Coping with my Child's Eczema - Our Story

The itch that doesn't go away.

It has been some time since I last wrote about Bubbles' eczema. My post on LactoGG has garnered a lot of interest, and I have been answering questions about our experience with Bubbles' eczema, and the type of products we use to ease her discomfort.

Unfortunately, while that post described the containment of her eczema then, we have since gone through many more rounds of flare-ups. 

The truth is, we are still very much grappling with her eczema, and during flare ups, it is very tough on her, and on us. Through this painful process however, we are learning a lot more about what eczema is, and various ways to help make things better for her.

I have therefore decided to write more about coping with her eczema, starting with this post. I am hoping that these posts will help others who have children that suffer from eczema too, and perhaps serve as a platform for further discussions and sharing of coping methods.

This first post is a long one, as this is the story that most parents with children suffering from eczema wanted to know. 

If you have any questions or advice about coping with eczema, I will be happy to hear from you in the comments, or through email! 

Our Eczema Story - Till LactoGG

1. The Start of Her Eczema | At around 11 months of age, eczema appeared on Bubbles' arm and leg joints. Whether relevant or not, I noted that the rashes appeared exactly when I fully transited her from breast milk to formula milk. Her regular pediatrician referred her to do a skin-prick test to see if she had any underlying allergies that was causing her eczema. We had her tested for the common allergens, as well as a couple of others that I thought she might be allergic to. Surprisingly, the results were all NEGATIVE. It was a bit of a letdown as we were hoping for answers.

2. Consultations with a Dermatologist | Her eczema continued to get worse despite being on a strict moisturizing routine. Her skin sometimes got bloody and weepy. It was awful. Upon a friend's recommendation, we took her to a family doctor cum dermatologist. I mentioned him in this post. The doctor prescribed his own clinic-made creams and washes, and also a daily dose of LactoGG. We had to follow a tedious wash - moisturise process 2-3 times a day but her rashes did completely clear.

I stopped sharing about her eczema on the blog around this time.

Unfortunately, Bubbles' eczema - her rashes, came back with a vengeance, once we stopped the tedious cream and shower routine. We repeated the process I think three times. Each time her skin cleared, but came back again once the creams ran out. I suspected that the medicated creams containing steroids were spot healing the rashes, but not hitting at the root causes. I was fed up, and needed to find out how to stop her eczema from reappearing.

Our Eczema Story - What has happened since then?

1.  Examining Possible Allergies | Sometime last year, we took Bubbles to see a pediatric allergy specialist. This doctor ordered a skin-prick test again but only for inhalant allergies and a few key foods (wheat, milk, eggs). She explained that food allergies get better over time, and so since the previous test was negative, she said that it was unlikely that Bubbles had food allergies. This time, tests for foods turned out negative again, but in the test for inhalant allergies, dust mites came up positive. I was elated that we found an answer, and religiously followed instructions to reduce Bubbles' exposure to dust mites. We had her mattress covered with anti-dustmite sheets, increased the frequency of washing her bedsheets, removed stuff toys from her room etc.

Unfortunately, this doctor also prescribed a whole lot of creams, including those with mild steroids, that we used as instructed. Heeding her advice, we also did wet wraps for Bubbles at night, to ease her discomfort and to aid her skin's healing. Managing her eczema was a really tedious affair.

Like before, her skin healed beautifully, but the moment we stopped the medicated creams, the rashes gradually came back, along with all the accompanying pain.

2. The Terrible Itch and Discomfort | By this time, I felt really helpless as a mother. It was a terrible time for her, as she was so often itchy that she regularly woke up in the middle of the night to scratch for 1-2 hrs and not be able to fall back asleep. I would find dead skin and blood stains on her bed. The discomfort of itch and pain was affecting her mood and her learning too, as she would sometimes refuse to do an activity because of the pain of broken skin. I was exhausted from being woken up every night, staying awake for 1-2 hours. creaming and putting cold compresses on her.

3. The Non-Allergy Revelation | Upon another friend's recommendation, we decided to take Bubbles to see a much more senior pediatric allergy specialist. This doctor asked once again for a skin prick test to be done. This was Bubbles' 3rd skin prick test. Like the pediatric allergy specialist before, he did not think she has food allergies (even though I spoke to him briefly about my suspicions), and only tested her for inhalant allergens. This time, her dust-mite allergy showed up again, but in reduced figures compared to the 2nd test she did.

