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Love is King

For some reason, there has been so much talk about durians this year. You can smell when the durian season rolls around, but it seems there’s been an extra interest in the King of Fruits this season. Everyone is talking about durians! And all this talk just made us want to go out and get some for ourselves!

The boys have had durian flavoured cakes, ice-cream, and durian puffs, but have never eaten it straight from the source. We’ve had durian with our family before but the boys had been too engrossed playing with their cousins to notice any strange, spiky fruits lying about, nor a fragrant/pungent smell wafting through the house.

So when Jon and I decided to head to Katong to buy home some durians, it really was the boys’ first ever durian makan session. What fun it was!

I like the durian opening process, and discovering the inside of each fruit is just so fascinating to me! One more section, and one more section, and one more… Knowing that the boys have never seen a durian being opened before (yes, so suaku), I asked them how they thought the durian flesh was taken out from the fruit. Asher thought you needed very thick gloves to handle the durian, then the skin had to be pealed off like a kiwi. Ellery thought all the spikes had to be cut blunt then the skin peeled off like an orange round and around. They both guessed that the inside of the durian would be like a melon, and you could cut it into slices. Very amusing :) They badgered me to tell them what it was really like, but I simply told them to wait and see.

Thick gloves, check.

Thick gloves, check.

Goodness. Having not bought durians for a few seasons, I did not realise that there were so many types of durians now. Besides the famous D24 and mao shan wang, there are the black pearl, golden phoenix, red prawn, green bamboo, XO, etc. Honestly, I have no idea what the differences are between these types. I just tell the durian seller, “bittersweet and creamy!” We were recommended the green bamboo durians. Jon and I had a late night durian outing a few nights before but the durian was very disappointing. We had gone too late, so there weren’t many choices left. The durian was thin, ‘watery’, and too sweet for my liking. But these durians from 227 Katong Durian were so good! And although business was brisk, the stall holders were patient. You could also see that they took care to choose good durians for you (important if you are, like me, quite clueless about how to pick good durians).

227 Katong Durian

227 Katong Durian

Asher was so eager to have some he was quite upset that we didn’t let him have a taste when the Uncle asked us to try it. I did though, and it was good! I couldn’t wait to get home!

Out came the newspapers to line the floor. Out came the durians from the bag. Eager hands couldn’t wait to get their fingers on creamy treats. Were it not for the thorns, the boys would have grabbed the durians themselves.

Mini durian party

Mini durian party

As Jon opened the first durian, the boys were more interested in the fleshy pieces. It was perfect! Exactly as I had hoped – bittersweet and creamy. They licked their fingers and thought that was it. Then Jon opened another segment. Asher’s eyes went wide! It was hilarious! They were absolutely delighted that the durians had small sections with ‘baby’ durians inside (small bite sized pieces).

Mmmmmmm

Mmmmmmm

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

We didn’t get many, so before we knew it, all the durian was gone! Poof! So much faster than I had expected. I told them there’ll be a next round. Ellery thought I meant that very night and he was so disappointed there would be no more durians! We showed them how to drink from the durian shells so their bodies wouldn’t be ‘heaty’, and wash their hands by rubbing the inside of the durian shell so there wouldn’t be a strong smell left on their fingers. It was past bedtime, so I hurried them to bed with playful threats of swinging durian shells at them if they didn’t go to bed quickly.

Spiky

King of Fruits

When I think of durian makan sessions, I remember all the times from my childhood when my parents or their friends bought durians, how we shared them with friends, neighbours, cousins (and a priceless memory of my cheeky brother chasing my durian-hating cousin with a piece of durian), and church friends (everyone would pool orders at church camp in Malaysia and an uncle would buy back several baskets of the fruit!).

The next day Asher surprised us with this note. And I realised that we love the King of Fruits not just because it tastes great, but because it gives us the chance to build bonds of love.

SONY DSC

A sweet surprise in the morning

Durian is more than just a yummy fruit. Durian is a reason to gather, an experience to share.

