Orthodox Christmas Feasting (and a great recipe)

Since all my friends were away for the Christmas break on account they have family (or boyfriends) in other countries, I decided to move my Christmas celebration to today!

Thus, I am celebrating the Orthodox Church Christmas, which is usually on or around the 7th of January due to the Greek Orthodox church following the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar like the rest of us.  This is due to a long-standing dispute between the churches that dates back to ancient times and is best summed up by the following video:

To further muddy the waters, we are making a traditional American Thanksgiving Dinner including:

Mangled Turkey carved dysfunctionally

Mangled Turkey carved dysfunctionally

Tai attempted to carve the turkey after watching an online video about how to do it.  All things considered, he did a really good job of it.

Rice, chestnut and parsnip stuffing

Rice, chestnut and parsnip stuffing

The stuffing is my mother’s recipe and is made from a mixture of brown and arborio rice, peeled chestnuts and parsnips cooked in chicken stock and white wine, then shoved into the cavity of the turkey and baked.

To make this stuffing, you need:

  • 1 large wok
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1 cups white rice
  • 125 g of chestnuts
  • 250 g of parsnips
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

First, soak the brown rice for at least 1 hour, then wash and mix it with the white rice.  After mixing, dry the rice out slightly and put it in the wok with the vegetable oil.  Pearl the rice, then add the parsnips.  Mix the white wine and chicken stock together, then put a 1/2 cup of the liquids into the rice in the wok, keep stirring until the liquid is absorbed by the rice.  Add the chestnuts, then the remaining liquids, 1/2 a cup at a time until all the liquid has been fully absorbed.

Now, you have two choices.  You can either stuff the stuffing into the turkey cavity, or for a stronger turkey flavour throughout, stuff it between the skin and the breast of the turkey.

I made crudtons of the stuffing, so there was a bit too much to put in the turkey, so I cooked the rest in the liquid that came out in the dripping tray (though I saved quite a bit for the gravy as well).

Two types o upside down salads

Two types of upside down salads

Coleslaw and garden salad courtesy of Droo, who decided against putting olives in the garden salad for fear of rabid Becky attacks.  (I really dislike olives in my salad)

We also had roasted pumpkin, sweet potato pie and a plethora of delicious soft drinks.  Unfortunately, due to rapid consumption, I was unable to gather photographs of the remaining foodstuffs.  Blame my friends.

In any case, a Happy New Year to all, and may you make sensible resolutions that you don’t break!

A Christmas Video by J

Happy Christmas Everyone!

Here’s a video that J and I made last year as a rainy day advent activity when he was 4 years old.

The little paper figures used to form the nativity scene are free printables from the incredible Made by Joel, but I made a couple of extra little figures (the untidy looking ones) to add to the cast. This year, Made by Joel has a new and improved free printable nativity with many extra figures! It makes for a great colouring sheet and would be brilliant if you’ve got kids coming round for Christmas dinner and you want to keep them busy.

It’s one of the first videos that I’ve ever made, so it’s a little bit raw at the edges, but I love hearing J’s little boy voice in it! He built the sets out of Duplo blocks, did all the animating and the narration by himself. All I did was hold the camera in the same place.

I should probably think about getting a small tripod at some point.

Advent activity #23: Paper Snowflake Decorations


We’re letting it go!

So this morning, our Christmas Advent activity was to decorate the front door with paper snowflakes using recycled paper.

We followed these foolproof instructions to make six-pointed snowflakes. J and Little E helped to make the snowflakes and arrange them on the front door.

My original plan was to scatter the snowflakes randomly all over the door, but as you can see, we’ve arranged it such that the little snowflakes are close to the kids, with the bigger snowflakes higher up. This is because Little E wanted to pretend to be like Queen Elsa from Disney’s ‘Frozen’, making the snow appear to rise from the palm of her hand. By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, you really should! We watched it again last week and it looks really good in 2D too. You can check out my spoiler-free review here.

P.S. If you’re looking for some last minute Christmas decorations, look here for a bunch of my favourite free printables and craft ideas.

P.P.S. I nearly used these awesome Game of Thrones inspired snowflake templates by Krystal Higgins but they are a little bit too challenging for preschoolers who are still mastering their scissor skills. I particularly like the House of Baratheon snowflake. Ours is the Fury!

Weekend Special: A Christmas Party Playlist

In our family, Christmas parties are always filled with music and singing and this is one of the reasons why I always look forward to the end of year festive season. Every year, we would always find ourselves gathered around the piano after dinner, singing all our favourite Christmas carols, songs and hymns together. I really hope that this family tradition will continue as my kids grow up.

