Entertaining a toddler in quarantine

It’s been nearly 3 months now since this stay at home order began and I’m happy to say that we have somewhat created a schedule and some structure for our two year old. I’m not sure if I would call us lucky or unlucky to not have to home school but I suppose it’s a pretty subjective topic so I’ll just leave you to decide. I will say that in the beginning it was very hard not to just stick her in front of the TV and carry on and I won’t lie, we did this much more often then we probably should have.

But besides screen time and colouring here are some of the activities we’ve come up with now.

MADE UP GAMES:

We’ve made up some games but her favourite one we call it “find my friends”. Basically we hide her little people toys in random places throughout the house as if they were playing hide and seek with her and she has to go around and find them. She has 12 of these little friends. I feel like I should buy some more to keep the game going longer. This can actually occupy her for quite a while which is nice.

We also made up another one called hatchmal hide and seek which is essentially the same game but we just use different toys and call it a different name so to her its two completely different games.

PAINTING

We’ve discovered her hidden talent for art. It’s also possible that I’m biased and I think I have a little master artiste when actually she’s just making a big mess like any other toddler when they paint. But I’m particularly impressed with this one. It looks like a girl dancing in the wind to me. I loved it so much I framed it for her. Maybe I’m the only one who sees it but I thought it was quite impressive for a two year old ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve always been reluctant to give her paints because I was worried of how messy it would be but being stuck at home everyday with no where to go the mess was worth the extra peace and quite.

PUZZLES:

She’s taken quite a liking to doing puzzles. She still can’t fully complete one on her own but if we start her off by helping her complete the boarder she can finish the rest of it by herself.

CHORES:

We do chores together! She always wants to do whatever we’re doing so whenever I’m doing some kind of chore we try to engage her in it and get her to help out. She’s actually become really good at folding clothes. I think I have the next Marie Kondo right here!

There is only so much scheduling and structure you can create for a two year old. We’ve also learnt that all she really just wants is for us to be with her, pay some attention to her and laugh and giggle with her. So those are the things we try to do the most.

What are some creative things you’ve been coming up with to do with your littles at home?

Instant pot Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Beef noodle soup is by far one of my favourite dishes. It’s comfort food to me. Before covid-19 we would go out for taiwanese beef noodle almost once a week but since the pandemic started we haven’t eaten out even once. Not even take out. I’ve been really craving my comfort food lately so I started browsing recipes on how to make it. Most of them had a lot of ingredients I didn’t have so I disappointingly said to my husband Nick “I guess no beef noodle for me then.” To which he said “why don’t you just make it with whatever you have.”

I have to admit I am definitely no master chef here. In fact the chef in our house is actually Nick. He’s the one who can whip up a fresh new meal out of left overs and he’s the one who fixes my failed attempts at a new recipe. To him winging beef noodle was like no big deal but to me it’s like scaling one of the seven summits. I’ve literally broken down in the middle of cooking a meal because I was messing up so badly and he had to come save the food. I thought if I really mess up this one I guess I would always have him to save it. Besides it’s made in the instant pot and so far I haven’t had any failed meals in it! (knock on wood)

The recipe that I used for reference can be found here. I didn’t have the spice package thing or many other of the ingredients in this recipe so I gathered whatever I had and made the best of it. I gathered what spices I had in my spice rack from the recipe and created my own mixture. This little concoction of mine consists of: cayenne pepper, fennel seeds, cumin, coriander seed, black peppercorn and chinese five spice powder.

Here’s what I did:

Step 1: I set the instant pot to saute mode. I tossed in the onions, garlic, ginger and green onions and cooked until the onions became translucent. I didn’t have any sort of chili peppers on hand so I sprinkled a little bit of red pepper flakes. I might have gone a little overboard with this because it turned out a bit more spicy then I had anticipated. Remember a little goes a long way with this stuff.

Step 2: I added the meat in. I used stewing beef which I believe is usually a chuck because that is all I had but a beef shank would work too. I then added the tomato paste and chili bean paste. I stirred it all in until it was well mixed and the meat was browned a little bit. Lastly I tossed in my spice combination and mixed it all together.

Step 3: Once everything was all mixed together I added the soy sauce and water. I cooked it for another minute or so then turned off saute mode, closed the lid and switched to manual mode and set it for 100 minutes (as per the original recipe).

Step 4: About 10 minutes before the beef would be done I boiled two pots of water, one for the bok choy and one for noodles. I cooked each one and removed from the pot then set them aside.

