Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mama saigh's chicken couscous salad.

I made my first couscous salad about a month ago, after a friend made a delicious recipe for a dinner party one night. How I had never made couscous until now, is beyond me. It's quickly becoming a staple meal in our household, and the recipe possibilities are endless.

I really wish our 2.5-year old would eat it, but I'll just keep offering it to her until she's ready to try it on her "own time". Until then, more couscous for Mama and Papa Saigh! Here's my latest couscous concoction... and it is fantastic. Plus, it is pretty simple and inexpensive to make, especially when roasted chicken is on sale at the market.

Remember, all the ingredient amounts can be increased or decreased to your liking. Simply combine, and serve it as a hot or chilled dish. I actually prefer it after it's been in the refrigerator for a day.



Ingredients:

1 roasted chicken (chopped or torn into chunks - just the meat, remove the bones)
2-3 cups cooked couscous
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
Juice from half a lemon
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1/2 cup slivered almonds for crunch

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Boracay.

Luckiest girl ever! Linna, age 2.5 years, at Shangri-La Boracay.
Living in Singapore has many perks. One of them being the ability to travel to some of the most beautiful islands, beaches, and cities in the world... many of which are just a short plane ride from Singapore. In February, our little family of three had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines, and stay on the most amazing island I have ever laid eyes on. Our trip to Boracay was simply unreal, and I don't know how we're ever going to "top" this experience.


We stayed at the Shangri-La Boracay, and our entire visit was like something out of a magazine. The beaches, the pool, the accommodations, the food, and the people were all simply perfection. Our family has never experienced the type of service and hospitality at the level that we found at Shangri-La Boracay. If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Boracay, do yourself a favor and stay at the Shangri-La. It's unbeatable.


Papa Saigh and I decided to take this trip as a Christmas and Valentine's Day gift to each other. It was everything we could have asked for and more. Let me break it down for you...

Linna and her bestie "Snugs" (her blanket), buried in the sand.

My loves.


Getting There:

We flew Tiger Airlines (budget airline) from Singapore's Changi Airport, to Kalibo Airport in the Philippines, which was a 3.5-hour flight. When we walked off the plane in Kalibo, our private Shangri-La van was waiting for us with cool towels and water, and took us on a gorgeous 1.5-hour air-conditioned drive through the jungles of the Philippines (our van also had wi-fi... wooohoooo!). Linna slept in the van, and I don't think my husband and I said three words to each other during the entire drive, as we were in awe of the scenery. We literally drove on very curvy roads, surrounded by spectacular green jungles, where people lived and worked. It was incredible seeing how some of the people in the Philippines live. Little kids ran up and down the roads barefoot, playing with whatever they could find to entertain themselves. These people simply live off their land, and use what they have to survive. We were driving through a third-world country, and while we were both shocked by the living conditions and lifestyles of these people, we realized how simply they live. It's something you hear and read about, but seeing these people's way of life, put our incredibly privileged life into perspective.

Our drive to the Caticlan, to get on the boat to Boracay Island.

Driving to the Caticlan: These are people of the Philippines, and they live right on this river.

Once we arrived at Caticlan (the jump-off point to Boracay Island), we were welcomed by the Shangri-La staff with cold drinks and cool towels. We sat in the air-conditioned lounge for about 10 minutes, and then hopped on a speedboat for a 10-minute ride to the resort. It was dark when we arrived, but this boat ride was amazing on the way back, as it was daylight and we could see the gorgeous beaches and turquoise waters.

Linna and Mama Saigh on the beach at Shangri-La Boracay.


The Resort:

We had to wait until morning to actually see this gorgeous resort, and from the moment we opened the curtains in our room at the Shangri-La... we thought we had died and gone to heaven. The view of the water from our room's balcony was heavenly, and we couldn't help but fall into complete "vacation mode". Linna LOVED the elephant towels on our bed that the staff had made, and we all enjoyed the fresh fruit in our room after our "long" trip. We had the hotel set up a crib in our room for Linna, but she mostly slept with us in our big comfy bed.

She loved the elephant towels in our room.

Checking out our room's HUGE bathroom.

