Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lantern Festival

It's Mid-Autumn Festival again and in Singapore you'd know it by the flood of mooncakes everywhere. So many unique flavors, so little time. Like the Snow-Skin Mooncake with Champagne Truffle and Ganache shown below from Raffles Hotel. Yum. But I digress, I'm actually here to talk about the Lantern part of the festival.   

This year, we decided to participate in the local festivities and signed up our 3 year old daughter for the community lantern procession for kids. 

There was loads of Chinese singing 

The kids line up for the procession

 Lexi entranced by the lantern lights

 Taking a closer look

 The procession goes through the park and by the river 

Lantern-carrying is a tiring business (especially for those who have to carry the kids carrying the lanterns) 

It's actually quite magical to be walking in a procession of lights under the full moon

 Andi's turn to carry the lantern

There was a lucky draw after the procession but in any case, they were saying the lucky draw numbers in Chinese so we couldn't really tell if we won anything or not. But hey it was still quite a night. They holed up the kids and tried to keep them hostage, er, I mean, entertained while the adults were out singing and doing the lucky draws but we broke our daughter free and made a run for it. 

Next up - Halloween...can't wait to go trick or treating!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gap Singapore Sale Up to 50% Off

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A New Play Experience!!!

Like any other working mother out there, my cup runneth over from time to time with mommy guilt over not spending enough time with the kids and so I tend to compensate by going online shopping for new books to read at bedtime or buying more clothes for my budding fashionista (who is now obsessed with wearing only clothes with hearts on them) or by filling up our weekend calendar with various family friendly activities.

This is how I ended up paying SGD18 for each child (good for two hours play) to play in an indoor playground when there are tons of free outdoor playgrounds in Singapore.

In any case, I was intrigued by the SingKids PlaySystem and so I wanted the kids to try it out and not necessarily because I was wowed by the description of the playground on the company's website, which by the way I feel was quite liberal in their use of exclamation points. There should be a law against that! 

SingKids PlaySystem is unique and a brand new concept in indoor playgrounds! It's innovative and imaginative! Be wowed by bright and colorful soft play equipment and toys! Clean and safe, it's an exciting environment for the whole family! It's truly interactive play for kids and parents, not just parents sitting and watching their children!

SingKids® PlaySystem is stimulating and entertaining! Did we mention that it's fun? And a big bonus! It's open everyday so kids can play rain or shine, but we do require socks!

In any case, kids are fairly easy to please, I say throw some balloons around, have a couple of slides and climbing and jumping equipment and they're all set. Here's proof:

Lexi unsure which balloon to chase in the balloon enclosure 

 Trying to jump in this weird-looking fluorescent lit soft trampoline

Finding a nice place to sit

Going around this spinning contraption

Andi successfully not stabbing a bear with her chin 

 In the colorful ball pit, where Andi kept trying to sneak out balls. A little child saw her doing it and tried to grab it from her and bring it back to the pit but Andi successfully hypnotized one of the parents to bring the ball back to her. In fact, technically there's no shouting inside the playground but the attendants seemed to have gone deaf in her case and could not hear her screaming. This little girl has powers, I tell you.

Yay, Lexi looks like she's having fun!...but actually no, this was the look of alarm as she realized how unwieldy this ball seat was as she scrambled to stay on it, and fell after 5 seconds.

And so the kids had fun, mommy assuaged her guilt and all is well until mommy does overtime again and the cycle continues all over again.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pirates of Changi Rise

My friend Nina had been inviting us over for the longest time to their condo - Changi Rise. She kept on telling me there was a pirate ship in their swimming pool and there was a beach in the condo complex. It seemed too fantastic to be true, but when we went there, we were amazed at the place.Yes, there is a pirate ship docked in a sandy pool and there's even a slide (she missed out that part). I can truly say this is the most kid-friendly resort condo I've been to in Singapore.

Of course upon alighting from the taxi and seeing the pool, my mermaid-in-a-former-life daughter immediately wanted to chuck off her clothes and put on her swim diaper. Um, wait, we have to say hello to our hosts first.