Step 5: Prepare the garnish. I washed and chopped up some cilantro and some more green onions. (side note: I’ve been washing my fruits and veggies with a little soap and water lately. Just make sure to rinse thoroughly!)

Step 6: I places the noodles in a bowl, added in the beef and some soup and placed the bok choy on and topped it off by adding the cilantro, green onions and sour mustard.

I wouldn’t call this the BEST beef noodle I’ve ever had and I’m sure if I had followed the original recipe exactly I would have a much more authentic tasting bowl of beef noodles but I had to make due with the ingredients I had and it did satisfy my craving. Best of all I could say I actually made it myself! Also, no meal rescuing was required this time ๐Ÿ˜›

TAIWANESE BEEF NOODLE SOUP (serving: 6)

INGREDIENTS:

  • Approx 2 pounds beef (shank or chuck should work) cut in cubes
  • 1 tbsp Oil
  • 5-6 cups of water
  • 2 one inch piece of ginger (crushed)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 3 sprigs of green onions (cut in 2 inch segments)
  • 1 onion (cut in wedges)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp chili bean paste
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • Spice mixture:
    • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp coriander seed
    • 1 tsp fennel seed
    • 1 tsp black peppercorn
    • 1/2 tsp chinese 5 spice powder
  • Sprinkle of red pepper flakes
  • White noodles
  • Cilantro
  • Sour mustard
  • Baby bok choy

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place 1 tbsp oil in the instant pot and set to saute mode.
  2. Add in onions, crushed garlic, crushed ginger and green onions when the oil is hot and cook until the onions become translucent.
  3. Sprinkle some red pepper flakes.
  4. Add in the meat, tomato paste and chili bean paste and stir together. Cook until the meat is browned slightly.
  5. Add the spice mixture and continue mixing in together.
  6. Once the meat and spices and sauces are all mixed well add in soy sauce and water. Instant pot should not be filled beyond the the 10 cup line. Continue to cook in saute mode for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Turn off saute mode, place the lid on the instant pot and make sure the vent is turned to seal then set to manual mode and set for 100 minutes.
  8. Prepare the garnish, wash and finely chop up the cilantro and more green onions.
  9. 10 minutes before the beef is done boil two pots of water adding the bok choy to one pot and noodles to the other. Cook thoroughly.
  10. When the meat is done, quick release the pressure.
  11. Add the noodles to a bowl, topping with beef and soup and the bok choy. Garnish with cilantro, sour mustard and green onions and enjoy!

What kind of world will we leave to our children?

I want this place to mainly be for fun and carefree topics which is what it will be for the most part. Sadly our world is not always these things and I also don’t want to turn a blind eye when there are important things to be discussed. I’m not going to get into the issues that are happening in the US right now. I can’t even pretend to understand the true depth of it all but I want to talk about my own recent experiences and some thoughts about it.

Being an asian person living in Canada and especially in the city of Vancouver I can say that I have never really felt out of place. I’ve been lucky enough to mostly grow up with very minimal encounters with racism. I wouldn’t say that it didn’t exist at all but to me it was so minimal you couldn’t even notice it.

Since the beginning of this pandemic acts of violence towards asian people in the city have been on the uprise. I myself experienced something that I never thought I would. Being called a nasty name in the super market by a random stranger might not seem like a big deal but in a time where racial tensions are high and violence against asian people in the community is rising rapidly it certainly is a big deal. I recently watched Michelle Obama’s documentary on Netflix and she said “experiences like these shape’s a person’s soul.” Although I wouldn’t say my encounter was as soul shaping as many others have endured but I could understand what she meant. Something like that sticks with you. It’s not just the name calling but it is where that name calling comes from. If it’s a deep rooted anger and displeasure targeted at you while you’re really just an innocent bystander then it is a very scary thing.

For the first time in my life I felt like I somehow didn’t belong in this country; like I was an outsider. I knew that was not true but the experience allowed me to recognize that people had that sentiment and whenever I went outside I felt that people were looking at me through a different lens. Most of what I was feeling was in my head but the experience definitely changed me a little bit.

