Thursday, August 25, 2016

Three lessons from the Three Little Pigs

The three boys and I went to watch "The Three Little Pigs" over the weekend. I think the musical needs no introduction, since it's been shared and reviewed by many others (you can read this one for a more details, as well as useful tips). The show is an adaptation of the classic fairy tale, with songs and lots of local flavour thrown in. Produced by the Singapore Repertory Theatre's The Little Company, the show was a throughly enjoyable experience! 

The kids really loved the show, and it's not hard to see why. The songs were catchy, and had us tapping our feet and humming along (this is the first time our kids have watched it, and I've been hearing them sing certain refrains at home). There was so much humour and local flavour injected in, from the names of the little pigs (Cha, Siu and Bao), to the use of local terms ("So malu!", "Lim Kopi" etc), which had us laughing through the entire show. 

While recommended for children three and above, the show was witty enough to keep even the adults entertained, yet wasn't too overstimulating for the senses. I admit that I tend to get headaches after attending children's productions from all the noise and sensory overload, but I didn't in this case, and really enjoyed it. 

The acting was great too, and the performance put up by all four pigs (Andrew Lua as Cha, Ethel Yap as Siu, Benedict Hew as Bao, and Candice de Rozario as Mother Pig) was stellar. Ivan Chan was simply fantastic playing the Wolf, and he really engaged with the audience and literally had us howling with laughter! (However, his appearance did scare some of the very young ones in the audience, and Small J ended up in my lap for half the show, but hey, he's supposed to be the Big Bad Wolf right?) 

However, good acting and funny script aside, I think what I most appreciated about the show were the little lessons that we could glean from it (and discuss with the kids after the show), that:

:: Family always sticks together: 
Throughout the show, you see the three little pigs squabbling and teasing each other. You see the classic "older brother trying to annoy the little brother" scene being played out (I gasped seeing Cha use his arm to hook Bao's neck, because that was such a familiar sight in my home with the boys!), and two older pigs are always teasing Bao for reading too much. But when trouble comes, you see the pigs helping each other, and that is what saves their skins in the end. Mother Pig also drives home the point, always reminding her three offspring to stick together as family. I think the boys could identify with the three pigs (poor Small J is always crying because his older brothers tease him so!), and I loved the reminder that even despite all these sibling conflicts, we can always count on family no matter what.  

:: Being kind pays off, even though it may seem counter-intuitive:
In the entire show, we have the three pigs trying to escape from the Wolf, but there was no talk about revenge (as their father was previously eaten by the wolf) or trying to get back at the wolf. In fact, the pigs were actually kind to the Wolf, offering him a handkerchief to blow his nose, after he was sneezing from blowing down Siu's house of straw, and warning him not to come down the chimney because he would burn himself! (But it turned out to be reverse psychology, since the Wolf assumed they were bluffing.) I thought that was a good reminder to always be kind. (And no, being kind is not equivalent to being a doormat. After all, the pigs did their utmost to protect themselves!)

:: We are all unique, with our own strengths and weaknesses:
Bao was incessantly teased for being a bookworm, but it was his brains that saved the day. The three little pigs were so different in character and temperament, yet we saw how they worked together and complemented each other in the family. It reminded me about my own three little boys, and how unique each of them were. I admit I sometimes have difficulty grasping how different they are, and I am tempted to use the same methods to teach and train each child (for example, I recently discovered how the boys approach learning to read in different ways). Watching the three pigs work on their houses was a reminder that every child is different, and these differences are to be celebrated, though they definitely keep parents on their toes!

All in all, "The Three Little Pigs" is entertaining and funny, and also goes beyond punny remarks to teach some valuable lessons. It's a musical, with morals thrown in. I'd say it's a must watch, if you've not caught it with your kids! 

Showtime details are as follows, and you can book your tickets HERE:

Dates: 4th August to 17th September
Times: Weekdays (10 am), weekends and public holidays (11 am and 2 pm)
Venue: KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT (20 Merbau Road, S239035)

Disclaimer: We received tickets to watch "The Three Little Pigs" for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions (and those three little boys) are my own. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Home 2.0 Before and After: The master bedroom wall

Hello! We've had many requests for a house tour, but to date we're still unpacking and getting our stuff sorted! I think it's probably going to take a long while, so instead of a final grand tour, I'll periodically be sharing peeks into various parts of our home as we get them done. (Meanwhile, you can follow most of our home updates over on Instagram @justtey.) 

