Book Series that we love (Chapter books): My Blade Quest

We’ve recently been introduced to yet another homegrown Singaporean author, Don Bosco, and his Super Cool chapter book series – My Blade Quest!

These adventure books are definitely good for readers who need to gain confidence in moving away from picture books, and are looking to slowly expand their vocabulary. Each chapter is only 3-4 pages long, and will not appear intimidating even though the illustrations are few and far between. This makes them perfect for primary schoolers who are not yet confident readers, but don’t want to be caught reading ‘kiddy books’ during the silent reading time in class!

The stories are funny and exciting, with a smattering of pop culture elements to capture the attention of our technology and media savvy kids. The main characters Jay and Shu, heirs to the Blade Quest card game empire, are intrepid and intelligent…and I really like the fact that they have a loving sibling relationship!

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A quick read before bedtime

I introduced this series to 9 year old J, and he was glad to have something fun to read to unwind during the hectic end-of-year exam period. The series has 9 year old J’s stamp of approval and he has since re-read the books several times.

J says – If you are looking for an in-between mystery and adventure book series that is more challenging than Geronimo Stilton and less silly than Captain Underpants, then these books are good for you. I enjoy imagining Jay and Shu going all over the world to find treasures and meet new friends. And I wish I had a Blade Quest Card Game!

Little E is just beginning to start reading chapter books, so I’ll be reading My Blade Quest with her during school holidays and hopefully this will help her to read more independently!

Bonus For Owls Well Readers: If you are looking for a great gift idea for a special little person in your life, the fine folk over at Armour Publishing have kindly offered an exclusive discount code for all Owls Well Readers! Hooray!  Just enter the code OWLS17 at checkout to enjoy 20% off any purchase of My Blade Quest Series (Books 1 – 4). (Discount code is valid from 17 Nov to 8 Dec 2017).

Buyer’s note: I received a set of My Blade Quest books from Armour Publishing for this review. If you would like to get the books for a little adventurer in your life, you can find My Blade Quest and other books by local authors here. Don’t forget to use the discount code!

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Travel Essentials: BabyZen Yoyo+ (aka Best Stroller Ever)

We’re talking about our latest favourite travel essential over at Owl Fly Away today!

Owl Fly Away

Okay, as you can tell from the title of this post, we are completely in love with the BabyZen Yoyo+.

babyzen-yoyo-owlflyaway-travel Travel anywhere with the BabyZen Yoyo+

We’ve been using this stroller for nearly a year now (thanks to the generosity of the fine folk over at BabyZen Singapore who were kind enough to send us a lovely stroller to try), and it’s seriously the best stroller we’ve ever had – and so handy for travelling!

Not only is the stroller lightweight, sturdy and easy to manoeuvre around, but it collapses down so small that you can bring it on board any flight as carry-on baggage! As you can imagine, this makes life SO much easier when travelling.

Babyzen-yoyo-plus-travel-essential-baby-owlswell The perfect “anywhere chair” and napping corner

Thumper was so comfortable in the BabyZen Yoyo+ that he would easily take naps in it, anytime, anyplace, anywhere. This meant that we could stay…

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Peaceful Port Macquarie: Shelley Beach

We find seashells on the seashore (and much more)

Owl Fly Away

It was late in the afternoon when we reached Shelley Beach, after post-prandial jaunt at Sea Acres National Park.

The skies were clear, but the beach was damp after the day’s drizzling. That didn’t stop the kids from getting onto the soft white sand and running straight down to the sea!

shelley-beach-port-macquarie J and Little E enjoying some sandy playtime

Shelley Beach is a lovely little natural tidal lagoon, so it is much more sheltered and the waves are gentle enough for little ones to paddle about in (under supervision, of course). The beach has got some very basic facilities – just toilets and a changing area – so make sure you have plenty of water and snacks with you before you go!

Thumper was pretty tired, so I put him in his stroller for a quick nap in the sea breeze (much more fun than napping in the cramped…

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Peaceful Port Macquarie: Abundance Lifestyle and Garden

We’re writing over at our travel blog, Owl Fly Away, today – check it out!

Owl Fly Away

After our drizzly morning at Sea Acres National Park, we had worked up quite an appetite!

As the weather forecast showed sunnier skies further inland, we decided to take a scenic drive to nearby Hastings Valley to have lunch at the cafe in Abundance Lifestyle and Garden.

The cafe there was bright and airy with beautiful views over the lake and served pretty decent meals as well!

delicious-food-abundance-garden-centre-cafe-kids Tucking into some delicious burgers and salads

The cafe was empty when we first arrived, but it soon began to fill up with hungry customers. Surprisingly, the cafe environment remained relaxed and tranquil! Perhaps the fresh scent of eucalyptus wafting across the lake on the gentle breeze had a calming effect on us all.

abundance-garden-centre-port-macquarie-cafe-walk Exploring the garden centre

Afterwards, we decided to wander around the lake and landscaped gardens, admiring all the beautiful plants.

