesson, she would pack a small towel, water tumbler and a story book. On days when Boostapak is in my car (for long period of time), I would like to fill it up with some spare diapers, wet towels, hand towel and spare change for my children. This comes in handy when we have to drive to a park and the kids get covered in sand or mud while playing at the playground (it's rainy season, so expect a lot of wet slides and swings) because we've got them covered thanks to the emergency pack which I had so cleverly stashed in her Boostapak seat.

Boostapak stands out from the rest of the booster seats in the market because of it's two-in-one function (a booster seat and a backpack), high visibility reflective trim (so your child carrying it can be seen in the dark) and ID tag (to make sure the seat never gets lost).

This seat would be very useful when travelling abroad to Australia (and other countries) where children below the age of 12 years are required by law to travel in a proper booster seat. You would not have to worry about renting a car seat and face the hassle of returning it.

I have yet to fly with Boostapak so I cannot ascertain whether I can hand carry it into the aircraft cabin but it's stated that it is 'hand luggage approved for flying'. The seat dimension is 40 x 36 x18 cm which seems reasonable enough to fit into the cabin but with so many air travel rule, it's best I fly with it before vouching for it.

Boostapak is recommended for age 4-12 years (12-36 kg) but for my almost 9 year old tall girl,  it's already a tight fit. Which is good because I know she is snug and secured but whether she would be able to use it till she is 12, remains a mystery.

A snug and secured fit

Boostapak comes in two colours, green and pink. It is retailed at RM299.

I received this green BoostApak from Bloom andGrow for review purpose.
No monetary compensation was given and all opinions are my own.

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Saturday, 9 November 2013

Babywearing comforts

On October 17, 2013, Moira and myself met up with a reporter from The Star who wanted to run a story on babywearing (just a couple of days after International Babywearing Week- celebrated worldwide by babywearing enthusiast) . I seized this opportunity to spread babywearing and it's benefits.

The story was printed on 1st November 2013.
Here is a link (online version) to the interview which is featured in the local daily, The Star Babywearing comforts.

Photographed by The Star during the interview

Our almost 2 hours long interview was very informative and apart from babywearing, we also discussed some very interesting issues on how human body changes (bone structure) and can be conditioned by what we wear or how we treat it.

We have been bestowed with a very special and unique body because it has the ability to adapt itself to our surrounding. Having said that, it is very important that we let nature take its course and allow our precious newborn's growth, be as natural as possible.
From Moira's studies (chiropractic), the incidence of hip dysplasia in certain regions/countries where the natives practise carrying or wearing their baby in the same position as when baby was in the womb is close to zero (she cited Africa).
C shaped spine and legs apart
Picture taken from IHDI

Whereas Native American babies that are bundled up on a flat panel (Papoose) have higher number of Developmental Dysplasia of the hip (DDH) because in the Papoose, baby's legs are straightened into a nonphysiological position which may cause the baby to arch her back. (There are a lot more reasons to how one gets DDH, please read up on it)
Picture taken from IHDI 

Types of carriers and their suitability was also discussed and how a certain carrier may suit one wearer but not you. Just because a certain type didn't suit a particular person doesn't mean it should be written off as bad carrier. Pay attention to the details and if in doubt, always refer to a babywearing consultant, educator or advocator who has been equipped with proper knowledge. You are still the best judge in deciding the suitability of a carrier. Always trust your instincts, it is very powerful.

Although, it took a lot of trouble for me to show up for the interview (it's hard to juggle time during school days, especially during exam week!), I am glad I went for it. Apart from sharing, I too learned a fair bit from it.

Happy safe babywearing to those who are practising and happy trying to those who are thinking of babywearing.
I am just an email away, if you have any questions on babywearing.

Lets get connected:

Now you can follow me by email (fill email address here) to get new post notifications delivered directly into your mailbox or you could follow my Facebook page Life Simplified to get more recipes and tips in making life a little more laid back or we can connect via twitter.

I will leave you with some additional information on babywearing:

A very good read on benefits of babywearing and how each type of carrier has it's pros and cons by

Pictures paint a thousand words (check out these pictures which will tell you how to wear your baby correctly and how not to be a victim to DDH, at a glance).
Pictures are not my own and were taken from International Hip Dysplasia Institute(IHDI)

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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Punjabi food is a luxury

It is quite normal to assume the kind of food people would usually prepare and consume based on their ethnic background.
If you are from the northern parts of India, expect Roti, Sag and Tharka Dhall. These are the most common Punjabi food found in every Punjabi house. Roti is something you MUST have (if not for all three main meals at least for dinner).

