Chinese New Year 2016: Crafts, Spring-Cleaning, Organizing

Chinese-New-Year-2016-Homeschool-Crafts

Another four days to the Lunar New Year ! *gasp*

How are your preparations for Spring?  This year, we kept things simple.

Have a look at our activities leading to Chinese New Year:

For art and craft, we’ve made a “大头娃娃” or “big head doll” – usually seen at a lion dance performance or Chinese New Year street celebration.

Materials:

  • Paper bag or plastic bag
  • Newspaper
  • Cellophane tape
  • Chopstick,straw or stirrer
  • Crepe paper or coloured tissue paper
  • Self-adhesive labels

Directions:

  1. Crush some newspaper into a ball. Secure with cellophane tape.
  2. Put newspaper ball into paper bag or a plastic bag. This will be the doll’s head.
  3. Insert a chopstick, straw or stirrer into the newspaper ball.
  4. Secure stick and bag with cellophane tape.
  5. Use crepe paper or coloured tissue paper to make the doll’s hair.
  6. You may also use crepe paper to decorate the doll’s hair (flowers or hair accessory).
  7. Draw the doll’s eyes, nose and mouth on the self-adhesive label.
  8. Cut out the label and stick them onto the doll’s face.

This craft can be made within minutes.  I find it almost impossible to craft while keeping an active toddler under radar at the same time! More Chinese New Year crafts can be found here and here.

Here’s what Elijah did while we made “大头娃娃” or “big head doll”.

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Happily mopping the floor for 15 minutes max.  Otherwise, he’ll probably rip the doll’s hair or chew its eyes and nose.

Our Lunar New Year decoration kept fairly simple: hanging couplets around the house, and New Year stickers stuck on our door.

Chinese-New-Year-2016-Couplets-Homeschool-Crafts

This week, “贺新年” (a festive song) has been playing over the phone.  We desperately need to learn another Chinese New Year song, other than “恭喜恭喜”!

贺新年 “He Xin Nian” Lyrics

贺新年 祝新年
新年哪 年连年
爆竹声声催人想幼年
贺新年 祝新年
新年哪 年连年
岁月悠悠光阴如箭
回首往事如烟 痛苦辛酸
寄望从今万事如愿
贺新年 祝新年
新年哪 年连年
愿大家都过个太平年

The song translates:

Happy New Year, wishing you well in the new year;
The new year comes year after year;
The sound of firecrackers remind people of yesteryear;

Happy New Year, wishing you well in the new year;
The new year comes year after year;
Time flies like an arrow;
Looking back in sorrow;
Hoping things are looking up;

Happy New Year, wishing you well in the new year;
The new year comes year after year;
May everyone enjoy a peaceful year.

Chinese-New-Year-2016-Tie-Organize-Homeschool-Crafts

Organization, spring-cleaning, decluttering! I wasn’t able to do as much as I would like to. But I take comfort knowing that it’s always ongoing.

Here’s a nifty trick to organize the hub’s neck ties.  Inspired by the numerous organizing tips on Pinterest. 🙂

Finally, we made our yearly trip to Chinatown to see the Chinese New Year decorations and people-watch as they queue up as early as 5am to buy Bak Kwa (savoury sweet BBQ meat).

In my opinion, the best view of Chinatown’s decorations and surroundings can be seen at the Garden Bridge. Head to Exit C at Chinatown MRT Station.  Then take the lift to Garden Bridge.  You’ll get a good view of the decorations together with prominent buildings like The Majestic and Yue Hwa Building.

If you have older children or plan to do a tour around Chinatown, be sure to read up the historical facts about Chinatown compiled by “Singapore Lost & Filed”.  I surely found them useful!

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Donate your “Declutter”

Donate your "Declutter" - Pass it On Organisation, Singapore

I’ve seen a lot of furniture and household items being thrown out during the Chinese New Year season.  As I spring-clean the home, I was reluctant to throw out our two-seater sofa.  It came together with a three-seater when we bought it three years ago.  The latter gave way and this two-seater was too small for our three bottoms.  We purchased another sofa and the two-seater sat at a corner of our living room for a while.  It became a home for Hannah’s stuffed toys.

