Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Doing it the 5th time around

I mean expressing breastmilk so that I could continue giving the best food to my baby while I'm away. And that includes stocking up, a lot of sterilising, fighting for space in the freezer, worrying about not enough stock and a lot of expressing-and-nursing simultaneously.

Actually I got tired when I even think about it. And it is almost like a must that I do it as long as I can. In my case till I got pregnant again, or till it actually hurts my boobs to keep on expressing.

That's why, with new pregnancies, I felt a bit relieved that I have a reason to get some 'rest' before doing it all over again in about a year's time.

And I must talk a lot about it too. Thought hubby normally does not really listen to my ramblings. I was surprised one day when he said, he told a female colleague who just got a newborn, that she needed stimulation to get the milk out. I quoted him "You need stimulation...get anyone to do it for you!". I almost yelled "Hey!!!...not just anyone la...the baby, of course!".

The moment I heard anyone having challenges to express, I'd volunteer to help, even to strangers. Breastfeeding and expressing consultation for free;). Not to say I'm an expert but hey, I'm doing it for the 5th time!

I used to have storage in plastic bottles, later thanks to a mom for her brilliant idea, I used ice-cream plastic bags. Now, thanks to Chanel, I have proper storage in breastmilk bags.

With Atef, I started leaving him at the babysitter's when I have about 60 oz in the freezer. During Ramadhan, I cut down on expressing due to just being plain lazy. At one time I had zero, yilek, zilch stock. Now I have about 9 oz and I'm working on to build that up.

Fortunately, I don't need a lot of stock as I see my baby during lunch (or anytime I like when I got no class and urgent matters;)). And it's me who make my own schedule for trips etc. Lovely job, I have here;).

I only use one breastpump for all 5 kids. I only changed the main body once as it cracked. Overall, so far I only spent about RM400 for it. RM400 to feed 5 kids for over a year each. Tell me which husband/father would not get proud of that;).

I know most of you may have heard and read about this over and over;). But in case, young moms are here and need help, just give me a holler. Or just find extensive explanation in, a place we the experts used to hang out;).

Tiring, yes but any mom would keep on doing it for their babies. It is like having to read Peter and Jane series over and over. Thought I would puke doing it the second time (with Bea2 now) but seeing her got so excited with her new 'skill' is all worth it. Thought of just leaving it to the teachers but it is a routine now that she must plonk herself besides me before bedtime, with P&J in her hand.

And this is the healthy breastfed baby, doing some acrobatics!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Samperit or Dahlia

Ok I know Raya is over but please bear with me. And I know you can just google and find hundreds of post about it. But this is my 'adventure' in finding the right way to bake Samperit.

But first, Samperit or Dahlia? I guess both are of the same recipe but different shapes. The one with the flowery shape is called with both names but the long, with grooves on top is definitely Samperit.

Previously it was always ignored by me. I thought it was just some kuih made of butter, sugar and flour.

Someone that I consider an expert at baking said she got her samperit to taste good but she was not happy with the look. I wondered, how hard can it be?
Then during Raya, my sister showed me the most beautiful and tasty samperit I have ever seen and eaten. She reminded me that it is also called Dahlia, made with mainly cornflour and we used to make a lot of it when we we were younger.

Then I have a little "walk down memory lane" moments. I used to be assigned to cut the cherries into tiny, I mean really tiny as they were just expensive. And how I just loved that. Now I can relate to what Bea1 feels;).

So, I just got to make my own. The look of course is determined by the mould, and we must not get the dough to rise. I have made it in 3 batches, using 2 sizes each of closed and open star nozzles, and two samperit mold that the babysitter lend me. I was not satisfied with the look on the first two batches but they tasted yummy. Hubby said he promised a staff in the office some kuih raya for a favor that she did, and I guess my samperit was representable enough and I brought some to the office raya party. My Iraqi PhD student brought home some, and she told how her kids raved about it.

