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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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Becoming a mother introduces you to the world of baby slings and carriers. I’ve tried my fair share of them – the ring sling, the pouch, and a few types of structured carriers. It’s so important to find the right carrier as it really can make or break your day…and your back. Besides the essentials like diapers, the carrier/sling is the most important item I bring for each outing.

When I discovered I was pregnant with no. 3, I knew I had to find a way to carry baby comfortably while still having both hands free to hold onto the older boys’ hands when crossing the road. Having free hands was especially crucial as I pick the boys after school by myself everyday, and the carpark is big with everything from motorcycles to coaches going by frequently.

I knew I wanted something close to a sling style carrier as I like how cosy slings are for young babies with the cloth wrapped snugly around them, but I hoped for something that could give the double-shouldered support of structured carriers.

I drew up a list of requirements for my ideal carrier:
1 Comfortable and cosy for baby
2. Comfortable for me
3. Easy to use
4. Hands free

In the course of my research I stumbled upon the award-winning Baby K’tan and I was really excited because it seemed to fit the bill.

Awards Collage (updated)

(Updated Mar 2015: Baby K’Tan won another award this year)

 

 

I was given the opportunity to review the Baby K’Tan Breeze, and after 3 months of use I can say that it definitely meets all my criteria! Here’s the low down on the Baby K’Tan sling, and the Breeze model in particular.

About the Baby K’Tan Breeze

The Baby K’tan carrier comes as two loops of fabric joined by a smaller loop of cloth. There’s also an extra safety sash to use for certain carrying positions. It’s a simple yet clever design, functioning as a cross between a sling, a wrap and a carrier. It is as light as a sling but you can carry baby in more positions, as cosy as a wrap but without all the fussy extra cloth dangling everywhere, and as comfortable as a structured carrier but without the bulk.

getting started

The basic structure of the Baby K’Tan

The Baby K’Tan Breeze is similar in every way to the original Baby K’Tan except that instead of being made entirely of cotton, each loop is half mesh, half cotton. I chose the Breeze in white to reflect heat since my aim was to have a carrier that was as cooling as possible.

Comfortable and Cosy for Baby

The Baby K’Tan Breeze is ideal for use in Singapore with our hot and humid climate (for those of you not from here, the temperature is around 28°C on average, going as high as 34°C on hot days, and our relative humidity is upwards of 80% on average, sometimes hitting 100% during the rainy season). We also have the problem of very cold shopping malls that over-compensate for the hot weather.

The Breeze gives me the flexibility to adjust the wrapping material depending on the weather and where I am. Outdoors I adjust the loops such that two layers of mesh wrap baby. On a cooler day, I use one layer of mesh and one layer of cotton. At shopping malls and supermarkets, I use two layers of cotton over baby to keep her warm and snug.

the cotton side

the cotton side

the mesh side - thin and cooling, but strong

the mesh side – thin and cooling, but strong

There are no buckles or rings that get in the way, so the only thing that touches baby’s skin is the soft wrapping of the sling. I have many curious passersby asking me about the Baby K’Tan and gushing about how great the mesh fabric is. The most common comment I get when I wear baby is, “Wow! That looks really comfortable for baby!”

Comfortable for Me

That comment is usually followed by, “And it looks so comfortable for you too!”

This is so important. I used to be an avid user of the ring sling. But for all the things I liked about ring slings (it’s lightweight, folds small so its easy to put in the diaper bag, comfortable for baby), the key flaw was that the entire weight of baby was bourne on one shoulder. That resulted in poor posture and back aches. I liked how structured carriers distribute the weight across both shoulders, but it was bulkier and less cosy for newborns.

Baby K’Tan is like a dream come true in this area. You enjoy all the benefits of the sling, plus you get the comfort of even weight distribution across both shoulders! How great is that?

Easy to Use

Putting on the Baby K’tan is as easy as putting on a T-shirt. Just put the loops over your head like a necklace, put one arm through each loop, and you’re basically ready to put baby in.

Having used ring slings a lot previously, I can tell you that using the Baby K’Tan is a piece of cake. I know many people like the cosiness of slings but shy away from using a ring sling because of the difficulty they have in adjusting the cloth. As for baby wraps, even fans of it move to other carriers because there’s just so much cloth it becomes too hot for baby in our weather. It’s also a bit yucky that the ends touch the ground, especially on rainy days.

With the K’Tan’s two loops, all these problems go away. You don’t need to adjust the length of the cloth, and there isn’t an endless amount of cloth to deal with. The extra sash used for certain carrying positions is not that long, and when not in use it folds into a bag to store the carrier (nifty eh), and is small enough to stuff into your handbag.

The Baby K’Tan stretches out a bit after some use, but like a pair of jeans, it shrinks back to size after throwing it in the washing machine! It’s also dryer safe so you can have it washed and ready for use very quickly.

There are a variety of carrying positions, and most require little (if any) practice at all. My favourite is the ‘hug’ position that I used from when baby was a month old (see this video for instructions to adapt this position for a newborn). Now that Alyssa is more aware and wants to look out I’ve been using the ‘explore’ position too. I’ve also tried the outward facing ‘adventure’ position which, unlike other outward facing carriers, provides a seat for baby rather than dangling her from her crotch.

She sleeps very soundly in the 'hug' position.