Today, I wanted to show you a part of the master bedroom that I really love. The previous owners of our new home had a fair bit of built-in cabinetry done, and we had to decide which of these we wanted to keep, and which we wanted to demolish (since we didn't have the budget to overhaul everything). The master bedroom featured a walk-in wardrobe that was basically two sets of cupboards built facing each other, with the back of one acting to partition the wardrobe space off from the rest of the bedroom. Essentially (if you can see the lower left picture), the wall facing the bed was covered with a mid-brown tone laminate, along with a built-in cabinet that had some glass doors. The cabinet didn't work for us, since we needed drawer storage for clothes. I didn't like the glass doors too, since they were a hazard with the kids, plus I preferred that the mess inside was concealed. So we opted to hack away the cabinet. 

Now the question was, did we want to just replace the back of the wardrobe with a new sheet of laminate, or did we want to do something else? I thought that laminate didn't look nice, especially if we were to push our existing chest of drawers against the wall. So we decided to explore the idea of using wallpaper instead. 

A friend gave us a contact for a company that sold Korean wallpaper, but we couldn't find anything that we liked. The same friend had recently wallpapered part of her home using wallpapers from a Rice-Eijffinger collaboration, and I really loved them. These she purchased from Wallhub, so we paid them a visit. 

We met up with Avan from Wallhub, and he patiently showed us what they had in stock. The range was mind-boggling, and we initially were rather overwhelmed by how many wallpapers we liked and wanted to use! Wallhub stocks many European brands of wallpaper, and there were so many pretty designs. After flipping through stacks of catalogues and having a heated debate with the hubby, we managed to narrow our selection down to a few Rice wallpapers (I loved the bright colours and happy designs!), along with a few other designs from other brands. 

In the end, we decided to go with a lovely Van Gogh wallpaper by BN Wallpaper, instead of going with the Rice designs, which on second thought were a little too youthful for use in a master bedroom (I am still hoping we can do up some wall in the home with Rice wallpaper though!). We fell in love with the Van Gogh line, which features wallpaper that is richly textured, as though the painter scraped his palette knife across the walls itself. The designs were inspired by Van Gogh's various paintings, and we particularly liked the ones that were based on his painting "Almond Blossom", which were of a flowering almond tree. The original painting had the tree painted against a blue sky, but the wallpaper came in four background colours of dusky pink, white, blue (like the original) and a deep warm yellow. All four were gorgeous, but we thought the pink would be the most suited to our colour theme. 

Having chosen the wallpaper, we decided to get our contractor to put up a partition wall (you can see the thickness of the wall in the picture above), and have the wallpaper installed on that instead of the back of the wardrobe. This was because the wardrobe was pretty old and the back was rather flimsy, so I figured the partition wall would allow us to keep the wallpaper, should we decide to tear down the old wardrobes in a few years time. 

It was only after we had purchased the wallpaper did I discover the significance of the painting by Van Gogh. "Almond Blossom" was painted for Van Gogh's nephew, who was named after him, and the almond tree was selected as a symbol of new life. It was rather apt, since these almond tree branches would be sheltering our own little baby too, as she slept in the cot in our room.

The installation of the wallpaper was done by Wallhub, and was quick and fuss-free. The installers even cleaned up after themselves! I really don't know how they do it, but you cannot see where each piece of wallpaper connects to the next, and everything is seamlessly connected. 

We moved our ten year old chest of drawers over, to replace the built-in cabinets. It fitted the space perfectly, along with the massage chair. I'm trying to keep the dresser top as clear as possible, and it helps that I'm a no-frills person when it comes to skincare (plus I don't wear make-up). 

The tiffin carrier houses the few pieces of accessories that I wear, which these days are mainly silicon bead necklaces that the baby can chomp on. I couldn't resist adding flowers too (these are from a flower subscription, which I would be sharing more soon). We also took down the old existing blinds, had curtain rods installed, and bought some dark grey curtains from IKEA

Because of the lovely texture of the wallpaper, Baby J cannot resist running her hands over the walls. 

