Category Archives: I Have My Eye On

Family Photography: Grow Old With Me

Moments. The biggest ones that make your heart leap. The most insignificant ones that escape your consciousness. The ones when you laugh till your belly hurts. The ones that you’d rather others not know about. There are, too, the quiet ones when time stands still, and those pauses that seem to take far too long to skip. They make up our lives, our passage here in the world we know, and they make more difference, in the lives of the people who love you, than you think they do.

When I was on the cusp of my teens through to my twenties, I hated being photographed. I didn’t know how to smile for the camera and I certainly didn’t like the way I looked. All that changed when I started dating the love of my life. Suddenly, I was desperate to record every waking moment spent with M, determined not to let those times slip away because…really, I have the memory of a goldfish and I don’t want to forget the moments that we share. Never mind the huge cystic pimple on my nose when I headed to London to visit him, never mind the crooked teeth, I just wanted to capture as many smiles (awkward ones too) as possible.

When I moved to London, I dabbled in very (very) amateur photography. It started with food photography and styling, and then I tried my hand at taking travel shots. M often rolled his eyes at me for trying to take photographs of him too, but hey, good or bad, we now have tonnes of memories to fill the album with.

Now that we have children, I make it a point to do a family photoshoot once a year, much to the horror of M initially. “A few hundred bucks spent on photos?!” That’s what he used to say until he saw the coffee table albums I put together and realised how precious it was to be able to thumb through beautifully captured moments of the kids growing up and of our family just hanging out together. It has come to a point where he goes, “Let’s get A (our usual family photographer) to take our photographs again this year!” Because you see, sometimes when life gets tough and discouraging, M and I often snuggle up in bed at night to look at our family photos, and that is all it takes to get us back up on our feet again.

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Not all photoshoots are created equal though. I had one where the photographer physically moved our body parts (can I just say we were absolutely stiff and it was hard for the photog to move us too) so that we looked perfect for the shot; while that works for people who aren’t as stiff and are more intuitive at posing for photographs (I am absolutely envious of people who know how to work the camera), M and I just end up looking and feeling ridiculous and self-conscious because we aren’t naturals in front of the camera.

When Gideon from Grow Old With Me approached us to do a photoshoot, the first thing I did was to check out his portfolio to make sure that our styles align. As we aren’t good in front of the camera, we needed a photographer who can coax genuine emotions out of us and that’s what I saw in his work with other families. Eyes squeezed shut amidst hearty laughs, flailing arms that end in the biggest hugs, thoughtful, quiet exchanges, knowing smiles. And that’s exactly what we got out of the hour we had with Gideon.

He made an effort to get to know us, what we do, who we are, how we parent; he even knows what makes us joyful and what makes us tick. My kids usually take pretty long to warm up to people but they took to Gideon very quickly. He has a way with children, getting to their eye levels, asking questions and playing games with them; that is pretty much how he worked his magic to get Faith and Ethan to be at ease and just hang out as they usually do with us. It didn’t matter if two cameras were clicking away. The entire session was easy, comfortable and it felt like we were catching up with an old friend. Many shots were taken while we were still chatting away with Gideon, some were taken in the midst of a guided conversation we had with the kids, and others were captured when we were just having a grand ol’ time being outdoors. Sure, the children did whine a little because of the heat, but that’s to be expected anyway.

The best thing about Gideon is he wants to be there. He shared that Grow Old With Me came about because it was a natural progression to grow with the newlyweds that he has photographed, as they begin their journeys in parenthood. He recognises the ups and downs of parenthood, and sees each photoshoot as an opportunity for the family to bond. It is this that drives him to capture the moments that might have otherwise gone unnoticed in our daily lives, and I am thankful that he shared this ethos with us. Our exact sentiments, really.

We really like how the photos turned out; in fact, I just spent two hours grinning like a goofball while reliving the moments we shared that day (someone’s got to do the hard work of picking out photos to put up on the blog, there are too many good ones!). I shall leave the photos with you (it’s a slideshow and may take a while to load) and don’t forget to check out the promotion below!

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I heard from Gideon that Grow Old With Me is looking to plan some activities that would help parents better capture moments with their children, and I honestly can’t wait to see how that pans out. While that is still work in progress, if you are looking to do a family photoshoot, you might be glad to know that Grow Old With Me is offering a 20% discount on the hour-long ‘The Family Bonding’ package (usually priced at $328), which which suits a family of 6 people (max). All photos will be processed and returned in high resolution (digital format) within a week. It’s a pretty amazing deal, if you ask me, so hurry and book a slot with Grow Old With Me! The promotional code GOWM is valid until the end of April 2017.

Like Grow Old With Me on Facebook and stay updated on Instagram over @growoldwithmesg as well! 

