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June 2014

Everyday fun! Family life as we know it Fatherkao loves... Happy days Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

The hippos are HUNGRY, HUNGRY (chomp!)

June 30, 2014

The house is really noisy these days.

You will be amazed at how much noise pollution this thing, together with these four people makes:

Hungry Hungry Hippo_1

The game’s called ‘Hungry Hungry Hippos’. If you were born in the 70’s or 80’s, I think you’d find it very familiar!

Hungry Hungry Hippo_3

Simple rules: Hands up, get set, chomp!

Gives pandemonium at home a new definition, I tell you.

Fatherkao recently ordered this from Amazon after searching for it in local Toys ‘R’ Us stores for months. They don’t have the game any where, and so we paid USD12.88 for the game and almost four times the game price for shipping.

It’s crazy, I know. I was tempted to scold the husband for spending money like this, until I saw this on the first night they played the game:

Hungry Hungry Hippo_2

And this on another night:

Hungry Hungry Hippo_4

Hungry Hungry Hippo_5

And then the littlest getting all too amused and engaged with the travel set Fatherkao ordered too:

Check out how he plays the two-player game on his own, left hand vs. right hand, in all sort so of positions!

Check out how he plays the two-player game on his own, left hand vs. right hand, in all sort so of positions!

Then I remembered what I often hear my pastor say on Sundays from the pulpit. ‘Use money, love people; NOT use people, love money’. In my husband’s case, he used his money to love his children to make memories they will remember for a lifetime.

They will remember they were hungry, hungry hippos when they were kids, that’s for sure.

Money well spent for so much fun (never mind the noise), that’s what I think!

(Self) Examination Becks Kao Homelearning fun Learning fun! Milestones and growing up

Fixing a problem with ‘Special Time’

June 27, 2014

Ever since I became more of a work-at-home mom than stay-at-home mom, I’ve not really done much homelearning with the kids. I still follow a routine with them, but it’s with less intensity and frequency throughout the day; and instead of creating and designing my own materials, I’m using a lot more stock ones that are available for downloading from the net. I’m also letting them play A LOT more together, now that they are at the age where they love to pretend play. Just recently, I heard someone say “Mama” and “Dada” and they were not calling the husband and me but each other, and it was altogether tremendously amusing.

I also outsource the learning of the Chinese Language to Berries. Ben has been attending lessons since last year, and Becks started her N2 class this year. I’m pretty much hands off in this area.

Until the rude shock yesterday, that is.

So Becks’ teacher informed me that she couldn’t recognise the words she’s been taught when she did a revision test with her. It’s not the first time the teacher’s said it since the beginning of the year, and I’ve pretty much just left things as they were and hoping not to intervene at all in Becks’ learning. But last evening, the test score was 1 out of 20, and it was quite horrifying to know that the little girl doesn’t remember any Chinese character save one since January.

Of course our first thoughts were: Does she have a learning disability? Is she suffering from something we do not know of? Does she have a problem with memory? Is the classroom engaging enough? Does she have attention deficit?

Believe you me, I think any parent would start off with these crazy thoughts.

But any parent who knows their child would be able to pull herself back from this and think about what it is that the child really needs.

I didn’t go all beserk. I didn’t get all anxious (for a while I did, but not for too long, hurhur!) about Becks’ lack of ability to remember. I didn’t go down that slippery slope of reasoning within myself about how she might suffer in primary school. I didn’t run out to buy more Chinese books or videos. I knew that the little girl was sending me a message loud and clear, and if I am not going to “listen” to it, I’m going to be a fool of a mother.

I know my child. I think she’s saying, “Mama, can you also teach me Chinese too?”

Last night, before the kids went to bed, I told them that there would be a new routine when they wake up. They would each get a “Special ‘Learning’ Time” with me for 20 minutes every day when they are fresh in the morning, and we could spend time doing anything that they wished to learn. They know ‘Special Time’ is one-to-one time with me which no one can interrupt, and so using this phrase got them all agreeable.

That was that. I had it at the back of my mind but still went to bed at 2am catching Episode 201 of Running Man.

This morning, at 8.30am, someone tapped me on the shoulder and shouted, “Mama, wake up. We are having special time learning right?”

Right, the ‘Special ‘Learning’ Time’, yes.

It was the little girl who was up and all ready this morning.

And I was right. She was all ready to learn some Chinese and do some flashcard reading on my lap and playing games answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Chinese. I’m thinking to myself, BINGO, isn’t this what needs to be fixed before the problem in the classroom can be? She needs her mother to be involved in every area of her learning too.

Lesson learned: Never dismiss my child as having any problems until I’ve invested good time and energy being involved in her learning. I have to keep filling love tanks and be their cheerleader every step of the way, whether I work at home or not. And those 20 minutes (60 minutes for me) didn’t just make one kid happy, it made all three happy to have some one-to-one time on Mama’s lap – and we’re all looking forward to this routine every day!

Special learning time

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We rose, shone, and are smelling REALLY good

June 25, 2014

That Saturday was gorgeously beautiful and perfect for a picnic. The kids got up early in the morning, all excited for the Rise and Shine Breakfast Carnival at The Lawn @ Marina Bay.

