Gymnademics Weekday Free Play Pass Giveaway

I took my children to try out a free play session at Gymnademics ARC recently. Prior to this visit, Bun was there once before to check out this new centre. She recognized the corridor Gymnademics is on and made a dash for it!

If you are looking for something new for your children to do this school holidays, Free Play at Gymnademics is a great option, and I have a free pass to give away! This is a place your children can work off some energy indoors (escape from the daily rain!), play with the specially selected games and toys, or busy themselves with a range of books. Gymnademics keeps things fresh by rotating the options available, and sticking to a different theme each month.

Free Play @ Gymnademics at Alexandra Retail Centre 
Wednesdays to Fridays
From children aged 5 months to 5 years
1 hour $15, 4 hours $40

Here are some photos showing a few examples of what your child can do during Free Play:

Make music. There is a Schoenhut Piano and a selection of musical toys.

Choose from a range of puzzles and games. Each set comes with an instruction card to enable parents to guide their children during play.

Get Moving! Children can use the various equipment to jump, swing, climb, roll, crawl etc. There's also a monkey bar (not pictured) for those who dare, and a range of other things like hula hoops and floor cards for movement games.

Finally, a box of books selected according to the month's theme is always available, for those who would like a quiet sit-down read after all the activity.

I have ONE 4-hour Free Play Pass worth $40 to give away! Enter the draw below for a chance to win this. All the best!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enjoying the Year End School Holidays

This week marks the "proper" start of the school holidays for us. Bubbles was attending holiday programmes in the past two weeks, including one at Kids Gallery that she really enjoyed and I was impressed with. I came across Kids Gallery by chance, and am glad that I did. Here's a review another mother wrote about the programme. Her daughter attended the holiday programme too, but on a different week.

I intentionally kept December free from scheduled programmes just so that Bubbles, Bun and I can hang out doing day-to-day things without having to rush around like we normally have to do. We are a family of homebodies by nature, and slow mornings are extra lovely to us.

We hang out at the playground when we can (but boy, has it been raining!), and I have pulled out art materials for lots of doodling and drawing both indoors and outdoors. Our big bathtub has also been getting a lot of use, with longer time allocated for soaks and water play. My children get the spa treatment too as I add sea salt and essential oil to the water!

Without having to do as much driving in the day, I have even managed to begin reading this book that a dear friend surprised me with. (I am really liking it, by the way. The author has written to my heart.)

Another big thing we have done is to move Bun into Bubbles' room! Major change. The room now has a toddler bed AND a single bed. Bubbles likes the smaller bed so much that she has decided to sleep on it! Fortunately this has worked out for us as Bun still wakes up 2-3 times a night and having her on the single bed means that I can more comfortably lie down to pat her back to sleep.

Does our holiday sound boring, you think? Well, we do want to go to the Zoo at some point, and there will be our usual trips to the libraries and maybe a small handful of play-dates. There's also a holiday up north to visit my in-laws in the plans. Let's see how everything pans out!

Happy holidays to all!

What's New at FOX Kids & Baby

As promised, here are some of the lovelies from the latest collection at Fox Kids & Baby. I love the soft hues, and the pretty use of lace! That floral cardigan is so me, and I wanted to get one in my size. Too bad for me the largest size was no longer available, so I got one for Bubbles! Also spotted were some adorable designs as an ode to Mickey Mouse!
I'm told this new collection has been very popular and some of the items are selling out fast. I noticed this as well when I went to an outlet twice in a day and some of the items I had my eyes on were already taken by my second visit.

In case you missed it, see this post about the current special promotions. On till 15 Dec so you still have time to shop! 

Kitchen Exploits - Cookbook Commendations | ToTT's Best Brunch Ever - Delicious Morning Recipes to Savour

Last week, I cooked the exact same thing for lunch five days in a row. It was a flavourful and nutritious lunch - A rice porridge cooked with a rich broth, with seasoned minced pork and a medley of vegetables. Truth to be told, Bubbles requested to eat it every single day. Still, it shows just how uninspired I have been in the kitchen, even though I have been faithfully dishing up good, clean food for my family.

I was therefore quite delighted to attend the launch of ToTT's new cookbook "Best Brunch Ever - Delicious Morning Recipes to Savour", together with the presentation of ToTT's new e-store

Best Brunch Ever is a visually captivating cookbook that features 24 recipes contributed by 8 well-known chefs in Singapore. I hardly ever attend media events sans kids, and never before on a weekend, but I really looked forward to watching seasoned chefs in action, and to see recipes come to life. We were treated to demonstrations by four of the 8 chefs featured in the book: Dan Segall (Fat Cow, Kinki, Bedrock Bar & Grill etc), Antonio Facchinetti (Prego), Nicolas Joanny (Nicolas Le Restuarant), and Chi Quang Trinh (Addictions Cafe and Remedy Bar).

We were treated to tasting portions of Cornbread Wedges and Bacon Jam (the bacon jam is seriously good!), a super easy-to-prepare Spaghetti Piccanti, Eggs 'a la coque' that were as delicious as the beautiful way they were presented, and Bahn Cuon, a yummy Vietnamese street food that I loved eating when I was in Hanoi for work. I was impressed with the food and enjoyed every bite (feeling a tad guilty that I left Roboman to mind the kids). The guilt will give me the push to make the same stuff at home for him!

The cookbook retails for only $12.90, and I have been telling friends to just grab a copy. I love it that it showcases brunch ideas from across different cuisine types, including "The Great Singapore Breakfast" by Chef Eric Low, featuring homemade kaya and old school rojak. For me, I am going to pen down the ingredients for some of the recipes to try out at home, starting with the bacon jam!

I would also like to share some features of the new
- Over 1,500 products for a complete online store experience.
- Free delivery with purchases above $200.
- Linked with FB Connect, allowing you to sign in with your Facebook account.
- Includes a Wishlist feature where you can create a wishlist of products that you can share with others. (Great for use as a gifts registry of sorts!)
- Has a detailed Product Comparison feature that includes information about similarities between products chosen to be compared, empowering you to make a more informed decision before you make your purchase.

