How to Toddler (A Day in A Life Blog Train)

It has been over a year since I wrote about a typical Wednesday in the Owls Well household here in Singapore as part of the “A Day in A Life” Blog train hosted by Mum in the Making.

My schedule has, of course, changed greatly since the introduction of the littlest owlet #3, Thumper. Most of what I do right now involves supervising Thumper during his wake time, and then making sure that when Thumper is taking his naps, I divide my time between J and Little E so that they each get one-on-one time with me.

It’s very difficult to describe how I organise my day now, so I’m going to let Thumper tell you what we do on a typical Wednesday in this video:

I basically rinse and repeat the above twice more for lunch/afternoon nap and dinner/bedtime.

Getting Thumper into a flexible routine was key to my sanity this past year. As a result, Thumper is a predictable baby, and will take 2 hour nap times without fail. This frees me up to spend time with J and Little E, supervising their homework and free time, as well as complete whatever housework needs to be done, including meal preparation and laundry.

Efficiency is a key feature of my life right now!


14658357_120300000553820036_1005302683_nUp next on the ‘A Day in a Life’ Blog Train is our stationmaster, Jus from Mum in the Making.

She is a stay home mum to four, who relies on crafting and chocolate to keep her sane.

I myself am very curious to see how she manages a typical daily schedule where she has to care for her tiniest infant girl and three rambunctious boys, whilst homeschooling and running a most efficient household!

Get a glimpse into her day over at Mum in the Making!

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Contemporary Art for Kids – National Gallery Singapore

Last year, when J was attending a holiday creative writing camp at the Arts House, I decided to take Little E to visit the nearby National Gallery Singapore.

The National Gallery Singapore is housed in the former Supreme Court and City Hall, and is home to the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia, with a special interest in showcasing local and Southeast Asian artists.

Within the National Gallery is the Keppel Centre for Art Education, which is a dedicated art facility designed to inspire children and encourage creativity. Within each room are art pieces which the children can interact with or observe in detail, as well as related activities to fuel their imagination.

In one of the Project Galleries is a massive, highly detailed cityscape created from clay and acrylic, painstakingly built in great detail by teen artist Xandyr Quek when he was 13 years old.

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Little E is inspired by City In The Works (2015), Xandyr Quek

Xandyr, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, is fascinated by maps and street directories, and would ask his parents to take him to certain roads and streets so that he could spend time memorising the buildings and other public infrastructure. At home, he built many clay sculptures based on his observations. He conceptualised and created this tiny city modelled on northern Singapore which is now housed in a protective glass case (as he doesn’t like his work being handled or touched).

After spending a few moments looking at the tiny city, Little E then spent a happy half hour drawing and populating her own small city. Whilst she was doing this, I noticed that there were other activity sheets available in the room which would suit a variety of learning levels and interests, so there would be something to inspire every child.

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Home-a-Sapiens by Tan Wee Lit

In another project gallery, the ceiling and walls are covered in fantastical future dwelling spaces. A nomadic bus with laundry on bamboo poles floats alongside a series of airy blimps, while the walls have models of underground houses built beneath the roots of trees, even some of the shelves and cupboards were disguised to look like houses.

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Designing her underground living space

Little E was inspired by the underground homes and she decided to make her own cone-shaped house to add to the installation. There were also some very nice pre-fabricated craft kits available (for a suggested donation of SGD$4) which would make a great take-home souvenir.

Little E also liked the Who’s In The Woods interactive area, where she could create and customise her own forest creature using digital painting, then see it come alive on the wall and play with other animals in the forest! That was pretty cool!

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Little E’s found a new friend in the woods

By far the most exciting area was the Art Playscape, which is a labyrinth and playhouse that is literally covered from floor to ceiling in elaborate, intricate drawings, so that you really feel like you have entered a painting into a magical realm.

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The Enchanted Tree House by Sandra Lee

In this room, Fynn the Fish-On-Sticks and his forest friends wander the world in search of adventure, encountering all sorts of familiar creatures from fairy-tales and nursery rhymes. Little E had fun running all over the room trying to find Fynn, and identifying all the storybook characters (and finding familiar mystical creatures like our Merlion hiding in plain sight).

