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Archive for May, 2015

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.)

I came across a link to Little Passports and was so intrigued by the concept. Jon and I used to travel a lot before the kids came along, doing the whole backpacking on a shoestring thing. Such wonderful experiences! We still have the travel bug in us and would love for the kids to see and learn more of the world and its varied cultures. But with kids, travelling can get expensive. So we are saving many many destinations for when the kids are older and better able to appreciate wherever we go, and better retain memories of those holidays. With Alyssa’s arrival our timelines have been pushed back even further!

In the meantime, Little Passports offers us a way to teach the kids about the world and to explore a new country each month. There are many monthly subscription boxes nowadays, but I’ve never subscribed to any of them. This one, however, really appeals to me and I can’t wait to try it out! Especially since the June holidays are almost upon us!

Each World Edition subscription (for kids 6-10 years old) comes with a little suitcase and a passport (how cute!), a map, letters from pen pals Sam & Sofia, stickers, activity sheets, and other things. Each month you receive a kit featuring a new country, with activities and collectibles. There’s also a world edition for younger kids (3-5 years) called the Early Explorers, and it’s a simplified version that’s more appropriate for that age group. And if you are really keen to learn about all 52 states of the USA, there’s a USA edition too.

The little suitcase and the things that come with the World Edition subscription (Photo taken from Little Passports site)

Each World Edition subscription comes with a map (Photo taken from Little Passports site)

If you, like us, love for the kids to learn more about the world, Little Passports could be for you. I think this will be a really fun June holiday activity with the kids! Perhaps you’ll find that one destination the entire family simply must visit in person for the December holidays :)

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Some stories attract you by their title alone. You just know it’s going be a good story. You just know you’re going to like it. And it certainly helps when the author is known for writing charming tales with memorable characters. The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers is definitely one such story. I knew that my little bibliophile, Ellery, would like it. What a treat then to have the opportunity to bring him to watch it live!

The story is about a boy called Henry who loves books. Except, Henry doesn’t like to read books, he likes to eat them! Big books, picture books, reference books . . . if it has pages, Henry chews them up and swallows. Red ones are his favourite. And the more he eats, the smarter he gets. He’s on his way to being the smartest boy in the world! However, he eats too many books too quickly. One day he feels sick to his stomach and discovers that the knowledge he has acquired through book eating is all jumbled up inside. He simply can’t digest it! Eventually he learns to enjoy books by reading them, rather than eating them. He also finds that by reading he can still acquire knowledge, and still be on his way to becoming the smartest boy in the world. It will just take a little longer. It’s a unique story that brings home the message that reading is a worthwhile activity, and that there are no shortcuts to success.

Henry about to gobble up a book

Henry about to gobble up a book

Book goes in, brain gets bigger!

Book goes in, brain gets bigger, boy gets smarter!

The stage adaptation of The Incredible Book Eating Boy really brought out the story and allowed you to understand the main character, Henry, and his unique circumstances even more. I liked how they dramatised Henry getting distracted by a cat (doing a massive poo…) and accidentally having his first taste (literally) of books. Through a clever use of angles, lighting, and slight of hand, the actors managed to make it look like Henry was eating up the pages of the book, eating up whole books, and even several books at a go! Of course the adults would know how it’s done, but I think it wow-ed the kids. Ellery whispered to me, “How come he can really eat books, Mummy?”

I thought the actors did very well at switching roles, in particular Teresa Jakovich and Jo Turner who had to take on multiple characters in the show. They really transformed with each character, giving each one a different manner of speech and unique little idiosyncrasies. My favourite had to be Timmy, Henry’s classmate. He was soooo funny. Loved him.

Henry with his Dad and sister

Henry with his Dad and sister

Besides Timmy, my favourite bit in the show was the segment showing ‘Henry’s Kitchen’, a parody that was a cross between sell-a-vision and a cooking show with books as the ingredients. It was so punny! There were lots of humourous references to famous books that parents could appreciate, and several references to familiar childrens books that the kids could recognise. For Ellery, his favourite part of the show was when Henry learned to enjoy reading, rather than eating, books.

After his terrible bout of indigestion, Henry doesn't want to eat book anymore!

