Category Archives: Books & Educational Resources

Educate, Enrich and Engage With Toys from Owl Bliss + 20% OFF Promotion!

Anyone who knows me well enough will know this, that I don’t spend on loads of things for the children but I would be happy to part with my hard-earned monies for good-quality clothes, toys and wonderful reads. For instance, I’d rather splurge on one well-made toy that would last and entertain the children for a long time, than to buy a variety of cheaper knick-knacks of inferior quality, which are likely to fall apart or even fall out of favour with my children. I also lean towards getting toys that educate, enrich and engage during play.

Owl Bliss is an online store based in Singapore and it brings in THE most beautiful toys, nursery decor and children’s lifestyle goods. It is, in a nutshell, a store after my own heart, one that could potentially bleed me dry because EVERYTHING (not exaggerating here) the store stocks appeals to my sense of aesthetics. I consider myself to be very lucky to have the store owner ask me if she could send me two of its latest offerings from Moon Picnic. Beautiful, enriching and educational? YES, PLEASE!

I picked out one toy each for my kids, as you do when you want be fair.

Cross Stitch Friends is perfect for F! She is 5 years old and has always been good and intuitive with her fine motor skills (she figured out how to tie her hair and use the chopsticks on her own at age 3), but I thought this would take that inclination further as cross-stitching requires her to visualise the pattern, plan the steps needed to make that pattern and execute her plan by getting her to work those little fingers around a needle and thread. Prior to receiving the Rabbit from the Cross Stitch Friends range, I had not planned to get her started on cross-stitching anytime soon as needles are sharp and way too tiny for her to work with. This is why her newly minted Cross Stitch Friend is perfect; the needle is large, made of plastic, blunt, and this makes it safe for children her age to work with. Check out the embedded video to watch her first attempt.

F loves it so much that she does it almost daily, and now that she is getting used to the idea of cross-stitching, I am going to get yarn in different colours for her to create new ‘sweaters’ for her Friend! That should motivate her to come up with new designs but it’s really Mummy’s secret plan to get her to exercise her brain a little on how she might want to get the new patterns done!

E, who is 2 years and 5 months old, received a very well-made board with detachable and moveable features that is Make A Face.

At this age, E is learning to categorise emotions and explicitly doing so with words. “Ethan angry!” “Ethan is sad.” “Ethan happy!” You get the idea. I thought it’d be a great way to get him to work out facial expressions and match them to an emotion using the Make A Face board. It is also excellent for toddlers to work on their fine motor skills in prying the pieces out, flipping them over and rotating them. I love that it is well-designed, looks good (both in the kiddy and adult corners of our home) and extremely sturdy (it is made of wood). F loves to get in on the action as well when we try to explain how people may feel using the board, and how categorical emotions can have their nuances as well.

I see these two new toys going a very long way in our home. I like that they aren’t just a bunch of toys that have got lots of buttons for one to jab, and that they are truly interactive (between child and toy, and between child and adult as the adult guides child through using it), educational and enriching. I have my eye on the Pom Maker next; it is a to-die-for-CUTE donut-shaped pom-pom maker that is absolutely perfect for people who love to craft! I don’t do much craft but if you see the pom-poms that people have been making with it at #welovepommakers, you’d want to get one too!

You may shop online on Owl Bliss. Take 20% OFF STOREWIDE with the coupon code PLEASUREMONGER (valid until end of September 2017)!

*I was given two toys of my choice and I was not obliged to write a review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and no other monetary compensation was received.

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Down the Rabbit Hole into…Wonderland!

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would, you see?” – Lewis Carroll

And what was supposed to be, it wasn’t, we found out as while we slipped down the rabbit hole into Wonderland to meet Alice, the Mad Hatter, March Hare, Cheshire Cat, Caterpillar, White Rabbit, Card and *gasp* the Queen at the Tea Party.

