Jan 26, 2015

Feeling Grateful

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The boys volunteered briefly for the first time when we were one of the Official Bloggers for the Marina Bay Countdown 2012. Then, they mingled and brought much joy to the elderly folks from the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre. 

We had a few more volunteering activities ever since. But the wifey and I have always been looking for more opportunities to help the less fortunate among us, and involve the kids at the same time too. One such opportunity came up when Community Chest approached me to get the family to help out at its Festive Care and Share Fu Dai event.

In support of SG Care & Share Day, Community Chest arranged for a Fú Dài (Festive Pack) containing sponsored festive items and necessities to be delivered to a person in need (such as a lonely elderly, or a family in difficulty) from its social service programmes. And the number of packs in question? 2,000 of them! 

So last Saturday, we together with scores of other volunteers congregated at Dunman High School to help out in the packing of the festive bags. The same afternoon, we were also tasked with delivering them to the seniors in their homes.

We roped in some of the monkies' buddies for the event, and I was very happy to see all of them being so enthusiastic in offering their help!

After a short briefing, the kids were raring to begin.

I think there were close to 30 items in one festive pack so while the adults had to go draw the items from each respective station, the kids assisted by placing each individual item into each bag. Sounds easy but believe me when I say it was tough work... especially the routine can get really mundane after the novelty wear off with the first few bags.

But we had a quota to meet and for that, the kids really did their jobs well. Perhaps it was the awesome company that everyone had during the packing session but all the festive packs were completed just before lunch time!

Yes, we were on the same packing team as Dr. Jiajia and his two adorable sisters. Very cute, and helpful kids! :)

The kiddos then had a well-deserved lunch break, refuelling in anticipation of our next task.

The wifey and I had a little chat with the monkies beforehand to explain what we would be doing and the reason behind the delivery of the festive packs to the the elderly who were living - often alone - in the poorer estates in Singapore.

So after another short briefing, we set off armed with an address list and 21 festive packs in the car boot. Actually, we had more items on top of the 21 packs. Prior to all of this, the boys had also contributed $20 each from their own savings and purchased additional items like 3-in1 Milo sachets and instant oats, which they would pass them to the elderly folks we were visiting.

As we made our rounds in housing estates, the monkies handed the gifts to the elderly and chatted with them a little while. They lived simply, with many of their homes hardly furnished, filled with either cardboard boxes or plastic bags, and were not in the cleanest of conditions. But everyone was friendly, each having a story to tell.

All of them came to the door, received the festive packs with smiles beaming on their faces and shook our hands warmly as we wished them 新年快乐 (Happy New Year). Their faces lit up when the boys passed them the additional Milo sachets or instant oats, and even more so when they found out the items were bought using the boys' own savings.

Overall, the monkies including Ale were terrific sports. They lugged along their own items, held open the lift doors, knocked on doors and exchanged warm greetings with the recipients. Before the event, we had the intention of setting out to spread some CNY festive cheer and bless the less fortunate with some necessities. Well, it turns out that we were the ones who would be blessed instead.

I am not sure how much difference we made to the lives of the elderly folks that we met, but I am thankful we were able to bring some cheer - however little - to them. But for us and the monkies especially, it was a truly sobering experience to see the other side of Singapore that we hardly come into contact with. Most, if not all, of the elders are living alone and it really made me feel truly grateful for all I had.

Family, friends, nice meals, a cosy bed and above all, a warm home.

These are things the monkies often take for granted, that they do not realize they have been blessed with.

Though the Fu Dai event has ended, you can still contribute in other ways. So do visit www.comchest.org.sg for more information.

*Photos with the elderly folks were taken with permission. 

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Jan 23, 2015

Spend the March School Holidays with Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf!

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Sponsored Post

For the monkies, Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, or 喜羊羊与灰太狼, is the ONLY Mandarin cartoon that they watch and one that they thoroughly enjoy. So when Pleasant Goat and gang last made their stage appearance here in Singapore, they lapped it all up - even Ale!

This year, just because it's the Year of the Goat, Pleasant Goat and Wolffy will be back for yet another stage musical titled “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf – 3 Wishes".

