Jun 27 2015

Notes From The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Published by under Life

Two days ago, we unexpectedly spent almost three hours at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. I was so relieved that Z liked it, since it’s not the easiest museum to get to, and admission fees apply even for three year olds. I was also struck by all the beauty that we encountered, especially in the insect section. Insects don’t survive long enough in my home for me to take a good look at them!

We bought our tickets at the door, although I’ve read posts that advised otherwise or said tickets weren’t sold on site. Admission rates are listed here; the site lists session timings, but we weren’t aware of it and weren’t told at the ticketing counter that we had to leave by a certain time, so perhaps they’ve relaxed the rules a little.

This post by Life’s Tiny Miracles has lovely pictures of what you can expect to see at the museum. (Unlike what was mentioned in the post, I did wish I’d brought my jacket, and there are washrooms within the museum, on the second floor. Also, they’ve fixed the washroom break problem by having attendants help with re-entry, if you should want to use the washroom on the first floor, outside the museum and next to the souvenir store.)

Compared to the museum brochure, this old ST article gives you a better idea of what each of the zones are about.

Follow this link to download a museum activity sheet for kids.

And here’s my tip for getting more out of your visit: I found it impossible to remember much of what I saw, so I snapped pictures of anything that fascinated me, along with the descriptions.

Butterflies and moths, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Butterflies and moths, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Butterflies and moths fall under the Lepidoptera order of insects; “Lepidoptera” means “scaled wings.” These insects have four wings covered with tiny overlapping scales. ↑

Atlas Moth, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

The Atlas Moth (36) has the largest wing surface area of any living moth, and is named for the fact that its wing patterns resemble a map. ↑

Empress Cicada, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

The Empress Cicada is the largest cicada on Earth, and its total wingspan can measure over 20cm long. ↑

Long-Horned Beetles, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Beetles belong to the Coleoptera group; the name comes from the Greek words “koleos” and “ptera,” meaning “sheathed wings.” (I’m not sure if there was a more specific name provided for these long-horned beetles.) ↑

Jewel Beetle, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Jewel Beetle, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Jewel beetles are popular for their shiny colours; some of the larger species are used by traditional cultures for jewellery. ↑

Katydid, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Green Leaf Mimic Katydid. ↑

Leaf Insect, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Javanese Leaf Insect. ↑

Frogs, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Frogs, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

“Amphibian” means “double life.” ↑

Frogs, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

While some frog species begin life as miniature versions of adult frogs, most undergo the cycle of tadpole to tail-less adult. The picture shows the life cycle of a Four-Lined Tree Frog. ↑

Gecko, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

The Tokay Gecko can be located by its call, which sounds like “tock, tock, tock-eh.”

Crocodile Newt, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Crocodile Newt, from Myanmar. ↑

Snakes, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Gold-ringed Cat Snake (left); Rainbow Tree Snake (right). ↑

Sea Urchin, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Pencil urchins are sea urchins with spines that resemble pencils. ↑

Horseshoe Crabs, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Adult and juvenile mangrove horseshoe crabs (3); Coastal horseshoe crab (4). ↑

Fossil Nautilus, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

“Mollusc” means “soft.” Molluscs are soft-bodied invertebrates (animals without backbones). Most molluscs have shells to protect them. Pictured are the halved shells of a fossil nautilus (left:exterior, right:interior). ↑

Rodent, Lee Kong Chian History Museum

Cat, Lee Kong Chian History Museum

Tiger, Lee Kong Chian History Museum

Tigers are the largest carnivores known to have lived in Singapore. They were common in Singapore in the 1800s, and in 1843, it was estimated that local tigers killed over 300 people annually. They were eventually hunted into extinction, and the last local tiger is believed to have been shot in the early 1930s, in Choa Chu Kang. ↑

Birds, Lee Kong Chian History Museum

Birds, Lee Kong Chian History Museum

Green Broadbill. ↑

Birds, Lee Kong Chian History Museum

Red-crowned Barbet from Borneo, Malaysia. ↑

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    Jun 24 2015

    Family-Friendly Brunch At District 10, UE Square

    Published by under Reviews

    District 10 UE Square

    Last Saturday, District 10 at UE Square invited us to sample their new brunch menu, and here’s what we ordered.

    District 10 UE Square

    Alf had the District 10 Eggs Benedict (poached eggs on toasted brioche, smoked salmon, hollandaise sauce, $18).

    District 10 UE Square

    I had the Linguine Aglio Olio With Tiger Prawns ($22), while the kids shared a pizza with mixed mushrooms ($20).