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.

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.

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.

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.

How I Protect My Skin From The Sun: NAÏF Protecting Sunscreen

[*SPONSORED POST] When I was in lower primary, I was often teased for having fair skin. I was called all sorts of things, including a vampire, and man, did I detest having a fair complexion.

When I grew older, I was still at the receiving end of this mockery and I didn’t embrace what I have until I was in my mid-twenties. I remember going out to the beach on weekends during my late teens, just to get a tan, but funnily, all I did was to turn into a lobster and then revert to channeling Morticia Addams. I must add that I sunbathed without sun protection, and I regret it because I do have a few spots on my face now that I am in my thirties. Had I known that exposure to the sun will cause hyper-pigmentation later in life, I would have been more consistent about sun protection when I was younger.

It’s a little late to start anti-ageing skincare routines in my late twenties it seems, because those spots had shown up on my face by then, but I guess it’s better late than never! I apply sunscreen on my face and body everyday, even when I stay at home; reason being our apartment is flooded with natural light and I get exposed to UV rays even when I am indoors. I also make school runs and the sun hits my arms and the right side of my face whenever I drive, so I am rather strict about applying sunscreen before I leave home.

For years, I wasn’t too concerned about using chemical sunscreens and I have unconsciously leaned towards those that do not leave a white cast (which means they are likely to be made with chemical UV filters), but lately, I have been reading up on greener and safer skincare options and realised that it is just better to use physical sunscreens (stable in sunlight, good balance between UVA and UVB protection especially if it contains zinc oxide, generally do not contain harmful additives). You can have a read about the general differences between a physical and chemical sunscreen over here. The dreadful thing is physical sunscreens are thick and opaque, and are known to leave a white cast even after you have had a good workout rubbing the product into your skin. I don’t mind it at all if I were just going for a swim but I don’t really want to be walking around looking like a splotchy plaster wall when I am out and about.

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About two months ago, Tim invited me to give the NAÏF Protecting Sunscreen a try. It boasts an SPF of 50 and protects from both UVA and UVB rays with its physical filters (15% zinc oxide, 5% titanium dioxide), is preservative-free, and is touted to be incredibly moisturising. I couldn’t say no after learning about its benefits, and it helps to know that the NAÏF line of skincare products is formulated with babies in mind, are dermatologically tested, hypoallergenic, pH skin neutral and the products are made without any harmful ingredients. Yes, you heard right. The products do not contain mineral oil, parabens, phenoxyethanol, SLS/SLES and harsh chemicals. Indeed, a quick check on the EWG site reveals that the ingredients of the Protecting Sunscreen are ranked low in hazard scores.

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I have been using the NAÏF Protecting Sunscreen on my body since then and it is amazing! It is runny, wonderfully emollient and incredibly easy to apply compared to other physical sunscreens I have tried; seriously, it takes only ten seconds to rub it in and the sunscreen does not leave a white cast. It keeps my skin moisturised, and I come off smelling clean and fresh. Have I mentioned that I am super-sensitive to smells and feel dizzy upon inhaling most scents? This, I have no qualms whatsoever!

The NAÏF Protecting Sunscreen really is a godsend, and I will purchase it once I run out as it is remarkable and convenient for daily use. Baby Pure Singapore, exclusive distributor of NAÏF products, also gives back – the company sponsored $10 vouchers for approximately 6500 Hair for Hope participants and it also donates a dollar to the Children Cancer Foundation for each Protecting Sunscreen sold. I can’t think of a better way to protect myself against the sun AND to do good at the same time.

NAÏF Protecting Sunscreen retails for a very reasonable $35.90 online and you’d be happy to know that one gets free delivery within Singapore with a minimum purchase of $60!

*I was gifted the NAÏF Protecting Sunscreen 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.

Imagine|Native: Creative Fest for Kids

ALL HAIL THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS!

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When school is out, I reckon that parents and caregivers have to gear up. We all know how cabin fever turns holidays into ‘horri-days’, and I thought it’s the perfect opportunity to share our experience at Imagine|Native, a creative festival for kids at the Maritime Experiential Museum (also home to the S.E.A. Aquarium) well-worth visiting this school holidays!

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Sharing a moment with the Ang Ku Kueh Girl. How adorable is she?!

Imagine|Native runs from 27 May to 12 June 2016; it hosts a variety of live performances, workshops, book reading sessions, talks, educational activities all set to a marine theme, as well as a sizeable book fair featuring many titles from the local book scene. This educational fiesta aims to promote the love for reading among children and to inspire them to learn more about marine life and conservation.

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“Courtesy, it begins with me!”

