Monday, February 28, 2011

Housewife Survival Tips - by Rachel Goh

Rachel is my friend from the university. She left her job as a social worker to be a SAHM to three beautiful children - Yee Fay, Shan Ning and Yee Herng, who are ages eight, four and 19 months respectively. Few months ago, she started sharing on her Facebook account what she calls ‘housewife survival tips’. I found her tips so good that I’ve asked her for permission to share them here. I believe you will also find them useful and full of wisdom.

Tips for stay-at-home moms

#1: Don't be a slave to the house and to the kids, whoever stays in the house shares in the work.

I refused to employ a domestic helper despite constant nagging by my mum. I believe that housework is an essential part of family life and should be shared by all family members. I want my kids to see daddy and mummy doing household chores and helping out with the chores as they grow older. Sharing housework bonds our family together and teaches our kids important life skills.

#2: Constantly think of ways to simplify and reduce household chores.

I refused to rely on a domestic helper but neither do I want to be swamped by housework, which unfortunately, is what many housewives ended up becoming, at the expense of spending time playing with or engaging their kids in meaningful activities. When I first became a full-time housewife, I told myself that I'll not allow this to happen.

It's been three years since I stay home and I’m still thinking of more ways to simplify my housework so that they don't take up too much of my time. For example, I upgraded my washer to a 8-kg capacity one so that I don't have to do my laundry everyday; I avoid buying clothes that need ironing; I replace heavy, dust-trapping carpets with smaller, machine-washable rugs and floor mats; I use curtains that are easy to remove and machine-washable; and my kids’ soft toys are all machine-washable too. Our parents' generation didn’t have such luxuries, so make full use of technology to help us save time.

#3: Declutter..declutter..declutter.. trust me, you'll feel lighter and freer in spirit and in form.

I find ebay and (my friend's baby store selling new and pre-loved baby items) good avenues to get rid of items in good condition that I don't need. You won't believe this but those things that were sitting in my storeroom had actually fetched me over $1,000! No wonder they say "one man's trash is another man's treasure". The bonus is that I also began to think twice about buying something nowadays because I don't want to go through the time-consuming process of accumulating and getting rid of things all over again.

#4: It’s absolutely essential to develop alternative babysitting arrangement right from the start so that you don't have to be stuck with the kids 24/7. A little space apart is good for everyone in the family. Your hubby and kids wouldn't like a grumpy cranky stressed out wife/mummy who's constantly yelling at them!

Without a domestic helper and parents' help, how do I cope with three kids, housework and yet still find time for myself and enjoy couple time to connect with hubby? I send my youngest child Yee Herng to infant care/childcare centre.

I struggled with this issue a lot – I was initially worried that the centre may not be able to provide quality care and was also afraid of exposing my kid to infections. But after weighing the pros and cons, I decided that I need infant care/childcare support. A very young child demands a lot of attention and if I have to look after Herng 24/7, he could end up so clingy that I won't be able to find time for my two older kids, hubby and myself.

So Herng has been going to an infant care centre since he was very young and he has now moved on to childcare centre. This arrangement frees up my mornings (Fay is in primary school and Ning is in preschool - both in the morning session) for exercises, reading, journal writing and housework. The afternoons are spent engaging my two older kids in activities such as reading, supervising homework, board games, outings or craftwork. However, I make it a point to fetch Herng from child care early and reserve my evenings mainly for him.

#5: Establish a routine and plan your schedule around it. Be very disciplined and stick to your schedule so that you don't waste time on unproductive things. Don't forget to include a little ‘me time’ for yourself everyday.

It's so easy to slip out of a routine and into depression when you switch from a working life to being a full-time housewife or one who is not working. I've seen enough cases in my previous line of work. My ‘me time’ is breakfast alone with a cup of coffee and a book in hand.

#6: No opportunity to dress up in your office attire and power suits doesn't mean you can neglect your appearance. You have every right to continue to look good and feel good. Be a Hot Mama not a frumpy housewife!

One day shortly after delivering my third child, my hubby commented, "Why are you always wearing those big tee-shirts when you have so many nice clothes in your wardrobe?" That was my wake-up call.

