Cheesyful Cake, by Geronimo Stilton

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I have a small collection of cookbooks on my shelves. Jamie Oliver, Kylie Kwong and Donna Hay to name a few. If there is a recipe that is not in the books, the internet is a reliable resource as well. What if the recipe was from the popular children’s author Geronimo Stilton? Joel came across a recipe for “Cheesyful Cake” in his book ‘The Quest for Paradise’ and got very excited about baking it. I raised my eyebrows and was immensely sceptical of how it would turn out.

I checked out several cheesecake recipes online, to see how this one compares. Many recipes had the cheesecake cooling in the oven for hours, and also to pop in a water bath. I’m usually a minimalist cook. The less fuss, the better. Stilton’s recipe looked rather straightforward to execute.

As anyone has baked with kids before, more often than not, it is MAYHEM. A whole tablespoon of sugar ended up on the table, instead of the mixing bowl. Biscuit crumbs on the floor. Butter fingers, literally, everywhere. Anyway we survived the chaos and emerged victorious with a pretty decent cheesecake! The taste of this one sits nicely in the middle. I’m neither a fan of Japanese cheesecakes (too light) nor the American ones (too heavy) so I’m happy with this.

I made a mistake and used 3 cups (which is a whole roll) of digestive biscuits instead of 2, so it gave us a super thick crust. No one is complaining.

If you are trying out this recipe, you could probably reduce the sugar for the base as even though I used more biscuits, and lessened the sugar slightly, it still tasted rather sweet.

A proper piping nozzle would be great as well, as you can see, it is obvious I used the “put the melted chocolate in a plastic bag and cut a small corner off” method. The chocolate lines were not consistent and looked haphazard. Tip: use dark chocolate. It tasted fabulous and went well with the cake.

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Geronimo Stilton, I will be looking forward to more recipes from you. Cheeseterrific!

Book Review, What gives us our names and The library of unrequited love

What gives us our names, Alvin Pang

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This is a short, lovely book that touches on courage, patience, and beauty, to name a few. It describes them as a person, bringing life to these underrated terms. If I wanted to seek a better and clearer understanding of these words, I’d put away my dictionary and reach for this book instead.

There is a bit of everyone in here, in this gently written book.

Here is an excerpt about courage – “I once asked Courage what he was afraid of. He joked that he lived every day in fear that it would be his last. And then as I turned to go, he whispered to me what he truly feared above all else: that things would remain only as they are.”

You can finish the book in 30 minutes or less, but the mark it leaves on you will last much, much, more than that.

The library of unrequited love, Sophie Divry

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This book is dedicated “To all those men and women who will always find a place for themselves in a library more easily then in society.”

A librarian finds a reader who has been locked up overnight. When she discovers him, she starts on a long rant, from the dewey decimal system to architects. 90 pages of an unbroken paragraph didn’t hold my interest for very long. It did not do much for the image of the librarian either, as it reinforces the bitter, and lonely stereotype.

To sum it up, an angry (perhaps entertaining to some) rant.

Would you like a Latte with that?

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Where do you like to do your book shopping? Personally, I like Kinokuniya for its’ broad range, stationery, and 20% discount days. I have always managed to find whatever obscure book I coveted there.

Last week, I was pleasantly surprised by a little bookstore called Bookaburra, nestled at Forum the shopping mall. I was looking to steer Joel away from the Geronimo series, and so asked for suggestions. A cheerful and friendly young lady attended to me. Not only did recommend me several titles, but she went on to explain why she enjoyed them. I left the shop happy, with a bag full of books. Nothing beats personalised service.

What makes a successful bookshop? Revenue may not be solely depended on books. As with a certain large chain, we know CDs may not work either. How about selling flowers alongside books? Nothing like the scent of fresh fleurs to permeate your home while you bury yourself in a page turner. Would you like a latte with that? Setting up a coffee kiosk between Proust and Wilde might bring in the morning birds as well. Other ideas include a book or craft club. There are plenty of lifestyle ideas to explore for the small (or even big) bookshop to bring in the crowd.

Bookshops are shrinking away slowly, and this is something I definitely do not want to see. Long time tenant Big Bookshop at Clementi has been taken over by Art Friend. Kinokuniya is moving to a smaller space this October. Books Actually is having a store wide 25% sale till the end of this month – to raise funds to buy their own shop space so they can stop being at the mercy of their landlord. I find solace walking among the aisles of books and watching my kids do the same. The day becomes a little more special when they can each choose a book to buy.