Then, the doctor told us something new: He said that Bubbles' eczema is not so much an allergic eczema but an NON-ALLERGIC eczema. I was taken aback and confused by this statement! He then explained that her case is more of a skin condition, where her skin barrier is not effective at retaining moisture. With this dryness, the skin is more susceptible to bacteria, which cases rashes and itch.

He then told us to take her swimming 3 times a week and to put a mild antiseptic on her rashes twice a day, together with her usual moisturizing routine. Unsurprisingly, he also prescribed mild steroidal creams. In addition, we were given many bottles of Zrytec, and told to give it to her daily. We followed his instructions and in 2 weeks almost all her rashes cleared up.

My elation was short-lived however, as (as you might have guessed by now), her rashes came back once we stopped the medicated creams.


In the next few posts, I will be sharing about products that we have tried to help ease Bubbles' discomfort caused by her eczema. When ready, I will be sure to post updates about how we are coping, and what other steps we have been taking to help find relief for her.

Do you or your children suffer from eczema? You could leave a comment on this post, or drop me a line. Your sharing may encourage someone else on a similar path!

If you haven't already, you may want to read:
Coping with my Child's Eczema - The Creams & Lotions

Kitchen Exploits - Slow Cooker Chicken Stock

Our family survives on stock. Or rather, my children do. Both my girls are the sort who eat to live. They don't have big appetites, eat a little at a time, and have strong food preferences.

I therefore try to make sure that the meals they eat are as nutrient packed as can be, and get vitamins into my little girls' tummies by way of stock; usually a meat and vegetable stock. Each week, I make a big pot, and freeze them in small portions for their daily meals. The stock will go into their soups, sauces and stir-fries. To keep things interesting, I switch up the meats and vegetables each week.

Lately, to save myself from having to eyeball the stock pot, I have been using my slow cooker to make stock. I basically dump everything in before I go to bed, set the cooker on low, and leave it to cook till the next morning. I then have ready stock for the day. When the pot cools, I do the portioning, freezing and labeling.

It always feels satisfying to wake up to a hot pot of goodness. The presence of ready-made stock often makes me feel like I have started the week right, and comforted knowing that my babies are going to get the good stuff into their growing bodies.

I try to remember this rough recipe by the quantities of 1, 2, 3 and 4, but I often make changes depending on what I have the fridge too, so don't be afraid to experiment. The great thing about stock is that while it holds a multitude of flavours and nutrients, you can still season and flavour it differently to suit the dishes you add them to. 

Here is my simple chicken stock recipe. I would love to hear how you make your stock too! Do you use a slow cooker as well?

Slow Cooker Chicken Stock
 1 chicken carcass - I like to use one from a roast. Like this one.
(or you can use 2 chicken breast bones)
1 large onion
2 carrots
3 sticks of celery
4 cloves of garlic
  1. Chop up chicken carcass.
  2. Peel and chop all other ingredients.
  3. Layer the ingredients into a slow cooker, with the chicken carcass right on top.
  4. Pour boiling water over the ingredients, especially the chicken carcass, until everything is covered.
  5. Set slow cooker and slow for 8-10 hours.
  6. Let the stock cool. Drain with a sieve. Portion for use.
Easy Chicken Curry Puffs
Chicken Curry (leftovers - bought or homemade)
Frozen Prata (like these) or ready rolled puff pastry
Hard-boiled Eggs cut into 6 chunks each
Some water
1 Egg, beaten with a fork
  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Shred the chicken and discard bones.
- See more at:

Rise & Shine 2013: The Multiple Intelligences of Reading & Writing - Dr Thomas Armstrong

I am pleased to share that the Rise & Shine Expo 2013 workshops for parents, educators and caregivers are now open for registration!

You can click on the picture below to see the talks and seminars at a glance, and read more about fees and signing up here.

The Rise & Shine Expo 2013 will be featuring more than 120 premium brands offering great deals for parents, and there will also be contests, performances and booth activities for families.

In the next few weeks, I will be writing more about the Expo, including information about workshops that I am personally interested in. There will be free tickets to be won in some of these posts I write (including this one, see below), so do keep a look out for them!