#7: Make your marriage a priority; don't use your kids as an excuse to neglect your spouse; your kids rely on the stability of your marriage to feel secure. It’s important to set aside regular couple time to reconnect with each other.

This is why I mentioned earlier that it is important to establish alternative babysitting arrangements right from the start. My hubby and I would regularly go out as a couple on his motorbike for a dinner, to catch a movie or for coffee - these really help to bring back the feeling of our courtship days.

#7a: Men are simple. They want only three things in life: Attention, a little appreciation and a little space. Give your hubby these three things and he will love you even more and give more to the family. What a deal!

When my hubby does something nice such as helping out with the kids or cooks for the family, I would sms him to say thank-you or to tell him how delicious the meal was and before I knew it, he started doing more, some time even without me asking!

I used to grumble a lot when he spends time on his hobbies but I have come to accept that hobbies help him de-stress from work and makes him happy. I only need to give him a few hrs on weekend mornings to fly his airplanes with his aero-modeling friends and he will spend the rest of the weekend with the family.

#7b: Don't nag your hubby to death. Don't nit-pick on him and give each other some space.

I know it is very difficult for us not to nag and nit-pick at our hubbies but you got to keep trying if you want to keep the passion burning in your marriage. I find myself having to bite my tongue whenever I have to go around picking up his clothes and things that have been strewn all over the house, or having to help him find things that he has misplaced. During a recent Lunar New Year gathering, my friends joked that I have four (instead of three) children at home after seeing my hubby's exclusive (or messy) hobby room, I couldn't agree more.

#7c: Get a life of your own! Be your own person, do your own things and let him do his too. A healthy marriage is one where the husband and wife are interdependent (not too independent of or too dependent on each other).

When I was a social worker, I saw many couples who were so enmeshed that that lose their own identities. They do everything together and won’t go anywhere without the other person. For me and my hubby, there are some things we do together with our kids, some things we do as a couple, and some things we do on our own. I’ll be bored to death if I tag along when he flies his aeroplanes and he would fall asleep if I ask him to read together with me. I usually go shopping on my own too because I would enjoy it better without him hurrying me every few minutes.

#8: To be a happy and patient (we all know how good kids are at testing our patience) mummy, you MUST make time for yourself everyday

Stay-at-home mum is a 24/7 full time job with no breaks, no annual leave, no sick leave, no bonus etc., so it is absolutely important that we create our own 'me time' to take care of ourselves and prevent burnout. It makes us a better mum and housewife. It took me many months to learn to manage my time so that I could create my daily ‘me time’.

For 2011, I made it my New Year’s resolution to incorporate exercise, reading and journal-writing into my daily routine and doing all three has now become my morning routine. This bit of ‘me time’ has brought so much benefits to my health and personal growth that I won't give them up for anything else.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

KL's Restoran Oversea Comes to Town

Few years back when hubby was posted to KL for a couple of months, I would frequently travel across the causeway to spend my weekends there. Being the foodies that we are, we chomp our way around town and discovered some really fantastic restaurants with memorable gastronomic fare during our sojourn.

One of my favourite is the cantonese restaurant call Restoran Oversea, which serves the best char siew and roast pork I've ever eaten! Every now and then, I would crave for these two items and tried looking around Singapore for something similar but have been disappointed thus far.

So when hubby told me that the restaurant has opened a branch here, I was thrilled. To celebrate this year's Valentine's Day, hubby decided to give me a treat there, as I was always talking about going to KL for the char siew and roast pork.

He called the restaurant in advance to reserve a table, as well as one plate each of the char siew and roast pork. That turned out to be a good move, as we later overheard a waitress telling diners at a nearby table that the char siew was sold out - and that was about 7pm and they came only shortly after us.

Besides the famed char siew and roast pork, we ordered beancurd with petola, pan-fried large crystal prawn in "special soya sauce" and Oversea special fried rice.

Char siew

It's sweeter than most char siew you'll find in Singapore and is nicely caramelised and sticky, but definitely not as sweet and sticky as what you get from the original KL restaurant. The pork used here has little fat, thus making it tougher compared to the KL char siew. Though I consider myself quite health-conscious, I must say I much prefer the KL version - and the same goes for the roast pork. The fat adds fragrance and gives it a melt-in-the-touch texture.