Some of you might say, why buy when you can borrow? True, but you can read them again at your own leisure, and pass them on to your sibling, or a friend. We have started exchanging and sharing books with one of Joel’s classmate, and this has worked out rather well.

Go on, buy a book today.

How to make a Diaper Cake

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What is the best possible gift for a newborn baby? I would say it’s a diaper cake. The diapers will definitely come in handy and the baby’s mother will be pleased that she has a surplus of diapers for awhile!

There is a diaper cake for every budget. If you don’t feel too ambitious, a one tier cake will suffice. You can simply top it off with a pair of shoes, or a soft toy, or add more useful things like a rattle, diaper cream, bib or just about anything baby related you can think off!

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Doesn’t hurt to have an extra pair of hands to help!

2 of my good friends gave birth recently, giving me an opportunity to dive into the world of diaper cakes. Here are the “ingredients” that you need.

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Diapers. I bought a pack of 60, newborn size.
Clothespins
Swaddle cloth, these are optional. If you choose not to use them, you can tie a ribbon around the cake instead.
Soft toy
Shoes
Rattle
Rubber bands, plenty of those small red ones, and 1 wide, large size one.
Cake base

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Take this opportunity to make a diaper pyramid

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Start by rolling all the diapers. Roll tightly from the open end, as it will look neater when completed. Place a rubber band around 3 diapers first, then put the wide rubber band over them, filling the gaps with more diapers. Constantly shape it into a circle as you go along.

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Move on to the next tier if you are doing more than one .I used 33 diapers for the first tier, 18 for the second and 9 for the third.

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Tip: if you are going to use a ribbon instead of a swaddle cloth, arrange the diapers in a way that they are all uniform

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Next, place the swaddle cloth around the cake, and use a clothespin to hold it in place. Other alternatives include safety pins and pin needles, but I feel clothespins are less treacherous.

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Ensure that the clothespins align when stacking up the tiers

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Tack the label to the swaddle cloth

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For a precious little girl

I got the shoes from Mothercare, which came with a nifty hanger. All I had to do was to tack it in place, along with the rattle. Easy peasy! There was a little label at the back of the soft toy, perfect for tacking it down as well. Place the completed cake on the cake base, and you’re done! If you are going to transport the cake over rough terrain, you can insert satay sticks or wooden chopsticks to hold the tiers in place. Also, you can use tulle to wrap the cake if you want a more finished look. Clear plastic will do as well, but I think they should be reserved just for wrapping school books.

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Pleased mummy and her sweet bub

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Diaper cakes are really easier to make than you think. The only difficult part was rolling 60 diapers. It seemed like an immense, intimidating job at first, but graduated to second nature by the 28th diaper. Diaper cakes are definitely my go-to present now for a new mother!

Great Snakes! Joel is 6!

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The dust has settled, the parties are over, and I’ve untangled myself from the buntings. Joel had a little party inspired by the adventures of Tintin last week. Every party needs a good theme, and I must say I had lots of fun with this year’s! I wanted the venue to be at either a gelato, yoghurt or ice cream shop, and so decided on Alfero Artisan Gelato at Lorong Kilat.

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Marco, the owner, was very kind in allowing me to bring some light snacks!

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The background of the invite was a page from Red Rackham’s Treasure, one of Joel’s favourite from the series.

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Most of the pictures on this bunting took up an entire page in the book, so I knew the quality would not be too fuzzy if I reproduced it on a larger scale.

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A comic strip bunting, made from photocopies. In case you were wondering, I did not cut up any books!

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Book covers!

It’s not a party without buntings! So I made 3, and hung them up at various spots in the shop.

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As we waited for the guests to arrive, the early birds had some Tintin colouring sheets to occupy them, and we did an airplane craft. The plane was made with a wooden clothespin, ice cream sticks, and triangle shaped foam (for the tail). The kids were quite independent using the UHU glue, which can get quite stringy, and I was a little worried initially that they could not manipulate it. My worries were unfounded. This craft is definitely something they can do with minimal guidance. Most of them proceeded to make lots more! It was pretty interesting with what they came up with. A kid placed both his plane wings on top, another boy merely colored his clothespin and declared it a “snapping alligator.” I brought lots of markers, for them to add stripes, polka dots or whatever design they fancied. If you are doing this craft at a party, do remind the kids to write their name on the plane as well!