Everywhere we went, the resort staff gave us a friendly "good morning ma'am/sir", and many of them knew Linna's name when they saw her face, after our first day. We spent almost all of our time in Boracay on the beautiful beaches and at the pool, because we had never seen anything like it. The weather was perfect, and it only rained on the first night during dinner. Every inch of this resort is perfectly manicured, and there was always a buggy waiting to take us to our next meal, or back to our room for a rest (because we ARE fat, lazy Americans, right?!). We never had to leave the resort. Our five days never became "boring" or repetitive, because we were literally in paradise.

The view from our room's balcony.

Pictures don't do this place justice.

Another photo from our room.
This was how we spent most of our vacation. Rough life!

Our little island babe.

The Food:

We ate very well in Boracay. We usually ordered lunch on the beach, because it was easy and affordable. Linna would usually eat fish and chips, and AJ and I would share a pizza. Life doesn't get much better than being on a tropical island, while having people bring you your food and cocktails!

Sirena.

Grilled seafood.

Yummy yummy desert.

The breakfast buffet was included in our room booking, and we enjoyed every second of our morning feasts. The food options didn't change much over the five days we were at the resort, but there was so much to choose from, that it didn't really matter. They have sushi, omelets, pancakes, Indian food, salads, pasta, smoothies, freshly-squeezed juices, coffee, and fantastic pastries (and lots more). This was a great way to start our days!

We also had dinner a couple nights at Sirena. We LOVED the staff at this restaurant. Each time we were there, the servers and hostesses would come up and play with Linna, and they even took her off to the side the first night that we were there, so she could splash in the rain puddles. We ate crab cakes, lobster thermidor, and so much grilled seafood. This restaurant was more on the expensive side, but very tasty. One night, AJ miscalculated the Philippine Peso to US Dollar conversion, and accidentally ordered a $400 (USD) bottle of wine. Oops! We were about as close as you can get to getting stuck with it, but thankfully I caught the mistake, and our server hadn't corked the bottle yet. Wouldn't THIS have been an "interesting story"?!

Valentine's Day BBQ on the Beach at Shangri-La Boracay.

Papa Saigh.

Valentine's Day dinner date.

Mama Saigh on the beach at Shangri-La Boracay.

We also got a babysitter on Valentine's Day evening, so Papa Saigh and I could enjoy dinner on the beach as a couple (something we rarely get to do in Singapore). The resort hosted a BBQ for the resorts' guests, so it wasn't SUPER romantic, but we had a blast listening to the band play our non-stop Bruno Mars requests! I've never had dinner on a beach before, and it was so nice to be able to spend some "alone time" with my husband while Linna played with the babysitter at Resort's Adventure Zone.

For the Kiddo:


Adventure Zone.
Although we were with Linna 90-percent of the time that we were in Boracay, we did book a babysitter through the resort for a few hours on Valentine's Day, as well as one afternoon so we could go snorkeling. It makes me SUPER nervous even thinking about leaving Linna with someone that we just met, but the babysitters at the Shangri-La put my worries to rest. Our two babysitters were wonderful with Linna (we know this because we would sneak into the Adventure Zone and spy on them), and Linna always seemed happy to play with these ladies. Plus, unlike Singapore, where we pay a teenager $15/hour (plus taxi fare home) to sit on our couch while Linna sleeps, babysitters were available at the resort for around $6/hour! Our babysitters were always playing at the Adventure Zone with Linna, so they weren't just watching TV in the hotel room. The Adventure Zone is on the resort grounds, and connected to an Entertainment Center with video games, arcade games, and a cafe... and the best part is that it's FREE! It was never super busy either, so we always felt comfortable leaving Linna there with the babysitter.

Breakfast.

The Singapore Saighs in Boracay.

Other than the random photo bomber on the right, this should be an advertisement
for the beautiful Shangri-La Boracay. Right?!

Relaxin' with my favorite girl.

The Chi Spa ("Me Time" for Mama Saigh):

Papa Saigh booked me a two-hour massage at the resort's Chi Spa. This was a slice of "Me Time" heaven! A buggy came to pick me up, and brought me to the gorgeous spa, where I had my own private villa for my service. Who am I?! I have never experienced a two-hour massage before, but I could get used to this life. I felt like royalty from the moment I arrived, and was completely relaxed for the rest of our vaca!

Papa Saigh paddle-boarding.


Outside the Resort:


White Beach.