Mummy tip #1: The floor in the Art Playscape has a very smooth finish, so bring along non-slip socks if you have a wobbly toddler or a clumsy child!

Keppel-Art-Centre-Education-National-Gallery-Kids

Taking a break with Fynn the Fish-On-Sticks

I liked the Keppel Centre for Art Education so much, that we returned during the mid-year holidays this year, as soon as Thumper was able to walk around on his own.

keppel-art-education-national-gallery-singapore

Building together

I was very pleased to see that some of the interactive activities had changed!

There was room filled with different types of building blocks for making giant fortresses and tabletop sculptures. There was also a wall filled with magnetic shapes which Thumper enjoyed messing around with.

National-Gallery-Singapore-Interactive-Art

Playing with the walls

Within the National Gallery itself were huge wall murals and freestanding art pieces which visitors could pose with and become part of the artwork as well.

We also had the opportunity to go on a free guided tour which took us through the gallery, giving us some insight into the design and architecture of the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings as well as some of its the history and hidden secrets!

National-Gallery-Singapore-Tour

On the Building Highlights Tour – held at 11am and 3pm daily

The docent who took us around was very knowledgeable and was able to engage both children and adults during the tour. The docent even thoughtfully changed her route to accommodate our stroller so that we could use lifts instead of stairs and escalators – although we felt really bad slowing the whole group down!

Mummy Tip #2: If you’re planning to take your kids on the guided tour, park your stroller at the visitor’s desk and bring out your baby carrier instead.

National Gallery Singapore
1 St. Andrew’s Rd, Singapore 178957

Opening Hours: 
Sun–Thu and Public Holidays: 10am–7pm
Fri–Sat, Eve of Public Holidays: 10am–10pm

Admission is free for Singaporeans and PRs, as well as for students, teachers, children under 6 years old, persons with disabilities and their carers.

For more information about the National Gallery Singapore click here

For more information about the free guided tours click here

For more information about Keppel Centre for Art Education click here

All Natural National Day Red-and-white Velvet Cake

The Aged P threw a National Day party for our relatives yesterday, and she served up this delicious cake with a Singapore twist – so I asked her if she would share her recipe right here on Owls Well!

If you’re still looking for an Impressive Dessert for your National Day Party, here’s the Aged P’s special National Day Red-and-white Velvet Cake recipe.

Aged P’s Tip: This kid-friendly recipe uses natural food colouring as well as a reduced sugar frosting that holds up well in Singapore’s warm summery climate.

red-velvet-cake-singapore

National Day Red Velvet Cake

Recipe for Natural Beetroot Red Food Colouring

Ingredients
2 beetroots
Water

Method
1. Peel and cut two beetroots into cubes
2. Cook in a pot with enough water to cover the cubes, over low flame, for 1 hour.
3. Drain the liquid and set aside – this is the natural red food colouring

Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Ingredients
3 and 3/4 cup plain flour, sifted
175g unsalted butter
1 and 3/4 cup fine sugar
3 eggs
6 tablespoons Milo powder (or cocoa powder)
1/4 cup natural beetroot red food colouring
1 and 1/2tsp fine salt
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk with 2 and 1/2 tbsp of distilled vinegar (substitute for buttermilk)
2 and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 and 1/2 tbsp distilled white vinegar

Method
1. Heat oven to 170C.
2. Line two 11 inch X 4 inch loaf tins with greaseproof paper
3. In a small bowl mix Milo with natural beetroot cup red food colouring.  Set aside to cool.
4. Mix vanilla essence, salt and buttermilk together, set aside
5. Cream butter and 1-3/4C sugar until light and fluffy.
6. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
8. Add Milo and natural beetroot food colouring
9. Add sifted flour, alternating with addition of substitute buttermilk until batter is smooth
10. Mix bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in a small bowl then immediately add the mixture to the batter, folding in gently.
11. Pour batter into prepared loaf tins and bake in oven for 35 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean.
12. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Aged P’s Tip: If you’re using regular commercial food colouring instead of the natural food colouring, use 2 tsp of food colouring and increase the milk by 1/4cup.