Although I am a target for racism my experiences do not compare to the horrific things that have happened and are still happening around the world especially to the black community. As an asian I feel that I cannot deny there isn’t a history of anti black sentiment that exists in my culture and to this I have a duty to speak up. I don’t have any answers on how to fix this nor do I have any answers on how to face my own challenges as a visible minority. The only thing I know is that we all have a responsibility to treat each other with kindness and respect and that is a truth that I must teach my child. I firmly believe that character foundation is built up starting from the home. As a parent it is my duty to educate myself and in turn to educate my child to be better then my own generation. Not just through words but through my actions and through my whole day to day being. Colour is beautiful and we need to embrace it and celebrate it. As a mom I can only hope that my actions today and what I leave with my child will result in a world that is a little bit kinder and a little bit less broken when I am done.

DIY fortune cookie jar puzzle surprise

Fathers day is just around the corner and as most of us are slowly getting comfortable to the idea of things opening up and the easing of social distancing rules, heading out into the malls to do some fathers day shopping might feel like a really nice change. With it being fathers day though, I thought a homemade gift might still be a nice expression rather than store bought so I wanted to share a fun DIY idea I have for a nice fathers day gift.

A few years back I made this felt fortune cookie jar for my husband as an anniversary gift. I don’t remember what the original tutorial I used was but here is a good example of how to make a felt fortune cookie.

I didn’t write down any fortunes to insert. I don’t think my brain can come up with a full jar of fortunes plus knowing my husband he would get bored by the fifth or sixth one. So instead I bought him soccer game tickets and I cut them into little strips so he could slowly open each one, piece them together and discover a surprise hidden gift!

This can be done with online gift cards or pretty much anything that you can print from a printer and cut into strips.

Hope you have fun creating this fun little gift and Dad has even more fun opening it!

Categories DIY

Overcoming the potty training woes

Since we’ve been in lockdown stuck at home these last few months I thought what better time to potty train my two year old then right now. They say you can potty train a toddler in about three days to a week. I say anyone who has done this must have magical powers!

I thought I had read all the signs correctly. My daughter is two and a half years old. She is able to understand most of the things we say to her and she seems to understand that pee’s and poop’s happen on the toilet. She has also been staying dry throughout the night since she was about a year and a half. I thought she must be ready for potty training! I quickly discovered how wrong I was. I’m not here to tell you how to successfully train your toddler rather I want to say that it’s ok if it doesn’t work the first time. Here are some of my take away’s from my first attempt at potty training my toddler.

When you’re not ready then you’re not ready.

My biggest mistake was to assume that my daughter was ready for this and pushed her rather then allow her to demonstrate her own interest and readiness. I’m not exactly sure what that will look like now but maybe when she stops saying “NO” to sitting on the potty that will be a good indication. In all of my readings on this subject the most basic instruction is that your child must be ready for this to work.

We decided to let her go cold turkey where we took away diapers and just went with pants and undies (we didn’t go as far as no pants at all but maybe we should have) using all the tips and tricks in the book from stickers to prizes, silly celebratory dances and m&m’s. Even amidst this pandemic where there is a shortage of toilet paper she has her own cute little roll of toilet paper. (My sister bought these for her for fun before the whole toilet paper situation happened). Regardless, none of this lead to any real success.

Celebrate the small wins.

We have small wins here and there. Poop’s have actually been more consistently successful then pee pee’s. I’ve read about a host of other issues with poopโ€™s and I’m so grateful we haven’t had to deal with that. She has a distinct poop face and I am able to catch it before it’s too late. However, for number one she doesn’t and by the time I notice, it’s already happening or in her words “the pee pee is falling down” (I don’t know if I want to laugh or cry). On the occasion that we do make it to the toilet we definitely make a big big deal about it.

Don’t turn into a monster Mama or Papa.

It is nearing a month now and I have to admit there have been more times then one where I’ve lost it a little bit. There’s only so much composure you can maintain when you discover the second, third or fourth puddle of pee on your living from floor in a day.

But composure is so important. Don’t be scary. Be chill about accidents. Very very chill about accidents. The last thing I wanted to do was to scare her away from going to the bathroom. Unfortunately I might have done that a little bit already. Not only are we not making very much progress I feel like we have gone backwards a little bit. She is now refusing to sit on the potty and asking me to put diapers on her with an extra “peeeez?” (that’s Ellie language for please).

Know when to stop and take a break.

We have reached the point where we decided it’s time to take a break. When Ellie started screaming “nooooo” and then proceeded to run as far away from me as possible whenever I asked her to sit on the potty it was a clear sign to me that she was NOT ready. I know it’s frustrating for her too because we tell her that she needs to tell us when she has to go but she responds by saying “I DID”. In her mind she has told us but she doesn’t realize that she has told us too late.