If you are throwing a Christmas party this year, here’s the Owls Well Christmas 2013 playlist featuring our handpicked favourites from Youtube! It’s nearly two hours long, so you can just put the music on in the background in the dining room, screen it in your living room and let your guests be entertained by all the brilliant and beautiful music videos…or better yet, sing along to all the songs if you can!

KidStartNow Review (and Giveaway!)

Although J and Little E have a mixed heritage and are fairly fluent in English, I hope that they will still be able to learn mandarin chinese as a second language. I try my best to read mandarin storybooks to them at home and expose them to mandarin songs and cartoons, but my ability to give them a solid foundation in the language is extremely limited.

So, when Dan Tang, the co-founder of KidStartNow, invited J to attend to attend a mandarin immersion holiday camp at KidStartNow, I was so grateful for the offer! The holiday camps at KidStartNow run over 4 days (3 hours a day). The camp encourages kids to learn mandarin through the use of animated storybooks, games, crafts and music. All the Ministry of Education (MOE) registered teachers are native speakers who have experience in engaging preschoolers and are passionate about helping children develop an interest and a love of learning the Chinese language.

J with his KidStartNow reward booklet

J with his KidStartNow reward booklet

The core philosophy of KidStartNow is to motivate kids to love Chinese and make learning fun. This stems from Dan’s (the co-founder) personal experience in school, where rote methods were forcefully employed. He grew up, like many Singaporeans (including myself), to dislike learning Chinese, finding it tedious and difficult. However, after a move to Taiwan encouraged him to improve his fluency in Chinese, Dan quickly realised how much easier learning the language became. As a tech analyst, Dan also observed that technology was creeping into the lives of children and parents were finding it difficult to find that balance between preparing their kids for a digital environment whilst ensuring that the time spent on the computer is used meaningfully. He then decided to quit his lucrative career in finance in favour of sharing his passion for chinese with the next generation of students.

It’s evident that Dan’s heart for helping kids appreciate and enjoy learning chinese has pervaded the atmosphere of KidStartNow. J really enjoyed his experience at the holiday camp and looked forward to attending the classes everyday.

Waiting for class to start

Waiting for class to start

Apart from spending time and effort in crafting a curriculum based on the current Primary 1 Higher Chinese syllabus, the KidStartNow team has spared no expense in creating a comfortable learning space for preschoolers. Just walking into the clean and bright waiting area of the centre, we were met with cute and colourful ocean-themed decorations – which really helped J to get all excited about the holiday camp, which was set in a fantasy sea world. The waiting room for parents had lovely comfortable sofas, and a huge screen for us to watch our children as they immersed themselves into their underwater adventure!

Down here we're floating!

Down here we’re floating!

KidStartNow creates an interest in Mandarin learning through the use of interactive, animated storybooks which are developed in-house by a team of experienced educators, creative designers and technology specialists.  Below is an excerpt from an animated storybook developed by KidStartNow.

I was initially worried that the entire programme would consist solely of kids goggling at a computer screen, but after observing the class and talking to my son about his experience at the camp, this was not at all the case.

The ebooks (which are exclusive to KidStartNow and available free of charge to enrolled students) were used only at intervals, to introduce new vocabulary and to draw the children into the story. There were plenty of opportunities for the children to practice speaking and reading mandarin aloud by interacting with the onscreen characters and with their teacher. The kids would then play a game, complete a team activity or craft which was related to the story. Once they were successful in completing their task as a group, this would result in them being able to proceed to the next chapter. I liked the way that this made the children to learn together and encourage one another during the class, which made for a very friendly environment!

Classroom fun!

Classroom fun!

I also noticed that the teachers and staff were incredibly patient and supportive of all the students, gently encouraging them to overcome their shyness (especially in the nursery-level students who experienced some separation anxiety) and rewarding their attempts to read or speak aloud in class. This really helped J’s confidence in conversing in mandarin and he seemed very excited about working hard to learn new vocabulary each day! Not bad for a kid who hardly says a word of chinese at home!

Happy kids on their last day!

Happy kids on their last day of camp!

Unfortunately, all the holiday camp slots are fully booked this December (unsurprisingly!). However, if you’re interested in checking out KidStartNow, do sign up for their free trial classes which are available for Nursery 2, Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 level  from January 2014! You can reach KidStartNow via email or telephone or even via their live chat support.

