Fun

Lego Cake Stand

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My six year old and his best bud, also 6, have September birthdays a day apart and they’re both Lego mad, so that’s two Lego-themed celebrations in a row.

My son didn’t want a party but my husband is baking a cake anyway, and I decided on a whim to make a stand after spying one online. I didn’t read the instructions but used this picture as a guide. I only found out later that I’d built it differently; the blogger mom had started with the pedestal, but I’d started with the plate.

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I didn’t have a colour theme in mind because I wasn’t even sure we had enough bricks for this. Here’s the breakdown of the row lengths (i.e. number of studs), and you can mix and match your bricks as you wish:

Row 1: 2 x 10
Row 2: 2 x 14
Row 3: 2 x 18
Row 4: 2 x 20
Row 5: 2 x 22
Rows 6, 7: 2 x 24
Rows 8, 9: 2 x 26

Centre: Rows 10–13, 2 x 28

Rows 14, 15: 2 x 26
Rows 16, 17: 2 x 24
Row 18: 2 x 22
Row 19: 2 x 20
Row 20: 2 x 18
Row 21: 2 x 14
Row 22: 2 x 10

In the picture above, you’ll see four 1 x 1 blue bricks in the middle of the plate (rows 11 and 12, with 13 studs on either side). To make the plate, you build horizontally, but to create the pedestal, you build downwards instead (the studs will still point in the same direction). The four blue bricks are facing downwards.

For the pedestal, I used two 1 x 16 Lego Technics pieces (with holes); one of it is showing in the picture below. I would’ve used more but I didn’t have many long pieces. No special reason for using the Technics bricks, except that they were longer! But there are design possibilities there that I did not explore.

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Reinforce the pedestal in any way that you see fit. (Another view here.) Mine could be prettier but I was going for utility. The one in the original tutorial is sturdier as it’s thicker, and more of it is attached to the plate. But I tested mine and it can bear enough weight for my needs.

Well that’s it. I hope you try this if you have little Lego fans to please—some of my friends were intimidated but it’s actually very straightforward. Happy building!

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Fun

Little Passports

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We received a six-month subscription to Little Passports (for review) last year, and I’d meant to feature them on my previous blog. Unfortunately I experienced a technical glitch while transferring my phone pictures over to the laptop, and most of my Little Passports photos were corrupted and unusable thereafter.

Some background on Little Passports: It’s a subscription-based product that introduces kids to a new country every month. The two moms behind this were exposed to a variety of cultures as they were growing up, which motivated them to recreate these learning opportunities for other kids.

The reason I’m putting this up now is that we enjoyed the packages, and Z’s been badgering me to resubscribe. All pictures in this post are from the Little Passports web site.

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Fun

Cloud Bread

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I’ve noticed that if I don’t visit my mother for a couple of weeks, my Mandarin goes “off key” due to lack of practice, and it takes me a few attempts to hit the right tones again. I’ve also seen how challenging the “four tones” of Mandarin can be for anyone who didn’t grow up listening to the language. We had some fun over the recent Chinese New Year holiday trying to teach Alf and my non-Chinese friends how to construct simple sentences in Mandarin–with hilarious results that I wish I’d caught on video!

With Layla, I assigned names and actions to each tone– (1) was a steady high, like you were prancing about in the meadows; (2) was like going up a roller coaster; (3) was the “old lady voice” and (4) was an affirmation that required a fist pump. With Z, I’ve been so busy that I’ve left it mostly to our tutor, and his tones are a little wonky. The tutor’s asked me to up the exposure and I’ve found a link to this delightful series called Yun Cai Mian Bao, or Cloud Bread, which Layla used to watch. I love the animation and the sweet simplicity of the storylines.

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Fun

Mind Games

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*This post was first published in September 2015.

Lately, we’ve been preoccupied with puzzles, and a puzzle game that I’ve been amusing kids with is “Fuzzy Wuzzy.” It was introduced to me by game-loving mom Pamela, and it goes like this:

Fuzzy Wuzzy likes rubbers, but he doesn’t like erasers.
Fuzzy Wuzzy likes sweets, but he doesn’t like candy.
Fuzzy Wuzzy likes ribbons, but he doesn’t like bows.
Fuzzy Wuzzy likes puzzles, but he doesn’t like mysteries.
Fuzzy Wuzzy likes books, but he doesn’t like novels.