Recipe for Reduced Sugar Frosting

Ingredients
7 and 1/2 tbsp plain flour
1 and 1/2cup milk
1 and 1/4cup fine sugar
1 and 1/2cup butter, softened
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method
1. Whisk plain flour into the milk.
2. Cook over low flame, stirring constantly until the mixture is thickened.  Set aside to cool.
3. Cream butter. sugar and vanilla until fluffy then add the cooled thickened flour mixture.
4. Beat the mixture until fluffy.

Soundscapes and school projects

One of the things that I like best about J and Little E’s kindergarten is that the school encourages the kids to do some independent project work during the school holidays. The topic for the project is usually something very broad and very simple, which allows a lot of scope for learning and discovery.

I usually like to ask the kids what they would like to do for their school project and see what sort of ideas they will come up with. Sometimes, I get the Outlaws to help out because both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law are involved in early childhood education, so they have loads of ideas for helping preschoolers to learn through play and hands on activities.

You may remember J’s school holiday projects that I have shared on this blog before. He did one on climbing plants and one on movie-making.

Last year, Little E’s school holiday project was on the topic of ‘Sound’.

There are a ton of really cool crafts where one can make musical instruments using recycled materials found around the house, as well as simple science experiments to demonstrate the properties of sound and I was sure that we’d be bringing a rubber band ukulele to her classroom at the end of the holiday.

As always, I underestimate my kids.

Little E wanted to do something a little different, and was inspired by a short film that we had watched together during a visit to the Ghibli Museum in Japan. That film was called ‘House Hunting’ and it was a cartoon where all the sound effects were voiced by two actors using Japanese onomatopoeic sounds. She also took inspiration from the popular American Public Radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, during which there is a popular ‘SFX’ segment which has to be heard to be believed!

In a nutshell, Little E wanted to produce her own little show where she was the foley artist and sound designer!

We decided to do something simple and take our audience on a sound journey to the park.

To start off, we took what Little E called a ‘sound walk’ which is basically a walk where everybody is silent, the better to hear the world around them.

As you may imagine, this was quite a challenge for my normally talkative little 4 year old! Surprisingly, she was very attentive, and at the end she sat down with the Outlaws and together, they wrote down a list various noises that they heard on their walk.

Little E then tried her best to reproduce each of those noises for the video and I have to say that the result is pretty good!

I was very impressed with the layers of sounds that she insisted on making for each frame of the video, from the soft padding of footsteps to the whirring of the cicadas in the trees. It just goes to show how much a small child notices about the world around her, given the chance!

P.S. Little E did an even more ambitious holiday project this year, so watch this space!

Art & Design for Kids – Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems

Last week, we were invited to attend Family Friday at the ArtScience Museum‘s latest exhibition, Van Cleef & Arpels : The Art and Science of Gems. This was our first visit to the ArtScience Museum, and I am happy to report that the we had a wonderful time there!

This unique exhibition combines over 450 gorgeous pieces of jewellery from the Van Cleef & Arpels collection alongside over 250 rare gems and minerals from the Collection of the French National Museum of Natural History. The exhibition aims to showcase the natural processes involved in the geological formation of minerals and gemstones as well as the fine craftsmanship that changes these precious materials into wearable works of art.

I was really surprised at how family-friendly this exhibition was! We spent the better part of the afternoon there, and I had to peel the children away at the end.

Van-Cleef-Arpels-ArtScience-Museum

The children were awed by the exquisite jewellery on display, oohing and ahhing at the sparkling, intricately designed pieces. The Bird Clip and Pendant pictured above was a particular favourite.  A custom order for an opera singer who wanted to commemorate the birth of her son, this single piece magically transforms so that it can be worn not only as a large brooch or hair clip, but also as a bird brooch with matching winged emerald earrings and a dangling yellow diamond pendant!

