Heartfelt Makan: Well-Made Felt Food Toys At Its Cutest + Promo Code!

I am usually quite self-restrained when it comes to buying toys for the kids, limiting my purchases mostly to open-ended toys such as wooden building blocks. Most of the other toys that F and E have were gifted by friends and family. But throw me a cute play pretend kitchen and I go weak in the knees. That was how we ended up having a Kidkraft kitchen. Dangle those pots and pans and cake mixer and food toys in front me, and I salivate like a Pavlov’s classically-conditioned dog, complete with hearts shooting out of my lids.

Now, most of the food toys we have are wooden, and I love the quality and durability of these pieces. I don’t have much affinity for plastic ones because they don’t have a good weight to them and the cheap paint and labels often peel, but I have been eyeing felt food toys for a while now, having seen some really gorgeous ones on Etsy. But of course, felt food items are hand-sewn and really quite expensive; I managed to stay level-headed, and resisted the temptation to purchase them. There was no way I was paying $70 for a tiny tart that I can’t eat (or can eat…)!

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I was wondering what I should get my kids for Christmas when Santa swung by early. Heartfelt Makan, a local maker of felt food toys, contacted me and asked if they could send me a set for F and E to play with. I had a look at their social media profiles and their website and practically screamed, “YES, I, err, I mean my kids would love to receive them!”

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Aside from cooking up a storm in the international felt food scene (like the quintessential English breakfast or sarnie essentials or even a roasted chicken with moveable parts!), Heartfelt Makan does lots of makan true to our local food heritage. Chwee kueh, siew mai, char siew bao, potong ice cream, pineapple tarts, just to name a few! All these toys are handmade with high quality felt and polyester fill, and the stitching is solid to the point where the toys don’t tear at the seams even after some seriously hustling by my destructive toddler over the past few weeks.

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F pleaded to have a go at the felt food toys we were sent as soon as they arrived but I told her she had to wait because I would like to have the first personal encounter with them and to style them first. She was sorely disappointed but she stole a sneak peek and was dying to dive into the bamboo steamer to get to the dim sum nestled within. A few days later, I let her go wild with the toys and E snuck up behind her to stake a claim too. There was quite a bit of whinging because nobody wanted to share, and l was pleased as punch to see that nobody wanted to share a few weeks later. It’s proof that these felt food toys have longevity to their purpose. F and E have been playing with them, and this lucky mama has been served breakfast, lunch and dinner EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now, if only those are edible. 

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You’d be pleased to know that the felt food toys are holding up well with my grubby toddler; they are in pristine condition, are not discoloured or dirtied, and the felt has not fuzzed.  I love that these toys add a different texture to their play pretend kitchen, the kids love to squish them and mix and match with their wooden food toys. They are really well worth the price and the local makan items are a great way to getting our kids acquainted with our heritage. I do hope to see Heartfelt Makan expand their range to include more of the different cuisines we have the privilege of enjoying with different ethnic cultures in Singapore, so fingers crossed on that!

Lunar New Year is just round the corner, and if you are keen to get those pineapple tarts for your children, or any of the other toys for that matter for someone’s birthday, simply spend $50 or more and take 10% off with the promotional code TPM10. The promo code is valid until 4 Feb 2017. Happy shopping!

Like Heartfelt Makan on Facebook to stay updated on products and promotions.

You can shop online at Heartfelt Makan.

Coping with Loss: Help Needed

At the end of last year, I received an email from a paediatric nurse, Germac, working at KKH, asking me if I could help spread the word about something that most parents don’t face.

Coping with the loss of a child.

We see it in the news. We hear it from somebody from time to time. Our hearts get broken. And then we move on because we aren’t the ones who have to live with the loss.

Some children were taken because they were ill for a long time and their little bodies couldn’t fight the disease. Some were taken away suddenly for no rhyme or reason. Either way, it hurts more than death for the parents who have lost their children, and the family is suddenly left with grief and fading memories of their angels in heaven.

Germac and her colleagues have spent their lives as paediatric nurses tending to the needs of sick children, nursing some back to health and witnessing the heartbreaking loss of some in the process. And they have been looking at ways to keep a part of the angels who have gone to heaven, as a simple, yet grand gesture of helping the bereaved cope with the loss. They have been making casts of the little ones’ hands or feet with the limited resources they have as a remembrance for the bereaved families. Unfortunately, these kits are expensive and are not readily available at times, and as much as the team has spent their own money buying these kits from retail stores, this isn’t sustainable.