This would be our second time at this huge picnic and the first in which my children were actually thrilled to be meeting mascots and all raring to go explore bouncy castles and try out carnival games. What a difference a year makes. This was them two Saturdays ago:

R&S_Carnival fun

At The Lawn (which was packed with people when we arrived at 8.30am), the kids could barely sit to eat their sandwiches of ham and cheese. They wanted to play and jump and run and chase balloons – so we were found within 15 minutes of us settling down in queues, doing game try-outs like fishing…

R&S_Fishing

Building blocks…

R&S_Building blocks

And throwing eggs…

R&S_Throwing eggs

We also checked out the Johnson’s Baby booth which launched a new product that day. It’s called Active Fresh, which has a clinically proven technology that can fight body odour, keep skin dry to prevent sweat chills and activates fresh fragrance when in contact with sweat.

JBaby Active Fresh Product Display 2

JBaby Active Fresh Product Display 1

We got our samples, had some free foot reflex fun (check out those little feet that take off whenever they see pebbles!) and then, as all present there that day would know, the picnic was cut short very unfortunately because raindrops started falling on our heads.

Foot reflex for free

God must have heard complaints about how hot the day was. ‘Fess up, if you’ve murmured while queuing! Give thanks next time, people! 

Rained out

Nonetheless, we did have a good two hours of carnival and picnic fun on that lovely Saturday morning.

***

Eh ok, so it sounded a little far fetched. At that point earlier in the post where I mentioned the ‘Active Fresh’ products by Johnson’s Baby. Yea, the part about the ground-breaking technology of being able to absorb sweat and activate fragrance.

This needs some testing, I say.

I put the samples I was given by the Johnson’s folks at the booth up for a challenge when we headed for our getaway last week. The weather was scorching and humid. And don’t get me wrong here, I would have it no other way. The fine weather and heat was great for all the fun that could be had.

Fine weather for play

And absolutely ideal for sweating buckets and smelling odoriferously potent like a used sock.

So before we headed to the Kids’ Club for some active play at the resort on the second day while we were there, I got everyone to smack on the Active Fresh powder generously on themselves to see if this thing really works.

Testing 1

Testing 2 - Copy

Testing 3

Check out my pretty tester showing you how to put on powder:

Pro tester with steps

Oh-kay, I did also realise there and then that if the technology didn’t work, we’ll all be having clumps of powder all stuck in the folds of our necks and armpits. And I would have to scrub them silly or dunk them into the swimming pool first to rid them of clumpy powder.

Testing 4

So the kids played on and and on at the club and we started perspiring profusely in the enclosed space in that hot, hot weather. These are very, very active kids, I tell you. They sweat a lot whenever we’re outdoors and engaged in physical activities. And this June holidays with the weather oh-so-fine, we’ve had ourselves a good dose of outdoor play, which is so important for the kids’ mental and physical development.

Play at Kids Club

More active play at Kids Club

After play powder check: I checked self. I checked kids. No clumps. No stickiness. And we did still smell good.

For your info, I really went back to the villa bathroom and looked into the mirror to search for remnants of powder on my armpits ok.

Amazing. No sour smell. No powder remnants. There was a lingering smell of faint fragrance.

We also put the bath gel to the test. This was a no-brainer. It smelled awesome, filled the entire bathroom with fresh fragrance (and it was a huge bathroom, by the way) and because the kids took a bubble bath that evening with it, the smell lingered throughout the night while they slept.

Bubble bath

Ok, so now I’m convinced that Johnson’s Baby Active Fresh products can do what it claims – keep my kids smelling fresher and for longer. It’s nice to know that we can all smell good after active play. I guess I won’t be needing to bring change of clothes for the kids anymore. Just slap ’em some powder, me say!

***

We can’t wait for the next Rise and Shine Breakfast Carnival to have more picnic and carnival fun, and are anticipating more new technology to make our lives better. Smelling good for now IS making life better! Thank you Rise and Shine, and Johnson & Johnson, for the fun we had on an almost perfect Saturday!

Disclosure: This post is a sponsored conversation on behalf of Rise and Shine and Johnson & Johnson. All opinions here are my own, including the risk we took to sniff powder to bring you this product review.

Happy days Holidays! Motherkao loves... The Kao Kids

Ten things we loved about our recent vacay

June 24, 2014

I can’t believe I savoured a piece of heaven last week and I’m still feeling a little dreamy about that wonderful place we had our short getaway. You would think that you’d only find such tranquillity and untouched beauty in Bintan, Bali, Boracay or the Maldives (and those by the way, are in my bucket list). But no.

We were in Batam.

Say what?

And although the run down Batam Ferry Terminal, the army of mozzies and the putrid stench of diesel and cigarette smoke lingering in the cabin were the less than perfect things that threatened to mar the perfection for just a wee bit, one only needs to endure it for half an hour (ok, maybe 45 minutes plus the waiting and all) before one arrives to witness this:

View from our villa

Everybody say,” Omm…”

This is Montigo Resorts at Nongsapura. It’s a 30-minute ferry ride from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal followed by a 5-minute drive to the resort. I’m a sun, sea and sky person, so to be taken away from the madness that goes on in our home to be right here made me a very happy person.

Here’s a list of ten things that made me really happy being there:

1. A&W at Nagoya Hill

We gain an hour being at Batam, so when we arrived at 12.45pm, it was only 11.45am Batam time. Since check-in was at 3pm, we paid about SGD40 for a 45-minute taxi ride to Nagoya Hill.