Considering how so many people shop online these days, I think it is fantastic that ToTT has launched this e-store. Now, excuse me while I go browse the site while the kids sleep!

Special Deals at FOX Kids & Baby

My girls, Bun in particular, have practically been living in FOX Kids & Baby clothing. The brand's wide selection of cotton pieces makes it easy for mixing and matching within the brand, and with other items in my daughters' wardrobe. I have been keeping an eye out for their dressier pieces, such as cute little skirts for Bun (as above), items with pretty lace trimmings, and lovely tiered maxi dresses (we got three when new colours were brought in!) for Bubbles.

From now till 15 December, spend $60 nett in a single receipt and you can purchase an exclusive FOX skate scooter (worth $79.90) at only $19.90. You can also participate in an instant draw where you stand to win prizes including FOX vouchers, hotel stays, and Sony mobile phones! FOX-C members also get to enjoy a 15% off regular-priced items (with a minimum purchase 2 pieces).

I hope to share with you the latest looks from FOX Kids & Baby soon, but you may want to get your hands on them first at the stores!

Joy of Giving with Cadbury

A cool bus-ride with lots of chocolate to munch on! What a treat it was, especially for the kids! We were invited to go on board the Cadbury Joyrider over the weekend, to learn about Cadbury's "Joy of Giving" Campaign and to experience a journey into the mystical land of Cadbury - Joyville.

We were treated to fun dress-up props to ham up for photographs, lots of games (where I received a Marvellous Creations Peanut Toffee Cookie giant chocolate bar for being the fastest chocolate eater), and of course we were plied with loads of mini Cadbury chocolates to eat on the journey. Bubbles was quite overwhelmed by the sheer overload of chocolate available - she sat quietly throughout the ride, enjoying the view, and steadily munching on one chocolate piece after another!

I too, was secretly munching! I am an absolute Cadbury fan and you will almost always find Cadbury chocolate in my fridge. Want to know some happy news? Cadbury has launched its “Joy of Giving” campaign, and from 1 November to 31 December, Cadbury will donate S$1 for every S$15 purchase of Cadbury products. All proceeds (up to S$30,000) collected from this campaign will be donated to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund – Cadbury’s community partner. So, now is a great time to buy a stash of chocolate for yourselves or as gifts!

If you are thinking of taking your family on a Cadbury Joyrider ride this school holidays, you will be glad to know that as part of the “Joy of Giving” campaign, the Cadbury Joyrider will be making its appearance to the public again from 21 November 2013, beginning at the heart of Singapore’s business district – Raffles Place.

The rides are free and you will get a glimpse of the Joyville workers as they bubble into the real world, sharing joy and magic, with fun-filled activities and Cadbury treats for everyone!

Here are the details:

Cadbury Joy of Giving Experience:
21-22 November 11am-4pm: Raffles Place
1 December 11am – 3pm: SAFRA Open House
14 December 1-5pm: Downtown East

Cadbury Joyrider Routes:
23 November – 25 December: Details on the locations, routes and times can be found on the Cadbury Facebook Page.

Gymnademics - New Centre Opening Specials

Bun is a ball of energy, and I have been looking for a parent-accompanied class for her, where she can utilize some of that energy while learning a few things. I first read about experiences at Gymnademics here and here, but its first outlet at Toa Payoh is a bit of a trek for me. I'm thrilled that Gymnademics now has a spanking new outlet at Alexandra Retail Centre, a stone's throw from the Labrador Park MRT station. We already like going to to this mall because of its many eateries and ample parking, so this is icing on the cake for us.

Gymnademics is the only intellectual enrichment and gym centre in Singapore that is affiliated with the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (IAHP), founded by Glen Doman. IAHP is a non-profit organisation that researches on how to develop and enhance children's brain growth through a combination of physical education and intellectual stimulation.

To celebrate the opening of this new outlet, Gymnademics is offering a number of opening specials for all class sign-ups by 30 November 2013. If you have been considering a class for your child, this is a great time to register as you get the following:
1. Registration fee waiver (U.P. $68)
2. One complimentary session (U.P. $69.80)
3. A chance to win these attractive prizes:

Bun will be starting classes at Gymnademics from mid-Jan 2014, and I will be sharing about our experiences there on this blog and via Instagram and Twitter.

To mark our partnership with Gymnademics, I will be giving away a 4-hours Weekday Free Play pass on the blog soon. Yay! Keep a look out for it!

Family Trip to Hong Kong: Where we ate at

Travel to Hong Kong is often about the food. For us, we had a rough itinerary that revolved around places we wanted to eat at. None of us were fastidious about having to tick foods and places off the list, although a friend did wake up extra early one morning to get a bite at the Australian Dairy Company. We skipped it the day before because of the long queues.

Just for the trip, we decided to go easy on Bubbles' strict diet of no gluten, chicken, eggs and milk. I was really tensed about this but felt that it will be terrible for her to be restricted during a holiday like this. Thankfully, we have been told that she is now a lot less allergic to gluten and milk before the trip, so she ate those freely. I tried not to order chicken dishes, and she did not want to eat eggs on her own accord. 

Dim Sum in most regular restaurants in Hong Kong is very reasonably priced. We randomly went to a large restaurant along Nathan Road, ordered A LOT of food and was surprised that the bill came up to about S$10 per head! A similar restaurant in Singapore would set us back at least S$30 per head for the same quality of food. Unfortunately, we forgot to take photos or to note the name of the place. We were too busy watching our little ones!

A business associate of Roboman made a reservation for us at Yung Kee, famous for its roast goose and century egg. The eggs were really mouthfuls of wobbly goodness, and you can opt to buy them vacuum packed to take home! Bubbles really loved the roast goose. I have always thought goose meat tastes like a milder version of duck and would not crave for it although I know of people who do!

