We hosted a pre-Christmas potluck lunch party today, where Alf cooked for company for the first time, and survived! He relied on his current favourite quick-and-easy dish, pesto pasta. (He makes the sauce by following the recipe here.)
I hadn’t invited many people. For one, we’re still apprehensive when it comes to feeding others with food made in our kitchen. We kept it to Grandma Agnes and two of her guests, my favourite ex-neighbour Gayathri, and some friends who live nearby. The final turnout was smaller than expected but cozy suits us too.
My preparations for this party were minimal. I picked up budget gifts from Daiso and The Paper Stone, and printed Ed Emberley Christmas drawing pages for the kids. But the night before the party, I decided it’d be fun if I pretended to be Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne for an hour, by coming up with these clues for a mini treasure hunt:
The next clue was hidden in one of Layla’s Heelys.
This led to our book corner.
The final clue was stuck under our coffee table.
Because some of Layla’s friends hadn’t shown up due to confusion over our party’s timing, Layla ended up doing the hunt on her own, accompanied by one of my friends. They found the treasure–hidden in a bowl of pinecones–in less than 10 minutes! I’ll have to up the mystery factor next time.
We were fairly adventurous when Layla was little; we brought her everywhere with us and it wasn’t unusual to see us in some cafe or coffeeshop well after midnight. Layla would nap in our arms or the carrier and we’d give her a bath when we got home at crazy times like 2 in the morning. Somewhere along the way we turned boring and started to impose an early bedtime for Layla, and for Z as well. More than that, we’ve been leaving Z at home whenever we can and he’s hardly been anywhere except to parks and playgrounds.
Yesterday was an exception, because I received tickets for us to check out Universal Studio’s Christmas programme and I thought well, this is as good a time as any to start including Z in our special outings. We were out from 11 in the morning till almost 9, and we saw the weather flip from hot to wet. We were snowed on too, so it was a lot for Z to take in. I think he did well.
All fresh and ready to go!
When it comes to character meet-and-greets, I’m too lazy to queue for a photo opportunity and none of us are particularly eager to pose with the characters. My trick is to stand nearby so I can snap a good picture when the coast is clear! Santa knew what I was up to and he was nice enough to give us a smile and a wave.
At the Sesame Street Stage Show. The weather was still good at this point. Actually the weather people hadn’t predicted rain for the Sentosa area and I was hoping they were right, but it wasn’t to be. After watching this, we took Z for his first ever ride–the Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase–and he cried his heart out. Then we crossed over to the Far Far Away section for the Shrek 4-D Adventure and he spent it tucked under Layla’s arm with his eyes squeezed shut. It was raining heavily when we got out; we waited a while and bought ponchos, and that’s when the rain stopped.
“Let It Snow.” This happens at the start of every hour in the Hollywood/New York section, from 12PM till closing time.
Coffee break. I told Alf and Layla to sneak away and check some rides off the list, and to avoid a meltdown, I had to use the “oh, they went to the bathroom” excuse whenever Z asked about them. Alf and Layla were supposed to conquer the Mummy but Layla changed her mind and they sat in a teacup instead. When they returned, we decided to try something easy, the Madagascar Crate Adventure. Layla’s got a great memory because she kept yelling at Alf to cover Z’s ears right at the end, and true enough, there was a loud hissing noise! Z owes her big time.
“Sesame Street Saves Christmas.” This show runs four times daily, and it’s won an award that’s equivalent to the theme park Oscars.
After an early dinner, Alf had to leave to settle some work matters. The kids and I stayed on to catch the Christmas light show and the toy soldiers’ “Changing Of The Guard” performance, which ends with a snowfall. We didn’t get to see the fireworks display as that only happens on weekends, but that worked out for us because it probably would’ve been too loud for Z.
Candy Cane giving Elf the side eye.
Stealing a few minutes for bubble fun before we called it a night. Theme parks are hard to say goodbye to!
We received complimentary tickets to Universal Studios Singapore; I was not compensated for this post. Universal Studio Singapore’s Snowy Christmas Celebration runs from now till January 4, 2015. Click here for programme details.
When Lazada Singapore offered me store credit to review their online shopping site, I thought, how timely! I’d been thinking of surprising my mum-in-law with an air fryer this Christmas–it’s something she’s been wanting for a few years but we didn’t get her one because we’ve always thought cash gifts were more useful.
Sadly, I couldn’t pull off the surprise. Just as I was about to get on Lazada and pick an air fryer, I heard my mum-in-law talking about going out to buy one! I had to stop her and let her in on what was happening, but well, she was still excited and that’s what matters.