Henry cannot stomach the pile of books anymore

I liked how the set and props were inspired by books. The backdrop was of pages of a book, the stage was marked with a boundary of books, the stools were piles of books, and the cleverest part was having props that looked like books which opened into a table complete with pop-up salad bowls and cups! I also liked how the style of the set and props stayed true to Oliver Jeffers’ beautiful and quirky illustrations in the book, right down to Henry’s medal for being the smartest boy on earth.

The smartest boy on earth!

The smartest person on Earth!

It isn’t always true that a good book translates to a good stage adaptation, but CDP theatre producers did a great job. Even though they elaborated on parts of the story, they did not detract from it. I would say their version made the book even more appealing!

On the way home, Ellery told me about how he couldn’t find a particular book and said he was certain Henry must have eaten it up! :)

image

Eating the book eating boy

Presented by ABA Productions, The Incredible Book Eating Boy runs until Sunday 24 May and I think there are still tickets for the 430pm show. If you’ve got no plans, it would definitely be worth your while catching this production! Tickets are available via the SISTIC website and ticketing hotline (63485555).

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We received complementary tickets for this show. All opinions are my own.
This post contains affiliate links.

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Bolster

This is what happens when your brother thinks you are cute and cuddly.

Ellery: "Mummy! Why is my bolster moving?"

Ellery: “Mummy! Why is my bolster moving?”

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How overdue can this get?? :)
Finallt got down to finishing the post on Alyssa’s party held in May!

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What a packed day it was to be! There was another party on the same day as Alyssa’s. That would be in the morning, while hers would be in the afternoon. Jon brought the boys, so I was left to prep the room while taking care of Alyssa at the same time.

Before that though, we started the morning playing and cuddling on our bed. It was a nice time of family bonding before the hectic day began :)

Sibling love

Sibling love

Squeezing together for a family shot :)

Squeezing together for a family shot :)

All the Logistics

This was the first time I had an empty function room as a blank slate for a party. All our previous parties for the boys were either held in our home or somewhere with a play area. So there was always the home decor, or the decor of whichever venue we were at, and all I needed to do was embellish a little. A blank slate was a different proposition altogether. How do I make the place look cheerful and provide the kids some entertainment while on a budget? The room had plain white walls and nothing besides tables and chairs.

An empty room - my blank slate

An empty room – my blank slate

In the end I decided to go for paper decorations as I thought it’d be easier to prepare. I saw on pinterest some instructions for making pompoms that seemed pretty manageable, and bunting didn’t seem like too difficult a task.

What colour scheme then? For lack of a better option, we went with colours that would match the Alyssa’s dress. Sounds funny right? Yes, I thought so too haha. It was a hand-me-down dress that I didn’t think much of while it was on the hanger, but one day when we put it on her, she looked so sweet and lovely I knew I wanted her to wear it for her birthday. Jon and I have never been the kind to give too much attention to what the kids wear, but we both agreed in this instance that the dress was perfect for the occasion.

The dress and matching papers for the decorations

The dress and matching papers for the decorations

Pom poms and bunting - I liked these so much they are now hanging in Alyssa's bedroom :)

Pom poms and bunting – I liked these so much they are now hanging in Alyssa’s bedroom :)

It's not much, but I think the décor makes the place seem more festive

It’s not much, but I think the décor makes the place seem more festive

What entertainment? With so many kids on the list, we agreed there had to be a baby/toddler area and an area for the bigger kids. We decided to go with the ever popular bouncy castle for the older kids, and a ball pit for the young ones. I never expected the price difference between different companies for bouncy castle rentals to be so great. For one of the models I was looking at, one of the better known companies quoted me upwards of $400 excluding delivery and extra charges for each flight of stairs (there were two). I found the same model for rental at a different company for about half that price, including delivery! The big company had a price-match policy, but when I told them about the price I found, they told me to go rent from that company instead! So much for a price match!

In the end we rented the castle from Kiddom as they had the best price. The one thing I wished Kiddom would have done was to put some foam mats around the castle for added safety. Maybe they could consider including those as part of the rental. Party Mojo also had good prices, but the castles I was interested in were all already booked up.