Just because the signs were there it didn’t mean that she was ready. You could say I am admitting to defeat but I look at it as knowing when to stop and take a break.

More importantly I didn’t want her to develop a negative association with using the toilet. If she didn’t feel comfortable about it I didn’t want to force her. For now we have moved to pull-up’s and I told her that itโ€™s ok to go pee pee in her diaper. I still ask her to sit on the potty multiple times a day so she doesn’t forget the feeling or the idea of it but definitely no pressure on her or on us. Maybe we haven’t been intense enough with our method. Perhaps when we are ready to try again we have to put our feet down firm to drive it home but for now we are going to be patient and I am daydreaming that it will miraculously happen for us hopefully sooner than later.

Lastly I just want to say good luck to all you Ma and Pa’s out there who are in the same boat as us. Whatever you are doing you are doing good as long as you are doing it with your baby’s best interest. If it doesn’t work the first time around there is always a second.

Simple delicious strawberry avocado smoothie

I like warm breakfasts in the winter like oatmeal or eggs and toast but summer is almost here which means it’s time to dust off the blender and start blending some smoothies.

The wonderful thing about smoothies is you can add whatever you want to it and it will pretty much always be yummy.

I thought I’d share this a simple 4 ingredient strawberry avocado smoothie that I threw together one morning . My freezer was stuffed to maximum capacity and I had just enough frozen strawberries to make a smoothie so I thought I’d use them up to gain a little more freezer space. Most strawberry smoothie recipes call for bananas but my potassium levels are high so that doesn’t work with my diet restriction. I opted to skip the banana and add some maple syrup for sweetness and It turned out to be so tasty!

I find this smoothie so yummy it doesn’t taste healthy enough to be a part of a healthy breakfast. It kind of tastes more like a strawberry milkshake. In fact, I would make this if I’m having a sugar craving rather then for a quick breakfast solution.

Strawberry Avocado Smoothie (serves 2):

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries (more like a heaping cup…)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1-2 tsp maple syrup (depending on your preference for how sweet you like it).

Instructions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Adjust sweetness with maple syrup to your your liking.
  3. Garnish with fresh strawberries. (optional)

Yum yum…hope you enjoy it as much as I do ๐Ÿ™‚

DIY fabric face mask

I am going to make a random guess that Youtube video tutorials on how to make a non medical face mask are pretty much near the top of the most watched video’s list these days. I made a few masks back in February when things were not nearly so bad here in North America. I never thought that I would actually ever need to use them. Sadly, this was not the case and now here we are trying to figure out how to buy or make masks to cover up and as my friend says it “keep our droplets to ourselves”. Although DIY masks certainly are not N95’s I also don’t think they are a one size fits all mask either. Personally I have not purchased any before so maybe the professionally made ones are more comfortable and have a better fit. For the ones I have tried to make myself this was not the case. It took me a few attempts to get the style and sizing right. I’ll share a bit of my experiences here so hopefully it helps you get on a quicker start to making these and having them fit properly and comfortably.

This was the very first mask I made using some random scraps of fabric I had on hand. By just looking at it you would think it fits and all would be well. I was actually working on a mini furniture painting project around that time so I thought I would wear it while I worked on my project to block out some of the odour from the paints and to test out the comfort and function. After about five minutes of wearing this my ears started hurting then it got to the point where it was bothering me so much I couldn’t wear it anymore. Furthermore the nose part would keep falling off of my nose every time I talked or moved around. I would have to make the elastic even tighter which would then hurt my ears even more. So much for either function or comfort with this guy.

I tried a different version. This time I picked a simpler method and it turned out to be the one that worked for me. I still had to make a few changes which I’ll talk about below. After a few tweaks I had exactly what I was looking for. Watch the Youtube tutorial here for the sewing details.

What you will need:

-Fabric

-Elastic cord

-Fabric Scissors (I don’t have fabric scissors so I used these Crayola kids craft scissors I had from many years ago which surprisingly worked a lot better than any of the other household scissors I had on hand!)

-Iron

-Sewing machine

-A measuring tool

-Pencil or something to write with

One change I made to this was instead of folding one piece of fabric in half I cut two different material of fabric and sewed them together. I chose one layer of standard quilting cotton material (I don’t know the exact proper name for this material) and one layer of cotton flannel. The two layers of the standard cotton felt a little thin to me but two layers of flannel was way too thick. The combination of the two seemed to be a good medium.