Plot-wise, the musical is relatively straight-forward (and hilarious):

Five goats discover a bottle with a magician, Kalala, in it. Kalala boasts to grant his master three wishes with his limited magical power. This is overheard by the cunning Wolffy who steals the magic bottle. However, the three wishes of Wolffy do not come true, and he turns into a big pig head instead. 

Through the musical, the adorable Pleasant Goat and family will be sharing more on going green, friendship and also the love for Mother Earth. And if our past experience is anything to go by, the musical will be a highly interactive one, with loads of high tempo songs and kids in the audience being encouraged to brainstorm together to solve problems or just simply stand up and boogie along.

Of course the nonsensical antics of Wolffy would not hurt either.

If you are looking for fun and interactive ways to introduce Mandarin to your kids through catchy music and vibrant stage settings, the live stage show of “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf – 3 Wishes" would count as one of those.

Even more so since it will be staged during the March School Holidays!

Useful Information

Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf – 3 Wishes
Date: 20 – 22 March 2015
Time: 20 March (7pm), 21 March 2015 (3pm & 7pm), 22 March (11am & 3pm)
Duration: 1 hour 25 minutes
Venue: Esplanade Theatre
Ticket Price: $108, $88, $78, $68, $58, $38 (exclude booking fee)
For more information and to buy tickets, visit HERE.

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Jan 21, 2015

Ordering of Chinese New Year Hampers Made Easy

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Barely a few weeks after welcoming 2015, the whole town is decked in red once again in anticipation usher in the Year of the Goat! When I was young, I loved whenever Chinese New Year (CNY) rolled along. Of course the collection of ang pows was my fave to-do activity but the other thing I loved doing was unwrapping the hampers that my Dad received from his business associates or friends.

Because unwrapping a hamper is just like unwrapping a Christmas present, but only with yummy goodies like pineapple tarts, cookies and love letters! So I guess Ale must have inherited my love for unwrapping CNY hampers then, upon receiving one such hamper from Wonderful Flora.

Wonderful Flora has been in the business of flowers and gifts for over 27 years, offering reliable and personalised services to its customers. Headquartered in Singapore, Wonderful Flora has over 1,000 products under its collection and delivers flowers, gifts and hampers for all occasions including international flower delivery to more than 25 countries through its network of affiliated florists worldwide.

Which is great news, considering how busy we tend to get as the first day of Chinese New Year beckons. Spring-cleaning, shopping for new clothes, buying CNY goodies - all these definitely take up a lot of time so if you have the added to-do item to send CNY hampers to your clients or friends, Wonderful Floral allows you the convenience of shopping for gift hampers during festive season with a few clicks of the mouse.

For starters, Wonderful Flora has a huge array of CNY hampers to suit every budget (from $68 and up). Oh, and did I mention there is no GST charged and free delivery in Singapore is offered for all purchases? I zoomed in on the Superior CNY Hamper ($88) and, chose my delivery date and time.

With that, the hamper was added into my shopping cart. And that was about it really. Simple to use, and definitely hassle-free.

Come check-out, it was a breeze too as it is not mandatory to create an account with Wonderful Flora.

I just had to enter the sender's and recipient's information and I - or rather, the hamper - was good to go!

And when the hamper was promptly delivered to my place, it should not be difficult to guess who was the one who could not resist making a beeline to the hamper and urging me to unravel the packaging immediately.

The Diva, of course.

You know how some hampers are often packed with many and many layers of sticky tape, making it an arduous chore to free the items in the hamper? Our hamper was not like that at all. In fact, every item was so neatly packed with minimum tape that Ale could unwrap the hamper on her own!

The hamper came packed with the following goodies:

Bird’s Nest with Rock Sugar & White Fungus 70ml x 2
Dragon King American Ginseng Slice 10g
NPH Shrimp Roll 80g
NPH Chicken Floss 100g
Sweet Ching Teng 128g
Kjeldsens Chocolate Chip Cookies 50g
Korean Red Ginseng Candy 60g

And among them, Ale had to pick out the Chocolate Chip Cookies as her fave!

Well, I suppose that means the wifey and I will get to enjoy the Bird's Nest and other good stuff then. Heh.

