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Archive for March, 2016

Chinese New Year was coming, and in typical fashion I didn’t think about what the kids were going to wear. It’s usually a last minute thing with me.

This year though, Alyssa was in for a real treat. She received a dress as gift from Su Mei, the founder of Sea Apple. Sea Apple is a clothing line featuring fun, modern designs for children 0 – 6 years. The clothes are made with quality fabrics sourced from around the world, and designed with comfort in mind. Su Mei designs all the clothes and she certainly has a wonderful eye for detail.

The Jade cheongsam is just gorgeous! The fabric has this lovely subtle sheen that gives it a more formal air, but without going overboard. Even though it is a cheongsam, which is typically regarded as a Chinese New Year outfit, I can see this dress being worn for any special occasion, be it a birthday party, a family dinner at a restaurant, etc. It is a comfortable dress that allows Alyssa to run around freely. Style and comfort rolled into one – that’s my idea of a good dress! The japanese pearl shank buttons, the pleats at the bottom, the gathers at the bodice, these all come together beautifully in the Jade cheongsam.

To the beach to look for sea apple trees

To the beach to look for sea apple trees

Where are the sea apple trees mummy?

Where are the sea apple trees mummy?

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Picking sea almonds. We didn’t see any sea apple trees that day, but saw plenty of sea almond trees.

Proof of how lovely the dress is? The husband actually noticed what his daughter was wearing! Haha! He even came right out to say, “This dress is really very nice. Where did you get it from?”

He never says such things :)

I was glad to have her appropriately dressed for the occasion, and her dress definitely drew many compliments.

She specifically asked for this clip to be paired with her dress

She specifically asked to wear this clip with her dress

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Playing with cars at a relative’s house

With

Star Wars mania. Going, “zyyying, zyying” with random styrofoam things.

 

Sea Apple has just launched it’s main line as well! You can go check out the clothes at the Boutiques Spring Edition fair at the F1 Pit Building from now until tomorrow (12 March). The main line includes clothes for both girls and boys.

Sea Apple at Boutiques @ F1

Sea Apple at Boutiques @ F1

Lovely set of stamps featuring the Sea Apple tree

Lovely set of stamps featuring the Sea Apple tree

For the main line, what is especially impressive is that Su Mei not only designed the clothes, she also created the print designs on the cloth the clothes are made out of! The theme is “A Day at Sea”, and all the prints have something to do with water or the seaside. Crabs scuttering across the beach, swimmers with flippers and swimming caps, fishing boats, a beach chair, and a map leading to nowhere. I love them all, and I had a very difficult time choosing which design to buy for Ellery and Alyssa. My favourite print was the fishing boats, but unfortunately it didn’t come in the dress design I was eyeing.

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Swimmers, beach chairs and crabs

Maps

Maps to a hidden world maybe

I finally settled on a dress with tiered skirt and swimmers for Alyssa (which I later found out was featured by Travelshopa in their section on whimsical prints), and a t-shirt with crabs for Ellery. Can’t wait for the kids to try it!

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Love the prints!

All purchases come in a lovely box

All purchases come in a lovely box that can be used for keepsakes

You can shop at Sea Apple’s online store for the cheongsams. The main line hasn’t been added yet, but are available now at the Boutiques @ F1.

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Disclaimer: Alyssa was given a dress as a gift but I decided to do a review on it. The clothes from the main line were paid for by me. All opinions are my own.

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There’s a reason why people say blocks are a classic toy for children. In this day and age of electronic toys with all kinds of bells and whistles, humble toy blocks can still hold their own and appeal to children, providing hours of fun.

Not just any fun, creative fun. Yes, blocks are good for your kids! Numerous articles have been written about the benefits of playing with blocks. Among the various benefits, blocks help your kids develop problem solving, motor, social, language, and spatial skills. It also encourages creativity and divergent thinking. What a lot of benefits to reap from playing!

But there are blocks and there are blocks.