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Throughout the exhibit, one can trace the journey of a mineral from its formation to its inclusion in a piece of jewellery, as well as go behind the scenes to take a look at the various technical and conceptual processes behind jewellery innovation and design.

There were also several interactive exhibits where the kids could play with light boxes or touchscreen panels to see how abstract shapes and patterns can be used to create distinctive couture creations, or learn about the different materials making up each glittering accessory.

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The highlight of the visit for us was the Family Friday workshop, ‘A Day in the Life of a Mineralogist’, where the kids were treated to a hands-on demonstration that opened up the world of geology and mineralogy. As you can tell by J and Little E’s rapt expressions, they were thoroughly engaged and interested the whole time.

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The best part of the workshop was when the kids had a change to test the physical properties of a variety of minerals using special tools. It was a joy to see them work alongside the ArtScience Museum educators, who patiently guided them in making their own observations and discoveries.

When I spoke to the ArtScience Museum educators, I was surprised to find out that the museum workshops and activities are woefully under-subscribed and most of the attendees were adults! This is surprising to me since kids under 12 years old enter the museum for free on Family Fridays!

Furthermore, the workshops and activities held at the ArtScience Museum are all free for ticket holders and the educators are very good at engaging attendees of all ages.  I will definitely be planning my future visits around Family Fridays!

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After the workshop, J and Little E lingered around the various exhibits, filling up their activity books and fiddling with the interactive stations. I really liked the activity books, which were beautifully designed and printed and made a wonderful souvenir of our visit! Did I mention that they are also free?! Unbelievable!

The Art & Science of Gems exhibition is at the ArtScience Museum (6 Bayfront Avenue S018974) from now until 14 August 2016. Opening Hours are 10am – 7pm daily.

Family Fridays at the ArtScience Museum will continue throughout June and July 2016. Do check out the special guided tours from 3-4pm as well as the ‘Day in the Life of a Mineralogist’ workshops in June at 4:30-5:40pm and the ‘Make your own Soap Gems’ workshops in July at 4:30-5:30pm.

There’s a nominal entry fee with a reduced price for Singapore citizens and PRs, but if you go on Family Friday, it’s a really great deal because of ALL THE FREE STUFF – free entry for kids, free activity books, free workshops! So if you haven’t visited the ArtScience Museum yet, the June school holidays would be a good time to give it a whirl!

Update 2 June 2016: I just found out that Family Friday’s free entry for kids isn’t available during Singapore school holidays and public holidays. 

For more information about tickets click here

By the way, if you haven’t guessed yet, this exhibition is a great springboard for introducing your kids to earth sciences! Here are our recommendations for books that we found useful as an accompaniment to this excursion – just click on the pictures for more information:

Cheap as Free Funtimes at Jurong East Swimming Complex

It gets hot in Singapore. Very hot. So hot in fact, that I often loathe going outdoors where there is nothing but sweat and tears, or rather, the kind of sweat that eventually forms itself into tiny rivulets that course down the face.

This is why I love taking my kids to the pool. We all get exercise without the sweating. Oh yes, there’s nothing like being cool in the pool when the sun is high in the sky. Swimming is one of those life skills that the Barn Owl and I insist that the children must learn early.

Open air swimming pools are practically everywhere in Singapore – we have a wonderful pool just downstairs of our flat which we visit at least once a week. When we were still living with the Aged Ps, we used to visit the public pool over at Buona Vista Swimming Complex before it closed in March last year. I have fond memories of bringing J there to splash about in the pool there when he was just a tiny baby. All the public swimming pools in Singapore are incredibly clean and well-kept, with lifeguards on duty at all times, and the cost of entry is minimal.

We live a stone’s throw away from the Jurong East Swimming Complex so this week, we decided to give it a go this week!

AND IT WAS AMAZING!!!!

First of all, the place was HUGE! Apart from the usual rectangular competition pool for people who want to swim laps, there was also a large water play area for kids, a small splash pool for tiny tots, a mushroom fountain play pool, three giant twirly slides (one of which was at least 3 stories high), a lazy river to drift in, and a huge wave pool!