Wind in the Willows

I bought the children’s version of The Wind in the Willows some years back, and had read it to the kids a couple of times before. We pulled it out again in the run up to the theatre production of The Wind in the Willows performed by talking Scarlet.

The Wind in the Willows is a classic children’s book by Kenneth Grahame and tells the story of four friends – Mole, Ratty, Badger and the irrepressible Mr Toad. When Mole plucks up the courage to explore the Riverbank with his friend Ratty, nothing can prepare him for the adventure that awaits. Along with Badger and Mr Toad, they go from one exploit to the next, brought about mainly by Mr Toad’s reckless indulgences, and it all culminates in a battle not only to save Toad Hall, but their very way of life.

From the get-go the show presented a unique proposition, immersing you in a classic English experience. The costumes, the manner of speech, everything was just so English! I’ve never watched any other play like it. I wondered if the kids had trouble understanding what was said because of the heavy accents and speed of talking, but I loved it! And Mr Toad was played wonderfully! Irresponsible, irreverent, yet lovable and funny. I think the kids connected with him the most.

The irrepressible (irresponsible) Mr Toad

The irrepressible (irresponsible) Mr Toad and his friends

The script was good, the songs were original and very well arranged. I especially liked the song about going into the wild wood. The melody, rhythm, lyrics and mime came together perfectly to make you feel how creepy it was to wander in the woods when it was getting dark…and you hear a pitter patter…and you think someone’s there…

I also liked how they managed to bring you into different scenes by stirring up your imagination through the use of costumes, very simple props, and context. Without the set ever being changed, you are brought from the riverbank, to Toad Hall, on a ride down the country road, to a courtroom, to a jail, etc. Through subtle use of costume changes some actors took on multiple roles, though these might have been a bit to subtle for the kids. You have to be listening carefully to know which new character is being represented.

The 'car' that started Mr Toad's obsession

The ‘car’ that started Mr Toad’s obsession

Mr Toad driving his swanky new car

Now here’s Mr Toad driving his swanky new car!

While I think it is a tad too sophisticated for the little ones, its really appealing for older children and adults. I really enjoyed watching this! I think it would best suit kids 8 years and above. It is also probably a good idea to read the story to your kids first so that they have an idea of the plot and can keep up with the action. As for my kids, they liked the battle scene the best, though they wished the Chief baddy was shown being flung across the room like how it was mentioned in their version of the book. Boys.

The Wind in the Willows is brought in by ABA Productions and runs until Sunday, 14 June 2015 at SOTA Drama Theatre. Tickets are available at the SISTIC website and hotline (63485555). The show is 1h 45min long, something I had overlooked, so if you’re catching the evening show make sure not to overpack your day before that (as I did) and to give your kids enough to eat prior to the show in case they get tired and hungry (and cRaNky – as mine did! Hoo boy! My apologies to those who were sitting around us!)

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We received complementary tickets for this show. All opinions are my own. 

Bo Geh

Asher’s lost his first tooth!

He excitedly came home and ran into my room to show me that gap in his teeth. The shaky tooth had been bothering him for a couple of weeks and had affected his appetite too because it was just too uncomfortable to eat.

I find it really funny that in our house we were excitedly waiting for his tooth to drop, while excitedly waiting for Alyssa’s tooth to sprout.

Anyway, here he is showing off his little gap to me hahahaha

AHHHH

AHHHH

AHHHHHHHHHH!!!

AHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Little Passports

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.)

I came across a link to Little Passports and was so intrigued by the concept. Jon and I used to travel a lot before the kids came along, doing the whole backpacking on a shoestring thing. Such wonderful experiences! We still have the travel bug in us and would love for the kids to see and learn more of the world and its varied cultures. But with kids, travelling can get expensive. So we are saving many many destinations for when the kids are older and better able to appreciate wherever we go, and better retain memories of those holidays. With Alyssa’s arrival our timelines have been pushed back even further!

In the meantime, Little Passports offers us a way to teach the kids about the world and to explore a new country each month. There are many monthly subscription boxes nowadays, but I’ve never subscribed to any of them. This one, however, really appeals to me and I can’t wait to try it out! Especially since the June holidays are almost upon us!

