Homemade Oreo ice-cream cake

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I’m using the term homemade rather loosely, because I didn’t really “make” any thing that went into this cake. It was simply putting some ingredients together, just like Jason’s Minion cake. We celebrated Shannon’s birthday in advance with my in laws and I realised after googling for ideas that I had enough at home to make an Oreo ice-cream cake. Actually, it’s a cake without any real cake in it. The biscuit does soften slightly though. It took just 15 minutes or so to put together, once you have gathered all the supplies needed. I did it the day before the party so it would be sufficiently frozen.

Items needed:

A springform cake pan (cake pan with removable sides)

Pack of Oreo cookies – enough to line sides and to crush for the topping

Cookies and cream ice-cream or any preferred flavour

 

Directions:

Start with a clean, dry cake pan.

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Line the sides and bottom with Oreo cookies. I halved them for the bottom layer but left them intact for the sides.

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Picture below is a little dark, but there are oreos at the side of the pan. Fill with ice-cream of your choice. I had 3 half tubs of various flavours at home and poured them all in – chocolate, cookies and cream, and macadamia nut. I thought it tasted fine. :)

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Smoothen the top and ensure the gaps between Oreos are filled. At this point, don’t let inquisitive kids get near the springform pan, in case they ask what the clasp at the side of the pan is for, and proceed to open it before you can answer. No prizes for guessing what happened. Let’s just say a cake pan dripping with ice-cream was not part of the plan.

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Crush remaining Oreos and pour on top. Cover it and pop it into the freezer until the party.

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The side Oreos stick out because I didn’t have enough ice-cream to fill it to the top. I decided it would be part of the design!

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IMG_0019Here are the kids with Ah Ma.

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The cake is hard to cut through, but melts really fast. An alternative to a springform pan, would be to use cling wrap on a normal cake pan so that you can pull up the frozen cake easily.

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Shannon turns 5!

Shannon had just one request for her birthday – to take the double-decker bus! So we did, just the two of us, while the boys were in school. She had a small celebration in school with her friends, and we set off to look for a double decker bus to take. Where we stay, the double decker buses ply the roads during peak hours, so we ended up taking a single-deck bus to town, with the plan to take the double-deck one home.

Here she is, all decked out in her Princess Sophia outfit from her eryi, my sister. It’s a dress she has worn for three out of four days since she was given the gift! I asked if she wanted to change out of her outfit for our outing and she gave me a firm “no”. You’re only five once, so yes, I went along with her, trying to ignore the amused smiles she got throughout the day.

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With no plan in mind, we decided to alight when we saw these white carriages outside Ion, which formed the perfect backdrop for a princess who loves to take pictures.

wpid-imag0965.jpgWe had already had lunch, so she got a frozen yogurt treat. After popping into a couple of shops, we started making plans to take the bus back. It’s the journey, not the destination, right?!

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We waited for 5 single-deck buses to pass, before a double-deck one came along. 

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All excited at the thought of taking a double-decker bus.

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And finally, when the bus rolled in, she queued happily, tapped my EZlink card, clamoured to the upper level, and settled down in a window seat.

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She chattered non-stop, asking dozens of questions.

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She declared it “the best day ever”, after the bus ride. :)

Taking a leaf from my friend Tracey, I enlisted Shannon’s help to bake cupcakes for her school celebration the day before.

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It was a simple job, using a packet of cake mix.

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She loved how they turned out, but found them too sweet for her liking.
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Apart from the princess dress, her other favourite gift is a Nerf Rebelle gun from her korkor. I casually mentioned the idea of him getting her a gift, but he ran with it, and decided to get her a girl’s version of his favourite Nerf gun. He searched high and low (determined to get the best deal), since he was using his savings, and finally settled on one from Amazon, and we ordered it, together with a pack of pretty bullet refills.

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So yes, Shannon is now five. She still loves her Friend, loves dancing, and helping me around the home. My type of girl. :)  
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Tuition – yes or no?

Last Sunday, I wrote a column for The Sunday Times, about my struggle on whether or not to send Jason for Chinese tuition. While it was a personal column, it was sparked off by a story on parents asking for MOE to regulate the tuition industry. They were reacting to the case of former GEP tutor Kelvin Ong, who made a comeback two years after he was found to have made false claims about himself and charged high fees providing tuition that claims to get kids into the Gifted Education Programme.

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To me, it was obviously parents’ demands driving the tuition industry, that allow bad eggs like Kelvin Ong to thrive. So MOE can try to regulate, but as long as parents and students want tuition, tutors – both good and bad, will survive. Yet, as a parent of a school-going kid, there have been many times that I, too, was tempted to send my child for tuition. Not the type of lessons that prepare kids for the GEP test. That is clear to me. Either a child is gifted, or he’s not. Preparation skews the accuracy of the test and it is the child who will have to bear the consequences in the end.

