Giselle by Teatro di San Carlo

Last evening, Little E and I were very privileged to have been invited to the opening performance of the ballet, Giselle, performed by the oldest ballet company in the world, the Teatro di San Carlo from Naples, Italy.

Giselle Teatro di San Carlo Marina Bay Sands

Little E is excited about the ballet!

It was a truly magical performance.

The dancers were such a joy to watch, with their expressive faces and gestures keeping all of us – Little E included – completely mesmerised. I was especially entranced the ghostly Wilis who were absolutely ethereal, drifting across the stage in their veils, each as light as a feather.

I wondered at first if the ballet would touch on themes that were too difficult for Little E to understand, but through the storytelling of the dancers, she was actually more than able to follow the complex storyline of love and betrayal.

Giselle Teatro di San Carlo

The Wilis (Photo credit: Francesco Squeglia)

In order to prepare 6 year old Little E for the performance, I borrowed Ballet Stories by Margaret Hargreaves from our public library and read her the tragic tale of Giselle.

Giselle, a beautiful but sickly peasant girl falls in love with Albrecht, a nobleman who disguises himself as a farmer in order to gain her affections. He promises to marry her, and she shares her excitement with a visiting noblewoman who is also celebrating her engagement. Unfortunately, it turns out that Albrecht is engaged to the noblewoman, and Giselle goes insane with grief, dancing until her heart gives out and she dies. Giselle becomes one of the Wilis, shades of women who died from unrequited love, but instead of exacting her revenge on Albrecht by dooming him to dance to his death, she pleads with the Wilis Queen and saves his life.

Little E and I had some very good conversations about the story of Giselle (especially in the light of this recent event), but it’s a very good cautionary tale about how important it is to choose potential suitors wisely and to listen to the counsel of friends and relatives who care for you.

Owls Well recommends: This ballet is 2 hours long with a short interval, so make sure you bring your little one to the bathroom before the start of the performance, and bring some sugar-free sweets to help them focus quietly!

P.S. Giselle is playing in Singapore until the 29 April 2017, so go watch it before it’s too late! Get tickets to Giselle here.

P.P.S. Find Ballet Stories by Margaret Hargreaves here.

Last Minute Chinese New Year Crafts: Floral Hanging Ball Decoration

Chinese New Year is SUPER EARLY this year and if you’re scrambling for quick and easy decorations for the house, here’s a really pretty floral ball hanging decoration that you can try!

Materials:

  • 60 square angpows or 30 rectangular angpows (use last years angpows if you have them)
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape or staples (we used red washi tape and clear scotch tape
  • String or ribbon (we used leftover yarn)

Instructions:

  1. If you have rectangular angpows cut them in half to make them square.
  2. Fold the angpows in half diagonally so that two edges of the square meet together. You should end up with a cone-like shape. Secure the edge with tape or staples.
  3. Join 5 of these folded angpows together to form one flower.flower-ball-lantern-angpow-chinese-new-year
  4. Start assembling the floral ball by joining 3 flowers together and securing the petals together with tape or staples.
  5. Add 3 more flowers to form one half of the floral ball as shown below. I found it easier to form one half of the floral ball at a time. paper-flower-ball
  6. Fix the two halves of the floral ball together with tape, then double check all the petals to make sure that they are well secured. A good rule of thumb is that each petal should be secured to two other petals!
  7. Finally, attach a loop of string or ribbon to complete the decoration!flower-paper-ball-decoration-chinese-new-year

Video Game Family Time: Never Alone

Sometimes, sitting down to play with your kids can also include playing video games together with them, especially if it’s a lazy rainy weekend afternoon!

Here at Owls Well, we don’t see video games as a way for kids to isolate themselves but as a way for families and siblings to bond with each other over a shared experience.

In this Video Game Family Time series, I’ll be talking about some video games that we like to play together as a family and some rules that we have to keep everyone playing together nicely.

This time, I’ll be talking about a very beautifully crafted video game, Never Alone (Kisima Innitchuna).

Never Alone (Kisima Innitchuna) is a puzzle-platform game born from a collaboration between E-line Media (which specialises in educational games) and Upper One Games, a game company set up by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council which serves the Alaskan Native and American Indian people living in the Cook Inlet region.