Another well-known place we visited was Tim Ho Wan. We have not been to the outlet in Singapore, as we are not keen on queuing for a long time just to eat. This trip, a local friend went to the eatery early to get a seat for us. Still, we weren't allowed in until our entire party turned up. The food was good, beyond doubt, but the wait, crowds, and the cramped seating without the availability of high-chairs made it a meal that was not so enjoyable. Nonetheless, it was really lovely to catch up with an old girlfriend whom I have not seen in yonks!

I would also like to share about two little eateries we discovered at IFC mall. We somehow ended up hanging out in this mall quite a bit, once when a few of our kids were napping!
We stopped by at Panino Giusto for a snack and coffee. It was a totally random choice. We were tired from walking, kids were napping, and we just wanted a place to sit and tank up. My parma ham - crazy girlfriend ordered a platter of ham with panini. It was SO GOOD. Like seriously. I am not particularly a fan of parma ham but this was really tasty. The panini bread was also done perfectly. Warm, with a lovely combination of crisp and chewy. It came served with a cottage cheese dip that was delicious too. After tasting this, we had to order another platter and ration out portions for the kids! This eatery is situated near a large outdoor garden/balcony area that overlooks the harbour. Our kids enjoyed running about there, enjoying the cool winds.

On another day, Roboman and our girls stopped by Fuel Espresso, after being told that it does great coffee. It was a nice, quiet place to enjoy some caffeine while resting on comfy seats. I did like the hot latte I ordered very much. We got a hot chocolate for Bubbles, which she LOVED. It was a real treat having that and being off her allergy-related diet. I also whipped out our usual snacks of dried fruit and nuts, and Bun too, was happy.

Unfortunately I wasn't so trigger happy on this trip, and didn't take a lot of the food we did eat, unlike our last trip to Hong Kong. I am therefore unable to remember names of places we went, or even exactly what we ate! I guess I need to be more mindful the next time we visit Hong Kong. Where and what to eat on a holiday are useful resources to share!

Family Trip to Hong Kong: Nathan Hotel & Disney Hollywood Hotel

When I travel, I am not particular about where I stay. I am usually happy to leave accommodation choice to my travel companions to decide - be it family, friends, colleagues or business associates. As long as I get a clean bed and a warm shower, and am not stuck somewhere far from everywhere we want to see, I am happy. I think my outdoor camping experiences as a schoolgirl, where we slept in mosquito infested tents and had holes in the ground as toilets, have made me quite easy to please when it comes to where I temporarily need to sleep!

This trip was no different. I had no idea which hotels we were going to be at, until a few days before the trip. Thankfully the friends are quite practical. We stayed at Nathan Hotel, that is located right in the heart of Kowloon, along busy Nathan Road. It is a walking distance from the Jordan MTR station, to-go places like an Australian Dairy Company eatery, and the various markets in Mongkok, including the Ladies Market and the Flower Market. Being an older hotel, its rooms are also a larger than newer hotels in a similar price range. Some of the floors have been upgraded too so the rooms are nice and new. We were blessed to be bumped up to stay in a suite, where we had a sitting area as you see in the photo above. It was a particular cool evening and our kids were all in hoodies! (That's Bun in a FOX Baby outfit!)

Bubbles, being used to resort-type holidays, was a little confused as to why the hotel had no pool, and no buffet breakfast! But yes, I suppose this is the type of hotel we want to stay in while in Hong Kong, to leave room for roaming the streets and eating from the various must-eat establishments!

We next moved on to stay at the Disney Hollywood Hotel, which honestly exceeded my expectations. Have a look:

We explored the sprawling hotel grounds while waiting for our room to be ready. Coming from the congested city, it was nice, especially for the kids, to be in a big open space. In fact, it got Bun so excited that she ran and bloodied her chin, horrifying her poor mother. Bubbles enjoyed the castle themed playground, and Roboman amused himself by checking out some of the classic cars on display.

The sea-view room we stayed at was beautiful. It felt bright, clean and fresh, and had adorable Disney touches everywhere. Check out the cup with Mickey ears in the bathroom! That held toiletries like toothbrushes in individual cases. Of course I had to bring the cup (and its ears) home!

Disney Hollywood Hotel is cheaper of the two hotels at Disneyland Hong Kong. I haven't been to the other, so I cannot compare, but I will happily come back to this hotel if we ever go again!

Family Trip to Hong Kong: The Flight

When we were parents of only one, traveling was not difficult. Bubbles was one of those babies who took to her car seat and stroller like fish to water, and could easily sleep in any moving vehicle. When she grew older, she could always stay in her seat for long periods of time, content to do simple craft work, listen to stories being read to her, or simply to chat with us. Give her milk and her bolster and she will be a dream to travel with. Today, she is happy with a blank notebook and some coloured pencils.

Enter Bun, our gregarious and active second child. One of my earliest moments of noticing the difference between her and her sis was when she was put in the car seat as a newborn. She hated it. "Cry? In a moving car? Let's drive more and I'm sure she will sleep." That never worked. Till today she detests being strapped into anything, and would attempt to wriggle out of any seat-belts if she could. Needless to say, traveling with Bun has proven to be challenging, especially after experiencing dream traveler Bubbles.

This trip, with Bun walking, I had to take her up and down the aisle several times. She stopped to peer at other people, and was interested in other kids. She even found some empty seats to do some swinging off arm rests! She also spent some time figuring out her seat belt, plastered our seats with stickers (that we later removed), and tore up a section of the inflight magazine (which led to Bubbles apologizing on her behalf to the flight attendant!).

We flew by Jetstar, given its affordability and choice of flight times. As usual, Roboman ordered meals for us beforehand - food that kept both kids quite happy. I look forward to flying again when Bun turns two, because that means I will no longer need to be her seat!

How do you keep your energetic little ones entertained on a long trip? (PS: We have a drive trip coming up soon and I am seriously getting nervous!)