I’m thinking about help for Jason’s Chinese, specifically Chinese composition. We speak mainly English at home. Despite my husband’s best attempts at speaking Mandarin to them, the kids are still more comfortable in English. Jason can speak basic Mandarin with little problem, although certain vocabulary may stump him. Listening comprehension is manageable. He does fine in his Chinese spelling, as long as he remembers to learn it. But composition is a different ballgame altogether. It immediately exposes his lack of ease with the language. Sentences are basic and at times awkward when strung together. Chinese characters are written wrongly even with a dictionary on hand – he picks the wrong word. Phrases are written the way he would have said them in English.

Perhaps we could have done more to provide an environment more conducive for the language. Like us, Jason reads English storybooks. In the foreseeable future, Shannon too. I think it might be only a matter of time before he needs extra help. I’ve finally checked out one enrichment school, but am still reluctant to sign him up for classes. Lessons start in December! Why? Why not let the kids enjoy the holidays? It’s to give them a headstart apparently. I asked if he could start in January instead. I was told, “You can try your luck at the end of December to see if we still have slots.” No reservation of slots is allowed. In fact, signing up for classes happen on a certain day, and it’s on a first-come-first-served basis. As a newbie to this tuition game, I was shocked.

There have been many responses to the column, with parents sharing their views. Some wrote in to STForum, some messaged me. They all make a lot of sense, even though they are in two different camps. Many are parents with grown or teenage children, who have been through the same dilemma. One said she did not believe in tuition and felt her elder child suffered for it. Her younger children were given outside help and found it very useful. One said she decided on Chinese tuition just for the extra language environment for the child. Yet others spoke about how their children did not have tuition, and are doing fine now in university. They were glad they did not follow the tuition crowd. One said I should know my child best, so I should trust my gut instinct as a mother to know what is best for my child. This one spoke to me: “Hold on to your resolve. There is only one thing you need to remember: Learning does not happen only in the school or only in the tuition centre.”

And that’s true. I truly believe in that. Sometimes when I get caught up in the kiasu mum mindset, I forget, and it takes a reminder from a kind reader to jolt me. All parents want the best for their child, me included. And so follows the thinking, why settle for an A, if a child has the ability to score an A*? And then it’s easy to justify going down the tuition track. But, there are always trade-offs. What if, the chase for the A* comes at the expense of something else more important in life, like values? Or family time? Or play time? Of course I want my child to do well, but more importantly, the child must want to work for the subject. Am I thinking of getting tuition because he is unmotivated for the subject? Quite possibly. I think the tuition question would be an easier one to answer, if the child is motivated, hardworking, yet still needs extra help.

While I was mulling over this last week, I received another reminder – a Thank You card via Raffles Institution, from a group of students I spoke to during the Pre-U seminar earlier this year. RI was the organiser of this year’s Pre-U Sem.

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The topic I was given was Trust, and I shared with them my thoughts from the perspective of someone who used to cover the education beat, as well as from the perspective of a mother. The students’ questions were insightful, and covered a wide range of topics. From the students’ responses, what might have left the deepest impression on them was my sharing on what’s best for my kids, and ironically, why I resist tuition for them!

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I happened to ask Jason about this one day. “So how?” I asked him out of the blue. “I can’t decide either,” he replied. “I like both football and taekwando.”

So while I was wondering about tuition, he was in a dilemma over something else altogether – CCA choices! I think it speaks volumes.

As for the tuition question I still don’t have an answer to – it’s now a $1.1 billion question, based on the latest statistics!

DHS Guzheng reunion

2014 looks to be a year of reunions. First the Dunman High cohort reunion in June, and over the weekend, my co-curricular activity reunion. This gathering was supposed to be a farewell party for Cindy (Xiuhui), who would be relocating to London with her hubby, but it turned out to be a good reason for us all to meet again, thanks to Clarissa (Lirong) for organising and Yubo for providing the venue. Cindy and Clarissa below, both are one year younger than I.

IMG_0014The rest of us who turned up, including some of Cindy’s classmates and JC friends. We counted five batches of Guzheng alumni here.

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I was in Chinese Orchestra for four years in Dunman High, and another two in Victoria JC, (because VJC’s CO was virtually a Dunman alumni affair). In Sec 1, I chose the musical instrument Guzheng(Chinese zither) because I knew nothing about it. I had only seen the Guzheng in Chinese period dramas and thought it looked exotic and interesting. It turned out to be an instrument that was easy to learn, but difficult to master.

