GIVEAWAY! Yamatoya Buono Amice Desk & Chair Set Worth S$198

Parents endeavour to give their children the very best, and I am no exception. As a mother to baby Faith, I am always on the lookout for quality clothes, toys, books, foods and other knick-knacks.

In the series ‘I Have My Eye On‘, I share my favourite finds for my little girl.

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[SPONSORED POST* - GIVEAWAY details in this post] So. Faith, at the grand old age of (almost) two, has discovered the magic of pens, crayons, pencils and markers. She makes herself comfortable on the floor and Picasso-s anything which resembles a piece of paper (I’m glad that she knows not to draw on OTHER surfaces, that would be criminal) but sometimes, she ends up spilling her masterpiece over onto my poor parquet floor because she doesn’t know how to restrict her overzealous movements to MInistry-of-Mum-Approved drawing surfaces. Faith has also been going to pre-school for a few hours every week, and enjoys doodling with her teachers. When we were sitting in with her during the first few classes, she was absolutely enamoured with the desks and chairs at school and practically rearranged the furniture to pander to her newfound obsession. I told the husband that we needed to get her a desk and chair set, pronto. We headed to a couple of places to hunt for a set that we think would work well for Faith and still look great in our living space, which we have conscientiously tried to keep in neutral tones ever since Faith was born. We failed. The ones we saw were either good-looking or functional; it was impossible to have the best of both worlds. The sets we saw couldn’t grow with the child too, and I most certainly didn’t want to spend on something that Faith will outgrow quickly.

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We were a little disheartened with the search and almost gave up, when Yamatoya Singapore approached us to review the new Buono Amice Desk & Chair. How timely is that; Fairy Godmother must have been listening! Some of you may have heard of the original Buono, and the Buono Amice is a bigger and better version of it! I swooned over the photos of the set I saw on the Yamatoya Singapore site, and was absolutely eager to try it out because it looked like everything we wanted in a desk and chair set! And it is!

P7303800Designed in Japan and manufactured in Indonesia, the set is made of 100% rubber wood; the natural wood grain is something that I really, really, really like (I’m very fond of wood when it comes to furniture). Being made out of solid wood, the set is a little heavy but this means it is incredibly sturdy and can bear weight up to 60kg. I squished my butt on the chair, put my full weight on it and I didn’t break it; the chair didn’t tip over due to a significant change in the centre of gravity either, because the side bars and leg protrusions of the chair distribute the weight very effectively. When Faith sits on the chair, she isn’t able to rock the chair backwards because of the unique design of the legs. That really puts my mind at ease; I recall a kid in my primary school who rocked his chair, fell backwards, hit his head hard on the floor and suffered from a concussion. True story that haunts me to this day!

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While I have seen Faith struggle with the chairs in school (which are ironically made for kids her age), Faith gets in and out of the Buono Amice chair fairly easily on her own. It really helps that the heights of the chair and desk are adjustable at three levels as well; this means that the set grows with the child, something that I am always on the lookout for when I purchase furniture for children. Mind you, the Buono Amice is suitable for children from the ages of 1 to 5! For her height and proportion, I have assembled the set on the lowest levels to accommodate her frame, and she sits in it so comfortably! No hunching over because the desk is too low. No raising of arms to rest her elbows on the desk because the chair is too low. Her legs tuck nicely under the table without having her thighs and knees rub against the underside of the desk. Her feet rest flat on the floor. And look at her posture, it’s so well-maintained with the ergonomic design of the chair!P7303802

The work surface of the desk is also very spacious, allowing Faith to work on larger masterpieces at any one time. The cute red and blue trinkets are excellent holders for stationery, and fit in pre-carved grooves on the desk to prevent them from getting knocked over easily. There is also a shallow ‘pool’ of sorts in between the two trinkets to hold extra pencils and what-not. Faith has no problem reaching for her coloured pencils and decorative pieces stored in the trinkets and the ‘pool'; I like that she doesn’t have to go, ‘Mama, help, please’ whenever she needs something. Everything is so easily accessible on this workstation!P7303781