Roast pork

Its skin is so crispy your fellow diner can likely hear the crackling in your mouth. Even then, I thought the ones in KL are even crispier (it could be that I'm biased). But my main complain is that there's not even a hint of fat in this roast pork and the meat was on the dry side, so it was actually quite tough.

Beancurd with petola

The tofu is silky and fragrant, likely because it is made with eggs. Overall a simple dish but very tasty nonetheless.

Large crystal prawn in "special soya sauce"

On the menu, the options for cooking the large crystal prawns are: superior soya sauce, salt and pepper, and thai style. We opted for pan-fried prawn in superior soya sauce or known as '干煎虾碌' in Chinese. That's when the waitress recommended us the "special soya sauce" and told us the next time we order, we should request for it (supposedly different from the 'superior soya sauce' - but why don't they list that instead??). And this is one of the dishes I liked best. The chef did a good job in ensuring that the prawns were cooked just right so that it wasn't too dry, and the "special soya sauce" makes the prawns really tantalising; the shell was so crispy that I ate it all up.

Oversea special fried rice

The fried rice was really aromatic but we found it a bit too oily. As we chewed on the fried rice, there was something crispy in it but we weren't sure what it was. At first I thought it might be lard, but it didn't quite taste like so. So I decided to give it a close examination and found some crispy fried rice - something like 锅巴 (crispy rice cracker). It was certainly a great idea to put in the crispy fried rice to give that added dimension.

The Verdict

While it was a satisfactory meal, I wish the char siew and roast pork had retained it's KL taste and texture. Even though Singaporeans are generally quite a health-conscious lot, I think we are not averse to having some fatty food once in a while, if that is what makes the difference between mediocre and extraordinary fare.

So when hubby asked me if my craving has been justly satisfied, I told him I really wish to visit KL again.

Restoran Oversea
100 Beach Road
Shaw Leisure Gallery
Singapore 189702
Tel: 6294 2638

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kenan's First Egg Sandwiches

Been thinking lately what to give Kenan for breakfast besides his usual cereals (would add different kinds of fresh fruits into it every morning e.g. avocado, strawberry, blueberry, peach, nectarine etc.). Then when I was in the motherhood forum, a mommy mentioned that she made scrambled egg with toast for her little one.

So this morning, I decided to make egg sandwiches for my boy. I cut the bread into very small pieces and put scrambled egg in between. Kenan thoroughly enjoyed his breakfast and even asked for more when it was finished! Made me feel so happy!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Niangao with Banana Wrapped in Spring Roll Pastry

The Lunar New Year is coming to a close. Besides trying to finish the mandarin oranges, it is also time to take the niangao out from the fridge (easier to cut when it's harder). Normally when we cook niangao, it is usually dipped in egg batter and then fried before serving. But this year, I decided to try out an ex-colleague's recipe, which besides being a refreshing change, is also a healthier version.

For this recipe, instead of coating each piece of niangao in egg batter, spring roll pastry is used, and instead of frying, you bake it (I don't have an oven, so I used the toaster and it works too). In addition, I also added banana as my hubby suggested.

1. Niangao
2. Banana - optional (I used the small type of bananas where it's slightly sour but I'm not too sure what it's called)
3. Spring Roll Pastry - I used Tee Yih Jia (第一家) brand's small spring roll pastry (purchased from NTUC supermarket); states on the package that it's about 5" by 5"

1. Cut the niangao into thin rectangular slices (about 6cm by 4cm)

2. Cut banana into thin slices
3. Put a piece of niangao on a spring roll pastry, then place two pieces of banana on the niangao

4. Wrap the ingredients up. Instead of using egg white to seal the edges, I used cooking oil and it worked just fine. Then put into toaster and toast in medium heat for five minutes till the skin is crispy and the niangao is soft (you can use oven too).

Here's the final product:

It's crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

The skin can lose its crispyness after some time, just pop them into
the toaster/oven for  two, three minutes and they will be crispy again

Hope you enjoy this version of niangao! And if you have some interesting niangao recipes, please share with me!


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