Now, I can’t give away too much about what goes on in Wonderland. It’s a secret, you see, and only those with Muchness and those who are Mad are in the know. What I’d say is Faith and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves during the 45-minute play, and I’d highly recommend for you to go scurrying for tickets if you want to be Mad as well.

We were sent a secret message to show up at the most random of places in mismatched socks. Faith was utterly delighted at the fact that she was finally allowed to go crazy on her choice of feet warmers, so much so that she has been asking to go out in mismatched pairs everyday after we went down the Rabbit Hole. “I knew who I was this morning but I’ve changed a few times since then.” I can safely say that Faith is definitely having an Alice moment when it comes to socks now.

Now, I didn’t want to fit in (or did I, I swear this trip to Wonderland has messed with what’s normal and what’s not) and didn’t wear socks (let alone mismatched ones), but I ended up getting told off by the White Rabbit for not doing so and I’m just glad the Queen didn’t scream for someone to take my head off because I had at least mastered the secret phrase to be let into Wonderland. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THIS BECAUSE YOU WILL REGRET IT IF YOU DON’T.

Then, Faith’s and my realities were switched up a little when we were told to go through the wrong (or…right?) doors and we finally tumbled down the Rabbit Hole into…Wonderland.

Having arrived 30 minutes earlier (that’s the earliest they will let you in) prior to the start of the play, we were treated to wonderfully neurotic banter between the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. The children teased them, and the pair were more than convincing in their roles and it was a great introduction for the children to understand their personalities a little more before the start of the play. I highly suggest arriving early for that half an hour of unofficial pre-show, so you get more bang for buck (total of 75 minutes, if you will). Faith was tickled pink during the pre-show (so was I), and I reckon that it is a fair indication of good fun!

During the show, a general story played out (I shall not give this away) but because it is immersive and interactive in nature, children were more than welcomed to speak up and engage with the actors. I’m not an expert on theatre, but I reckon a play of this sort is much harder to execute, as the actors wouldn’t know what to expect from every audience they are playing to. During the show we attended, the children participated actively and the actors very smoothly transited the audience back to the storyline.

At many points in the dialogues running through the show, the actors had me thinking about life, what it means, what our realities, expectations, emotions and dreams are, and how we can break them if only we are willing to. I left the show feeling thoughtful and hopeful, although I must say younger children will miss the nuances as intended by Lewis Carroll but as far as I could tell, children who were the same age as Faith (she’s turning 5 this year) or older thoroughly enjoyed the main storyline, as well as comedic stunts and mid-play ‘activities’ put up by the actors.


  To be honest, Faith was a little scared and shy at first (you might want to take note of this if you intend to bring children who are younger) , but the pre-show helped warm her up for the play and by the end of it, she was reeling in the action of it all and asked to go again as she loved the show very much. Just look at her happy face as she took photos with the cast after show! I, on the other hand, had a hard time picking my favourite characters in the cast of Wonderland, but if I really had to choose, I have to say the Mad Hatter and the March Hare have my heart!

No food is served during the show (as opposed to its predecessor, Dinner in Wonderland) but we did tumbled back out through the Rabbit Hole into The Queen’s Bar after the play and bought ourselves a yummy Oreo milkshake before heading home, so be sure to check it out if you are feeling peckish or parched.

Word has it that the Wonderland by ANDSOFORTH Junior (the one we caught) will be running at the current location (Lorong Ampas) from 8-10 June 2017 and then the same cast will be acting in Kids in Wonderland at a different site with a new set design thereafter.

Bookings for Wonderland by ANDSOFORTH Junior can be over here, and that for Kids in Wonderland can be made here instead. Tickets are going for $28 per person (accompanying adults will need to buy tickets as well). The show is said to be suitable for children who are 2 years old and above, but I’d say 4-5 years is a better age to appreciate the play better. Tickets are selling well, so hurry on over to grab yours while they are still available!

Like Andsoforth on Facebook to receive updates on what they have to offer!