I finally had it close to what I want the third time around. But with Adel keep on asking to eat the raw dough, I didn't get all of them to be nice. At least,I found Wilton 6B is the most suitable for me, so far.

As not to get the dough to rise, I didn't even sift the flour. I only add the soften butter bit by bit till I get soft dough, that I could just pipe it from a piping bag.

The recipe basically is for a part of cornflour (always use good quality one, I used Brown and Polson), you need about 1/4 of plain flour, and 1/4 of icing sugar (depends on how sweet you want it), egg yolk (when mixed with the flour and sugar, enough to make it like breadcrumbs) and finally the addition of butter (good quality also), just enough to make it soft dough.

I just use my fingers to mix, and I just love using piping bag for cookies. It makes shaping the cookie faster. Now, I officially include Samperit as a must-have for raya cookie baking;).

Seriously, baking is like a therapy and challenge now, not something that I do when I have free time. What a minute...I, where got free time wan?;)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A restaurant in the apartment

The kids love to play "masak-masak", and sometimes they pretend running a restaurant. But before I bought the play kitchen, they never had something this extensive. With the other toys and stuffs available, they come up with this:

At the back, castle tent is the restromm. That's a relatively very huge restroom for a restaurent;). The piece of white paper is a "tandas" signage. A peek through the door would show a chair in there as the throne;). On the kitchen high "cabinet", small books from the Ladybirb series are used as plates. There are also rolling pin, baking pan and a few other from the Ikea Duktid series.

That's Bea2 busy running the kitchen. Besides the two toy containers is our old TV stand, that I just so want to trash. They use it as an area to place the food before serving.

Food can be from anything...wooden blocks, parts of an aeroplane, small pieces of paper that they tear, rice/spaghetti from the kitchen, I mean MY kichen *sigh*.

The easel is where they paste the menu of the day;). And you can see more food waiting to be served. On the table, the purple thing is an activity table but without the legs. It is a cash register. Bea1 used to beg me to buy one, but the only thing I saw costs over RM100. With this, she stopped asking.

And on your right are the table and chairs for the customers. When they are really at it, each would take specific role: chef, cashier and waitress. Adel is always persuaded to be the customer. And he always can't sit still and that's frustrating to the girls;). The waitress is always Bea1, as she is the only one that can take proper order. And yes, it is with the right spelling in a small booklet.

A lot of time, they involve the parents too by coming to us and asking what we would like to have.

That part of the apartment is the messiest BUT frankly I love it when my kids play that way. So I don't really mind. They spend a lot of time here, and that always mean peaceful time for me to do my stuffs and no fight with papa over the TV remote
*rolls eyes*.

I plan to give this area a good paint and get their toys to be more organised but it stays as a plan for a long time. It really does not matter and the kids do not complain.

A few things are missing from my kitchen but I don't really mind if they don't touch my baking stuffs. And you may guess that 99.9% is Ikea in that restaurant.

And I even love looking at them playing. And I knew it, the purchase of the most expensive toy (the kitchen) is all worth it. Who knows one day, they decide to really operate a real restaurant and mama23beas can goyang kaki already...haha!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Look who turns 4 today!

I remember I cried buckets when I first saw the two lines that appeared on the pregnancy stick. I planned to have two first, and then concentrate on building up the career.

Career or no career, who really cares when one has such a cute baby! Bea3 is the beginning of the other 3 subsequent surprise pregnancies (one ended with a miscarriage). I just went "Oopsy...", no more tears, nothing only the fuzzy wuzzy feeling of yet having another chance at motherhood and being grateful.

It just happened that I really needed to practise swirling buttercream. So I made over 100 tiny cuppies to be shared with the whole kindy. Alhamdulillah for the bigger fridge, I managed to hide them from her. This pic does not really potray what she felt, she just didn't know how to act for the camera. She was so excited when I walked in with the huge box and yelled it's her birthday today.