My kids have tried playing with other blocks before but it did not hold their attention for very long. So when Pamela from My First Games offered us some (many!) blocks for a review, I was keen because I had seen the amazing structures that could be built with Citiblocs, but was apprehensive about whether the kids would like them or not.

My worries were unfounded!

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Citiblocs comes in a range of colours – Cool, Natural, Warm and Camo. There are additional options of vehicles and trees.

Vehicle set

Vehicle set

Trees set

Trees set

Citiblocs is an award-winning toy that has won 17 Toy Industry Awards. All pieces are made from Grade A Radiata Pine from certified renewable forests in New Zealand. Each piece is lightweight but of good quality. I even wondered to myself if I could pass these on to my grandkids in future. Maybe even my great-grandkids!

The unique thing about Citiblocs is that every piece is precision cut to exactly the same dimensions. It sounds like a simple thing, but this sameness  ensures the pieces fit perfectly and enables you to build extremely complicated structures that are held together only by gravity! There is no glue, no magnets, no connectors, no snaps nor clasps.

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All the same size

Just look at that! The minute I saw the picture below I was completely intrigued by Citiblocs and wanted to try building that structure.

You can see many examples of super structures built by Citiblocs fans – both kids and adults. Yes, adults too! There are many examples online showing the challenging super structures built by groups of adults. Check out this video for just one of many examples.

The boys initially started by following the examples provided in the booklets that accompany each set of blocks. They made simple structures, and were not very good at balancing the pieces on top of one another. But over time, they got better and better at it. They learned when they needed to add more blocks on one side in order to counter-balance the weight of the other side. They learned how to make sure they stack pieces on top of each other so that the tower doesn’t end up tilting and toppling over. They learned the different techniques of stacking and came to have their preferred methods. The growth in motor skills was most apparent in my younger boy. At first he could not build tall towers because he didn’t stack the pieces properly causing them to fall over easily. He would get frustrated and needed my help. Now he’s able to build tall towers on his own.

One of his first attempts at building a tower with Citiblocs

One of his first attempts at building a tower with Citiblocs. He did simple stacking.

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After a few sessions of play he decided to work on building a house

We even brought the Citiblocs out for a picnic once. I used the SG50 NDP bag that every Singaporean household gets and stuffed some blocks in along with a picnic mat. The blocks kept him busy while I kept an eye on my youngest who was running around the playground.

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Block picnic!

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Outdoor play! Make use of your SG50 NDP bag by throwing the blocks in and going to the park.

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Experimenting with building techniques

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A long ramp leading up to a carpark

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Bridge over a river

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Building with a spiral staircase

Spikey pineapple? Porcupine?

Spiky pineapple? Porcupine?

Pirate ship

Pirate ship

The boys play with Citiblocs both individually and collaboratively. Collaborative play is my favourite. Seeing them work together to build something is any mother’s delight. They can busy themselves with a building project for a good long while! This was one of their big projects – three towers with bridges connecting them.

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Working on a bridge between two towers

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Adding finishing touches to the towers

Their completed structure

Their completed structure. The three of us worked together on the crooked bridge.

They were very proud of their structure!

They were very proud of their structure!

Elevated crooked bridge

Car crossing the crooked bridge

They call this the "ang ku kueh" tree

They call this the “ang ku kueh” tree

Here they built a city with an airport, carpark and roads.

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Looks like a mess but there was some order to it

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Airport, control tower and runway

Car park

Car park

And there was another project where they brought in Lego and other toys to play together. We built the train I was eyeing but extended the train tracks. On the carriage was a cage for the dinosaurs, the roof of the train was a landing pad for the aeroplane, while the mammoth was the train driver.

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Another time Ellery made a building and used cardboard to draw the road/lake around it. I liked how the boys brought in other elements to their play and did not confine their make believe to just the blocks.

Drawing the road or lake?

Drawing the road or lake?

My youngest daughter, turning two soon, was initially too young to do build anything with the blocks. Her favourite activity then was to quietly steal the blocks from her brothers and stuff them in her little bag. Now though, she does some simple stacking. I’m sure that in time she will join them to build their tall structures.