Germac and her colleagues are not asking for monetary donations. They are however asking me to help spread the word to parents who may have received casting kits as gifts but have never or do not intend to use the kits, to donate them instead. They are also looking at ways to purchase the kits in bulk at wholesale prices, so if anyone has a lead, please do come forward to give Germac your suggestions.

You may contact her at germacshen AT gmail DOT com to learn more about this personal initiative that the paediatric nurses have started. Please help if you can.

 

 

2016, Do You Have to Go?

As 2016 draws to a close, I am feeling a keen sense of loss. I know, I know…the year hasn’t made any sense on the global front and I have practically been in poor health all year, so I shouldn’t mourn the passing of 2016, but I do.

For more than four years now, I have been home to raise the kids and somewhere in the throes of fighting sleep deprivation and skirting around tantrums, I have unknowingly come to accept my role as (only) a mother as something that is set in stone. Yes, I have dabbled in bits and bobs to preserve a part of me that belongs only to yours truly but most of the time, I’m Mama and it is unfathomable to see myself otherwise. Whilst last year has been terribly challenging, what with me learning to survive as a mother of two by the skin of my teeth, 2016 has been rather wondrous. E turned one and started walking and talking, and even though I spent the year doing the mundane, the same old wretched things that I have been doing all these years, I too had the privilege to watch the kids grow and interact in ways that are nothing short of magical. This privilege is mine because I am Only-Mama and no one else.

This is all going to change next year. F will be turning 5 years old and heading to K1, while E will be starting preschool a few months in. They will be away for at least half a day on most days, and being in K1 means that I can’t pull F out of school as often as I did this year (let’s just say we paid a heck lot of school fees this year only for naughty Mama to keep her home because she misses the kiddo). It might seem like nothing much, this pocket of time that they are going to spend away from me, but just thinking about how swiftly they are growing up and how primary school lurks around that scary corner makes me sad. Sad, being an understatement, because when I am alone at times after the kids have gone to bed, there really is a gaping hole in my heart.

I don’t know how I am going to fill that hole. My heart aches and pines and…I am lost without the kids. Even though I run a business now, I am so used to working with the kids tugging at my legs and putting them first in every decision that I make, that I don’t quite know how to go on without them. Am I alone in feeling this way? Wishing the kids would grow up when they were infants who terrorised my sleep and sanity, and then wishing that they would stop growing up and hoping that they would never leave me alone to confront that faceless person who no longer resides in this Mum-shell?

Is anyone else with me? Is your heart breaking like mine? Are you as baffled as I am for not being anything more than a mother? Have you too forgotten who you were before you became a parent?

But, the clock will not stop ticking. The kids will grow up. My hair will turn grey. My heart will hurt with that gaping hole. Tears will fall. The only way out is through the swamp that I am deathly afraid to wade through. I will somehow learn to recognise and embrace the person I was before I became a mother. And I will get used to being that person and more, to make new memories with and without my littles. I will remember who I was.

2016. You have given me so much and you have taken as much. I don’t want you to go, but it looks like I must leave you now. And this I will do, with as much courage as I can summon.

I will be brave. For them, for me.

Stickerkid Labels for the New School Year + Promo Code!

We are contemplating to send E, our secondborn, to school some time next year and I almost forgot how one should prepare for school (after all, F has been in playgroup/school 2.5 years now and the groundwork of getting school stuff ready is somewhat done) until Stickerkid approached me to give their labels a try. Memories of how we prepared F for time away from me and the anxiety from having to trust the teachers to be there for her came rushing back; that I will have to manage when it’s E turn to go to school and it’s not going to be an easy task, but shopping for school supplies is definitely a more joyful thing to do in comparison so I will focus on that for now.

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The pack that Stickerkid sent me contains 60 small stickers, 20 iron-on clothing labels and 14 shoe stickers. They were a real breeze to customise!

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For the small stickers (46mm by 6 mm), one gets a choice of 9 fonts and 4 font sizes coupled with different background and text colours. I went with black text in a very standard font on yellow background, to encourage E to easily fish out his belongings and recognise his name in a regular font type. It’s a good thing that Chinese characters can be easily added to the text; I simply switched my keyboard on my Macbook Pro to the Simplified Chinese format and typed the hanyu pinyin out for the characters to appear on the customisation site. As these are small stickers, there isn’t any room for fancier fonts or cute images so they can look boring but I like that they are straightforward and fuss-free, and that they do their job well even on narrow surfaces such as pencils and toothbrushes. I have been testing the labels out on E’s belongings that get washed daily at home, and they have hung on real tight and still look brand new.

