Project 3S: Lessons from a kid who is rising five

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I’m rising five” he said
“Not four” and the little coils of hair
Un-clicked themselves upon his head.
His spectacles, brimful of eyes to stare
At me and the meadow, reflected cones of light
Above his toffee-buckled cheeks. He’d been alive
Fifty-six months or perhaps a week more;
Not four
But rising five.
The first stanza of this beautiful poem by Norman Nicholson describes Kai to a T.  He will turn 5 next week but has been rising 5 for a year.  In fact, now that preparations for his birthday celebrations have been completed (including a pikachu piñata that we made with recycled materials), he is now rising 6.
This impulse to look ahead afflicts me too.  I struggle to still myself and appreciate the now.  This trait also presents a big stumbling block in my efforts to go green.  When faced with a gorgeous new dress, it takes so much self control to say.. no, I already have 10 dresses at home, 5 of which are in the same colour and even if they aren’t haute couture now, could be in 30 years time if vintage is still the rage.  And what about that sleek transparent storage box from Muji that will look so much nicer than the sturdy recycled cardboard box that I currently use?  To save my tree hugging self from many useless arguments with my other self, I have come up with Project 3S to achieve the 3Rs.  I hope that you too will be inspired to carry out Project 3S and together we can reduce, reuse and recycle!

PROJECT 3S

1.  Shopping list

Keep a list of what I need and want.  Go through the list and strike out all the wants.  Only things on the list can be bought.  This should help to reduce the things that I buy and make shopping trips so much shorter.  Although I suspect that it would be so much more effective if I stayed away from the shopping and passed the shopping list to Chubs instead.  Chubs thankful tends to stick to shopping lists.

2.  Stop to think

Before leaving the house, mentally go through the itinerary for the day.  Bring the appropriate bags or tiffin carriers to store the necessary purchases.  I have also made sure that bags and carriers are kept near the front door, so that they can be reached at the very last minute.  Too many times I have regretted accepting a plastic bag after forgetting to bring my own bag.  This second R will hopefully help eliminate the regrets.

3.  Store some packaging that can be reused

Store, space permitting, good quality packaging for future use.  Online shoppers may find themselves awash with good quality packaging.  Chubs have prevailed over my need to declutter on quite a few occasions by insisting that we keep some of the packaging, especially the cardboard boxes.  I must grudgingly admit that the materials have come in very handy.  We have used cardboard boxes for storage, kids craft and even shelves for shoes.  Ribbons have been used to decorate birthday presents and Baby D’s cot.  Plastic bottles have been used to pot plants and as to see underwater creatures without getting wet.  That said, the urge to declutter is strong and will have to be curbed.

It’s not old but rising new.
Rising Five 
 
I’m rising five” he said
“Not four” and the little coils of hair
Un-clicked themselves upon his head.
His spectacles, brimful of eyes to stare
At me and the meadow, reflected cones of light
Above his toffee-buckled cheeks. He’d been alive
Fifty-six months or perhaps a week more;
Not four
But rising five.
Around him in the field, the cells of spring
Bubbled and doubled; buds unbuttoned; shoot
And stem shook out the creases from their frills,
And every tree was swilled with green.
It was the season after blossoming,
Before the forming of the fruit:
Not May
But rising June.
And in the sky
The dust dissected the tangential light:
Not day
But rising night;
Not now
But rising soon.
The new buds push the old leaves from the bough.
We drop our youth behind us like a boy
Throwing away his toffee-wrappers. We never see the flower,
But only the fruit in the flower; never the fruit,
But only the rot in the fruit. We look for the marriage bed
In the baby’s cradle; we look for the grave in the bed;
Not living
But rising dead.
Norman Nicholson (from Complete Verse, Jonathan Cape, 1999)
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How to make your own colloidal oatmeal bath

As mentioned in my previous post, colloidal oatmeal can be used to bathe baby (and family) in place of soap.  The oatmeal has properties that cleanses and moisturises skin.  Colloidal oatmeal also has anti-inflammatory properties and can soothe itchy skin.  A fantastic all natural bathing solution save for its big price tag.

By way of background, a colloid (according to wiki) is a mixture in which one substance of microscopically dispersed insoluble particles is suspended throughout another substance.  So colloidal oatmeal really refers to fine oat particles suspended in water.  Sounds easy enough.  Could it be that I just needed to blend oats with a kitchen blender and put the powder in a bath tub as instructed by many websites?  Well not really.  According to this site, the fine oat particles needed for colloidal oatmeal are so fine that they are measured in nanometers.  Steaming, milling and other patented processes that do not involve the kitchen blender are needed to achieve oat particles that fine – no wonder they cost so much.  That’s the bad news.