To do what is the most important thing to do when in Batam.

Eat here:

A&W

But is it me or does the food not taste as wow as when I was a kid? The root beer float tasted kinda funny.

Still, it was nice being there, and I was happy to introduce what our childhood was like to the kids. Well, at least for me, this fast food restaurant was memorable because I got to eat curly fries and have a root beer float as a treat if I did well in my exams.

2. Spa, spa, and more spa

At Montigo, I was pleasantly surprised and extremely touched that I had my spa booked in advance. My husband gave me orders to disappear into the spa and emerge a happy person.

I obeyed.

I went for a Javanese Lulur Spa Experience, which involved some deep tissue kneading and a scrub, had a pedicure and a traditional facial the day after.

It was all very rustic, calming and soothing – being there, walking on bamboo and listening to gamelan playing from the speakers with the sound of waves not too far away. I also repaid a few hours of sleep debt.

Spa

Four words about the pedicure though: Cannot expect too much. It was basic and the Spa Ritual polish they used were inferior compared to the OPI I am used to. And it was a good thing I didn’t go there with gelish nails. They wouldn’t be able to soak it off at all.

3. Private infinity pool

Oh need I say more? We went into the pool in the villa whenever we wanted to, however we wanted to. We soaked, we splashed, we swam.

Infinity pool

I jumped. And played a fool.

Jumping Mama

Jumping Mama again

Jumping Mama again and again

And made the kids laughed.

Their father? He dunked them all with clothes on in the still of the night.

In the pool with Dada

And then there was laughter everywhere.

4. Showering under the clouds

I’ve never done this. Have you? Sit in a shower and look heavenwards towards God. Most amazing experience ever.

View from the tub

Most humongous tub I have seen ever.

Bath room and bath tub

5. In-villa private BBQ

We had a chef come in the second evening and fill the whole villa with smells of barbequed seafood and meat. It was another first for the family, sitting by the poolside, enjoying food grilled and served to us on the spot. We ate and ate till we were bursting in the seams, and then we ate some more.

Something's smoking

In villa dining

BBQ Yum

What a life!

6. Cooking while watching the kids swim

Kitchenette

There’s a kitchenette in every villa, and some really basic utensils for cooking over an induction cooker, so we thought we’d do some cooking. There’s only a medium-sized frying pan and a small pot (and they were all badly scratched and no longer Teflon coated) but we managed to make aglio olio, french toast, creamy pasta and wok-fried instant noodles which meant we settled four meals in the villa. We brought a pair of kitchen scissors (should have also brought a paring knife), canned tuna, 3 packets of pasta and our own salt and pepper. While at Nagoya, we grocery shopped for garlic, tomatoes, onions, fresh milk, cheese, ham, bread, Indomie and eggs. There’s only a bar fridge in the villa, so do plan purchases wisely. I thought there would be a freezer and ended up throwing away a box of mini Cornettos I bought for the kids.

It was all very satisfying to be making simple meals and looking out at the pool and the sun, sky and sea those days I was there.

7. Free wifi

I guess if you’re not living under a rock, free wifi is going to make you happy. All our thumbs got quite busy and it was satisfying to be able to stream videos (we watched Running Man on the first night, heh), check FB and post pictures on Instagram.

8. Beautiful sunsets

I shared in an earlier post that witnessing the sun setting and disappearing into the horizon was one of the most magnificent moments I could share with my kids. And you know what I got them all to do? We closed our eyes and pretended to paint the sunset, “ate” cotton candy clouds and imagined the clouds to be what we thought they could be.

Sunset 5

How many moments like these would I be sharing with the kids in my lifetime?

9. Sky terrace

The third floor of the villa leads to a sky terrace that has plenty of space to run and look out into the hues of blue that’s before our eyes. Here, we take deep breaths and say a million wows, just like being on top of the world.

Sky terrace

10. Happy kids, happy husband, happy helper, happy me

Needless to say, we’ve all had a great time (even the helper had fun) and this goes down in our memory bank as a beautiful vacation that we’ll remember for a long time.

P/S: This is not a sponsored post nor a review of Montigo Resorts. This is me reminiscing the vacation, feeling grateful for everything and sharing with all those who’s been asking us to tell them more about that wonderful place.

PP/S: For more pictures of sunsets captured by the husband, see them all in my first post here.

Everyday fun! Family life as we know it Happy days Homelearning fun Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

All play, no work, happy kids!

June 24, 2014

Is it the last week of the June holidays already?

This month-long vacation was all play and no work for the kids. Not the child labour kind of work, but I have had grand plans to do lots of revision with the kids like a seasoned, experienced teacher (ahem) that I am so as to help them consolidate their learning.

I had planned to revisit all the 小书 from Berries, test them on all they have learned for Math using pop quizzes, read our graded readers that’s been languishing on the shelves, begging “Read me, read me!” (Poor Peter, Jane, Biff, Kipper and Chip), and introduce some Science concepts through sensory play.

Ah, how ambitious I was.

I started the holidays also prepping this box with a stack of activity sheets for each of the kids and instructed them to go find their folder whenever boredom struck. I told them to be sure to check that box often because they would be finding new things every now and then.

This was called the "I AM BORED" Activity Box

This was called the “I AM BORED” Activity Box

The idea was nothing else but a good idea; the kids couldn’t even be bothered with the box.