The Shangri-La has a free shuttle every hour that takes guests to D'Mall, right on White Beach. All three of us went one afternoon, and it was a pretty cool experience. We were a little nervous to leave the resort grounds, but we felt completely safe the entire time. White Beach is a very touristy area, but there's tons of affordable shopping right along the beach, with great food stops along the way. We stopped at a Mexican restaurant for a bite to eat, and got a ton of food and a couple beers for under $15 (USD). White Beach is gorgeous, but I don't think we could have stayed in an accommodation right on the beach (maybe I could sans kiddo). It was very busy, but there was so much for us to see during our three-hour visit. Linna got her hair braided for the first time, for a whopping $5 (USD). She sat still for the half-hour process, and the lady who did her hair was very impressed!

White Beach.

Papa Saigh and Linna.

A 7-year-old kid created this masterpiece behind Linna. Awesome!

Drinking a slushie and getting her hair braided for the first
time ever on White Beach in Boracay!

I'm not sure we'll ever find a place that can beat our Boracay vacation. Every minute was simply amazing, and we were so sad to leave! I told Papa Saigh that he should get a job with Shangri-La in Boracay, so we could live at the resort forever. The ONLY downside to visiting Boracay is the time it takes to get there. We pretty much spent an entire day traveling to the island, but it was SO worth it, and we'd do it again in a heartbeat. The five days we spent in the Philippines was truly unforgettable, and we are all so lucky to have been able to take this trip together as a family!

Snorkeling.
Until next time Boracay...

Friday, April 4, 2014

First time out.

I thought/hoped this day would never come (major wishful thinking). But today, Linna had her first time out... DUN DUN DUN! No, it's not her first temper-tantrum or bad behavior (I wish). I don't know what her deal has been the last few days, but she has been super sassy and defiant. When I ask her to do something, she looks me in the eye and tells me "NO!". I usually respond with, "You don't tell Mama 'NO'. It's not nice, and you are a very nice girl". As you can see, I'm trying to put a positive spin on my discipline, when what I REALLY want to say is, "Um, who the hell do you think you are kiddo? Mama Saigh makes the rules." But that probably wouldn't go over very well.

Today, Linna's defiant "NO! I'm not brushing my teeth!", was followed with a big H.I.T. on my leg. Oh no, you did NOT just do that girlfriend! So, we got to experience our first time-out in the Saigh household.

Of course this all happened 10 minutes before we're supposed to leave for nursery school drop-off. But, if there's one thing I remember from my days watching "Super Nanny", it's that you have to be consistent with your discipline... no matter how horrific the little terror is acting. And Linna was acting terrifyingly horrific.

I made her sit and stare at the wall (I have officially become the mom I used to shake my head at), which of course was a big joke to her at first. She was actually enjoying the time out. DAMMIT KID! I explained to her that she was in a time out, because hitting is not acceptable, she is not to tell her Mama "NO", and when that when she could say "sorry" for hitting, she could get up.

The 2.5-year-old's response (with a big, adorable smile on her face)... "I peed on the floor!".

OMG.

So, I got down on her level and said, "You know better than to pee on the floor, and you know it's not ok to hit people. Tell Mama you're sorry for hitting, and then you can get up."

"Sorry for hitting Mama," she said, and then we hugged it out. Just when I thought we had successfully made it through her first time out, the defiance train kept right on a chuggin'.

"Linna, go sit on the potty now please, so we can get ready to go to school," I said, realizing we were running super late for school drop-off.

"NO potty, and NO school!", Linna said with her lips puckered in her signature "sass face". But this time, her sass was followed up WITHOUT hitting me. Success?! Whateves. Here we go again. Back to time out she went, only this one was embellished with crying, screaming, and thrashing about (on her part, not mine... although I was pretty close to throwing myself on the floor too).

Linna's signature "sass face". She's lucky she's cute.

Every time she tried to get out of her time out spot, I put her right back. This seriously pissed her off. While convincing myself that reaching for the liquor cabinet is not socially acceptable at 11 a.m., I continuously explained to my 2.5-year-old the reason that she was in time out, and that once she was ready to settle down and say "sorry", she could get up.

"MAMA ROCK YOU!", she wailed. This is what she says when she's upset and she wants me to rock her. This little human sure knows how to rip my heart apart, and find that tiny ounce of sensitivity buried deep inside my "tough-mom" exterior. I was so ready to cave. We were late for school, my blood was boiling, and I had just turned the air-conditioner off, so I was sweating balls.

Must. Be. Consistent.

