Lost In The Pine Forest

We hiked up a beautiful pine forest in Queenstown. It was one of the easier hike we did in New Zealand and would have taken us around 3 hours to do a round trip. But we got lost while coming down and ended up at the bike trail. All 4 of us had no idea how we wandered off from the hiking trail.

The mountain bikers were fast and furious and were insanely dangerous! They were fully geared and were all wearing what looked like motorbike helmets. They had to be going down at insane speed to require that kind of helmets!

We thought we could avoid them by taking the more rocky paths but hell no, they could be found at the most unlikely location, a treacherous and rocky cliff.

We back tracked the trail hoping to get back to the hiking trail but it was just too dangerous as it was a steep climb, we had to get on all fours at some areas and bikers would suddenly appear charging down the hill. A couple of them shouted at us warning us that we could get killed!

We tried bashing through the forest to stay away from the bike trail but it was too dense and we realized there was no way we could walk through it.

It was an irony how not too long ago I was admiring her beauty and now, I was silently pleading for her mercy. I was beginning to get worried and the little one started sobbing.

So going uphill to get back to the hiking trail wasn’t going to work and going downhill seemed like the best bet. We were actually not far away, we could see the lake and the car park, we just needed a safer way to get down and avoid the bikers!

We remembered an unmarked trail that linked up with the bike trail earlier on while we were back tracking and that could be our only chance.

The Dad recced the route down and we helped to keep a lookout for on coming bikes. Once a spot was identified as safe, we would move downhill one at a time. At any one time, there was someone who stayed behind to look out for bikes and get ready to shout to warn both the bikers and the person who was making his way down the trail. It was an intense moment.

We finally made it to the unmarked trail and judging from the mark on the trail, we suspected it was a track for 4 wheel drive vehicles. Now the chance of being knocked down by a 4 wheel drive seem lower than by thrill seeking bikers! We hurried down that path, still looking out for bikes, just in case.

Before long, we caught a glimpse of the road! A ROAD! We were thrilled. The joy, the relief to see the end to this maze. A maze in the wilderness, in a sea of pine trees of centuries old. A silent beauty which can be mysterious, awe inspiring and dangerous all in one.

 

2

Ways To Eat Kale

img_3860

By now, you should have heard about the many health benefits of kale. It is high in fiber, iron, minerals, antioxidants, Vitamin A,C, and K. It helps to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, detoxify the body and contain numerous cancer-fighting substances. It’s being called the ‘queen of greens’, ‘a nutritional powerhouse’!

It was not too long ago that I got to know about its existence. It’s not your usual leafy greens that you can order from a Chinese restaurant or find in a Chinese home where stir fry dominates most of the cooking style. Kale originated from Europe and is a member of the cabbage family which includes broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

I started using it for my smoothie. Despite being a superfood, I have to admit that I don’t like how it tastes. It almost tastes too green or too raw, if there is even such a thing. I usually have to blend it with some sweeter fruits such as red apples, bananas or pineapples in order to mask the ‘rawness’. And it gives my smoothie an unappetizing colour.

As an adult, I can accept that food that is good for your body doesn’t have to look/taste good. I would diligently drink up a glass of my healthy smoothie every morning, but unfortunately not my kids nor my husband and it almost makes me feel guilty that I am the only one eating all the good stuff!

I read about using it for all sorts of salad. But that doesn’t work for my Chinese boys who eat their spaghetti using chopsticks!

fullsizerender-6

So a few months ago, I went on a quest to make my boys eat kale. I tried different ways to cook it. Some ideas were from the internet but mostly through trial and error. So far the results have been promising. Apart from using it for making smoothie and salad (which doesn’t work for my boys), here are some other ways I cook it so that my boys will eat!

1. Kale Chips

This was the first thing I tried and it was really simple. All you need to do is, wash the leaves, pat dry, drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper, bake at 140 degC for about 20 minutes or until the leaves turn crisp. I usually make this for snacks and it is definitely healthier than eating potato chips. We could finish a whole bunch in one go if I cook it this way.

fullsizerender-5

2. Stir Fry with Garlic and Anchovies

I stir fry it with garlic and anchovies, just like how I usually stir fry my Chinese leafy greens. It still has a bitter after taste but it actually tastes good with enough salt and anchovies! Served with an egg or omelette and brown rice, this makes a healthy after school lunch for the boys.