The desk comes with a built-in drawer that glides in and out smoothly for ease of access; it doesn’t fall out when Faith yanks on it because a built-in stopper prevents that from happening. Brownie points for safety! It is a rather large drawer and I find it useful for storing materials, books and more stationery. I’m a clutter-phobe, so I’m all for furniture that boasts storage space! Of course, Faith loves hiding her favourite belongings in them and I end up finding all sorts of weird things in there…but that’s a story for another day.P7303790

For something that is so thoughtfully designed for children in every aspect, I would have expected it to be a challenge to assemble. But it was SO FREAKING EASY that I, being far from acquainted with the ways of carpentry and heavy, manly tools, could assemble the desk and chair in 15 minutes. I have to say the Japanese are really at the top of their game in coming up with the simplest, yet highly functional designs! The set comes with an allen key and all the screws you will need to put the pieces together. The most difficult part of all, which isn’t tough to begin with, is to figure out the height you want to fix the desk and chair at for your child. And the truth is, even if you get it wrong, the set is very easily disassembled and re-assembled at the correct heights. Just check out the gallery below for the photos of how I assembled the set. And yes, again, it was so easy that I could hold the parts together with one hand while photographing with my other hand. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?!

We are incredibly happy with the Buono Amice set, and so is Faith; every time she comes home, she runs to her workstation, pulls out the chair, plonks her butt down and starts scribbling or reading. I have to say it is one of my favourite products to-date, largely because it is so very beautifully made and yet, highly functional and safe for Faith to use. The rubber wood is so smooth and there are no offensive, sharp corners that may hurt Faith. The screws are all deep-set; hence, there isn’t a chance of her scratching herself on protruding metallic bits and bobs. Most of all, she sits so comfortably in the set, and I know that she will continue to do so even when she grows taller (or fatter, tee hee) because the heights are easily adjustable. Even Mama’s childbearing hips can fit in that chair! I’d like to add that I use the beautiful wood grain on the desk as THE background for my food photography these days…tell me about maximising the potential of my kiddo’s things; don’t you dare judge, you would too if you own the Buono Amice!

WANT TO GET YOUR HANDS ON THE BUONO AMICE SET?

If you’re interested to have a look at the set up-close before purchasing it, I’d highly recommend you to drop by the Yamatoya Singapore booth at the SUPERMOM BAZAAR at Suntec City Hall 401-404 from 22-24 August 2014. As Yamatoya Singapore does not have a physical retail store or stockists, this is a great opportunity for you to have a look at the Buono Amice set and other products (we love the SukusukuES high chair too, which we have given away a few months ago!) at a central location in Singapore!

GIVEAWAY!

Now, Yamatoya has kindly sponsored one handsome Buono Amice Desk & Chair set to a lucky reader of mine (you have to be based in Singapore as Yamatoya does not deliver internationally). It comes with 1 desk and 1 chair, a built in drawer, red and blue trinkets and the tools required for assembly. Delivery is provided free-of-charge as well! What are you waiting for? Enter the giveaway here! Some steps can be done once a day, so don’t forget to check back to get more entries into the draw!

Terms and Conditions of the giveaway:

- One winner will be randomly selected to receive the Buono Amice Desk & Chair Set.
- Giveaway is only open to those based in Singapore.
- Free delivery within Singapore; assembly service of the set is not provided.
- Yamatoya Singapore will contact the winner after the giveaway closes.

GOOD LUCK, AND THANK YOU, YAMATOYA!

*I was gifted one Yamatoya Buono Amice Desk & Chair Set to review, and another set worth S$198 to give away to a lucky reader. No monetary gift was received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products. Sponsors have been notified that I am not obliged to write a review upon receipt of sponsored items, should I find the products unsuitable.

You can now shop online at Yamatoya Singapore!