I painstakingly washified their names and slotted in things for them to do. Not too fun, apparently!

I painstakingly washified their names and slotted in things for them to do. Not too fun, apparently!

Sigh.

They found entertainment every day with one another in lots of pretend play…

The kids pretended to be pirates and laid booby traps

The kids pretended to be pirates and laid booby traps

Interspersed with unscheduled moments of reading and suddenly wanting to work on some activities…

The boys sharing a moment together exploring a book, which happened all so suddenly. Moments before that they were swordfighting!

The boys sharing a moment together exploring a book, which happened all so suddenly. Moments before that they were swordfighting!

I made this for Nat and he likes doing this (but never gets past more than 10 letters) - this is a matching activity using magnetic letters and a laminated paper letter chart

I made this for Nat and he likes doing this (but never gets past more than 10 letters) – this is a matching activity using magnetic letters and a laminated paper letter chart

Drawing (A LOT)…

They can be playing and laughing, and then suddenly the house would be silent and I would find the kids at their desks doing this!

They can be playing and laughing, and then suddenly the house would be silent and I would find the kids at their desks doing this!

And going out a lot for events, outings and a really nice holiday.

Storytelling at Sentosa Playmobil Event

Storytelling at Sentosa Playmobil Event

At Montigo Resort for our short getaway

At Montigo Resort for our short getaway

At the new Sports Hub watching World Club 10s Rugby

At the new Sports Hub watching World Club 10s Rugby

I think this is the life for any kid, and maybe it was a good thing I got nothing in my list of grand plans done afterall.

Just look at how happy they have been all month long!

Happy kids!

Happy kids!

Going Out! Happy days Holidays! Motherkao loves... The Kao Kids

Of sunsets and beautiful moments

June 23, 2014

We just returned from a short getaway at a place you would least expect a piece of heaven.

There, at our vacay villa, we witnessed the most gorgeous sunsets for three evenings in a row, watching the golden sun dip into the horizon right before our very eyes.

We’ve learned the last three days that no two sunsets are ever the same. That’s how marvellous the God who created all these would paint each of His masterpiece.

Sunset 1

Sunset 3

Sunset 2

Sunset 4

We were very blessed to have someone so generous towards our family extend an offer to stay at this beautiful home away from home for four days. Who would have expected to find this piece of heaven just half an hour away from bustling Singapore?

For four days here, we made beautiful memories as a family together.

In the pool with Dada

Good times

Great times

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More play with PLAYMOBIL, all thanks to Sentosa’s Storytelling Comes Alive!

June 16, 2014

One of the most awesome things about having children is that you can be thoroughly entertained for hours watching them play pretend.

I watch my firstborn, who is five this year, do that with all his Lego people and Transformers. I hear him voice different characters and witness the drama and conflict unfold. I watch my little girl, who is turning four next month, talk to stuffed toys, take them to tea and organise all sorts of themed birthday celebration for Care Bears, Barbies, her favourite bolster and teddies. And with my littlest who is two years old, I am hearing him impersonate Captain America, Batman, Superman and Spiderman in all sorts of voices and going on rescue missions on his own, by himself. The kids play together at times but as quickly as they can gather to play together, they can also very quickly break away to immerse in their own worlds of play.

It’s all very amusing, I tell you. But I do enjoy every minute of being amused this way.

I’ve heard good reviews about Sentosa’s annual ‘Storytelling Comes Alive!’ event but hadn’t had the opportunity to check them out the past years. This year’s tie-up with PLAYMOBIL seems too exciting not to miss. With the kids huge on pretend-character-play these days, Sentosa’s ‘Storytelling Comes Alive! With PLAYMOBIL’ this year had me swearing to myself that I must bring the kids to go get their imagination fuelled!

So on a hot, scorching Wednesday afternoon we went…

Sentosa_The State of Fun

Giant PLAYMOBILS at Palawan Beach!

And they are everywhere: a giant Fairy PLAYMOBIL!

And they are everywhere: a giant Fairy PLAYMOBIL!

…Where we first checked out the Little Hands and Minds craft corner and had some craft done. We had wanted to catch the story of ‘Prince Plucky and the Treasures of the Ocean’ at 2.30pm but were late for it, so we thought we go get our hands busy instead.

Little Hands and Minds_Watering Can_Ben

Focused…

Little Hands and Minds_Watering Can_Nat

As usual, someone doesn’t know what to do…

Little Hands and Minds_Apron Decorating

We made an apron for the Princess!

Ben and Nat did up their watering cans, while Becks and I worked together to embellish and put some designs on an apron. It’s only $5 per activity, and if you come on a Monday, you get a 1-for-1 deal.

The kids then had their fun at the PLAYMOBIL play pits and needless to say, the boys gravitated to the dragons and dungeons and castles and started making all sorts of crashing and roaring sounds, complete with evil laughter, while the little girl just sat where the pink things were to la-la-la away. The heat didn’t deter anyone from having fun, although the adults that brought them there were fast melting and screaming for air-con.

Playmobil Play Pit_ Boys and Castles

The boys getting really excited now…

Playmobil Play Pit_ Boys and Dragons

And the grunting, crashing and roaring begins!