*We received four media passes to Wonderland by ANDSOFORTH Junior and only made use of two tickets. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. Thank you Andsoforth for the tickets!

 

Wonderland – an Immersive Theatrical Children’s Show

“Just a little further” said Alice to the herself as she plunged deeper into the depths of the cake. How is it that it never ends? And how will I ever find the plate? By this time the Mad Hatter had arrived to see a pair of legs sticking out of a very large cake.

I don’t know about you but it’s my life ambition to plunge into a cake, as long as it’s delicious, so wherever Alice goes, I AM GOING!

This coming June holidays, Andsoforth (a nomadic theatre group which creates pop-up theatrical feasts immersed around stories, drama and secrets) Junior presents “Wonderland”, a children’s play based off Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. What sets it apart from regular plays is that Wonderland is an interactive show hosted in an immersive set where children get to be seated amongst the cast. It is the first of its kind, where characters of Wonderland interact with and engage children in the play, allowing them to be part of the story while watching the story come to life, so you can imagine how keen I am to…yeap…somehow dive into that cake!

On a serious note, I like that there are a couple of learning objectives for this play, the key ones that shout out to me are to encourage expression of self through interaction with the actors in a safe and fun environment, expand imaginative abilities and to build confidence by taking part in a play where everyone gets to be engaged (as opposed to having kids stand on stage and risk having stage fright as the boundary between stage and audience can prove to be overwhelming). I am eager to see how Faith (she is turning 5 years old this year) responds being part of an immersive theatrical experience for a change! We will be going for one of the runs so see you there and say hello if you spot us!

By the way, if you are wondering how long the play lasts, it is 45 minutes long, so it’s perfect for children who might not want to sit still for too long. It is also suitable for children who are 2 years old and above, and children under 7 years old will need to be accompanied by parents. Please note that parents and children will need their own tickets to watch the play.

Ticketing details are as follow:

Dates: 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24 June

Timings: 11am, 2pm, 4pm

Price: $28 per person (food will not be provided, but munchies will be on sale at The Queen’s Cafe)

Tickets are available online! They are selling out fast, so hurry! All tickets sold are non-exchangeable and non-refundable.

*I will be given 4 media passes to this play and will be writing about our experience after the show! All opinions are entirely my own. Watch this space!

 

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.

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.

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!

A Local Delight to Read: Stacey Goes To The Peranakan Museum

[SPONSORED POST*] We are big, BIG fans of books (in fact, we bought F more books than toys or clothes, most of the latter are gifts from family and friends!) and one of the things I like to do with F after I pick her up from preschool on weekday afternoons is to read. We have amassed a variety of tales in F’s growing library, but one genre that I didn’t get my hands on relates to our local context. Up until recently, that is!

Lianne Ong, author of Stacey Goes To The National Museum, has released the second book in the Stacey & The Museums series in partnership with the National Heritage Board, and this one really caught my eye as it introduces the Peranakan culture to children.

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When I first received the book, I was a little concerned that the prose might be too advanced for F, who is just 2.5 years old now but looking at how F pounced on the book when I whipped it out and how she gushed over the brightly-coloured illustrations, I needn’t have worried that this was out of her league. She pored over the book and pointed excitedly at the pictures, exclaiming, “Pretty dress!” when she spotted the kebaya, and thumbed every page whilst giving a live commentary of what the illustrations depicted before she handed me the book and asked to be read to. As I went through the story with her, I was brought back to the time when we visited the Peranakan Museum with F; she was about one then.

I thought the book is an excellent platform to introduce the Peranakan culture to children, especially when Lianne takes bits and bobs of the exhibits and weaves them into a fantasy where a statue takes Stacey through the museum! I see it as the perfect guidebook for children to navigate and relate the content to the exhibits in the museum; this is what I would do when we take F to the Peranakan Museum in future, as F is very fond of and quick at pointing out things she sees, and relating them to what she has learnt in songs and books these days. I reckon the excursion, with the tale in hand, will make for a memorable adventure for F (and really, it makes it so easy for us parents to stir our children’s interest in local culture and history, I would be clueless as to how to do that otherwise).