 

The Kid Doesn’t Always Say No

So. Faith is turning two in a month’s time and of course, the terrible twos have descended upon this peace-lovin’ home. In fact, I think we were first hulk-smashed when she was 19-20 months old and have since lived through some pretty jaw-dropping episodes. The tantrums have somewhat given way to a subtler, more civilised form of protestation, where F launches into verbal diarrhoea that has the consistency of 10364 resounding No’s. Case in point:

‘Faith, can you please drink some water?’

‘NO.’

‘Faith, can you please eat your dinner?’

‘NO.’

You get the picture.

She doesn’t shout when she says no, but it can be really grating when *clenches teeth* I.just.want.to.get.the.job.done.

But of course, things are getting more complicated now that Faith makes sense of the world and understands more than we think she does.

After a particularly rough night, I was just about to fall into deep sleep when F woke up. I practically dragged myself by my nostrils as I shuffled over to her room to pick her up, and promptly hauled her to my bed, in the hope that she would snooze a little longer and let me catch some winks. As any parent’s luck would have it, the kid was fresh as a daisy and buzzed like an Energizer bunny; I tried to sleep through her jumping on my bed and of course, I couldn’t. I don’t know what came over me but I decided to reason with her.

‘Faith, Mama is tired. Can Mama sleep?’

‘No.’

‘Please? Mama wants to sleep.’

‘No.’ (pause) ‘Mama wear spectacles!’ (That’s Faith’s way of getting me up from the bed because I always put on my glasses the instant we wake from our lunchtime naps.)

‘But Mama wants to sleep. Mama is tired.’

‘No.’

(resigned to fate) ‘You want Mama to wear spectacles?’

(exuberantly) ‘YEESSS!!!’

Well, I wish the kid said no, like she used to. But with any parent’s luck…

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Shop My Designer Bags!

Just a shoutout for a new section on the blog, ‘My Shop’!

I am doing a little spring-cleaning and am selling some pre-loved designer bags that were barely used/are brand new, including a Kate Spade diaper bag, Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci totes. They are all in pristine/excellent condition and are up for sale at really good prices! If you’re interested, please hop over to My Shop to have a look and drop me a line to make more enquiries or to lock down a purchase. If you know someone who’s looking to own some very well-kept designer bags, please send them my way, thank you soooo much!

Have a lovely long weekend, everyone!

GIVEAWAY! WINK to LEARN Speak & Read Chinese Program Review + Promotion!

[SPONSORED POST* - GIVEAWAY and promotional details in this post] Parents endeavour to give their children the very best, and I am no exception. As a mother to a little girl, I am always on the lookout for quality clothes, toys, books, foods and other knick-knacks.

In the series ‘I Have My Eye On‘, I share my favourite finds for my daughter.

201407 WinktoLearn Chinese review

I have a confession to make. I wish I could say that I’m an on-the-ball mama, but I really am a mother who is much too laid-back. I barely plan any educational or enrichment activities for F other than let her roll around wherever we end up (that includes scrutinising strands of hair lying on the floor and exclaiming ‘HAIR,’, true story, yo!) and err…let her fiddle around with egg shells and markers for that ONE crafting session I planned during Easter. The most educational thing I have done with her is to read our library of board books with her (because I would love for her to revel in the power of imagination one day); even that lonely stack of English flashcards was gifted because I didn’t see the need in buying them. What about pre-school, you might ask, ‘You seem to put her in one pretty young for a laid-back mum?’ Well, we put her in one only because we wanted her to socialise and be a wee bit more independent; I won’t deny that putting her in the care of teachers I trust for a few hours every week gives me much-needed time off to manage other aspects of our lives. So, now that you know my parenting style, you wouldn’t be surprised to find out that I know NOTHING about the methods of early childhood learning, let alone plan insightful activities. I grew up playing and imagining and messing with things around me and I’d like to think that I turned out fine, unless you count my laid-back parenting style as anything but. YEAP, I’m a tiger mum’s worst nightmare.

