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.

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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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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.

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