Kitchen Exploits | Family Favourites #9: Easy Chicken Rice

Chicken certainly is a versatile and popular choice of meat. I absolutely adore Chicken Rice, and miss it especially much now that we no longer cook chicken at home due to Bubbles' allergies. I'm sure this recipe is going to go down well with many!

In this week's Family Favourites, Sherie of Maamaameemoo shares with us how to cook up this local dish in a cheat, easy way! Sherie is am amazing mother of three boys who are all training up to be able helping hands in her home. She bakes and cooks so effortlessly, and has been an inspiration to me since we got acquainted during the Singapore Blog Awards 2011.

Welcome, Sherie!

:: We all know how time consuming is to make the authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice and usually we the busy mummies don't bother, unless we have help from family members or our helpers. With just $2.50 a packet, I would rather tabao to be honest. Hurhurhur.

When I came up with this cheat Chicken Rice recipe, I know I don't have to tabao anymore whenever the family craves it. Moreover, it's one pot meal. So convenient, so easy, and it probably costs less than $8 for this pot of dinner (and it's free range chicken at that!) that serves 5.

With zero chicken fats needed, you can be rest assured that your dinner is also healthy and no less delicious. Of course, if you're shunning long grain white rice, feel free to substitute with any rice that you're currently using.

Hope you find this recipe handy dandy as much as I do! :)

Easy Chicken Rice 
a handful of chopped garlic 
5-6 shallots, chopped 
5-6 slices ginger 
5-6 pandan leaves 
2 cups long grain rice, rinsed and washed 
3-4 tbsp olive oil 
1.5 tsp sea salt 
1 and 3/4 cup of chicken stock/ water 
4-5 chicken thigh, marinated with few pinches of salt for at least 30 minutes 

Sauce (optional):
few dashes of sesame oil 
1 tbsp light soya sauce 

Garnishes (optional):
cilantro or spring onion
  1. Heat up oil in your designated pot or pan. Stir in both chopped garlic and shallot. Fry till fragrant and almost golden brown. 
  2. Add in rice. Well coat it with the garlic and shallot oil. Mix the salt together with water before pouring it in. Arrange slices of garlic and pandan leaves on the bed of rice before adding in the chicken pieces. Cover. 
  3. Using the lowest heat, let the rice cook for at least 20 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the chicken stock/ water. Meanwhile, mix your sauce. 
  4. Serve immediately once it is cooked but not before topping it with cilantro or spring onion and the sauce. 
  5. Enjoy! ::

Sponsor Shoutout: The Groovy Giraffe Online BookStore (with Discount Code)

I still read only hard copy books (yes, fancy that!) and love the feel of a good book in my hands. Amassing a book collection can unfortunately be costly and the bargain hunter in me always pounces on any chance to purchase books at cheaper prices. 

Bring in The Groovy Giraffe, Singapore's first official online remainder bookstore, and let me warn you that it is a dangerous, dangerous place. Here, you get brand new books that are overstock and overprint at up to 80% off retail prices

Besides the great prices, the folks at The Groovy Giraffe also seek to deliver your orders to you within 3 working days. This is a great plus if you are like my husband, who dislikes ordering things from overseas websites because of the long wait for the items to arrive. 

I've another carrot for you to go book shopping: Quote "dollop5off" to get an additional 5% off your purchases (except for bargains)!

Here are some of my purchases, wants and recommendations. I'm listing cook books, books for children, and coffee table books because these three book categories are where I am most likely to spend my money on. Happy Shopping!

Cookbooks (Clockwise L-R): Nigella Express: 130 for Good Food, Fast $26.90, The Geronimo Stilton Cookbook $9.90, Bread Revolution: Rise Up And Bake! $22.90, Happy Days with the Naked Chef $22.90, Gordon Ramsay's Maze $26.90, Cupcakes Giftbox Set $14.90, The Healthy Baby Meal Planner: 200 Quick, Easy and Healthy Recipes for Your Baby and Toddler $14.90, Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival Cookbook $24.90

Coffee Table Books (Clockwise L-R): Modern Asian Living $21.90, 100 Natural Wonders of the World $16.90, One Off: Independent Retail Design $19.90, The Book of Inventions (National Geographic) $24.90, Mini House Style $19.90, Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan $22.90

Books for Children (Clockwise L-R): Curious George Bag of Books (8 book set) $25.90, The Berenstain Bears Bunch (includes 8 full books) $25.90, The Wonderful World of Dr Seuss - 20 Book Set Collection $84.90, Cave Baby $10.90, Oxford Reading Tree Atlas $11.90, 10 Nursery and Action Rhymes in Red-Trimmed Bag $39.90, Hansel and Gretel $14.90, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Pop-Up Book $24.90

Family Trip to Hong Kong

Oops the blog has gone off its regular programming! It started with some fobs on my part with post scheduling, and then there was a trip to Hong Kong to experience, and its aftermath to deal with.

We were in Hong Kong with two other families on quite an unplanned trip. The original idea was to book a villa at some beach resort, but somehow we ended up in Hong Kong. Since there were five kids in all, we decided to make a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland as well.

I left Hong Kong with some Disney magic, and a desire to go to Hong Kong again to experience it more fully. I was last there five whole years ago, and there's something about the buzz of the city that draws me to it. Unsurprisingly, we could not do and see as much with all the kids in tow this round. Bubbles did not enjoy the city at all, and when asked why, she said that it is 'noisy' and that she couldn't hear any birds chirping! She said a vehement 'No' when I asked if she would like to move there to live (something I wouldn't mind doing for a couple of years!).

There is now luggage to unpack (I'm so much quicker at packing than unpacking), and Bubbles to nurse back to health. She came down with a lingering fever while we were at Disneyland (poor kiddo), and we are doing what we can to fight it.

Here are some Instagram shots of our trip. There will be more proper photos soon!

Sponsor Shoutout - Most Wonderfully Made

I adore pretty party decorations but seldom want to pay an arm and a leg for them.