Even then, I do recognise the benefits of conscientious teaching and early learning. My social media feed is chock full of mummy and daddy friends who make impressive efforts (they put me to shame!) to teach their children languages, science, math, music, arts and the likes, and also to nurture their creativity. The benefits are there for all to see; their children are very engaged and learn so very quickly at such a tender age! Even F, whose can’t-be-arsed mother (ME) is lazy and absolutely uninspiring, has been demonstrating the plusses of going through that neglected stack of English flashcards. She started learning the English language from our daily interactions and one day, asked about the flashcards that she got so very curious about. That was when I began teaching her its contents, always at her pace and at her request, and very, very soon after, F was going through them like a pro.

I did think about getting her started on the Chinese language too because M and I are bilingual, except that I had no clue as to how to do it (I went to a Chinese school for years, the irony…对不起, 老师们). We speak Mandarin to her occasionally and sing loads (which she absolutely loves), but I have never really gone on to get her to associate nouns/verbs in Chinese with objects/subjects/actions, etc. It sounds very silly, especially when I am fluent in Mandarin but teaching the Chinese language, for some reason, intimidates me! It didn’t bother me though. I figured that she would pick up the language sooner or later, as with everything else, but when The Groovy Giraffe invited me to give the WINK to LEARN Speak & Read Chinese Program (including simplied and traditional Chinese) a try, I thought, ‘Why not?’

I had my reservations though. The program comes in the form of six DVDs. As laid-back as I am, I try not to let F have too much screen time. I don’t want to go into details on the adverse effects of excessive screen time, because the truth is, I’m not an expert and I don’t know how it will affect MY child (for example, I grew up watching lots of TV and I wasn’t and am not hyperactive, whatsoever) but I don’t want her to be sucked into a screen and not interact with the people and environment around her. The rationale behind minimal screen time in our household is as simple as that. Everything is done in moderation, as with screen time, and we do let her watch the TV when we are too tired or unwell to keep her occupied, or during ER-worthy times like when we have to, erm, snip her fringe or fish a scale wedged in her gum, or when she is dying to sing along to the tunes of Frozen (can’t say no to those puppy eyes). But, I did a quick research on the resource, and was very glad to know that the program is planned on a one-lesson-a-day basis over a period of six months; that works out to only less than eight minutes of screen time a day, which is perfectly okay in my books!

There are a number of things that need to be adhered to for the program to be effective, as detailed in the parents’ guidebook. Two aspects, which stood out for me, are for the parent to watch the program with the child, and for the parent to stop the lesson before the child gets bored. These made perfect sense to me, as I would want to know what F has learnt at every lesson, and I would want her to stay engaged. The latter wasn’t a problem for us though; every lesson is so short and succinct, that F almost always asked for more after each lesson has ended. I have to be firm and say no, and she is fine with that as well.

We have been on the program for slightly more than a month now, and have covered topics in the first level, including the body, actions, numbers, nature, belongings, animals and relations. Every lesson alternates the image depicting the word shown, followed by the word itself (similar to what you do with physical flashcards). This goes on for a number of different words in the same topic, and the entire sequence is repeated. The lesson then ends with a song that puts the words into context. It is all very simply laid out and easily followed by children. To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting anything more than F recognising the images and yelping ‘眼睛’ (eyes), ‘笑’ (laugh/smile), or ‘走’ (walk) when she sees the images, but she did this and so much more! She actually recognises some of the words, not just from the Chinese characters displayed on the screen, but also from the ones I scribble on scraps of paper; this means that what she has learnt is transferable! I was utterly shocked when she piped up after I wrote the words ‘一’ (one), ‘二’ (two), ‘三’ (three), ‘爸爸’ (father), ‘耳朵’ (ear), ‘鼻子’ (nose), ‘头’ (head), ‘妈妈’ (mother), without showing her the accompanying images. The amazing thing is each topic (i.e. numbers, relations, body) was only played twice a day (a total of less than eight minutes a day) for two consecutive days before we moved on to the next topic. A revision of the older topics was only done at the end of the month, after all the lessons in the first level have been dished out. I’m not sure how or why retention is possible with minimal repetition, but the teaching methods by Dr. Glenn Doman and Dr. Makato Shichida, which inspired this program, must have worked!