Some of the kids in the bouncy castle

Some of the kids in the bouncy castle

Boing boing boing!

Boing boing boing!

Down the slide

Down the slide

The bouncy castle. I’m not sure that’s something I would get again for a party. I’m still undecided. On the one hand, the kids really enjoy it. On the other hand, it can well…get out of hand! We had a few scuffles among the more active boys. Thankfully none of the kids got injured from the bouncy castle though. Asher, however, did get his arm hurt in a fall (running on flat ground, somehow tripping and landing badly). He was so out of it after that, he just huddled in one corner for the rest of the evening. To be fair, he said it was very painful (and that’s another story how we went to A&E).

The little ones all loved the ball pit that we hired from The Toy Rental Shop. It was large enough for 8 to 10 little kiddos to be in at the same time. And because the kids haven’t really started walking, they all had sufficient space, and more than enough colourful balls to play with. I loved how The Toy Rental Shop’s ball pit came with a little slide. Alyssa was in love with that slide! She kept wanting to go on it over and over. I think that’s really where her love affair with slides began.

The big ball pit

The big ball pit

Alyssa so excited to see Asher outside!

Alyssa so excited to see Asher outside! The ball pit was indoors, while the bouncy castle was outdoors (to keep the noise out!)

Here Mummy!

Here Mummy!

Little Dean enjoying the ball pit

Little Dean enjoying the ball pit

Alyssa fascinated by aunty Leah's ponytail

Alyssa fascinated by aunty Leah’s ponytail

The bus with the slide at the back

The bus with the slide at the back

Trying to get a shot of all the cousins (but Asher was still huddled in the corner and didn't want to join in)

Trying to get a shot of all the cousins (but Asher still nursing his injury and didn’t want to join in)

The Toy Rental Shop even gave us complimentary goodie bags to give out to the children, so the kids had 2 goodie bags each when they left!

What was in our own goodie bag? I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t really like goodie bags that leave me with a lot of useless things. And I also personally feel that packing it in fancy bags is such a waste because the kids just want what’s inside and throw the packaging away very quickly. So we went with simple brown paper bags (though another friend used them too, and she had a wonderful idea of washi taping them! I think that’s a great idea to prettify the bag a little!), with the contents differing depending on the age of the child. For the younger ones they got baby snacks, a simple Chinese book, and a small puzzle. For the older kids, they got a book and some snacks too, but older kid snacks. I made sure that I got different titles for all the books so that it didn’t matter which bag the kids picked up, they wouldn’t get the same titles as their siblings.

Younger kid's pack

Younger kid’s pack

Older kid's pack

Older kid’s pack

 

For food, Jon and I have always wanted to cater from a prata place and have a live prata station. Having the space of a function room and the wide verandah adjacent to it gave us the opportunity. We went with Casuarina Curry. They were prompt and the food was excellent. Besides prata, we catered nasi biryani and a variety of curries. I was very happy to see everyone ordering prata and enjoying the food. Prata is the best. Add teh tarik, and you are in comfort food heaven. So of course there was teh tarik too!

The friendly chef

The friendly chef

Tucking into the food

Tucking into the food

Prata and briyani, mmm

Prata and biryani, mmm

Chocolate prata was very popular among the kids

Chocolate prata was very popular among the kids

P.A.R.T.Y!

Jon and I aren’t really party people. We like gatherings, but not big parties. But somehow, we always feel that the first birthday needs to be more inclusive, with all the uncles, aunties, grandies, cousins, friends, etc. So the first birthdays tend to be big. I’m really happy to see everyone, but there is so little time to spend with each person. And it’s tricky juggling the different groups of people. Actually, I think everyone is quite happy to make themselves at home, feed and entertain themselves, but as the host, I just feel like I should be doing more for them. When I’m the guest at such parties I’m quite happy to be doing my own thing, talking to people around me, chomping down yummy food, and running after my kids. But when the roles are reversed I worry about the people getting bored, people not enjoying themselves, etc. And then I’m taking care of Alyssa too.

friends

friends

more friends!

more friends!

family

strange family

strange family (in particular the one on the le… ;O) )

little friends

little friends – Jo Jo loved hugging Alyssa that day. Very sweet!