3. Kale Quiche

It just so happened that I ran out of capsicum for my quiche one day, so I tried substituting it with kale. I chopped up a few leaves and lay them at the bottom of the quiche. The first reaction I got from my boys when they heard that I made kale quiche was YUCKS! But I insisted they try it and they love it and ate up everything!

4. Kale Fried Rice

Their favourite is probably kale fried rice and they have been asking for it these few days. This is really easy to make. Just cook your normal fried rice and add kale at the end of it. Mix it around for a couple of minutes and the fried rice is ready to serve. I like how the kale helps to add some crunch to my fried rice!

img_1291

It almost feels unreal that the boys actually eat everything I cook with kale! Surprisingly, there are so many different ways of cooking it that makes it the most versatile vegetable in our fridge.

It is now our family favourite and a regular item in our grocery list. As the boys have been fussy eaters since young, I am so mighty proud that they are eating such a power punch vegetable today!

 

 

 

4

A Harry Potter Birthday Party

img_0623
My younger boy turned 7 over the weekend and we threw a Harry Potter birthday party for him. We had about 20 kids over and they had a blast but I suffered a headache and a hoarse voice after the party.

It took us a couple of weeks to prepare for the party but I realised that having enough energy to see through the party on that day itself is just as important. My boys rated the party a perfect 10 but I would have rated a much lower score mainly because we didn’t get to play all the games we wanted to.

We did quite a bit of craft for the party ourselves and I was happy to find reason to indulge in my crafty instinct. The birthday boy was happy to dab his hands here and there but left me to finish most of the jobs. His elder brother was however a great help. He came up with some really cool stuff for the party.

1. The Invitation

We sent out the invitation 2 weeks prior to the party. It includes a letter of invitation to Hogwarts and a train ticket for Platform 9 3/4. You can easily find a copy of the train ticket and the letter on the internet. Harry Potter birthday party ideas were all over the place!

I used Microsoft Word to type out the letter and the fonts used were Lucida Blackletter (for header), Apple Chancery (for body) and& Xingkai SC Light (for McGonagall’s signature)

img_0847

The letters and envelopes were printed out on normal A4 size paper but we brushed coffee over them to get the aged look. My elder boy had wanted to make his own Hogwarts mould using hot glue and real wax but I thought it was too complicated. We ended up using some cheap clay from Popular bookstore.

img_9672

We rolled small balls of clay and pressed 10 cent coins on them. After the clay has hardened and dried, we painted them with red poster paint. Overall, I think we achieved the “seal” look.

img_0862

The envelope was a little tricky to make. I downloaded a jpeg copy of the envelope from here and used GIMP (I was too cheapo to pay for Photoshop) to add in the individual guest names. You will need to rotate the text and align it to the envelope. I downloaded this Harry Potter font and used it for the text.

2. The Food

The party was in the afternoon so we ordered some mini savories. We had a snack station where we dressed up some candy and bottled drinks with Harry Potty Labels. All labels were downloaded from the same website.

Drinks label
Candy labels
Potion labels

The kids were thrilled to be eating cockroach clusters and drinking FireWhisky, Elf Made Wine and ButterBeer which were essentially chocolate clusters, promegranate, green tea and oolong tea.

3. The Cake

I had wanted to bake the cake if not for a failed bake a few days prior to the party. My brain was fried, I forgot the sugar! The boys ended up eating the cake with honey and they actually finished it! I decided that it would be safer to order our favourite chocolate cake instead.

img_0845

The decoration was simple. I had Quidditch hoops made from green pipe cleaners and straws. For the golden snitch, I cut out 2 wings and attached them to a Ferrero Roche.