Each World Edition subscription (for kids 6-10 years old) comes with a little suitcase and a passport (how cute!), a map, letters from pen pals Sam & Sofia, stickers, activity sheets, and other things. Each month you receive a kit featuring a new country, with activities and collectibles. There’s also a world edition for younger kids (3-5 years) called the Early Explorers, and it’s a simplified version that’s more appropriate for that age group. And if you are really keen to learn about all 52 states of the USA, there’s a USA edition too.

The little suitcase and the things that come with the World Edition subscription (Photo taken from Little Passports site)

Each World Edition subscription comes with a map (Photo taken from Little Passports site)

If you, like us, love for the kids to learn more about the world, Little Passports could be for you. I think this will be a really fun June holiday activity with the kids! Perhaps you’ll find that one destination the entire family simply must visit in person for the December holidays :)

Some stories attract you by their title alone. You just know it’s going be a good story. You just know you’re going to like it. And it certainly helps when the author is known for writing charming tales with memorable characters. The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers is definitely one such story. I knew that my little bibliophile, Ellery, would like it. What a treat then to have the opportunity to bring him to watch it live!

The story is about a boy called Henry who loves books. Except, Henry doesn’t like to read books, he likes to eat them! Big books, picture books, reference books . . . if it has pages, Henry chews them up and swallows. Red ones are his favourite. And the more he eats, the smarter he gets. He’s on his way to being the smartest boy in the world! However, he eats too many books too quickly. One day he feels sick to his stomach and discovers that the knowledge he has acquired through book eating is all jumbled up inside. He simply can’t digest it! Eventually he learns to enjoy books by reading them, rather than eating them. He also finds that by reading he can still acquire knowledge, and still be on his way to becoming the smartest boy in the world. It will just take a little longer. It’s a unique story that brings home the message that reading is a worthwhile activity, and that there are no shortcuts to success.

Henry about to gobble up a book

Henry about to gobble up a book

Book goes in, brain gets bigger!

Book goes in, brain gets bigger, boy gets smarter!

The stage adaptation of The Incredible Book Eating Boy really brought out the story and allowed you to understand the main character, Henry, and his unique circumstances even more. I liked how they dramatised Henry getting distracted by a cat (doing a massive poo…) and accidentally having his first taste (literally) of books. Through a clever use of angles, lighting, and slight of hand, the actors managed to make it look like Henry was eating up the pages of the book, eating up whole books, and even several books at a go! Of course the adults would know how it’s done, but I think it wow-ed the kids. Ellery whispered to me, “How come he can really eat books, Mummy?”

I thought the actors did very well at switching roles, in particular Teresa Jakovich and Jo Turner who had to take on multiple characters in the show. They really transformed with each character, giving each one a different manner of speech and unique little idiosyncrasies. My favourite had to be Timmy, Henry’s classmate. He was soooo funny. Loved him.

Henry with his Dad and sister

Henry with his Dad and sister

Besides Timmy, my favourite bit in the show was the segment showing ‘Henry’s Kitchen’, a parody that was a cross between sell-a-vision and a cooking show with books as the ingredients. It was so punny! There were lots of humourous references to famous books that parents could appreciate, and several references to familiar childrens books that the kids could recognise. For Ellery, his favourite part of the show was when Henry learned to enjoy reading, rather than eating, books.

After his terrible bout of indigestion, Henry doesn't want to eat book anymore!

Henry cannot stomach the pile of books anymore

I liked how the set and props were inspired by books. The backdrop was of pages of a book, the stage was marked with a boundary of books, the stools were piles of books, and the cleverest part was having props that looked like books which opened into a table complete with pop-up salad bowls and cups! I also liked how the style of the set and props stayed true to Oliver Jeffers’ beautiful and quirky illustrations in the book, right down to Henry’s medal for being the smartest boy on earth.

The smartest boy on earth!

The smartest person on Earth!