It's not like we Punjabis don't enjoy other types of food. We do, but nothing quite does the bhangra (a form of jam-packed, heart pumping and soul uplifting dance) like the famous aloo paratha in your mouth. I am pretty sure those fortunate few who had the chance to devour this particular dish would share the same sentiment. I kid you not.

But the down side to this is, the preparation time. Wonderful Punjabi food takes a lot of effort, time and involves some level of martial arts.

What martial arts? You may ask

Every Punjabi girl will give you a nose bleed if you don't treat her well. Her knuckles have hardened over the years from the punching training in the kitchen whilst preparing the dough for the roti. My grandmother used to make sure I am able to knead the dough into a perfectly smooth texture before adding any ghee (clarified butter). She used to say, "Gaal saun when you are kneading the dough, you must only use water. Ghee is like gold, use it sparingly".

She would sit on a stool with a jar of ghee held tightly while I was on my knees punching and beating the dough in a silver bowl (talk about military training). Each time I asked for some ghee, she will poke my dough with her skinny finger and say "hajje nahee!" (not yet). Only when the dough didn't stick to her finger, she would give me some ghee like when you spare some change to a beggar.
You'd be surprised at how many levels there are in preparing such a simple and humble roti.
I have been trained in preparing roti and have graduated each level with just enough credits to move to the next.
My humble puffed up roti

The roti process (Skip ahead if you know how to make roti)

You start off by learning how to knead the dough (atta gun'h). According to my nanima (grandmother), you know a person is skilful when after kneading the dough, their hands and fingers are not sticky with dough (I barely made through this level because I usually needed a lot of ghee rubbed onto my hands to get rid of the sticky dough).

Put 2 cups of whole wheat floor into a deep bowl, add a tablespoon of yogurt and mix it with a fork (I just use my hands). Add water, little at a time and work the dough so that it all comes together (sticky). Keep adding water while kneading the dough so that it forms into a soft and smooth consistency. You may start rubbing some ghee at this point and knead for a further 5 minutes. Leave it aside for 1/2 hour before you start making the roti.
Whole wheat flour with a spoonful of yogurt
Perfect kneaded dough in my cake tin instead of a silver bowl

Next step is making some phaday (golf sized balls) from the dough and it must be homogeneous so that we will end up with right size and shape roti when it is rolled out into a flat pita like bread.
While the tawa (flat pan or skillet) is heating you dip each dough ball into a little flour and roll it into a thin disc. You will need to keep dipping the roti into the flour to prevent it from sticking to the rolling surface.
Dust off excess flour from the roti and place it onto the hot tawa and flip to the other side once you see tiny bubbles appear. Let it cook for 20 seconds and then you can move it to open flame and see it fluff. Using tongs turn to the other side for 5-10 seconds and store it in a heat insulated container. You may want to rub some ghee on the roti.
If you don't like or don't dare cooking roti on the open flame, just keep flipping it on the tawa till its cooked. You know it's cooked once it feels lighter and has some brown spots on the roti. If you get big huge burnt spots (which I used to get all the time), means you overcooked it.

After you have mastered the humble roti, you move onto to making paratha. Somehow in my case, I am able to make better paratha than roti. (My best thus far is cheese paratha, a recipe shared by a fantastic mother, cook and friend who has left her bodily form to be one with the maker)
A paratha is two pieces of roti joined together with butter (and some other filling like cheese, potato, radish, onions or chilies) and toasted on a hot tawa (same method as cooking roti but) with loads, I mean loads of ghee. So much ghee that if you had a smoke detector in your house, it would go off.

But seriously, no. I made it sound like a full on greasy and fatty food just to make it sound awesome like the way Nigella does in her shows.

To make paratha, roll out a roti, fill it with boiled mashed potato and shape it back into a golf ball. Then roll it again to a 5mm thin disc, slightly fatter than a roti. Rub off excess flour and place the paratha onto hot tawa and smear ghee once it almost cooked on both sides. Parathas are best served hot! 
You can quite simply have these roti or poratha with a little cream cheese and fried eggs but it is best served with Paneer Makhani (cottage cheese curry).
I've been told you can make your own paneer (and that is it fairly easy) but for someone who has no time to prepare even a simple roti, I will let the more talented paneer maker, work his magic in turning milk into paneer.