KidStartNow has also very generously offered to sponsor a Christmas Giveaway right here on Owls Well! Huzzah! One Owls Well reader stands to win a full term of classes (12 weeks) worth up to SGD$450! This is open to Singapore residents only and closes on 25th December 2013.

To stand a chance to win, you must click on this Rafflecopter link and follow the instructions on the widget (which I have detailed below):

  1. Leave a comment on this blog post (with your email address so that I can contact you if you win!)
  2. Be a fan of Owls Well on Facebook
  3. Like KidStartNow on Facebook
  4. Optional bonus entry: Share this post on your Facebook page (set to public)

Good luck!

(UPDATE: This giveaway is now CLOSED. Carol Lim is our winner! Thanks for playing!)

KidStartNow is easily accessible by public transport and is located at CT Hub, 2 Kallang Avenue, #02-09, Singapore 339407

BakeOFF 2013 in Singapore!

In which we attend the BakeOFF 2013 charity bake sale in aid of Three Legs Good, a non-profit animal shelter for injured and disabled dogs. We donated $20 and got a redemption coupon for $20 worth of tasty goodies! J and Little E had so much fun choosing delicious treats to bring home (and even more fun tasting all the baked yummies).

Also, a dancing gingerbread man.

P.S. Check out Three Legs Good. Li’l Brudder is waiting for a friend!


Delicious goods for a deliciously good cause

Interior Decorating

A lot of the furniture in my house has been breaking down.  I’ve been living in it for slightly more than five years now and since I bought most of it from budget furniture stores, it’s finally seeing the end of its days.

So, I decided to go furniture shopping.

On second thoughts, maybe I’ll just repair what I have.

A Groovy Gift Guide – 20 gifts (mostly) under $20, and an exclusive discount code!)

Are you getting excited about the upcoming holiday season? It’s 2 weeks until Christmas! I always feel that Christmas is such a great excuse for gift giving but I despise battling the crowds at the shopping malls -which is why online shopping is the place for me.

I’m very excited to share with you all…our brand new sponsor, The Groovy Giraffe.

The Groovy Giraffe is an online bookstore set up by a local husband and wife team. When their son was born this year, they were astonished by the exorbitant prices of children’s books sold in our local brick-and-mortar shops, which is why they founded an online bookstore with the goal of helping readers save money on good books.

I just bought two books from them recently and they were delivered to me in only three working days in beautiful condition, so I think this is a great place if you’re looking for some last minute gifts. There’s a very wide range selection of titles, and the prices on their website are UNBELIEVEABLE. I’ll never pay the recommended retail price for any of my books every again!

The books on The Groovy Giraffe are all brand new titles from publishers and suppliers who need to liquidate their overstocks – so all the savings are passed onto customers like myself, and whats more, they offer free local delivery for purchases over SGD$60!

If you are looking for some ideas for gifts this December, here are my suggestions for all the people in your life, young and old! Happy Shopping!

For the preschoolers and tiny tots:


  1. Baby Touch Car – SGD$7.00 (RRP:$9.48) I love the ‘Baby Touch’ series of touch-and-feel books for tiny little ones. They usually have very thick, sturdy boards with a great range of textures which are able to hold up to rough use.
  2. Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr Seuss – SGD$7.90 (RRP$20.00) Dr Seuss is a wonderful author and most kids would be familiar with ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and ‘Horton Hears a Who’, which were both made into really great films. I personally like this set of short poems by Dr Seuss which are not only hilarious, but also great for emerging readers.
  3. Wipe Clean Early Learning Fun Farm by Roger Priddy – SGD$6.90 (RRP$9.25) This range of activity books are really popular with my kids because of their bright, glossy illustrations and pages that can be wiped clean and reused time and again. This is great to take on long plane journeys or to 3 hour long wedding banquets because the books are jam-packed with tons of fun activities that will keep a small child meaningfully (and quietly) occupied for hours.
  4. Laura’s Star (Book and CD set) by Klaus Baumgart – SGD$10.60 (RRP$15.18) This is a beautiful storybook is one of J’s favourites and is about a lonely little girl who finds a fallen star and who realises that her new friend needs help returning to where it belongs. Laura’s solution to the star’s dilemma is lovely and shows how true friendship is unselfish. The watercolour illustrations in this story are gorgeous too.
  5. The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers – SGD$10.90 (RRP$16.90) Oliver Jeffers is one of our favourite author-illustrators and we love his heartwarming, quirky stories about friendship and awesome graphics. This particular story is another of J’s favourites because it takes the form of an exciting intergalactic adventure!