Now, with Elijah, the number of things in our house have multiplied.  I needed space!  It was starting to feel claustrophobic with so many things around.  This two-seater has to go. But it was still in good condition. The dilemma!  

Then I stumbled upon “Pass It On” while reading a community magazine, “Voices”.  It was a website where we could donate used items to low-income families or people in need of help.  You could either put your items up for donation or respond to one of the wishes if you have an item that a person is looking for.

Pass It On: Donating Used Items

As I browsed the wish list, I read that a pair of elderly ladies who wanted a two-seater sofa for their home. Marvellous!

Immediately, I responded to their request and a couple of days later, a social worker from a Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWO) contacted me to arrange for the collection.  The movers arrived today and the ladies could get their sofa in time for 元宵节 tomorrow (the fifteenth day of Lunar New Year; marks the end of the festive season).

The entire process took less than a week and it was effortless. Hooray! The sofa found better use and I managed to reclaim our space again. 🙂

Do you have a pre-loved item that’s in good condition and you can’t bear to throw it away?  Log on to “Pass It On” and you might make someone’s day today!

Note: There’s a delivery cost of $30 per item. Donors can choose to bear the cost, send item to the VWO/person in need or VWO/person in need to bear costs, or otherwise stated.

DIY “Big Girl” Room Makeover

When I found out I was pregnant with Elijah, we made plans to move Hannah out of her room.  To help ease the transition (without the impression that she’s been evicted from her room) , I decided to decorate the new space with Hannah’s favourite colours: pink and white.

I knew the makeover would never look like any of those pinned on Pinterest.  With minimal space and pregnancy issues, the makeover had to be kept simple. Thankfully, we didn’t have to repaint the walls as the feature wall was already pink, and the furniture were white. Phew!

With my growing tummy and whatever energy I could muster up, I did several simple DIY decorations. We purchased the bulk of the items from Ikea.

Big Girl Room Makeover

Personalised Name Plate

I created Hannah’s name plate using rub-on letters (meant for scrapbooking) and paper doilies. Then, pasted on her pink STUVA wardrobe.

Storage Boxes

The pink and white PINGLA boxes matched the room perfectly!  They were the right size for our built-in shelves.  It could fit three boxes on each shelf.  Great storage for Hannah’s toys, puzzles and knickknacks!

Hanging Doilies and Pom-poms

I hung paper doilies and pom-poms for the finishing touch.  The paper doilies and pom-poms were bought from SKP and Daiso respectively.  You could refer here to create the paper doilies.  As for the pom-poms, I simply tied two halves together.

Monogrammed Jewellery Box

You know your little girl is not so “little” anymore when she starts to doll herself up. A jewellery box would come in handy. 🙂  It was made from an empty “Laughing Cow Cheese” container.  I got a customised jewellery box by glueing coloured paper, decorative tape and doily together.

Wall stickers for children's room

I bought DIY wall stickers (affiliate link) for the children’s room.  It’s a quick and easy way to jazz up a plain wall. I didn’t snap a photo of the wall stickers so have taken these from the seller’s website to show you the designs bought.  There are so many designs to choose from!

Overall, I managed to get the room ready before Elijah’s arrival.  Hannah was happy to find her favourite colours in the room.  More importantly, she was willing to sleep there! To me, that makes the makeover a success. 🙂

The First Few Weeks…I Have A New Sibling

I’m back again!  Time sure flies…Elijah’s turning a month old next week.  It’s scary realising how time just whizz by.

Friends have been asking how things have been with the new addition to the family.  I’ve been coping by…really, just coping by.  There are good moments and bad ones.  While I see moms posting smiling faces of their preschooler and the newborn on Facebook, reading the loving things the older sibling does for the younger one.  I’m experiencing the complete opposite.

Managing Hannah has been a roller-coaster ride.  She could be hugging her brother one moment, the next she’s demanding me to kiss her “ouchie” now as I try to comfort the baby.  I feel as if I’m fire-fighting throughout the day, rather than being control of each moment.