I think she approves. 

I do love how the wallpaper brightens up the room. No regrets choosing this over brown laminate! Now, on to sorting out the rest of the room...

Disclaimer: We were given a discount off installation costs at Wallhub, but we paid for the rolls of wallpaper. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are my own. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sew Nice: Bespoke blankets by KaynZac

Blankets. My kids love them. They drape tables with them and crawl underneath to hide. They slot them through the slats of the upper bunk bed and say they are exploring a forest. They blunder about blind, covered with one, proclaiming they are a monster and sending the rest of their siblings shrieking. And of course, the blankets serve their main purpose too: keeping the kids warm at night, since we don't use quilts at home. They are an essential piece of childhood, being incorporated into playtime and naptime, and providing comfort during sick days. 

Just as how blankets can be incredibly versatile, their quality can vary a fair bit too. We have blankets made from cotton purchased from the market, which can be scratchy. We have some lovely patchwork ones, which were used by hubby and myself when we were younger, and now have been passed to the kids to use. These days, as I declutter and think about the things that spark joy, I realize that I really want to only keep the blankets that were made by loving hands. I love it when I have to cover a sleeping child with a soft blanket that holds a history, one that is pieced together with lots of love. 

Which is why I immediately said yes, when Abigail wrote to me about sewing a blanket for Baby J. Abigail, who is the heart, head and hands behind KaynZac, is a stay-home mum of two. She makes incredibly lovely blankets, which comprise of three layers: The top layer is cotton, of which the design you can choose from her range of fabrics in her shop's FB page (or you can even have her source for something you have in mind), and the bottom layer is made of an organic cotton knit that is incredibly soft. She shares that she only uses more expensive organic cotton for the bottom layer, since it is the layer that is in contact with our children's skin.

I can vouch for the amazing softness of the blanket, because after the blanket arrived, it has been kidnapped by almost every member of the family, the hubby included. (He looked rather ridiculous using it, since it's too small for him, but he declared that the blanket was "so nice and soft!") When I was down with dengue, the rash made me feel like my nerves were on on fire, and every single blanket I tried felt scratchy and made the tingling sensation worse. Baby J's KaynZac blanket was the only one my extremely sensitive skin could tolerate, so I spent all my rest time curled up under it. It IS that soft and comfortable. 

Softness aside, Abigail adds another special touch to each blanket: she embroiders a name on it. Just like the fabric for the top layer, you can choose the colour of the lettering and the borders of the letters. You can also choose between two types of fonts. For Baby J's blanket, she helped me to source for the fabric I wanted, and we went with plain grey lettering with teal borders, and I loved how it turned out! 

The blanket has doubled up as a playmat, when Baby J was starting to do tummy time. It's thick enough for Baby J to be comfortable on the floor, yet thin enough for use in our hot, tropical weather. We love the blanket so much, that I am currently planning to order blankets from KaynZac for the rest of the boys as their birthday presents! These come in various sizes, so we'll probably get bigger ones for them so that they go a longer way. 

During this collaboration, I had such a good time chatting with Abigail, that I thought I should let her tell the story behind her shop instead: 

Me: Hi Abigail! Could you share a little more about how KaynZac was started? 

Abigail: KaynZac was started in 2014 by my mum and I, because we were both at home watching too many Korean dramas at that time (I’m kidding. She was watching too many dramas).  We started off with importing kids’ apparel, and I wanted to see how “easy” it was to start my own line, designing and sewing my own clothes. That was my impetus to learn sewing. 

I started off sewing, and still do sewing in front of my computer, because I needed to google every single thing. I learnt how to sew from YouTube and online tutorials and I’m happy to say, I’m a lot more competent these days! Every year for the last 2 years, I try to sew a birthday dress for my daughter. Her first Elsa dress was just abysmal, but she was three then, and I could force her to wear it. The second Ariel-inspired ball gown is still well-loved and worn today! 