We spent an hour or so exploring the…

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Owls Well presents: Living Clay/Studio Asobi

So, during the June school holidays this year, I wrote about our experience at a pottery workshop with Studio Asobi. Well, our pieces have been glazed and fired by Huiwen from Studio Asobi, and they are so much prettier than we ever expected!

Here’s a little video I made of our time at the pottery wheel – and the results of our labour!

Here are some thing I learned about the glazing and firing process:

  1. Applying the glaze will add layers to your final piece, so the walls of your clay piece will appear much thicker than your original creation, and any scratches and marks made on the surface will be more shallow.
  2. The firing process dries the clay out as it hardens, and the final product will be at least one-third smaller in size. So if you want to make a dainty teacup, your original creation may have to be as big as a mug!
  3. Be brave about experimenting with glazes! As you can see from the video, different glaze combinations can have startlingly different results. I regret not taking a bigger risk with my glaze selections…but now I know that I can be braver next time around!

Studio Asobi welcomes back participants of previous workshops with a markedly reduced fee and as always, 20% of their profits are donated to The Mercy Centre’s Trolley Ministry for Singapore’s homeless population. I would love to work with them again!

 

Peaceful Port Macquarie: Tacking Point and Lighthouse Beach

We’re posting over at our travel blog, Owl Fly Away today, heading somewhere over the rainbow!

Owl Fly Away

We’d spent a lazy morning recuperating from our flight to Sydney and the two hour drive into Port Macquarie the previous evening. We’d managed to stop off at the supermarket on the way, and so we had farm fresh fruits with yoghurt and muesli for breakfast!

kids-australia-breakfast-holiday-macquarie-port-sydney Lazy morning with the kids

The kids were energised and ready to head outdoors, so we took a short drive from our holiday cottage in Port Macquarie to Tacking Point Lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses in Australia.

tacking-point-lighthouse-macquarie-rainbow-grandparent Thumper and the Aged P walking to Tacking Point Lighthouse

When we got to the tall rocky headland of Tacking Point, we were greeted by a lovely rainbow arching over the sea. The children delighted in running over the grassy knolls just next to the roadside parking area.

The tiny blue and white lighthouse is easily assessable from the carpark, and there’s also a viewing platform…

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Easy Listening (Part 2): Debs G’s Podcast Favourites

ABC, I hear you about listening to podcasts during recuperation from the dreaded lergy.

I often suffer from migraines which means that I need sit in a completely dark room, and podcasts are extremely comforting to me. I also enjoy listening to them when I’m doing housework – they just make time fly!

Here are four podcasts that help me to relax:
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1. A Prairie Home Companion by American Public Media

I have talked about this radio show in passing before, and it is one of the favourites in the Owls Well household. The Prairie Home Companion is a radio variety show featuring American folk music alongside comedy sketches (complete with sound effects) and musical interludes from fictional sponsors. This show never fails to put a smile on my face and I often find myself tuning into it when I need a pick-me-up.

Producer and show runner Garrison Keillor, he of the golden radio voice, has now retired and his mantle has fallen upon musician and songwriter, Chris Thile. Chris Thile may not have the same deep and smooth timbre as his predecessor, but the man does sing like a nightingale and he’s also very, very funny, so he is forgiven.

(For those of you who, like myself, miss Garrison Keillor, he is to be found and heard on The Writer’s Almanac where he reads a poem every day and tells stories about significant events in literary history.)

2. Welcome to Night Vale by Night Vale Presents 1424727845212

Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, this podcast features the mellifluous bass tones of Cecil Baldwin. The fictional desert town of Night Vale is a strange place where all the conspiracy theories are real and the Night Vale radio show host, Cecil, reports on the local weather including the large cloud that glows in many colours (ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY GLOW CLOUD), various cultural events, and announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police.

On evenings when The Barn Owl is on call, I often play an episode from Welcome to Night Vale and fall asleep. I find that afterwards I get the most interesting and psychedelic dreams.

11312636_10101329805815525_5002516714209367793_o.jpg3. Astronomy Cast by Fraser Cain and Pamela Gay

This is an educational podcast that discusses various topics in the field of astronomy through the form of a light-hearted conversation between co-hosts Frasier Cain (editor of the space and astronomy news site Universe Today) and Dr Pamela Gay (Professor of Astronomy at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville).

I love listening and learning, and letting Dr Pamela Gay’s soothing warm alto tones wash over my ears as I’m pottering about the house.

17971953_448676435476708_6086957621977028490_o4. Story Not Story by Chyna & Craig

This is a super cute podcast that is great for unwinding at the end of the day! Story Not Story features a married couple, Chyna and Craig, relaxing together and telling each other bedtime stories. I enjoy hearing Craig and Chyna banter with each other – they are sweet and funny and just adorable.

The fun part for me is trying to guess where each story is going to go and I am usually very pleasantly surprised. You’ll definitely be a butter person for hearing them!

(And you can also see more of Craig and Chyna over at the Youtube channel, Wheezy Waiter.)