Love Me. Love, Me.

Valentine’s Day is a bit of an alien concept to me. Through the years I had been single, depending on how old (or young) I was, I either spent the day feeling ostracised by girls romanced by eager boys bearing bountiful blooms, or feeling like it was perfectly okay to be alone.

Then, I met and married a very practical man.

We have never celebrated Valentine’s Day, gazing into each other’s eyes with our knees touching in dimly lit restaurants. He was either away in London for his studies, or we would have a home-cooked meal together (a part of our daily routine, anyway) and that would be it. It has been an unspoken tradition every year since we settled down in the same country. Flowers, chocolates, jewellery and gifts are not usually what we do. I would be lying if I say that it didn’t bother me when I was all of 25 (and brimming with naivety), but now that I am in my mid-thirties and have become a mother of two, I have come to realise that love need not be shown in ways prescribed by the society, and that love is much more than a day and the biggest bouquet.

As the years passed us by, we learnt to subtly show our appreciation for each other. Get up a little earlier than the other to tend to the kids, so that one of us gets more sleep. Change out a particularly offensive diaper. Offer to clean up the toddler who has a newfound, screaming hatred for bath time. Hold out on gobbling down the last piece of wagyu steak because the other half loves it but is too frugal to have more. File tax returns. Take the kids out for a walk so the other half gets a break from the ruckus. Offer hugs, lots of them, and naturally offer comfort during painful moments that need not be told to be understood.

A tonne of hard work and the occasional grand gesture fuel our marathon together. We pace, so we don’t fizzle. We hold hands, so no one gets left behind. Now, it sounds like a fair partnership, but before one assumes M and I are equals, I’d go as far as to say that the man has been the better half all this while. It wasn’t a bed of roses but his love for me triumphed and he just…gets me. He is the more selfless, thoughtful one and I often wonder how I can parallel his love for me, for us. And it dawned on me, as I woke up to Valentine’s Day greetings on my phone this morning, that he would be the happiest man if I would just…love myself a little more.

For many years, I have forgotten who I am and I often feel like I am just wandering. It doesn’t make sense when I can’t seem to get out of bed on more mornings than I care to admit, because I am in a such a good place in my life. I have a doting husband who loves me in spite of who I am not, two beautiful children who are so quick to forgive me and smother me in kisses even after I completely lose my shit at them. It just doesn’t make sense.

But it did today. That while I love the people I love with all my heart, and live, breathe and wake up in the mornings for them, I have forgotten how to love myself. To appreciate every strength that I can’t seem to recognise  at the moment, embrace the multitude of flaws that I am all too well-acquainted with, to learn that I am more of a human than a failure in life, and just be kind to myself.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, perhaps the heart I too should have been tending to, is mine.

“Dear You,

Love Me.

Love, Me.”

Happy Valentine’s Day, to all who love and are still wandering, in search for the love within. 

 

Remember Me This Way

Festive seasons are hard for me, especially when we have to gather with people. You know those questions that people get during the Lunar New Year?

“When are you getting married? You are not getting any younger!”

“Har?! Married for XXX years and still not pregnant?!”

“You should have a boy next!” (If you already have a daughter.)

“You should have a girl soon!” (If you already have a son.)

“You should have a third!” (If you already have two children. Or have a girl if you have two sons, a boy if you have two daughters. As if procreation is a service that you can order online and have DHL deliver it to you.)

“WOW, FOUR!” (Accompanied with one raised brow and a smile of a mocking Cheshire cat.)

I have only been subjected to a few of these interrogations as I had the luxury of being away in London for 5 years while I got married and had my first child. Since returning home, however, I haven’t been spared from the curiosity that (unfortunately) didn’t ‘kill’ the cats.

Yesterday evening, I attended a dinner with the in-laws’ extended family and I shed a few tears and lost sleep over what ensued from some conversations. The same, old, tired shit that happens every year.

Catching up:

“So, Rachel, you still taking care of the kids from Monday to Friday?”

“Yes, I am.” (And I wanted to add Saturday and Sunday to the list of days I’m working too.)

“You….don’t go out to take classes to learn something?”

“No, because I need to take care of the kids.”

“You…don’t do anything for yourself?”

“Oh yes, I bake and sell.”

“Oh.”

Being a SAHM, I clearly do not have anything in common with mothers who have high-flying careers. Apparently. From this convo.

When caught not drinking alcohol:

“Why are you not drinking? Are you still breastfeeding?”

“Yes, I am.”

“WHAT?! Still breastfeeding?! OMG, I cannot believe it!” (This was said with disdain, not admiration, mind you.)

“Yeap.”

On sending Faith to XXX primary school:

“So which primary school are you intending to register Faith at?”

“XXX primary, I guess. I am not particularly keen but given the number of phases and restrictions, going via the alumni route seems to be an easier way of getting her into a primary school that is close enough to us, instead of getting dumped into a school even further away. We are still thinking about our options.”

“Har?! Your daughter is just like you, right? If your daughter’s character is like yours, then I think she wouldn’t fit into such a competitive school culture.”

(I had this irresistible urge to point out that I was one of the top students in an elite secondary school and two of the best universities in the world. You know, brag till the cows come home in the name of self-defence, even though I don’t actually believe my achievements at school and at work reflect my abilities; I tend to think all those achievements were flukes.)