Most Wonderfully Made sells a selection of lovely decorations like buntings and pom poms that are not only beautiful, but will double up as room decor long after your party ends! All at very reasonable prices. I especially adore the paper hot air balloons!

The little shop also features on trend wooden cutlery and paper straws in a variety of designs.

Plan for year end parties now and mention discount code "dollop10off" to get 10% off your purchases!

Thank you Most Wonderfully Made for this treat!

Coping with my Child's Eczema - QV Kids

Are bath-times fun in your home? The fun factor has been upped in ours with these products that we recently tried! We were contacted by QV via Rise & Shine a couple of weeks ago, after having shared about Bubbles' eczema.

Ego Pharmaceuticals gifted us some QV Kids products for Bubbles to try, and they have been such a hit!

These products have definitely been designed with kids in mind. Bubbles, who has always used plain-looking packaging of the specialized skin products, was taken by these bottles. Emblazoned with bright colours and pictures of sea creatures, she was immediately interested, and came up to ask to use them!

The QV Kids range is made to encourage children to look after their skin, while at the same time being fun to use. Not all kids like applying soap or staying still for cream application (you should see how squirmy they can get!), so having products that they enjoy do help lead to better compliance and therefore improvement of skin quality.

The fun factor for kids does not end at the attractive packaging. Little blue, green and yellow balls can be found in the Body Wash and the Moisturizing Cream! Both my kids love looking at and for them! These readily dissolve with no abrasion to the skin. It is unlike regular scrubs that we might be used to, where too much pressure during use could hurt the skin.

We had trouble finding shampoos that suit Bubbles, and have been using anti-cradle cap formulas. I'm really glad that the QV Kids Shampoo and Conditioner have worked well for her! The shampoo has been formulated to have minimal eye irritant, and the conditioner contains pro-vitamin B5 to provide anti-itch benefits. She particularly likes how silky smooth her hair gets after using the conditioner. A treat!

Finally, the QV Kids Balm is a highly emollient moisturizing balm. Unless your child has severely dry skin, or a eczema condition like Bubbles, it is unlikely that you need this. The Moisturizing Cream will be sufficient for regular use. Bubbles sometimes gets cracked skin patches that are extremely dry. This is where the balm works. It is thankfully water free to avoid the stinging sensation on application. 

QV Kids is truly the fun stuff for dry and sensitive skin! The range is soap, fragrance and lanolin free - a gentle, cleansing and moisturizing range for all kids. Your kids don't need to have eczema to enjoy these products! Get them at leading pharmacies.

A Dollop of Me on Instagram (@adollopofme)

I'm late joining the Instagram community but that hasn't stopped me from being charmed. I'm liking it. Very much.

Snap, edit/filter, say my piece, post.

I suspect I have taken so well to it because I function very much in a visual world. My day goes by as a series of images in my head, and it is so natural for me to share a dollop of my world through a series of photographs.

Looking at my Instagram feed, I'm seeing a side of myself that has been less apparent in this blog space. I can't quite put my finger on it, but think it is the magic and poetry of spontaneous awareness that appear in the photographs.

Are you on Instagram too? I would love to meet you in that space. Come say hi here :)

Kitchen Exploits | Family Favourites #8: Apple Turnovers

Family Favourites featured two consecutive savoury recipes in #6 and #7, and so I thought it would be nice to share a sweet treat this week! I have been told that even after eating a full meal, there's always another stomach for desserts ;)

Let us welcome our guest this week - Mrs Ergul. She runs a delectable bake shop of her namesake, selling gorgeous sweet treats. I first noticed her food photography on Instagram, and was blown away by the way she presents her food - even for everyday meals at home for herself and her husband.

Enjoy this sweet treat!

:: There are nights when I want to end dinner with something sweet. All the better when said dessert doesn’t take half a day to make. And when all the stars align, I will have all the necessary ingredients sitting in the fridge, waiting to be put together and made into something comforting.

I have a few sheets of filo leftover from making a couple of batches of Turkish potato cigarette börek and some surprisingly sweet granny smiths. Then apple turnover comes to mind.

When the warm aroma of cinnamon wafted out of the oven, I knew we were in for a treat! The leftovers also crisped up pretty nicely when reheated in the oven for a few minutes in a moderate oven.

Apple Turnovers
2 granny smith apples 
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
1 tablespoon caster sugar (adjust accordingly if your apples are more tart) 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 filo sheets 2
5 grams butter, melted 
powdered sugar; for dusting 
  1. Peel and dice apples. 
  2. In a medium saucepan, add apples sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, cinnamon and cornstarch. Put on medium-low stirring every so often. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the apple softens and the mixture thickens. Remove from heat. 
  3. Remove filo dough from package and have a damp towel ready so you can keep the filo sheets covered as you work. They tend to dry out very quickly. 
  4. Working with one sheet at a time, use a pastry brush to brush filo sheets with butter. 
  5. With the longer side facing you, fold in half (vertically) and brush filo surface with butter again. 
  6. Place ¼ of apple mixture in the middle of filo sheet and fold excess over apple mixture, turning it into a parcel. 
  7. Brush the outside of the filo with butter. Place on a lined cookie sheet. 
  8. Repeat with remaining filo sheets and apple mixture. 
  9. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Check after about 10 minutes in case your oven runs hot. Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar. ::

Move over, Jimmy Choo | A Budding Shoe Designer

Yes, my 4yo spends some of her free time designing sandals for herself. Check out these multi-wear sandals! My favourite is the orange one in the top right photo. Any takers? ;)

You should also see this fancy one. Very avant-garde.

Princess Books for my 4 year old

Bubbles is 4, and in the last couple of months has developed a keener interest in common girly things like the colour pink, and the idea of princesses. Through her interactions among her friends, she has also started to categorize certain things according to gender - eg. dinosaurs and robots are boy things; cooking, ballerinas and princesses are girl things.