I took my time to pick my purchases. After reading reviews, comparing prices, and deciding what we needed most, I bought a Mayer air fryer for my mum-in-law and a Morries 26L oven for us. This came up to S$159.90 in total, which I think is a steal! I’ll talk more about why I chose those products later, but first, here’s a recap of my Lazada shopping experience:
Price: This is naturally the #1 consideration for me, and there are good deals on Lazada Singapore. For every item that I was thinking of buying, as well as those featured in my Top 10 list below, I checked the price against another popular online shopping site that is well known for its bargains. I found several products where Lazada had the better price, or at least a similarly attractive price. This isn’t the case for every product, so look around and compare prices before buying.
Ease Of Use: The site’s easy to figure out but I did click on the “Buy Now” button by mistake twice when I was trying to view product details instead. To me, having a “Buy Now” button on product thumbnails is an unnecessary feature–yes it could help some buyers save time, but it could also get in the way of buyers like me.
Reviews: Lazada Singapore is fairly new and their product reviews section is understandably sparse, which meant I had to do my research elsewhere. I suppose it’s up to customers like me to help remedy this.
Product Information: Most of the information I needed was available on the site, but there were a few instances where I had to look elsewhere for details. Like for the portable oven I ordered, the product write-up was long but there was no mention of the oven’s dimensions. It didn’t bother me since I was pretty sure we had the space, but I appreciated that another site had those details. Also, when I was looking at blenders, I had to refer to an external source to see if the models I was considering could crush ice. That said, it’s a small issue and it’s easily fixed if they listen to feedback.
Delivery: I placed my orders on a Tuesday. My air fryer was delivered on Thursday (of the same week), and my oven arrived on Saturday. My mum-in-law’s brought her air fryer home and I haven’t checked on her since, but we’re happily getting to know our new oven. I also received notifications via email and SMS, and I liked that I was able to check on the status of my products through a link provided in the email, without having to log in. That said, delivery has less to do with Lazada and more to do with the reliability of the individual merchants and their chosen courier service, so I’m glad everything went well.
To sum it up, this was a smooth-sailing shopping experience for me. I’ve also spotted some of my favourite products at prices that I can’t say no to, like my beloved Paul Mitchell tea tree oil shampoo and Macadamia hair oil, and I’ll be back on Lazada soon enough. For now, I’ll leave you with a Top 10 list of household appliances to check out on Lazada Singapore. The images below are clickable, except for #7:
1. CORNELL Hello Kitty Pop Up Toaster, S$36.90: Love the colours, and it’s going at S$39.90 elsewhere.
2. CORNELL multi-function cooker, S$64.80: I would’ve appreciated something like this if I were still renting! Spotted at S$68 elsewhere.
3. Taiyo electric kettle, S$19.71: Again, this is priced lower than at the other site I was checking.
5. Morries 3-in-1 breakfast maker, S$44.90: This would’ve been great in my rental apartment! Spotted elsewhere at a higher price.
6. Electrolux dry iron, S$11.90.
7. Philips Air Fryer, S$199: This is a good deal but it doesn’t show up all the time on Lazada. If you’re looking to buy a Philips air fryer, be patient and look out for this deal on Lazada’s air fryer section.
8. Takahi crock pot, S$29: If you’re wondering about the brand, there’s a review here.
9. Morries 26L oven, S$60: This is the oven I bought. I spotted it at S$88 elsewhere so I figured it was a good deal, also, the reviews were decent. Portable ovens have their quirks and we’ll have to familiarise ourselves with our oven’s behaviour, but a friend has loaned me an oven thermometer so we won’t have to play temperature guessing games.
10. Mayer Air Fryer, S$99.90: I deliberated between this and the Philips air fryer, and in the end price won out. People who’ve bought this seem to be happy with it, and a friend even told me that she’d heard it was just as good as the Philips. Fingers crossed that my mum-in-law is enjoying her present!
I received store credit to shop on Lazada Singapore; I was not compensated for this post. Photos are courtesy of Lazada Singapore.
We haven’t needed a plan for the school holidays because Layla’s gymnastics training has been stepped up and my head is swimming with dates, times, and venues to remember. If training’s in the morning, Layla’s happy to rest and relax at home in the afternoon. If training’s in the afternoon, we can’t stray too far from home in the morning. Even though it’s the holidays, we still prefer for the kids to have an early dinner and sleep by 9 at the latest; that’s limited our range of activities to the park and playground variety, which we’re fine with anyway. Thankfully the gym coaches will take a break mid-month and we can get back to our old routine of chilling out by ourselves or with friends.
