Jan 19, 2017

How Reducing Food Wastage at Home Equates to Saving More Money for Family Outings!

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I think almost of us are guilty of this once in a while - cooking too much food at home or over-ordering food at an eatery and not being able to finish the food in the end. Truth is, we don't realise how much food we throw away every day, from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce.

Partly because we live in a country where poverty does not seem to be a prevalent social problem, we tend to gloss over the issue of food waste. But here's some food (pun intended) for thought: when we buy, order, or cook too much food, we waste our hard-earned money. Money that could have been used for a fun family outing... or in my case, together with my monkies.

Did you know that Singapore generated 786 million kg of food waste in 2015? To put things in perspective, that is enough to fill more than 1,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools and equivalent to two bowls of food waste generated PER PERSON PER DAY. Gosh.

At this rate of producing waste, Singapore will need a new incineration plant every 7 to 10 years, and a new landfill every 30 to 35 years. Problem is, Singapore has only one landfill - Semakau Landfill - and it may run out of space sooner than expected if our habits do not change.

And with an increasing number of people making the lifestyle switch from eating out to having home-cooked meals, reducing food wastage begins right at home. By cooking smart and making good use of leftovers, we can reduce the wastage of food... and in the process, save money while protecting the environment at the same time.

And speaking of cooking at home, the wifey and I have all along been involving them in the process. Because by including kids in the meal preparation process, it increases their interest and appetite for healthy eating. When parents convey interest and enthusiasm for cooking nutritious meals, they are more likely to instill the same attitudes in their children.

The above photo was taken 4.5 years ago, and they were highly enthusiastic in conjuring up their very own ham and cheese sandwich. See how tiny Ale was back then?

Fast forward to present and she is a great helper to have in the kitchen.

But more than just being a great help, involving them in the food preparation process also encourages and teaches them how to prevent food wastage. By letting them participate in the kitchen, they get a first-hand look at the contents in our fridge and also, understand why it is important to always buy and cook just enough so as to prevent leftovers which might lead to food wastage.

Just like when we decided to head to the park playground over the weekend, but not before preparing some egg mayonnaise sandwiches as snacks.

Here are some tips that we follow when it comes to prepping food for the family:

Cook just enough
With the monkies growing day by day, their appetites have increased as well. So we make it a point to determine the amount to be cooked with their appetites and eating habits in mind so as not to prepare an excessive amount of food.

Keep track of what’s in our kitchen
We plan meals according to what we have in the kitchen, and what’s expiring soon. Which brings me to my next point.

Draw up a grocery shopping list
We involve the monkies in listing down the groceries we need by planning ahead for a week of meals. We usually only cook during the weekends so planning ahead not only reduces waste, it also allows us to make fewer grocery trips, saving time.

Cook a “use-it-up” meal every week
We use only what’s already in our kitchen, including leftovers. Much like the hard boiled eggs. There were 2 eggs left over from breakfast so after checking with everyone in the family if they would like egg mayonnaise sandwiches for snack time, we decided to boil another 3 eggs to ensure that just the right amount of sandwiches was prepared.

And here's another way to get the whole family involved to help build up some enthusiasm for using up leftovers: hold a cook-off contest to see who can make the best use of leftovers! Teach the kids to reduce food wastage by exploring ideas and recipes on how to repurpose leftover ingredients into new meals.

There is nothing wrong with bread ends and crust
Or bruised fruits and vegetables for that matter. Some kids are used to leaving bread crust untouched or cutting it away. In our household, we ensure the monkies eat all parts of bread. Hopefully, this teaches them the importance of valuing food.

If there are any excess food that cannot be stored for too long, we share them with our neighbours

And just like that, our sandwiches were done!

The great thing about having kids help prepare their food is they tend to finish their food promptly. No nagging required.

See what I mean? LOL.

Now that was super quick. Although I highly suspect this had something to do with their lightning eating speed.

Well, as long as they are happy, no?