She sleeps very soundly in the ‘hug’ position

Enjoying the view in the 'explore' position

Enjoying the view in the ‘explore’ position

Hands Free

I can firmly attest to this. I find the Baby K’Tan Breeze wraps baby tightly to my body and provides enough head support for me to walk without needing to give baby extra support. This completely frees me to hold the hands of my two older boys when crossing the road or walking in the carpark. In fact, at the end of each week when the kids bring home their sleeping stuff from school, I carry baby, my diaper bag, two large duffel bags with their pillows, bedsheets and blankets, and still hold onto my boys’ hands. No sweat.

Me faking jumping jacks with the kids at their sports day

Me doing fake jumping jacks with the kids at their sports day (you really shouldn’t be jumping when wearing baby in any kind of sling!)

Downsides

The main downside about the Baby K’Tan is that you have to make sure you get the right size since the cloth comes pre-looped. It needs to be snug enough so that baby is held close to you when carried.

[Updated Mar 2015]
Baby K’tan used to only show US sizes in their sizing chart. When I bought my first Baby K’tan carrier I mistakenly thought they were in UK sizes and bought the wrong size. Baby K’tan has since updated their sizing chart to show both US and international sizing.

Sizing - International

As the sizing matters, you may not be able to share the Baby K’Tan with your partner if he is a lot larger than you. This isn’t really a problem for me as I have always been the one to sling the kids if they have to be carried for a longer time.

The other downside I found is that it’s a little hard for me to position baby to breastfeed in this sling. However, that’s just me. I personally know someone who breastfeeds her kid in the K’Tan while walking! What I do is I just take baby out before breastfeeding, No biggie. [Update Oct 2014: I’ve since learned how to position baby to breastfeed her and it’s quite easy. The best positions are to cradle her with her legs sticking out, and in the hug position!]

Verdict

I would highly recommend the Baby K’Tan as it’s comfortable and easy to use, and I’d recommend the Breeze model in particular because it’s perfect for our Singapore weather. It’s a product I wish I had when my older kids were babies as it would have saved me a lot of back aches and shoulder pains.

I had wanted the Baby K’Tan to replace my sling for when baby was small, and move on to my usual structured carrier when she gets heavier. But I might consider using this when the time comes as the K’Tan is comfortable and can carry kids up to about 16kg.

Sound asleep

Sound asleep, wrapped up and cosy

— GIVEAWAY —

The Baby K’Tan Breeze is not available in Singapore, but Baby K’Tan has generously provided one white Baby K’Tan Breeze in size M worth US$59.95 to giveaway to a reader!

To qualify for the giveaway, please do the following by 1 Sep 2014*:
1. Like the Baby K’Tan Facebook page
2. Leave a comment below with your name, email address, and share which feature of the Baby K’Tan Breeze you are most attracted by!

Spread the word!

*Winners will be chosen at random.

— UPDATE —

You have been heard!

The White, size M, Baby K’Tan Breeze for the giveaway has already been shipped to Singapore so the size cannot be changed.

But for those of you who are not a size M, Baby K’Tan has kindly agreed to give a 20% discount exclusively for Unlikely Lady of Leisure readers who use the code ULL20*. The discount code can be used if you purchase the Baby K’Tan baby carrier directly from their website here.

Happy shopping!

*The code is valid until 31 Oct 2014.

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I was provided the Baby K’Tan Breeze for review. All opinions are my own.

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The day before Alyssa was born I attended the launch of the new Baby Bjorn Baby Carrier We.  It was a thoroughly Swedish affair, held at the Swedish ambassador’s residence and complete with a Swedish buffet lunch (which was excellent, by the way!).

We were treated to a ‘catwalk’ that showed the evolution of the Baby Bjorn carriers over the years.  I thought it was an interesting insight into the thinking behind the products.  In the 70s and 80s, the carriers were given colours that were thought to be attractive to the child, but from the 90s onwards the carriers were made to appeal to the parents wearing them – which makes sense.

Carriers from the 70s (far left) to the present (right)

Carriers from the 70s (far left) to the present (right)

Interestingly, Baby Bjorn was the first to come up with black coloured baby carriers and it began quite by accident.  Their navy coloured carrier was featured in a black and white photo in Harper’s Bazaar. Readers thought it was black and called the magazine to ask where they could get it from.  It was then that Baby Bjorn realised black was what consumers wanted.

Their new Baby Carrier We is a simplified version of the Baby Carrier One. Like the One, We can be used from newborn to three years and allows for back carrying. We were also showed a snazzy move to let you shift your baby from front to back without taking them out of the carrier nor compromising their safety.

However, you are not able to carry your baby in the forward facing position with the We. And instead of two front safety buckles, We has only one. The other side is securely sewed to the body of the carrier. This makes sense to me though, because when I used the Baby Carrier Synergy when Ellery was a baby I usually only opened the buckles on one side as that was more convenient for slipping baby in.

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The new Baby Bjorn We carrier

The We retains most of the features of the One carrier, but is a leaner, more simplified version. This is reflected in the price as the We carrier is pegged at a lower price point than the One carrier.

If you are looking for a structured baby carrier and can do without the forward facing function, the Baby Bjorn Baby Carrier We could be something to consider. It will be available in Mothercare stores from August 2014.

Meanwhile, the Baby Bjorn bouncer has found favor with Alyssa. After I saw how my neighbour’s kid loved her Baby Bjorn bouncer and how quickly she settled by boucing herself I knew I wanted one. I had given away my previous bouncer after Ellery outgrew it, so was happy to replace it with this. There were a couple of days where I couldn’t put Alyssa down for a nap anywhere else except on the bouncer. Was so glad we had it at home, and I wish I had it from when Asher was a baby!

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Zzzzz

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