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Work that printer to churn out your selected images

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The magnet was cut from a long band

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It works!

The other craft was magnet making. Gather some pictures of your favourite character or book cover, a wooden block, and a strip of magnet. Work the UHU magic, attach everything together, and you get a magnet! Super easy and fast. Again, the border of the wooden block can be decorated with markers.

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I drew and painted Snowy, with a little help from instructions online. I also individually drew and cut out 20 little puppy tails for the children to “pin.”

A spin off from Pin the tail on the donkey. We played Pin the tail on Snowy! Instead of using blindfolds, I covered up Joel’s sunglasses with paper, which made it a little more convenient for the kids to wear.

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Items on the list were related to the various stories

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Can you spot Snowy?

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Notice anything out of the ordinary?

We had a scavenger hunt to round things off. We divided the kids into 2 teams, and gave them a list of pictures to find. Some were hidden quite conspicuously!

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The cake was a photo print from a page out of Destination Moon, and I got a Tintin and Snowy figurine from the Tintin shop to place on the cake.

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Notepads, glammed up

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Postcards, also bought from the Tintin Shop

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Polo mints, slightly altered to fit the theme

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A little activity book that I came up with. It included wordsearch, colouring pages, and a few puzzles

For the party favour bag, I wanted the kids to take home a little reporter’s kit. So I included a pen, notepad, postcard, a roll of polos (in case they need a sugar rush while chasing a story) and the activity book you see above.

I got most of the craft materials from Daiso and Art Friend. Most of them came in bulk, for example, the wooden blocks used to make the magnets came 6 in a bag from Daiso, which was easy on my wallet. Most of the graphics, were done by my good pals A and R, my partners in crime for party planning. I enjoyed the whole process of sourcing, printing, cutting and painting. To sum it up, billions of blue blistering barnacles, bravo for a great party!

Not far from the tree

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The boy has recently discovered the husband’s old stash of Tintin comics, from when he was a wee lad himself. Joel has been devouring them, and I’m glad the books have found a new fan. The husband’s comic collection also included Asterix, and MAD magazine. The bulk of which, was sold during a garage sale a few years ago. The only comic I read was Archie. Remember Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Moose and Mr. Weatherbee? Buying the double digest was a real treat for me!
I’ve also been knee-deep in birthday prep for the boy, who will be turning 6 next week! Party theme? Tintin of course! Stay tuned!

The City, Liang Court

The City, an “interactive learning playground” is made up of 10 different stations with the supermarket being the largest. It is also the station that Nic most enjoyed. They have mini trolleys for the kids, and money in the tills. Although I spotted only 2 notes available. I suspect most of them have been accidentally brought home by the children. It would be good if they topped up the money to encourage more play transactions.

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A good range of products, ranging from milk, cereal and even floor cleaners

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The laundry detergent is on sale!

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Supermarket sweep

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Times are hard. Snow white gets a job at checkout.

Another station, “The Classroom” had books, and puzzles. We were there 20 minutes after opening time, and to put it frankly, it was messy. Books and toys were scattered all over the two tables, and it was difficult to attempt a puzzle as the pieces were all over.

They have quite a wide range of Princess (Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine) and Superhero (Ironman, Batman, Superman) costumes, and with accessories to match. Definitely a highlight if your child enjoys dressing up. Not forgetting Police and Fireman suits.

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Checking the controlled drugs in the cupboard before the start of the shift

Aspiring doctors and nurses will have fun at the Clinic. Throw on your white coat or uniform, and proceed to give the dolls a checkup with the equipment they have.

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Can I have a coke with that?

The Café looked as if Gordon Ramsay threw a fit there as most of the plastic utensils, crockery and food were strewn all over the floor. Nevertheless, Joel and Nic spent quite a bit of time at this station, cooking up a storm.

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The Beauty Salon is a chance for the girls to play hairdresser. They have mini hairdryers, curlers and barrettes for styling.

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Pens were readily available at the Post Office, but not paper and stamps. We had to recycle the ones in the mailbox.

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The Super Hero station had lots of foam blocks. I suppose the kids can construct buildings or anything they can imagine and knock them down with their formidable strength.

I feel The City is best for kids 5 and under. I can see Joel’s interest waning after awhile. Would be best if they scheduled guided activities or role play, it would make things a little more interesting!

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with “The City” in any way, and paid for the entrance fee ourselves. No compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.