I dug out some old pictures after the reunion, and had a good time look through them.

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That’s me, on the left, during a performance at Victoria Concert Hall. I wasn’t kidding when I said our school skirts had to cover our knees…

Apart from picking up a new musical instrument, I got to take part in numerous concerts in and out of school, as well as helped to organise them. We went to places in China and Hong Kong for performances as well. Disclaimer: The humongous blue jackets were provided free by the travel agent!

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These experiences taught me with skills I could never have picked up elsewhere. That’s a big reason I’m fully supportive of my kids taking part in CCAs. The bonus was spending time with friends.

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Our CCA practice took place every Saturday morning, and we would stop for lunch, usually chicken rice from the nearby coffeeshop bought in by one of us. After lunch, it would be more practice, or one meeting or another. Or simply hanging out with friends, and most times, that was what we did. Those were good days.

It was good to catch up with everyone again, some of us with kids and spouses in tow. My kids were curious when I said I was meeting old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for 20 years. They asked: “Are they very old?” “What if you don’t recognise them? (They’re not very old and I recognise all of them!)

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I got a kick seeing our kids playing together. 

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All the best to Cindy! :)

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And yes, we must meet more frequently than once in 20 years!

Exams? What exams?

It’s exam week for eight-year-old Jason. They didn’t have exams in Primary 1 last year, so this is his first exam in primary school. As usual, I was more excited than him about it. I had grand plans to get him on a study schedule a month before. I drew up a calendar, telling him when his exam would be, started planning out which chapters(mainly Chinese) to revise when. He gave the calendar a cursory glance, said “ok, ok”. Nothing happened.

There were four weeks to go so I decided I’d leave it. I thought he would start to feel a sense of urgency nearer the date. I thought wrong, as it turned out. Exams start tomorrow. I’ve asked him the same question in various ways over the last few weeks: “Do you know your exams are coming soon?” I always get the same reply: “Yes, I know.” Still, nothing much happened.

In an attempt to motivate him, I told him stories about students I’ve interviewed, the ones who slog their way to As, the dark horses, the PRC students who come with a smattering of English but leave with an A1 for English in two years because they memorise the dictionary, and so on. He is captivated each time I tell a story but I’m not sure if there will be any lasting impact.

My academically high-achieving sister asked why I wasn’t upon him with a cane and more. I’m not sure if it would make a difference. After countless interviews with students and parents over the years, I’ve seen time and again that a child does better if he’s motivated, and works hard because he wants to do well, rather than works hard because his mum forces him to. I’m sure teachers would say the same based on their experience. So with that principle in mind, I’ve left him mostly to his own device, apart from occasional reminders and prodding. As it is, our weekly Chinese revision sometimes leave me wringing my hands in frustration.

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My husband thinks the answers are hilarious. I suppose I might find them funnier if I wasn’t the one marking them.

When I do revise with him, I try to vary my teaching methods, customising to his learning style. A parent of a top student told me once that her daughter is an auditory learner, so she teaches her Spelling while sending her to school, by reading the words to her, rather than getting the girl to write it on pen and paper. So understanding how a child learns best would help both parent and child, she said.

Even as I remind myself that all kids are different, I marvel at some of Jason’s schoolmates. One parent tells me her daughter loves doing assessment books, and asks to do them each night. Another has a son who asks for tuition. Assessment books and tuition are like dirty words to Jason – if he knew what dirty words were. “Yucks, no thanks,” is his reply.

Reverse psychology works, to a certain extent, for him. Occasionally he asks what he should revise. I give him some pointers but leave him to work out when and how long he wants to spend on revision. He wants to do well, he says. But baulks at having to work hard to get to his goals. My mum thinks he will “wake up” one day and finally be motivated to do well. The trouble is he thinks he can get to his goals without having to put in real effort.

So exam week hasn’t really felt any different. He discovered the Disgusting Dave series recently and the humour is way up the alley of an eight-year-old boy. I’ve been hearing more about farts, vomit and maggots than I really care to hear. wpid-imag0831.jpg

We thought of putting off outings these two weekends, but decided it wouldn’t make much of a difference to his exam preparation. It’s not like he would use the extra time spent at home on revision. So with outings as a motivation, he did some revision, and we went swimming this evening.

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I’m fairly sure he regretted asking me why the pool looked quite empty today. Because I couldn’t resist a dig: “You know, it’s exam period, most people are studying…” He quickly replied that the sky looked dark as well so that may be why people are staying away.

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The lightning alert did sound later and we had to leave, but at least we got in an hour of fun and exercise.

And I suppose, if there is any time to take exams easy, it would be in Primary 2. Because, if not now, then when?

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