Is this healthy for Layla? Yes I think so. The signs were there that she wanted to feel “special” in some way and her gym training is giving her a sense of accomplishment while promoting good values, i.e. train hard and you’ll see obvious improvements in your flexibility and technique. She can do a decent split now–she couldn’t after four years of ballet. Not to blame the ballet school of course, because that was a 1 to 2-hour per week affair whereas she’s currently training for up to 14 hours per week.
The other interesting thing to me is that I’ve been watching Layla when she’s around her classmates and when she’s around her gym mates. Layla’s more subdued around her classmates and she’s content to let her best friend take the lead. She doesn’t necessarily say much but she’s comfortable. I saw a very different Layla when I took her out to play with her gym mates earlier this week; she was as loud and assertive as the others and it was surprising to see this version of her emerge. These girls don’t get to talk much during training, but perhaps just being side by side and occasionally suffering together helps to foster closeness more than being in a classroom situation.
Well that’s our holiday so far. Besides gym, we’ve managed to work in two birthday parties, a movie (Big Hero 6, better than I’d expected), and a few dates with old and new friends. We’re also heading to Universal Studios next week to check out their Christmas programme. All in all, it’s not been too shabby!
A few of Alf’s friends turned 40 this year to great fanfare, but it wasn’t something my husband wanted for himself on his 40th birthday. He made sure to remind me of that several times before his birthday came around! And so when the big day arrived, it was as simple as it could be. I made a straw bunting banner in 10 minutes and recycled his birthday postcards from three years ago, thinking that they wouldn’t be inappropriate for Christmas either.
Alf’s only birthday request was for us to take a walk on one of the MacRitchie trails but I’m afraid that didn’t go very well, although we had a great time doing the same thing a week ago. This time the ground was muddier and Z stepped into a puddle almost as soon as we entered the trail, which killed his mood as well as his ability to walk. Layla’s more of a trooper but this isn’t her favourite thing to do–too many scary things lurking about in the green. And as it turned out, we hadn’t even entered by the right entrance for our intended boardwalk trail, which is what happens when I leave the planning to someone who hates to plan. After much nagging from me (no breaks even on birthdays!), we exited the trail early and promptly ran into a band of monkeys that snuffed out whatever celebratory spirit we had left in us. There was yelling (the grown-ups) and crying (the kids), before we escaped in a cab to Botanic Gardens and hid out at Food For Thought.
“I don’t think Daddy’s having a good birthday,” said my daughter to no one in particular.
“Well, that’s really up to him.”
That’s exactly what my husband would’ve said, if someone else were having a less-than-perfect day.
The second portion of the celebration went much better. I’d asked my talented baker friend Shakila (of Zafiel’s Cakes) to create something special for Alf, and we were totally impressed with the fondant topper! (The cake tasted great too; I’d chosen a light lemon flavour because Alf doesn’t like anything too heavy or sweet.)
I first met Shakila back at ballet school when our girls were in the same class, and to be honest, some of the best mom conversations I’ve had were with the ballet mommies, mostly because we had an uninterrupted hour to listen to one another’s stories. I’m still in touch with several of them today.
Shakila brought our cake to us in the afternoon, just in time for tea, and we instructed Alf to keep his eyes shut so that there would still be a tiny element of surprise for his birthday. But even that wasn’t to be, because Z saw the cake and had to tell the world what it was.
“If it’s too loud, you’re too old” is an old insider joke between me and Alf. It’s from a t-shirt I used to own during my baggy t-shirt phase. I offloaded it on Alf while we were both still in our 20s and he put it on one day without bothering to read the slogan. He only caught sight of it when he passed a mirror while he was out, and he was mortified! But we’ve always remembered the slogan fondly, and yeah, that’s our barometer for “OLD” so we’re not there yet. Not for a long time, I hope.
We bought a real Christmas tree last year and it was exciting for about five minutes. I had to vacuum pine needles daily and the tree quickly became something we had to get rid of; I think only Alf was sad to see it go. We’re keeping it very simple for Christmas this year so we’re back to fashioning an alternative tree, and we’re taking inspiration from Tree #25 on this list. I’d be the first to say that it’s more of a meaningful tree rather than a pretty one, but I think that’s in line with our priorities as we shape up for the new year ahead. The tree’s not finished yet, but that’s intentional. We’re throwing a small pre-Christmas get-together for past and present neighbours, where Alf will cook for company for the first time. I plan to get the kids at the party to help us complete our tree.
It wasn’t hard to fill the tree, in fact it became addictive quite quickly. Right now, it’s got anything that vaguely reminds me of the Christmas spirit–godliness, love, peace, creativity, generosity–and is suitably small. The Merry Christmas postcard is from a batch of homemade cards from last year; I used Norfolk pine needles for the wreath and Alf stamped the cards. There was one left over so he decided to write me a quick note with a privately funny-sexy sign off. If that card falls off while we have company, he might have some explaining to do!