This is more like it.

She is quite a handful. She goes "Hi pakcik polis" to some security guards or "Hi makcik kuih", "Hi kucing" everywhere. Despite the thought that she started talking a bit late, now she is a chatter-box. She whines a lot too. Her best friend is Adel, her worst enemy...yup, you guessed it, Adel. She calls him swiper. She treats Atef as if he is a doll. She loves books, is easy with food and eats kaya on its own;).

Ok or not my swirls?;)

I just love looking at kids with cuppies. They all went "I want green, green!", "I want pink!" over and over. It makes sneaking out of the bedroom at 3 am to whip some icing all worth it;). And of course, the look on Bea3's face is priceless!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Meringue pulak!

I have about 20 extra eggwhites from raya cookie baking, and they've been sitting in the fridge. I tried making meringue cookies last night and it is quite easy peasy;). Since I normally let the kids stay up as long as they can tahan on weekend nights, we had some colourful-meringue-sprinkling moments.

4 eggwhites and about a cup of sugar gives us about 40 small pink and blue cookies. I just piped them out from a piping bag. Took 21/2 hours to cook, and left overnight to cool in the oven. They are crispy to the bite and melt in the mouth. Kids love it, especially Bea3. Anyway, they are not something that you would give to your kids often as they are just too sweet.

I can still improve the look by making the batter stiffer next time. Anyway, they look lovely enough that I made the effort to fill some in a glass to snap nice pics;).

On another matter, a friend who is a silent and regular reader to my blog commented that I ranted too much in my previous post;) and she didn't finish reading. So I guess some do not read till the end as well. So I'm doing it again here. Please help Adam in his survey for his PhD and you will be donating to charity at the same time. It's easy and won't take you more than 15 minutes.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

All in a day's work!

It was on Tuesday but the preparation (or rather the lack of it) started a few days before raya.

I got to know from my PhD student, J that a prominent biologist would be spending a few days in Malaysia. I just knew that I must get him to help in one of the sites in our research area.

It is a cave about 30 m above the ground and we needed a 4 meter scaffolding to reach a specific high part of the cave.

J was sceptical due to the short notice. Being a supervisor I must always show that we must be positive and stay focused, followed by a little lecture that she would not finish her thesis if she kept being sceptical (macam bagus...hehe).

One phone call was made to another guy, S who would accompany the expert, L. I just asked him if he (the expert) would have a few hours free to be with us. I didn't know that it brought so much excitement not only to the two of them but a few others, judging from emails being forwarded the next day.

I was like "Ohhh shoot, I must really get this happen!"

Dearest hubby said he could help getting a contractor for that. I believed him but days and later raya passed without anything convincing from him. I started to get a little panicky on Thursday last week as I had not anything confirmed, then.

Alhamdulillah, a caver gave me two numbers of some people he knows. And I talked to one of them on Friday. Told him the scaffolding should be up only a few hours on Tuesday and dismantled right after we finish our work. ONLY on TUESDAY! I repeated that many times.

And I would see the contractor on Monday to show him the site. That guy sound so convincing and I was happy!

On Saturday I received another call from another guy, F who asked me if it was ok for me to come on Sunday. I said Sunday was not good and he somehow agreed with the earlier plan.

On Monday, I drove alone for about 2 1/2 hour one way to meet him at 3 pm and was surprised to see him with another man that he introduced as the 'contractor'. I was a little shocked as I thought F was the man who would do the scaffolding. F said he is also a caver.

During the discussion, the contractor admitted he would have some problem. He said he got to know about that at 12 pm that day. I thought I was going to pengsan already but I was ready to get down on my knees and burst a dam if I need to (yeah...I can be that melodramatic).

He asked me to just drive back to KL while he tried to arrange for something and he would give me a call.

In the meantime, a group of 5 people including L and J were already in the hotel nearby, eagerly waiting for the next day's exciting new discovery.