By making small shifts in how we shop for, prepare, and store food, we can save time and money, and keep the valuable resources used to produce and distribute food from going to waste. And if you need more tips, there is a handy guide that you can download too at www.cgs.sg!

The guide will help you better understand how much food waste is generated in Singapore , and why it is a problem. More importantly, it contains tips on how to reduce wastage when cooking at home (including helpful recipes in using leftovers!), grocery shopping, eating out as well as kitchen hacks to get more out of the food in your kitchen!

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Jan 18, 2017

With the new Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon, there're now SIX Theme Parks at Sunway Lagoon!

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Media Invite

The last time we went to Sunway Lagoon near Kuala Lumpur, Ale was barely 6 months old. That was back in 2011 and since then, a lot has changed within Sunway Lagoon... like adding a certain yellow sponge character to the mix.

That's right, Sunway Lagoon is home to the first Nickelodeon themed attraction in Asia, Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon - a brand new water theme park! That brings the total of theme parks within Sunway Lagoon to SIX.

Comprising of an Amusement Park, Water Park, Wildlife Park, Extreme Park, Scream Park, and Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon, Sunway Lagoon now offers a flat admission fee for visitors. I remember when I last visited in 2011, we had to purchase various bundles for the individual theme parks. Now, it cost RM153 (S$50) per adult and RM126 (S$42) per child, which is pretty value for money considering the number of attractions on offer.

For the monkies, the water theme park of Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon was undoubtedly the star attraction.

 You know you have arrived when you come across all things Spongebob.

Located between the Wildlife Park and Extreme Park, Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon is home to colossal water rides, water playgrounds, canopy walks and meandering pathways.

Set amidst 10 acres of lush tropical rainforest and boasting a water playground for kids and six water slides, the water park promises to be kids' dream right from the start. Especially if they are fans of Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Okay okay, I admit. I was extremely excited when I first saw the colourful water slides too!

But first, we had to make a pit stop at Spongebob Splash Adventure... because which kid can resist a humongous water playground???

Comprising a combination of tall, short, covered and open water slides, the water playground is much like most kids' water playgrounds found in most water parks.

The difference? In true Nickelodeon fun, kids can look forward to SLIME TIME at 4pm everyday when green water pours down instead of normal water!

Granted that it is just green-coloured water instead of the famed green gooey slime, but try telling that to the hordes of kids (and adults) waiting in anticipation below the giant bucket.

If you prefer to stay by the sidelines, there are ample tables and chairs plonked right beside the water playground.

For younger kids, they can head to Splish Splash which is also situated beside the seating area.

With multiple water features that combines to create interactive water spray experience, the area was a great respite from the thrills and spills of the water playground...

At least that was until the monkies clamoured to go onto the main water slides!

If you are looking for good, fun and exciting slides that get your blood running but won’t give you a heart attack, head for Primeval where THREE water slides await.

Take your pick from Cobra Creek, Boa Constrictor and Crocodile Gully which are a different water slide experience on its own. Each water slide has its own twists, turns and drops along the way but I have to say the Boa Constrictor one stands out as the most thrilling of the lot.

One ride that the monkies - especially Ale - could not get enough of is Jungle Fury.

Do not be put off by its intimidating name. The ride is actually pretty mild (which explains why Ale loves it so much!), which consists of a family tube where up to four people can ride together down a curving track. With mild twists and turns, and absolutely no plunging drops, this ride is suitable for younger kids.

In fact, it was so fun for the monkies that we went on it 6 times!

If you prefer something much much much more adrenaline-inducing, then Monsoon 360 is the one you are looking for.

This is one slide where the person stands in the top of the slide, wait in anticipation for the trap door to open below and then descend into a vertical free fall!

We were all too chicken to try it out, so you will have to make do with a photo taken from Sunway Lagoon's website. LOL.

I don't think I will be able to bring myself to try that.

Luckily, there was still a pretty thrilling ride in the form of the Kubarango.

