Hands for Homes

Bedbugs. Pesky things they are. Our home suffered a case of (suspected) bedbug infestation before. I’m semi embarassed to admit it because it sort of suggests we are somewhat unhygienic and hence allowed bedbugs to breed. That may or may not be true. I’m not a cleanliness freak and my husband is worse but we’re not filthy and we don’t go around bringing garbage home. Nevertheless all of us started getting incredibly itchy bites on our hands and legs and even baby was attacked. I started researching on the pest and realised they are a global problem even in other developed cities. They spread so easily especially in fabrics. You can bring it home by sitting on an infested cab seat, buying clothes from an infested boutique, laying your towel on an infested hotel bed, the list is endless. To get rid of them is difficult. And with a young baby I didn’t want to spray my place with pesticide. This website contains some useful methods of dealing with a not-so-severe infestation, as was the case for my home. I applied some of the principles to my home – took the covers off all our bedding and sofas and put them in the washer and dryer, and used a vacuum cleaner to vacuum the crevices and corners of my home and the seams of sofas and mattresses. The problem went away.

Ours is probably a minor infestation and hence easy to fix. Yet it already made our lives quite miserable. The bites were really itchy to the point that I was woken up several times a night by existing welts. I cannot imagine the lives of the elderly in rental flats who have no ability to deal with the issue themselves. How do they live with these bloodsucking pests?

Hence I’m quite happy to be able to do my part for the Hands for Homes programme. Its not just about bedbugs but also about other improvements to the homes of the elderly, low income households in Tanjong Pagar GRC like fitting them with induction cookers (some of the elderly still cook with kerosine stoves!) and changing lightbulbs. Anyone keen to join me as a volunteer?

Insurance 101

Rule number 1: Buy health insurance for your child once he/she is born. Immediately. Before she develops any medical issue of any kind. Unless he/she is born with obvious issues that is detected from birth in which case you should still try to buy insurance even if that condition needs to be excluded.

This of course means you should do your research about what health insurance to get before baby is even born. In Singapore when people think of health insurance they generally think of 2 kinds 1) the shield plans and 2) the 30 critical illness plans. I venture to suggest there is a third kind but lets take it step by step.

Shield plans are generally quite cheap and you can pay for them using medisave. So just pick one and it will be good to also get the optional riders that essentially mean that for a bit more each year your medical bills are covered from the first cent.

Then there is the 30 critical illness type which is less essential and is usually tied to a life insurance plan so you can think about that later

The third kind is a comprehensive medical plan that covers everything from hospitalisation to GP visits to specialists consultation and even, for some plans, TCM, vision correction ie contact lens or glasses or lasik and even pregnancy and delivery. These are typically much more expensive than the shield plans so the price puts people off. As a result such products are few and far between in Singapore. I ended up getting one of these for both myself and Sophia and its the best thing I’ve done. Whenever Sophia is sick we just head down to our familiar pediatrician. Cost is not an issue. We do not need to consider whether we should subject Sophia to the nurses at the polyclinic or take a gamble whether we will end up with a good doctor at A&E. We know we’re in Dr Low’s good hands. As for myself, I am still relatively healthy but there could be a day where I come down with some permanent issue and may need to see some specialist on a semi regular basis but not necessarily be admitted to a hospital. This is where the comprehensive plan will come in handy for the substantial bills that cannot be claimed under the shield plans.

Rule number 2: Once the health insurance is settled, start thinking about financial planning for educational costs. The insurance planner’s choice is of course an endowment fund which is a good thing if you are not a disciplined saver and savvy investor. You can of course do much more yourself if you happen to have both these skills but if you don’t, a good endowment plan is an option to consider. If you at least have saving skills, an endowment is not all that essential. If you don’t even save, then please go get one because children are expensive these days. A premium preschool will already cost S$1000 a month which works out to S$66,000 if you plan to send them there from 18 months onwards, like I do. Overseas universities fees and living expenses, taking into account inflation, will probably cost some half a million by the time today’s babies attend universities. Its really no joke.

Rule number 3: Life insurances are a waste of money. But then that’s just my personal view and there are people who have benefited from them, say people who unfortunately meet with an accident and leave behind young children. Or people who unfortunately contract one of the critical illnesses and used the payout for treatment (but this would be covered if you have the comprehensive medical insurance discussed above).

Then there are a myrid of other insurances I could get I suppose. One that was pushed to me when Sophia was born was an sccident insurance. Which again is a waste of money because Sophia already has said comprehensive medical plan. See how the plan that looks expensive is actually cheap because it avoids the need to buy so many other plans?

Top 10 reasons why I’m glad we got rid of the maid

Reason #10

I found vouchers that friends gifted to us when Sophia was first born stashed underneath stacks of irrelevant things – again the maid’s habit of stacking things up regardless of what they were rather than sorting them out and putting them away properly.

Reason #9

When we mopped the floor we found a big patch of mould underneath the plastic board we placed under our study table and chair to protect the parquet flooring. Good thing the wood hasn’t started to rot.

Reason #8

We found the iron all taped up with cellophane tape – our guess is she dropped it and it cracked but she didn’t inform us.

Reason #7

When I wiped the counter where I prepared Sophia’s food and dried her utensils on, the cloth turned black as soot. This was the same place the maid promised she wiped daily.

Reason #6

I can play freely with Sophia and discipline her (or not) in whatever way I want without a judging eye watching over me constantly

Reason #5

I no longer have to climb up a stool an average of 10x everytime I cook/bake in order to reach things that the maid irrationally stored on the highest cabinet rather than reachable areas.