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Edmund Chen, sharing about his book, My Little Red Dot

We were treated to a performance by the Fin-tastic Fishy Friends, got up close and personal with Ang Ku Kueh Girl and Singa the Courtesy Lion, sat in while local children’s book author, David Seow narrated Sam, Sebbie and Di-Di-Di: At the S.E.A. Aquarium to children beneficiaries and the media, and actor-turned-illustrator, Edmund Chen shared about his book, My Little Red Dot, and even had a go at the touch pools (sea cucumbers, starfish, etc). We also stood in awe of the staggering display of the 10,000 books donated by the public and RWS staff in a book donation drive organised by RWS and People’s Association, and were heartened to learn that these books will go to children of low-income families in Singapore.

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The activities at Imagine|Native differ daily and I can’t list everything down to the last detail because there’s so much going on. One can expect guided craft workshops, colouring sessions, storytelling by local authors, book launches and book signing, photo ops with mascots of our local icons, and more! It’s best to check the Event Calendar, so you can identify the activities (and authors/characters) that you are most interested in before making a trip down at the timings suggested.

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It doesn’t look it but Faith was thoroughly enjoying the activity at the S.E.A.A Babies station! She just didn’t want her photo taken and gave the poor attendant the stink-eye.

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Learn more about the Manta Rays and head over to the aquarium after to take what you have learnt further!

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Meet Mai the Manta!

There are also a few interactive stations at Imagine|Native. The touch pools are wonderful for all who would like to get up close with marine animals such as the starfish and sea cucumber. The Manta Station educates one on how best to identify Manta Rays and I love that one can pick some information up over here and head to the aquarium after (tickets sold separately or in a bundle, more information below) to spot Manta Rays for real! Don’t forget to take part in the lucky draw at the ‘Name the Manta’ station to stand a chance of winning the grand prize of a Ocean Suite staycation for two and two S.E.A. Aquarium passes. One can also colour the marine animals on the mural, and learn more about the new marine babies bred by the aquarium and the life cycles. Again, a perfect prelude to the S.E.A. Aquarium if you are planning to visit the latter.

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Great local book fair with books going at 15% off!

The book fair is a must-visit, with books from various local authors going at 15% off. The admission tickets for adults come with vouchers that can be used to offset your purchases (terms and conditions apply), so it’s an absolute win-win situation! I spotted the Timmy & Tammy series, which we love, the books by David Seow which are beautifully illustrated by Soefara Jafney, The Magical Dragon Playground, a new book by Wang Shijia detailing the adventures of Ang Ku Kueh Girl & Friends, and many more!

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Rounded off the festival with a visit to the S.E.A. Aquarium. Don’t forget to purchase the bundle if you want to head to the aquarium too!

Judging from what we experienced at the launch, it’s well-worth stopping by Imagine|Native, especially if you were planning to visit the S.E.A Aquarium during the school holidays. It’s a great way to tie in what your child can learn from workshops, book readings and the interactive stations at Imagine|Native, and putting it in context for them at the aquarium. Simply pick out the events that you would like to be part of, and purchase your tickets online or onsite for your day of visit!

TICKETS TO IMAGINE|NATIVE (do not include admission to S.E.A. Aquarium):

Adult One-Day Pass: $6 (onsite), $5 (online). Includes 1 $5 Imagine|Native voucher

Child One-Day Pass (4 to 12 years old): $3. Includes $25 Goodie Bag

There are bundle promotions for tickets to S.E.A. Aquarium + Imagine|Native, Adventure Cove Waterpark + Imagine|Native, as well as discounts for Maybank Card Holders.

More information on tickets can be found by clicking the Promotion tab over here.

Thank you, RWS, for inviting us to Imagine|Native and the S.E.A. Aquarium!

Ecover ZERO – Cleaning Products That Wouldn’t Kill Your Skin

[*SPONSORED POST] Three years ago, I became that parent who constantly sources for eco-friendly, safer products to use in our home, knowing that Faith is likely to lick the floor, throw her toys around and chew at them after…you get the picture. I knew I couldn’t totally protect her from the big bad world but I was (still am!) determined to minimise her exposure to harsh chemicals, especially when she suffered from eczema back then (she hasn’t had flare-ups in the past year or so). I tried using a couple of products to clean our home and have been loyal to mainly two brands since 2012, one of which is Ecover. I have used its floor cleaner religiously over the past three years and am a huge fan of it. We have gone through bottles of that stuff and I only have good things to say about it. I was naturally delighted when Ecover invited us to try out the ZERO range, which is touted to thoroughly clean with its gentle plant- and mineral-based ingredients whilst staying gentle on sensitive skin with its colouring-free and fragrance-free formulation.

I have tried the following for about two weeks now, and am VERY pleased to report that the ZERO range lives up to very high expectations.