We can’t wait for the third book in the series to be released; if the approach is similar to what Lianne has done for the first two books, then I think we might have ourselves another excellent children’s guidebook to one of Singapore’s other museums.

*I was gifted one copy of Stacey Goes To The National Museum and one copy of Stacey Goes To The Peranakan Museum. 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.

The Stacey & The Museums Series are sold here. Like the Stacey & The Museums Facebook page for updates on book releases in the series and readings!

A Reason to Love Shopping (and Saving!) for the Kid

As a mother, I am always on the lookout for quality clothes, toys, books, foods and other knick-knacks for my daughter; ‘I Have My Eye On‘ is a collection of these finds.

Growing up is a tough act but parenting is hard work too; I believe that mummies and daddies need some lovin’! Whilst I am not busting my budget on the little one, I like to sniff out things that make our new routines a little easier, or sometimes, just a little prettier.

In this series ‘We Need Some Lovin’‘, I share some of my favourite things for us big people.

[SPONSORED POST*] I have a confession to make. I’M AN ONLINE SHOPPING ADDICT. I don’t like prowling through physical stores all that much, I mean, why do that when I can pop my favourite things in the cart whilst still wearing my pyjamas? Of course, this addiction was so not going away with the birth of Faith.  If anything, motherhood simply accorded me the license to shop without getting quizzical looks from the husband (‘It’s for the baby, honey……’). I don’t shop without a conscience though; if you must know, I am quite the bargain-hunter. After all, M is the sole breadwinner and works really hard to provide for us, and we do what we can to stretch our dollar without severely compromising on our lifestyle.

Enter Agape Babies, one of the first online stores that I fell in love with before I even became a mother. I was pregnant with Faith when I made my very first purchase from Agape Babies. Back then, I had done lots of research on the kind of breast pumps that may help with our breastfeeding journey, and badly wanted the Medela Freestyle, which retails close to (an insane) S$1000 in stores island-wide. I was not working then, and there was NO way I would plonk a grand on a breast pump even if I were, no matter how good the pump may be. I was a little disappointed that I would have to get something else when my cousin-in-law told me about Agape Babies and its incredible prices for Medela breastpumps. I promptly carted the Freestyle at a neat S$530, almost 50% off the retail price! And there was no looking back. Soon, I was shopping for all sorts of things on the site, including our favourite California Baby products (also generously discounted, as compared to other stores) for Faith, who suffers from eczema.

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The crazy number of brands that Agape Babies carry!

I have been shopping at Agape Babies for more than two years now, and I have always enjoyed the experience. It is easy to cart the items I want and shipping is quick. From the small(er) store that it was two years ago, Agape Babies has now grown to carry a huge range of products, with over 100 brands and 2000 products. Agape Babies continues to specialise in California Baby products, and they now carry diapers and milk formula of brands such as Huggies, Mamypoko, GOO.N, Friso, Similac, Gain IQ, Pediasure and more! The items are very attractively priced, and it helps that the store currently offers free courier delivery with a minimum of $80 spent and a free Disney stationery set given with every purchase of S120. I’d say it’s a pretty good way to shop for the essentials and not have to lug the items back home on your own! There is more reason to love shopping at Agape Babies now, too, as it has recently partnered with The Sunshine Kids, a kids fashion company to build a multi-store. This means that customers can shop between both stores and check out in just one shopping cart! Talk about saving time with the check-out process! How many times have we struggled to cart the items we need, only to have our kids thwart our efforts and demand for our attention NOW, just as we are short of paying for the items? With more stores & products to be added soon, Agape Babies aims to grow into a one-stop shop for all parents to create a super-easy and convenient shopping experience. This online shopping addict here can hardly wait!