There’s also plenty of shady picnic tables and loads of benches to lounge on. Additionally, there’s a KFC and a Pastamania on site if you haven’t brought your own refreshments.

AWESOMESAUCE!!!

AWESOMESAUCE!!!

When we were about to pay for entry to the pools, the counter staff told us that each of us were entitled to $100 worth of credit as part of the ActiveSG national sports programme. This credit could be put towards the entry fee for swimming complexes around Singapore and membership to ActiveSG is free for every Singaporean and Permanent Resident. So, I used my credit to pay for entry to the swimming complex for myself, the Barn Owl and the kids…which means that we didn’t pay for anything at all!

CHEAP AS FREE!!!

We decided to rent the a large inflatable doughnut for floating around in, which were SGD$2 for a few hours (you pay a $5 deposit and they refund you $3 after you return the tubes), and the kids enjoyed taking turns with it.

J and Little E really loved playing hide-and-seek in the water playground, and zipping along the lazy river in the inflatable tube. The Barn Owl brought them into the wave pool which the kids deemed “Very Good Fun” and J even gathered up his courage and had a go on one of the twirly slides. Meanwhile, Thumper and I sat at one of the shady areas or paddled at the edge of the wave pool enjoying the sound of the water and the feel of it between our toes.

J and Little E frolicking in the kids waterplay area whilst I scout out the picnic tables near the lazy river.

J and Little E frolicking in the kids waterplay area whilst I scout out the picnic tables near the lazy river.

I brought my brand new GoPro camera with us, in the hope of getting some awesome underwater videos, but the camera fell out of the pocket of the Barn Owl’s swimming trunks and sank to the bottom of the lazy river before we had a chance to use it.

The poor Barn Owl tried his best to find it by himself, swimming round and round to no avail. In the end, the lifeguards clubbed together to help him. One of them turned off the pump to the lazy river, whilst one of the others swam alongside the Barn Owl, searching the bottom of the pool for the camera. Thanks to their help, the Barn Owl was able to retrieve the GoPro camera in a matter of minutes.

He didn’t want to lose it again, so we ended up not taking any videos in the water. Maybe next time!

After several hours of splashing about, the kids were super hungry, so we brought them to the KFC for a quick snack before taking them home for a well deserved nap!

We’ll definitely be visiting again the next time the Barn Owl gets a chance to have a weekend off!

Jurong East Swimming Complex
21 Jurong East St 31
Tel: 6563 5052/65652297
Opening Hours:
Tues – Sun & Public Holidays: 8.00am-9.30pm
Wed and Sat: Morning Swim: 6:30-8:00am
Closed on Mondays
Entry Fees (SGD) :
For Singaporeans/Permanant Residents – don’t forget to use your ActiveSG credits:
Weekdays: Children/Senior Citizens: $0.80, Adults $1.50
Weekends & Public Holidays: Children/Senior Citizens: $1.00, Adults $2.00
Standard Rate:
Weekdays: $2.00
Weekends & Public Holidays: $2.60
Other fees to note (SGD):
Lockers: $1.00 (2 x 50cent coins)
Inflatable hire: $2 ($5 deposit, $3 refund upon return of inflatable)

A Peranakan Peregrination: A Cultural Day Out with Kids

Recently, I convinced the Aged Ps to take the kids for a Peranakan Day Out, so that they can learn more about Peranakan culture and what it means to be a Baba or a Nyonya.

Here’s how you can enjoy your own Peranakan Day Out in 10 easy steps!

Video Footnotes:

This is a really great book that not only introduces the Peranakan Museum and it’s highlights, but gives some easy to read information about Peranakan culture. In the book, Stacey visits the museum and has an adventure with a mysterious girl who takes her on a personal tour!

I really love the detailed illustrations by James Tan, and it really is such a treat to be able to read the book to the kids, and then see their reaction once they reach the museum and recognise the things that they see in the pictures.

I was very fortunate to have received a copy of this book from Armour Publishing for review, but you can get your own copy from the Peranakan Museum shop or direct from the Armour Publishing website. The book is part of the Stacey & the Museum series by Lianne Ong – here’s a review and book trailer that I made for the first book in the series, Stacey Goes to the National Museum.