For Confident Readers and Bigger Kids:


  1. Thomas the Tank Engine 65th Anniversary Edition by The Rev.  W. Awdry – SGD$14.90 (RRP$37.28)  This is a collection of the original, unabridged stories of Thomas the Tank Engine, with full colour reproductions of the original illustrations by C. Reginald Dalby. It also includes a little bit behind the creation of the famous Railway series and would be a great gift for Thomas fans! I am seriously coveting this hard cover collector’s edition for J and Little E’s library!
  2. Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo – SGD$6.90 (RRP$9.73) Kensuke’s Kingdom is the first Michael Morpurgo book that I have ever read and is a poignant story about a shipwrecked little boy who meets a mysterious Japanese soldier. It’s no wonder that this book has won so many prizes. (You can also get all the 16 book box set which is a real bargain at SGD$84.90)
  3. The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin – SGD $8.90 (RRP$10.95) If you’re a fan of critically acclaimed writer George R.R. Martin and the HBO series Game Of Thrones, then there is no better way to introduce your young reader to the world of fantasy than with this novella written specially for the young adult!
  4. Global Birding: Travelling the World in Search of Birds by Les Beletsky – SGD$19.90 (RRP$63.08) This National Geographic encyclopaedia is a real steal! With gorgeous glossy photographs and illustrations, this practical reference book would such make a wonderful gift (and it’d look great on the coffee table too!).
  5. Blubber by Judy Blume – SGD$4.90 ($8.43) Judy Blume is a great author for tweens and deals with difficult issues with great sensitivity and insight without tipping over the edge into perversion. This particular classic novel deals with bullying in school.

For Grownups (or those who are kids at heart)


  1. The Life of Birds by Quentin Blake SGD$18.90 (RRP$40.00) Looking at Quentin Blake’s illustrations always brings me back to my childhood so when I saw this book on sale, I just had to nab a copy for myself! In this book, Quentin Blake lets his imagination roam free in a series of evocative watercolours depicting his observations of birds (and human nature).
  2. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins SGD$26.90 (RRP$45.54) Ok, I realise that this box set costs a little over $20 but it’s totally worth it! The Hunger Games Trilogy is a brilliant series about a dystopian future where children are forced into a gladiator-style reality TV programme. Very exciting and a great way to introduce a young adult to the wonderful world of Science Fiction.
  3. Scientific Process Goes “Boink” A Calvin and Hobbes Collection by Bill Watterson SGD$8.90 (RRP$16.24) Bill Watterson’s wit, imagination and dedication to quality really shines through in this fun collection of comic strips! Cheeky Calvin and his best tiger friend Hobbes have made me laugh and cry in equal measures.
  4. Plush-O-Rama: Curious Creatures for Immature Adults SGD$19.90 (RRP$28.48) This is a brilliant DIY Kit that comes with all the materials to make two of the projects in the accompanying ‘Plush-O-Rama’ book which helps crafters create their own oddball handmade plushies. What a great gift for a crafty lady!
  5. Jamie’s America: Easy Twists on Great American Classic, and More SGD$14.90 (RRp$46.88) Jamie Oliver is one of my favourite celebrity chefs and I like the way that he tries to empower and educate people through his recipes. I couldn’t resist getting a copy for myself!

For the Early Parent and the Fun Family:young-parent-family-friendly-book-activity

  1. Feeding Made Easy –  From Weaning to School:The Ultimate Guide to Contented Family Mealtimes by Gina Ford SGD$16.90 (RRP:$37.34) Ok, I don’t agree with everything that the lovely Gina Ford says about raising children, but her guide to when and how to introduce different foods, tastes and textures is absolutely spot on. I found her recipes and ideas very helpful (and delicious!) This book is a must-have for any new parent (or anyone struggling with fussy eaters).
  2. Baby Journal (The Dirty Wow Wow Baby Journal) SGD$11.90 (RRP:$22.44) I love Baby Journals as gifts for the expectant parent – they make such great keepsakes! This book is not only full of lovely photographs (from Cheryl and Jeffrey Katz’s Dirty Wow Wow and Other Love Stories), but has plenty of room to record all those special moments and milestones that mums and dads will not want to forget.
  3. Cupcakes SGD$14.90 (RRP:$37.44) This is a great box set of 48 cupcake recipes and comes with a whole host of tools (mixing spoon, paper cases, piping bag and nozzles, egg separator and measuring spoons) so it’s a real bargain! What better way to encourage parent-child bonding than over some delicious cupcakes?
  4. Elmo Dominos in a Tube SGD$16.90 (RRP:$37.20) Fans of Elmo and the Muppets from Sesame Street will be sure to love this brilliant cannister of dominos! It’s small enough to take along for visits to the grandparents place too. This will make a fun family present!
  5. Geronimo Stilton Cookbook: Fun recipes for Parents and Kids to Cook Together SGD$9.90 (RRP$14.50) This is a supercute recipe book with loads of easy, delicious dishes for families to spend time together in the kitchen – and it’s a great way to show kids that they can express their creativity through food as well.