Playmobil Play Pit_ Princess for Girls

All these while the little girl was quietly playing away

It was a really hot day, that afternoon. Bet you could hear all of us sizzle like sausages in a frying pan just by looking at these sweaty, sticky kids.

So finally at 4pm, when I heard a voice blasting from the speakers inviting kids to gather at the air-conditioned pavillion for ‘Sun, Sea and Sand with Buddy Cool’, I hurried the kids to get some air-conditioning cool with me. We sat in for a really informative and engaging session on beach safety and Ben and Becks learned a few tips on how to stay safe at the beach.

In this informative session, we learned what the different flags at the beach meant and when it's safe to swim in the sea

In this informative session, we learned what the different flags at the beach meant and when it’s safe to swim in the sea

A picture with Buddy Cool!

A picture with Buddy Cool!

Then the clock struck 5.45. And that was when what really got us all excited began! A giant story book opened right before our eyes, and characters from the PLAYMOBIL fairy series came alive in ‘The Search for the Magical Unicorn’. I loved the whole concept of reading aloud from a giant storybook and selecting some kids to participate as fairies and unicorns, as well as involving the audience to recite chants complete with funny actions. The organisers even gave everyone a crown to get them into their role of reciting their chant. My little ones were thrilled, and even Nat (who usually can’t sit still) was totally immersed in it.

In the story, the PLAYMOBIL fairies and their unicorns came to live, and the children were transported into a world of enchantment and magic. We don’t have many pictures to show, and that’s mainly because the adults, too, were totally drawn into the story!

The Search for the Magical Unicorn_1

The King announces that there’s trouble in Fairy Land…

The Search for the Magical Unicorn_2

And the fairies and unicorns are summoned to help

You have to go check out the storytelling for yourself. It does comes alive, indeed (as the programme is aptly called), and it’s really something the kids should experience. The pictures here don’t do the fun we’ve had any justice at all!

The Search for the Magical Unicorn_3

We had to take a picture with these lovely people who made the story so engaging and fun!

Before we left, we just had to check out the PLAYMOBIL Toy Store pushcarts all over the beach front. The big boy was so awed by the fact that PLAYMOBIL (which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year) was as old as him he couldn’t wait to get his hands on some dragons and knights in the name of family bonding to play with his children.

So. Someone came home having bought all these.

So. Someone came home having bought all these. I hear there are good discounts (up to 15% ) only at the island, and that the dragons are exclusive to Sentosa and aren’t even in stores yet.

The last I heard, the sons and him have fixed up the castle and prepared their dragons and dragon slayers for an all out war with the Transformers Decepticons and Lego Vikings. The little girl also got a princess from her father and I suspect that this lady’s entire existence in the larger scheme of things would be all about being rescued from the knights in shining armour.

It's really late at night and the Kao kids should all be getting ready for bed. But the PLAYMOBIL sets beckon and they are all smiles.

It’s really late at night and the Kao kids should all be getting ready for bed. But the PLAYMOBIL sets beckon and they are all smiles and energetic.

Let the battles begin!

Let the battles begin!

And the last I saw was that of a very happy girl talking to her princess, tucking her in bed; a very talkative two-year-old discussing weaponry with his brother; and an extremely enthusiastic five-year-old losing sleep over the fact that there’s lots of new toys in the living room and that he is going to be playing those toys with his father very often.

Somebody stayed up late to build the sets with his father. Somebody woke up before everyone else to play with it. And this is the same somebody who can never wake up early if he has a lesson in the morning.

Somebody stayed up late to build the sets with his father. Somebody woke up the next day before everyone else to play with it. And this is the same somebody who can never wake up early if he had a lesson in the morning.

All thanks to PLAYMOBIL, an indulgent father, and the event at Sentosa, there is so much excitement in the air with play, play and more play now in the house!

More details:

Take time off for some family bonding with your little ones, and let them explore and learn through play!

‘Storytelling Comes Alive! With PLAYMOBIL’  is happening now at Sentosa till 29 June 2014. There are giant PLAYMOBILS all around Palawan Beach, storytelling sessions, exciting performances, PLAYMOBIL sand pits and play pits for you and the little ones to check out this June holidays – all for free!

Date: 31 May – 29 June 2014 (no stories and shows on Mondays)
Time: 11am – 7pm
Venue: Palawan Beach

Get details of schedules and synopsis of stories here and here.

Disclosure: We were invited by the good folks at Sentosa for the event and given 2 free activities at the ‘Little Hands and Minds’ booth and also F&B vouchers. All opinions here are my own, including how awesome I think it is that they are telling stories and running this programme in mostly air-conditioned comfort. Thank God for air-con!

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Homecooked goodness this Father’s Day’s [Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) Review]

June 15, 2014

I’ve been reading a steady stream of rave reviews of Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) from the food blogs I follow and the parent bloggers that I know. These folks who’s been to the popular restaurant which has been awarded ‘SPH Best Voted Top 10 Favourite Restaurant’ and serves one of the best Assam fish head have all written about how homely 姑妈’s food tastes and how warm they feel eating at the casual restaurant with their families.

Gu Ma Jia Restaurant

Gu Ma Jia: 45 Tai Thong Crescent Singapore 347866

Their posts here, here, here, here, here, here and here were enough to make me salivate and begin planning for a grand extended family outing since last year.