Onto some things I like and don’t like about the program:

Likes: Each lesson is very short and succinct. The songs chosen contain words that round out the topics nicely and make for good revision. Screen time is minimised, even though it’s not entirely eliminated (this is okay with me because I believe that moderation is key), and the program is presented in a convenient format for parents to incorporate into daily educational activities. The methodology used is very effective, judging from the fact that F has learnt so much from every (again, I emphasise) super-short lesson.

Dislikes: I am a sucker for type and design but the fonts, riot of colours and images grind my gears. They aren’t what I call pretty, even if they are very practical and realistic. I wish the lessons could have been more pleasing on the (well, MY) eye, but hey, whatever floats the boat for the kids! F didn’t seem to mind one bit at all. I also think it would be great if the program captures a person on the screen enunciating every word to aid lip-reading. I found that F had difficulty reading the third intonation in hanyu pinyin and ended up mistakenly reading that word in two distinct syllables. F also couldn’t make out the p’s, k’s and other consonants at the start of certain words and end up pronouncing them inaccurately, but I could easily correct these as I watched the program with her (as advised by the developers of the program). I’d like to add that I think she found it useful to look at my mouth as I enunciated.

My dislikes aside (which are far from being deal-breakers), we have seen shockingly good results in learning to speak and read Chinese with the program, and I’m definitely going to go through the remaining five levels provided in the set. It’s a great way to get children to love the Chinese language, something which I see F doing;  she asks for ‘Chinese show’ (referring to the program) everyday and flashes big smiles whenever we go through the lessons. She also recites the words whenever she spots similar subjects/objects/actions in real life, even when the DVD isn’t on, and is happy to converse and sing in the Chinese language, something that I deem important in picking up a language easily. The program is a wonderfully easy platform to aid clueless parents like myself in coming up with informal lesson plans for picking up the Chinese language. The best part is it only takes a wee bit of time every day, leaving the rest for play (yay!) and other activities, and the short duration ensures that kids stay engaged without getting restless before the lesson ends. After all, we know that children have short attention spans, and should be given frequent breaks during learning! I like that F is more bilingual now, and we can converse with her in two languages (well, three, because I speak Hokkien to her too). If only I learnt Japanese, French and Spanish…I wouldn’t hesitate in getting F started on those languages as well!

PROMOTION!

Want to give the WINK to LEARN programs a shot? The Groovy Giraffe is giving readers of The Pleasure Monger a whopping 20% off all programs, including the ones on sale (which means you get an additional 20% off the discounted price)! It’s the perfect time to get a set for cheaps and I’m pretty sure you can find a program to suit your needs. Other than the Chinese language, the Speak & Read sets come in English, Thai, Spanish, French, Malay, Filipino, Japanese, even German! The Groovy Giraffe also stocks SING to LEARN programs in English and Chinese, and encyclopaedic DVD sets on Animals in the Safari, Amazing Rainforest, Australian Wildlife, just to name a few. Don’t forget to check out the Super Saver Bundle Deals, many of which are already going for half-price (and this is BEFORE you take an additional 20% off with our promotional code)! Simply enter RachelTPM at checkout to enjoy the 20% discount, valid until 25 August 2014.

GIVEAWAY!

We know some of you will be keen to try the program out on your child, and so The Groovy Giraffe is giving away one set of the WINKtoLEARN Speak & Read Chinese 6-DVDs program (comes in a DVD case with a cover page inlay) to a lucky reader! Enter the giveaway HERE! Certain steps can be done once a day, for every day of the giveaway, so don’t forget to check back to get more entries into the draw!

Terms and Conditions of the giveaway:

- Giveaway open to those based in Singapore only.
- Winner to collect the prize at The Groovy Giraffe (Everton Park) or pay $5 for shipping (within Singapore).
- No exchange of product or conversion to store credit.
- Winner will be contacted by The Groovy Giraffe.
Thank you, The Groovy Giraffe!