    Alf and I agreed that the food was richer than what we’re used to–heavier, definitely, but also tastier, with many different flavours coming together. It was a refreshing change for us but I think the kids weren’t used to it; at home, we use very few ingredients and very little oil as well. Alf said his eggs were nicely runny, while I appreciated that the chef had been generous with the fresh prawns in my pasta.

    Layla finished her pizza, but it was her chocolate milkshake ($8) that she said was “perfect.” I got the Antioxidant Booster drink (peach, green apple, mango, strawberry, $13) but I’d probably go with a milkshake in future.

    And then it was time for dessert. Continue Reading »

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    Jun 22 2015

    Review: SurviveINK By Monsters Under The Bed

    Published by under Reviews

    Monsters Under The Bed review

    Monsters Under The Bed review

    Monsters Under The Bed review

    Last year, Layla attended a fairytale writing workshop conducted by Monsters Under The Bed–or MUTB for short–and you can read about it here. This holiday, MUTB invited us to review something entirely different, a zombie-themed writing workshop that they called SurviveINK.

    I haven’t mentioned this on the blog but Layla dreads writing now, and she only writes for the sole purpose of completing her school compositions. That’s sad, considering that this was the same girl who used to make her own books, just for the fun of it. I would say that attending such a workshop took on a greater significance for us this year, because I wanted Layla to be in a place where she could experience writing for pleasure again.

    The workshop was once again held over three days, and there were more participants this time, probably about 30 or so. To set the mood, the trainers went all out to dramatise an action-packed zombie story they’d made up–a tale of death, suspicion, and betrayal that was played out in parts throughout the three days. In between, the kids were given “missions,” or little exercises to help them generate ideas for a zombie story that they would eventually create on their own.

    Monsters Under The Bed review

    Monsters Under The Bed review

    Monsters Under The Bed review

    Here are my thoughts on SurviveINK: Continue Reading »

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    Jun 18 2015

    Small Spaces: An Update

    Published by under Life

    Three years ago, I wrote a Small Spaces room tour post for my friend Justina’s blog. I can’t believe all this time has gone by; when I saw that post again, I realised there were little touches for Layla’s room that I’d completely forgotten about.

    It is still Layla’s room by the way, because we haven’t figured out how Z will fit in there eventually. Here’s the current situation in our three-bedroom flat where one room is an open-concept work space: Z’s happy rooming with me, I’m happy with the extra bed space, Alf is happy sleeping on our couch, and when Alf and I need some private time, we improvise. It’s not the ideal sleeping arrangement but it works for the moment, so we’re cool.

    Small Spaces

    What’s different about Layla’s room? First, she has a bed now, instead of just a mattress. It’s a hand-me-down from our good friend Steph; it’s not vintage (it’s IKEA), but it does have a slightly worn look that I’m partial to. I decided to place the bed against this wall (where her desk used to be) so that Layla would have more privacy. It also made sense for Layla’s work desk to be where the window/natural light is.

    The thing about having a proper bed was that the room immediately seemed more crowded. To fix that, I took down Layla’s artwork, which I’d been displaying on the wall with the pink stripes, and that helped create a cleaner and more spacious look.

    The other addition here is the Christmas lights display in the shape of Layla’s name. It was handmade by Wenny of the party goods store Lemony Days for Layla’s rock ‘n’ roll bash last year, and I’ll never stop being grateful for all the effort she put in for us. Continue Reading »

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    Jun 16 2015

    It’s All Good

    Published by under Life

    Family Pics

    Family Pics

    Family Pics

    Family Pics

    Family Pics

    Family Pics

    Life has been good. There’s been work, which is great, and I’ve been writing about everything from durians and strange places to dine at (like prisons) to sports medicine and TB, which I didn’t know was making a comeback. I’m not picky about work unless there’s a major values clash and it’s mostly interesting to me.

    There’s also been the holidays, and we’re trying to fill it with non-typical experiences, some of which I’m sharing on my FB page.

    As for our 10th wedding anniversary on June 11, it came and went without fanfare. I said most of what I wanted to say in this post, and I didn’t put up an anniversary post because I didn’t have anything new to add. We’re getting along, we’re watching The Office together currently and we’re having a lot of laughs generally. Year 10 is turning out to be better than Years 1 to possibly 7 or 8, so it feels like we’re finally headed in the right direction.