Alyssa with cousin David

Alyssa with cousin David

I had a friend who was so kind to offer to babysit Alyssa for a bit while I had some dinner and spoke to some of the guests. Her own two kids are bigger now, but my no mean all grown up, so I was extremely touched by her gesture. Alyssa seemed to sense that this lady was loving and kind, and thought Alyssa was getting very sticky to me, she didn’t cry when I left her with my friend.

Eat, play, sing a birthday song, blow the candles, cut the birthday cake, and before you knew it, the party came to an end.

Singing the song

Birthday cake time

Standard stunned look by 1-year-olds staring at a crowd of people around them

Standard stunned look by 1-year-olds staring at a crowd of people around them

Cutting the cake

Cutting the cake

Alyssa and her kitty cake

Alyssa and her kitty cake

It’s always a bit anti-climactic at the end of a big party. All the prep, all the effort, and whoosh, it’s over. This party in particular, had so much prep to think about. Less themed stuff than I did for the boys, but a lot more thinking for every other aspect. I was very happy that Alyssa had fun at her own party. The ball pit was a huge winner. Can I say again, I’m so glad we got it! She was happy, we met with family and friends; good food, good company – it was a good party. I really should worry less! :)

And anyway, that’s the last 1st year party we will be doing. Ever! (Or that’s the plan at least…)

Playing with the pom poms the day after in her brand new cat romper that she got as a present

Playing with the pom poms the day after in her brand new cat romper that she got as a present

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My dear little cupcake, oh how you bring us all so much joy and laughter. You are a funny little girl, and we all – your gor gors, mummy and daddy – all love you immensely. You have really lived up to your name which means “great happiness”. You don’t cry much, and when you do there’s usually a good reason. When you were born, you didn’t cry! You just gave a dainty little, “eh!”. As a little baby, you were so quiet your uncle Terrence called you a soft toy. Though after calling you that you decided you hated car rides and would scream through them. Thankfully you outgrew that phase.

You are a little charmer. Everywhere we go people stop to say hello to you. And if they don’t, you wave at them and then they can’t help but stop to talk to you. There were times where I think I needed you more than you needed me. I had a few meetings with people that I was a little anxious about, but your presence always acted as a buffer and an ice-breaker, to the point now I’m comfortable even if you were not there. But I don’t think I would have had the courage without you and your happy presence.

Compared to your brothers, you are so much easier to care for. SOOOO much easier. I start to understand now why people couldn’t comprehend just how difficult your brothers were as babies (well, in particular your eldest brother) because maybe they were more like you, more calm and just easier to manage. I’m so grateful. So, so grateful.

But, like your brothers you don’t like sleeping through the night – why oh why? I look forward to that day. Very much.

Again comparing to your brothers, you’ve had a lot less attention than they did when they were your age. You are basically carted around with me when we fetch them for their activities, and when you follow me to run errands. Though I inevitably have to slow down to nurse you, I find that I’m not with you in the moment as much as I was with them. I’m sorry about that. I guess I’m really just stretched and that nursing time, I can just be still and think about my own things.

But you are so loving nonetheless.

I do love cuddling you so. Your smiles and cheerful presence are so precious. I find myself saying over and over “you are so cute!” though I guess as you get older I should cut back on that because it’s not just about being cute. It’s about having the right kind of values and convictions. I hope that as you grow up we’ll be able to impart to you the right values. And most of all, that you’ll grow up knowing and loving God.

I thank God for you! I love you so much, but God loves you more!

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On the actual day of Alyssa’s birthday things went pretty much the same as usual except we indulged in some flower shopping in advance for Mother’s Day. The cold rooms were…cold, and I hurried in and out a few times with Alyssa to get what I wanted. I gave her a little stalk of her own, and she was so so happy with it :) I suppose girls and flowers really could be an innate thing, huh?

So happy with her flower :)

So happy with her flower :)

My little girl is one!

My little girl is one!

