Planning A Birthday Party


My little one is turning 7 and we are planning a Harry Potter birthday party. So he has been looking forward to his birthday ever since we celebrated his brother’s earlier this year. Over the months, he had changed his mind several times on the birthday theme. For a while, it was castle and knight until one day when he dug out some old Star Wars DVD and decided that he wanted some serious light saber sparring for his birthday. Recently he started reading Harry Potter and watching the movie and became crazy over flying broomsticks, pointy hats and casting spells.

The elder brother has patiently explained to him what was shown on the screen. It was hard for my older boy to sit through the movie without commenting when he had read the books 3-4 times. In fact, we have spent so much time discussing the plot of the movie that we eventually decided to make it the theme for the birthday.

Having planned a Percy Jackson birthday party for his elder brother a couple of years back, I was sorely aware of the amount of effort required. But PSLE was over and I thought it would be good to get the boys involved in the planning and preparation of the party. The birthday boy was thrilled and everyone was excited and we spent many more hours talking about Harry Potter!


You will be surprised how much resources you can find on the internet for a Harry Potter birthday party! I got the boys involved in brainstorming for games ideas and they helped in providing information on ‘appropriate’ Harry Potter party food and filled in the gaps on the nitty gritty details on everything Harry Potter! My elder boy is now officially the Harry Potter expert in the household.

It was so much fun but like most things fun, the excitement sizzled off when they realized the amount of work involved. Thankfully, the 4 days of school break for PSLE marking gave them plenty of time to work on the tasks. There were game planning, food planning, piñata making, invitation card making. Over the last week, the boys have learned to tie a sliding knot. make their own glue that cost almost nothing, make a wax seal without wax, how to age paper, use a hot glue gun and the best way to spray paint. They were given a budget to work with for the party and it made them pause and look at the price tags whenever we went shopping for our party needs. They were forced to do some maths to make sure they were not over spending!


The party is still a couple more days away but I am happy that this whole party planning and preparation thing has kept both our brains and hands busy. I may risk having the boys grow up hating me for making them work so hard for their birthday parties but I am so loving this whole atmosphere of discussing, arguing, thinking, buzzing of ideas and getting our hands dirty … an amazing opportunity for everyone to learn something!

I will share the details of the party in my next post!



Jamie’s Roast Chicken

My boys love watching Jamie Oliver cooks on TV. That includes their Dad. I think it’s a great consolation to know that he is not the only one who makes it look like a tornado has just touched down in the kitchen every time he cooks. Even a celebrity chef shares the same traits.

I called Jamie the ‘messy’ cook and I think it makes my boys love him even more. How often do you get messy and good at the same time. I think for once, they felt like someone stood up for them, that being messy isn’t always a bad thing. Jamie Oliver, the messy cook who makes everything looks delicious.

They love how he uses his bare hands to crush up herbs, squeeze lemons, massage his meat and plate his food. Unpretentious, messy and fun. I have been watching him on and off on TV for a long time now but it was only not too long ago that I got passed his messy way of preparing food to start appreciating his culinary skills. He really makes cooking and plating looks like messy art, fun and inspirational.

I started following him after seeing him on TV, on how he raided American school canteen to bring healthier lunch to the kids. My boys were attending schools in America then and school lunch made up a big part of school. School hours were long, from 7 plus in the morning till 3 plus in the afternoon. They could pre-order lunch from school or pack their own food. My boys preferred the latter.

The school had a microwave in the canteen and the students were allowed to use it to heat up their lunch. The standard food served in school were fish fingers, chicken nuggets, cold sandwiches or some kind of biscuits, chips or crackers. My boys were known for their hot lunches. They were the Chinese dudes who made the canteen smell good (or bad). Their friends and teachers were always curious about the food they were eating (even more so if they used their chopsticks!), usually some rice with stir fried dishes we had the night before. They must thought my boys were weird to be eating such weird stuff for lunch.

My boys learned about eating REAL food. They learned that anything that comes in a box, tin, bag or bottle were usually not good for them. Food that sits on the supermarket shelves are food that has had something done to it to make it more convenient and ready to eat. Food engineers from the chemical industry are the ‘chefs’ for these food. If you take a closer look at the giant supermarts in the US, there were only a few aisles that sell fresh food or real food!

So I was excited to learned about Jamie’s attempt to reform school lunch programs, to help fight obesity and change eating habits. Such habits start from young and such knowledge needs to be taught to our children.

So the first recipe I took from Jamie’s website was how to roast a chicken!

Not a great deal huh. But it was a breakthrough for someone whose cooking didn’t go beyond your typical Asian style of braising, stewing, steaming and stir frying. I was always worried that the roasted chicken will turn out either too dry or not cooked. It is so much easier to buy a ready cooked one!