Of course, the main draw, (besides being guaranteed of great food) was the fact that in our world of exorbitant dining out prices complete with GST and service charge, there would be food that’s affordable and NO service charge and GST.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t make a trip down to Sennett Estate located along Tai Thong Crescent (where I also had many fond memories of turtle soup) for any special occasion this year because my father had a stroke. For months he spent overcoming the trauma and slowly recuperating, first at a hospital and then at a community hospital for rehab. He finally returned home last month and is gradually recovering. However, going places like the doctor’s would often leave him feeling dizzy and unwell which also means he’s pretty much home-bound and going out would be more of a torture for him.

So guess what the wonderful people at Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) did? If we can’t go to the restaurant, they’d bring the restaurant to us! I am so touched by the lovely gesture of the lady boss (姑妈 herself!) who prepared food to be taken away so my family can have a homely Father’s Day dinner with my dad in the comfort of his home.

So yesterday, I brought these back for my father:

Sumptuous spread

Glorious, sumptuous spread!

The food may not look picture perfect in these takeaway boxes but I can assure you the food tasted awesome. We ate it the moment they were brought back and it was still piping hot, deliciously fresh and delightfully wholesome. There were no traces of MSG, no choking saltiness as with most tzi char and no cloying stickiness from starchy gravy sauces. Even my dad, who always seemed to have no appetite for anything said that he liked what he was eating.

We had the Special Tofu with Lingzhi Mushrooms and Eight Treasures Vegetables, which my kids loved…

Tofu with Mushrooms

Special Tofu with Lingzhi Mushrooms [$12]

Eight Treasures

Eight Treasures [$12/$18/$24]

It was their first time having crispy lotus root slices, and even though with the taking away the lotus slices weren’t so crispy anymore, they ate them all up and saved nothing for the adults. Bah, these kids.

We also had their Chicken with Ginger and Sesame Oil and I was half expecting a typical black and oily 麻油鸡. Only that I was so wrong about what 麻油鸡 is from 姑妈家. It was my favourite dish last evening and I could drink up the gravy-soup till its last drop. The chicken was cooked in thin slices of ginger, black fungus and chinese coriander, together with the most fragrant Chinese wine. Very, very nourishing indeed.

Chicken with Ginger and Sesame Oil

Chicken with Ginger and Sesame Oil [$15/$22/$28]

Two of the most popular dishes with the adults last evening had to be the White Pepper Crab and their acclaimed signature Assam Fish Head. If you’ve not tried them, I think it’s time to add these two items to your food bucket list. I’ve never tasted anything so fresh, so delicious, so addictive.

The White Pepper Crab at 姑妈家 is cooked using only white pepper from Sarawak and tasted gorgeously sweet and fresh.

Spotted: White pepper from Sarawak at the restaurant counter

Spotted: White pepper from Sarawak at the restaurant counter

Why, but of course. I hear 姑妈 heads down to the market every day to pick the best ingredients for her food instead of having them delivered to her by a supplier.

White pepper crab

White pepper crab [seasonal price]

Which also explains why the Assam red snapper head tasted so heavenly because the flesh from the fish was absolutely firm and fresh. The Assam curry packed a punch with a good balance of spicy and sour although with my first slurp I found it too smartingly acidic! But the curry grows on you, and soon you find yourself drowning your grains of rice with every bit of Assam curry like addiction.

Assam fish head curry

Assam fish head curry [$28]

This, last night, was also Dad’s favourite.

It was truly enjoyable to be eating dinner at the comfort of the home with food that didn’t have its quality compromised despite them being taken away. We were all very happily eating last night, and even my cousin who came with her family to visit tasted and raved about the (leftover) food which still tasted fresh and good two hours later.

Two thumbs up for this homely restaurant with good food. What a gem. What a place with heart.

P/S: Happy Father’s Day, Papa! I hope the food made you glad!

Of daughters and grandchildren

Of daughters and grandchildren

My loving mom and dad

My loving mom and dad

Disclosure: We had the privilege of having this meal, with compliments from Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received from this post and all opinions are my own, with feedback from the rest of the tasters in the family.

***

PP/S: I’ve linked up with some of the most awesome parenting and food blogs I follow so you can also read their reviews of the restaurant, which include Andy’s Sengkang Babies (the man’s got four kids!), Irene’s Singapore Mom Blogs, Mabel’s Amazingly Still, Estella’s So Oddly DreamlikeSeth Lui, Derrick’s SG Food on Foot and The Domestic Goddess Wannabe, who bakes and cooks and shares some of the most mouthwatering recipes, and whom I have the privilege of being acquainted with. I’m still waiting for her permission to worship her. Yes, Diana? Say yes!

All this blog's PR Stuff Happy days Milestones and growing up Motherkao loves... Product Reviews Reviews The Kao Kids

Lights, magic, action! by Philips and Disney

June 13, 2014

I’ve always lamented the fact that there are no night lights that are child-friendly in the market.

By child-friendly, I mean something that is soft, not fragile, and can survive a careful kid accidentally dropping it or a careless one deliberately throwing it. By child-friendly, I mean a light that would stay cool to the touch and not have its bulb explode on us if we leave it turned on the whole night. By child-friendly, I also mean something that’s kind to little eyes with a glow that’s comforting enough, yet provides sufficient lighting so the child doesn’t end up walking into walls and doors if he needs the way to the bathroom lit.