I wonder how the other moms do it? I’ve read countless articles on easing the new sibling transition but I’ve not been able to put them into practice (not when the baby is crying for milk and the older one is whining for attention).

People have told me to tend to the older one first but I just can’t hear Elijah’s wailing…I’ve tried.  Some said that we should ask the older sibling what we should do if the baby’s crying (the ideal response from the child is to carry the baby).  Sometimes the answer is, “Nothing.  Mama, just play with me.”

First Few Weeks - Reading to Baby

There are, of course, good times when Hannah plays the big sister.  She reads to her brother, sings to him, helps wash him up.   This is one of those good times.  It’s not easy to capture a picture when both are happy.  One is usually irritable and fussy, the other sulky or teary.

By evening, I’m exhausted!  Bedtime is a challenge.  Hannah’s always try to delay her bedtime routine, and I can’t get the baby to drink properly without dozing off on my boob.  To friends who posted lovely pictures of their kids smiling in bed, please enlighten me on what I’m doing wrong.

Oh, and let’s not talk about the condition of the house…or the amount of dust bunnies under the bed.

As I sign off to clear that vomit on the floor, I’d welcome any help and tips! 😉

Hello, World…

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This is Elijah!

Things have been quiet here since all the excitement is at home!

We’ve been busy changing diapers while Hannah’s learning to adjust into her role as big sister.

Oh, the pain, drama, laughter and tears! I’ve long forgotten what’s it like to wake every few hours, the time spent nursing, the long cries in the wee hours.

I’d have to keep this short but I promise to return with more updates and fun when I can. 🙂 Thanks for sticking by.

#Washified: Storage Cabinet Makeover

Plastic Storage Cabinet Makeover with Washi Tapes

Now, at 34 weeks pregnant, I’m battling with time and energy to finish the nursery and Hannah’s big girl’s room.  I’ve been feeling like a sloth again; snoozing now and then.  It hasn’t been easy to keep myself awake.  Sometimes, I’d doze off and Hannah would tap my shoulders to wake me up! I’ll keep my post short and sleep as early as I can.

Here’s a project I’ve managed to complete this week: my washified storage cabinet!  I came across several moms blogging about their projects with washi tapes.  That made me itch to do something crafty!  Looking at my boring, sterile storage cabinet (see above), I knew I had an upcoming project.

Thanks to Justina of “Mum in the Making“, I’ve discovered that Daiso sells washi tapes!  Purchased several rolls at $2 each. Hence, my maiden project began…

Makeover plastic storage cabinet drawers with washi tapes

Here’s the completed look!  I did this while Hannah was out with her grandparents, and when she returned, she immediately spotted the difference!

It didn’t take much time, and certainly it was easy to do.  This makes a great back-to-school makeover for your homeschooling room too.

I’ve certainly been washified!  Have you?

 

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Fabulous Daiso Finds for Art and Craft

Homeschool Crafts' Fabulous Daiso Finds for Art and Craft

I’m usually an organised person.  I’d pen down my to-buy list before shopping but at Daiso, it’s never possible to keep to my list.  At least one or two items might find its way into my shopping basket.  😛

I’ve shared some of the wonderful Daiso finds for the home and for our kids.  Today, I’ll be sharing five fabulous finds for art and craft.

1. Felt Fabric

There are long rolls of felt (70cm X 60cm) and smaller sized felt with adhesive back.  Depending on your handicraft, you could make a felt bag with the long rolls of felt or felt stickers with the adhesive felt.

These are some felt craft that we’ve done: DIY felt Christmas tree, Chicka Chicka ABC extension activities and Felt triangle art

 

2. Craft Scissors

At around 18 months, I introduced Hannah to using scissors (you can read my thoughts here).  The plastic craft scissors set that we use had six interchangeable blades, which is great for crafts!

Fabulous Daiso Finds for Art and Craft

3. Poms poms, spangle set and pipe cleaners

These craft materials are great for embellishing just about anything.  You could use them to make cards, accessories and decorative items.  They are guaranteed to keep your kids busy for hours.  Here are some ideas to share: Inch by Inch activities,  Pom pom nest and DIY Alphabet bottle lid game.