* I was gifted one set of the WINKtoLEARN Speak & Read Chinese program to review. An addiional set will also be sponsored by The Groovy Giraffe for the winner of this giveaway. No other monetary compensation has been received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services. Sponsors have been notified that I am not obliged to write a review upon receipt of sponsored service/items, should I find the products/services unsuitable.

You can shop online at The Groovy Giraffe.

Like The Groovy Giraffe on Facebook to be updated on the latest news and promotions.

There Is Always Time to Dance

Before M and I became parents, we were young (tsk tsk), carefree (tsk tsk) and did most things in the spur of the moment. Feel like getting fat on gelato and bistecca alla fiorentina? Off to Florence this weekend! Feel like taking in the rich history and sheer beauty that make Austria? Off to Vienna the next weekend! Never mind the odd hours of flying with budget airlines, the mere hour of sleep that we would get right after landing and before we hop (yes, we could still hop) to work. We were tired but we could harness that bit of energy left in the name of impulse and adventure, two words that make up so many of our memories together.

These days, we would grab any chance to sit still, glaze over and try to remember our first and last names for about thirty seconds before someone springs a timely reminder and goes ‘MAMA!’ or ‘PAPA!’ on us. We no longer ‘hop on the next flight’ just because we felt like it. We run our lives on a loose-tight-ish schedule, depending on whether it’s a school/workday, and mostly plan where we are going down to the o’clocks to accommodate nap times and mealtimes (for our toddler’s sake, not ours).

But I’m not complaining. There is comfort in this routine, contentment in the privilege of being parents to our little girl, and unbridled joy in any surprise.

Such as this. M is excellent at making memories out of the tiniest gestures, especially when I am much too caught up in the daily grind to appreciate the small things in life. Two nights ago, I was battling my old and cranky MacBook Pro, and hoping against hope that I hadn’t lost all the photos taken back in London as I tried to restore its contents. I was on the verge of crying, absolutely gutted that I might have erased those precious memories of London, when M picked me up from the floor, put on a song, 月亮代表我的心, on the phone and held me close as we danced in our pyjamas in the still of the night. And that was all it took to make a memory, one that wouldn’t be captured on photos, one that couldn’t be captured on photos.

In that three minutes and twenty-eight seconds, I am reminded that we could and should find the time to dance in the busy-ness that is parenthood and our lives, trying to complete this and achieve that. Because, in that 3:28, I found forever, something that I wouldn’t be able to get if I had spent the time getting all flustered.

So…yes, impulse and adventure may not make our memories now. Gelato and bistecca alla fiorentina may not rank tops in our priorities, not as much as sleep and rest anyway, but we dance, and I will take 3:28 over that any day.

201407 A Time to Dance

Us. Post-wedding, pre-baby in the winter of 2011. After a hike through Forest of Dean up to Symonds Yat Rock, taking in the beauty of Wye Valley.

ME 1 : CREEPY CRAWLIES 0

{SPONSORED POST*} I am a real chicken when it comes to creepy crawlies. Spiders, ROACHES (OMG, those really freak me out ESPECIALLY if they fly), beetles, lizards, you name it. They creep up on me when I’m peeing, or shampoo-ing my hair with my eyes closed, about to go to bed, and always, always, always, when M is working late and I’m all alone and absolutely defenceless, save for a stupid can of smelly, toxic insecticide and/or the occasional super-thick, rolled-up wad of newspapers, which are completely useless in hands that are quicker to retract than offend. I still remember the night when I was heavily pregnant, alone at home, and TWO humongous cockroaches and a giant lizard attacked me in the bedroom, SIMULTANEOUSLY. All I could think of was what I did to deserve that. *shudders*