Now for the good news, it seems that the wonderful skin care properties of colloidal oatmeal are found in the oat bran, which is present in the store bought oats that we eat.  Oat bran refers to the outer layer of the oat grain that is found just beneath the inedible husk.  So it does appear (although I can’t find any definitive scientific article on this) that our skin can benefit from bigger (non-colloidal) oat particles, just maybe not to its full extent.  Further, websites that exalt the skin care benefits of colloidal oatmeal speak of the water’s milky colour after mixing in the colloidal oatmeal.  I have witnessed this myself when I used the colloidal oatmeal that I bought from the paediatrician.  Thankfully, the same milkiness could be seen when I mixed my homemade ground oatmeal with water.

And so, homemade colloidal oatmeal solution it is.  Websites have recommended that steel cut oats be used as it is the least processed of the three commonly sold forms of oats (the others being rolled oats and instant oats).  I tried using steel cut oats but they stubbornly resisted being ground into a fine powder.  I made subsequent batches with rolled oats which worked better.  Make sure that you use natural unflavoured oats.

Instructions for use

  • Mix 2 tbsps of oatmeal powder in baby’s bathtub that is 1/3rd filled with water.  That will be 1 cup of oatmeal powder for an adult bathtub
  • Stir the bath water throughout the bath to keep the oatmeal powder suspended in the water.  Some of the heavier oat grains will settle at the bottom of the bathtub but that’s ok
  • Pat skin dry after bath.  Don’t rub skin or rinse off after bath as it will remove the moisturising film that coats the skin after the oatmeal bath.  This same film makes skin slippery, so be careful when you take baby or yourself out of the bath.

Tip: You can place the oatmeal powder in a sock or cheesecloth instead of mixing it directly in the bath water.  This will eliminate the grains at the bottom of the bath and make cleaning up easier.

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Must-haves for newborn and mum

I don’t buy toiletries with SLS and parabens.  I also try to minimise the chemicals in products that I use for environmental and health reasons.  I was therefore delighted to find many affordable chemical-free baby products on the market when shopping for Baby D, a sharp contrast to when Kai was born 5 years ago.  Here’s a list of my favourite toiletries for newborns and mums.  I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did (and still do).  All the products are available on iHerb.  Buying products via this link will save you 5% off your order (for both new and existing customers).  You will also be helping to support my blog.

1.  Earth Mama Angel Baby, Natural Nipple Butter – For mum

I was anxious to find the best nipple cream this time.  I experienced pain and bleeding when feeding my first 3 kids, and none of the creams that I used (and there were many) provided relief.  I finally settled on this cream as it came highly recommended.  Best decision ever.  Only a thin layer is needed to bring soothing relief.  It also has a great texture that is neither sticky nor greasy, making it more acceptable for baby to ingest.  As for the ingredients used, they read like a dream.  Clean, vegan, organic and non-GMO, you won’t find any unpronounceable chemicals there.  And I love how it smells like chocolate thanks to the cocoa butter in it.  This cream can also double up as a general moisturiser for your lips, baby’s cheeks etc.

2.  Aquifer Baby Healing Ointment – For baby

Kai had very bad diaper rash as a baby.  I wished to spare Baby D the ordeal and set out to look for a good diaper rash cream with as few chemicals as possible.  Aquifer Baby Healing Ointment feels and works great.  On the 3 occasions that Baby D developed a rash, it cleared up within days of applying the cream.  It comes in a good sized tube which means you get more bang for your buck and also reduces packaging waste.

3.   Colloidal Oatmeal – For baby (and family)

Who would have thought, oatmeal for skin.  Introduced to me by my kid’s paediatrician to bathe Baby D with in place of baby soap.  Bathing in colloidal oatmeal can clean and moisturise skin.  Colloidal oatmeal also has anti-inflammatory and moisturising properties and can help soothe itchy skin.  A completely natural bathing solution that allows you to save on soap and moisturiser.  For an even more sustainable solution, I re-use the bath water as a foot-bath.  My feet have not felt so pampered in a long time.  When Zhen returned from a camp last month with her feet covered in itchy mosquito and sand fly bites, she delightedly claimed that the foot-bath took all the itch away.  She promptly spent the next few days hoarding the used bath water while catching up on her reading.  Boy am I glad that the holidays are over and I can finally get the foot-bath back for myself.  A small caveat though, colloidal oatmeal is very expensive, which is why I have taken to making my own after purchasing the first packet from the peadiatrician (see post).  I also alternate bathing Baby D with colloidal oatmeal and Dr Woods Baby Mild Castile Soap (see below).

