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Archive for the ‘local excursions’ Category


It’s Octoburst time!

Last year’s activities were so engaging that we went back again and again and again. The boys loved the hands on activities, the performances, and the book swop. Each time we went, we spent hours at the Esplanade, and even then I had to drag them away when it was time to go home. This year’s Octoburst promises another fun-filled, activity-packed programme to treat your kids this Children’s Day.

Held annually at the Esplanade, Octoburst provides a host of activities – free and ticketed – for children to explore a world of endless possibilities through the arts. This year there’s also a cute new, colourful mascot called PIP that will make its appearance at Octoburst.

PIP! Looks like a cuddly, colourful merlion to me (Image taken from here.)

Among the ticketed events, there’s a Sensory Walkabout where children will be guided to notice the textures around the Esplanade and use these as inspiration to create a whole new city.

Go on a sensory walkabout (Photo credit: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay)

There’s My Bright-Light Idea workshop where you and your child will transform a piece of cardboard into a brand new night-light that you can bring home.

An upcycled lamp (Photo credit: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay)

And if crafting is not your thing, join a ukelele workshop with your child and learn to play an instrument together. There are also several shows, including Casa by La Baracca Testoni Ragazzi, which tells the story of a grown-up and a child who meet, get to know each other and start to build. Building turns into play, and little by little, they build a story, a structure, a roof, a house. Sometimes the little one pretends to be the grown-up, while the grown-up pretends to be the little one.

Building with pipes (Photo credit: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay)

The one I’m definitely not missing is the Dance Appreciation Series: Introduction to Swan Lake by the Singapore Dance Theatre. I like this series of performances and think it’s great they present ballet in an accessible way to children. We’ve gone for Nutcracker, and the Introduction to Ballet Classics, but the boys’ favourite so far has got to be Romeo & Juliet! I’m hoping Swan Lake will be as good and they boys will thoroughly enjoy the show. It’ll also be Alyssa’s first ballet related show, so I really can’t wait!

Swan Lake (Photo credit: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay)

There’s actually one more show called Spot that plays with light and challenges your children to notice things they normally wouldn’t have, but’s sold out already. If you are interested in the other ticketed events, you should book your tickets quick.

Besides these, there are plenty of free activities! So many that you better take a look at the line up and plan your time if you hope to catch all the ones you are interested in! You can print out this festival guide to help you along. Some of the highlights include A Pipe-ful Play Garden by Playeum where you can grow your own little pocket garden and together with other kids, build a living and ever-growing pipe-maze! I think the kids will love this, and I’m hoping the haze will go away this weekend so we can head outdoors to try this activity.

There’s also Doodle City where the kids can add their own touches to doodles by the Band of Doolers, Book Stop where you can bring along a pre-loved children’s book to exchange for another book, Happy Stamping activity with over 200 stamps to choose from (and which kid doesn’t love stamping??), storytelling sessions, and the chance to let your kids watch an angklung performance by Sri Warisan Angklung Ensemble.

Stamps galore! (Photo credit: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay)

There’s lots going on, and there’s no better place to spend the Children’s Day weekend with your kids! See you there!

Octoburst is on from 9 to 11 Oct at Esplanade Theatres by the Bay. The activities take place at various locations around the Esplanade.

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I’ve been wanting to bring the kids to the DreamsWorks Animation and The Deep exhibitions at the Art Science Museum for a long time. We tried during the National Day weekend when the entrance fee was waived, but the queue was so ridiculous there was really no point. I had to humbly concede my husband was right (he was against the idea of going down during the busy weekend, but let me try anyway).

Hubby had said he wanted to go for the exibitions, so we waited for him for more than a month. But since the DreamWorks exhibition is ending on Sunday, and since he’s gone on holiday with the friends without us, we decided to go without him! Wahaha!

If you haven’t gone for the exhibition, go!

I have two good reasons for you. First, both exhibitions are so interesting and one ends this Sunday! Second, it’s a great place to hide from the haze!

Penguins from the show Madagascar

Penguins from the show Madagascar

The day we went, the PSI soared above 300. We were happily oblivious to it all since we were wandering about below the concrete lotus.

It makes sense to go for both exhibitions because the price for the DreamWorks exhibition alone is $15 (for local adults) and $10 (for local kids), while the price for both DreamWorks and The Deep is $19.50 and $13.50 respectively. If you, like us, were already planning to catch both exhibitions, this is a good deal provided you have the time to spare. It even comes with a free beverage coupon per ticket, and free tickets to the Singapore Stories exhibition.

Staring in awe at a life-sized model of Toothless

Staring in awe at a life-sized model of Toothless

When I told the boys where we were going that day, they were so excited. Catching a glimpse of Toothless from the foyer above made them literally jump for joy, and they couldn’t wait to go see the model.