The products in the hamper were exactly like what were depicted in the photo on its website but the best surprise I had was how it was ridiculously easy to browse and place my order on Wonderful Flora's website, saving much needed time in the process.

And with CNY less than a month away, time and convenience is what we all could do with.

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Jan 19, 2015

Asian Tales Floral Display at Gardens by the Bay

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This year, Gardens by the Bay embarks on a story-telling journey with SIX Chapters of colourful floral displays in the Flower Dome. Step into the magical world of folklores, legends, fairy tales and nursery rhymes - as told through the language of plants. 

And first up, the Asian Tales Floral Display to usher in the Year of the Goat!

Yes, you know it's dong dong qiang time when one witnesses an explosion of colours at every turn in the Flower Dome... complete with auspicious Chinese New Year decorations, of course.

Entitled 'Asian Tales', this floral showcase draws inspiration from the scenic landscape of mountains and valleys often depicted in Chinese brush paintings.

But the real centerpiece, or rather centerpieces, of the Floral Display has got to be the wooden goat sculptures. Which is perfect as the coming Chinese New Year will be known as 'Year of the Wooden Goat'.

Perched high above on wooden poles, the life-sized wooden sculptures are made from thousands of pieces of driftwood. Truly majestic-looking, so said the boys. Okay, they mouthed "COOL!" so it's more or less the same thing.

For Ale though, what perhaps stole her heart were these adorable goats made from brightly-coloured flowers.

Definitely cute enough to warrant for a few snaps of the camera!

If you are heading to the Flower Dome, be sure to pick up your free copy of the self-guided Asian Tales Garden Trail from the ticketing counter as well. Take in the picturesque landscape of sculpted mountains as you set your sights on the colourful display of a range of flower varieties like the Dahlias.

Signifying good luck and prosperity, the Dahlia is a symbol of inner strength, creativity and standing strong in your sacred values. Also the national flower of Mexico, it comes in a variety of colours, sizes and shapes and are commonly used to symbolize various ideas such as everlasting union between two people.

Another festive flower that one should not miss is the Boat Orchid, with its name being derived from the hollowness in the lip of the orchid. The plant symbolises nobility, grace, love, beauty and refinement. It is also prized for their long-lasting sprays of flowers.

Oh and don't forget to pop by the Craft Booths within the Flower Dome too! Create something fun and memorable with your children to take home this Spring at the Craft Booth at the Flower Dome (Mediterranean Garden).

And just specially for this weekend (24 & 25 Jan 2015), catch an array of puppet performances within the Flower Dome (South American Garden) and be amazed by the myriad of stories retold with puppets. Check HERE for show timings.

So this Chinese New Year, welcome an auspicious start to the Year of the Goat set in the company of colourful blooms such as cherry blossoms, kumquat plants and chrysanthemums!

Useful Details

Asian Tales - Year of the Goat Floral Display
Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay
Date: 16 Jan - 8 Mar 2014
Time: 9am - 9pm daily
Charges: Entry fees into the Cooled Conservatories apply. For admission charges, click HERE.
Website: gardensbythebay.com.sg/springsurprise

Craft Booths @ Flower Dome
17 - 25 Jan 2015
Weekdays 11am - 6pm | Weekends 10am - 6pm

Puppetry Workshops & Performances @ Flower Dome
24 Jan 2015 | 1pm - 1.30pm, 3pm - 3.30pm, 5pm - 5.30pm
25 Jan 2015 | 11am - 11.30am, 1pm - 1.30pm, 3pm - 3.30pm

Chinese New Year Promotion
Visit Asian Tales floral display during the weekends of 31 Jan/1 Feb and 7/8 Feb and stand a chance to be one of the lucky 28 to win a floral hamper from the Gardens! Simply visit between 6pm - 6.30pm and 7pm - 7.30pm when the God of Fortune will be in the Flower Dome to distribute ang pows. Find your floral fortune in the ang pows! There will be 7 hampers given away per session.

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Jan 16, 2015

Takara Tomy's Tail Battlers: Tail Swishing Fun!

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Product Review

At first glance, Takara Tomy's Tail Battler looked to be somewhat of a cheap thrill

You see, the dragon-like figurines require no batteries to start up. Instead, a long plastic rod connects the dragon to a rotating handle, much like a fishing reel. Installation was a breeze, which was a good thing considering the boys could not wait to pit each other's dragons together.

