Stay-home guide for Wednesday: Check out a funny podcast, try some amazing pao fan and more


SINGAPORE - Stay in and help fight Covid-19. The Straits Times recommends fun, uplifting things to do each day.

1. Do: Start a mindfulness practice with your kid

You are never too young to learn mindfulness. In fact, I would call it a life skill that everyone needs to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

"Mindfulness is important to cultivate in children as a lifelong habit to combat stress and daily challenges. It isn't about having pain or stress free days, but having a tool and coping mechanism to deal with adversity to stand back up again," says Mrs Shireena Shroff Manchharam, a certified image consultant and life coach who has two children aged seven and 11.

Getting To Happy Kids Edition, a boxed set of 31 cards that teach kids to be more mindful and resilient. PHOTO: SHIREENA SHROFF MANCHHARAM

There are tonnes of resources online if you google "mindfulness for kids", but you may also try her two suggestions here: Start with just a minute of meditation in silence together every day (with or without soothing music), and invite your kids to just breathe in and out slowly. Gradually extend the duration as they get used to it. Another activity to try: Keep all distractions away during a snack or meal and share how each dish smells, tastes, looks and makes you feel.

These activities are part of her Getting To Happy Kids Edition, a boxed set of 31 cards that teach kids to be more mindful and resilient. There is also an adults' edition, and both are priced at $50 each.

Info: Getting To Happy's website

2. Read: New local children's books

Meet Marky Polo, an adorable pangolin who comes from a family of famous travellers with hilarious names (Dad is Masala Polo and mum is Mala Polo, both spice collectors). On his first overseas trip, he visits his cousin in Tokyo and gets into all sorts of adventures when his luggage is lost.

Meet Marky Polo, an adorable pangolin who comes from a family of famous. PHOTO: WORLD SCIENTIFIC PUBLISHING

Written by Emily Lim-Leh and illustrated by Nicholas Liem, Marky Polo in Tokyo is a fun romp around Tokyo's attractions that is suitable for readers aged five to nine. But what makes it more exciting is its augmented reality experience, which is accessible when you download the SnapLearn app. Take a selfie with Marky, see the Tokyo Skytree in a 360-degree photo, and watch rainbow cotton candy being made in Harajuku. The book costs $12.90 (softcover) and $19.90 (hardcover) from major bookstores, or order it from World Scientific Publishing's Lazada store for less during its current promotion.

Also check out its new series of six books called Pop! Lit for Kids. Asian and western classics such as Ramayana, Sherlock Holmes and Journey to the West, are made more exciting using the colourful visual reading technique, which fans of the wildly popular Geronimo Stilton series will be familiar with.

Book covers of Journey to the West and Ramayana. PHOTOS: WORLD SCIENTIFIC PUBLISHING

Suitable for kids aged six to 12, they are available from major bookstores as well as World Scientific's store on Lazada. Prices start from $12.90 (before GST) for a softcover edition. The authors of this series will be participating in an online panel discussion at the Asian Festival of Children's Content on Saturday (more details at Facebook event page)

If you would rather borrow than buy but are strapped for time, try The Little Book Box subscription service by the National Library Board. For $32.10, you will receive eight children's books a month for three months. These are suitable for kids aged four to six, and seven to nine. Visit National Library Board's website.

3. Listen: A smart and funny podcast about human behaviour

Podcasts are great for busy mums who are always on the move, even at home. You can fold laundry or do a two-minute plank and learn something at the same time - all without having to take your eyes off the little ones. My favourite is No Stupid Questions by Freakonomics Radio (a brand extension of the bestselling book, Freakonomics), which premiered a year ago in the thick of the pandemic.

As the show notes explain, its weekly episodes explore "all the weird and wonderful ways in which humans behave", but the magic lies in the playful chemistry between co-hosts Stephen Dubner, an award-winning journalist who co-wrote Freakonomics, and Professor Angela Duckworth, renowned psychologist and the author of the bestseller, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Professor Angela Duckworth is a co-host of the podcast No Stupid Questions. PHOTO: ZACH TERIS

Informative without being pedantic, entertaining without being fluffy, it's the perfect recipe of science-backed answers topped with dollops of humour (I love that brilliant Prof Duckworth struggles with her teenagers like I do). The topics they discuss are diverse and intriguing, from Are You As Observant as You Think?, to Is Laziness Real and How Does When You Are Born Affect Who You Are?. Available on major podcast platforms and online.

Info: Freakonomics' website

4. Tar Pau Nation: Excellent pao fan from hotpot restaurant Beauty In The Pot

With the surge in food delivery orders during meal times, it is not uncommon for orders to arrive late. So I now ask for it to be sent to me earlier, at around 11am or 5pm, to avoid the peak hours. I just have an early meal.

Sometimes it is still late. For example, a char kway teow delivery I ordered for 11.15-11.45am last week got to me at 1.15pm. But at least, I was not left groaning in hunger because it still fell within my body clock's lunch period. The food suffered badly though, so I'm not recommending that.

The Collagen Broth Poached Rice or pao fan from Beauty In The Pot, however, arrived on the dot and was amazing. The broth was hot and the puffed rice so crispy that the only thing missing was the sizzling sound when I dropped it into the broth.


5. Shelf Care: Journey through subterranean worlds in Robert Macfarlane's Underland

Underland: A Deep Time Journey

By Robert Macfarlane

Penguin Books/2019/496 pages/ $23.54/ Available here

"We know so little of the worlds beneath our feet. Look up on a cloudless night and you might see the light from a star thousands of trillions of miles away, or pick out the craters left by asteroid strikes on the moon's face. Look down and your sight stops at topsoil, tarmac, toe."

So begins chapter one of Robert Macfarlane's Underland, an illuminating journey through the Earth's subterranean landscapes. Readers travel from a dark-matter detection laboratory in Yorkshire to the catacombs of Paris; from the "understorey" of London's Epping Forest to Onkalo, a repository for nuclear waste in Finland.

Macfarlane has written several acclaimed books on travel writing, which explore, in his words, "the relationships between landscape and the human heart".

Mountains Of The Mind (2003) looked at the history of man's fascination with mountains, while The Old Ways (2012) saw him traverse Britain's ancient paths.


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