4. The Props

The birthday boy made himself a wizards cloak from a black trash bag. He had probably spent enough time playing with trash and knew exactly where to cut holes so that his hands and head could stick out.

img_0837

You can print out Harry Potter glasses from here. Halloween was round the corner and we found wizard hats at Daiso for 2 bucks! The wizard broom was kindly donated by the Bangladesh worker who worked at East Coast Park.

On the night before the party, we unwrapped this magnetic chalk board that had been sitting in the study for months. It came in a cardboard packaging that looked just like the photo frame we needed for the party!

img_0441

I really wanted the owl balloons and had bought a bundle of helium balloons in the morning. My very talented sister managed to draw them in a jiffy by following pictures from here

We had everything placed at the entrance of the party site and I thought it was a welcoming sight.

5. The Games

My elder boy was assigned the game master and was responsible for planning the games. He was in charge of gathering the kids during the party but was obviously having too much fun playing and didn’t get the games started till late. Out of 3 games that he had prepared, the kids only played 1.

They played a game of dodge ball using squishy balls as Bludgers as seen in a Quidditch match. The kids were divided into 2 teams using the sorting hat. Whoever gets hit by the balls will be out of the game and whoever catches the ball will get to bring its members back into the game. The team with all its members kicked out loses the game.

img_0860

He followed this table Quidditch game idea and made 3 hoops. We found these ready made hoops from the Gardening section in Daiso! All he did was hot glue the hoops to the metal stand. We collected some sand from the beach and put them into our Ginger Ale glass bottles to keep the hoops upright.

We also made these lockets for a treasure hunt game. They were supposed to be the Hocruxes! The boys came up with the design and they learned to tie sliding knots so that these would fit every kid. Whoever finds these Hocruxes during the treasure hunt game will get to keep them.

For the pinata, we had a dementor which was made of paper marche and trash bag. Unfortunately the trash bag wasn’t hardy enough and the dementor fell off the tree after the 3rd hit. Thankfully there were some quick thinking kids who managed to put the pinata back onto the tree again. This time, it lasted another 5 hits or so. The kids refused to give up and insisted that they should continue to hit the pinata. The poor dementor was mutilated and the kids finally decided that it was time to pick up all that candy on the ground!

We learned that kids don’t need games with rules to have fun and if you really need to get them to play the games you have planned, invest in a handheld loud speaker!

6. The Party Favors and Souvenirs

We pre-packed some of the candy into these Wizard’s broom party bags to be given out to the younger kids who were too slow in picking up sweets from the pinata. But they were so cute that even the bigger kids asked for them.

The idea was from Martha Stewart and I really like how they turned out.

The hottest item among the kids have to be these! My elder boy made 20 of these wands using disposable chopsticks!

He used hot glue for the design and hand painted each wand with double coat of acrylic paint. Every wand comes with a description tag and he compiled a list of spells with their respective usage and printed them into 3 books.

He called them the Standard Book of Spells (Pocket Edition) Grade 2, 3 and 4. The plan was for each kid to know a fraction of the spells leaving him and his brother the master of all spells! (the last I heard, he kept more spells to himself!) They know exactly which wand belongs to which wizard, Gawk!

The boys spent many days working on these wands and even more days pretending to be Lord Voldemort and Dumbledore casting spells at each other! We had wanted to blind fold the kids to let them choose their wands (because the wand chooses the wizard!) but they were so intrigued by these wands and the description that came with them that we decided to let them choose their favourite wand instead.

These wands were made of disposable chopsticks and were all 8 inches long. The boys used longer chopsticks for their own wands and decorated them with special gold and silver trimmings. They made the better looking wands for themselves! Ha!

You can find the wand tutorial here

As you can imagine, it was hell lots of work preparing a themed birthday party. The good thing was it was the end of school year and the boys were freed up from homework and CCAs. We spent many afternoons working on the party, talking about Harry Potter and discussing details in the book. It was a great project to work on and they are now the Harry Potter birthday party planner experts!

 

Like I said during the last themed birthday party I organized, this will absolutely be the last themed birthday party for us! But then I suspect like most things painful but fun, the memory is short. Oh well, till the next one comes around!

 
 

9