Today, I would like to highlight this programme:

Date/Time: 28 September 2.30-4pm
Fees: $20
(Use Discount Code earlybird20 if you sign up by 31 July, to get 20% off)

Bubbles has been learning how to read and write, and this workshop therefore stood out for me.

In this workshop, Dr Thomas Armstrong will show parents how to help children develop literacy skills by linking words to images, music, logic, emotions, physical expression, social context, oral language, and nature.

Dr. Armstrong draws upon recent neuropsychological research in showing how reading and writing skills are whole brain activities, and he provides practical tips and suggestions for teaching everything from phonics to reading comprehension using whole brain strategies.

This workshop is for parents with children from 3 to 12 years old who want to lay strong foundation in their kids in reading and writing using the concept of multiple intelligences.

I have 5 pairs of tickets to this workshop to give away!

To stand a chance to win this, simply share or tweet this post's link and leave a comment here!

Giveaway ends on Thursday, 8 August 10pm. All the best!

The Conversations sparked by a Curious George book

It has been a while since I wrote about the things Bubbles say. She now calls herself a chatterbox, and has been known to plonk herself at the playground, ignoring the actual play and engaging in conversation with random adults.

Our conversations are getting increasingly interesting (and sometimes exasperating), with me having to answer serious questions like: Why are cigarettes being sold if they are bad for you? or hear her views on what looks good (or not) on me: You look like a LADY, Mummy! or conversely: Don't wear that, Mummy, otherwise I am going to roll my eyes. Come, on!

This scenario I am going to share actually took place soon after her 3rd birthday last year. It has been repeated so many times at gatherings of family and friends, and I thought I had it written somewhere on the blog. Now that I realised it has not been, I just have to note it down.

Curious George's First Day of School
We were at a bookshop looking for two Curious George books that were missing from our collection. We found one, but after combing the shelves, could not find Curious George's First Day of School.

I told Bubbles that it was probably sold out, and that we would have to get it elsewhere. Then, as I turned my back to look at other stuff, Bubbles, who was obviously unconvinced, ran to the cashier.

There, with arms akimbo, she asked:
Is that Curious George's First Day of School book really sold out??

It was a quiet day, and the 2 cashiers and 1 sales rep were clearly amused.

Sales rep: Yes it has

Bubbles: But WHY?
Sales rep: Because no more lor. Never mind I will call you if it comes in ok? (Thinking that this would end the conversation)

Bubbles (after some thinking): Mummy, what is our phone number?
Bubbles (to sales rep): When it comes, don't tell anyone and keep it for me ok?

Sales rep (stifling laughter): Ok sure!

... ...
Think that is the end of the story? Uh, no. Read on...

We made our purchases, and left the shop for an eatery to have our lunch. It was a small eatery that was along one of the corridors of the mall. As we were eating, a middle-aged woman and her elderly mother walked by, and smiled at Bubbles, who perhaps had one of her think-very-hard-earnest-look on her face.

Bubbles immediately popped out of her chair, turned to me and said: Mummy, I want to tell her!

Before I could do anything, she walked up to the two women and said loudly: Did you know, that Curious George book is SOLD OUT??

The younger woman gave me an amused, knowing look and replied: Oh, is that so?

Bubbles: Yes! It is sold out! Are you upset about THAT?

After putting on an admirable show agreeing with Bubbles about the sold out book catastrophe, the woman turns to me and asks: How old is she? Three? (pats me on the back) Good luck, you have a little activist in your hands!

ShopAbout | Bring Singapore's Favourite Shops Online

I have recently been introduced to a new Singapore-based online shopping site, ShopAbout.

Given that I do a lot of my shopping online, this site piqued my interest, as it aims bring in products from shops that primarily have a physical presence, and make them available online.

The folks from ShopAbout work with merchants to help expand their customer reach through e-commerce, and provide customers with the convenience of shopping from across merchants on one platform.

Currently, ShopAbout provides FREE COURIER DELIVERY to all customers, regardless of purchase amount!

From 22 July to 4 August, ShopAbout is holding a Beautiful Inside-Out campaign specially for women.

During this period, there will be a store-wide discount of 12%.

In addition, sometime during this campaign, there will be a surprise flash sale where the 1st 48 customers will get 48% off on selected items, while stocks last!