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The iron-on clothing labels (48mm by 12mm) come with only white backgrounds and a single font type, but you can select from up to 6 font sizes depending on your needs. These are easily ironed-on; simply have a moderately heated iron press on the baking paper provided, which in turn goes on top of the label, and the label gets transferred to the clothing. We launder our clothes at 30 degree Celsius or lower, and the labels have withstood all that washing from a month ago. The amazing thing about the clothing labels we received is they can be removed if we want to pass the clothes on to someone else (do note that Stickerkid offers permanent clothing labels too).

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The shoe stickers (38mm by 40mm) are the cutest of all; you get three lines of text and a tonne of images to choose from. I spent a lot of time picking out the cartoon because there were loads of adorable ones! E is obsessed with saying the word ‘owl’ now, so I decided to go with that eventually. These stickers fit well into his shoes, he is wearing size 21 now, and the round and squared edges fit on the insoles perfectly. The same pair of shoes have been worn to Hong Kong and back and almost everyday in Singapore in the past month, and I am happy to report that they are still beautifully stuck on!

i think we are pretty much all set for the new school year for E, and beyond; given the durable nature of these stickers, I don’t think I have to purchase another pack anytime soon (even though I would love to get my hands on the larger labels that allow us to print cute cartoons on them).

As we round up 2016 (AND before the festive season swoops in on us), it is the perfect time to order a set of labels for your child if he or she is heading to school in the new year. There are different value packs to choose from, if you are looking for a set, and individual types if you are looking to replace your current ones. Take 10% off your purchase from now until 30 Dec 2016 with the promotional code Sticker10.

Now…onto getting a schoolbag and his uniforms!

*I was given a set of Stickerkid labels for the review. No additional 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.

Good Riddance to Burning Pains With PRIMERO ErgoSilver Laptop Riser

We haven’t got enough space for a proper writing desk at home and we have resorted to working at the dining table when the need arises. Sometimes, I work on the laptop at my vanity dresser too if I want to be in the comfort of my room, but no matter where I work, I end up with burning pains in my neck and shoulders after 10-15 minutes. The kind that renders me unable to turn or tilt my head without screaming for the husband to help, the kind that bothers me so much that I can’t go to sleep.

It’s no wonder how much I try to avoid working on my laptop. I can’t be bothered to backup photos as often, edit or write if I can help it. I end up getting a lot of stuff done on the phone, but we all know that nothing beats going on the laptop for certain projects, and working became (literally) a real pain in the neck.

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Without the laptop riser
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With the laptop riser. See the difference?

When Laptop Stand Singapore contacted me to give their PRIMERO ErgoSilver Laptop Riser a try in exchange for an honest review, I jumped on the opportunity. It is touted to help reduce the physical stress that we get from working on the computer for too long, by raising the laptop to a more comfortable height.

I was curious at first, as I was certain I didn’t hunch over my laptop. It turned out that I was doing that unknowingly, because after using the PRIMERO ErgoSilver Laptop Riser, I could go on working on the laptop for at least 45 minutes before starting to feel the strain on my neck and shoulders. By raising the laptop to a height that is closer to the eye-level, I no longer subconsciously hunch or jut my neck out (like a pigeon) to read whatever’s on the screen (something that I notice I was doing when comparing my postures with and without the riser). The slanted keyboard did feel a little awkward at first, as I was used to typing on a flat surface, but I got over that gradient after about two sessions, and now I feel more comfortable using my laptop on the riser instead.

The laptop riser is very light and portable (26cm in length, 18.5cm wide and 8cm high), and as you can see, you could stuff your external hard drive etc under the riser if you need more space at the sides of your laptop. You could also collect the cables through the hole at the back of the laptop riser to neaten things up on your workspace. A laptop riser is really a multi-tasker then, if you take maximising workspace productivity into consideration. It has rubberized silica gel pads on the top surface and bottom surface to increase friction (so that your laptop doesn’t slip right off) and to prevent scratches on laptop. The riser is also suitable for laptops up to 17 inches and so it works for most laptops out there. The best thing is that this simple gadget is rather slim as compared to its counterparts and looks good in any household (long-time readers will know how obsessed I am about things like that). At only $34.90, it really is an affordable solution to enhance your experience working at the laptop and to banish the pains that you may get from working on the laptop for too long. I really can’t live without mine now; it’s a good thing the husband doesn’t work as much as I do so I don’t have to share!

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There are also plenty of other workspace solutions over at Laptop Stand Singapore if you are looking to maximise productivity and space, and I’d say if Christmas shopping for that practical someone in your life is proving to be a challenge, this might be a good place to start!

Thank you, Laptop Stand Singapore!

*I was given the PRIMERO ErgoSilver Laptop Riser for the review. No additional 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.