I received a call at 6 pm, he said he still could not promise anything concrete. I tried to be positive and prayed hard. At that moment it just occured to me to invite my profesional photographer friend, J along to be with us the next day and he agreed. The team was complete.

At home, I waited for some good news. Called F and he said it could not be done. I knew he felt guilty and I tried rubbing salt on the wound;)... I was evil!

Called S and explained that it might not be possible after all. Without the structure not much can be done. He assured me that L is a very easy-going man and I should not worry too much. I told him maybe it was not so much about worrying what L would say, rather my own frustration as I have been hoping to solve that 'mystery' in the cave for the past 11 years.

Got another call from F at 11pm, he sound cool and said he would arrange for something. I could still sense that he really felt it was partly his fault and he was trying to compensate that. He kept saying he didn't know how he got involved;) as he was only a caver who tried to get a contractor for the job.

I left KL with J at 9 am, F mentioned that all the frames for the scaffolding were there and he was rushing to get it done on time. I sighed a relief, finally it was confirmed!

We fetched the others from the hotel, we got lost and wasted a good 1 hour to get out of the city and locate the cave;). I was just too excited, I guess. We were greeted by some workers who built the structure at the foothill and one of them quickly get my huge and heavy drill box to carry, and at the cave entrance I was surprised to meet a prof emeritus from Canada (who got to know about that from F), his assistant, and a reporter from the Star (who follows L around). All together there was 15 people.

I was about to explode with excitement but I just let the others up first. F said the structure was built by amateurs so he hoped it was ok. It looked wobbly but no one was really concerned but we did make some jokes about it.

J snapped some pics when I was not looking.

Up there, I thought to myself "I won't be up here if I think I have 5 kids at home" That thing was really wobbly and no body seemed to be ready to catch me if I fall. I even forgot the helmet...tsk!
The able-bodied workers did the drilling and knocking for us to get samples. It was funny when only two of them up there and about 10 of us down, giving instructions.

I love this pic. To me it shows a student (yeah will forever call myself that) with a 'tok guru', even this was the very first time I met him. I highly respect senior or retired (but still active) professors (or anyone) who I know spend their lives doing things they love, and later share their knowledge generously with other people. And L is also a British lord. I even got excited with that.

I got back at 10 pm after sending everybody to hotel/LRT station/home and fetching the kids from the babysitter and Bea1 from a neighbour cum colleague's house. I was so exhausted but still excited that I could not sleep. My boobs were about to explode too. Imagine this: 13 hours without nursing and expressing for a fully-breastfeeding mom to a 3-month-old. I was just too lazy to bring the pump, and later worry about getting a comfortable place in the cave to express. Manage to get 8 oz from a boob while Atef nursed on the other. I could still squeeze at least 5 if he didn't make a fuss to have me besides him on the bed. 13 oz equals to 4 feedings. Wow...that's how much baby food boobs can keep at a time;).

I digress.

We did some discussion today and that got me more excited, and again now finding it hard to get to sleep.

So, that's what I do when I don't teach;). I'm not comfortable sharing the details of our work now but when data is enough and everything is completed and published, I will give the link to more reading here, I mean if anyone interested to know;).

It was quite satisfying to see the confidence in Y after the trip. She was worried so much about a lot of things, and even said at a stage, she didn't know where she was heading. A lot of people who did PhDs experienced that, including yours truly;). They don't call it Permenant Head Damage for nothing...hehe;).

I spent the whole morning today with a headache due to lack of sleep, got a class summore. Tomorrow, I will drill two Masters students to work harder, faster and smarter, more discussion with Y and a trip to the hospital with Atef for his vaccination jab. That sounds an easy day to me, but I must get some sleep now.

Thanks so much if you manage to read this far. Just a little bit more. Please help by participating in Adam's survey for his PhD research. I just did. I've been reading his blog for close to 4 years now. Just click here and find out.