I am watching these developments like a hawk, and have made it a point to explain (once is never enough), that many of the things she has highlighted are neither boy nor girl things, but just things, for all to appreciate. Still, she was horrified when I picked a beautiful inflatable solar system set as a birthday present for one of her little girlfriends, as opposed to an addition to her friend's toy kitchen. She relented in the end, when I showed her how cool the system was, and how each inflatable planet can be hung from the ceiling. (I bought her a set too, by the way, and will hang it up once we re-do her bedroom.)

Thankfully, she is by nature quite a practical person, and she would almost rather pick out a comfortable but non-girly outfit, than a fancy dress that restricts her movement. Even her desire to paint her nails was short-lived. One paint, and she decided that it was not a big deal, and not worth the wait of sitting still to get her nails pretty!

I believe in allowing her space to explore and grow in her tastes and preferences, while always making available alternatives and possibilities. If she wants to always choose pink, or princess-y things, or play pretty dress-up with her friends, so be it. But I will also talk about the beauty of other colours, the beauty from within, different types of princesses other than the sparkly, fluffy ones, and offer new scenarios for pretend play to take place. We also watched a ballet performance by the Singapore Dance Theatre, where there were many male ballerinas, to debunk the idea that ballet is only for girls.

Still, I cringed when Roboman bought her a Cinderella book that she asked for, and have decided to restrict the screening of Princess Sofia The First on television, as there are themes I am not comfortable with.

Recently, a friend gifted my daughters two books from the Princess Parables Series:
Having not been acquainted with this series, my first reaction was to think "Oh no, another princess themed present!". Bubbles was thrilled of course. Princesses and Books! Two of her favourite things. I was immediately asked to read them, and to my pleasant surprise these turned out to be fantastic books that I would highly recommend.

This series is about five princesses who are sisters, and each book tells a story with a focus on one of the sisters. As with their names, each princess has her own strength and quality, and these are highlighted in the adventures they get themselves into. The stories are also loosely based on the parables in the Bible, and at the end of each book, there is a description about how the story parallels a specific Bible parable, and describes the lessons that we can learn from it. I like how the princesses come across as thoughtful, hardworking and proactive - qualities that I would like Bubbles to develop. 

Bubbles has read Princess Faith's Mysterious Garden and Princess Hope and the Mysterious Treasure. She loves both books, and I am already planning to get her these other 3 books:
  1. Princess Charity's Courageous Heart
  2. Princess Joy's Birthday Blessings
  3. Princess Grace and the Little Lost Kitten
Even if a child is not a princess fan, these books, with their captivating stories, will delight.

Another book with a princess theme (or perhaps an anti-princess theme) I would recommend is Olivia and the Fairy Princesses. This book describes Olivia true to her form - wanting to be different from everyone else, and therefore being hilariously anti-princess. When we first read this book, I think Bubbles was a little confused, and surprised by the anti-princess concept. It gave her a lot of food for thought, and opened up opportunities for conversations about fitting in with friends; when it is okay to be different etc. This book is a little darker, and may throw up more questions from a curious child. But I like that is helps balance the onslaught of other pink princess stories that are everywhere these days!

For those who plan Christmas gifts ahead of time, these books could be on your shopping list!

Kitchen Exploits | Family Favourites #7: Creamy Angel Hair Pasta with Prawns

How has the past week been for you? It seems that quite a few people around me have been getting the flu bug. Bun has been down with a nagging cough that acts up at night, keeping us both awake.

It is during weeks like these that we are thankful for quick-to-make meals that require few ingredients. Jasmine, creative crafter and editor of the award-winning Scissors Paper Stone blog, shares with us a simple pasta dish that can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. Frozen prawns to the rescue!

:: Life in a city can get very busy. So during these busy periods, I find that pasta tends to be my fall back.

Simple enough to whip up on a work night or a hectic weekend. The warmth and comfort of a home-cooked meal definitely helps us get through another day.

I find that this recipe is perfect when I just haven't had time to head to the supermarket. I tend to keep a bag of frozen prawns in my freezer just in case and I always have some pasta in the cupboard.

Most of the time, I tend to serve up this simple dish with piping hot edamame or steamed broccoli although I think it would be equally delicious with a fresh green salad. 

On this particular night, we also happened to have a little sakura in the fridge so we added it as garnishing. The recipe is perfectly fine without the sakura and I hope that you will try it.

Creamy Angel Hair Pasta with Prawns 
(serves 4) 
1 packet of Angel Hair Pasta
20 - 30 Frozen Prawns
500ml cooking cream or whipping cream
Dried Thyme
Dried Basil
Olive Oil
2 tbsp chopped garlic
Salt & pepper

Parmesan cheese
Sakura (optional) 
  1. In a frying pan, saute the garlic in the oil until it browns. 
  2. Wash the prawns under running water and then add them to the pan. Season with a dash of salt and pepper and sprinkle the dried basil and thyme over the prawns. 
  3. Stir-fry the prawns until they turn pink. Then add the cooking cream to the pan. Stir well and turn off the heat. Season with a little salt and peper to taste. 
  4. Put a pot of water on the boil. Once the water boils, add salt and then slip the angel hair pasta into the pot. Remove once it is cooked and drain the water away. 
  5. Then add the angel hair to the pan and mix it together. 
  6. Serve warm, garnished with parmesan cheese or sakura (optional) ::

Look at me!

Bun is becoming rather independent at running off to play on her own. Sometimes, she is so quietly engrossed that the house is silent, and I find myself dropping whatever I am doing to look for her.

Here, she found a cap, and was checking herself out in my mirror.

Look! She says when she sees me. Preeeteee!

I chuckle, and grab a camera to snap a few quick shots, before she chuckled and ran into my arms for a hug :)

(I will be announcing the winners of the "Today I Am" book Giveaway on Facebook soon!)

Cockroaches Beware: KONK Alert

This is where I store stuff like onions, garlic and ginger. In this colander, under my kitchen sink.

Or at least, this is where I now store them. They used to be placed in a beautiful, oval shaped rattan basket, with pretty handles at both ends.