Halloween Fun at Timbré @ Gillman

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Just this Saturday, we did something that we don’t usually do, and oh boy, did we have LOTS OF FUN! Ever since the kids came into our lives, we don’t go out of the way to take the kids to child-friendly places for meals, you know, those that dole out crayons and colouring sheets, or those that have play areas within their premises; that’s because M and I are adamant at dragging the kids along to eateries that will satisfy our food cravings of the day, no matter how kid-unfriendly (or friendly) these gastronomic destinations are.

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When I received the invitation from Timbré @ Gillman for an afternoon of fun at its Super Social BBQ, now held on both Saturdays and Sundays, I was about to turn the invitation down (given that E sleeps early and we don’t have dinners outside) until I read that Super Social BBQ starts at 4pm! And when I was told that bouncy castles are available and outdoor fun is guaranteed for the kids, I was sold because F has been badgering me to take her to a bouncy castle. For the month of October, Super Social BBQ hitches a ride on the Halloween theme and I was told that we could carve our own pumpkins, let the kids get creative with the Halloween-themed arts and craft activities and also have their faces painted. It sounded like an afternoon that would please BOTH adults and children (plus early dinner, that’s high on our priority list), so I said yes to Timbré @ Gillman!

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Now, F’s eyes nearly popped out of her sockets when she saw not one, but TWO bouncy castles. We arrived at about 4.30pm, and the crowd didn’t come in until about 5.30pm-6pm, so we had at least one good hour in the sprawling backyard of Timbré to ourselves! F went free-range on the massive playground that Timbré put up, and I simply stood with a drink in my hand, and snapped away on the camera as I watched F have the time of her life. Now, before you think that we might get bitten by mosquitoes with all the greenery around us, Timbré hands out mosquito repellant patches to everyone. As a parent, I can’t say that people are always considerate towards families with young children, but Timbré can do no wrong. Adequate facilities for the kids to have fun at, thoughtful gestures (did I mention the bags of popcorn that they hand out to children when patrons arrive?) to make mealtimes enjoyable and stress-free for parents and kids, a conducive environment for the children to play safely in with parents and friendly staff looking out for all the kids. This is the stuff that parents dream of!

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As this month’s theme is Halloween, there was a cute pumpkin patch on the green, and we took the opportunity to carve our very first pumpkin! Carving tools, pumpkins (with their tops pre-cut) as well as markers were provided, so all we had to do were to slip on the disposable plastic bags, dig the fibres and seeds out of the pumpkins, and then get on with the decorating and carving. To be honest, I wasn’t too keen on carving the pumpkin myself because I could tell it requires a fair amount of strength and I was worried about stabbing someone with the long, serrated knife if I didn’t gauge my strength properly. All I did was watch F draw some eyes and a gaping mouth before she signed off on the pumpkin. When I returned to our table empty-handed, M asked, ” Where is the pumpkin?” I said I wasn’t going to carve it and M promptly stood up and announced that we had to do it because it would be our very first attempt.

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M’s enthusiasm rubbed off on me and we cheered him on as he hammered the knife right through where F drew the eyes. It was hard work but well-worth the effort! F was extremely amused and M was satisfied that we could bring our very first Halloween pumpkin home. More on that later.

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We took a break from all that outdoor fun (not without some persuasion, of course, because F wanted to go wild at the bouncy castles again AND blow some bubbles) and returned to our table when the food arrived. Of course, we had to say hello to the BBQ chef who somehow got into very serious trouble with the chef’s knife.

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We ordered a variety of dishes to share, and you’d be glad to know that Timbré serves PLENTY of alcohol. M had an ice-cold pint whilst I, the designated driver, indulged in freshly squeezed orange juice and a sea salt caramel milkshake (the shake was too sweet for me though, but they were a hit with the kids because you get a generous scoop of ice cream on top). Before I forget, I do have to say that even though it’s mostly outdoor seating at Timbré, we didn’t feel hot and sticky from the humidity that afternoon; it could be due to the good ventilation that none of our kids had wet hair plastered all over their scalps by the end of the evening!

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Timbré Chicken Wings | $14

Moving on to food. I didn’t get to grab a bite of the chicken wings as I was watching over a very active E who was busy stacking up stools at the craft corner but M and F enjoyed the wings! They were served piping hot and were crispy, or so I was told!

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F, enjoying said wings

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Simply Fish & Chips | $12

Another dish that pleased the kids was the fish and chips. Although the fish was a tad dry, the spiced batter was crisp and aromatic, and the flesh was sweet (thankfully not tasteless like so many renditions I have tried in Singapore).