This is one ride where we experienced an exhilarating combination – rafting, a mega drop, a vertical burst and even weightlessness! Our dual raft was unleashed into a steep drop before shooting up and pausing momentarily... finally, gravity took hold for one last thrill and dropped us down with a giant splash!

And in an attempt to calm our hearts down, we headed to the main entrance area for the mandatory Meet & Greet.

Because what is a theme park experience with snapping photos with colourful and larger-than-life mascots, no?

In addition to Spongebob and Patrick, there are Meet & Greet sessions with Dora, Boots, and the pizza-loving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Of course, there are ample opportunities to take home a Nickelodeon souvenir too.

Food-wise, there are food kiosks, serving a range of food from burgers and pizzas to rice dishes.

The Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon is a great addition to the existing them park experience rides at Sunway Lagoon, and best of all, there is NO extra charge! A good balance of exhilarating water slides (Monsoon 360, I'm looking at you) and family-friendly attractions (wading pools & small slides for younger kids kids), it makes for the perfect excuse to head to Sunway Lagoon!

Oh, and there is a new ride that is still under construction while we were there. What's that, you ask? A water roller-coaster! I think the monkies will be eagerly waiting for that to open.

Check out all the fun the monkies had at Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon in a brief video clip that I had compiled:

Ah, but the fun did not stop there for us. There were still 5 other theme parks for us to explore and the monkies duly went for the Amusement Park first.

A fave of the boys back in 2011, the spinning Cowboy Boot ride found a new fan in Ale. As for the boys, they were found whizzing down the Colorado Splash flume ride. Yes, they simply could not get enough of water.

We made a brief stop at Extreme Park, which is dedicated to all adrenalin junkies, thrill seekers and extreme sport fans. Not surprisingly, most of the activities found here cater to older kids and up and activities like the Flying Fox, Bungy Jump, ATV and Go Kart require additional fees. 

At least the Paintball Shooting was free for everyone.

We gave the Scream Park, which featured a walk-through Ghostbusters Adventure experience, a miss because well... the monkies were not fans of being scared. Heh.

And before Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon, there was original Sunway Lagoon Water Park. Here, you can find the perennial favourites of a lazy river, wave pool, water playground and of course, plenty of water slides.

I was glad that we were able to go on the Vuvuzela, the world's highest and largest vortex water slide. Yes, that's the orange and yellow structure in the photo.

This is by far the most thrilling water ride I have been on. It is tough to describe how the ride is exactly... but think of it like a Pirate Ship ride, where the raft slides up and down like a pendulum along the sides of the slide. The pacing of the ride is great and the tremendous drop into the funnel rivals that of many roller-coasters!

If you do go to Sunway Lagoon, make it a point to go on that slide. The queue can be unbearably long, so we waited until it was 30 minutes to closing time and we only had to queue for 10 minutes!

The Wildlife Park is also not one to be missed, especially if you have young kids with you.

Billed as the first and only fully interactive zoo attraction in Malaysia, visitors can get up close and personal with more than 150 species of animals from around the world. From a journey of learning through its unique Wildlife Encounters, to getting entertained by talented animal stars in the Wildlife Theatre, the Wildlife Park has loads of educational and interesting activities for the entire family.

But perhaps, the star attraction for the monkies had got to be the Pet Village.

Here, they got to dabble in some longkang fishing, feed guinea pigs and even cuddle some cute rabbits!

I am not kidding when I say Sunway Lagoon packs a lot of excitement into one location. With 6 theme parks to cover to cover at Sunway Lagoon, how can one get bored? In fact, I would say one day is hardly enough!

Accommodation-wise, choose from three options - Sunway Resort & Spa, Sunway Pyramid Pyramid Hotel and Sunway Clio Hotel. All three are located beside the theme parks, and connected to the iconic (AND HUGE) Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall.

We stayed at the newly refurbished Sunway Clio Hotel (formerly known as Sunway Pyramid Hotel West), with its guest rooms reflecting fresh details and textures with a contemporary functional design concept.

Overall, I had no complaints about the room - it was clean, functional and comfortable.