 

4. Craft Punch

Almost every crafter has at least one or two shaped craft punch.  Use them for party decorations, gift-wrap, cards…and so much more!  We love that it cost only $2!  We used the plum blossom punch in our counting exercise.

 

5. Florescent/Glitter Glue

You could get bottles of glue in florescent colours or glitter.  I like that it’s sold in bottles and not in pens.  Hannah seems to have better control with the bottles. She needn’t squeeze all that hard to get the glue out. Check out our toilet paper roll fireworks using glitter glue.

 

And that wraps up our series of fabulous Daiso finds!  I know there are plenty of other gems to discover.  One could find something unique at every Daiso outlet.  I’ve enjoyed reading other great finds posted by bloggers.  Do a search on “Daiso finds” and you’ll see lots of bloggers going gaga over their purchases. 🙂

Fabulous Daiso Finds for the Home

Fabulous Daiso Finds for the Home

Whenever the name, “Daiso” is mentioned, you’ll probably see the excited faces of most women.  That’s what happened at my recent gathering with homeschool moms. 🙂  So I thought of sharing my five fabulous finds at this $2 shop.

1. Vacuum Compression Bags
These storage bags come in various sizes and types.  The ones I usually buy come with a vacuum valve that makes compressing the bags easier.  I’ve used to store the family’s winter wear, comforter, and Hannah’s baby clothes.  It definitely frees up the much needed space in our storeroom.

2. Unseasoned Dried Kelp (Seaweed)
There are many types of seaweed in supermarkets but it not always easy to find unseasoned ones.  Daiso sells unseasoned, shredded dried kelp, which is perfect for making kelp soup.  Kelp is said to contain lots of minerals and nutrients.  The Japanese and Koreans believe that it helps rejuvenate and replenish the body.  Unlike most kids who prefer seasoned kelp, Hannah loves unseasoned ones! Yeah, my daughter’s a little eccentric.

Fab_Daiso_Finds_Floor_Wipes_Laundry_Homeschool_Crafts

3. Floor Wipes (Wet)
Have you had days when you were expecting guests to your house only to realise that you haven’t had time to clean the floor?  I’ve had friends or family wanting to pay me a visit but my house wasn’t in the best form.  These handy floor wipes have been my best friend ever since.  Daiso sells both wet and dry floor wipes.  While, they do not replace mopping and vacuuming, they certainly help wipe off at least some of the grime and dirt.

4. Lingerie Laundry Bag
This mesh bag does the trick to keep moulded bras and delicate lingerie safe while in the wash. It fits 2-3 bras at a time.  When it comes to laundry, I’m rather lazy and I’d welcome anything that helps save time and get the job done.

5. Kitchen Utensils
Most of my kitchen utensils come from Daiso.  Can-opener, wok spatula, whisk…anything required in the kitchen, you should be able to find it affordably at Daiso.  You can also find bakeware like a six-piece pastry cutter set for only $2!

Do you “heart” Daiso too?  Any favourite must-buys to share?  Any particular Daiso outlet that you like to visit?

Dumpling Festival 2014

The Dumpling Festival is here again!  Held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar; 2 June this year, it is a festival to honour a famous poet, Qu Yuan (屈原) for his patriotism.  Here’s how we celebrated the Dumpling Festival last year.

Food

I had planned to try cooking the glutinous rice dumplings (otherwise known as “Zong Zi” 粽子).  But after browsing through the recipes, I had second thoughts.  It takes approximately 2-3 hours to prepare the fillings and make the dumplings, and another 2-3 hours to cook the dumplings.  Learning to wrap the dumplings is an art altogether.  If the dumplings are not wrapped properly, the fillings will fall out.  I decided to execute plan B: buy a ready-made dumpling.

Frozen dumplings sold in Sheng Siong Supermarket in Singapore.