It felt like I was stabbed in my heart several times over. I think the questions and remarks made by this relative were innocuous because she is more of a straight-talker who wears her heart on her sleeve than a person who is out to hurt another, but I couldn’t help feeling like I…wasn’t enough after the conversation.

Did I choose to be a SAHM because I wasn’t competitive or driven enough?

Is my son still on the breast because I invested too much of who I am in him? 

Am I a poor role model for my kids because I stay home and take care of them, and that I don’t go out and learn new things to stay in touch with the world?

Have I been forgotten by once-friends and the society because I chose to be a SAHM?

Am I a lesser person because I am not a working mother?

Am I now…irrelevant in the age where success is measured by salary, power and the time one spends at work? 

I couldn’t sleep yesterday night. I tossed and turned and cried myself to sleep. Have I gotten it all wrong?

Then, I thought about someone I had visited in the morning. She is bedridden, frail and struggles to open her eyes. Breathing is weak, laboured and a luxury. Her body is eaten up by sickness, and what was once a whole person, a mother, wife and friend, is now reduced to a shell. People would hardly remember what she has achieved or how much she earned or how she struck the perfect work-life balance between her career and her family. Those who gather around her would instead, fondly remember her loving, caring, giving ways that made the world a better place for them. Or at least, that is what I’d like to think it should be when we arrive at the winter of our lives. 

It’s never easy to be questioned about your decisions that were so painful to make in the first place. I don’t always sail through them and quite often doubt what I am doing when Envy, Expectations, Struggles, Comparisons get the better of me. I am a work-in-progress and my thoughts are too. But I hope, working mother or not, I will leave the world a better place for my children and loved ones to live in. That in small ways, where I have been forgotten in a world that sees otherwise as Success, when my breathing is laboured and weak, when my flesh is being chipped away by Time, my children will love and fondly remember me for the mother I have been to them.

 

 

A Super Fun Play Book That My Kids Love + Promo Code! 

I love toys and books that give us good mileage because (a) I don’t want my home to be cluttered with things as seasons change, (b) we save money in the long run, and most importantly (c) the kids learn not to hanker after the next flashy toy they see and learn to explore the same object in different and creative ways.

I am in disbelief at how well the third point has worked out for us but I am beyond glad that it has. The kids, especially F who is 4 years old, have no problem leaving a toy store without throwing a tantrum. Yes, they would be fascinated by all the knick-knacks calling out to them from the shelves, but they are perfectly happy to leave the store with minimal persuasion as they have learnt (with our guidance and then on their own) that they have sufficient open-ended toys at home that are always fun-enough for them.

One thing that I really like is a good quiet book that grows with the child. I have been looking for one since E was born as I had hoped for the book to keep F busy whilst I nurse E to sleep in the evenings. One can get really useful ones online, some of which you can personalise with pages that you like, but holy moly, those can cost USD10 per page and I just can’t bring myself to spend more than $100 for a busy book with sufficient content, no matter how well-made or interesting they are. I managed to work out a way to keep F quietly busy eventually when my secondborn winds down for bedtime, but when the very active E was due to go on his second flight, I searched for one that cost about $60, bought it on impulse, and regretted the purchase because it was completely uninteresting and none of my kids liked it.

When Sapna from Smarter Concepts approached me to give My Super Fun Play Book a try, I was skeptical at first but having taken a look at the book and the company’s vision in detail on the site, I was sold.

The company is committed to sourcing materials ethically and works closely with seamstresses and handicraft producers to ensure good workmanship. Smarter Concepts cultivates homegrown talents, develops skills of underprivileged women in the Philippines, and promotes their welfare by maintaining fair labour practices, and purchasing the play book is an amazing way to support this vision. The book has also undergone stringent tests and conforms to the European standards of EN 71 and ISO 8124, and it is good to know that the book is safe for my kids to play with.

 
I am glad to report that the play book is highly sought after in our home. F and E love to take it from room to room (it’s super portable as it’s made of fabric and not the least bit heavy) and they sit down quietly to go through the activities on each page. The only time when they make a peep is when they fight over it…which is pretty often because the book is fun for kids of various age groups! E is about 22 months old and he loves sorting colours, playing with the finger puppets, brushing the dog’s teeth, or simply taking the accessories off and sticking them back on the pages. F particularly enjoys a game of Tic-Tac-Toe, loves making pizza (and Mama gets a go at teaching her what a balanced diet is using the different ingredients available) and she is very keen on learning how to tell the time, braid hair, tie shoelaces, etc. Have a look at the time-lapse video I have taken of F playing with the book and you will see that it really is a book that grows with the child.

The workmanship of the play book is excellent too. E can be pretty rough with things in our house but the play book is so impeccably sewn that it has survived his vicious tugging on some of the accessories on the pages! The stitching and attention to detail is evident on every accessory on every page and this has me wondering how this book of 12 pages can go for less than USD4.80 per page (even cheaper if you use my discount code)!

The book is really affordable for its quality and mileage, and gives even the best quiet book I have seen out there a run for its money. I am planning to bring this book with us for when we travel in a few months’ time; this way, the kids get something (they love) to do other than vegging out in front of the telly onboard!

You may purchase this book over here. Don’t forget to use my discount code thepleasuremonger to get USD10 off the book (that works out to only USD48!) when you check out (valid until 31 January 2017, so HURRY).

*I was given the play book 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.

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.

*I was given a set of toys 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.

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.

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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.