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The bone marrow has been gutted and those precious, unctuous morsels are scattered amongst the moist, bite-sized pieces of beef. It was pretty good with the peach marmalade and caramelised onions, and it reminded me a little like little nuggets of kebab, and I wished I could wash this down with beer.

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Crispy Pork Belly | $16

I loved the caramel vinegar drizzled on the crispy pork belly; I thought the flavours went well. Whilst F enjoyed the crunchy pork crackling, I would have preferred a more brittle texture on the skin.
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Baby Back Ribs with Homemade BBQ Sauce (300 grams) | $23

We also ordered two dishes off the BBQ menu, which is only available during weekends at Super Social BBQ. The baby back ribs were flavourful and meaty but were just a little dry, which is a shame. A few minutes short on the grill, and these would have been perfect.

timbre12Grilled Porterhouse Beef Steak (400 grams) | $48

The porterhouse was our favourite dish that evening! I mean, come on, 400 grams of porterhouse at only $48 and cooked to perfect doneness (by that, I mean our favourite medium rare)? I can’t fault this. timbre16

Chocolate Sphere | $15

The chocolate sphere was a real stunner. M isn’t a fan of desserts, so F, E and I had this all to ourselves. The chocolate mousse was incredibly smooth and light, and the kids and I ended up fighting for the last spoonful! I like that it isn’t too sweet, and the fresh fruits and coulis were  spot-on pairings for the chocolate mousse. A must-order, if you ask me.

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Of course, the danger of having fun activities calling out to your kids during dinner, would be to have them leave the table more often than necessary. F, who hates getting painted on, asked if she could have Dumbo the elephant painted on her arm, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. For the first time ever!

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timbre23She promptly ran off to paint some creepy eyes on pebbles at the craft corner (guided by a very patient young lady), before tearing down the grassy patches with a bottle of bubbly fun (also freely available at Timbré) with a giggly E in tow.

We rounded off the dinner listening to a few grown-up songs sung by the live band (Unified plays on Saturday evenings), who then very gamely sang kiddy tunes such as Wheels On The Bus and Let It Go after getting requests from the children.

We had a hard time persuading F and E to leave (E screamed in protest, “NOOOOOO!!!”) and as we struggled to buckle the kids up in the car seat, I told M that we have to come back again. The food is not the best, admittedly, but really, we had such a relaxed and good time with the kids that we, big, big foodies (if you don’t know already)  are happy to return for its Super Social BBQ. I reckon we will be back in November, as I’ve been told that the theme then will be Carnival and we can expect carnival games which are right up our alley! The bouncy castles couldn’t hurt too. And that chocolate sphere…and the porterhouse…

Thank you, Timbré @ Gillman for the fun evening! We will be back!
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Our first Halloween pumpkin, it all its g(l)ory, on our balcony

Timbré @ Gillman is located at:
9A Lock Road Gillman Barracks, Singapore 108926
+65 6694 4201

*I was given dining credits to experience Super Social BBQ and was not obliged to write a review. The excess was paid out of our own pockets. No additional 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.

Miracle for My Skin: Love Organic, Love Botáni

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In the third trimester that I was pregnant with Ethan, three eczema patches showed up on my face that left me wondering what went wrong with my skincare regime. At first, I thought it was just pregnancy hormones messing my skin up, but when the three scaly, itchy, dry patches grew larger, even long after I have given birth, I had a hunch that my body was reacting to the chemicals in the skincare products I was using and that it was time to overhaul my beauty regime. Yes, I was on a mission to clean things up, quite literally, because I am convinced my skin was suffering from the effects of harsh chemicals slathered on my face.

For many months, I used calendula on my skin. The formulation we had worked wonders to get rid of Faith’s eczema, and I applied the calendula ointment on my face to see if it might help with the patches. The wonderful bit is two of the three patches cleared right up. The bad thing is one stubborn patch remained on my left cheek. That patch annoyed me to no end, as it looked red if I didn’t put on any makeup, and if I did paint my face, the patch showed up dry and flaky and there was nothing I could do to conceal it.

After this, I tried different organic and natural skincare products from local and international brands in an attempt to improve the condition of my skin. Whilst the products have been excellent at really nourishing my sensitive skin without stinging or causing itch, none could get rid of the third eczema patch on my face. I was about to give up on the search and cave into using steroids when I stumbled upon the Botáni range of natural and organic Australian skincare carried by a local store, Love Organic.

Karen, of Love Organic, very generously sent me a couple of Botáni products to try, and one and a half months after using them, I am completely sold. Yes, COMPLETELY, you read that right.