By the time we got the tickets it was about 10.30am. The kids usually get hungry between 11 to 11.30am. Knowing we usually take a very long time to get through exhibitions, and having two exhibitions on the same day, I decided that even though the crowd was building up, we should go get some food to fuel the kids. That way, when people headed off for lunch, we could continue to enjoy the place. That’s probably the best tip I can give any parent handling the kids on their own while on an outing there. Bring enough food along. Sometimes it’s worth the detour and delay.

We got sandwiches, bread and bananas from Cold Storage at the basement of MBS, then went back into the museum. True enough, just as we were going to go into the exhibition, Ellery said he was hungry. Score! I felt so pleased with myself.

The Art Science Museum has these lovely big benches outside the exhibition spaces, and it’s perfect as a rest stop. Ellery ate his sandwich, Asher ate a banana, and as I was getting hungry too, I ate my sandwich as well, sharing some with Alyssa. Hungry kids are not happy kids. And happy kids make a happy mummy. So it was time well spent!

Finally all fuelled up and ready to go, we jumped into the DreamWorks Animation exhibition. We have only watched a few DreamWorks cartoons, but the ones we have watched, we love. In particular, the boys are gaga over How to Train Your Dragon. Recently I found a book called How to Train Your Dragon: Incomplete Book of Dragons by Cressida Cowell, the creator of the How to Train Your Dragon Series that served as the inspiration for the movie. The boys have been talking about all kinds different types dragons mentioned in the book and which ones they want as pets. It’s times like those that make me very glad they both enjoy reading, so they can keep up with each other and have someone to talk to about the craze of the moment. They’ve long gone past the stage where I can keep up with their books, so I’m glad they have each other.

The exhibition brings you through the broad stages of creating an animated film. From imagining the character and his traits, developing the world the character lives in and where the story takes place, to story boarding and the animation itself. It was fascinating to see what some famous characters, like Shrek, looked like in the initial stages of development.

The Shrek & Donkey we are familiar with

The Shrek & Donkey we are familiar with. Come to think of it, it would probably have been more interesting to have taken a picture of an early-stage Shrek. Didn’t think of it while I was there – you’ll just have to go see it yourself!

It was also interesting to learn that the main characters from Madagascar were created based on a different shapes.

Shapes and characters

Shapes and characters

I liked how there were videos of the creators talking about the films and their development. For How to Train Your Dragon, they adapted the story to make it more suited to a cinematic experience. They created greater tension between the villagers of Berk and the dragons by starting the movie on the context of a war between the humans and the evil dragons. In the original story, everyone has a pet dragon. I liked that the boys understood how the movies may not follow the book exactly, and later on in the car, they were telling me what they liked more from the show and what they liked from the book.

Comparing the number of story boards needed for each film

Comparing the number of story boards needed for each film

I was so excited to see the actual set/prop used for Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit. I love Wallace and Gromit!

Cheeese! *waves hands in air*

Gromit

Gromit among the veggies

There were props and scale models of the sets used in the various films, and I loved looking at how detailed everything was.

Isle of Berk

Isle of Berk

Right down to the little sheep you see appear in the show

Right down to the little sheep you see appear in the show

Far Far Away

Far Far Away

The best thing about the DreamWorks Animation exhibition is that it’s very interactive. The boys enjoyed manipulating the facial features of the Hiccup, and controlling the background lighting for The Croods. Its fascinating to see all the parameters you can choose to control the characters face. Even different parts of the eyebrow were controlled with a different set of parameters. It then dawns upon you just how much time and effort is needed to make the films that we watch. All the expressions, every single one of those quick moments was created painstakingly by someone in the studio. Much less painstaking than it must have been way back when animation first began, but with technology they take everything further and even control things like how much light from fireworks you want reflecting off the character’s skin!

Manipulating facial features

Manipulating facial features

The kids loved the ‘ride’ on Toothless’ back, and it was Ellery’s favourite activity. Sitting in front of a very wide, curved screen, you can imagine sitting on Toothless and flying over Berk. Make sure you sit nearer the screen so that the two ends of the screen are beyond your field of vision. That really helps to immerse you in the experience. Each film was only 3 minutes, and we watched it several times until the kids were satisfied :)

Riding on Toothless!

Riding on Toothless!

Asher’s favourite bit was having a go at animation. There was a room with 5 to 6 animation stations set up. You could create your very own animation from any drawing you wanted. Asher created an animation of toothless bending and flying over another giant dragon, nearly getting eaten in the process. Ellery’s animation showed dragon #1 (there was a name but it was so long I don’t remember ;) ) happily frothing up the sea water when suddenly another dragon (with a name that I also don’t remember) leapt up to eat it.

