Malaysia Trip (November 2012)

Hiya folks! We are back from Malaysia! Our last trip was two and a half years ago. So we had been really looking forward to this trip. As usual, it went by too fast.

We spent about ten days in Malaysia and Singapore. A quick recap of what we did, ate and enjoyed:

This time, instead of Singapore Airlines, we took United. Two words: Never again! Flights were horrendously delayed. Not once. But on both legs of the journey…extending the usual 19-hour plus journey to almost 23 hours both ways! Kiddo and I developed a huge aversion to airline food, we couldn’t sleep, our acid reflux was triggered big time and we were literally sick. Ugggh!

Kiddo tucking into a well-deserved chicken rice breakfast at  Changi Airport Terminal 3 just after we landed. At this point, the boy hadn’t slept in 25 hours! Can’t blame him for looking like a vampire ya? We had an almost 8-hour wait at Changi before our connecting flight to Kuala Lumpur (KL) so after an invigorating shower at the airport, we dashed off to find more food to err…ahem…erase the memory of the disgusting airline fare. Apart from chicken rice, we had roti prata and nasi lemak and lots of iced Milo too.

Changi, being the world-class airport it is, even offers free movies for passengers in transit and we managed to catch a fun movie (The Lorax) while waiting.

The flight to KL was a quick one and we admired the many cumulonimbus formations on the way.  Kiddo has been “collecting” clouds for some time (since reading The Cloud Collector’s Handbook) so it was a great opportunity to add to his bunch of cloud (cloudy?) snaps.

When we reached KL, it felt SO good to see Dad and Mom again and catch up with sis, her hubby and my mon-in-law. And we were treated to such great food! Not only did my mom make her famous prawn sambal and delicious fish and meat dishes, but my mom-in-law dished up some of her own specialties. We were royally pampered!

And we ate lots outside as well. Pictured upper left: more roti prata! And right: cendol…a dessert made up of ice shavings, green bean noodles, kidney beans, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. And below: amazing nasi lemak the old-fashioned way, wrapped in banana leaf. Mmmmmmm…and this stuff is cheap too! We barely paid one USD for a package of nasi lemak and prata for two people!

A few days into our trip, we received a huge surprise. Hubby had initially planned to remain in CA because he had a business trip scheduled at the same time as our holiday. But since his business trip was in the “neighborhood” (within Asia), he decided to drop in unannounced en-route! Everyone was so pleasantly surprised because they haven’t seen him in the flesh in seven years (he couldn’t join us the last time we visited in March 2010). I just love this snapshot because it captures how delighted his mom is to see him. He stayed a couple of days and dashed off again in his usual style.

Our days in KL passed very swiftly. I had packed a few of kiddo’s textbooks but we barely thought much about them. Instead, we kicked back, made origami cubes, cooked, ate, worked on puzzles, hugged, tussled with and bathed sis’s adorable terrier mix, visited the Petronas Twin Towers by train, played with cousins and just had an amazing time catching up with loved ones.

Before we knew it, it was time to leave for Singapore again to catch our flight back to SFO. Unlike our last trip, we only spent about a day and a half in Singapore this time. Kiddo wanted very much to visit the apartment he had lived in as a newborn so we took the bus, walked around, found the block, took some photos of the windows (it was occupied by another family so we obviously couldn’t go in), ate a bag of good ol’ Twisties (my favorite junk food as a kid lol) and then sped off to Orchard Road to do some quick book shopping.

Oh yeah…we bought (cough) lots of books! 🙂 I won’t shock you with how many. 🙂

So that was it. Hoping very much to visit the folks and sis again next year. We are having an easier time with jetlag this time around. It really helps to drink lots of water and work as closely as possible around the time zone/ routine of the country you are visiting. I am quite sure eating really well helped too! 😉

Randomly Recent

Snapshots from inside and around the house this week:

Calla lilies reappear this year, looking pretty.

My reading assignments in preparation for a Coursera course.

Loving my new double-burner griddle.

New tile patterns keep popping up in front of the fireplace…those math manipulatives are being used!

Goofy math review with AoPS.

Only a day on Millie (my treadmill)? Oh Nooooo!


Kiddo’s Sidney Harris addiction intensifies. 

Physics continues but may be delayed if kiddo takes a summer math class.

More buckyball sculptures in the making.

Randomly Recent and a Treadmill Desk

Boys who once disliked writing can become happy note-takers!

He Who Hated To Put Two Words Together with a pencil is eagerly translating frames from his German Asterix comic into English! I’m glad I skipped penmanship lessons (it was too much busywork when I briefly tried it a couple of years ago).

Kiddo is also determined to see a free online course from the Stanford U folks through. It is harder than he thought it would be. But he is somehow plodding along. It’s a wonderful experience for him in time management and note-taking and hopefully, he is learning a little about coding, ciphers, and all the technical jargon I can’t wrap my head around.