    We abandoned plans for a Beatles-themed party and a vacation, and opted to keep it low-key with a family meal at New Ubin Seafood. But I did want us to get our family pictures taken again. As I said at our only other family photoshoot three years ago, I trust my friend Steph to get it right for us, and she’s done it again and given us pictures we love. We even managed to convince Grandma Agnes to join us for the shoot, which makes these pictures all the more special to us.

    I’ll be back with the usual updates soon. Until then, hope you’re all well and happy too.

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    May 06 2015

    Read: Anthony Doerr’s “All The Light We Cannot See”

    Published by under Read

    All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

    I’m in a work lull, back to writing for small projects that don’t take up a lot of time, and I decided to catch up on my reading. My friends run a “serious” book club and they’ve been faithfully meeting up to discuss a book every month since 2012. They’re currently reading Anthony Doerr’s “All The Light We Cannot See” (set in Germany and France during World War II), and I thought I’d join them for a session. It took longer than I’d expected to “get into” the book; I’d even stopped reading after page 8 to post an update on Instagram, saying I wasn’t sure I could continue. But I did, and it was worth the effort as I started to get emotionally invested once the characters and their relationships were developed. Read on only if you don’t mind plot giveaways! Continue Reading »

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    Apr 20 2015

    Layla’s Reading List (Age 8+, Primary 3)

    Published by under Read

    Layla's Reading List, Age 8+ Primary 3

    I think Layla truly discovered the joys of reading last year, and ironically, it began with a set of Enid Blyton books that she received for her birthday. (“Ironic” because I’ve had an unspoken Blyton ban in the home, meaning that I wouldn’t buy or borrow these books for Layla, but I have no objections to gifts. Click here to read more about this.)

    Anyway, the set of books was the Malory Towers series, and just as I’d predicted, she absolutely could not put them down. When she finished the whole series, she began rereading the books, and in just a few months, they had become so well-worn that you would’ve thought she’d owned them for years. It was funny because I started to strongly encourage her to take a break from those books, and she ended up sneaking them to school and looking embarrassed and guilty if I looked through her bag and found them! Mine must be the only home on the planet where you can get “caught” for reading Enid Blyton.

    She did move on from Malory Towers, and it happened quite unexpectedly. We visit my family every Sunday, and my brother’s an avid gamer who’s been exposing Layla to the joys of gaming. I may be finicky about the books we read but I have no issue with tech used reasonably, and I was more than happy that my 30-year-old brother and daughter now had something in common to bond over. He happened to download a set of Lego games based on movies because they were on sale, and they began playing Harry Potter, the Lego version. I’ve seen the game and it’s really cute as they’ve recreated the entire story (from Books 1-7) using only Lego-related graphics. So for months, they were at it, and since the game follows the Harry Potter plot, my brother would introduce characters to Layla and explain the story as they went along. After several sessions, Layla asked to read Harry Potter and that was the beginning of a new addiction–she used every spare moment to read and she couldn’t stop. I’d intended only for her to read up to Book 3 or 4, where the storyline is still rather innocent and upbeat, but she wanted to continue and I gave in. I think there are many things in the story that she won’t fully understand yet, but I love the writing and the ideas in Harry Potter, so I’m happy for her to reread the books over and over again, or revisit them when she’s older.

    Apart from Malory Towers and Harry Potter, she also gave a “10” to a book that I’d borrowed from the library during the holidays–The One And Only Ivan. She’s never given a book a 10-rating before, so it must be pretty special.

    For this year, here are the books that I’ve picked up for Layla so far. I think she’ll be more receptive to them now that she knows she can enjoy books that aren’t solely about girls being girls: Continue Reading »

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    Apr 19 2015

    Conversations With Family

    Published by under Life

    Courtesy of Death To The Stock Photo

    I wrote about our cousin Serene recently. She’s the one who got married and will be away from Singapore for a while? Before she left, she said to me, “Check on my brother for me, OK?” Of course I agreed.

    It’s been interesting talking to her brother Shaun–he’s been a guest here before, click here to see what he wrote. I’ve always had this feeling that he knows us inside out, and guess what, maybe he does. Back story: Many years ago, when Shaun was a kid, Alf left his diary in Shaun’s room and… the rest is history. At the time Alf and I were both mortified, but we got over it and I even forgot about it. I’m a blogger and a fairly open book after all, so I have very few secrets left to spill. But since Shaun and I are talking, we’ve unearthed this age-old memory and we can joke about it now, as well as reference THE DIARY–which we’ve both read (sorry Alf!)–and discuss its events with zero awkwardness. Life is strange.