There’s a pattern to what Fuzzy Wuzzy likes, and it’s obvious when you write the words down–it’s more fun if you don’t! Once you crack the code, you can make an endless list of Fuzzy Wuzzy likes and dislikes.

Layla’s friend Izzy, aged 8, not only solved the Fuzzy Wuzzy puzzle, she created a sequel that turned out to be tricky!

Here goes:

Fuzzy Wuzzy has a cousin, Topsy Turvy.

Topsy Turvy likes cabs; he doesn’t like buses.
Topsy Turvy likes McDonalds; he doesn’t like Burger King.
Topsy Turvy likes hills; he doesn’t like mountains.
Topsy Turvy likes Mars; he doesn’t like Earth.
Topy Turvy likes all things opaque; he doesn’t like anything clear.
Topsy Turvy likes tuna; he doesn’t like cod.
Topsy Turvy likes Kleenex, but not Scott.
Topsy Turvy likes to be fast; he doesn’t like to be slow.
Topsy Turvy likes the number eight; he doesn’t like the number six.
Topsy Turvy likes to go left, but not up.

What does Topsy Turvy like?

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Fun

Games To Play (With Drinks, Or Kids)

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*This post was first published in April 2012. It’s by Shaun, a cousin I’ve conveniently borrowed from Alf. He’s got the whole popular-smart-funny-cool thing going for him, but like most of Alf’s family he’s also grounded and genuine, and always great company. I asked him to teach me something light and fun, and after reading his post I realised that the 20-somethings have stolen some of our favourite childhood games for their drink sessions! So even if you don’t drink, you can learn all over again how these games are played and teach it to your kids–all you need is a dinner table.

I’m a drink advocate–I’m always the first to raise my hand if someone suggests chilling out over drinks! But sometimes, even drinks are not enough. If you’ve got a big group with you and you’d like to get past handshakes and head nods, you need to bring on the laughs. In other words, you need games.

I’ll be showing you a few table games that can be played anywhere: On the floor, on the table, in someone’s house, or even in a noisy bar. (I’ve tried them in the library but would like to erase the memory of having been chased out.) Seriously, playing these games can save your night, and here’s when you should consider introducing them:

#1 Conversation runs dry after the initial “How’s work, how was your day, how’s mom, how are the kids doing?”
#2 Someone at the table is obviously shy or new and doesn’t get a chance to speak up, but still wants to have fun.
#3 Someone at the table just got a promotion and you want to shut him and his grin up at the end of the night with the bill. What better way than to get everyone intoxicated as fast as possible?
#4 The ugly waiter keeps hitting on your friend.
#5 The table beside you is drowning out your conversation with their laughter at anything and everything.
#6 I’m at your table.

Drinking games range in difficulty and some even require movement, but let’s save the run-around games for another day. Let’s also assume we’re not 14 and don’t have a pack of cards stashed in our pockets. Ready?

Game #1: 7-Up
Go around in a circle and have each person call out a number, in ascending order. And every time someone is supposed to call a number containing a “7” or a multiple of 7, he/she will have to say “Up!” instead. Example: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, UP!, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, UP!, 15, 16, UP! Anyone who trips up has to drink. Variations: Raise your hand instead of saying “up,” or count backwards!

Game #2: The Name Game
Together with your group, decide on a topic (anything from countries, fruits, or MRT stations to underwear brands). Let’s say you and your friends have decided on fruits. Go around in a circle calling out fruit names from A to Z. If someone can’t think of a name (or takes too long—you be the judge), the person has to drink!

Game #3: Cop & Murderer
Someone has to sit out this game, let’s call him the “Sit Outer.” The Sit Outer assigns roles to everyone (discreetly, by whispering): There has to be one Cop, one Murderer, and everyone else is a Civilian. Once the game begins, the Murderer’s objective is to kill Civilians without getting noticed by the Cop. This is done by winking at the intended victim. If you’re killed, you need to take a sip of your drink. If the Murderer successfully kills three Civilians (feel free to change this number) without being caught by the Cop, he wins and the Cop drinks.