It isn’t always true that a good book translates to a good stage adaptation, but CDP theatre producers did a great job. Even though they elaborated on parts of the story, they did not detract from it. I would say their version made the book even more appealing!

On the way home, Ellery told me about how he couldn’t find a particular book and said he was certain Henry must have eaten it up! :)

image

Eating the book eating boy

Presented by ABA Productions, The Incredible Book Eating Boy runs until Sunday 24 May and I think there are still tickets for the 430pm show. If you’ve got no plans, it would definitely be worth your while catching this production! Tickets are available via the SISTIC website and ticketing hotline (63485555).

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We received complementary tickets for this show. All opinions are my own.
This post contains affiliate links.

Bolster

This is what happens when your brother thinks you are cute and cuddly.

Ellery: "Mummy! Why is my bolster moving?"

Ellery: “Mummy! Why is my bolster moving?”

Alyssa Turns One!

On the actual day of Alyssa’s birthday things went pretty much the same as usual except we indulged in some flower shopping in advance for Mother’s Day. The cold rooms were…cold, and I hurried in and out a few times with Alyssa to get what I wanted. I gave her a little stalk of her own, and she was so so happy with it :) I suppose girls and flowers really could be an innate thing, huh?

So happy with her flower :)

So happy with her flower :)

My little girl is one!

My little girl is one!

We hurried home so that I could get started on baking her birthday cake. My mum came over to play with her and chipped in to help me cut the triangles for the bunting. My Mummy is the best! How apt that Mothers’ Day was just around the corner. Her actions showed me motherhood really never ends. Your kids can be all grown up, but you’ll still love them and want to help them as much as you can.

I decided on a whim to make a marble cake, and with some leftover batter made a little cupcake for us to cut after dinner as Alyssa’s birthday cake. It was moist, appropriately dense, rich and chocolaty, and just perfect, I thought! I was really pleased and had high hopes for the cake. Alas, the actual cake somehow turned out really really dense. Too dense. I don’t know if it’s because the batter wasn’t very thick in the pans, there was too much mixing, the refrigeration, the pressing down the fondant on the cake, or…I have no idea! At the party the next day, it was so dense it was difficult to cut through the cake! How embarrassing! There were a few guests who claimed they really liked the cake, but I did wonder if those guest were just being nice :)

Happy Birthday Alyssa!

Happy Birthday Alyssa!

blowing out the candle

blowing out the candle

Cutting her little cupcake

Cutting her little cupcake

I also have a new found respect for cake makers who use fondant. It is so difficult to use! Honestly, my cake was so shabby! There were cracks in the fondant, some parts weren’t covered properly. Gosh. Just getting the fondant off the table was a nightmare because I kept breaking it. It was so nightmarish it was funny! I was laughing to myself at just how ridiculous the cake looked :) I think I made the fondant too thin. The instructions were to make it as thin as possible, but that makes it near impossible to lift up without breaking. I also realised too late that I shouldn’t have put the cake in the fridge because when it’s taken out there’d be condensation on it. It also got sticky when I was working with it, and it was only later on at the party that someone told me I had to work in an air-conditioned room. So….I tried my best. Tried to cover up the cracks with little fondant cats since Alyssa likes cats (though Jon said they looked like pigs :) ). It was a simple looking case, but I really put in a lot of effort so was quite pleased anyway. If Alyssa ever asks why I made her such a simple looking cake, I’ll just ask her to make a fondant cake herself so she knows how difficult it is to work it! I’ll stick to using icing and chocolate ganache. If I’m feeling brave I’ll try fondant again.

Cracking fondant!!!

Cracking fondant!!!

Creases and cracks. Ahhh!!

Creases and cracks. Ahhh!!

Cats lounging on the cake

Cats lounging on the cake

Whoops! Little kitty falling off the cake!

Whoops! Little kitty falling off the cake!

Snuggling cats

Snuggling cats

The end result! Kitty cat cake for Alyssa :)

The end result! Kitty cat cake for Alyssa :)

More on the party in another post!

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