Just a little background on Botáni products before I go into the details of how the products helped me. All ingredients used in Botáni products are Eco-Cert approved, and do not contain petrochemicals, mineral oils, PEGS, silicones, paragons, artificial fragrances or colours, animal derived ingredients, propylene glycol and sulphates. The signature ingredient of Botáni skincare products is Olive Squalene – nature’s only biocompatible ingredient which bears the closest resemblance to human squalene, our body’s in-built moisturiser. We are all born with 12% squalene and this starts to decrease from the age of 25 onwards, leading to premature ageing, dry skin and fine lines among others. In short, olive squalene should be your new best friend, even if the ravaging effects of time isn’t.

The Olive Skin Serum is my favourite of all the products that I have been given (or my favourite of all skincare products I have ever used in my life, for that matter). I would go as far as to call it a Miracle for my skin because the third eczema patch has been banished to oblivion two weeks after applying this serum on my face. My skin feels extremely nourished, and is so much suppler and smoother than before.  I noticed that my skin looks more radiant too and I feel more confident about going out without putting on makeup. This is unsurprising, given that the serum is infused with highly concentrated 100% phyto-active Olive Squalene, vitamins C and E. The serum has been clinically proven to increase moisture levels by 50% within 24 hours, to stimulate cell renewal and collagen production, and is ideal for sensitive/eczema skin. I have been told that it doubles up as a makeup primer too; in my case, it’s good for holding my makeup in place for about 4-5 hours. A little goes a very long way when it comes to this serum. I use it once in the morning and once at night, and only require two drops each time for my entire face and neck area. The best way to use it is to pat the drops onto damp skin (fresh from toning, don’t wait until the toner dries out) until it is completely absorbed. Because the serum is incredibly hydrating, I don’t always apply moisturiser after that (not even if I am about to go to bed in an air-conditioned room) and only do so if I want to give my skin a little extra pampering. The serum alone is enough to keep my skin nourished and hydrated, and I wake up with clearer, suppler and smoother skin even after a night in an air-conditioned room. This workhorse is a must-have for me. Case in point below.

This is a photo of me taken first thing in the morning under natural lighting. I just woke up half an hour before the photo was taken, was bare-faced and the photo is not filtered or altered in anyway. My skin is not perfect but it’s so, so, SO much better than before I started using Botáni skincare! I would never publish a selfie taken in broad daylight if my skin were looking battered like before. (Note: The two red blobs on the bridge of my nose are tell-tale signs of nose-pads from my glasses. Had to point that out as it’s nothing harmful caused by the products.)

The Rescue Eye Treatment, enriched with anti-inflammatory plant actives such as Arnica Root, Licorice Root, Acacia Senegal Gum and Olive leaf extract, works wonderfully to hydrate my awfully-dry undereye area. I used to sport fine lines not unlike wrinkled crepe paper and dark circles that were telling of the lack of restful sleep. Half a pump is more than enough to take care of my eyes and whilst the gel feels slightly tacky at first, once it’s absorbed into the skin, it no longer feels sticky. I would say that my dark circles have lightened by up to 40%-50%, and the lines are not so pronounced now. I highly recommend giving this a shot!

I absolutely love the Soothing Facial Mist too. It is alcohol-free and refreshingly scented with Rose Damascena, and makes me feel so good on a hot day or when I just need to perk up! I did use this as a toner before patting on the Olive Skin Serum, but it smells like such a luxury (and is much more expensive than the toner I have been using, which works well for me) that I like to keep it for critical moments throughout the day instead (like kids driving me nuts and I’m completely flat out of battery, or when I am feeling irritable and sticky, or when I am on the road and want to feel energised). I also spray this on to set my makeup, and…have I mentioned how refreshing this is?! Okay, I think you get the point.

The Olive Soothing Cleanser is a cream-based cleanser that is absolutely wonderful at cleansing my skin. It leaves my skin feeling fresh and clean, without stripping its moisture, or weighing it down like some cleansing oils do. It was also effective at removing non-waterproof makeup. Just 2-3 pumps for the entire face should suffice and it can be applied directly on dry skin before you wash it off when you are done massaging your face! Unfortunately, this is a little expensive for me as a daily cleanser but I would definitely purchase it to remove non-waterproof makeup because I know I’m in good hands when I use this. I mean, I had enough with gentle cleansers claiming to remove non-waterproof makeup AND not working.

Two other product samples that I was given were the Boost Balancing Moisturiser and the Olive Repair Cream. The former is very lightweight and easily absorbed, and works wonderfully to hydrate my skin as a day moisturiser. But what I really adore and will purchase again is the Olive Repair Cream which packs a punch when it comes to delivering moisture to my skin. I’m reaching my mid-thirties soon and I do appreciate intense hydration and healing properties of a good moisturiser, and the Olive Repair Cream, which is an ideal treatment for eczema, psoriasis,  redness and irritated skin, does just that. It is touted to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve the appearance of scars and even out skin tone, but the sample I received was only good for 2-3 applications, so I can’t vouch for that but I am eager to test that out when I purchase the full-sized product!