So back to did I ever start a children’s line? Nope! It was too much hard work, and while I can probably copy and make knock-offs, sadly, fashion design isn’t my strength. So now that I know how to sew, this leads us to part II of our story. We were looking for blankets for our kids that were of good quality, safe for my girl’s sensitive skin (100% cotton) and most importantly, of her favourite characters (so she will use it). We were mildly surprised that it was so difficult to find something in the market that fulfills all these criteria! 

Since my husband thinks I’m a domestic goddess because I can sew, he suggested that I sew their blankets, and I remember scoffing at his suggestion. Anyway, I did my first organic cotton blanket for my son, with his name appliqu├ęd on it. It was a runaway hit! I think I overdid myself, because now when the blanket is sent for washing, he will fuss and cry, and insist on hugging a wet blanket to sleep. I did a couple of other iterations of it for my daughter - with minky, and I still offer the option because some like the material and the variety of colours - but my daughter has repeatedly requested for another blanket made in the organic cotton. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy sewing other people’s blankets, but I’ve promised her I will do it before her 16th birthday! 

Me: I'm so glad you did take up your hubby's suggestion to try sewing blankets! How have your customers taken to your creations?

Abigail: I am very grateful that I have had a lot of support from friends and customers, and many of them become friends! Many come back to us again and again, as they purchase blankets as gifts for their friends who just gave birth, or to their friends’ children on their birthdays.

We’re very thankful for a particular customer whose son has extremely sensitive skin, which would have an allergic reaction when he used fleece blankets. She came to us requesting repeatedly that the blanket had to be made of 100% cotton. After we made one for him, she was happy enough to order another for her daughter, and she has asked us to make other things as well. So it was an assurance that our product is safe enough! 

We have customers who have upgraded and ordered larger blankets, as their kids have outgrown the blanket but are still using it every night. When people tell us their kids really hug their blankets to sleep each night, we know we’ve made a good product!  

Me: Do you find it challenging to juggle sewing and the business, while caring for the kids? How do you manage it all?

Abigail: I think running this business was something that brought me a lot of excitement, joy, and a bit of stress. It provided the mental stimulation that I found a bit lacking as a stay-home mum. There was a steep learning curve with the sewing, setting up a website, putting myself more out there on social media, etc, but I think these are all good experiences for growth. 

I try to be very clear that when my kids are around, I will not be working. Up till last year, that was very tough, because I could only sew late into the night and early mornings, after my kids went to bed. This year, as both are now in school, I try to accomplish a fair bit in the mornings before they come back from school, so my working hours have been more sane. 

However, time is always tight, and I still want to be very hands-on about my kids’ education. I do find myself quite torn, with wanting more time for the business, as well as teaching the kids and spending time with the family. My challenge is that I’m always on the phone! Messaging my clients, editing my photos, answering queries, or just sneaking off to use FB. I’m trying to be more present, and be more disciplined about putting the phone away when the kids and hubby are around. 

I’m still enjoying this journey! I’m secretly happy that my daughter sees me working, and asks to learn how to sew. More than the skills, I hope to show them that they too, can learn and do anything when they set their hearts on it!

I loved so much of what she has shared, don't you? I can identify with the struggle to manage our side-lines and interests as stay-home mums, while being present with the kids during the day. I also really love how her kids have a wonderful example of what life-long learning looks like, and it's amazing that she managed to learn how to sew through watching videos on YouTube! I've been meaning to learn how to sew clothes for the kids, and I think I am inspired to learn after talking to her. Thank you so much for the lovely blanket, and for being an inspiration, Abigail!


I'd love for all of you to be able to enjoy the loveliness of a blanket made by Abigail, so we're sharing a discount code that you can use at her little shop! Key in "makingmum5" at checkout (or quote this to her if you order via FB or IG), to get 5% off your order. Do like the KaynZac FB page to be kept updated on new blanket designs, as well as promotions. Her shop also stocks children apparel as well as toys, so do have a browse!

Finally, KaynZac is also kindly sponsoring a blanket for one reader of this blog. To participate in the giveaway, please follow the instructions given in the Rafflecopter app below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: We were given this lovely blanket for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions (and chubby baby legs) are our own. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

J4 turns 6 months: Dearest Baby J...