But eventually the kids made it to the pirate ship, and here are the pictures to prove it.
The pirate ship, which has two water slides and a tunnel. I wonder what other contraptions they have in other condos in Singapore though? Is there anything cooler and more awesome than a pirate ship in a sandy pool?
Lexi trying out the water slides
Yes, the water looks green (my husband says yellowish, but between the two of us, I would like to note that he's the one wearing glasses) and the bottom is actually sand
The water slide, though there wasn't enough water, and father and daughter tandem had to move their butts to get to the end
That was fun
Husband trying to catch up with a very spry little almost-three-year-old. 'Darn children move faster in water than a submarine!' 
Some of us decide to relax instead - here's Tita Zsa resting. Big night ahead of her, F1 events to go to.

Yes, it takes two people to get a squirmy little baby sunblocked and outfitted in full body swim gear

 Andi's turn to go into the pirate ship
This was Andi, the happy baby - before her older sister threw sand in her face. So yes,we got a bit of rough play and drama thrown in, but that's what you get when you have two kids.

Another new discovery, another reason to love living in the little red dot.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Andi's 1st Birthday

My little terror's munchkin's 1st birthday was coming up and I was debating whether to bring the family to eat out in one of Singapore's many brunch, lunch or dinner buffets but then realized it would be much cheaper, er, I mean, meaningful to spend it with both family and friends, and so I dutifully went off to buy themed party ware because who else would support the children's party decor industry but parents like me who were willing to spend moolah on utterly impractical things such as themed napkins and blowouts (no, it's not a hair thing, but something fun for the kids). 

We went to Gift Greetings in Great World City which has an extensive selection of stuff for kids, including aforementioned themed party ware. In fact, I was so entranced with the choices it took me an hour to decide on the theme. Do I want to go the usual cartoon route and pick a favorite like Mickey Mouse or Dora?Or something sweet and saccharine like Fairy Princess? Or something a bit rebellious like Pirates? Ugh. Decisions, decisions. And my husband refused to discuss the merits of each theme with me. So we ended up doing Ladybugs, which I thought was adorable and cute. It's also one of the themes with the most complete set of accessories. And so I ended up buying tons of impractical things. And since my husband was with me I automatically deducted a percentage of the final bill when he asked me how much it all was.

But it all looked great. Anyway, here are pictures of the day itself.

Andi on the morning of her birthday. And yes, she only has two teeth and darn proud of them!

On top of all the themed decor, I couldn't resist buying Ladybug muffin cases. So here's our craft project: Muffin case party banners. A 50pc set costs SGD2.75 at NTUC.

The BBQ Pit decorated with fancy hanging Ladybug decor (middle), party banners (side) and big paper lanterns which though not Ladybug themed had the same color scheme as all the other decor (red, black and white). There is such a thing as overboard so we didn't want everything to be too matchy-matchy.

Another view of the BBQ Pit area 

'What is this party hat doing on my head? Must try to take off and maybe eat'.                                            And by the way, she did try to do that which isn't surprising since she also tried to eat a blowout, a paper cup...and well, let's just say the list of inedible things she tried to eat was quite long.

Ah, so that's what a blowout looks like! And even though there were only 3 kids at the party vs. 8 blowouts, that number is just right since those blowouts were not particularly sturdy. But boy do they serve their purpose well - which is to keep your kids focused on blowing and less screaming/shouting/talking. 

 The spread was a mix of party favorites and Filipino food: the regular standby of sweet Filipino-style spaghetti with cut-up hotdogs and tons of cheese, rice and menudo (saucy pork dish with liver, potatoes and carrots, bell peppers and raisins), fried chicken, grilled pork and grilled fish.

Ladybug plates and paper cups. I badly wanted to buy Ladybug-themed tablecloth as well but was worried people wouldn't see the other Ladybug-themed items on the table - so we just bought a red checkered tablecloth at NTUC for less than SGD2. 

Lexi attempting to redesign her shirt with lovely spaghetti stains.

The gang

 I actually told my husband we should skip buying the requisite cake since someone was bound to bring cake, and I was right. Here's Lexi trying to cut the luscious Red Velvet Cake from Cedele. And no, he didn't listen to me so we actually had a spare cake which isn't such a bad thing. 