I cannot even begin to tell you how much my home was like the Shrieking Shack for the past few years shortly after I moved back to Singapore. I mean, London has NO creepy crawlies that invade our home like that. They have rats, yes, but rats run away from us (and none has ever barged into our home); they don’t fly in our direction, leap from across the table and land on our shoulders. Ants don’t even attack my bakes, when I leave them out in the open on the mid-island for days! I don’t get it, but in the five years I was living in London, I did not see an ant (uh huh, I’m using the singular term here). Houseflies, yes, in summer (but houseflies are more annoying than scary), and the occasional bee that visits us when the flowers bloom, but nothing, NOTHING made me scream like I did after I moved back to Singapore. Back here, we snack a fair bit upstairs in the living area outside our room, and F being a toddler, walks around, goes all Gretel on me and drops crumbs that attract armies of ants within twenty minutes. Then the lizards start visiting us upstairs because of the whole food-chain thing, and they leave their droppings on our pristine white walls, jump out at us when we adjust the drapes…what a complete nightmare! Roaches creep out from the drainage in the bathroom (at least that’s where I think they came from), and I remember how one would suddenly appear from its cosy hideout under the armchair, where I sat nursing F in the dead of the night. It totally freaked me out!

Don’t even get me started on mosquitoes. I am some kind of a magnet for them, and so are M and F. The worst thing is F develops rather severe insect bite reactions that will make any mother weep. Think shiny, bulbous blisters, ooozing pus from all that scratching. I am fiercely protective as a result (also because of the high incidence of dengue fever, and it doesn’t help that a new house is being built right across ours), and went on a mission to insect-proof our lives as much as possible.

And…I found a solution!

201407 KONK I 1

We started using the Automated KONK® I Flying Insect Killer Starter Kit, which is such a godsend and works incredibly well to keep creepy crawlies away. We have not been terrorised by cockroaches, ants, mozzies, or any other insects since October 2013. Once the bugs were gone, the four-legged rubbery lizards packed their bags too because there wasn’t any food lurking around for them. In the past eight months, I have only seen, at most, four to five lizards (rather infrequent, given that I used to see two to three every night, in various sizes, meaning there was a nest of them lurking somewhere). One might say that we could use the usual insecticides to keep them away, but get this, I invested (yes, the system and refills are a wee bit expensive) in the kit because KONK® I is as non-toxic as it is effective. The main ingredient in KONK® I is pyrethrin, which is a natural extract in chrysanthemum flowers. It is a perfectly safe, natural deterrent that keeps ‘em nasty bugs away and leaves no residue whatsoever, save for the faint scent of chrysanthemum. I like that we are not breathing in toxic fumes and skidding around on oily surfaces unlike the days when we used the old-school insecticide, especially so as Faith is in our lives now and touching everything she can get her hands on. We don’t mind paying more for a non-toxic way of keeping our home bug-free!

201407 KONK I 2

It also helps that the AG dispenser is incredibly easy to use. It operates on a single 9 volt alkaline battery and is a no-brainer to assemble and disassemble when the time comes to change the refill for the KONK® I Flying Insect Killer. It is as simple as removing the empty canister, and screwing in a fresh refill. The dispenser is very light and portable too, so you can move it anywhere you want, as long as you place it at a decent height (so no one gets squirted in the face, obviously, and KONK® I gets dispersed as evenly as possible). But of course, I consider the AG dispenser a big (albeit one-time) purchase, and it can be a strain on one’s budget to fit the entire home with multiple dispensers (especially if you have a huge home with many rooms that often have doors shut). For us, we only bought one dispenser to be placed upstairs in our living area, and it has worked well to keep bugs away, even from the bathroom and our bedroom, which are adjacent to the living area.

There have been times when I forgot to purchase extra refills before the existing canister in the dispenser ran out, and ants came creeping back to snack on crumbs that were overlooked when we cleaned up after our ‘picnics’ upstairs. In this case, we use the KONK® I HH (short for handheld), give the dark corners and offending areas a good spritz (again, no residue, no oiliness, no toxic fumes whatsoever), and the insects are gone in a jiffy. It is basically the KONK® I Flying Insect Killer that is used in the dispenser, but in the handheld form which is very useful for driving out bugs and keeping them away from hard-to-reach areas like the drainage, under the sink, etc, a lovely complement or even alternative (if you don’t mind doing some spritzing every 2-3 days) to the AG dispenser (which works for you all-day long). We keep both in the house, and the bugs don’t stand a chance!

