Australia (2008): Thoughts from the Couch (Potato)

Australia movie posterA British aristocrat, Lady Sarah, inherits a cattle ranch and unwillingly engages the help of an Australian cattle drover (cunningly named ‘Drover’) to protect her property.

Usual love story ensues.

This takes place around WW2 and is cleverly interwoven with the mystical story of Nullah, a half aboriginal boy who is trying with some success to avoid being separated from his tribe and sent to Mission Island to join the rest of the ‘Stolen Generation’.

This film is beautifully rendered with the usual breathtaking cinematography that is associated with Baz Luhrmann. There are plentiful scenes of Hugh Jackman doing all sorts of sexy things in slow motion (walking, riding, getting doused in water/dust/mud, gazing thoughtfully into the horizon etc etc).

In comparison, there are precious few beauty shots of Nicole Kidman, though. Very few closeups. She may be over 40 in this film but she is still gorgeous and it would been nice to see her beauty celebrated just a teensy weensy bit, Mr Luhrmann!

Debs G recommends: Watch this movie with Moulin Rouge! for more beauty shots of Nicole Kidman to balance out your Baz Luhrmann evening!

P.S. Get Australia here

P.P.S. Check out the rest of the Couch Potato series here.

Hairspray (2007): Thoughts from the Couch (Potato)

HairsprayMoviePosterI must admit that I was very reluctant to watch this musical, simply because the title sounds vapid (Hairspray? Really?) and because I am utterly resistant to the charms of Zac Efron.[1]

However, John Travolta, James Marsden AND Christopher Walken in a musical together? DANCING?

THIS IS MOVIE GOLD!

And yes, Movie Gold it is indeed. Apart from the catchy tunes and snazzy dance numbers and the fact that John Travolta looks fetching in a dress, the storyline is both relevant and uplifting.

(And…Christopher Walken totally rocks.)


[1]During my first pregnancy, I was rather sickly, so The Barn Owl, in an ill-conceived attempt to alleviate my symptoms, borrowed High School Musical from the local video library. Needless to say, I spent most of that day staring down the U-bend.

P.S. Get Hairspray (2007) here

P.P.S. Check out the rest of the Couch Potato series here

 

Deep water (or More Geography for Preschoolers)

In this portion of Little E’s school holiday project, we trace a river from the sea to its source. Along the way, we learn about how the water from a single river has been used in many different ways – in trade, industry and agriculture, in city planning, in religion.

This was a very challenging project for us, because it involved quite a bit of preparation and research, but it was a really great way for Little E to see how physical geography meets human geographyy.

Our initial plan was to follow a route that was already prepared by my sister-in-law’s teaching colleague, who took her elementary school students on a field trip to trace a large river last year. Unfortunately, this river crossed over several cities and would mean hours of driving. Additionally, the stops taken on the field trip did not have any particular meaning in terms of observing significant geographical features or landmarks – they were just the drop off points at the bus service stations!

So, we had to start from scratch and I couldn’t have done this without the help of The Outlaws, who hold quite extensive knowledge of the local terrain. We spent a few evenings discussing which river to trace with the help of Google Maps and the Outlaw’s collection of ordinance maps.

The most difficult part of creating the videos took place after piecing together all the footage from the field trips. This was when Little E recorded the narration for the video. I have to say that Little E worked REALLY very hard on this, and I recorded nearly 3 hours worth of voiceover narration for this video!

Little E was oftentimes very upset when listening to the playback of her recording, and would insist on re-recording parts of the narration that sounded too robotic or too garbled.    She’s only 5 years old, so her preschooler diction was not in her favour and she had to repeat herself many times in order to be clearly heard and understood. At times, she would get discouraged and would need a little push, but in the end she managed to do a really great job and I was really proud of her!

Great job, Little E!

Check out Part 1 of this project here 

Water, water, everywhere (or Geography for Preschoolers)

You may have noticed that my posts have been quite sporadic over the last month, and the reason for this is because I have been working with Little E on her latest school holiday project on “Water”.

Little E really wanted to do an educational video series like J did, but she drew inspiration from BBC science and nature documentaries like Planet Earth.

This project was particularly difficult because the topic was just SO broad! I struggled to find an angle to approach this subject that was not already covered by Little E’s preschool teachers.

If I were to help Little E explore the various properties of water or find out about the water cycle or learn how to conserve water, that would be pretty straightforward for me – but it would also mean that Little E would not have anything new or different to share with her classmates when she presented her project…and she wouldn’t be learning anything new herself, so she would get bored.

So I decided to help Little E explore a field of study that is completely foreign to me, namely, geography.

GEOGRAPHY!!!!!

We do study some basic geography in Singapore at the primary and secondary school level, but physical geography – specifically, geomorphology and hydrology – is only studied in depth at the upper secondary school level as an elective subject, not as part of the core curriculum.

This meant that I had to actually do some reading, instead of relying on my own store of knowledge. After all, if I’m going to help Little E learn about water in the world, I have to learn about it myself first! So, the reason why I wasn’t writing in this blog is because I was reading about water and trying to translate the language of geography into kid-speak so that Little E could make her documentary.

In this video, Little E learns about bodies of water and their differing aspects! Enjoy!