Andi's gifts

The birthday girl in one of her many costume changes trying to play with her new toys

Monday, September 10, 2012

22 Reasons Why I Love Zinio

I've been a zinio subscriber since mid-2010, the moment I got my ipad. Before that I blew money on tons of magazines. In my teens, I started reading Tiger Beat and the like, then when I started working it was Philippine titles like Preview and Cosmopolitan. From time to time, I would also buy InStyle, Harper's Bazaar and Mademoiselle (which evolved into Glamour). But magazines were expensive then and now. Local titles cost Php100 and US titles cost Php300 or thereabouts. When I moved to Singapore I then got hooked on Singapore titles as well - Her World, Female, Cleo and Singapore Women's Weekly. I would try to save money by reading magazines at the salon since they usually carried the latest issues or I would go to Borders in Wheelock to read new issues (before they started covering the magazines in plastic and of course before Borders closed down) or to the local library to borrow back issues. But it was tedious to do that. So I was beyond ecstatic when I discovered zinio and discovered so many, many more titles. And the price, oh gosh, I can't believe that the equivalent of what I used to pay for one magazine in the '90s is now equivalent to a one-year subscription in zinio.

This is why currently I have about 23 active subscriptions. What used to be a habit of reading 4-5 magazines monthly (including Philippine, Singapore titles) has now morphed into a nightly ritual of reading and keeping up with all of my subscriptions. I've proven there is a magazine out there for any possible interest or topic, but so far here's what I've subscribed to:

Business: Entrepreneur (Philippines), Harvard Business Review (US)
Fashion: Cosmopolitan (US), Cosmopolitan (Philippines), Elle (US), Harper's Bazaar (US), Marie Claire (US), Preview (Philippines)
Family & Parenting: babytalk (US), smart parenting (US), smart parenting (Philippines), working mother (US), young parents (Singapore), Good Housekeeping (US), Good Housekeeping (Philippines)
Food & Cooking: EveryDay with Rachael Ray (US), Yummy (Philippines)
Home Decor: Metro Home (Philippines), real living (Philippines)
Lifestyle: More (US), Oprah (US), Redbook (US)

And no, I am not spending obscene amounts of money. To be honest, zinio has so many ongoing promotions it practically gives away these digital magazines for a pittance.

Late last year, they were giving away USD25 worth of credits if you signed up for a zinio account. That would have gotten you a year's subscription for at least one or two titles. That was good news for new sign ups.

Around the same time, they were also massively discounting their titles, so I was able to buy annual subscriptions to Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, Redbook etc. for around USD8 each. Now it's back to regular pricing at USD19.99

Still, from time to time, you can wait for good promotions before buying subscriptions. For example, a week ago, there was actually a promotion where you get a 2-year subscription for the price of one. And then on top of that there was another promotion which would gives you back a USD5 credit for every annual subscription you bought.

So since I renewed my Elle subscription for 2 years for the price of USD18.99, each year effectively costs only USD9.50 and on top of that, I still get an additional USD10 as credit for the 2-year subscription which helps me save some more on other titles I need to renew or top up.

Sometimes, they even give away titles for free, so you can try it out. Or offer them at ridiculous prices. Like offering the latest Esquire magazine (with Jeremy Renner on the cover) for USD1.

This is why for me, zinio is the gift that keeps on giving. So if you have an ipad, I recommend you seriously consider signing up for zinio, it will literally open up a world of information for you.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Turning Japanese

As part of my resolution to try out new restaurants, I started looking for family-style establishments where I could bring the brood and eat good food without busting the household budget. This weekend we tried out a Japanese restaurant at Cuppage Plaza in Orchard called Izakaya Nijumaru. 

I saw an old review from renowned Singapore food blogger ladyironchef:

'Izakaya Nijumaru is a great hidden gem with good Japanese food at very affordable prices.'

Well that's a good enough endorsement for me, so off we went to Cuppage Plaza.

We entered this rather old building and looked for the restaurant - you'll see this bright green can't miss it sign and you'll know you've arrived.

It's a bad menu. All words no visuals. But if you frequent Japanese restaurants you'll find most of the standards here. We went for the Oyakodon, Kastsudon, Hire Katsu Sets and Chawanmushi. 