Has it been six months already? It seemed like it was just last week that I first held you in my arms, and now you are already half way to your first birthday. Time slips by so fast these days with the four of you, and I savour those quiet moments when I get to nurse you before bed. I cradle you, little you with your messy crazy hair that I cannot bear to cut, and I breathe in that baby smell and try to lock it in the recesses of my memory. I will miss this baby stage, of flailing limbs to show your excitement, and all the squirming and cooing, and the intent look as you keep doing your baby pushups.

We thought you had a milder temperament, but these days it seems like your sleep has regressed. You've been waking up at crazy hours every night to play, and your naps haven't been great, so you do have cranky times. Sleep woes aside, I am thankful that you're usually content to be on the floor exploring when you are awake.

You've started on solids, and you've been enjoying it, along with trying to chew your bib to pieces. You are the noisiest during meal times, cooing and gurgling as you try to swallow your food (have I ever told you to never talk with your mouth full?). Your first two little teeth have erupted (which might explain your cranky nights), much to the delight of your oldest brother, who is now growing his adult front teeth. 

Seeing the four of you growing up together is just amazing. Each of you is so different in terms of personality, and yet all three of your brothers dote so much on you. Small J is always coming over to squeeze your cheeks and coo at you, and he sets aside all things pink and say they are for you. Lil J, who is usually not demonstrative by nature, is always getting toys for you and talking to you. He does the silliest things, like pretending to trip and fall, in an attempt to make you laugh. 

And your biggest koko? He loves you to bits. He's usually the one tasked to take care of you when we are busy (he does groan a little), and he loves making you laugh. He's the one who sits by your cot, reading, while you play. He does push-ups next to you when you are doing your baby push-ups. 

It is always so heart-warming (and also rather amusing) seeing how your brothers all naturally start talking to you in a high-pitched voice when they play with you. Seeing how they dote on you makes me think that your future boyfriend is going to be really intimidated, since you have four male protectors in the family! 

Happy half year, my dearest little girl, and we love you so very much!

Your Mama and Papa.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Out and about with four (and the BABYZEN YOYO+!)

We have four kids, and I am a little embarrassed to say this, but we have tried four different prams before we found one that really worked for us. Our first was purchased when we were excited young parents, and it was lightweight and really compact when folded. However, it was one of those with a really upright seat (which meant the kid had to be belted, or he would topple out), and Junior J absolutely refused to sit in it. Since we only had one kid then, we ended up baby-wearing him instead, so we sold off Pram number 1. 

We were wiser and more well-informed when we bought Pram number 2, this time with one toddler and one baby in mind. It was a lifesaver when we moved to Germany, since it had a attachable wheel-board for the toddler. This pram went a long way with us literally, seeing us through more than 10 countries. It was laden with groceries from the farmer's market each week. It rattled across the cobbled paths in the old cities that we explored, it's small wheels sometimes getting stuck in the cobbled stones. However, I found the pram challenging to manage when I was on my own with two littles, since it was rather heavy, and closing the pram required both hands. I always had to put the baby in the carrier, unload all my groceries on the ground, close the pram, and then lug the pram into the apartment while still carrying the baby. I really built up my arm muscles with that pram!

We knew Pram number 2 would be too heavy for me to manage when we returned to SG and had our third kid. I was bringing all three out for co-ops at the zoo on my own, and I didn't drive. So we decided to buy a pre-loved lightweight pram, one of those which could be opened and closed with just one hand. Enter Pram number 3, which again served us really well. I would wheel Lil J in the pram while baby-wearing Small J. We would load the pram up with all our stuff: lunchboxes for our meals, our water bottles, and all the various other things little people need, like change of clothes and diapers. Most of the stuff had to be hung from the pram handle, since the basket under the pram was tiny. The thing is, lightweight prams have a tendency to be rather flimsy. Each time the toddler crawled out of the pram, it would flip over due to the weight of our bags! I grew to be quite adept at pre-empting when the toddler would escape, and would do a quick shift of our bags over to the pram seat. 

Then came Baby J, and the chance to try Pram number 4, a BABYZEN YOYO+. After using this for the past few months, I have to say this pram is the best one for our needs right now.