Working it was ridiculously easy. All they had to do was to turn the handle as if they were reel fishing. The force generated travels through the rod and makes the dragon spin round and round, swishing its tail in the process. The objective is to strike your opponent's dragon's head to blow off its tail. Hence its name of Tail Battler, get it?

I know what you are thinking. How fun can swishing a tail be? But trust me, I had underestimated the joy in trying to strike something with a few turns of the tail. For starters, attempting to turn the handle as fast as I can to generate a more powerful spinning force AND trying to aim for the other dragon's head is not as easy as it looks.

But it sure was wickedly fun... which even prompted Ale to clamour to have her own Tail Battler.

There are three classes of Tail Battlers - Attack, Defense and Speed - and the armour plates of the dragons can be interchanged for customization upgrades. Attack-oriented Tail Battlers have tails with wider tips for a more devastating attack area, Defense-oriented ones have bulkier armour to fend off attacks while Speed-oriented ones have smaller wheels to enable quick mobility.

So yes, it is not all about mindless spinning.

And definitely not a toy that the monkies will be putting down any time soon.

Tail Battlers are retailing at major departmental stores for $19.90.

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Jan 14, 2015

KidZania Singapore Is Opening This Year!

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Media Invite

Mention KidZania, and the question on both Ash's and Ayd's lips is, "When is it opening in Singapore?" Thanks to the huge doses of fun that they experienced in KidZania Kuala Lumpur, they are eagerly waiting for KidZania Singapore to open in the second half of this year. 

Because more than simply a kid's theme park and a family edutainment centre, KidZania is a kid-sized city where children can pick from a large number of role-playing activities, earn a salary (in the form of kidZos, the official currency of KidZania), pay for goods and services and manage an ATM card - all the things they see adults do in real life. 

In KidZania, kids are empowered to take charge and make their own decisions, through role-play. So it is essential that KidZania Singapore ties up with the appropriate industry partners who share its vision of educating, empowering and inspiring 4 to 14 year olds.

Previously announced partners include Pizza Hut, The Learning Lab, LoomiFunz, KFC, WTS Travel, Spritzer, Nickelodeon, PictureAir, Maybank, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, Yakult, Canon, The Soup Spoon, and Killiney Kopitiam. And yesterday, another 9 new partnerships were forged.

Food & Beverage
Create their own candy as a Candy Specialist and bring hand-made candy home at the Sticky Candy Store.

As a food scientist at the Abbott Milk Innovation Lab, children can learn about the science and processes behind how growing up milk is made and create their own packages of growing up milk.

Go on air as a radio DJ to play chart-topping songs, present the news, and co-host programmes with Kiss92 DJs, and bring a copy of the recording home.

Take charge of a 7-Eleven Convenience Store as a store owner and be a cutting-edge entrepreneur. Or be a financially-savvy shopper and learn to spot the best deals while maximizing the budget.

Specialist Services
Offer the gift of healthy sight as an Optometrist at Carl Zeiss Nanyang Optical, where they can give advice on how to select the right lenses and frames. Ensure their own eyes are in top condition with an eye check and learn how to care for their own eyes.

Test their courage, confidence and hone their psycho motor skills as a mountaineer with Camp Challenge. Maneuver through obstacle courses and persevere in their quest for the summit.

Perform an oral hygiene health check to prevent cavities and flash a bright smile as a dentist at the Sunstar Dental Clinic.

In addition, visitors can enjoy authentic Indonesian cuisine in the Warung M Nasir cafeteria.

KidZania Singapore will be a 7,600 square metres facility, which will be part of the new Family Entertainment Centre development at Palawan Beach, Sentosa Island. It will be the first KidZania facility to be located on a resort island, next to a 700-room hotel and many other tourist attractions.

When the construction of KidZania Singapore was first announced in early 2013, it seemed like an agonising long wait. Now, everything is starting to take shape and I'm getting all excited for the boys... even Ale too, who was too young for KidZania KL a few years back. Because only in the land of cool kids known as KidZania can every child play it BIG!

For more information, visit www.kidzania.com.sg.

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