(Check out Part 2 of this project here)

If you are interested in some of the resources that I used for this video or if you are looking for resources to introduce your kid to the subject of Geography, here’s a list!


Water, Water Everywhere, What & Why? : Third Grade Science Books Series

The Drop in my Drink: The Story of Water on Our Planet


Water Dance


Water Can Be . . . (Millbrook Picture Books)


Hydrology: The Study of Water (True Books: Earth Science (Paperback))

Leveling Up (Pre-wedding Videos)

Since the Boobook and I are gearing up for our wedding, we thought we’d share a little bit of how we got to know each other.

Head on over to Some Sweet Honey to find out how we got to know each other, and how we documented our love story.

Some Sweet Honey

Since The Boobook and I are a fairly low-key couple, we didn’t want to do pre-wedding photography at famous Sydney landmarks, mostly because almost NONE of our dates took place at said landmarks but also because we didn’t feel that the overly artistic, lovey-dovey nature of such photos really captured the essence of our relationship (bleh!).

We decided to film a pre-wedding video instead, which turned out both cheaper and faster than a pre-wedding photoshoot, with a lot less of the fuss and running around!  Plus, given that both The Boobook and I are massive video game geeks, we felt that filming something both funny and sweet would really tell our love story better.

Jason Queue of QUED Productions was recommended to us by our chosen wedding videographers, Clarzzique (more on that later).  On perusing QUED’s facebook, I was rather charmed by the sense of humour that they showed on…

View original post 479 more words

Citiblocs are GREAT!

I love wooden building blocks so much that I’ve amassed a rather sizeable collection. I just love the tactile feel of the wood beneath my fingers and the scope for creativity that building blocks have (and the fact that I can build and disassemble structures without pain). However, J and Little E have moved on from wooden building blocks to Legos quite a long time ago, as the sort of creations that they could make with building blocks were limited by the fact that their creations kept breaking apart or toppling over. The blocks have been in storage for quite a while now, waiting for Thumper to get old enough to play with them.

When my friend, Pamela (from Tan Family Chronicles) asked if I would be interested in checking out the Citiblocs range from the My First Games webstore, I was not sure if my kids would even play with them, and I told her so.

Pamela immediately whipping out her mobile phone, saying “Ok Debs, I know you have a ton of blocks at home, but can your building blocks make this?”

And she played me this video:

I gaped at her.

“No. My blocks can’t build any structures remotely NEAR that scale. I mean, that is…that is just…the level of precision…the structural stability…so architectural…”, I blustered finally, struggled to find the words to describe what I had seen.

“SOLD!” I gurgled, finally.

Pamela nodded and patted me on the shoulder.

Anyhow, I was completely sold on Citiblocs. I knew that if I showed J and Little E what they could build with these blocks, they would LOVE it.

The Citiblocs are made from Radiata pine wood from a sustainable source in New Zealand and are certified safe and non-toxic. They are sold in different colour combinations – Natural (original pine with no wood stain), Cool (red and yellow tones), Hot (blue and green tones) and Camo (green and brown tones). Pamela was kind enough to give me one box of each colour combination to try out.

Each block is exactly the same size, shape and weight, and the surfaces of the blocks are straight and flat, whilst being textured just enough to increase the friction between the blocks (but not so much that it creates splinters). This precise cut and uniformity of the blocks is what makes them so special After playing with them with my kids, I understand why these blocks have won so many toy industry awards!

This is what happened when I first opened the Citiblocs at home:

A building competition ensues

A building competition ensues

The Barn Owl, who was recovering on the couch after working through the night, lazily started building a spiral staircase. J started on his own Tower of Babel, with the tower stretching far beyond what we would expect from any of our other building blocks, and Little E even discovered how to make a simple cantilever design.

There was a little booklet inside the boxes filled with pictures and ideas for some basic designs and some more complicated ones – no stepwise instructions needed.

Here’s what the kids were making together during their second session with their Citiblocs:

Building with the power of Physics

Building with the power of Physics

Impressive, right? These blocks are really much more fun than my other building blocks and they do encourage kids to be more creative, whilst instilling in them a rudimentary understanding of physics. The more precisely the blocks are placed, the more complex structures can be built – what a way to train fine motor skills! Additionally, since there are no snaps or screws involved, large creations are easily dismantled and put away at the end of the day (as you can tell from our Guide to Citiblocs video below).

And the best part of all this is that they keep my kids quietly occupied for hours. Which is the main point.

I was so excited about these blocks, I decided to buy some more block sets as gifts for my nephews and nieces, as well as a set of CitiBlocs Little Builder Rattle Blocs (for when Thumper is old enough) which won the Oppenheim Platinum Award…after all, Christmas is just round the corner, and My First Games is holding a special Citiblocs promotion!

CitiBlocs sale at My First Games

CitiBlocs sale at My First Games

Just enter the coupon code: CTBTHIRTY at checkout to enjoy 30% off the entire CitiBlocs range at My First Games! (And you get an extra 50 blocks if you spend about $200!) What a bargain!

I am seriously considering getting more Citiblocs to add to our collection so as to challenge J and Little E to build even more complicated structures!

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.