This was where our eat-before-the-exhibition tactic worked to our advantage. We got to the animation room around noon when most of the crowd had left. The boys still had to wait while others finished up their animation, but there weren’t that many people. When they got their turn they could draw more and create more images to make a longer animation sequence. Later as more and more people came, and with the stares and frowns from hovering parents, everyone had to have a shorter turn.

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Using the animation station

Ellery

Ellery’s dragon

We popped in to ‘ride’ on Toothless one more time before heading out to the common corridor for a quick lunch break before going to The Deep.

Toothless browsing some books

Toothless browsing some books

Lunch!

A quick lunch

Read more on our experience at The Deep soon!

 

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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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So I think I’ve completed my transition to the East. I bought a bike! Cycling is so common here. Much more common than it was at our old place. So many people cycle, and it’s probably because of the flat terrain here. There are all kinds of bikes. Cool, new technology bikes, old uncle bikes, ladies bikes, road bikes, etc.

I got such an orbit (Singlish for gaudy or not very nice looking) bike, but it is growing on me.

I decided I needed a bicycle because I can’t keep up with the boys on foot. They end up having to wait for me, and we can’t go very far in the limited time we have for outings to East Coast park from our home.

I didn’t spend very much time researching bikes or anything like that. I just wanted something that would work. A basket, a baby seat, a back rack, gears, and a low slung front (the ‘ladies’ bike). I went to all of 2 shops before making my purchase. The first visit was before I decided what my criteria was, the second was after. I went to Chin Hong Cycle Co. and basically purchased the only ladies bike they had that had adjustable gears (most don’t have it). It was white with purple accents (including bursts of petals…), and as I cycled off in the bright noon sun I discovered the cables were sparkly! You wouldn’t be wrong to say my bike looks very girlie. Very uncharacteristically girlie for me, I think. But like I said, it’s growing on me.

Bought my bike from this shop at Joo Chiat

Bought my bike from this old school shop at Joo Chiat. The people there are so friendly and helpful! That’s my bike in the middle.

I think I’m going to name it Rarity. Because it looks like Rarity! Who is Rarity? This is Rarity!

Hahahahahaha.

Yes, even I cannot believe I’m doing this.

But really, it’s white, with purple, and has sparkly things…And I kinda like the My Little Pony Series. The boys suggested names like Icicle (too pokey), Snow (too soft), Glacier (too cold). I was at first thinking hard about spray painting over the petals or the words, but I think I’m starting to embrace my bike for who it is. Rarity the pony is concerned about beauty, is particular about not getting dirty, is quite ditsy. Quite unlike me I think, but I think we’ll get along fine.

I’ve taken Alyssa for a spin in the bike and she loves it! And Asher likes that we can now go much further for our outings to East Coast park before school.

I can probably go explore more bits of the area that are less car friendly too.

Now that I have a bike again I realise how much I have missed cycling. Growing up I had a mountain bike that I loved to bits and used very often. I had forgotten just how fun it is to ride. That feeling of freedom. Just coasting along. I love it!

Am itching to ride now…

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It was the end of the March school holidays, the weather wasn’t too hot, and we had been cooped up in the house all day, so we decided to head outdoors. We wanted to go somewhere far that we wouldn’t normally go to, as if we were having a mini road trip in Singapore. We ended up checking out the newish extension at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Unforunately there were some trails that were undergoing upgrading works, but we did manage to play at the Junior Adventure Trail for a bit. I had read up on this prior to going and had expected a bigger play area, but the kids had fun nonetheless.

At the Junior Adventure Trail you can pretend to cross a mangrove swamp using a pulley boat, play among pencil roots, and climb about some prop roots. If I didn’t drag the kids away, they could have stayed here to play for an even longer time than they did. They liked racing from one end of the trail to the other.

On the pulley boat. They were competing with another pair of kids

On the pulley boat. They were competing with another pair of kids

Hop hop hop!

Hop hop hop through the pencil roots!

Climb climb climb up the prop roots!

Climb climb climb up the prop roots!

Fishes? Insects?

Hang on tight!

Jumping on giant mudskippers

Jumping on giant mudskippers

We did a short walk to one of the lookout points that had a good view of Johor Bahru.

Look out point. From the road, this structure really blends into the surroundings.

Look out point. From the road, this structure really blends into the surroundings.

JB in the distance

JB in the distance

The one thing that we all really wanted to experience were the mudflats that you could walk through. I thought the boys might not be too keen on the idea because they’d get their feet dirty, but they surprised me by being very excited at the prospect. It was located at the other end of Sungei Buloh, so we decided to drive to the other side instead of walking since the connecting path was closed.

Unfortunately, when we got to the other side the weather took a turn for the worse. There was thunder and lightening, and the sky turned black very quickly. The rain started pelting down and we had to postpone our exploration of the mudflats. But we’ll be back!

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So on my first trip to Parkland Green I walked past Sandbank, a bistro and bar, and immediately knew I had to come back with the boys.