So there you have it! I know this review is a little lengthy, but if you have made it down to the last lines, I hope my thoughts and experience with the different Botáni products will help you in some way! I have experienced the benefits of green beauty (I’m only months into cleaning up my regime) and  I must say that I am loving how nourished, clean and unburdened my skin feels now. Botáni has proven to be an excellent choice for me, and the products are mostly very affordable, so I’m definitely making it a huge part of my regime now. It doesn’t hurt that Love Organic is an online store based in Singapore, and there several stockists island wide too if you want to touch and feel the products. Please let me know if you have tried the other products and seen real benefits from using them! I would love to give the rest a try too.

*I was given the Botáni products for the review. No additional 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.

Dear Faith: And You Are Four

Dear Faith,

I am not sure why but I feel like the mother of the bride on the eve of the wedding. As I put you to bed this evening, I struggled to hold onto your last night as a three-year-old. Tomorrow, you will be four and my heart aches a little at the thought of that. I am pining for you already, like a mother missing her newly-married daughter. Yet, I am looking forward to see how your growth might lend you room to embrace and explore this world, to experience joy and all that life has to offer (even amidst trials and tribulations), much like how the mother of the bride yearns for her child to experience and contribute to the joys of marriage and life after that.

The past year has zipped by much too quickly for my appetite. Your little brother, Ethan, was only a little over four months old when you turned three, and I have been spending a lot of time taking care of his needs, making sure that we are all fed and alive. I am sorry that you had to spend the same amount of time pottering about on your own, telling stories to your bears, singing to no one in particular, waiting for what must seem like an eternity when I ask you to hold on as I hastily complete the tasks at hand and generally, growing up so that I can cope with two children.

As much as I have noticed your new quirks this year and caught on the most astounding conversations with you, I am convinced that I have missed out as many precious moments and I hope that if you have ever resented me for not being there 100% of the time, that you would forgive me. Because I have tried my best to be as present as I could be, my love, and I will strive to do that for as long as you want me to.

Speaking of those moments that I have had the privilege of sharing with you…there are so many quirks of yours that I wish I were the most prolific writer to document every bit of you as a three-year-old, because you are worth celebrating over and over again.

You’d surprise me with the passionate and incredibly cheeky girl you have become (a far cry from the shy tot you once were), parading traits which are reserved for us and only us. Like how you would suddenly drop your toys, run towards me, cup my saggy cheeks in your tiny hands, grit your teeth and exclaim, “Arrrgggggh, I love you soooooo much!” And when I ask you how much is much, you’d shout, “TWENTY TIMES!” (If you must know, twenty is the largest number you can understand in the concept of math right now, and I know that you are trying to tell me that you love me with everything you have.) Or when you shake your booty in the most comedic fashion (like a waddling duck!) whilst wearing a duck face complete with slitty eyes to make your father and I choke on our laughter, before you collapse in giggles. Or when you ‘host’ TV shows and insist that Papa and I watch you whilst you cue us to applaud or laugh hysterically at the most appropriate moments.

At times, you’d show maturity beyond your years and lead by example on how we should live. Like when you chide us for wasting water because you have been designated a part of the ‘water police’ in school, and “Mama, it is very important, you know!” Or when you remind me firmly that I mustn’t shout when I lose my temper at Ethan because, “Shouting is wrong, Mama. You must talk nicely to Didi, just tell him not to do it anymore.” Or when you use your smarts to sneak into our bed more than once a week. “But Mama, Papa is working late again, so I can sleep in your bed tonight, right?” Or when Ethan screams in the car seat and as I check on how you are whilst I drive amidst the ruckus, you calmly announce, “Mama, I am being patient.” And then there’s the bedtime prayer, which you lead every night. “Dear God, thank you for the food. Thank you for our home. Thank you for Papa, Mama and Didi. Please take care of us, keep us healthy and safe. Please take care of E from N1 (your schoolmate who has leukaemia), Teacher J (who is pregnant) and baby, Teacher N (who is also pregnant) and baby, and Aunty S and baby F. Amen.” And your empathetic heart would always make room for people whom you think need God’s help depending on what has happened on that day.