    Shaun was really young when Alf first started dragging me to family events, like primary school young. It was during the time of ICQ, where nobody I knew had a smartphone, and maybe the word “selfie” hadn’t been invented yet. My first distinct memory of us spending any time together at all was up on stage performing for my sister-in-law Jac’s wedding. Shaun was supposed to sing and rap Shaggy’s “Angel” with me accompanying him on my kiddy Yamaha keyboards. My keyboards already had some riffs pre-programmed into it; there was one that was perfect for the song, so all I had to do was press certain keys to trigger the notes. I managed to mangle it and he was none the wiser, and I still wish I could track down the DVD to see that performance again.

    What I don’t remember is when we started bantering like old friends, but I know that Facebook helped. Most of Alf’s cousins are similar to Alf in that they don’t give two hoots about social media. In contrast, Shaun’s got all his networks up and running, so it’s easier to link up. Now that he’s in his 20s, talking to him reminds me of the camaraderie I used to share with my male buddies. It’s nice to have that again and I can feel my 20-something self resurfacing (minus the angst), which is a precious feeling now that I’m inching closer to the big 4-0. There’s a lot of funny and random chitchat with the odd confession or deep thought thrown in. But mostly, I appreciate getting to know a family member better on a friendship level. That doesn’t happen too often.

    By the way, I’ve been dying to use the word “meta” after hearing it in “Gone Girl.” Well this is so meta, it cracks me up:

    Click to show/hide the full post!

    Top photo courtesy of Death To The Stock Photo; it’s supposed to represent Alf’s diary!

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    Apr 07 2015

    So Happy: 50 Years Of Singapore Rock

    Published by under Life

    *** UPDATE: The exhibition’s been extended till 26 April 2015! ***

    So Happy: 50 Years Of Singapore Rock

    It’s all happening! This is what I’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks. I was roped in by my rather famous musician friend Pat; discussions and some preliminary work began in January, but it was only in March that it was crunch time for me.

    “So Happy” is primarily a photo exhibition featuring 100 local rock bands from the 1960s to the present day. A team of writers worked on the photo captions–these captions don’t just describe the photos, but also tell a little story about each band. My job was to edit the captions and make them easy to read, interesting, and accessible to a general audience, as well as to standardise certain things like how dates are mentioned or what gets italicised or put in quotation marks, which is great fun for an anal person like me.

    I haven’t worked with a group of people in ages; usually I’m dealing with just one other person, be it an editor or an account manager who conveys instructions from the client. All the people on the “So Happy” writing team have day jobs, but they also live and breathe music. Even though I’ve worked as a music writer before, I’ll have to admit that music hasn’t been a big part of my life for a while, and this was like a local music crash course for me. It was awesome and I wish I could get paid for doing work like this all the time!

    Some of the interesting things that happened during this project:
    * Getting to know a whole bunch of creative people that I’ve never met before, including Little (yes that’s his real name), who heads the project and made all of this happen.
    * I texted Pat every day instead of his wife Stephii, who happens to be one of my favourite people.
    * Getting requests like, “Hey, you gonna be up at 4AM? I don’t think I can submit the text any earlier.”
    * A late-night FB chat and a subsequent phone conversation with a writer who wanted to make sure I understood some basics about our local scene, because things could turn ugly if the captions were factually inaccurate.
    * Me, wondering if it was OK to list a song like “Masturbating With Missiles” in an SG50 exhibition.
    * Getting private messages from some of the writers at the end of the project, thanking me and telling me I did a good job with the edits, which was the sweetest thing ever. This team is mostly made up of guys, so it’s a stereotype that men aren’t thoughtful.

    I did end up doing quite a bit of work late at night, and to keep awake, I would take short breaks by checking out some of the bands that were being featured in the exhibition. Here’s a selection:

    * The Oddfellows (“So Happy”): This is Pat’s band from back when I was in secondary school! I’ve never asked him about it, but I remember reading that he’s over this period in his life and wants to move on, but this song has grown on me over the years and I love it now. I met Pat in real life at work over a decade ago–I’d just joined a new company and I saw this familiar-looking guy. Before I could stop myself, the words were out of my mouth, “Are you Patrick Chng!?”
    * Padres (“Radio Station”): Another track from my secondary school days. I thought it was catchy before and I still hum it now. Pat is in the video too, with more hair, and on drums.
    * Force Vomit (“Siti”): I think I went to school with these guys! This song must’ve been around during my Ngee Ann Polytechnic days. Back then, I lived for the school’s Radio Heatwave gigs, which showcased lots of local bands and were very action packed.
    * Serenaide (“The Girl From Katong”): This one features Mimi, a mom that I met through blogging, on bass.
    * Pastelpower (“Allergies”): This is something more recent, and I think the video’s super cute and so well done.
    * Obedient Wives Club (“Requiem For A Lover”): My long-time friend and one-time bandmate Lennat plays drums with them. I’ve never really checked them out before this project, but I liked this song on first listen.
    * Shirley Nair & The Silver Strings (“You’re The Boy”): I love her voice, it’s so strong and clear! I was also moved by this SG50 video, featuring the same song.
    * Riot !n Magenta (“Told You So”): Another track that I liked on first listen. I googled them after hearing others rave about them, and have followed them on Spotify!