4.   Dr Woods Baby Mild Castile Soap (Unscented) – For baby (and family)

Hypoallergenic, vegan, paraben and SLS free, yet gentle enough to be used for baby’s skin.  I chose this for its natural ingredients and affordability.  I use just one drop for Baby D’s bath.  I too have been using this soap to bathe and it leaves my skin feeling soft and clean.

5.  Bud’s Super Soothing Rescue Lotion – For baby (and family)

Kai had eczema when he was a baby, and it still flares up occasionally.  I tried the well-known brands of baby moisturisers but they didn’t work.  I finally tried Bud’s super soothing rescue lotion and found it to be really effective in healing Kai’s eczema (and mine too), which would clear up in days.  The lotion isn’t sticky and has a pleasant smell.  Great list of ingredients, some of which are from organic farming.  I always ensure that I have a tube at home for the occasional eczema flare up.  Thankfully, we have had no reason to try this on Baby D yet.

 

 

Breakfast Breakthrough

Remember my no-sugar dream?  It’s implementation time!  I have decided to work at it one meal at a time, starting with… Breakfast!  The first meal of the day, and some say, the most important.  In 2016, the Straits Times reported that a local study by the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC) found that people who have a low glycaemic index (GI) breakfast and afternoon snack have significantly less sugar in their blood for the rest of the day.  GI measures how quickly carbohydrates are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose.  The report went on to say that “having high levels of sugar in the blood stresses the pancreas… over time, too much stress decreases the effectiveness of the pancreas.  When the pancreas is consistently unable to clear the sugar, people become diabetic.  High levels of sugar in the blood also significantly raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, blindness and kidney failure.”  That said, it is worth highlighting that not everyone agrees on the usefulness of GI values.  Dr. Ang Poon Liat, a consultant paediatrician in Thomson Paediatric Centre, is of the view that “since there are many factors that can greatly affect the GI (of foods), it is actually quite meaningless to be (sic) make healthy food choices based solely on GI values.  At best, the GI should serve only as a rough guideline.”

Guideline or holy-grail, it is worth bearing in mind.  My focus will however be on serving a whole food breakfast with as little sugar and refined carbohydrates (e.g. white flour) as possible.  Oh, that and a breakfast that can be prepared the night before.  Baby D still keeps me awakenights and I can’t bring myself to get up at 5am to prepare breakfast for my school going kids.

Overnight Oats

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After many attempts, only one such breakfast item has passed the family’s taste test – Overnight oats.  It’s so good that my dad (who makes it a point not to eat anything I make) has taken to making his own overnight oats for breakfast (secretly of course).  As its name suggests, overnight oats consist of oats soaked overnight in liquid, resulting in a slightly chewy and pleasant texture.  You can flavour the oats with anything thanks to its neutral flavour, making it a versatile dish that can be repeated without boring the tastebuds.  A godsend given that I only have one breakfast item on my menu.  Overnight oats also require minimal preparation the night before and its just out of the fridge and into the mouth the next morning.  The recipes below are most popular with my family.  But go ahead, be bold and invent your own recipes!

But first, some oat-ucation:  Oats are a whole food and have thus far not been subject to the GMO revolution.  Rich in fiber, oats have been said to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and colorectal cancer and (as my dad attests to) lower cholesterol levels.  A bowl of oatmeal also has a low GI value of 55, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Banana Overnight Oats

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 2 medium sized bananas (more if you want it sweeter)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk (feel free to substitute this with any kind of milk, juice or liquid)
  • (optional) 1 tsp chia seeds
  • (optional) Any kind of seeds, nuts and/or fruits

Directions:

  • Mash the bananas with a fork in the container that you wish to keep your overnight oats in.  The container should have a lid.
  • Add rolled oats and chia seeds (if using)
  • Add enough milk to cover the oats (add more milk if you prefer softer oats)
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight
  • Add seed, nut and/or fruit topping just before eating

Variations:

  • Add 2 tsp cocoa powder for chocolate overnight oats
  • Add 2 tbsp peanut butter + 2 tsp cacao nibs for chocolate peanut butter overnight oats (this is Chubs favourite).  I use Adams Peanut Butter as it contains only peanuts and salt
  • Add 1/2 cup chopped strawberries for strawberry overnight oats

Kai’s Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are so easy to prepare that the kids are able to make them on their own.  Kai came up with this recipe and it is his favourite by far:

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup milk (feel free to substitute this with any kind of milk, juice or liquid)
  • 2 tbsp jam.  I use St Dalfour Jam as it has no added sugar.