ShopAbout has brought in a pretty wide range of merchants. I am already eying some things from Parisilk. Here are some of shops that you can expect:

There will be 3 categories of products: Health & Fitness, Image and Pamper Me Therapy.

Here are some things you can buy in each of the categories:

Health & Fitness
Juice Makers, Blenders, Dessert Makers, Health Monitor Devices, Therapeutic Pillows, 
Health Supplements, Tea Leaves & Tea Sets

Women Apparel, Scarves, Shoes, Epilators, Hair Stylers

Pamper Me Therapy
Coffee Makers, Facial Ion Cleansing Devices, Body Wash Products, Skin Care Products, Spa Products

Finally, in saving the (almost) best for last:

In addition to the
- storewide discount of 12%,
- flash sale of 48% discount on selected items (while stocks last) for the 1st 48 customers, and the
- free courier delivery of purchases,

ShopAbout is offering A Dollop of Me's readers an additional $5 off your purchases with the discount code ADOLLOPOFME5OFF during the campaign period of 22 July to 4 August 2012. 

Perhaps Christmas shopping can be done early this year?

Go to ShopAbout to register yourself and get ready to do some clickety shop!

[Images c/o ShopAbout]

The Climbing School of Homemaking

A long-time reader of this blog recently quipped that she missed reading about me; how I am really doing. This made me surprised, until I scrolled through my recent entries, and realised she was right. There has been a lot of activity, and sharing of activities, but it has been some time since I have shared about how life has been for me, that kind of sharing that perhaps used to draw people to this blog. 

I mulled over this, and came to the realization that this activity-based life is exactly how I have been functioning, particularly in the last few weeks. From the moment my eyes open in the morning, till they close for a night's rest, I'm either actively doing chores or engaged in forward planning for the household. I'm a hive of activity personified.

I am not saying that this is the best way to do things. In fact, it is probably not, but I am cutting myself some slack as I am still learning to manage the home sans live-in helper. I realise this does make me sound like a pampered person, but jumping suddenly from having a live-in helper on a 6-month stint to zero hired help, right after a week-long holiday abroad, has honestly been hard. In my more self-critical moments, I wonder what on earth I was thinking, assuming that I can do this!

Then recently, I saw Bun, (who only started walking when we were in Bali three weeks ago), head straight to the tallest slide in the playground and slowly climb all the way up without so much as a glance at me. I was absolutely moved by her tenacity. She then did it over and over again, pushing herself and her little legs through the rigour of getting up that steep flight of stairs, and getting better with each try.

I am reminded then that I too am in Climbing School, except that it is not stair-climbing that I am training for, but that of independent homemaking. But as I climb each day I am building stamina, a healthier body and stronger muscles too. I climb in order to learn how to climb higher, and faster, with less resources. Each day, I am learning new methods to do it better, and ways that I should avoid. I climb, to enjoy the view, and look forward to more rewarding views ahead.

Just like any mountain climber, I do have my falls. I occasionally fall physically, or also emotionally; giving room for negativity and complaints. But I am thankful to have many helping hands to pull me up, to keep up with the climbing practice and many kneeling knees praying for me.

Bun and I, and perhaps all of us, are in Climbing School together.

Psst, I'm now on Instagram where I first posted the above photo. You can follow me here.

Shop For Social | Shopping for a good cause

I have been waiting for this day for a long time.

My dearest sister has taken a year off from work to set up a social business. This is an idea that has been brewing in her head for a long time. She has always been keen on doing some sort of social work where she can use her personal expertise to meet real needs. Some of you may remember Project Spare Attire from two years' back, a one-off project that she helmed.

A lot of hard work has gone into putting this together, with several people generously giving their time and expertise to help. They/We/I would be so grateful if you could help spread the word about Shop For Social 

What is SHOP FOR SOCIAL all about?
Shop For Social is a social business that seeks to support meaningful social enterprises and non-profit organisations through creative marketing and value-add of their products and services. The goal is to raise the profile of these organisations and their championed causes, and to increase sales in order to create a positive impact on the social value chain.

What does SHOP FOR SOCIAL do? will be hosting online sales campaigns showcasing curated products from social enterprises/non-profits.

Selected products from a different social enterprise will be featured every 1-2 weeks.