PROMOTION FOR MY READERS:

Our LifeStyle Shop is inviting you to give KONK® I a try by offering 5% off all purchases for the readers of The Pleasure Monger. Simply enter the promotional code pleasuremonger (vaild from 1 July to 31 July 2014) when you check out. Happy shopping!

*I was gifted one can of KONK I HH. I paid for all other items reviewed out of my own pocket. No additional monetary compensation has been received and I do not stand to gain any commission arising from sales using the discount code given to my readers. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services. Sponsors have been notified that I am not obliged to write a review upon receipt of sponsored service/items, should I find the products/services unsuitable.

— You can now shop online at Our LifeStyle Shop! Like Our LifeStyle Shop on Facebook to be updated on promotions and what’s going on in-store!

To Learn Something New

201406 Dark chocolate and sea salt caramel tart

I know, I know. I have gone way off the baking and cooking radar for the longest time, since late 2011, I reckon. You know my excuses. I’ve moved across three countries. I got pregnant. And before I know it, my hands were full with a newborn, then a baby, and now a toddler. These days, I write less about my culinary adventures (or rather, lack thereof) and more about the ups and downs in motherhood. Some of you have left, some of you have stuck around to see what I’m up to, some of you have joined me in this new and permanent part of my journey. But I am still here, and I suspect that I might always be.

You see, this blog is not just another website. Not to me, at least. It chronicles my everything, and everything about me (well, almost). It documents challenges I have faced in life, be it  graduate school a few couple of years ago, my new then-life in a foreign land, and yes, food too. I remember the first time I bought my very own set of baking equipment. We had just moved to London in 2007, and I was keen to pick up baking again since the kitchen was all ours. I bagged the cheapest of the basics I could find, including a very noisy handheld mixer from Tesco which cost me only £3.99. It served me well, taking me from basic cupcakes, to layered cakes, chiffon and even macarons.

Each time I learnt something new, I was absolutely delighted, but not without feeling utterly deflated at my failed first attempts. I was amazed at how basic ingredients could yield all sorts of tasty morsels, and how every quantity, step and trick made the world of a difference. It was particularly rewarding, when I stumbled upon random tricks on my own; baking is almost magical to me, save for the fact that its roots actually lie in the heart of science.

201406 Lemon curd tartAfter leaving London, I barely had the opportunity to learn new recipes. My repertoire was old and tired, and it was mostly executed to feed my husband and daughter, or for special occasions. I have very, very loyal fans though. Most people are always happy to have a slice of my signature chiffon cake or that soft cookie or the grand old dame of a red velvet cake, and I am truly thankful that they still appreciate what I do. But that isn’t enough for me. Soon, I got bored of my own creations. Sad, but true.

I have been pushing myself to try out new recipes, to conquer new pastries and master new dishes. It’s not working out too well, as all this takes far too much time, something that I am in desperate need of. But I’ve stolen pockets of it, when F sleeps (thank goodness we insisted on early bedtime), when M is finally free from crazy shifts to help me with her. A month or two ago, I was really happy to have nailed the tart (the pastry, not a person), and filled them with lemon curd (also a first in my culinary adventure, I know…I’m real slow), or dark chocolate ganache and sea salted caramel. They were, IMHO, absolutely spot-on! I was on cloud nine when I learnt that the tarts were well-received…that buzzzzz, that joy I get when I know my bakes have made someone very happy…

I wish I have more opportunities at some point to challenge myself. I could use with feeling a little more accomplished than just doing what I have been doing thus far. I miss dreaming up exciting flavours in my sleep, and jumping out of bed to get cracking in the kitchen. I miss scribbling ideas on random scraps of paper, and hopping into the pantry in the middle of the night to whip something up. Those days were absolutely glorious, utterly inspired and undeniably pleasurable…and those days couldn’t come sooner.