For families with kids, Sunway Lagoon is currently offering a Family Fun package which includes accommodation with breakfast for 2 adults & 2 children, Sunway Lagoon tickets for 2 adults & 2 children, one additional bed, welcome drinks and free Wi-Fi access. All from RM803++ onwards. Find out more HERE.

Useful Information

Sunway Lagoon
Address: 3, Jalan PJS 11/11, Bandar Sunway, 47500 Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
GPS Coordinates: LATITUDE: 3.07199 ; LONGITUDE: 101.60515
Operating hours: 10am - 6pm daily
Online rates - Adult RM153 | Child (12 & below) & Senior Citizens (60 & above) RM126
Walk-in rates - Adult RM170 | Child (12 & below) & Senior Citizens (60 & above) RM140
Accommodation: From RM380 per night (Sunway Clio Hotel's website)
Website: sunwaylagoon.com

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Jan 16, 2017

13 Little-known Experiences in Singapore that are Perfect for Families

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A brand new year calls for new experiences with the kiddos! But if you are tired of heading to the same old outdoor or shopping mall playground, or the usual attraction in Singapore, good news - there are actually plenty of lesser-known gems not a lot know about and may even be completely unknown to some of us!

So if you are planning to bring the family out for a day's worth of fun at a fun new place during the weekend, I've put together a list of 13 Singapore's little-known experiences - away from the mainstream attractions - which can be enjoyed together as a family!

1. Touchwood @ Ground-up Initiative

Kids picking up basic carpentry skills? Touchwood is one of the rare places in Singapore to do so! The craft arm of Ground-Up Initiative, Touchwood is a social enterprise with one mission - to find and create useful ways in recycling used and unwanted materials and in the process, increase awareness on the importance of resourcefulness, especially in a small, resource-scarce country that we live in, and encourage greater social interaction.

Workshops are conducted for both kids and adults, and are designed for families to bond and spend quality time while picking up a few handy skills! Kids can start off with something simple, like making a wooden toy car to picking up basic woodworking skills over a 3-day workshop. Head to HERE for its current workshops.

Website: http://touchwoodgui.weebly.com/ 
Address: Kampung Kampus, Ground-Up Initiative, 91 Lorong Chencharu (Yishun) Singapore 769201
Price: Varies according to workshop

2. Sisters Island

A great retreat for a day of snorkelling in blue waters and camping, Sisters Islands is actually made up of two islands – Big Sister’s Island and Little Sister’s Island. The islands are separated by a narrow channel and are popular with picnic-goers because of their shady palm trees and beach shelters. A permit is also needed should you decide to camp overnight on the island.

The main highlight though, is the rich marine life that the island houses. Home to Singapore’s first Marine Park, the entire area will protect Singapore’s coral reefs, which support an ecosystem inhabited by rare and endangered species of seahorses, clams, sponges and other marine life. The intertidal area at Sisters’ Islands Marine Park is most suitable for visiting during low tides of 0.4 metres and below. That is when you will be able to see the area teeming with marine life. 

One has to charter a fast boat as there are no daily ferries to the island. But I highly recommend signing up for the Introductory Guided Walks at Sisters' Islands Marine Park conducted by NParks which are FREE. Visit www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/sisters-islands-marine-park for more details. Do check back regularly as the slots get filled up very fast!

3. The Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum

Found within Chinese Gardens, the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum is home to more than 200 turtles and tortoises in over 60 different species like the fortune turtle, the gold soft-shell turtle and the ferocious alligator turtle.  Tamer turtles roam the compound, so opportunities to pet and feed the animals will never fail to thrill children and adults alike. The Museum is also a showcase of collectibles such as toys, ornaments, tableware and furniture, inspired by these animals.

Although the area is rather small, the museum provides families the chance to come up close with these fascinating creatures. For $2, you get a bunch of fresh vegetables to feed the hungry reptiles within the garden and that should delight any child.