The camel craft was made by Layla several years ago when I attended a free bible study course with a group called CBSI. I stayed with the group for about a year but eventually left as I felt a disconnect with my study group mates, many of whom were older women from privileged families. Some of the lectures were really good though; I remember paying attention and taking notes, just as I do now for the online sermons that I regularly listen to. CBSI also has a drop-off class for kids as a service to the moms attending the sessions; the teachers were terribly sweet to a very shy Layla back then, and the crafts she came home with were so pretty that I saved most of them.
Alf made the blue card for Layla, maybe two years ago. When she saw it again, all she said was, “There’s a mistake in the card. Daddy should’ve cancelled “A” as well.”
I found that red note in Alf’s collection and it brought back memories of a last-minute project when Alf suddenly decided he wanted to give his students a homemade graduation gift. We put it together in a day and the quote’s not my favourite, but we needed something safe that wouldn’t be misconstrued by the kids or by parents.
Well that’s a preview of our tree! If you’re doing a DIY tree as well, I’d love to hear about it.
Update: Our tree’s almost complete! Click here to see what it looks like now.
I’m still logging into Facebook but I don’t want my only entertainment to be a neverending stream of quick-read articles and 15-second updates, so I’m back to doing fun stuff that requires more concentration and time commitment, like addressing my movie backlog, for one. My freelance workload is light for now and Z is often asleep by 10pm–I should start making up for lost time! Here’s what I’ve seen in the last few weeks:
Gravity. Watching Gravity was like being trapped in a massive panic attack–I thought I was going to have one for sure! The ending was corny and I mixed up my space movies so I kept wondering when Matthew McConaughey (needed help to spell that) would show up. But I’ve been a Sandra Bullock fan since Demolition Man and I loved seeing how beautiful yet terrifying Space could be, all at once. I mean, if you already feel tiny here on Earth… A few cry-worthy moments too, especially if you’re a mom.
Boyhood. By the end of the movie, I’d almost forgotten about Ethan Hawke and was crushing on the guy who played his son–made me wish I was 17 again! But ok, I didn’t forget I was watching this as a responsible grown-up and a parent too and there is so much to relate to, from realising that I’ve become too practical to romance struggling artists, to watching my biggest fear being played out on the big screen, where a mom does the best she can for years and years and asks at the end of it, “What was this all for?” Oh, and I cried even more for this movie.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Pure entertainment with a 70s vibe. It’s a mostly young cast, except for Hugh Jackman who never seems to age, and this was the first time I got to watch Michael Fassbender in action after seeing friends gush about him on Facebook for years. His Magneto was the best kind of villain–capable of being heroic and terribly violent, and always keeping you guessing about which side he’s on.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I didn’t watch the first Hunger Games movie, so I’m on Team Peeta! This reminded me of that 80s Schwarzenegger film The Running Man; I used to love sci-fi action and I was hooked after five minutes even though I’ve never read the books either. Jennifer Lawrence seems to be popping up in every movie I watch. I don’t mind, of course.
Wolf Of Wall Street. A lot of crass, awful things were happening in this movie from the get-go, but it’s Leo and he’s funny so I did laugh! And honestly, if you gave me a chance to lead that life–as a man–for a couple of days, I can’t say for sure I’d turn it down. Not a fan of the real Jordan Belfort though.
Noah. Of all the movies I watched, I only hated this and forwarded over a lot of the movie. The beginning’s boring and Noah goes nuts once he’s safely in the ark. The only bit I enjoyed was watching thousands of people fighting to get on the ark–I’ve never thought about the biblical Noah story that way, like, didn’t anyone else want a ride? It’s plausible, no?
I’ve got a date with a girlfriend to watch Gone Girl this week, in the theatre! This is a big deal for me, because I last stepped in the theatre two years ago to watch Before Midnight with Alf. And this friend happens to be the first mother I connected with after a very lonely first year with Layla–she found me via my blog (I think) and she was such a great source of support back then. We reconnected recently and I was pleasantly surprised when she suggested this. I’m looking forward to our kid-less date!
p.s. Apart from movies, I’ve also been watching videos and documentaries and I’ll occasionally post the links on my Facebook page, like this video on studying smart. You can check out my page to see what else I’ve been up to.