Because I chose to use two separate pieces of fabric I had to modify the measurements slightly. Here are the measurements I used for the cut fabric:

Fabric Measurements for Men’s Mask: 19cmx24cm with 13″ elastic cord

Fabric Measurements for Women’s Mask: 17cmx24cm with 12″ elastic cord

Fabric Measurement for Child Mask: 15.5cmx22cm with 9″ elastic cord

For sewing, because there is no fold you have to sew both the top and the bottom all the way across. Make sure you remember not to sew the sides so you have the opening to flip it inside out.

*A few tips:

-When you’re cutting out your initial rectangles try to make sure they are as symmetrical as possible and the sides are as straight as possible otherwise you may end up needing to eyeball your pencil lines a bit as you can see happened here for me:

-The length of the elastics I wrote down are more of a recommendation then the actual length you should use. I find that finding the proper length is what will make your mask comfortable. For myself I cut 11″ elastic cord which was plenty enough. My daughter is two years old and I use about 8″ elastic for her to fit snuggly. Try to measure out the best length for your own face before cutting so you don’t waste any. Elastic cord is another one of those items that seem to be hard to come by these days. However, if I’m making it for someone else I usually cut a little extra elastic so they can always adjust it to their best fit and cut off any excess.

There you have it! Masks for the whole family!

I Hope this helps you navigate DIY face mask making a little better. There are an endless number of Youtube videos from sewing machine, hand sewn or even no sew methods just remember that it might take a few tries before you find the best one that fits you. Good luck finding THE one!

Categories DIY

2020 was supposed to be awesome

photo by Anna Kim Photography

Last year was in my books the hardest year of my life. I faced a pretty frightening diagnosis with a cancerous tumour in my left kidney and I think for the first time in my life I experienced some kind of battle with mental health issues. 2020 was supposed to be awesome for me or at least way way better than 2019. I would be in remission, I had a new outlook on life, I had so much to live for and be grateful for. Things were going to be great. Then suddenly came a worldwide pandemic.

It’s been a little over two months since our lockdown began and reading news article after news article of all the horrible things that are happening in the world right now made me question if there was even any good in our world anymore, or another frightening question that would creep up was what kind of world is my daughter going to grow up in? Scary thoughts would keep me up at night and worrying myself to sleep would be on the daily. 2020 is almost half over now and nothing in it so far has been very awesome so the question is what can I make of this time in lockdown and isolation? Keep on worrying and being depressed about it or cease the day and make the best of it? (ok maybe like three questions but they are kind of the same question just worded differently). I can only say that today I have chosen to cease the day and be positive! Due to my rollercoaster of emotions these days this may not be the case on a different day and I suppose that should be ok too. Yes we are in the midst of a pandemic and what happens tomorrow is more uncertain than it has ever been in our lives but when I open my eyes to a new day each morning the sun is still shining through my window, the birds are still chirping outside and the little buds on the trees in my backyard are still growing greener and greener by the day. Most importantly my sweet baby girl still smiles at me with her sweet bright eyes oblivious to all the bad that is happening outside and I am briefly reminded of the innocence and good that does exist in our world. My point is in moments where I feel like the earth has stopped moving, it hasn’t. It is still rotating around the sun and I have to keep on going too whether I feel like it or not. I can can carry on into a sad troubling spiral of darkness or I can be in my orbit of light and grace and gratitude. I have been blessed in more ways than I can say with words and was so clearly reminded of this last year. I need to make the very best of right now as long as I am able to. 2020 may not be the awesome that I pictured it to be in my head but there is still time to make it awesome with whatever I have to work with.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Arthur Ashe

I randomly came across this quote a few days ago and it felt very fitting for these uncertain times where I have been feeling in this very strange state of limbo. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” by Arthur Ashe. With that I have apparently decided to start a blog! Starting this blog is not a spur of the moment endeavour for me. I had actually been sitting on it for a long time. I had my domain name picked out just waiting for me to do something with it but there was always not enough time or just the frightening thought of putting myself out there on the world wide web that held me back. Many successful bloggers seem to have one common piece of advice on starting a blog and that is if you’ve been thinking about it the best thing you can do is to just start. I don’t have a theme or topic or one specific passion I want to talk about. I want to talk about anything and everything! My hobbies are always changing and my interests can take a beeline anytime a new trend or fun fad comes along. I am a band wagon hopper and I am pretty sure I am not the only one of my kind. come join me in my little journey if you’re up for it!