  

The ZERO Laundry Liquid is superb at cleaning our clothes, even at 30 degrees Celsius, which is the temperature I use to save on utilities. I haven’t found any stains or aggregates that may come from certain laundry powder or liquid products, and our laundry comes out smelling clean even though the laundry liquid is fragrance-free. I really, really like the fact that it is so because I am very sensitive to smell (I abhor most fragrances from laundry products…they make me feel nauseated). I have also used the laundry liquid on the kids’ clothes, and F, who has more sensitive skin of the two, has not reacted to this new product, unsurprisingly so as it has been dermatologically tested and approved by Allergy UK. Yay! I am also glad to know that the laundry liquid does not contain any phosphates or optical brighteners; that’s super good news for my handwoven wraps and pretty baby carriers!.

We also use the ZERO Fabric Conditioner in every load and it does the job of keeping our clothes soft pretty damn well! Again, our clothes smell clean, even in the absence of fragrance. I’m pretty amazed at how the products do this. I suppose the plant- and mineral-based ingredients are super effective at cleaning! I mean, if something is truly clean, then it shouldn’t smell funky, right?

And the ZERO Washing Up Liquid? Stellar. My hands used to age with every round of dishwashing I do, no thanks to the harsh but effective dishwashing liquid that we were using before trying out the ZERO range. My hands no longer feel parched and tight with the ZERO Washing Up Liquid and most of all, I am truly in awe of its cleaning prowess. The dishes, pots and pans are squeaky clean when I am done washing, even with the sometimes-heavy cooking I do! LOVE this product. And my dishes don’t come off smelling like ‘Lemon’ or ‘Lime’, just clean! 

I am pretty impressed by the ZERO range, and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for clean-and-green products that are suitable for sensitive skin. They are definitely more expensive than the harsher counterparts that I used to use but I think  the products are well worth the money if you are in need of something that is eco-friendly AND less likely to kill what’s left of your sensitive skin, 

You can shop online at Ecover or get hold of its products at the following stockists.

*I was gifted Ecover ZERO 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.

Kiddy Packs: Party Favours, Sorted

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[SPONSORED POST*] So. The angels from Kiddy Packs descended and gave us much needed help with the party favours for F’s 3rd birthday party. I AM EXTREMELY THANKFUL FOR THAT. We had 29 kids over for the party, 25 above the age of 1 and 4 under the age of 1. I was struggling to keep my children alive amidst chores, cooking, and party planning, let alone sort out decent party favours for our pint-sized guests! Kiddy Packs took all that stress off!

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Samantha, owner of Kiddy Packs, made it much too simple for me. All I had to do was pick out what I wanted, and she would have them packed and delivered to my specifications! I didn’t keep to the party theme when it came to choosing the favours; I was more concerned about getting things that the kids would love and use, ones that are age-appropriate as well, given that we have some babies in our midst. Samantha was very accommodating and let me pick out two different types of favours to cater for kids of different ages. Knowing that most of the children love Peppa Pig, I thought the Peppa Pig Sticker Pack, which includes 1 booklet of 200 (!!) stickers, 2 colouring pages and a set of 3 markers, would be a real crowd-pleaser! F was thoroughly enamoured with the sticker pack even though she isn’t familiar with Peppa Pig; I mean 200 stickers, for crying out loud! The sticker pack was of excellent quality too, nothing like the nonsense I have bought for cheaps on a certain mass-purchase site (those don’t last and they annoy the hell out of me). As for the younger ones, I thought some sensory play might be good and I got them a Maraca and Finger Puppet each! Turned out that I made a faaaaab choice because F, at a grand old age of three, loved them too, so I guess those are good toys to grow into!201510 Faith's 3rd Birthday 15 201510 Faith's 3rd Birthday 16Missy, it’s a Maraca, not a microphone…(F obviously doesn’t care because she loves to sing and would turn anything into a mic!)

I am very particular when it comes to aesthetics, so I turned into a ribbon Nazi and asked Samantha if she could deck the packs out in blue and yellow bows, and she obliged! I’m relieved that she doesn’t dress the favours in tacky packaging; there is no way I would allow that at any of my parties…I would fight to the last breath..okay, don’t mind me going off-tangent there.

Anyway, the packs were promptly delivered on the day that I requested and they arrived in perfect condition! They looked good on the dessert table and were well-received by the kids, according to the parents, and I am glad that Kiddy Packs extended the invitation to review to us! I wouldn’t have known of such a service otherwise, and would have wound up getting crap for the kids, yet again, this year, so…thank you, Kiddy Packs!

You can shop online at Kiddy Packs.

*I was gifted 29 packs of party favours 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.