Through the consolidating of various social enterprises onto the same platform, it would be a one-stop portal for you to purchase products towards the respective causes.

Bun had her first taste in modelling together with some of the products that will be available for sale!
Photo by Elliot of Elliotly
In the works are exciting offline marketing plans via corporate tie-ups. This could include consignment sales, corporate gifts, and corporate social responsibility/sponsorships. will be launched on Monday 22 July 2013. Do take some time to browse and perhaps purchase a few items!

In the meantime, do sign up for their mailing list on the website, or on their Facebook Page.

If you have any questions or know of social enterprises who would like to collaborate with Shop For Social, you are welcome to send an email to:

Kitchen Exploits - Cookbook Commendations | The Family Meal

This week, after daily cooking, I felt like I needed some inspiration in the kitchen. It is one thing to occasionally whip up something one fancies, but quite another to do mundane, day-to-day cooking for everyone in the family. (Not to mention the copious amount of washing up to do. Dishes do somehow multiply on their own.)

As always, I start off with a meal plan for the week, and grocery shop according to the plan. However, after almost two weeks of cooking every single day, I started to pull recipe books off the shelf to refresh myself (and hopefully my cooking).

As part of this Kitchen Exploits series therefore, I have decided to intersperse sharing of recipes with my recommendations of some of the best cookbooks that have worked for me. I will write about why I like them, and you can decide if you would like them on your cookbook holder at home!

First up, I rediscovered The Family Meal - Home cooking with Ferran Adria. Yes, this is the Ferran Adria of elBulli fame. Interestingly, it was Roboman who bought this book about two years ago. He was inspired then to put together an unconventional Christmas dinner for our family, using a recipe from this book.

Book cover from The Book Depository

This book is one of home cooking recipes by the legendary chef. It showcases the meals that his staff used to eat every day in the kitchens of elBulli, and offers illustrated step-by step instructions about how to prepare these meals.

I was a little apprehensive when I first saw the book, thinking that the recipes will be too difficult for a noob cook like me. Thankfully, there are none of those fancy stuff, but wholesome, easy-to-prepare recipes.

The Family Meal contains a very useful segment on Basic Recipes, where he writes various sauce and stock recipes. Our family has adopted his Bolognese Sauce recipe with minor adaptations, and we have done it so many times that I can now cook it without referring to the cookbook. 

What really stands out however, are the recipes for 3-course meals that take up most of the book. Entire meals are planned out with care to ensure complementary flavours and smooth food preparation.

The icing on the cake of the book are the guides to when things need to be done with clear timings spelt out. This is absolutely fantastic when one is cooking for guests, entertaining at home. It is almost like having an expert by your side, telling you what to do to ensure optimum flavours and presentation of the meal.

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of Cookbook Commendations!

What are some of your favourite cookbooks? I would love to hear of them!

Protecting Your Children from Child Abuse in School

When the news first broke about this child abuse case at NTUC My First Skool, I read descriptions and comments on social media channels with a trembling heart. I have not been able to bring myself to view the video of the abuse that has since gone viral.

The boy is 3 years old, just like Bubbles. I read about his mother crying as she saw evidence of him being dragged and pushed. My heart cried along with her, and cannot begin to imagine her anguish and perhaps even guilt, or how long it will take her and her son to be healed from this ordeal.

There are many things a mother can worry about with regards to her children. One of my greatest concerns is the treatment of my children by those I entrust them with. Each time I read about child abuse stories, my fears about possible ill treatment of my children create a tightness in my chest, and I whisper a word of prayer of protection for them.

Many young children cry when being sent to school. Many do so because of separation anxiety, a common developmental behaviour. Bubbles went through a bad bout of school refusal for a couple of weeks after Bun arrived, as she did not like knowing that Bun was with me while she was not.

However, despite such behaviour being common in young children, it pays for parents to be vigilant.

Below are some precautions I take. Do share in the comments if you have other ideas that will help protect our children!

1. Get to know your child's minders/teachers as much as you can. Chat with them, talk about your child's idiosycracies, behaviours, preferences etc, and sense how they are like by their responses. Always keep communication channels open with them. If you can't get open communication, consider placing your child elsewhere. You are the parent, and you have every right to know what goes on with your children while you are away. Where possible, show appreciation too, as it is never easy taking care of a bunch of kids.