Oh, I feel So Old sometimes. And. So. Slow.

Some notes from around the house…

I love watching the birds that visit our yard. We have scrub jays and mourning doves taking turns to sip from our water fountains. One day, I even noticed a mourning dove passive-aggressively trying to push the jay away! A hummingbird, too tiny to comfortably drink from the pool fountain, frequently visits our smaller fountain on the side to cool its body and quench its thirst. These beautiful visitors never fail to delight me!

I have started a blog category called “what’s cooking”. It makes me laugh I tell you. Me, the mom who will avoid cooking at all costs if she could, starting a category about what she cooks. Better check to see if something porcine is flying outside.

I hope you, dear reader, will laugh with me, and not at. 🙂

Here’s a delicious (if I should say so myself) chicken porridge I made today. It smelled so good that kiddo kept getting distracted during his online math class. We have been avoiding rice but I thought we deserved a treat since we haven’t had it in a long time. I used three quarters a package of low-sodium chicken stock and about half that amount of water plus sliced, boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces, sliced onion and some garlic-ginger puree for the base. I like to keep dry-fried tofu handy (it’s great with stir-fried vegetables) and added some of that too. A little sesame oil and a handful of baby carrots went in next. And once everything was happily boiling, I poured in a cup and a half of rice and let it simmer gently for about 20 more minutes. Cilantro and sliced baby bok choy were added towards the end just before serving, with salt and spice to taste. A yummy meal perfect for an under-the-weather day or if you just want something easy to prepare for lunch.

Ah, and I hacked a closet wire shelf into a treadmill desk! It was so much simpler than what was suggested on various You Tube videos. Simply head to Home Depot and buy a 3ft x 1ft wire shelf, like this one by ClosetMaid. I had two, black snap-locking straps and used them to secure the shelf to each handlebar. These straps look very much like shoulder straps from laptop bags or perhaps, narrower versions of luggage straps. You could also use zip/ cable-ties in place of the straps but I wanted something easier to remove. Voila! I walked for an hour without even realizing it today while working on the computer. On a relatively gentle, no-incline pace, that was close to 250 calories gone!

Till next time, hopefully, by a slimmer, more streamlined Suji lol.

It’s a Leap Day!

Having only started this blog in Aug 2008, there hasn’t been a Leap Day post yet on Funschooling. I thought I will write a quick one. 🙂

We’re on our usual routine today: completing any outstanding homework in physics, and preparing for math class (Wednesday is online math class day). We’ll have kiddo’s favorite soupy noodles with chicken, boiled egg and veg for lunch (and possibly dinner too). Kiddo has a slight sniffle so I’m not sure if we’ll make it to swim class later.

We are going to watch these later today (HT to Alicia for first video):

Randomly Recent…

Baking butter cookies!

The FunSchoolers discovered a very yummy recipe and have so far experimented twice with it:

  • Once by replacing some of the flour with hazelnut meal and the white sugar with brown (and reducing the amount too). 
  • Once using the recipe mostly as is but with less butter, flour and sugar (pictured here).

Both were delicious although the first batch was a little runny and couldn’t be decorated satisfactorily. The second batch had a melt-in-the-mouth buttery flavor. Kiddo had tons of fun decorating it. Next time, we’ll first plan the decorations before going trigger happy with the icing tubes. 🙂

Swimming lessons have resumed

After a difficult start when we first began, kiddo is doing very well and I’m very happy with how he’s being taught. He’s learning how to flip and push off between laps now. 

Philosophy discussions

He is currently very interested in philosophy. We have chosen to read aloud and discuss Philosophy for Kids by David White once or twice a week during afternoon snack time. We really like the book so far.

See this post on kiddo’s blog.We didn’t have the time to record every single point discussed but it does give you an idea of how we are using the book.

Learning as usual

It’s good to have our rhythm back after the holidays and the flu. Physics is going well with full marks in his grade book so far but the suggested pace is obviously too rapid right now. I’m not terribly concerned. It just means he may take longer to finish the course. I’m trying to keep my expectations neutral. Learning to stay out of the way is hard for this control freak, but I’m getting there!

Math and German are proceeding at a steady pace. I am enjoying learning this way and I can see kiddo is too. We have more time to learn and digest the information instead of rushing from one lesson to another. I wish we could somehow fit Latin into our days but we don’t seem to be able to right now. I’m trying to work in 15 minutes of Latin three times a week. Since we don’t do any “language arts”, Latin is my back-up plan for grammar and vocabulary studies.

Debate finals!

The highlight of last week was kiddo’s team debate finals. He was team captain for one of the teams. The teams were judged based on three mini-debate topics:

  • California schools should improve fitness goals (Kiddo’s team: affirmative)
  • Ice cream would rather be ‘poor’ than ‘rich’ (An odd topic, I know! Kiddo’s team: negative)
  • Environmental disasters should be classified as crimes against humanity (Kiddo’s team: affirmative)

The teams were both tied in the end. 