Directions:

  • Put jam and oats in the container that you wish to keep your overnight oats in.
  • Add milk
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight

Our weekly dessert

Ice cream!  Yup, we have soft-serve ice cream at least once a week.  But this is no ordinary ice cream.  It is made entirely from blended frozen bananas!  I stumbled upon this recipe some time ago and have not looked back since.  If only McdDonald’s knew about this recipe and served it as part of their Despicable Me promotion.

Can’t wait to try?  Here’s the recipe so that you too can enjoy delicious wholesome soft-serve ice cream minus the sugar.

Soft-serve Ice Cream (serves 1)

Ingredients & Directions

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  • Slice bananas evenly (about 1/2 inch) and freeze them.  Any kind of bananas will do, just make sure that they are ripe and preferably overripe.  I recommend using  Dole bananas for their creamy texture and sweet flavour.  Dole bananas are readily available in NTUC.
  • 5 min before serving, take the frozen banana slices out of the freezer to thaw just enough to break into small chunks to put into the blender.
  • Blend required amount of frozen banana slices and enjoy your ice-cream!

Tip: If you can’t get your kids (or anyone) to drink milk kefir, the sweet bananas allow you to add at least 1/4 cup of milk kefir for every 2 bananas without anyone noticing.

Variations

Bananas have a mild taste when frozen, which makes this recipe easy to vary.  Our favourites include:

  • Peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream – add 1 tbsp peanut butter and 2 tsp cacao nibs per serve
  • Strawberry ice cream – add frozen strawberries to taste.  Tastes like sorbet.  Yums.  

Tip: I buy the frozen strawberries from QB Food Trading Pte Ltd. They are much cheaper than those sold in NTUC or fresh strawberries.

  • Mint chocolate chip ice cream – add 1/4 cup mint flavoured milk (see recipe below) and 2 tsp cacao nibs per serve

Blog - Ice cream

Mint Flavoured Milk

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk (or any liquid)
  • 1 generous bunch of mint leaves and stalks (mine are harvested straight from my mini herb garden)

Directions

  • Heat the milk in a pot and turn off the heat just before it boils
  • Throw the mint leaves and stalks into the hot milk
  • Cover the pot and let the mint steep for 2 hours
  • Strain the mixture, pressing on the mint leave with a spoon to get all the liquid out

Tip: According to this site, blending the mint leaves would lose all its subtlety, and introduce unwelcome tannic and oxidized flavors to the mix.  

Top 3 sugar alternatives

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Sugar increases the risk of heart disease, obesity and dental cavities.  It also delivers “empty calories” i.e. calories unaccompanied by fibre, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that can crowd healthier foods from a person’s diet.  Reasons enough to reduce one’s sugar intake?  Nope, not in my family.  We LOVE our sweet treats and cold logic never trumps a slice of gorgeous chocolate cake, a scoop of ice cream or even a small unassuming candy.  To reduce the consumption of hidden and non-hidden sugars, I bake my own no-sugar snacks and desserts whenever I can with the help of my favourite sugar alternatives – Banana, Apple and Dates.

Banana

My absolute favourite sweetener for cakes, overnight oats and ice-cream.  Bananas are sweet, versatile, easy to work with and cheaply available all year round.  Choose the overripe bananas which are the sweetest and hope for a discount from your fruit stall uncle.

Bananas are power packed with nutrition.  High in potassium (regulates heartbeat, lowers blood pressure and builds bones), pectin (fruit fibre) and antioxidants.  They are also a good source of magnesium and vitamins B and C6.  If all that doesn’t make you feel better, it is said that eating bananas will, as they contain high levels of tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin, the mood-elevating brain neurotransmitter.

So go bananas by substituting 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of mashed/pureed banana.