Just last week, as I reached for a piece of ginger, a noticed some movement in the basket. I let out a huge scream when I saw what it was. A family of cockroaches! I spied a GINORMOUS mama cockroach among a sea of baby roaches. We have been noticing little roaches occasionally scuttling around, but that horrendous sight still freaked me out. Cockroaches making home in my pretty basket was totally not what I expected!

Needless to say, dinner prep had to be halted and Roboman came to my rescue. Pretty as my basket was, I cannot imagine putting food in there anymore. The visual memory of that cockroach infestation prevents me from doing so!

A couple of days after that incident, I met up with Su Lin of Our Lifestyle Shop. This online shop carries KONK® I, a non-toxic, natural insecticide that keeps insects like mosquitoes, flies, ants and cockroaches away without harming your family and loved ones. I previously heard about KONK® I's effectiveness from a friend who has tried it, and was eager to get some help to rid my kitchen of cockroaches.

Our Lifestyle Shop gave me the Automated KONK® I Flying Insect Killer Starter Kit to review. This product is registered by the Vector Control and Research Department of the National Environmental Agency, Singapore. It is said to attack insects' nervous systems, including those of mosquitoes, house flies, ants and cockroaches.

I am quite sensitive to regular insecticides - more than once, my eyes have swelled after using regular sprays to kill pests. Knowing that KONK® I's active ingredient is Pyrethrin, a natural extract from the chrysanthemum flower and completely safe for humans, was a great assurance to me. Especially so as it will be used in my kitchen, where food is prepared every day.

In the next 30 days, this machine will regularly release metered doses of CFC-free natural insecticide in my home. Be scared, cockroaches, be very scared. I will be back to report about how this product has worked for us.

You can buy KONK® I products from Our Lifestyle Shop. Join their mailing list and connect with them on their Facebook Page for updates.

From now till 8 November, use coupon code "adollopofme" to get a FREE KONK® I Hand Held Flying Insect Killer worth S$42 with every purchase of KONK® I Auto Flying Insect Killer Twin Pack. You can also quote this code via email if you choose to pay by cash or cheque.
Happy shopping (and KONKing!)

Kitchen Exploits | Family Favourites #6 - Chicken Caciatorre

It is time for Family Favourites again! I find myself looking forward to this every week, and am enjoying the different voices that are being introduced on this blog. I really hope you are liking this series too!

This recipe for Family Favourites #6 is by V, who blogs at Life Is In The Small Things. V is an energetic mother of two children, and an amazing party planner for her children's birthdays. She is a Jamie Oliver fan like I am, and I have always enjoyed reading the recipes she occasionally shares on her blog, because they are always so 'me'!

Let's welcome V!

:: When I was asked to share a family favourite, I polled my family on the recipe I should share and this Chicken Caciatorre came up. I'm not surprised really. Tasty and full of hearty tomato-y goodness, this is comfort food around these parts

"Cacciatore" means "hunter" in Italian, so this dish is really chicken prepared "hunter-style". Think chicken braised in a rich tomato sauce with herbs and wine. There are many versions of Chicken Cacciatorre around, but I like mine with mushrooms and without the bell peppers. And yes, I do use wine in my cooking, even when the kids will be eating the dish. This recipe calls for a cup of sherry. I believe the cooking process, which is fairly prolonged in this case, is sufficient to evaporate the alcohol, leaving the concentrated flavour which I find greatly enhances the taste of the dish. However, if you're uncomfortable with this, feel free to replace the sherry with chicken stock instead.

This dish does take a while to cook because it needs to simmer on the stove for about an hour. But if you factor in some lead time, the steps are really rather straightforward, and I assure you the results are worth it!

Chicken Cacciatore 
(Serves 4)
4-6 pieces of Chicken Thigh 
Salt & Pepper 
2 tablespoons of Oil, separated 
4 cloves of Garlic, smashed 
2 Bay Leaves 
1 Onion, chopped 
200g (1 package) White Button Mushrooms, sliced 
1 cup of Sherry 
 2 400g tins of Whole Peeled Tomatoes 
1 cube of Vegetable Stock 
1 tbsp of Dried Oregano 
4 servings of Spaghetti (or other favourite pasta) 
Parsley for garnish

1. Wash and pat dry chicken thigh pieces, then season generously with salt and pepper.

2. In a large pan, heat a tablespoon of oil over high heat. When the pan is hot, place the chicken pieces in the pan skin-side down to cook. When the chicken has nicely browned (about 10-12 minutes), flip the chicken over to brown the other side. When both sides are browned, remove to a separate plate to drain. (I prefer to do this in batches so as not to overcrowd my pan and allow the chicken to brown more evenly.)

3. In a separate pot, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and bay leaves, stirring till fragrant.

4. Lower the heat and add the onions. Continue to cook the onions until tender, stirring occasionally.

5. Add mushrooms to the onions and continue cooking until the mushrooms start to release their moisture. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally as mushrooms start to brown.

6. At this point, add the cooked chicken pieces, which you had set aside earlier, into the pan with the onion and mushroom mixture.

7. Add the sherry, vegetable stock cubes and oregano. Add tinned tomatoes with the juice from the can, and use your spatula to break the tomatoes into small pieces. Cover and lower the heat to simmer for 60 minutes. You might like to adjust the seasoning at this point.

8. While the chicken is cooking, cook pasta according to the instructions on its packaging and set aside.

9. After 60 minutes, remove the chicken and increase the heat to high. Cook the sauce uncovered for about 3-5 minutes, to reduce it and allow the sauce to thicken.

10. Divide the chicken on to individual plates and pour the sauce over. Serve with spaghetti or any other pasta of your choice.

Tuck in!

Cooking Notes: ♥ I use actual drinking sherry in this dish, but you can also use cooking sherry, which is readily found on supermarket shelves. Do note that these are usually salted and you will need to adjust the seasoning accordingly. ::

Coping with My Child's Eczema - Nambutripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET)

It has been a while since I updated about how we are coping with Bubbles' eczema.