Paneer Makhni (Butter Paneer)
500gm Paneer, cut into cubes
150gm (about half tin) canned tomatoes (must be blended or chopped fine)
1 1/2 large onion, chopped or blended
5 cloves of garlic, chopped or blended
1/3 thumb sized ginger, chopped or blended

Dry Masala:
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tbs chillie powder (you may reduce it if you don't want too much heat in your curry)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

250ml cooking cream (reduce it by half and replace with skimmed milk, an option)
2 tbs butter or 4 tbs ghee
2 tbs oil (recommended if you using butter. Omit if using ghee)
salt to taste
sugar to taste
Coriander leaves, chopped

Heat oil and butter. Add onions, garlic, ginger and fry till fragrant. Add tomatoes and the dry masala. Cook till the oil separates on low medium heat (takes about 15 - 20 minutes). You may add some sugar if the paste is too sour.
Then add the paneer and simmer for 5 minutes (if you wish to serve later, stop cooking now and store it).
Finally add the cream and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the salt, coriander leaves and serve immediately.
White cubes of paneer

I made two versions, one without the chick peas and the other with.
With chick peas:
Just add the frozen chick peas together with the cream and cook for 5 minutes.

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Friday, 1 November 2013

Cancer, it leaves a financial and emotional dent.

National Cancer Society Malaysia is a registered, tax exempt charity body that provides education, care and support for people affected by cancer. This society is financed entirely by voluntary contributions from the public and provides holistic cancer treatment and support to patients and caregivers too. In return NCSM offers their services at highly subsidised rates or in some cases, free of charge to eligible persons.

After looking at the fees cancer patients have to pay, I am so thankful that my mother-in-law who is still battling cancer doesn't have to worry of the financial dent this treatment would have caused because my father-in-law is a retired civil servant and free medical benefits are some of the perks of being a civil servant in my country.

Some months back, we were elated that she had won the battle against breast cancer and I was convinced that Cancer-Its not an irrecoverable condition!

Today, my foundation (on this matter) is shaken a little bit because we just heard news that her cancer has spread. She did win the battle against breast cancer but the war on cancer, is far from over.
We are not losing hope because thanks to modern technology and medicine, she still has a chance fighting it.

I am sitting in her living room and putting my thoughts here. I am so glad that we decided to take time off our busy schedule and be with her. Things are so much clearer now since we met her in person after knowing about this new development. She is such an optimistic person and this news has not dampened her spirits to carry on living the life she has been living for the past 67 years. It's good to see her smiling and trying her very best to fatten up her grand kids with her fantastic cooking which my girls love.

Doing what makes her happy - cooking

However, this may not be the case for another cancer patient who is battling the same war. Especially those who don't have proper funding nor financial assistance.

I was approached by a good Samaritan who is trying to gather bloggers to help out in easing some financial burden for deserving cancer patients, even if it means easing their financial burden for just one day.

AXA AFFIN Life Insurance Berhad  is running a campaign to support cancer patients currently undergoing chemotherapy. They are collaborating with NCSM and will fund one day post treatment daycare usage for one cancer patient when a blogger links up to their website.

This is my contribution.

If you would like to help 'fund' it too, please link up and spread the news.

Sharing is caring

The website you need to link up with ;

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Thursday, 24 October 2013

There is always space in my luggage

Not long ago, I joined an online contest which asked me to pick 3 things I would like to fit into my diaper bag. "That's a little crazy", I exclaimed. Who in their right sense would only take 3 items, especially when you are travelling with a baby! If possible, I would take the whole house because you never know what the baby might need.

I am awed at how some mummies can manage with a tiny handbag. They don't even need a diaper bag as all their "essentials", could fit into their handbag! I on the other hand, have a huge diaper bag in which things can go missing because it holds so many essential items, like diapers, wet wipes, water bottle, spare change, napkins, snacks, tot seat, and my most prized possession, baby carrier.
The one thing I could not leave behind is my carrier because life is much simpler with it.
Piggyback in Original Ergo at 8 months old
Before receiving a demo travel carrier, it was a challenge to fit the Original Ergobaby because it is very bulky due to its heavy padded shoulder straps and waist belt (but it gives maximum comfort). Even after folding it into a neat and tight pack, it still took a lot of space in my diaper bag.
Stowaway is almost half the size of the original Ergo

However, that's not the case with the Ergobaby Stowaway. This carrier offers an amazing combination of comfort and compactness. Its shoulder strap and waist belt are padded (but not as heavily as the original ones) enough to make it comfortable to carry your baby, yet it can easily fold into its own front pouch! I was most impressed by that.
Comparing the shoulder straps

I highlighted the word pouch because this is simply a fantastic feature. Imagine, you no longer need a separate bag to store your Ergo. It's almost like a kangaroo and its pouch. No more worrying about dirtying my Ergo or searching frantically for my carrier cover (which I always misplace).
Stowaway, Travel Carrier
The pouch which is about the size of a clutch bag, comes with a handy strap which allows you to clutch it onto your diaper bag, stroller and even wear it on your wrist. It is so much lighter than all the other Ergobaby carriers, even Ergobaby Performance.