Our night light – other than looking extremely cute – is none of these things I wish for.

Meet Bunny. Bunny’s head is hot to the touch usually after two hours; the light itself though yellow provides such a glare that the kids can hardly fall asleep (which means they end up talking and talking); and I am constantly reminding the kids that the rabbit IS NOT A TOY they can play with because the bulb inside its head can shatter any time. That plus the fact that Bunny is top heavy and often topples while being plugged to an electrical source.

Our Bunny night light

Our Bunny night light

We’ve had Bunny for some time now but I’m always on the lookout for better, more innovative night lights for the kids’ room.

I’ve been told my search is over.

Last month, something wonderful happened. Philips and Disney have teamed up to develop a range of inspiring, magical and playful lighting products to make bedtime easy and fun for the little ones. Since seeing is believing, Philips got a couple of us mom bloggers to come see for ourselves how dynamic lighting solutions can be created at their Philips and Disney Imaginative Lighting ‘Pajamas Party’ Media Event.

Look at this. I could start checking off my wish list for night lights just by being there.

PJ Party

Ok, it’s official. My search is finally over.

This is Disney magic at its best, paired perfectly and flawlessly with cutting-edge Philips technology. The entire lighting range comes with child-friendly features. And I like the child-friendly idea very much. The lights use Smart Philips LED, which means the lamps stay cool to the touch, won’t consume much electricity and the bulbs don’t have to be frequently changed due to their long lifespan. Each light is also designed such that there are no small parts or sharp edges to worry about, and little fingers can be kept safe with velcro cable binders to tidy messy cables away. Add to that, the entire range is specially designed to be held by little hands which means it’s easy to hold and use.

You get lights of every magical possibility, from projector lights that illuminate the bedroom that transform scary shadows into an imaginative wonderland…

From the movie, Cars!

From the movie, Cars!

Princess projector lights

No prizes for guessing how badly the little girl wants to have to THIS projector light (picture credit: Philips)

To these huggable pals so squishy and friendly to cuddle…

SoftPals Mickey and Minnie

SoftPals Mickey and Minnie

SoftPals from Monsters Inc

SoftPals from Monsters Inc: all SoftPals light up when shaken and turns off when you shake ’em again!

And torch lights so adorably fashioned for little hands which are ideal for travelling…

Torch lights

Jake the Pirate hero and Winnie the Pooh will light the way

And night lights that emit a gentle light which comes on with a simple wave.

Sensor night lights

Sensor night lights in five variations: Mickey, Minnie, Winnie the Pooh, Cars and Princess

I can’t remember how many times I went “I want them ALL!” on the inside that evening because I’ve been waiting for things like these to hit the stores.

The kids were thrilled, needless to say, and fiddled with everything that was there at the Pajamas Party with much glee. They were all invited to turn up in their PJs and be ready to be transported to a world of enchantment and magic through light.

Nat checking out the lights - and I didn't have to fear he would get in trouble with wires and electricity!

Nat checking out the lights – and I didn’t have to fear he would get in trouble with wires and electricity!

The Kao kids in PJ having fun

The Kao kids in PJ having fun

And it was a lovely night catching up with some moms from Singapore Mom Bloggers

And it was a lovely night catching up with some moms from Singapore Mom Bloggers

It was an amazing night indeed, coming face to face with innovation at its best, all thanks to Philips and Disney.

As if that wasn’t enough (and I was all ready to go order me some lights), Philips sent us Mr Mike Wachowski who would be taking over Bunny for night duties.

Here he comes!

Here he comes!

Let’s see how Mr Wazowski’s been faring so far.

Soft, not fragile. CHECK. Can survive kid dropping it and throwing it around. CHECK.

Nat throwing Mike

If it can survive Nat, it can survive anything

Not hot to the touch and kind to little hands. CHECK.

Perfect for little hands: It's made of silicone, and really smooth and soft to the touch, even after being lit for many hours

Perfect for little hands: It’s made of silicone, and really smooth and soft to the touch, even after being lit for many hours

Comforting glow, not glaringly bright like our Bunny friend. CHECK. Kids can fall asleep readily and quickly. CHECK.

Mr Wazowski's comforting glow

Mr Wazowski’s comforting glow

Somebody even loves holding it to sleep!

Somebody even loves holding it to sleep!

Can be used as torch to guide one’s way around, and to the bathroom. Not too bright, not too dim. CHECK.

Someone needs company to the bathroom all the time!

Someone needs company to the bathroom all the time! You can have the SoftPal charged or get it to run on batteries.

We’re loving Mr Wazowski a lot more than Bunny. I hear because of the way he’s designed, to be far superior than Bunny, that is, his presence can help children get more peaceful sleep. “Suitable and quality lighting is important. The right night light can help train or correct your child’s sleeping behaviour for better development,” says Tammy Fontana, a child sleep expert.

Mr Wazowski is going to be permanent resident in the kids’ room for a long time, and I’m planning to get Sully when he’s available at the stores. I’m hoping that Disney would soon create Boo to join the both of them because that would make a stunningly complete trio for night duty.

That, and also for the reason that each of my kids can have one night light they can call their own and go to sleep with, and when the nightmare of toilet training for night time starts, they each would have a buddy to accompany them to the bathroom!

Thank you, Philips Singapore, for inviting us to the event, and for sending Mike Wazowski our way!