Just to share some of the California Baby products that we recently purchased (this time with shopping credits gifted) from Agape Babies.

P9244281The California Baby Try It Kit (retails $49.70 but costs only $32.70 on Agape Babies) is one of my absolute favourites! Yes, I first bought it to try the different products out on Faith, who is prone to eczema flare-ups, and they work so well to keep her clean/well-moisturised/mozzie-bite-free whilst caring for her sensitive skin! They come in the perfect size for travel, and I have brought these items to quite a few countries on our holidays with Faith. I still have some leftovers from the first kit that I bought when she was only 3 months old, so a little really goes a long way, especially when it comes to the bath products and the bug repellant! I’d highly recommend this set, although there are other starter packs that may better suit your child’s needs, depending on whether you want to focus on suncare, treat sensitive skin, etc.

P9244280The California Baby Calming Hair Conditioner (retails S$28.90 but costs only $16.90 on Agape Babies) is a new product for us. Faith’s hair is getting longer now and I thought to give this conditioner a shot at keeping her locks luscious and smooth. The scent is incredibly lovely and (yes) calming! I’m tempted to steal this from her and use it on my hair!

(Can you tell we looooove California Baby already?! Especially when they are so heavily discounted on Agape Babies…)

PROMOTION FOR MY READERS:

Agape Babies is offering 5% off all purchases (except breast pumps, diapers, milk and sale items) for the readers of The Pleasure Monger. Simply enter the promotional code thepleasuremonger (valid for 4 weeks from 25 September 2014 to 23 October 2014) when you check out. Happy shopping!

*I was gifted shopping credits from Agape Babies to purchase the two sets of California Baby products photographed and paid remaining sum out of my own pocket. No additional monetary compensation has been received and I do not stand to gain any commission arising from sales using the discount code given to my readers. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services. Sponsors have been notified that I am not obliged to write a review upon receipt of sponsored service/items, should I find the products/services unsuitable.

You can now shop online at Agape Babies! Like Agape Babies on Facebook and sign up for the newsletter for updates on promotions, contests and giveaways!

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

*Update: The Groovy Giraffe is offering readers of The Pleasure Monger a lifetime discount of 15% off all WINK to LEARN products! What are you waiting for? Simply enter the coupon code RachelTPM at checkout to enjoy the discount!

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

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

201407 WinktoLearn Chinese review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PROMOTION!

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

GIVEAWAY!

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

Terms and Conditions of the giveaway:

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

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

You can shop online at The Groovy Giraffe.

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

GIVEAWAY! Nigella Fresh Cookbook from The Groovy Giraffe + Review

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***GIVEAWAY CLOSED*** 

Thank you all for taking part in the giveaway! Congratulations to Kway Chap (we**********ap@yahoo.com.sg)! You have won a copy of the Nigella Fresh Cookbook. The Groovy Giraffe will be in touch with you shortly.

[SPONSORED POST*]These days, I’m all about cooking with ease. Any recipe that yields a healthy, delicious meal with minimal preparation is a winner in my books, as I am often running against time, and well, running after a toddler. That, or said toddler would most definitely be tugging on my clothes and koala-ing my legs when I’m cooking. Long gone are the days when I can move around the kitchen with the fluidity and grace of a skilled ballerina; tripping around a small person is more like it. Long gone are the days when I actually relish in the therapeutic benefits of whipping up a lovely meal; my aim is to get the meals out RIGHT THIS SECOND.

Years ago, moving to London had me acquainted with a slew of celebrity chefs, and a whole variety of ingredients and cooking techniques that I was not familiar with when I was living in Singapore. Till this day, two of these chefs, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, remain my favourite, simply because these two Brits make cooking look ridiculously easy and infinitely enjoyable. I’ve bought a couple of their cookbooks and I can attest to how right they are in the philosophy of cooking; it doesn’t help that their recipes are, well, recipes for success! I love Nigella, in particular, for her shortcuts that yield beautiful results. One of my favourite recipes has got to be for her Puff Pastry, which gives gorgeous, flaky, golden layers of buttery goodness using a…food processor (I used this to make the pastry for my Portuguese egg tarts)! I’ve not looked back since.