Website: www.turtle-tortoise.com
Address: 1 Chinese Garden Rd Singapore 619795‎
Opening Hours: 9am – 6pm daily
Price: Adults $5 | Children below 6 $3

4. Water-Venture by People’s Association

People Association’s Water-Venture outlets offer unlimited outdoor fun and fitness as a way to bond families and friends. The outlets offer a range of water sports activities like kayaking, sailing, dragon boating, windsurfing and power boating, with some catering to children as well. There are eight Water-Venture outlets which are run by professional staff and assisted by a dedicated pool of trainers and volunteers.

Keep an eye out for the wildly popular Reservoir Discovery Series – an island-wide kayaking initiation that welcomes everyone (with or without kayaking experience) to pick up the sport, bask in the natural surroundings, and explore the scenic routes and calm reservoirs of Singapore.

Address: Visit HERE for its 8 locations
Opening Hours: The Water-Venture outlets operate from Tuesdays to Sundays, 9.30am to 6.00pm, open on all public holidays (except Chinese New year, Deepavali, Hari Raya Puasa, Christmas & National Day)

5. Kranji Marshes

Spanning 56.8 hectares (half the size of Gardens by the Bay), Kranji Marshes is the largest freshwater marshland in Singapore. It is home to a combination of lush, marsh, woodland and grass habitats with more than 170 species of birds, 54 species of butterflies and 33 species of dragonflies lies in the north-western part of Singapore. And not only is it open to everyone, it is FREE to visit!

There are two main areas – one that is open to public and the core conservation area which can only be accessed via guided walks. For the public walk, the start journey begins at Kranji Gate which is located at the end of Neo Tiew Lane 2 (beside D'Kranji Farm Resort). The walk is a relatively straight-forward linear one, a 1km route which ends at 10-metre tall Raptor Tower which offers a panoramic view of the entire Kranji Marshes. Suffice to say, scaling the tower is the highlight for the kids!

Address: 11 Neo Tiew Lane 2, Singapore 718814
Opening hours: 7am to 7pm daily
Price: FREE

6. Children Little Museum

Hidden away along Bussorah Street, in front of the Sultan Mosque, is one awesome gem offering visitors a precious glimpse into the past. The Children Little Museum houses an impressive collection of memorabilia and old-school toys. From tikam tikam to tin robots to old-style pick-up-stix, there are surprises waiting to be discovered and reminisced especially for us parents. And it will most certainly be an eye-opener for the children too, giving parents the perfect opportunity to share what kind of toys and items they had while growing up last time.

And when you leave, be sure to check out the mamak store outside the museum which sells all the retro toys that we are familiar, as well as tikam tikam! Oh, and did I mention the admission fees are amazingly affordable too? Only $2 per person! Our experience HERE.

Address: 42 Bussorah Street (in front of Sultan Mosque), Singapore 199460
Opening Hours: 10.30am - 10.00 daily
Price: $2

7. Castle Beach

Volunteers from Castle Beach conduct sandcastle-building lessons for the public from 3.30pm to 7pm on weekends. These classes promote family bonding, team work, patience and resilience as everyone work together to create a beautiful creation on the beach. Kids will be able to pick up tips on how to build awesome sandcastles. Do note that while the lessons are free, families need to purchase a sandcastle building set.

Website: www.castlescanfly.com
Address: East Coast Beach, Beside E2 Carpark and East Coast Lagoon Food Village
Opening Hours: 3.30pm – 7pm every Sat & Sun
Price:  Sandcastle Building Set - $42 (Deluxe Set) | $50 (Super deluxe set)

8. Kayak Mandai Mangroves

Explore the Important Bird Area of Mandai Mangroves on kayak. Organised by Nature Society (Singapore), this event is suitable for beginners as the kayaks are stable double-seaters. Kayak through Sungei Mandai Besar and Sungei Mandai Kechil where large stands of mature mangroves exist alongside abandoned kampongs. 

The coastal tract is home to a permanent population of horseshoe crabs and keen-eyed ones may even spot White-bellied Sea Eagles circling overhead, or a migratory Osprey fishing!