The Upper One Games development team includes over 3 dozen Alaska Native elders, storytellers and cultural advisors from the Iñupiat people, who worked very intimately with all levels of the game design, to produce a game that celebrates Inuit folklore, cultural beliefs and values.

The game story follows the adventures of the Iñupiat girl, Nuna, and her arctic fox companion as they traverse the harsh but beautiful Northern Arctic in an attempt to solve the mystery of the endless winter. The game graphics are really something to behold, and are closely based on Alaskan Native art, whilst the story itself is a traditional tale licensed directly from the family that was first recorded telling it.

Never Alone – Game Trailer from Never Alone on Vimeo.

We like to play the game in local co-op mode, taking turns to play as as Nuna as well as the arctic fox. Most of the puzzles require the arctic fox and Nuna to work in tandem in order for the game to progress, and it is truly heartwarming to see J and Little E help each other through the game. The game narration is all in the Iñupiat dialect with subtitles, so it was lovely to see J immediately reading out the subtitles to Little E so that she could understand the story.

Additionally, solving new puzzle elements and entering new game areas also unlocks game ‘insights’ which are videos documenting information about the Northern arctic region and the Inuit way of life including interviews with Alaskan Native elders, storytellers and hunters. This is the part where we all get to sit back as a family and learn about a culture that is utterly different from what we know and how the people in that region adapted to their climate. It really is a journey!

When we are playing together in Never Alone, there are certain rules that we insist the children have to observe:

  1. We listen to each other’s ideas on how to solve each puzzle and try it out, even if we think it won’t work
  2. If a puzzle is difficult, we patiently try again and encourage each other to think of solutions – there will be no belittling of another person for having an idea that didn’t work
  3. We talk to each other nicely – there will be no yelling or getting over-excited during time sensitive sequences
  4. When Mummy and Daddy say that game time is over, everyone puts their controllers down immediately with no fuss or bargaining.

Do you think family video game time is a good way for families to spend time together? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Expanding a child’s worldview: Part 2 (Understanding the needs of others)

As J and Little E get older, I have been trying to find new ways for them to understand their role and place in the world, so that they can grow to be socially responsible people.

They of course understand by now that they are not the centre of the known universe, and that there are people all over the world who lead vastly different lives, people who have been born into hardship. They are aware that there are people in this world who are denied basics that we take for granted – things like clean water, food, healthcare and education. However these are all big and abstract concepts for a small child to grasp, and the challenge I face is finding concrete ways of helping them to understand that every person can do something, no matter how small, to make the world better.

After watching the movie, Tomorrowland, the kids were ready for action, so we sat down with them to talk about the various ways that they could help other people in the world.

One of the things that they decided to do was pledge a portion of their Chinese New Year angpow money to helping alleviate poverty.

The Barn Owl and I decided that the best way for them to do this is by sponsoring a child through the World Vision Child Sponsorship Programme. I like this programme because it deals with the root of poverty in a community and works towards empowering them towards self-sufficiency. That is, the goal of the programme is to eventually see that the community achieves stability and financial independence.

My dear friend, Lyn, was the first person I knew who had successfully sponsored a child via this programme. The community which she supported for 11 years had become financially stable and World Vision was able to complete their work and leave the community on its own. During this time, she was able to watch her sponsored child grow up and graduate from school.

I thought that it would be amazing for our kids to grow up alongside their sponsored child, so what I had J and Little E do was to each choose a child to sponsor who was the same age as themselves. So, J is now sponsoring an 8 year old girl from Nepal whilst Little E is sponsoring a 5 year old girl from Sri Lanka.

Once the kids chose a child to sponsor, they were each sent a picture folder of the child and a profile of the community where this child lives. I showed them where their sponsored child lives on a world map, and some videos depicting life in those communities. Then I encouraged them to write letters of introduction to their sponsored child.

I asked J and Little E if they would like to send any small gifts along with their letters and they had plenty of brilliant ideas. At first, they wanted to send things like food, baby panadol, soap, shoes and water filters. World Vision doesn’t allow any items that cannot be flat packed into a single A4-sized envelope, so we had to be more thoughtful.