The Peranakan Museum is a wonderful little museum installed in the former Tao Nan Chinese School, and has a beautiful and extensive collection of Peranakan objects, wonderfully curated in a manner that illustrates the tradition and distinctive artistic style of the Peranakan community.

There are many interactive components for children within the museum, some on large computer touch screens, and others requiring and encouraging children to touch and handle vintage objects. J and Little E enjoyed running around the museum completing a little treasure hunt – the activity sheet can be collected at the information counter.

We visited the museum with the Aged P, who is of course a true Peranakan but there are guided tours conducted daily by volunteers (most of whom are also Peranakan or are scholars of Southeast Asian culture) are more than happy to regale you with personal stories about Peranakan traditions!

The Peranakan Museum is open daily from 10am – 7pm (extended hours to 9pm on Fridays) and is located on 39 Armenian Street, Singapore 179941. Admission is free for Singaporean Citizens and PRs, as well as for children under 6 years old.

At the Peranakan Museum and Daisy's Dream Kitchen

At the Peranakan Museum and Daisy’s Dream Kitchen

  • Peranakan Food in Singapore

We ate at Daisy’s Dream Kitchen, which is a small little family-run eatery over in the West Coast serving Peranakan food as well as a selection of other local dishes.

The food is delicious and reasonably priced, with a lovely home cooked flavour and the Aged Ps deem it ‘Cheap and Good’ (which by their standards, is very good indeed). Peranakan food tends to be very rich, so I was surprised and glad to see that the dishes served were not swimming in grease, but were low in salt and oil with no loss to the fullness of flavour. We even met Daisy’s kids and grandkids, who had dropped in for lunch, the little 5 year old grandson even coming to our table to thank us for visiting! What a little charmer.

Daisy’s Dream Kitchen is open from Tues-Sun from 11am-3pm and 6pm-10pm at Block 517 West Coast Road, #01-571, S(120517), Tel: 6779 1781

If you are looking for a fancier Peranakan restaurant with a larger range of traditional dishes, prepared and displayed in a traditional manner, the Aged Ps recommend The Blue Ginger Restaurant, which is where they like to bring out-of-towners when they want to truly impress.

To get a true taste of Peranakan culture, the Aged Ps recommend that you try the Nyonya-style Ngoh Hiang, the Bakwan Kepiting soup, the Babi Ponteh stewed pork and the Ayam Buah Keluak stuffed blacknut when you are visiting a Peranakan Restaurant.

  • Peranakan music

Peranakans are known for their involvement in Dondang Sayang (Love ballad) and Keroncong (Malay-style ukelele band) forms of music.

The Aged Ps were very insistent that I chose the correct kind of music to accompany this video, and so I have gone for the Dondang Sayang style of Peranakan music. The Dondang Sayang style is exemplified by the exchange of lighthearted and cheeky malay poetry (or ‘pantun‘) between two singers.

The song that I use in this video, Rasa Sayang, is a very popular local folk song in the traditional Dondang Sayang form and the chorus goes:

Rasa sayang, hey! (Loving feelings, hey!)
Rasa sayang-sayang hey, (Lots of loving feelings, hey!)
Lihat nona dari jauh (Admiring a pretty girl from afar)
Rasa sayang-sayang, hey (Lots of loving feelings, hey!)

(Ironically, the version of Rasa Sayang  that I used is recorded by a Japanese artiste, Lisa Ono!)

  • Peranakan Fashions
Little Nyonya proudly wearing her kebaya!

Little Nyonya proudly wearing her kebaya!

We didn’t include a visit to a dressmaker to try out fancy Peranakan fashions and learn how to tie a sarong in the traditional way, but that would be a fun way to round off the day with an impromptu fashion show, especially if you have kids who love dressing up.

We love Toko Aljunied for their beautiful kebayas and batik shirts – you can find out more about this wonderful purveyor of fine Peranakan fashions for kids and adults here.