Light, compact and useful.

We just returned from a wonderful beach retreat and I thank my lucky stars this test carrier came to me on time because when you travel with 3 prima donna, luggage space becomes a big issue.

Thanks to the handy strap, I clipped this carrier to my jeans because I didn't want to catch myself rummaging through my diaper bag each time I needed to don on this carrier.

I had it on me for the whole (1 1/2 hours) ferry ride to our destination. Although it's not as comfortable as my original carrier but it still helped a lot. I could easily move in the fast swaying ferry and getting off was not a problem at all.

I wore it everywhere I went, especially during my stroll along the beach. I loved how it felt like I was wearing a t-shirt and we didn't feel terribly uncomfortable in it despite being out in the sun. I even used it when I was splashing water at my older girls. Amazingly, it took a very short time for the carrier to dry up when it 'accidentally' got wet.

No 'sweat' affair strolling along the beach 

Who would have thought that such a compact carrier could still offer you so much -large stuff pocket, adjustable hood and you can use this from newborn (requires infant insert) to toddler (3.2 - 20kg).

Like other Ergobaby, you can carry your baby in 3 positions, front-inward facing, back-piggyback and hip-forward facing carry. It is also designed with breastfeeding in mind! You can easily breastfeed in the front carry position without unbuckling the straps. All you need to do is lower baby to the breast and even walk and continue doing whichever activity you were doing. I've managed to shop while breastfeeding her and it's so discrete that you can throw away your nursing cover (you could also use the adjustable hood as extra cover but trust me, you'd do fine without it). My own husband didn't notice I was breastfeeding her until he offered to carry her (it's manly enough for men). The benefits are endless.

When not in use, I would turn the Stowaway into a mat for her to lie on (during nap time) whilst at the beach. It can also be turned into a pillow when folded.
Stowaway turned into a mat for her to nap comfortably
If you decide to own this compact and comfortable carrier (or any other Ergobaby carrier), please purchase it from an authorised dealers because counterfeit carriers can be extremely harmful to your baby.

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any form for this review. I am doing this review on my own accord to highlight Bloom and Grow's excellent customer service.

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Thursday, 10 October 2013

Looking hip in Hippychick

My journey into babywearing (carrying your baby in a baby carrier)

I wished I had a wonderful anecdote to share on how I got into babywearing and that it was pleasant from the start but I can't, because, it was very tough in the beginning. See I didn't have the right tools (carrier) for it and I guess I am a little spoilt because I caved at the first signs of discomfort. Luckily for me, there was a little nagging voice that kept saying, "this could work".

My first attempt was when I sought assistance from my neighbour's Indonesian helper who carried her baby in a 'sarong'. She made it look so easy and I was certain I would experience the same. However, it didn't look or felt anything like how the seasoned wearer had shown me.
Instead, I experienced shoulder aches and was never comfortable carrying my precious baby in a carrier that was secured only with a slip knot.

Next I discovered a Sling. It works similar to sarong but the fabric was sewn and secured either with a buckle or rings. I had more confidence carrying my baby in this sling as apposed to the unsewn fabric (sarong).

These are just 2 example carriers available in the market. If you dig a little deeper, you would be surprised at the choices available for you. Each has it's own special feature to suit your need.

Today I am going to narrow down to the 2 most widely used and efficient carrier for my bub and me. She is almost 2 years old so you should expect a lot of running around and staying put in one place for more than a couple of minutes, is close to impossible.
To meet  this need I carry along with me (by that, I mean it's always available in my car) my Stowaway and Hippychick Hipseat.

Interacting with her is so much easier when your back is not hurting

The Hippychick seat gets more attention from us because my daily routine involves a lot of short trips where carrying her over a long period of time is not necessary.
  • when picking up my elder kids from school
  • when I am shopping in a wet market and she wants to be part of the shopping experience; helping me pick ripe tomatoes, egg plants and fresh vegetables (it encourages interaction without any sore back).
  • when taking my dog for a walk
  • when visiting the park
  • when she cannot make up her mind whether she wants to be carried or walk
Look at that frown! She's unhappy with my choice of vegetables

I like using Hippychick because putting it on and taking it off is very quick and easy. It comes with a very strong and large velcro strap which is secured by a safety buckle to ensure the hipseat belt never comes apart in the event the velcro gives way. It also has an anti slip cushion on top of the seat, so my baby wont slide off it easily.
It is machine washable and I would recommend you to use a pillow case cover or a laundry net, to ensure nothing gets stuck to the velcro. Be sure, to remove the polyurethane molding filler and wash only the lightweight hipseat cover.