We decided to send some paper dolls for the girls to play with. There are tons of printable paper dolls on the internet, but I didn’t want to send them any light-haired and light-eyed princess dolls (for obvious reasons).

I was over the moon when I stumbled across these gorgeous Princess Tiana “The Princess and the Frog” paper dolls by artist Cory Jensen which come with a large array of gorgeous dresses and accessories! Hooray!

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Yes, I painstakingly cut them out too

We also included a set of ‘plain’ paper dolls for the girls to colour in and cut out themselves, a set of colour pencils with a pencil sharpener, stickers and pretty hairclips, and wrapped all of these up inside a clear plastic A4 envelope to protect them in case the parcel gets wet during delivery!

I hope the little girls like their gifts – and I hope J and Little E will become more socially aware through interacting with their new penpals!

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A special parcel for some special little girls

If you’d like to sponsor a child or make a donation to World Vision, click here.

Download the Princess Tiana Paper dolls by Cory Jensen here

Download the “I am a Princess” Paper Doll colouring page by Cory Jensen here

Debs G’s Marriage Proposal Story

There’s a running joke within Singaporean circles that an unromantic method of proposing involves the guy just saying casually, “Eh, when are you free? Let’s go and sign for a flat.”1. No surprises of candlelit hearts, no rooms strewn with roses, no treasure hunts with a diamond ring as a prize.

Well, this is precisely how the Aged Ps got engaged. They decided together that it was time to take the next step, so they went engagement ring shopping and applied for a flat.

If you ask me, I have always felt that this is the most romantic way to become engaged. It’s the simplicity of it all – when two people are so deeply in love that moving together into the next phase of their relationship just happens naturally with no hesitation or uncertainty.

My family is a very big proponent of the ‘friendship-courtship-engagement’ route to marriage. So for me, my potential dating pool consisted solely of people whom I already knew were good and faithful friends. I would only consider dating someone whom I could seriously see as a potential marriage partner. This means that for me, the decision to enter into courtship with the Barn Owl was the big one, mainly because of the intercultural aspect of our relationship.

I wasn’t at all worried about how my parents would react to the Barn Owl as a potential marriage partner. Our family is not new to intercultural relationships. The Aged Ps themselves are from different cultures as you can see from the different formalwear that their moms chose to wear on their wedding day.

Intercultural marriage

The Aged Ps Wedding – cheongsam vs sarong kebaya

The Barn Owl and I had been dating for nearly a year when the Barn Owl had to go away for work experience. We were chatting on ICQ (this was waaaaay before the magic that is Skype), missing each other dreadfully, and it was during this conversation turned towards relationship matters.

We mutually agreed that it would be possible to take our relationship forward towards marriage but before we did so, we would consult our parents and friends. The Barn Owl wanted to talk to his dad for advice and I wanted time to prepare my parents. I told the Barn Owl that he would also need to have a discussion with my dad. Additionally, I wanted to talk to trusted friends and mentors who knew the both of us well.

This delay was not because we were incapable of making this decision on our own. We just wanted to make sure that all the important people in our lives were in agreement with us and supportive of our decision to take the next step in our relationship. We also wanted to make sure that nobody had any objections or concerns that they felt we needed to address.

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At our engagement ceremony

Several months later, The Barn Owl made a trip to Singapore and it was during this trip that he had a long chat with the Aged P about our plans for the future. The Barn Owl was very nervous about this trip for the following reasons:

1. Although I had gone through great lengths to prepare the Aged Ps and had some idea of what their expectations would be, The Barn Owl wasn’t completely sure that they would make things easy for him. (This was made worse by reason #2)

2. The pastor of our church at the time was an Englishman who had a Singaporean wife. He took great delight in regaling The Barn Owl with his own personal experience dealing with Singaporean Parents which involved being thrown out of the house and barred from seeing his beloved for several days due to some error of communication.

In the end, I think my dad just wanted to make sure that I had graduated from university first before getting married (the Barn Owl and I had several classmates who were already married). He also felt that it would be appropriate for both sets of parents to meet in advance of the engagement. The Barn Owl felt that these were all reasonable expectations. This was also when the Aged P gave the Barn Owl a very special book about love that he had been given on the occasion of his own engagement! Awwwwww….