Kiddo is enjoying speech and debate very much and will continue with the next session of classes in two weeks. I couldn’t be happier. He’s learning many other skills through the class. He’s learning to research and present his arguments coherently. He’s learning the difference between fact and opinion. And he’s learning leadership skills.

He’s fond of the State of Debate game here. If you know anything else like it that can be played or followed online, I’d really appreciate a heads up!

Mmm…Tapioca Pudding!

I know I’m not doing my waistline any good but oh, this was delicious! So yummy that I’m posting the recipe! 🙂

Brown Sugar Tapioca Pudding
Inspired by recipe on the back of the Bob’s Red Mill Small Pearl Tapioca package.

2/3 cup small pearl tapioca
1 1/2 cup water
4 1/2 cups 2% milk
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs, separated
1 cup brown sugar (I added another tbsp because I’m naughty that way)
1 tsp. vanilla

Put tapioca and water in a saucepan. Soak for about 30 minutes. Beat egg yolks in a pyrex measuring cup, add milk and salt and stir into tapioca water mixture. Turn stove on to medium heat and stir until boiling (if you don’t want to keep stirring every single second, at least watch the mixture carefully; you definitely don’t want to walk away and end up with a burned pudding!). Once tapioca mixture starts to steam and boil gently (ours took about 10 minutes to do so), switch to the lowest heat setting. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring often.

Beat egg whites with brown sugar till soft peaks form. Fold about 2 cups of tapioca mixture into egg white-sugar mixture. Fold this combined mixture back into the rest of the pudding in the saucepan…gently, and a little at a time. Keep stirring over low heat for about 3 minutes.

Let pudding cool for about 20-30 minutes. Add vanilla, mix well and serve warm or chilled.

Makes about 6-7 cups.

Random Things I’m Grateful For…

Our Year 3, January snapshot is all about gratitude.

LEARNING…

The kiddo’s online math class is going well. He’s getting more rigorous practice with algebra compared to the Key To series and so far, the pace is just right. He’s devoured a number of books of his and my choice, although the ones I chose were devoured a little less enthusiastically (chuckle).

We discussed the project learning idea and mutually agreed to stay with existing resources, but to remain flexible. If a project catches our eye we’ll go for it; otherwise, we are both comfortable with the way we’re learning from random resources online and in-print. Our light focus on the Middle Ages for history continues. The Thames & Kosmos Genetics and DNA kit is fun. Among other things, we isolated tomato DNA!

We finally received our microscope (ordered through our charter school) from Home Science Tools. So I must express how grateful I am for charter funds. It really helps us afford a number of expensive classes and materials…stuff we’d normally delay buying with our own funds unless we were really sure they were going to be used often.  
Here, our new microscope poses with some of our other science resources.
And speaking of microscopes, I’m grateful for enterprising friends who are willling to host classes in their homes. One friend has organized a microscope class for Moms! Isn’t that neat? So I’m learning how to use a microscope and get the most benefit from its features. Below is my peppercorn solution for culturing bacteria. Both are in reverse osmosis filtered water but one has the cap off.

Learning is a lot more delightful when the whole family gets involved!

ORGANIZING…

My dream to have colorful wicker organizers for our family-cum-school room has been fulfilled thanks to post-Christmas sales at local craft stores. I love the solid colors (as does the kiddo) and how much they brighten our space.

I also found a 2011 planner at a bookstore for recording what we do in a day. I might have mentioned before that I’ve been trying to find an online tool…well, I’m still not satisfied with what’s available. Notebooks and planners have worked well for me so I am going to stick with paper. The best planner I’ve used so far is the BusyBodyBook but the boxes are too small for me. I like how this one has space for weekly appointments on the left and boxes for various projects, lessons, resources etc. on the right.

CREATING…
I’m grateful for my child’s joy in creating and appreciating the simplest things, including his own fruit smoothie recipes and origami vampire monkeys. 
BLOGGING and the joy it brings…
I’m grateful for having had some time this month to play around with the blog and find a layout that feels right.
I am also extremely grateful for dear online friends and their thoughtful ways. Susan of Chicken Spaghetti sent us some books to read…she is SO generous! Thank you Susan! And Kerrie of Kez’s Blog is giving me another special gift…the honor of hosting her and her family in our home in February. Only 10 days to go! 

What The Boys Baked…

…over Christmas. First, some serious stirring…

…and silly faces…

Next, some serious shaping (including a water molecule…can you spot it?)…

Trying not to be disappointed by those very crisp results…

Happy smiles after a perfect second batch…
And then, many liberal dollops of chocolate…

…and finally, all ready to enjoy!