    I hope you’ll visit the exhibition if you’re free. It runs from April 8-17, admission is free, and details are in the poster above, as well as here and here.

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    Mar 31 2015

    Notes On The Kids

    Published by under Life

    Melijoe.com, Singapore blog feature

    Melijoe.com, Singapore blog feature

    Melijoe.com, Singapore blog feature

    Melijoe.com, Singapore blog feature

    Melijoe.com, Singapore blog feature

    Melijoe.com, Singapore blog feature

    It’s been a busy period for me lately, with work. Not crazy busy but nicely busy, where I get little blocks of work time during the day, and a longer, more peaceful stretch after the kids sleep. I think I like my life best when it’s all mixed up; I wake up to an editing assignment, run off to a playdate with the neighbours, have lunch with Z, work again if my mom-in-law comes by in the afternoon, and take a breather on the hour-long bus rides to pick Layla up after her gym practices. I’ll write more about work in another post, as well as share an upcoming project that opens to the public next week!

    Things with Z are good. This is the no-expectations stage, where Z’s only responsibility involves taking his Lego City cars apart and putting them together again. He can count to 10 because of hide and seek, but things get a little messy after that. I started reading with him earlier than with Layla, and his current favourite titles are Karen Katz’s The Colors Of Us, and this Chinese story that borrows heavily from Eric Carle’s Hungry Caterpillar. He’s better at mimicking sounds (he may have an easier start with Chinese) and repeating long words although he doesn’t talk like a grown up, unlike how his sister was at this age. But he asks A LOT of questions and is always trying to figure out ways to get what he wants, and he usually succeeds.

    Layla’s on the right track in school–she did well for her first round of tests despite all the gym training. I’ve given her some high targets to meet this year, in exchange for a reward. Her science test fell below the targeted score so we didn’t buy her anything this time but we did give her lots of praise for her other grades. Alf isn’t keen on rewards as he feels it impedes learning, and I’m thinking of a different way to motivate her for the upcoming exams. At home, I have to confess that it’s challenging to parent a child who will soon be considered a preteen. The difference between a younger kid and an older one: A 3-year-old will give you a hug for no good reason at all, but a 9-year-old will demand one to soothe her own hurt feelings, anger, and resentment in an already tense atmosphere. It’s more complicated, emotionally, and I’m not doing enough to be closer to Layla, but since some time ago, I’ve started to follow this site called Aha! Parenting to help myself in setting some new goals and directions for reconnecting with her. As a first step, I’ve rescheduled one of her gym training sessions to be on a Saturday morning, so she can spend two weekday afternoons at home instead of just one. And I think that’s about all I should reveal, without compromising her privacy too much.

    The kids’ tops in this post are sponsored by Parisian online clothing store Melijoe.com, which now ships to Singapore. Melijoe was started by a mom of 5 (!), who wanted to create a store that would stock international designer brands along with practical and everyday casual styles. You can read her story here. I really enjoyed browsing their style guides for kids, and that’s a good place to start when shopping on the site, unless you already have a specific idea of what you’re looking for or want to focus on bargain buys.

    As I’ve mentioned in some of my posts before, my mom buys almost all of Layla’s clothes and we’ve been dressing Z in mostly hand-me-downs. But as they get older and move away from kiddy designs, I can see us doing some of our shopping on stores like Melijoe, if our budget allows for it.

    Layla is dressed in a grey fleece dress from Troizenfants; this is something I would’ve chosen for myself! (Half the sizes are currently sold out so I’m glad Layla’s size was still available.) Z, who has a mind of his own when it comes to clothes–as with everything else–refuses to wear anything out of the ordinary right now. No long sleeves, no traditional outfits, no polo shirts. He’s a t-shirt guy through and through, so I wanted to pick out something he’d definitely get excited over and this Stella McCartney Kids superhero tee did the trick.

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