We hurried home so that I could get started on baking her birthday cake. My mum came over to play with her and chipped in to help me cut the triangles for the bunting. My Mummy is the best! How apt that Mothers’ Day was just around the corner. Her actions showed me motherhood really never ends. Your kids can be all grown up, but you’ll still love them and want to help them as much as you can.

I decided on a whim to make a marble cake, and with some leftover batter made a little cupcake for us to cut after dinner as Alyssa’s birthday cake. It was moist, appropriately dense, rich and chocolaty, and just perfect, I thought! I was really pleased and had high hopes for the cake. Alas, the actual cake somehow turned out really really dense. Too dense. I don’t know if it’s because the batter wasn’t very thick in the pans, there was too much mixing, the refrigeration, the pressing down the fondant on the cake, or…I have no idea! At the party the next day, it was so dense it was difficult to cut through the cake! How embarrassing! There were a few guests who claimed they really liked the cake, but I did wonder if those guest were just being nice :)

Happy Birthday Alyssa!

Happy Birthday Alyssa!

blowing out the candle

blowing out the candle

Cutting her little cupcake

Cutting her little cupcake

I also have a new found respect for cake makers who use fondant. It is so difficult to use! Honestly, my cake was so shabby! There were cracks in the fondant, some parts weren’t covered properly. Gosh. Just getting the fondant off the table was a nightmare because I kept breaking it. It was so nightmarish it was funny! I was laughing to myself at just how ridiculous the cake looked :) I think I made the fondant too thin. The instructions were to make it as thin as possible, but that makes it near impossible to lift up without breaking. I also realised too late that I shouldn’t have put the cake in the fridge because when it’s taken out there’d be condensation on it. It also got sticky when I was working with it, and it was only later on at the party that someone told me I had to work in an air-conditioned room. So….I tried my best. Tried to cover up the cracks with little fondant cats since Alyssa likes cats (though Jon said they looked like pigs :) ). It was a simple looking case, but I really put in a lot of effort so was quite pleased anyway. If Alyssa ever asks why I made her such a simple looking cake, I’ll just ask her to make a fondant cake herself so she knows how difficult it is to work it! I’ll stick to using icing and chocolate ganache. If I’m feeling brave I’ll try fondant again.

Cracking fondant!!!

Cracking fondant!!!

Creases and cracks. Ahhh!!

Creases and cracks. Ahhh!!

Cats lounging on the cake

Cats lounging on the cake

Whoops! Little kitty falling off the cake!

Whoops! Little kitty falling off the cake!

Snuggling cats

Snuggling cats

The end result! Kitty cat cake for Alyssa :)

The end result! Kitty cat cake for Alyssa :)

More on the party in another post!

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After visiting the LKCNHM, we went to JCube for lunch and ice skating! The boys had been asking to go ice skating over the weekend for some reason, so it was a good opportunity to scratch that itch and bring them for a skating session.

They had so much fun! And it made me happy to see them enjoying themselves so much.

Ellery with a penguin

Ellery with a penguin

Trying to balance on the ice

Trying to balance on the ice

We changed the penguin to a seal so that they could take turns riding on it. It was also more stable for Ellery when using it as a support.

We changed the penguin to a seal so that they could take turns riding on it. It was also more stable for Ellery when using it as a support.

Taking turns

Taking turns

Asher managed to skate on his own :)

Asher managed to skate on his own :)

Skating is fun!

Skating is fun!

And to top of a day filled with fun and activity, the boys got to stay over at my parents place. They love going there for sleepovers. So it was a perfect ending to a fun-filled day :)

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I confess I was a blur Mummy, and didn’t realise that Asher had no school on Thursday until a day before when I heard it from other Mummies! So I felt a bit guilty, but then I was so happy too because we’d have a day to spend together! I decided to let Ellery skip school the next day and that we’d head to the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

I’ve been looking forward to it’s opening since it was first mentioned in the news a few years back. And when the announcement came that it was opened to the public, I was a bit wistful that the earliest we could go was in June. Asher’s in the afternoon session, so there really isn’t any opportunity to go on weekdays, and weekends are out cos the hubby isn’t so interested to venture there. So I was so happy and the boys were very excited about being able to head there to see the dinosaur fossils. My mum decided to tag along too since she had not been there either.