I chanced upon these frozen glutinous rice dumplings (粽子) at Sheng Siong Supermarket last week.  The supermarket had a section selling the ingredients for making dumplings, cooked dumplings, together with these frozen ones.  The brand, “Joo Chiat Kim Choo” supposedly makes tasty rice dumplings. So we decided to give it a shot.  There were salted and Nonya dumplings.  Usually, we’d prefer the latter but my husband decided to try the salted ones today.

Overall, the glutinous rice dumplings were not too bad.  Just a tad too salty for my liking.  I generally don’t take much salt in my food.  My husband found the taste alright.  Well, to each his own.  We’d try the Nonya dumplings next time.

Book

A Chinese children's book on the Dumpling Festival.

We borrowed this book,  “不是方的,不是圆的” (translates: it’s not square, it’s not round) by 郑春华 from the library.  Through a simple story about a mouse family, young readers learn about the Dumpling Festival.  It doesn’t mention about the origin of the festival, rather it shares what the dumpling is made of and the joy of celebrating the festival as a family.

I find that this book makes a good introduction or opening before discussing the meaning behind the celebration with your children.

Activities

We plan to head down to Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall this weekend to celebrate Dumpling Festival.  The Children’s Season 2014 is happening at the same time too.  There are craft workshops, dumpling making sessions, guided tours and interactive story-telling put together by students of ITE College Central.

Join in the fun with us!

5 quick organising tips to breeze through housework

5 organizing tips to breeze through housework

It must be the new year syndrome that’s kicking in. I’ve been clearing clutter, organising and re-organising around the house the entire week!

Since it’s the start of 2014, and with Lunar New Year less than a month away (it’s much earlier this year), I’m sure many of you are busy spring cleaning.

Here are five quick tips that I’ve found useful when it comes to efficient house making.

1. Hang clothes based on room and drawer organization.

Like many Singaporeans, we sun our clothes using bamboo poles.  It’s not typical of us to use a clothes dryer, given the hot and humid climate.  What I didn’t realise was, there was a “logic” to hanging clothes to save time!

Perhaps, most of you, homemaking experts have already known this:

Start by hanging the clothes based on the nearest room from your laundry area.  For us, Hannah’s room would be the first.  So, I’ll start with Hannah’s clothes.

Next, arrange the clothes on the pole similar to how your drawer or cupboard is organized.  The first drawer stores Hannah’s towels , so I hang the towels first, followed by her top and bottom.  Start with the drawer or cupboard nearest to the entrance and work your way in.

Finally, I move on to our clothes and do likewise.  That way, when I take in our clothes, I’m able to immediately put the clothes away from the first room to the last, without sorting or having to walk to and fro.

5 organizing tips to breeze through housework

2. Use tissue boxes to store condiments.

When I’m cooking, I find that it’s never easy to avoid spillage when handling condiments and oils.  To save time from cleaning the spills, I use empty tissue boxes to store condiments like light/dark soya sauce, cooking oil and sesame oil.  The cardboard soaks any oil spill and you can throw the box away when it’s dirty.

3. Fold grocery plastic bags into triangles to save space.

Who knew that little plastic bags can actually morph into an unsightly monster that clutter your cupboards!  My mother-in-law to the rescue!  She taught me a way to tame that clutter by folding plastic bags into triangles that can be neatly stacked away.  I found the plastic bag folding instructions on WikiHow for those interested.

4. Organise your paper and plastic bags by size and type.

To help find your plastic and paper bags easily, I organized my bags by size and type, and store them in a similar bag.  In other words, I use a small plastic bag to contain all other small plastic bags, one paper shopping bag to store the rest of my paper shopping bags, and a plastic shopping bag to store the rest.  That way, I’ll see what I need in a glance.

5. Using salt to absorb odors in fridge.

This one isn’t about organizing but it’s such a simple and useful method to freshen up the fridge.  I once read that filling a citrus peel with salt can help freshen up the fridge.  It works but at times when I don’t have citrus peel, I simply leave a small bowl of salt at the back of my fridge.  And it works just as well.  I use it for the freezer to get rid of any fishy smell.

What are your best-kept organising tips that makes housework a breeze for you?

 

Photo credits: ExeterAnna  and YL Tan via photopin cc