2. Talk often with your child about their time away from you. Even if they are unable to fully describe what they did, you will be better able to detect if something is amiss if these conversations are done regularly. Any issues can also be addressed quickly. 

3. Keep an eye out for possible signs of abuse. If you sense that your child may have been deliberately hurt, take action right away to get more information in a tactful but assertive manner. It is better to be wrong about your suspicions, than to have your child suffer.

4. Keep an eye out for other people's children. Some parents may not have the bandwidth - the time, energy, or even awareness to look out for their children in such a manner. Some may just have full trust in their children's schools.Whichever the case, if you sense that another child may have been hurt, take action to get information too. You might be the child's only lifeline.

I hope this case will result in a thorough investigation and a positive change in the school's (and its branches) systems, such that something like that never happens again. My thoughts and prayers are with the boy and his family.

Kitchen Exploits - Easy Chicken Curry Puffs

I just spent much of the weekend chopping, cooking and freezing food for the week. Since we are now sans live-in helper, I figured it is best to squeeze in as much food preparation as I can during the weekends. I unfortunately scalded my hand in this quite frenzied process, but am certain that with practice, I will be able to regularly put healthy home-cooked food on the table for my family, in much less time than it now takes me.

With the scalded hand, and in attempt to do as much as possible, I took no photos, with the exception this one of dried dates, wolfberries and scallops I was soaking to make soup. Perhaps one day, after some experimentation, I will be able to share the time-saving techniques I am attempting to do.

For today's Kitchen Exploits post however,  I would like to share a simple idea for making chicken curry puffs. These are usually made with leftover curry, and kept frozen to be taken out and toasted when we have company for breakfasts or afternoon teas.

This is a rough recipe with no proper quantities as it is easy to wing it. Just use more or less prata dough and work with what you have!

You will be pleased to have your guests wowed by your homemade curry puffs!

 Easy Chicken Curry Puffs
Chicken Curry (leftovers - bought or homemade)
Frozen Prata (like these) or ready rolled puff pastry
Hard-boiled Eggs cut into 6 chunks each
Some water
1 Egg, beaten with a fork
  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Shred the chicken and discard bones.
  3. Cut potatoes in the curry into small chunks
  4. Put shredded chicken, cut potatoes and rest of curry sauce into a pot. Add a little water if mixture is too dry. (Sometimes, I even add more curry paste if I want a stronger tastes)
  5. Cut a piece of frozen prata into half. Put in a portion of curry mixture, and a chunk of egg. Fold prata into half and press the sides together. You have to work quickly as the prata gets sticky. Leave prata you are not using in the freezer and take out only when ready to use. 
  6. Place curry puffs onto a lined baking tray. Brush with beaten egg. 
  7. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes (It depends on the prata that you buy. See packaging for instructions as a guide)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
4t baking powder
5T white sugar
5T unsalted butter (about 140g)
2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 cup raisins (or your choice of dried fruit, cut into raisin-sized pieces)
1 egg yolk, beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
- See more at:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
4t baking powder
5T white sugar
5T unsalted butter (about 140g)
2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 cup raisins (or your choice of dried fruit, cut into raisin-sized pieces)
1 egg yolk, beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
- See more at:

Pampered at Saint Pierre, Quayside Isle

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriends made a date with me to hang out at The Sentosa for an afternoon, with my girls in tow. With the haze situation, we didn't know if this meet-up will materialize, but I am very glad that it did, as it was a most lovely evening spent.

My girls in particular, enjoyed a dip in the warm pool. Bubbles was also quite taken with the idea that she was once at this resort, when she was still inside my womb! She has also missed seeing Aunty Imp, and before heading for the pool without her, Bubbles made sure that we were going to have dinner together after the swim.

With motherhood, and especially since the arrival of Bun, I have been pretty much confined to the humdrum of domestic, family life; with regular social interactions limited to Sunday lunches with church friends, and online conversations. The nature of such a life is that things just go on, day in and day out. There is hardly time to pause and think, and most of my waking moments are spent either in doing or planning things that involve my children or my home.

We made a difficult decision after our Bali trip, that we felt was important to keep our home a sanctuary. But the result of the decision meant I had to bear a sudden load of domestic chores. (My heart is light although the physical tiredness is building up).