Apple

My children’s favourite fruit.  Thankfully, applesauce is also a versatile sweetener for cakes and cookies and is easy to make.  Just boil or steam pieces of cut apple (without the skin) until soft and blitz the softened apple in a food processor.  You can vary the taste of the applesauce by adding a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of cinnamon or some freshly grated lemon/orange zest.

Apples are rich in important antioxidants, flavanoids, and dietary fibre.  Apples are also  a good source of vitamins B and C, calcium, potassium and phosphorus (works together with calcium to build strong bones and teeth).

Substitute 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of applesauce.  Note that applesauce contains a fair amount of liquid and you will need to decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup per cup of applesauce used.  Do also mix the applesauce in with the wet ingredients if your recipe requires separate mixing of wet and dry ingredients.

Interestingly, applesauce can also be used to replace butter in a 1:1 ratio.  Do note however that it will make the end product more dense, so substitute as appropriate.

Dates

Moist, delicious, sweet and rich in dietary fibre, anti oxidants, iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium.  They do however have a distinctive taste that may take some getting used to.  Cocoa powder can also be used to to musk its taste.  I use dates to sweeten no-bake energy balls/bars and pie crusts.

Substitute 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of date puree.

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Remember this post the next time you reach for the sugar jar and use Bananas, Apples or Dates instead!

Whizz Kids

Blog - Go Kart

Fast + Reckless Driver = Boy.  True or False? 

TRUE! Kai declared with a smug grin.  The girls were vehement in their objections, confidently declaring that they could beat Kai hands down in a go-kart race.  That was yesterday.

Today, the girls were noticeably quieter.  “Kai’s car was faster”, they mumbled.

Despite the bruised egos, the children enjoyed their free go-kart rides this afternoon at J8’s Level 2 Atrium.  It was a surprisingly short queue, held up only by staff who were trying to get the hang of things.  I was told that each kid was allowed 1 free ride a day, although the rule was relaxed as the afternoon progressed and the queues remained short.  The go-karts were really electronic toy cars.  The staff were able to remotely set the maximum speed of the go-kart.  They sheepishly informed me that they reduced the maximum speed when a boy got behind the wheel to prevent injuries (and if you ask me, destruction).  A wise decision, as I saw more than one boy ram into the walls of the track.  The speed reduction didn’t stop Kai from beating his siblings though, as he floored the accelerator while his sisters plodded along at half speed.

The children also enjoyed playing with the foosball table and giant dart-board that were beside the go-kart track.  Free PlayStation and X-Box games were also available.

Just some details for those keen on heading to J8.  Kids (and adults) get to ride for free from 3 to 6pm, Mon (12 Jun) to Fri (16 Jun).  Those itching for a race will have to spend $30 to participate in the qualifying rounds for a chance to compete in the finals.  Do note that its 1 chance per receipt.  I produced 2 receipts with a combined spend of $90 but was only allowed to enrol 2 children in the qualifying rounds.  Go here for more details.


What: Free go-kart rides and carnival games

Where: Level 2 Atrium @ Bishan Junction 8

When: 12 to 18 June 2017.  Free rides from 3 to 6pm, 12 to 16 June.  Qualifying Round for 4 to 6 year olds, 7 to 12 years old and adults are held from 12 to 16 June, at 11am to 1pm, 1 to 3pm and 7 to 9pm, respectively.  More details here.

 

 

 

Dream with me

Hello, I am Joan and I have a dream.  This blog will chronicle the realization of my dream to unleash my tree hugging ways and wholefood no sugar diet on my Chubs (aka chubby husband) and 4 kids!  As with all quests, there will be struggles, exhaustion, second-guesses and the inevitable failure.  But eventually, I will succeed!  Do follow my blog and cheer me on as I embark on my quest, one steak, one plastic bag and one air-conditionless night at a time.

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En: 10-year old female.  Most tolerant of my experiments, which makes her very adventurous in my book.  Weakness for air-con and stationery.

Zhen:  8-year old female.  Likes fruit and vegetable but resistant to my no sugar experiments.  Weakness for plastic bottles and lunch boxes.

Kai:  5-year old male.  Carnivore and snack lover.  Has a penchant for breaking things.

Baby D:  2-month old male.  The Dictator.  He dictates the amount of sleep I get, which will in turn determine how much energy and will power I have to pursue my dream.  

Chubs: Carnivore with a sweet tooth.  High body temperature.  Leads the pack in the search for snacks and cool temperatures.

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

– Ashley Smith