We went engagement ring shopping together the very next day, and by the end of the week, the Aged Ps had made plans to visit the Outlaws in the UK over Christmas.

We also picked out a date for our engagement ceremony, which would be in summer the following year and held in the Outlaw’s home. This was going to be an important part of our engagement as we wanted both our families to understand that we would always involve them in our lives. It was also because we knew that our wedding would be held in Singapore (to accommodate my large extended family)  and we wanted the Outlaws to have the pleasure of hosting this special occasion.

Our engagement ceremony was a very quiet affair, just The Barn Owls parents and mine (and the Barn Owl’s big sister who was able to pop down for the weekend). We sang a few songs together and each of our moms read a verse from the Bible, then each of our dads said a prayer for our relationship. Then our families retired to the garden for tea and cakes, whilst The Barn Owl and I changed out of our fancy attire and went for a quiet walk.

The Barn Owl brought me to the most beautiful part of his little village, a wide grassy meadow next to a river, where he gave me the engagement ring that we had chosen. I also had an engagement present for him – a shiny new watch. I won’t tell you exactly what we said to each other but only that we sealed our promises with a kiss.

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Managed to capture the moment using our trusty remote controlled camera!

This post is part of the Proposal Stories blog train hosted by The Chill Mom. If you would like to read some more romantic stories, just click on the button below (or you can pop back on Friday – A Becky Lee will be sharing her story then!)

proposal story

The blog train continues tomorrow with the lovely Irene from AhSoh.com.

AhSoh.sg Profile PhotoOn the contrary to the image of your typical auntie, AhSoh very much into Consumer Technology as well as Photography. You won’t find hypocritical parenting and marriage advice here, coz AhSoh is real. She shoots her mind and she rants!

If you want a good laugh, here’s really where you should be. Take a glimpse of the proposal of between Singapore’s most unknown AhPek and AhSoh. Confirm + Guarantee! We promise there won’t be any crappy “would you buy HDB with me” kinda proposal, coz AhPek is too practical for all that FLUFF!


1. This is because only families are eligible to purchase a new flat in one of the housing estates built by the Singapore government, and couples who apply for a flat together have three months to produce a marriage certificate once they receive the keys to the flat.

Last Minute CNY Shopping at Sea Apple

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Little E wearing a modern cheongsam from Sea Apple in ‘Sophie’

If you’re still looking for something cute and modern for your little living doll this Chinese New Year, definitely check out Sea Apple, the latest online boutique for childrenswear!

Su Mei, the founder and designer behind Sea Apple, got in contact with me not long ago and was kind enough to send Little E one of the gorgeous cheongsams from her first Chinese New Year collection! Thanks Su Mei!

I am really impressed by Su Mei’s eye for detail and subtlety, and the fact that this first collection represents the courage and fortitude it took for her to pursue her dream. Su Mei tells me that whilst she was still working as a civil servant, she actively took courses in fashion construction and design in Singapore and London, and took time off to walk the fabric markets all over the world.

Her first collection is a mixture of beautiful prints and lush fabrics, showcasing Su Mei’s simple, modern aesthetic. I haven’t seen any modern cheongsam designs for little girls on the market at the moment, so these are really special! Each dress is not only fun and chic, but is clearly designed with practical comfort in mind – something that I think is missing from many ‘little cheongsam’ designs on the market.

The dress that I picked for Little E is made from a sweet cotton lawn, light and airy, with a lovely 1930s vintage Liberty Art print of blooming hydrangeas. The short mandarin collar and the box pleat detail make the dress really comfortable to wear and move about in – and it looks so pretty! I’m so excited for Little E to be wearing a Liberty print dress – it just brings back memories of browsing in the Liberty of London store during my University days.

I am really looking forward to when Su Mei releases her summer collection which is going to include something for the boys and the little babies too. I’m going to be looking out for something special for J and Thumper!

See more of Sea Apple’s CNY collection here.

P.S. If you’re thinking of nabbing one of the Sea Apple dresses for CNY, here’s a launch special just for Owls Well Readers! Just enter the code Owls10 at checkout to get SGD$10 off your order! (Code is valid until 7th Feb 2016)