Why?

There’s a pool right next to the dining area! How fun is that? In fact, it’s not just one pool. It’s two! One deeper pool for the adults, and a shallower one for the kids (and adults who wanna sit instead of stand, I suppose).

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Eat. Drink. Plunge.

I was itching to come so on Friday I decided we’d eat out for dinner. Got the boys changed into their swimming gear and we headed there for dinner. While waiting for our orders to arrive the boys hopped into the pool and were so happy! I think a lot of their excitement stemmed from the fact that they were in a pool in a restaurant. It felt like we were in a hotel with a bar in the pool (although you’re not allowed to eat in the pool).

Pool right next to our table

Pool right next to our table

Asher still waiting for his pizza to arrive

Asher still waiting for his pizza to arrive

Ellery waiting for Asher to finish :)

Ellery waiting for Asher to finish :)

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Enjoying the cold water

The water was freezing because it was a windy and chilly night, but that didn’t stop the boys. I chickened out. But they went in, and played until they were warm. After dinner they went back in, but it soon got too cold for Asher who was shivering quite a lot, so I sent him to change into dry clothes. Sandbank is conveniently located right next to the public showers and toilets, so it’s easy to go clean up and change after your dip.

As for the food, we ordered fried oysters, a quesadilla kids meal, a pizza with buffalo mozzarella and rocket, and a mushroom pasta. The oysters were smaller and more crumbly than I expected, but it’s fried food and we were hungry, so it went down well with all of us. I liked the wasabi aioli dip that came with the oysters as it was kept light with just a hint of wasabi in it.

Fried oysters

Fried oysters

All kids meals are served with nuggets, fries, and (a little) fruit on the side. I suppose it’s an attempt to offer a balanced meal with protein, carbs and fibre haha. But it’s certainly kid-pleasing since most kids like nuggets and fries all the time. Ellery sure was happy with his meal. So happy he even ate the grapes, something he hasn’t done in a while! Good job Sandbank!

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The kids meal

Happy kid

A happy kid

The pizzas are all handmade to order so we had to wait a while for ours to come. Asher was starving, but he’s such a pizza monster he decided to wait anyway. I was led to believe it would be quite big since the waiter told me it would be “more than enough” for Asher and I, but when it arrived I thought it looked like a normal individual-sized pizza. Six thin slices. I could have eaten it myself I think. To me, the pizza was just alright. But for those of you who like Skinny Pizza’s crunchy crusts, you’ll like the pizzas here. It’s done in that style – very thin, crisp crusts. I tend to like my crust a little bit chewy.

The pizza

The freshly baked pizza

The mushroom pasta was pretty good though – creamy with a good amount of mushrooms in it. It certainly qualifies as comfort food, especially on a chilly night like that one.

Fungi pasta

Fungi pasta

The food is decent enough and I like the concept of the place, so I can definitely see us coming back, though probably in the day time when it’s less cold. Ellery is already bugging me to bring them back and has been suggesting at every meal that we go there to eat!

And for the men, it’s a great place to watch soccer. You can chill in the pool while watching the game on the TV!

TV near the pool

TV near the pool

Sandbank is located at:
920 East Coast Parkway, #01-28/32
Parkland Green
+65 6247 7988

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I’ve noticed a new place that has sprouted up along East Coast when I drive along the ECP. Well, maybe it’s not new, but it’s certainly new to me. I popped there one day with my ex-neighbour to explore a bit. It’s a stretch of cafes, restaurants, and bars, and even has a sports store and a laser tag arena. So many interesting places to try! I straightaway made a mental note to come back again with the family.

Just one of three stretches of shops at Parkland Green

Just one of three stretches of shops at Parkland Green

She highly recommended Bakery & Bar St Marc. I wasn’t too hungry as I’d already had a very early lunch since I eat with the boys before they head off to school. She ordered the Japanese curry, and I ordered a plate of truffle fries thinking it’ll be a snack size serving. Well, it’s a snack for 3-4 people! Wow, what a big serving of fries. Really great for friends. It’s even topped with two eggs and strips of ham and sprinkled over with grated cheese! A decadent plate of fries. But it serves it purpose as a snack very well. You pick and pick….I ended up almost finishing the entire plate! I didn’t ask how her Japanese curry was, but as she wasn’t raving about it I assume it was just ok. But she did rave about the chococro and made me promise to try it next time!

St Marc

St Marc

Truffle fries

Truffle fries

Japanese curry

Japanese curry rice

The laser tag arena called Tag Team Inc is suitable even for children as young as 4 years old. I’m tempted to bring the boys to try this haha! Will have to see what the hubby thinks first.

Parkland Green is at Area C1 of East Coast Park (just across the highway from Parkway Parade). There’s plenty of parking, but at night it gets full.

 

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