Firstly, to be out and about with four, you'll need a relatively lightweight pram, especially if you are taking public transport. When you board a taxi or a bus, you'll need to hold little hands and carry what feels like a truckload of things. The last thing you want is to have to lug a heavy pram on top of everything! The YOYO+ weighs slightly over 6 kg (depending on the version), and that is quite manageable on top of carrying bags and a baby. The pram comes with a carry strap, which makes it even easier to carry about, especially if you have to board a bus. 

Speaking of carrying, this stroller closes up to be amazingly small: 52 cm in height, and 44 cm in width. This means the stroller is easy to load and unload from the boot of a car (compared to other lightweight prams which tend to be longer, requiring you to swing the closed pram at a larger angle to to get it in and out of the boot). It takes up less car boot space, and can be brought up on the bus easily.  It's smaller than cabin luggage size, which means you can actually bring the stroller on board a plane as hand luggage, and use it all the way to the plane door!

Photo source: BabyZen

One key distinguishing feature of the YOYO+ is how easily it can be folded up, something essential if you take public transport, or are moving about with a few kids. You don't want to be struggling with a pram, while trying to keep an eye on the kids at a bus-stop next to a busy road! Opening the stroller is a breeze since you more or less just need to flip open the stroller. Closing it requires two steps (you can see how it works here), of which the first step requires both your hands to fold the top handlebar down. However, this step can be done while the child is still seated in the pram, while the second step only requires one hand. Folding this is so much easier compared to our previous pram! Being able to fold the top handlebar down has an extra advantage of allowing the pram to fit into tight spaces like in a cafe or restaurant, while allowing your child to stay seated inside.

Even though it is lightweight, the stroller is still sturdy, and can take weights of up to 18 kg. It's 4-wheel suspension means a comfortable ride, with less of the bumping that we used to get with our lightweight pram. Trips outdoors are much smoother. 

The YOYO+ boasts of a larger basket compared to the older model. The bars running across the frame mean that you cannot fit bulky, inflexible objects underneath, such as a bag of library books. However, the basket is certainly roomier than many other lightweight prams. The stroller canopies come with UPF 50+ solar protection, as well as rain shields that provide full coverage.

The stroller uses a single brake, which is a lot safer and more convenient than those with separate brakes on either side. I remember how our other stroller with a double-brake used to swivel when I forgot to brake one side! The hubby did find the brake pedal a little small (and thus a little harder to locate) compared to one of our previous strollers, but this issue is minor compared to all the good points the BABYZEN YOYO+ has to offer. 

Of course, the YOYO+ has many other features that you find in good prams, such as a five point seat-belt, and the option of adding car seat adaptors to fit an infant car seat on the frame. These features aside, I really loved how all the fabric components are removable, and machine-washable (I know this makes me sound so aunty, but having to hand-wash pram fabrics can be such a pain, so this aspect really makes the YOYO+ a winner for me!). 

Baby J is now no longer content to lie down in the stroller, so we'll be switching out the 0+ seat for the 6+ seat this weekend. These seats can be purchased separately, which is great because you only buy what you need!

All in all, we are loving our BABYZEN YOYO+. It has won over even the fussy hubby, who tends to have really high expectations when it comes to these things. I've caught him repeatedly saying "I love this pram!" each time he folds or unfolds the YOYO+, so you know the stroller must be good! Our friends who use the stroller all rave about it, and you can read more reviews over at Life's Tiny Miracles, as well as Jayme's blog


The BABYZEN YOYO+ can be purchased from Mothercare. For those who are keen, Mothercare would be running a promotion at the upcoming SuperMom Bazaar:

Date: 12-14 August (Fri-Sun) 
Venue: Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre (Hall 403 to 406) [Available at Mothercare booth (G01 – G19)]

Each purchase of a YOYO+ stroller bundle (consisting of the frame, 0+ nest and 6+ seat) at the bazaar entitles you to a free travel bag for the stroller (worth $119) and insect net (worth $39). 

For more information or promotions, please visit the BabyZen Singapore FB page


Disclaimer: We were sponsored a YOYO+ for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own. 


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