The Philips and Disney lighting range is available at www.philips.com.sg/shopLED, and from June 2014 at selected departmental, and mother and childcare stores.

The Philips and Disney lights retail at the following prices:

  • Philips and Disney SoftPals: SGD72.90
  • Philips and Disney Light & Image Projectors: SGD38.90
  • Philips and Disney Night Light (Sensor): SGD24.90
  • Philips and Disney Torch Lights: SGD19.90

Disclosure: This post is a sponsored conversation on behalf of Philips Singapore. We received the Philips and Disney SoftPals for the purpose of this review, as well as the Philips and Disney Torch Light in our goodie bag at the event. All opinions here are Motherkao’s own.

All this blog's PR Stuff Becks Kao Ben Kao Enrichment Learning fun! Reviews

Cookies, anyone? [Review of Rush-Me-Not Art Studio’s Holiday Workshop]

June 12, 2014

Making home-made play dough has been at the back of my mind for the longest time since I attended a course on teaching children writing. Getting the kids, especially preschoolers who are starting to write, colour and draw, play with dough is one the best ways to strengthen those little fingers.

And so I made a mental note to remember to make DIY play-dough with the kids this holidays and to sign them up for any dough related classes (baking, clay modelling, whatever) at the nearest community club  if it’s affordable.

And then I forgot and it’s now the second week of the June holidays.

Thankfully – and I say it with gratitude to God and to the people who invited us Rush-Me-Not Art Studio asked if we would be keen to review their ‘Sweets For The Sweets’ clay modelling workshop. The workshop promised to be a fun and tactile experience for children aged 3 and above as it would involve kneading, moulding, pinching and shaping clay to make colourful cookies.

And so to Novena Gardens we went on Tuesday. It was a three-hour drop off class and I was told that Ben and Becks would be in good hands. Here at Rush-Me-Not, the teachers and principal firmly believe in keeping classes small so that they can give the children their fullest attention, along with constant positive reinforcement and encouragement so children can pick up art skills in an enjoyable, therapeutic manner.

I didn’t worry much because when I saw the glee in Ben and Becks’ eyes when they found out they were going to be moulding clay and painting on it, I knew they would certainly be having a good time.

And they did. The folks at the art studio sent me these pictures as testament of the learning and fun they’ve had while at the workshop:

Rush-me-not Holiday Workshop_Clay modelling_1

Rush-me-not Holiday Workshop_Clay modelling_2

Rush-me-not Holiday Workshop_Clay modelling_3

On Tuesday, I had two very proud kids. Just look at what they’ve accomplished in three hours!

Sweets for my Sweet

Those little Kao fingers got their much needed practice for their fine motor skills despite their forgetful mother, got their kneading and moulding fix, and their creativity unleashed painting and patterning on air-dried clay. No wonder they were happy and excited the whole day. They would be glad to tell the whole world they made “cookies”, these children.

Thank you, Rush-Me-Not Art Studio, for inviting Ben and Becks to such an enriching workshop. Now at least if we don’t have the time to make play-dough, I would be happy that they did at least mould some clay this June.

And I know I’ll do good to remember the words of Principal Jealina who shared with me that when it comes to art, never rush the children!

More details:

Rush-Me-Not Art Studio is a Singapore-based holistic art studio that aims to provide an inspiring environment to adults and children alike in their exploration of art-making. Having been around for ten years, the art studio focuses on providing quality coaching, quality art materials and keeping class sizes small so that self-discovery, character development, expression and recreation can be experienced through visual arts and the fine arts.

Rush-Me-Not offers a variety of art-therapy workshops for children and parents, as well as regular classes and holiday programmes. They also believe that children can start learning art young, and even conduct Baby Art classes for 2 to 3 year old toddlers! For more information about their ongoing curriculum and programmes, you can get in touch for trial classes via email at rushmenot.artstudio@gmail.com or call them at 6256 1449. Connect with Rush-Me-Not via FB for the latest news and updates on their workshops and activities.

Rush-Me-Not is located at:

  • 273 Thomson Road, Novena Gardens #03-02, Singapore 307644 (Tel: 6256 1449 | 6254 7398)
  • 195A East Coast Road, Singapore 428900 (Tel: 6348 8608).

AND JUST FOR MOTHERKAO READERS, RUSH-ME-NOT HAS A SPECIAL PROMOTION FOR YOU!

Here’s not one but FOUR specials for you:

1) Quote [Motherkao] when calling Rush-Me-Not Art Studio and enjoy a free trial class (worth $40)

2) Sign up for 2 holiday workshops and get to enjoy 5% off the total fees

3) Sign up for 3 holiday workshops and get 10% off the total fees

4) Form your own groups for any holiday workshop with 2 or more friends and everyone gets 10% off the workshop fees

More details on holiday workshops here.

Here’s what’s offered this June holidays:

RMN Workshop 1

RMN Workshop 2

RMN Workshop 3

The holiday workshops run till 30 June 2014.

Disclosure: Ben and Becks were invited to one of the holiday workshops conducted by Rush-Me-Not Art Studio. We didn’t receive any monetary compensation for this but we got lots of clay cookies and some snacks to fill those hungry tums while moulding clay. All opinions here are my own, and after a thorough interview with the two excited and proud participants mentioned.