A Bonus for all Owls Well Readers: Use the coupon code ‘Owlswell’ to get 5% off your order on everything in store forever (except the already heavily discounted ‘Bargains’ section which contain books that are cheap-as-free).

(All prices printed are correct at the time of this post. We are proud to be part of The Groovy Giraffe’s affiliate programme. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that make Owls Well possible!)

The Boys Brigade Share-a-Gift 2013


Owls Well as a Volunteer Delivery Service!

This week, as part of our daily Christmas advent activities, the kids and I volunteered to deliver food hampers with The Boys’ Brigade Share-A-Gift Project. This is the 2nd year that we have participated in the Share-a-Gift Project and I find that it is a really great way to introduce the concept of social responsibility to preschoolers.

Volunteering with the Share-A-Gift project is relatively straightforward. There are two time slots available each day at 9:30am and 1:00pm from now until the 28th December 2013 and it is best to register your interest in advance at the BB share-a-gift website. You will receive a confirmation email as well as a reminder SMS on your phone! Then you’re all set to help deliver hampers with the Boys’ Brigade!

Generous donations from the public!

Generous donations from the public!

The kids and I reported for duty at the Boys’ Brigade HQ at 105 Ganges Avenue. There was a huge tent set up at the back of the office block, which was bustling with activity and both J and Little E went in to explore the area.

On one side, boys from different companies all over Singapore were busily unpacking crates of donations from the public and sorting them neatly into stacks. On the other side, bright red bags were being filled with bags of rice and noodles, packets of 3-in-1 milo, instant tea and coffee, tins of biscuits, condiments and bottles of cooking oil, an assortment of canned food and some basic toiletries. This project reaches out to 7744 households, all of whom are currently receiving some form of assistance from government-funded community care programmes, as well as 24,812 households who are registered with various voluntary welfare organisations – so that makes for a ton of bright red bags!

Most of the goods come directly from the generous hands of the public from collection centres outside NTUC Fairprice Outlets around Singapore. For people who are not able to get to the collection centres (or who wish to donate in bulk amounts), it is also possible to sponsor hampers via FairPrice Online. At the moment, BB share-a-gift has not yet met all their donation targets so if you do get a chance, just drop a can or two off at the collection centre during your next shopping trip to NTUC Fairprice!

We were given ten of these hampers to load into the boot of the car and six delivery locations. Each person visited by the BB share-a-gift campaign receives two of these hampers. We are given an extra delivery location in case the people that we are visiting are not at home – it is not always possible to call the beneficiaries in advance as many of them do not own telephones.

As I was travelling with J and Little E, we also took along with us two ‘Boys-In-Blue’ to help with all the heavy lifting (those red bags are HEAVY and it’s not possible for me to carry two of them!).


With the Boys-In-Blue

It was a very good experience for us to see and meet the people who were receiving the hampers during the BB share-a-gift project. Most of the people whom we visited were elderly folk who were living alone in a neat little one-room flat but we also came across a few families that had many dependants. All of them were so pleased to see us and were very welcoming, especially towards J and Little E who cheerfully wished one a happy Christmas!

Both J and Little E had many questions for me afterwards about poverty and how we can help people who live below the line. They were so happy that the families we visited would not be hungry during this festive season, and J expressed the hope that with the little money each family saved, they would be able to get something extra-special for themselves for the end of the year. Even the two Boys-in-Blue who rode with us seemed very thoughtful about the people that they had met who received the food hampers with such joy.

So if you can spare a couple of hours this festive season, why not consider becoming a delivery service for the day and help someone in need? It’s such a simple way to give back to the community and you get the added benefit of seeing an immediate result! I promise you that it will be worth your while.

Check out the Boys’ Brigade Share-a-gift website for more details.