The place isn’t very big, but there are so many interesting exhibits to see. They estimate that it would take 1.5hrs to go through the museum. For kids, double that. We easily spent 3 hours there, and even then there were parts that we didn’t look at in such great detail. There are too many interesting things to elaborate upon here, it’s best you go see for yourself!

There’s no denying that the fossils were majestic, but I felt that they looked a little bit cramped in that space. However, knowing the background to the building and the museum, it’s amazing that we even have them in Singapore at all!

The museum is so much more than just the fossils though. The plants, the insects, the mammals, the reptiles…wow! So many specimens! I remember seeing some of the specimens in the old Raffles Museum of Biodiversity, and though it was small it already so interesting. What more this place where more of the collection can be unveiled. And I love looking at the names of the different creatures because sometimes they have such funny names, like the Old Woman Octopus!

We would have stayed longer if our bellies didn’t demand that we left. We had come in the morning at 1030, and our stomachs were calling out for food. I’m sure we’ll come back again.

Welcomed by a kaleidoscope of specimens

Welcomed by a kaleidoscope of specimens

Mmmmuuaaak. We love you dino!

Mmmmuuaaak. I love you dino!

UUUUMMMMM! I'm a T-Rex and I WANT TO EAT YOU!!!

UUUUMMMMM! I’m a T-Rex and I WANT TO EAT YOU!!!

The fossils of the three sauropods

The fossils of the three sauropods. There’s a light display every 30 mins.

Nice views of the fossils from the second floor

Nice views of the fossils from the second floor

The real fossil of the head still buried in the rock. The scientists were afraid that excavating it could compromise the specimen. So the ones on display are casts of the real thing.

The real fossil of the head still buried in the rock. The scientists were afraid that excavating it could compromise the specimen. So the ones on display are casts of the real thing.

Pretending to be the bittern

Pretending to be the Bittern

I never realised how big frigate birds were!

I never realised how big frigate birds were!

This is the most hilarious mating display ever. He puffs up into a flat plate!

This is the most hilarious mating display ever. He puffs up into a flat plate!

Croc looking scary...

Croc looking scary…

...Until you look at this eyes and he seems a bit goofy :)

…Until you look at this eyes and he seems a bit goofy :) “duh…”

Amazed how the size of the triceretops' leg.

Amazed how the size of the triceretops’ leg

 The Japanese Spider Crab has the largest leg span of any arthopod, and can reach 3.8m end to end! 

The Japanese Spider Crab has the largest leg span of any arthopod, and can reach 3.8m end to end!

Compare it with the Coral Spider Crab which is one of the smallest crabs in the world. They seldom exceed 2mm in length!

Compare it with the Coral Spider Crab which is one of the smallest crabs in the world. They seldom exceed 2mm in length!

The most boring specimen in the museum. The Boring Giant Clam.

The most boring specimen in the museum.
The Boring Giant Clam.

Old Woman Octopus

The wrinkly Old Woman Octopus. 

Beautiful colours on the nymph!

Beautiful colours on the nymph!

Pterosaurs!

Pterosaurs! Ellery was sooo excited to see them!

Funny flattened specimens. Probably because people wanted to find an easy way to transport them.

Funny flattened specimens. Probably because people wanted to find an easy way to transport them in the past.

Most of the bird specimens were preserved with their legs and wings tucked in, and it seemed quite normal. But I couldn't help laughing when I saw this Barred Eagle-Owl. The expression on his face made me think of a superhero diving to save some innocent people from baddies! "I'm coming!"

Most of the bird specimens were preserved with their legs and wings tucked in, and it seemed quite normal. But I couldn’t help laughing when I saw this Barred Eagle-Owl. The expression on his face made me think of a superhero diving to save some innocent people from baddies! “Here I come to save the day!”

Do take note that you need to purchase tickets from SISTIC before you go down to the museum. They do not sell tickets at the museum itself. This is done to ensure that the museum doesn’t get over-crowded. There are 6 visitor sessions each day that you can choose from when purchasing your tickets, and entry is strictly by session timings only.

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Faculty of Science
National University of Singapore
2 Conservatory Drive
Singapore 117377

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