Another way to play this game is to have everyone hold hands under the table. (Great if you’re sitting next to someone you like!) If you’re the Murderer and you want to kill someone seated two seats to your right, give two squeezes to the hand of the person on your right. The person will pass this on to the victim on his right, with one squeeze. In essence, if your hand gets squeezed once, you just got killed! This is an interesting way to play the game because it requires careful thought and observation: If the Cop gets killed, the game ends and he has to point out the Murderer immediately!

Game #4: Never Have I Ever
Play this game only with people you trust, as it involves honesty and the age-old empty promise that “whatever happens at this table stays at this table.” Again, it’s played by going around in a circle. When it’s your turn, you’ll have to complete the sentence “Never have I ever…” For example, you might say “Never have I ever eaten doggie snacks.” If there’s someone at the table who has tried doggie snacks, he has to take a sip of his drink. As you can imagine, this game will reveal your friends’ strange habits and experiences!

These are but a few of the games that you can play, and trust me, once everyone at the table warms up, there’ll be lots of interaction, laughter, and fun to last the night! The inevitable consumption of alcohol lowers your inhibitions and also worsens your judgement. This makes for a wonderful slippery slope!

* If you’re a grown-up: Erase all preconceived notions that these games are for kids and you’ll be sure to have a good time.

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Fun

How To Raise Tadpoles

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*This post was written by my friend Valerie and first published in April 2012. Our kids went to kindy together and we used to chat quite a bit since we saw each other twice a day. She once showed me a ladybug that she’d caught—I’d never seen one up close before. She’s also a veteran at caring for tadpoles, whereas my one-and-only tadpole rearing experiment ended in disaster, i.e. no survivors. Will let her tell us how it’s done!

A couple of weeks ago, Evelyn invited me to write on her blog in April, on anything I was good at and could teach her. I haven’t written anything in erm… seriously, a decade, AND I couldn’t think of anything I could do that would be worth teaching anyone.

Well what I’m writing here is not really “teaching,” but sharing a little adventure I had with my boys during the recent March school holidays. I’m a mother to two boys aged 8 and 6, who are helping me experience the childhood that I didn’t have. The coolest thing we’ve ever done was bringing these tadpoles home and watching them turn into frogs. We found
these little creatures in puddles of muddy rainwater on our way back from Kid’s Kampong and they were my boys’ prized catch of the day, not the colourful molly fish in the oxygen-filled bags.

So far everything’s been OK as we’ve already seen eight froglets and have a few more tadpoles undergoing metamorphosis. I’m still not a frog expert, but these are the things I’ve done to care for our tadpoles:

#1 Use a small plastic fish tank to house 2-3 tads. DO NOT wash the tank or anything you are going to put into the tank with SOAP. I know parents are good at sanitising, but in this case water is just fine.

#2 Fill your tank with dechlorinated water, rain water, or cool (previously boiled) drinking water. You can also use an aquarium dechlorinator but sit the water overnight to be sure it’s safe. The day we found the tads, we borrowed some water from our fish tank for our new arrivals.

#3 Of everything I tried to feed the tadpoles, boiled lettuce seemed to be their favourite. They gobbled up the first batch of butterhead lettuce I made; it was like baby food: boiled, drained, and stuffed into ice cube trays to freeze. With the second batch I got lazy and froze a whole box of pesticide-free romaine lettuce. I just tore and defrosted half a leaf daily, and it was still soft enough for them to eat. I’ve only given them butterhead and romaine lettuce; haven’t tried iceberg lettuce or cabbage.

#4 For really busy parents, tadpoles do survive on dry terrapin pellets. A friend who has adopted six of our tads and feeds them with pellets reports that they’re doing well too. Feed 2 pellets daily.

#5 To keep the tank clean, scoop up half of the dirty water and replace daily. I didn’t net the tads, they remained in the tank when I changed the water.

#6 Put in a small rock for them to climb on when they start growing forelegs.