I was therefore ever more thankful that I (still) have friends (without kids) who care enough for me to want to spend a precious few hours with us. This is truly a blessing, and perhaps even a lifeline for me!

Our darling Imp made the dinner reservations and as always had a surprise up her sleeves. She said it was going to be a casual dinner, and although she told us we were going to Saint Pierre, I was so busy that I didn't give it much thought or ask further. Bubbles and I were in flip-flops and were quite grubbily attired. I had zero make-up on, which is a scary thing, given the little sleep I get these days. Despite that, it was a most charming evening.

When Chef Emmanuel Stroobant came by to ask Bubbles what she would like for dinner, I had to admit to my friends later that I was absolutely star struck. Bubbles, on the other hand, basked in the attention, asking for French Fries (of all things!), fish, and vegetables. When he saw her disappointed face as he was explaining that they don't really do French Fries, he agreed to make some specially for her. She perked up immediately and responded to his question of her choice of vegetables by asking for Chye Sim. I burst out in laughter, and was glad when she readily agreed to his alternative offer of baby spinach.

And just look what came out of the kitchen!

Bubbles later drew a picture for the Chef by way of thanks, and he gamely displayed it on the kitchen wall that evening. She later told me that she wants to go back to the restaurant again, and would draw another picture for him if she sees that her original picture is no longer there!

I too was pampered that evening as my friends took turns to mind my girls while I ate. It was such a treat, really! And, I could not resist my first taste of wine in yonks. It was a beautiful Tenuta Guado al Tasso 2000. I didn't know it then, but my girlfriends were watching my wine intake that evening. Not too much, as I haven't had alcohol in a while, and also because I was driving that evening. As I breastfed Bun at dinner, I was curious to see if the wine would knock her out for the night. Well, she woke up twice that night, as opposed to her usual tiresome three times. (Does that even count??)

Thank you, Imp and A, for your love for us, and the loveliest evening I have had in quite a while.

Thank you Chef Emmanuel, Edina and team for charming us all, especially my dear Bubbles.

[Photos c/o Imp]

Courtyard by Marriot, Nusa Dua Bali

Our Bali escape turned out to be a lovely little holiday for my two girls. For Bun, it was her first holiday abroad, not counting our trips to Malaysia to see family. 

We chose to stay at Courtyard by Marriot, at Nusa Dua. We booked via Expedia as we often do, as its search functions are pretty good. Given the short time we had to make a getaway, we skimmed through reviews on TripAdvisor and made our choice based on price, availability, and the fact that this place has a Kids Club. 
What we didn't know before we got there, was that the hotel is located in a safe, gated area with security. Each hotel in the area requires bomb checks at the main gates, and metal detectors for belongings before entering the hotel lobbies. Even the main shopping and dining area in the vicinity, known as the Bali Collection, has metal detectors at its entrances. While all these meant that the area was touristy, it made us feel secure, especially since I was there for some time alone with my kids, as Roboman had to head back to Singapore for work. Interestingly, there was another mother there with her two kids, also to escape the haze.

We were wowed by the grandeur of the hotel's driveway and lobby, and appreciated the bright, clean, and modern furnishings.

Our kids had a blast at the pool, as always. The pool set-up was such that there is a little island bar in the middle, and in the evenings, there would be live music played from the little island. It was lovely to paddle around the pool listening to the music.

The Kids Club boasts a ball pit, computing gaming nooks, a TV room, and an reading/art & craft area. We were there quite often, and Bubbles had a chance to make a beaded necklace and bracelet. 

While this hotel does not have its own beach front, as reflected in the price, it has a private beach club just a short drive away. We went there once at low tide, and saw little creatures nestled in the sea bed. 

As with Balinese hospitality, we experienced attentive, friendly service throughout our stay at the hotel. The daily buffet breakfast had a generous spread of Indonesian/Balinese and Western choices, and the food at the in-house restaurant was surprisingly good as well. As an experience for the kids, we ordered room service a few times too. Both my girls loved the spaghetti with tomato sauce and would slurp it up in delight while I hovered around cleaning up spills!

All in all, we were glad we had the opportunity to stay at Courtyard. I was initially concerned about our choice given that it was a last minute decision, but it thankfully turned out to be truly pleasant stay. Bubbles is already asking to return!