After I put her back in time out at LEAST a dozen times, I think she finally got the hint. We sat down, talked about what had happened, and she apologized. We hugged it out, she sat on the potty, and we got ready for school. She was still "pouty", and we were 20 minutes late for school, but we made it through our first time out.

On our way to school, I asked her what had been bothering her this morning. I know she's teething (getting the last of her molars), the Singapore heat has been wearing her out lately, but there's NO excuse for hitting. I explained to Linna's teachers what had happened this morning, and they were very receptive about watching her extra close today, and will give me a "report" when I pick her up in a couple hours.

Come 5 p.m., you can find me with a cold glass/bottle of Fat Bird, and venting with one of my favorite fellow-cocktail-drinking moms in Singapore. T.G.I.F.F.

UPDATE: I picked Linna up from school this afternoon, and her teacher said she was very good today. Holla! Linna also told me that she's growing a baby in her tummy. WTF?! No, I'm not pregnant.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Little fishy.

Our 2.5-year-old must be half fish. She cannot get enough of our pool. She recently learned how to do the unassisted back float, and she's been able to swim without floaties since she was a year and a half... but now, Linna is working on perfecting her side swim. Is that even a swimming term?! Please excuse the background, as we had the building next door torn down recently. So tough getting this girl out of the pool, especially when it's right at our doorstep:)


Monday, March 24, 2014

Easter brunch at equinox.

Where will you be dining on Easter Sunday this year? Papa Saigh's parents (MeMaw and PeePaw) will be visiting Singapore for the first time, so we will be taking them to Swisshotel The Stamford's Equinox Restaurant for their Sunday brunch. We've heard about this restaurant's amazing views, fantastic buffet spread, and Golden Easter Egg Hunt and entertainment for the kids, so we'll be checking it out and let you know what we think. From what we've heard, this place is sure to provide our visitors with a major "WOW" factor!


Easter Brunch at Equinox Restaurant
April 20th, 2014
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
$198++ per person (adult), inclusive of free-flow of Moët & Chandon Impérial, Easter cocktails,
house wines and beers
$178++ per person (adult), inclusive of selected mocktails, soft drinks and juices
$94++ per child (6 to 12 years old)
Reservations: reservations@equinoxcomplex.com -or- +65 6837 3322

Easter High Tea
April 19th & 20th, 2014
3:30 to 5 p.m.
$55++ per person (adult)
$27.50++ per child (6 to 12 years old)
Reservations: reservations@equinoxcomplex.com -or- +65 6837 3322

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Working on writing letters of the alphabet.

At 2.5 years old, Linna is just starting to work on writing letters of the alphabet. She has "O" and "C" down, but other letters are a bit more tricky. I think she likes erasing the chalk board most of all:) Great work Linna!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

GIVEAWAY: "Put me in the story" books.

*** WIN A PERSONALIZED "PUT ME IN THE STORY" CHILDREN'S BOOK ***


WINNER: CONGRATULATIONS TO TRICIA RENNER PETERSON! YOU'RE THE WINNER OF A PERSONALIZED "PUT ME IN THE STORY" BOOK. PLEASE EMAIL US (minnesotababyinfo@gmail.com) WITH YOUR ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER, SO WE CAN VERIFY AND GET YOUR BOOK TO YOU. THANKS FOR PARTICIPATING EVERYONE!

There's two ways to enter for a chance to win a personalized copy of Put Me In The Story's newest releases "I'll Never Let You Go" or "If I Could Keep You Little":

1. "Like" the Minnesota Baby Facebook page, and share the contest post with your Facebook friends (you must click the "share" tab under the "Put Me In The Story" contest post on our Facebook page).

2. Comment on this blog post (below) with your first and last name, along with the city you currently reside in.


Two simple ways to enter. If you complete both ways, you'll double your chances to win! You must enter by Friday, March 21st at 8 p.m. to be eligible, and this contest is only open to US residents. One winner will be randomly selected to win one personalized copy of Put Me In The Story's "I'll Never Let You Go", or "If I Could Keep You Little" (winner can select the title of their choosing). The winner will be randomly selected and announced on this blog. Good luck everyone!

More about "Put Me In The Story" books:

"Put Me In The Story" books allow you to personalize bestselling children's books to star your child. Their newest releases ("I'll Never Let You Go" and "If I Could Keep You Little") are by Minneapolis author and illustrator, Marianne Richmond. Marianne has been writing and illustrating award-winning books for nearly two decades. Her books are very popular in the Saigh household!