#7 Keep the lid on the tank when their tails completely disappear. That’s when they’ll climb out of the tank!

It’s been more than a month and my little boys are still squatting at their frog tank daily. It’s still amazing to them how the little legs grow and how the tails disappear. And it surprised me how cute the little froglets are, only as big as a toddler’s thumb and they really leap!

I’m not sure of the exact species, but I’ve searched for pictures and our little pets resemble tree frogs.

Just the other day my eight year old said, “Mummy, don’t tell the others where we found the tadpoles, they’ll go and catch them and start selling them!” These tadpoles are my boy’s treasure. He proudly brought them to school last week!

We had to free our froglets in the park when efforts to feed them failed and my whole kitchen was filled with fruitflies. I read that they eat baby crickets so… bon appétit in the park!

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Fun

Yay Holi-Day! (Or, How To Throw A Kid-Safe Colour Fight Party)

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*This post was first published in June 2014.

We held a colour fight yesterday and someone asked why we were doing it when Holi was long over. I decided to hold my tongue and save the corniness for the title of this post.

So, we threw only our second colour fight ever in honour of the June holidays, and I think everyone needs to do something like this once in a while, because it’s liberating to forget that the rest of your life exists for an hour and focus only on attacking others with colour and trying to avoid getting hit. One of the kids asked if we did this every day, and well, if we did we’d probably cure ourselves of migraines, stress, depression, and maybe even prevent cancer. It does feel that good.

The funny thing about colour fights is that you’re yelling at one another and getting all physical with your hands on people’s backs and faces, whether you know them or not, and there’s zero awkwardness because everyone looks ridiculous anyway. It’s intimacy, almost. But after the shower and a change of clothes, you have to get back to sitting politely and saying things like, “So uh… what do you do?”

That’s real life for you.

Will we do this again? Everyone around was saying we needed to do this next year and every year after that, so I think the answer is yes. It’s pretty easy to hold a colour fight, and here’s how you can do it too:

* Guests. Anyone can participate, but if I’m honest, I’d say that the enjoyment of this activity probably increases with age. Not all toddlers will play; Z had to be sent home with my mum-in-law because he burst into tears the second I smeared a bit of colour on him and was inconsolable.

* Location. You’ll want a place with easy access to water (important because you will probably need to rinse out your eyes a few times), shower facilities, and proximity to a play area in case kids decide that colour fighting is not what they want to be doing.

* Protection. Not everyone plays nice and you will get stuff thrown in your face, and more specifically, in your eyes. We grown-ups let out a couple of swear words (and maybe a few tears) whenever that happened to us! So make sure every kid has a pair of goggles, and is wearing them. Sunglasses won’t do the job.

* Colour supplies. We were lucky this year because my friend travelled to India and brought back lots of coloured powder packs for me. I also asked everyone to bring a pack of edible colour to share. Flour, coffee powder, Milo powder, red sugar, lemonade powder–these are all good. Food colouring will stain so you’ll want to be sparing with that. I made something that was a cross between kid-safe paint and slime, following this recipe but replacing the corn starch with potato starch. It was gross but some kids enjoyed it. Next year, I’ll try making my own coloured powder.

* Timing. We had people come in at different times during our fight, which was fun because we would yell “Newcomer!!!” and go in for the kill. But it was also nice the way we did it the first time where we waited at home to collect all the participants and headed to the field together. But well, timing isn’t really within your control as the host, so it’s probably best to keep it flexible.

* Food. Forget catering. Stick to pizza or anything that can be delivered in an hour, because bad weather could force you to cancel or postpone your colour fight.

* Cleaning. It’s easy to clean up after a colour fight. Most of the colours will land on you, and whatever lands on grass will eventually be washed away. We’ve been lucky to have it rain right after both our colour fights! And oh, I warned guests to wear their worst clothes, just in case. But I tossed our clothes, Layla’s bag, and even my shoes into the washing machine and ran the 29-minute cycle three times, and was pleasantly surprised to find that there was hardly any staining!

Update: Official pictures from our fight are over at my girlfriend Steph’s blog. Some of our family members were able to make it to the colour fight, including Michelle, who wrote a recap post here.

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