Reason #4

I found and killed the mosquito that was tormenting Sophia nightly and leaving ugly scars on her hands and face beind a pile of stuff that the maid stacked up rather than sorted out into cabinets

Reason #3

When I washed Sophia’s drying rack after she left, the base was so sticky and filthy it was a fly trap. Literally. No less than 3 bugs were stuck to it and goodness knows how long they have been there. gross.

Reason #2

Despite constant reminder to use the mild cleaning products where possible and as little of it as she can, the maid constantly overdose on strong cleaning products so much so that even my marble get bleached then crumbles away. Can you imagine what all that is doing to our skin and, in the case of cooking utensils, our health?

And, the best of them all, better than even the one with the decomposing fly, the top top top reason:

I can finally kick Sophia out of my room into her own room which till recently was occupied by the maid! Yippee!!

Next time I feel tired scrubbing yet another bottle or cleaning up yet another pee/poo accident, I will pull this out and remind myself now this is all for the family’s health and Sophia’s proper upbringing.

Pain / discomfort tolerance

I’m so glad my Sophia is not really a complainer. Rather like me in this regard 😛 Yes she does cry but its almost like she uses it as a communication tool instead of to complain. Oh yes she knows what she wants. If she doesn’t want to be in the stroller or she wants THAT piece of tissue paper, she will scream and cry and look really pitiful. So what is it I’m talking about? I’m talking about her tolerance of pain or discomfort in the sense of being sick. I earlier blogged about her constipation where her stools were so hard and large that it tore her anus but yet she didn’t cry either before, during or after expelling them. Also, recently her hand was bitten numerous times by insects of some sort causing swollen bumps that even collected pus. I’m sure it must be itchy and/or painful but never once did we notice her scratching at them or appearing to be at all bothered by them.

Which reminds me of that one time she was ill when she was six months old and down with cold. She didn’t cry or fuss any more than normal. Its almost as if she’s not sick at all except she is because she was coughing a lot and mucus was blocking her nostrils.

I am so blessed with such an easy baby. Allegedly I was an even easier baby who didn’t even cry when given injections (baby Sophia does and very loudly). Oh well, I guess you mix my genes and complainer dad’s genes and you get somewhere in between. Oops..

Recipe – Pumpkin and Salmon

Ingredients:

  • Garlic 3 cloves
  • Pumpkin 1/8
  • Tomato 1
  • Salmon 1 slice

 

 

 

 

 

Steps:

  1. Heat some oil in a pan
  2. Fry minced garlic till fragrant
  3. Add salmon and fry both sides lightly
  4. Add tomato, fry quickly and pour into slow cooker
  5. Add pumpkin then add water or vegetable stock
  6. Cook till pumpkin is soft
  7. Remove pumpkin and mash with fork
  8. Blend remaining ingredients in blender then mix with mashed pumpkin

Pumpkin is Sophia’s favourite non-fruit so unfortunately I have to hide everything in tonnes of pumpkin. However, this recipe can be adapted for babies with more normal tastebuds too – just reduce the amount of pumpkin or increase the amount of all other ingredients.

Baby Swimming

I’m probably going to offend the baby spa operators and the thousands of mother who bring their babies to them and the thousand other mothers who bought a tub and a neck float for their babies by saying this, but I’m going to say it anyway. I think putting baby in a tub of warm water with a float around his/her neck is a bright idea but unproven and probably does not live up to its claims. For me, I would prefer seeing my baby like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to like this:

 

 

 

 

 

anyday. So no more neck floats for me. In fact, I gave away the one I stupidly bought for free to another mummy.

Chicken recipes

A dear friend reminded me that I can post my recipes on my blog so here goes (with a chicky theme):

Chicken and sweet potato stew

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 large potato or about 3 small ones with skin on (its best to purchase potatoes organic
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • Half a teaspoon of butter / other healthy oil like canola or olive oil

 Steps:

  1. Wash potatoes thoroughly. I usually dig out the eyes but keep the skin on as most of the nutrition is just under the skin and skinless potatoes is pretty much just starch.
  2. In a small saucepan, pan fry the onions in the oil until slightly browned and aromatised (if using olive oil or butter be careful to keep the temperature low)
  3. Add chicken and stir fry quickly for a minute.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients then add enough water to just cover all ingredients.
  5. Simmer over low flame till vegetables are soft.
  6. For stage 1 food, place all solid ingredients into blender and blend, adding the cooking liquid as neccesary to adjust consistency. For stage 2 food, remove potatoes and carrots and mash with a fork, place the potato skin into a clender together with chicken and onions with some cooking liquid, then conbine the mashed up food with blended food for a slightly lumpy texture.

Herbed chicken stew

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1/4 cauliflower
  • 1 onion
  • Sprig of sage (use the leaves only)
  • Half a teaspoon of butter / other healthy oil like canola or olive oil

 Steps:

  1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and add just enough water to cover all ingredients.
  2. Cook for an hour, or long enough to soften the sweet potato and cauliflower.
  3. For stage 1 food, place all solid ingredients into blender and blend, adding the cooking liquid as neccesary to adjust consistency. For stage 2 food, mash the sweet potatoes with a fork and blend the remaining ingredients then combine.
  4. For added texture, use remaining stock to cook some rice or other grains such as millet until soft and add to the mixture.