"Keep! Keep!"

“Keep! Keep!”

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The boys challenged me to use all the blocks to build something. So I did! A massive vase.

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All 400 blocks

If you are thinking of how to occupy the kids meaningfully this March holiday, and especially if you are looking for something that is not electronic, does not involve a screen, and encourages creative play, you should get some Citiblocs for your house! Even if they only build a really tall tower, one of the best things is the pleasure of knocking it over :)

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Bish!

You can get Citiblocs from My First Games, a store that specializes in selling games for children. There’s a promotion now on where you can enjoy 30% off your purchase of Citiblocs if you enter the following code: CTBTHIRTY. It’s a case of the more the merrier with these blocks, so that’s a great promotion to take advantage of!

Happy building!

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Disclaimer: We were generously given the Citiblocs for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

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The classic story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff was given a fresh spin by The Little Company last year to rave reviews. It was funny and entertaining for both adults and kids. The show is back again, but this time in Mandarin. After our positive experience watching Goldilocks and the Three Bears in Mandarin, I was very keen to bring the kids for this show too!

The story goes that Three Billy Goats Gruff (affectionately known as “Baby”, “Middle”, and “Big”) are a close-knit bunch who graze happily together with their daydreamy caretaker, Little Bo-Frilly. But one day, it dawns on them that they are in the middle of a horrible drought. As the grounds turn a dreadful shade of brown, they cast their eyes to the hill on the other side of the river covered with seemingly fresh and juicy grass. Unfortunately, in order to cross the bridge to the other side of the valley, they will have to take on a frightening troll whose favourite food is – goats!

We were not disappointed at all! The story was just as funny, but with unique jokes that can only be appreciated in Mandarin. The script was witty, peppered with plenty of puns on similar sounding words. From the introduction of 羊 Meh Meh (a play on 羊妹妹 or little sister goat), the boys were hooked. And when 没脑妹 (Little Bo-Frilly, but the literal translation is No Brain Sister) introduced herself, they were left in stitches. According to 没脑妹, she is carefree and has no worries (烦恼) so she is 没脑妹! 没脑妹 indeed!

羊Meh Meh (Baby), 羊小二 (Middle), and 老大 (Big). Photo credit: SRT.

The best part of the story, I feel, is how they twisted the tale to show that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and we should all learn to better appreciate what we already have. I think this is a good lesson not just for the children, but for me as well. We can never have too many such reminders.

The goats with 没脑妹 (Little Bo-Frilly). Photo credit: SRT.

As with the English production, the songs were wonderful! Catchy and original. They were adapted beautifully into Mandarin. I loved how the actors and actresses sang and spoke in such clear Mandarin, making it much easier for children to understand. They also made sure to not speak too quickly.

To be honest, my eldest was a bit mopey when we first went in. “Why must be watch a Chinese show, Mummy?” (Yes, you can tell he just loves the language). But once the show started, he tried to suppress his smiles initially (since he was supposed to be upset at attending a Mandarin show remember?), and after a while couldn’t help himself and started laughing out loud! Hooray The Little Company! :)

My younger boy totally surprised me. From the start he was immersed in the experience. Responding to the actors, laughing at the jokes that he could understand, and overall had a blast! I was so happy to see him really enjoying himself!

I really like this direction that The Little Company is taking to do Mandarin versions of their shows. They have done quite a few now – The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, The Nightingale, The Ugly Duckling and now The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I think it’s great to have high quality Mandarin productions that the children can enjoy. Would love to see more of such shows!

Who’s that trip-trapping over my bridge! Photo credit: SRT.

If you are looking for a March holiday activity to bring your kids for, I strongly recommend 三只山羊!

The show is on at the DBS Arts Centre until 25 March 2016. Get your tickets through the SISTIC website or call their hotline (6348 5555).

 

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Disclaimer: We were given complementary tickets to watch the show. However, all opinions are my own. 

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