The event is held a few times in a year so it is best to visit www.nss.org.sg for available dates and slots. Participants must be at least 8 years old. Those age 12 and below must be accompanied by one parent in the same kayak. Nature Society (Singapore)’s members pay $100 while the public pays $125 for the 4-hour session. Kids 12 years old and below are entitled to a discounted price.

9. Jurong Fishery Port

Take in the sights, sounds and of course smells at the Jurong Fishery Port where it really comes alive after midnight when all the fishing vessels start to unload their day's catch. Just the sight of so many different types of fishes and how the auction of fishes are done should be enough to offset the lack of sleep.

Fishing vessels and fish reefer boats calling at JFP usually unload their catch between 11pm and 2am for wholesale through the fish merchants so do head down at that time to catch the fervent action!

Address: Fishery Port Rd, Singapore 619742

10. PIP’s PLAYbox @ The Esplanade

PIP’s PLAYbox is an activity space tucked away on Level 4 at the Esplanade designed especially for kids - AND it's all FREE! There is a kids craft station where kids will be able to churn out their own handicrafts. The crafts will vary throughout the time of year and depending on the season.

The air-conditioned area also stocks a massive library of children’s books, complete with plenty of personal - and some secret too! - speaces for kids and parents to read together. Need a little fresh air? Head to the mini playground just outside where kids can get active and even crawl inside the brick-red tower to get a kaleidoscopic view of the sky above!

Address: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, 1 Esplanade Dr, Level 4, Singapore 038981
Opening hours: 11am - 6pm daily
Price: FREE

11. Bukit Brown Cemetery

Look beyond the spookiness of the cemetery, and you will find an area that very much remains a lush, overgrown oasis. Take an early morning stroll through the grounds – the paths are level and relatively easy, so it is perfect for families. If you are lucky, bump into the resident caretaker who may just point out graves of notable locals such as Gan Eng Seng and Chew Joo Chiat. On a practical note, be sure to bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

Volunteers run free walking tours of the cemetery periodically so do check out their Facebook page (facebook.com/bukitbrown) and website for dates.

Website: bukitbrown.com
Address: Located between Lornie Road and Mount Pleasant Road

12. Cat Museum

Consisting of three floors, the museum is decked out with paraphernalia and nuggets of information about the history of cats from around the world along with curated cat-related visual artwork and photographs. More importantly, it has a space dedicated to rescued or abandoned cats which can be adopted by the public - the first museum in the world that has real cats available for adoption. The Cat Museum on the second level features touching stories and cats and their humans, as well as the important roles they play in each community while the third level houses the Muses Gallery, which traces the history and origins of the Singaporean cat. The main highlight of the gallery, however, is definitely the cat orphanage, set up in collaboration with the folks at Cat Welfare Society.

Located on the third level, the Mansion is home to the museum’s 9 resident cats. Named after Hollywood superstars, this playground for the felines has many exciting features to keep cats (and humans) entertained.

Address: 8 Purvis Street, #02-02 Singapore 188587
Opening Hours: Thurs & Fri 4pm – 7pm | Sat & Sun 1pm - 3.30pm (1st session) | Sat 4pm - 7pm (2nd session) | Sun 4pm - 6.30pm (2nd session)
Price: 13 yrs & above $12 | 7-12 yrs old $10 | FREE for children below 6 years old

13. Volunteer at Giving.sg

Spread some love to the less fortunate by volunteering together as a family at Giving.sg, which was set up by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre to promote and grow the volunteering culture here in Singapore. At Giving.sg, every youth, every senior, every child, every animal matters. So through its portal - which lists volunteering opportunities for anyone who wants to volunteer – people can volunteer for a cause or organisation they are passionate about.

There is nothing like bonding through volunteering as a family. Not does it foster volunteerism at a young age, the children learn to cherish what they currently have and not take things for granted.

If you have any more to share, I would love to know about them!

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