Of course, there are those tender moments that tug at my heartstrings when you remind me that you are really just a three-year-old and still my baby deep down inside. Like when you get awoken by thunder and lighting, and cry inconsolably for us to comfort you before winding up in our bed so we can cuddle you to sleep and make you feel safe from the storm brewing outside. Like when you insist that you don’t ever want to get married and have babies because “I only want Mummy, and I want to be a baby.” Or when you insist on reading the same bedtime story (It’s Time For Bed by Mem Fox) even though we have been putting you to bed with the same lines since you were nine months old, because it makes you feel secure. I, too, recall on many occasions that you would sob quietly in a corner after you spot my white hairs, “Mama, are you going to die? I don’t want you to die, Mama. I don’t want you to die…” How about the nightly requests you make of us after we turn off the lights? “I want bubbles and (to go to the) playground and (to go) swimming, I want Papa Mama (to) come. I want chocolate milk and chocolate bread and cornflakes and milk. Goodnight! 我爱你,爸爸。我爱妳,妈妈。”

All these moments, told and untold, are slipping away as you approach the grand age of four. And my heart…I am not sure if I am ready to let it all go just yet because I haven’t had the luxury of savouring every moment with you this year.

But I know this. That I yearn to make new memories with you and I will hold on to them as tightly as I can until the day I draw my last breath. That I will try my best, however daunting it is, to help you make sense of and navigate the world that can be at times cruel and brutal like the thunderstorms that strike fear in you at night. That I will live out my grey hairs loving you and watching you blossom, if God would give me the time and opportunity to do so. Time and tide waits for no man. Yes, you will be four tomorrow, and we will say goodbye to the years behind us and look forward to what’s to come; it’s not going to be easy on my heart but I think I am feeling a little braver because we are doing this with your not-so-little hand in mine.

I love you twenty times, darling. Until you know what thirty means.

Mama

Shopping, Mummy-Style, with Agape Babies

[*SPONSORED POST] I have said it before and I will say it again, that I LOVE online shopping. I didn’t care for it before I became a mother though; I much preferred taking a walk, running my grubby hands carelessly over the terrain of merchandise on display, and feeling the thrill of actually bagging items upon checking out at the cashier.

BUT. Becoming a mother has changed my lifestyle on many fronts; I have to be careful about spending, and I have neither time nor energy to lug kids (who seem to choose to be exceptionally cranky when I need them to be un-cranky) to the stores.

I have been shopping online at Agape Babies since just before I had Faith four years ago. My very first purchase was the Medela Freestyle breast pump set, which I bought for 50% off the retail price and remains an incredible steal now. Since then, I have found many more fantastic deals for products that are crucial to our parenting needs. I have saved so much money on Laninsoh nursing pads, California Baby products, Melissa & Doug toys, books, you name it, and I hardly go to brick-and-mortar stores for things that the kids and I use. It no longer makes sense to go through the hassle of lugging the kids through the crowds when I can save tonnes of money shopping online at Agape Babies in the comforts of my own home.

This time round, I managed to stock up on the Laninsoh nursing pads (been using them for as long as I have been breastfeeding), California Baby Bug Repellant (our go-to spray when we are out and about), and carted two Handwriting Practice books from Letterland for F as she has been asking me to get them. And I did all this on the mobile phone!

For an avid user of the mobile phone like myself, the mobile-optimized website makes for a great shopping experience on the go. I don’t have to power up my laptop, and all I have to do is do quick searches and cart the items on my phone, even as the kids are pulling at me or glued to my hips. Major win.

Fans of Jujube, the poison of many mums, will be glad to know that Agape Babies has
expanded its brand & product selection to include more hot brands like said poison and 3M. Agape Babies now carry over 250 brands and 6000 products in over 10 categories at incredible prices, so it’s really a no-brainer for parents, newly-minted and seasoned alike, to shop on the site.

If you are a first-time customer, you get to enjoy $10 off your first purchase on top of getting a free gift. VIP customers get to enjoy special price reductions and also lifestyle privileges. If you’d like to save on shipping, which isn’t costly by the way, you can opt for the one-click self-collection from 3 convenient locations – Newton, Sengkang and Old Airport Road. Smaller parcels can be picked up from 72 locations across the island as well.

To sweeten the deal for you, Agape Babies is giving my readers 5% off all items except milk, diapers, wipes, Jujube, Medela breastpumps, sale and clearance categories. All you have to do is to enter the coupon code pleasuremonger5% upon checkout (valid from 22 Aug to 12 Sep 2016).

I am not sure what else I should say to convince you to give Agape Babies a shot in changing your mummy-and-me shopping needs, but seasoned mums who have tried will tell you that shopping at Agape Babies is a lifesaver, as it has been for me all these years!

*I was gifted shopping credit and paid for excess amount incurred from the items I picked. 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.