This is a one size fits all carrier, almost all. If your waist size is smaller than 24 inches (and you are a mummy) this carrier may not suit you because your waist is too small for it (please, do share your secret of having such a tiny waist). The maximum waist, the belt/strap could handle would be about 48 inches. I am not sure if you could get any extensions.

It is recommended for babies from age 6 months old up to 3 years old but I think it can be used longer than that. As long as you are carrying your child, this seat is very helpful. It is priced below RM200 and comes in many colours. Be sure to purchase it from authorise dealers because counterfeit carriers can be extremely harmful to your baby.

Some pointers/tips

  • I usually strap it very tight to ensure it doesn't ride lower than my waist line once baby is propped on the seat (the weight may push the seat lower if not buckled tightly).
  • Although it says hipseat, I keep changing the carrying position from side (on my hips) and to the front (my stomach region). This also helps alleviate any discomfort you may experience when carried for too long.
  • When my baby is not riding on the hipseat, I like to push the cushion or the seat portion to my back so it looks like a big nice waist belt I have on instead of a big bulky coin pouch!
  • A mummy used it as a restraint belt to safeguard her her baby from bumping into the shopping cart bar.
Many parents that have seen me with the Hippychick, are very intrigued by it and are amazed at the comfort it provides after trying it on. There is no learning curve or special tricks which you will need to master unlike when using a Wrap, Structured Carrier or a Sling. Hipseat is fairly straight forward and is a wonderful tool to have once your child is able to walk. This is a brilliant product but there isn't much publicity and you don't even see it being displayed in stores.

The only thing you cannot do with Hippychick Hipseat is have both your hands free. You will need to hold your child at all times. This small drawback does not bother me much because I can always grab my other carrier if I ever need to do something which requires me to use both my hands and carry her at the same time.

Carrying her so effortlessly 

Disclosure: I was not paid for this review. I am doing this review on my own accord to highlight Bloom and Grow's excellent customer service. They bring only the best and genuine products for babies in Asia.

Stay tuned for my next review on Read my next review, how I turned Stowaway Ergo baby carrier into more than just a carrier.

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Monday, 16 September 2013

Motherhood unleashes the Wonder Woman in you.

Have you ever experienced a sudden power surge in your exhausted and about-to-crash body when you see your child is in harms way? Suddenly, you are able to do the lunges, somersaults and even run at lightening speed.
I have, and on many occasions too.

Just when I thought the need to bend down and pick up another toy off the floor would permanently disable my already aching back, I catch myself diving down and sliding  across my hallway to catch my toddler who decided to dive down from my sofa.
Despite being exhausted to the bones, the catch was so perfect that it was worthy of being a golden catch like that in a baseball game.

It's just amazing what motherhood brings out in you.

  • I remember a time in my past when silence was uncomfortable and unbearable but today, I crave for it (because I've got three who like to jibber jabber a lot!)
  • Eating out alone was unacceptable but today I want to be alone when I am having my cup of coffee.

  • Going out every night and returning at the crack of dawn was a fun but today I hit the sack before midnight and am up before the sun is out.
  • Watching TV was a daily routine but today, days go by without even glancing at the TV.
  • A shower meant a lengthy affair in the bathroom. That is time spent looking in the mirror applying my 3 step facial cleansing pack but today I hardly have time to brush my hair and scrunchie has became my favourite hair accessory. (What were you thinking when I said "lengthy affair'?)

This is not how my daily cuppa looks like. I wouldn't have mind it, if it was.

Other than unleashing the super powers in you, it changes you in ways you would have least expected. These changes happen willingly and slowly takes over your pre-child lifestyle. I welcome these changes and some changes have helped me become a better person. It has thought me to love unconditionally and to share more.

During our short family weekend getaway, my husband's cousin (still a bachelor) asked me if I missed my bachelorette life and my immediate response was a resounding no. 

I am happy with everything that I have and don't have.
I am glad with all the things that I had to miss because I am so tied down trying to manage my life with 3 children.

The jibber-jabbers

Would I swap it? NO
How about you?

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Linking up with Greta