The first time I cooked this was 2 Christmas ago and I have lost count of the number of times I have used this recipes. It is one of our favourite one pot meal these days. On days when I am too lazy to cook, I would season the chicken, throw in some hardy vegetables, dump everything into the oven and set it to Auto. I could bring the kids for a swim or go for a run and dinner will still be ready on time. It’s a life saver.

Here’s the recipe adapted from Jamie’s site.

Roast Chicken
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Total Time
2 hr
Total Time
2 hr
  1. 1 whole chicken
  2. sea salt
  3. freshly ground black pepper
  4. 4 potatoes
  5. 1 large lemon
  6. 1 whole bulb garlic , broken into cloves
  7. 1 handful fresh thyme
  8. olive oil
  9. 1 handful fresh rosemary sprigs
  1. Preheat your oven to 190ºC.
  2. Rub the chicken inside and out with a generous amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cut the potatoes into small chunks, put them into the water with the whole lemon and the garlic cloves, and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Drain and allow to steam dry for 1 minute (this will give you crispier potatoes), then remove the lemon and garlic.
  5. While the lemon is still hot, carefully stab it about 10 times.
  6. Pat the chicken with kitchen paper and rub it all over with olive oil.
  7. Push the garlic cloves, the whole lemon, rosemary and the thyme into the cavity, then put the chicken into a roasting tray and cook in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes.
  8. Remove the chicken to a plate. Toss the potatoes in the tray with the juice and rosemary leaves. Shake the tray around, then make a gap in the centre of the potatoes and put the chicken back in.
  9. Cook for a further 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are nice and golden. (You can tell the chicken is cooked when the thigh meat pulls easily away from the bone and the juices run clear.)
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
MalMal Our Inspiration




From A First Time PSLE Mom


PSLE, a national examination that every Singaporean kid needs to take at 12 years old. Whether you are formally schooled or homeschooled, it’s almost certain that you can’t run away from it. 

So my husband and I have agreed to take a more hands off approach when it comes to our kids’ school work. The elder one is pretty much on his own when it comes to his school work. The younger one who is in Primary 1 still needs nagging before he settles down to do his work everyday. These days, he knows that it is his job to ask if he doesn’t understand and if he doesn’t finish his work, he will have to answer to his teachers.

We want them to be accountable for their own schooling and we want them to understand that knowing their school work is their responsibility. There isn’t really any special arrangement to prepare them for tests or examinations, the only work they do on a daily basis is homework brought back from school.  The teachers have put in a lot of effort to prepare them for PSLE. They started supplementary classes since P4 and now in P6, worksheets and past years papers are regular drills. Because of  that, life at home could remain pretty much the same even during this period. The boys spend most of their time doing their own things, mostly school unrelated.

It’s my first time being a PSLE mum and even though we try to keep things at home as usual, I have to admit that the stress is real.  It’s coming from parents, teachers, friends, colleagues and even the social media. I have found that the best way to deal with the stress is, shut them out. But if you can’t, the next best way is, go get a good workout! And yes, I think it is the adults who need to destress because when the adults feel stressed, it would most likely cascade down to the kids!

So why is PSLE so stressful? Why do kids kill themselves over PSLE? 

Our general belief is that PSLE is an important milestone in life and this is reinforced by what we see around us. It gets you into the elite schools. A disproportionate number of scholarship winners and top achievers come from these schools. Anybody who seem to be somebody in Singapore come from these elite schools – ministers, top civil servants, etc. Many of us having not been able to get into these top schools, would want the best opportunities for our children. That, we believe, is probably one of the best and most important things that we can do for our children. We do not want to compete against the law of statistics. Getting to one of the elite schools will probably give your children the best chance to succeed in life.

So the question is whether our children can succeed in life without making it to one of these elite schools? Are they condemned to a life of mediocrity if they don’t? What is the positive correlation between success in life and good PSLE results? Does PSLE results have a positive correlation with success in life?

And we can’t answer these questions without first understanding our underlying assumptions about success in life. What is succeeding in life? Should we define it against a list of material possessions and the monthly pay check? 

We should also re-examine our underlying assumption that what has worked over the last two generations will continue to work in the future. My generation grew up in a rapidly developing Singapore. We were told to study hard, do well in school, go to university, and get a good job. If you landed a job in a MNC, you have got it made. Yet, many of these dreams were shattered when the MNCs relocated to lower cost countries. What do we know about the future of our country? Of our economy, of our children? Should we continue to shape our children into the moulds that worked generations ago?

Empirical evidence also casts doubts about the importance of going to an elite school. There are people who are top in their fields who do not come from these elite schools. There are also many that go to these elite schools that do not do well in life. 

In the larger scheme of things, the PSLE is an exam for getting our children into the secondary school. That’s about it. It does not guarantee happiness or success in life. It may even be totally irrelevant. It is ridiculous to think that our children’s fates are sealed over this 4 day event. Having a child who thinks that life is not worth living over PSLE result is the saddest things in life. Our children deserve more than that and we should let them find their own way in this ever changing world.


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