Our Looming For Club Rainbow project is coming to a close, and we’ve raised $166 so far thanks to our generous family and friends! We still have a few items left to sell and they’re going at $5 a piece, including the guitar pictured above (made by Layla) and the charms in this album. If you’d like to buy anything, please leave a comment here or on the album by Friday. We’ll be transferring our donations to Club Rainbow at the end of the week, and I’ll post the receipt on my blog’s Facebook page.
Speaking of the Facebook page, I wasn’t sure if I’d be using it much, but it’s turning out to be a quick and easy way for me to share links that I’m interested in but don’t necessarily want to blog about. If you’re curious about what I’m reading, watching, or thinking about, you can follow me here. I’d also love to hear from you–please feel free to share articles or leave comments!
Layla had her first taste of exams this week. Just three exams, for English, Chinese, and Maths, and it ends today.
It was also her first taste of daily revision and she wasn’t pleased about it at all, so I had to deal with low initiative, low motivation, low concentration, along with other teething problems, but at least this is just Primary 2, where nothing’s too difficult yet.
Leading up to the exams, Layla continued with her gym training–now 6-9 hours per week–and I was happy that training hadn’t stopped. She needed the physical activity to release her energy, and in a new development, she’s starting to enjoy her gym training sessions! I’ll write more about that soon.
So we didn’t put our lives on hold for exam prep–we had our playdates as usual, and continued to devote some daily time to art as mentioned here. I’ve come to see our home art activities not just as creative expression, but also as a way for Layla to relax after school.
I had to deal with some medical issues this month as well (more on that in another post), but thankfully, I had a support network for helping Layla with her studies. I tested her on her Chinese words initially but it became a daily affair of nagging and yelling–and squinting at Chinese characters because I haven’t gotten my scratched glasses replaced–until I suddenly remembered that I could get her tutor to take over!
And it was thanks to her tutor asking me to hunt down some Chinese test papers that I found this site. I hate going down the test paper route, but well, if it helps then so be it, and at least the papers here are free.
For Maths, Alf worked with Layla using the two assessment books that I’d purchased, which I’d written about here. Neither of us wanted her to slog away at her desk all day, so her maths sessions were basically two 15-minute sessions a day where she’d time herself to complete five problem sums each time.
For English, I tried to build her vocabulary by having her read above her level. I borrowed The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland for her because I loved the writing and was hooked almost immediately. I experimented with creating a glossary because I knew there would be plenty of words Layla didn’t know, but I abandoned the project after having her go through it while reading a chapter and it didn’t seem effective–I was probably the one picking up new words instead! I also restarted another abandoned project, that of learning root words. I noticed (and was quite impressed) that she was able to guess at certain words by looking at them, e.g. circumnavigated=something to do with a circle. But she was pretty stressed at this point and getting her to learn the words was a tedious process, so I decided to hold this off till after the exams.
The most useful thing I did was probably going over Layla’s work and creating a list of tips for her:
* First letter of first word in a sentence: Is it capitalised?
* Is there a full stop or question mark at the end of every sentence? Did you use the correct punctuation mark?
* Cloze passage: Don’t just read the sentence where you need to fill in an answer. Read the sentence after it as well. Pay attention if the next sentence begins with a word like “however.”
* If you need to copy a long word onto another page, break it up into parts (e.g. three letters). Read the letters out loud as you check your spelling.
* Note when to use “them/they” or “it.”
* When combining sentences, if both sentences have the same word or phrase, make sure you use it only ONCE in your new sentence.
* For “Why” questions, there is a “surface” answer (e.g. he cried because he fell and cut himself) and a “deeper” answer (e.g. he cried because he cut himself and it hurt). Always give the “deeper” answer too.
I also urged her to read her answers out loud (well, softly) when checking. It really helps a lot. And finally, I told her to trust her instincts. If it sounds weird and not like something we usually say, it’s probably not the right answer.
We’re almost at the end of Primary 2! As always, year ends are for making new goals, and it’s time for me to rethink this whole blogging thing again, and how much Layla should feature in it next year.
I don’t think a three year old needs much more than his own imagination to have a good time, but I was at the library last weekend and bumped into a copy of The Artful Parent’s guide to creative living. I enjoyed the book so much that I’ve signed up for her newsletter, bookmarked her blog, and followed her on Facebook. As I’ve mentioned before, the bloggers that get me most excited are the ones that spur me on to make changes in my own life, and since then, I’ve done a few things so that Z and Layla can add some art to their daily lives for play and relaxation: Continue Reading »
I'm Evelyn, and I run this blog. Fourteen years ago, I met my husband Alf in a classroom that neither of us belonged in, and grabbed his attention by nearly falling over a table. He didn't come to my rescue, but we did exchange numbers eventually. We now have two kids, Layla and Z, and our lives are the better for it. That's the short version of our story!