It's fairly small and all the tables and seats are really close to each other. When you're inside you'll be immediately transported to Japan. 70% of the customers who were there at the time were all Japanese.

This is a shot of the Hire Katsu set. Quite affordable given that it was SGD11.50 in 2010 and only increased price to SGD13 in 2012. It wasn't as good as the one at Tonkichi but given that the one at Tonkichi is around SGD23, I'd say it's still pretty good value for money. The Oyakodon was pretty good too, and for SGD8, I'd say it was a steal.  

Feeding oranges to the baby. She loved it because it was quite sweet. She also loved the sticky rice, soft tofu and the chawanmushi.

We're definitely adding this restaurant to our list of favorites.

Izakaya Nijumaru
5 Koek Road #02-09 Cuppage Plaza Singapore

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mommy Goes to Workshop

It's my third trip to Indonesia in five months and my nth workshop since joining the company. We stayed at the lovely Kempinski Hotel this time around and we learned from our country host that the hotel is actually a historic landmark and was built in 1962 for the Asian Games. In fact right in front of the hotel stands the Welcome Statue intended to welcome the guests who visited Jakarta for the Asian Games. I didn't get to take a picture of the statue, but here's what welcomed us upon entering the hotel.

Photo courtesy of

And here are pictures of the rooms.

The bed, not luxurious-looking, but you could choose from a customized pillow menu and an aromatherapy menu to help you sleep better 

Welcome gifts - toiletry products for our short stay 

The very large, very deep bathtub - you could take a soak with the blinds open but maybe not if you're on the ground floor like I was 

Here's to warm toilet seats and to never having to lift the seat or put it down with your own hands.

The very sleek side table and lounge chair which I never used anyway

The very sharp transparent table I bumped into on the first day.  

The first thing I looked for inside the room, the in room dining menu. I loved the look and feel of the menu. Too bad the nachos and calamari I ordered wasn't as good. Ended up with a stomachache. But still much better than my last Indonesia trip where I ended up vomiting a very nice but expensive dinner.   

Where is the goddamn light switch?!!! I found it on the second day, inside the bedside drawer 

Great design idea: Spray painted toy soldiers behind a plexiglass frame

We finished the first day of workshop and had a customary dinner at another historic place. I dreaded going to the restaurant though given my experience of horrendous Indonesian traffic. I remember during my last trip, it took us an hour an a half every time to go from one place to the next so it was always much better to just eat dinner at the hotel. But this time around they ordered car services for everyone and we had cops on motorbikes clearing the way for us. That's VIP service for you.

Anyway, we went to this restaurant called Oasis. Here's a description of the restaurant from their menu:

'The Oasis is famous for its Rijsttafel, a feast of mild to strongly spiced Indonesian dishes that includes a soup, and such delights as crabmeat omelet, fillet of fish in a spicy turmeric sauce, lamb stew in coconut milk, grilled chicken with chilies and garlic, lamb and beef satay, and stir-fried baby corn and of course a dessert along with coffee or tea.

Rijsttafel means Rice Table, although it is a Dutch idea, its origin is clearly Indonesia and it was known at one time as MAKAN BESAR. 

There are many variations on the Rijsttafel, at the Oasis Restaurant, we believe we have preserved the best of the tradition. It will be brought to your table on old porcelain by gliding procession of twelve waitresses in neat kebaya gowns and floor length Batik sarongs.'

Images of the restaurant from their postcard menu

The twelve waitresses - each one goes to your place and gives you a serving of whatever dish it is she's holding, and they go around the table.

The menu listing down all the dishes -  and this doesn't even include the appetizers

I said no to a lot of dishes and still ended up with a full plate, and I didn't realize there was a second round! So the twelve waitresses go around the table again, but most of us said no as we were already too full - and to date I've never said no as many times as I did during that night

That was a very nice end to the first day of workshop. The second day was pretty much just a blur. We promptly finished off at 5 pm with everyone rushing off to catch the evening flights and I piggybacked onto a colleague's APEC card so we also pretty much sailed through immigration (Gotta try and see if I can get one of these APEC cards for myself). Then a quick conference call while waiting at the airport lounge, before finally boarding the flight back to Singapore and then home to my babies.