Sure, Nigella isn’t shy with ingredients that would make the health buff cringe, but her cookbooks burst with a large repertoire of healthy, wholesome dishes too! I love the recipes in Nigella Fresh; as I pored through the ingredient lists, my tastebuds were tingling with the freshness of spring and summer. All the herbs, vegetables and different cuts of meats used, sat with me very well. And then, we have the delectable desserts, what’s not to like? That woman knows her desserts pretty well!

To review the cookbook gifted to me by The Groovy Giraffe, I put two recipes to the test. I whipped this up while Faith was in preschool during a weekday morning, and voila, they were much too easy and too delicious, and healthy to boot! I’ve got to be honest though, that I didn’t follow the recipes to a T. I used to be a stickler for recipes and proportions, having been trained as a scientist for many years, but being married to a man who is a superbly easygoing cook has somewhat reduced my anal retentiveness. These days, I look up recipes, more for inspiration on flavour and textural combinations, to learn about new cooking techniques and ingredients, than to grapple with what it means to add ‘a handful of coriander leaves’. So for the purpose of this review, I took the flavour suggestions onboard (roasted eggplant and feta cheese with chilli is YUM), and improvised the recipes with whatever ingredients I could find at home. The proportions were tweaked according to my personal preferences for saltiness, etc.

201405 Nigella Fresh Review 1

Here’s what I cooked up. Saffron-scented Chicken Pilaf and Grilled Eggplant with Feta, Mint and Chilli. I replaced basmati rice in the former with quinoa, which is a staple in my pantry, and used olive oil in place of peanut oil as that’s what I have at home. I left out the cardamom pods as I didn’t have that in the kitchen, and omitted cashews and pistachios because M is mildly sensitive to them. For the grilled eggplant, I seared the slices on a stove-top griddle for the beautiful markings, and threw them in the oven till they were deliciously golden and caramelised. The proportions of feta, chill and mint used for the filling were ‘guess-timated’.

201405 Nigella Fresh Review 2

Both dishes were such a tease on the palette. The pilaf was very more-ish and the yogurt-marinated chicken cubes were very tender! The grilled eggplant (one of my fave dishes ever) is beautifully caramelised, tastes almost like (very flavourful!) meat, and went well with the salty, yet refreshing feta, mint and chilli filling. It was all very Mediterrenean and very summer-ish, which I love! Perfect for a delightful, nourishing, yet quick, lunch!

If you are responsible for feeding the family, and are time-starved, I would strongly recommend you to get hold of a copy of the Nigella Fresh cookbook. The recipes are simple and perfect for noobs and seasoned cooks alike, and the dishes are guaranteed to be bursting with flavours from the different ingredients (some pairings are more unusual than others in our part of the world, but I reckon they work, based on similar flavour combinations I have sampled in restaurants in London). The Groovy Giraffe sells this (only S$14.90!), and other cookbooks, at a fraction of the retail price, go get them before they run out! Alternatively, you could enter the giveaway (open to those in Singapore) below!

GIVEAWAY: One copy of the Nigella Fresh Cookbook from The Groovy Giraffe

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!
You can earn extra entries by repeating certain steps on another day, so don’t forget to check back to get more lots in the draw!

Terms & Conditions: The winner is to collect the prize at The Groovy Giraffe office (Everton Park) or pay S$5.00 for shipping. There will be no exchange of books or conversion to store credits. The winner will be contacted by The Groovy Giraffe.

*I was gifted one copy of Nigella Fresh cookbook for my personal use and another copy will be given to a lucky reader after the giveaway ends. 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.

You can now shop online at The Groovy Giraffe!

Like The Groovy Giraffe on Facebook to be updated on promotions and what’s-what in-store!