I am pleased to share that the SEC Shower System is still working well for us. Bubbles still asks for her showers, and has said several times that the shower makes her skin feel better. This is a sharp contrast from her daily painful refusals before we had this system installed, and a relief to us.

Unfortunately, while the shower, cleansing and moisturizing routines help to provide some comfort and relief to her, we were still not getting to the root causes of her eczema. We already did what we could to reduce her exposure to dust-mites that she is supposedly allergic to, but flare-ups were still happening.

Just WHAT is causing her Eczema and extreme discomfort? I was driven to find some answers. Not satisfied with having to rely on steroid creams every doctor we saw prescribed, I located a Naturopath/Osteopath in Singapore who is a NAET licensed health practitioner. 

In brief, the NAET are a non-invasive, drug free, natural solution to alleviate allergies of all types and intensities using a blend of selective energy balancing, testing and treatment procedures from acupuncture/acupressure, allopathy, chiropractic, nutritional, and kinesiological disciplines of medicine. (Description taken from the NAET website)

Quite surprisingly and slightly alarmingly, at our first visit, the naturopath we consulted with detected several food sensitivities/allergies in Bubbles - gluten, chicken, eggs and milk! I flipped as most of those things featured in her daily diet. I asked why these food allergies were never detected in any of the three skin prick tests that Bubbles went through. He explained that regular skin prick tests detect proteins, but in her body, the amounts must have been too little for the proteins to be traced. Despite that, the tiny amounts were likely enough to trigger her eczema.

For relief of itch and to heal rash wounds, we were advised to give her regular salt baths. We simply add spoonfuls of sea salt into a tub of water, and let her soak in it. Sometimes, we do this just for her hands, as the itch and inflammation there affects her a lot more, given that we use our hands for almost everything.

Damage to the Gut | He also explained that in natural medicine, it is believed that the gut is the wellspring of life, so to speak. It is sometimes called the "2nd brain". In Bubbles case, her food allergies from birth must have caused quite a bit of damage to her gut, causing it to inefficiently absorb nutrients, and contributing towards the eczema. From his diagnosis, he also said that Bubbles has more of a vegetarian constitution, and recommended that she increase her vegetable intake, and reduce her meat consumption. 

The information we heard that day was a revelation to me. Despite feeling overwhelmed, I also felt a tremendous sense of relief, thinking that we have finally been given some answers. We plunged head-on into changing Bubbles' diet, eliminating first chicken and eggs, and gradually cutting out milk and gluten by the end of that first month. I will not pretend that it was easy. It was very, very tough. Tough on the poor girl of course (bless the little one!), and also on me, as I had to completely overhaul the family's usual tried-and-tested, easy-to-make meals. Besides food experimentation, there was a lot of tears, stressful grocery shopping trips, worries and struggles.

However, we were rewarded as within 2-3 weeks, her skin noticeably cleared and showed a natural plump moistness. Her hair too became more silky, and less dry than before. The eczema did not completely go away, but the condition of the skin was definitely improved, the first time without any medication at all, and she was also much cheerier, perhaps from less discomfort.

Most tellingly, a couple of weeks into this new diet, I pointedly asked her if she felt any different. Her verbatim reply was: Yes! My brain used to be stuck, but now it is unstuck. I believe this is due to the reduction of gluten in her diet more than anything else, but felt thrilled that my then almost 4-year-old could clearly articulate this!

Sadly, and frustratingly, her eczema has flared up again in recent days. We have quite religiously stuck to the diet, so we do not know what is going on. Could it be the additional dust exposure from getting our air-conditioning units cleaned recently? Or that our apartment block is getting a new coat of paint these few days? I really don't know, and am quite depressed that we seem to be back at square one despite all our efforts.

Anyway, we are currently awaiting the results of a detailed stool analysis that the naturopath suggested that we do. We had to go to a different clinic to seek a consultation about this, and found out that such a test cannot be done in Singapore! Stool has to be sent all the way to the USA to be tested. I found this fact, plus the fee to get it done, quite incredulous! We went ahead anyway, as a detailed stool analysis could really be the key in getting to the root causes of Bubbles' health issues.

I will share more about how this test has been helpful (or not) for us, once I get more information.

For those of you who may be interested in naturopatic health methods, and who are Christians like me, it may be useful to read articles from this site, especially this and this. I wish I read these before we embarked on NAET, but now that we have already gone ahead, I am more prayerful and cautious about next steps, and continue to pray for healing and protection for Bubbles.

Giveaway | "Today I Am" by Mies Van Hout

I am starting off this week with a book giveaway by Fish Book Co.!

Today I Am  is the Southeast Asian English version of the award-winning Dutch children’s book “Vrolijk” by Mies Van Hout. First published in June 2011 in the Netherlands, “Vrolijk” has since garnered numerous accolades, including being nominated for the prestigious Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (German Children’s Literature Award) 2013.

The book introduces 20 different emotions, and is unique in that it features vibrantly coloured fishes on a black background. Each double page spread is devoted to one fish showing a particular emotion, along with its name in lettering that expresses the same feeling.

Given that the book covers emotions that all of us, including children, feel, the book is a resource that parents can use to help kids learn about their emotions, increase their awareness about them, and learn the vocabulary to express how they feel. The versatility of the book makes it suitable for children anywhere from aged 2 to 10. You can purchase the book from its website, or at major bookstores.

Fish Book Co, who hosted Singapore's largest drawing contest at the Rise & Shine Expo last weekend, is giving away 5 copies of this book to this blog's readers!

If you would like a copy, or want to win one for a friend, put yourself down for the draw! This will run till next Monday 7 Oct 11pm :) International entries are welcomed. All the best!

To enter this draw:
1. Leave a comment with your email address.
2. Gain an extra entry if you share this post on your Facebook wall and tag A Dollop of Me's Facebook Page.