Monday, November 8, 2010

Ritz Carlton Naples Golf Resort

Work took us as a family to Florida last week. While there we were housed at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples. The resort is beautiful in so many ways - the rooms, the golf course. The jazz trio that plays in the lobby deserves more than a mention. Their pools are salt-water pools and hence very swimmer-friendly.

However, in keeping with the focus of this blog, I must admit that the children's menu was very disappointing. Thinking that we would be at a 5-star resort and therefore must at least have decent food for kids, I decided that my son will just eat the kids' fare they serve. But upon arrival, I found that the only healthy and appetizing main item they had for the little ones was the mac and cheese. As we were there for almost a week, my 20-month old son had mac and cheese for almost every meal the first few days. Finally on the third day, he retaliated. So I decided that perhaps he will like the chicken fingers with fries. After all, which kid does not like fries. And fries it was. The kiddo wanted nothing to do with the tough and oily chicken strips and just wanted the fries which I greatly disapprove of - they were very greasy and extremely salty.

Ritz Carlton has another resort nearby - the Ritz Carlton Beach Resort; and the Golf Resort shuttles its patrons over for free. Desperate and in search of food for my son, I shuttled over in hopes of finding more palatable meals. I was disappointed. They do have a slightly more diverse menu at the coffee house and I decided to try the fail-proof chicken noodle soup. After his first spoonful, my son rejected it like bad medicine. I tasted it and realized why - it was SO salty. I could barely finish the leftover. So the poor boy ended up having cereal for most of his meals. By the time our conference was over, I was thrilled that we'd be moving to a service-apartment where I can cook again for the tyke.
Beautiful rooms, but...
The skinny: If you have kids, Ritz Carlton Golf Resort Naples is perhaps not a place where you'd want to stay if you plan to dine at its F&B outlet during your time there. On second thought, even if it were just an adult-only holiday, I would suggest you eat out and give the restaurants at the Resort a miss. Seriously.

Friday, October 8, 2010

iPhone apps toddlers love

I loved my Blackberry. Very much. But recently I had to give that up for an iPhone. There are many reasons for that but one main factor that contributed to the conversion is the fact that in less than 3 weeks' my husband and I would be going on a 26-hour plane ride across continents for both work and visit with family. This means we will have to keep our 20-month old boy occupied for half of that time (considering snooze hours). Sure, we're packing Duplos, books, matchbox vehicles but we all know how fast kids that age get tired of things. So we want to be prepared - with fun and educational applications on our mobile devices.

So here are some which my son (and we) approves of:

  1. Talking Tom (who doesn't have Talking Tom on their phone???) - a cat that mimics your speech in kitty pitch
  2. Peekaboo Barn - lets the little one guess the animal based on the sound it makes. The free version features 4 barn animals
  3. Animals 360 - we love this one! It features real life pictures of wild animals with the sound they make
For purchase:
  1. Old MacDonald by Duck Duck Moose ($1.99) - interactive features to the tune of, well, Old MacDonald.
  2. Wheels on the Bus by Duck Duck Moose ($1.99) - interactive fun to the tune of song of the same name
  3. Dr Seuss' selected books (we have Green Eggs and Ham) - interactive with narration option. The price ranges from $2.99 - 3.99
This is what I've on my phone right now and if you know of any that you'd like to share with us, leave us a note on the comment section.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

If the shoe fits...

Firstly, I must admit that this post is slightly off-focus from what our Two Skinny Moms blog is about. I'm not sharing the skinny on any particular shoes for kids or adults but I had just read a fellow mommy's latest post in her blog where she shared this video from YouTube and I thought it'd be good to share it here.

YouTube is one great source for tips, information, and other how-to and hands-on demos on various things. Of course there are millions of other less positive, unhelpful, destructive and junk in that site too but that's not for discussion here.

This video is helpful for all parents when buying shoes for their children (and themselves too!). Many a time, we end up buying shoes that are too tight or narrow thinking that a tighter fit would prevent our precious ones from tripping. Or we buy them one size larger because we think that they will grow into them very quickly and thus last longer.

Watch this and learn:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Holiday in Kuantan, Malaysia

If you're looking to get away from city life for some R & R with your kids, and not deal with airline ticketing, long haul flights and packing large suitcases of stuff, a place like Kuantan could be one destination you might want to consider.

For those of us living in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, Kuantan, the capital of the state of Pahang, Malaysia would be just about a very manageable three to four hours' drive via expressways, or scenic coastal roads if you choose. Kuantan is well known for its beaches in Teluk Cempedak, Batu Hitam, Balok and other nearby beaches such as Beserah and Cherating.

According to Wikipedia, Kuantan has the most beaches compared to other cities in Malaysia. It has quite a number of hotels too, ranging from basic ones to resort types.

During the school holidays earlier this year in March, my family and I made a trip to Kuantan and stayed at the Swiss Garden Resort. It is a popular resort among families as they have quite affordable packages. The hotel amenities are reasonably good with the usual F&B places one would find in a resort, adults and kids swimming pools, gym and sauna, spa, jacuzzi and a pretty decent beach.

The seaview rooms

The swimming pool area

However, I found their ability to cope with a full-house situation a little lacking. You can make reservations online through their website or by calling them. Since it was peak period, checking in and checking out took some time. There were many Malaysian and Singaporean families at the resort since it was school holidays then for both countries.

The complimentary breakfast spread was satisfactory like most hotel breakfast buffets. The only problem we faced was the overwhelming crowd. There were not enough tables to cater to the full-house crowd at the Garden Terrace where breakfast was served so the queue at the entrance could get long if you arrived at the peak breakfast time. As the place overlooked the pool and featured a partially open concept, it was fully drenched by the morning sun, giving you a rather hot and humid start to your day if you happen to get seated at unstrategic spots. They have an outdoor deck section and a fully glass-walled indoor section so you can imagine how much sunlight the place was getting. It however, transformed into a very nice restaurant in the evening with a warm, cozy ambience created by clever design and location of water feature and lighting.

Recreational facilities are good as long as you are not expecting six-star luxury. I would rate this resort as a four-star place that meets general requirements of everyday middle-class families. They have their Tupai Kids' Club and Games room that offer various activities to keep kids occupied in a fun way. And there's the beach where you and your kids can spend hours playing in the sand or sea.

For mommies who need some pampering, do check out their Samsara Spa. Their treatments are totally relaxing and rejuvenating! Unless you're the type who can afford the time and money to visit a spa regularly, the couple of hundred bucks you cough up here is a worthwhile once-in-a-blue-moon treat.

Getting to Swiss Garden at Balok Beach from Kuantan is not difficult as the hotel website offers directions (about 9 km distance). The carpark is not covered so you'd need to drive up to the lobby to drop off your passengers and baggage especially if it rains.

If you wish to dine outside your hotel, there are quite a number of options in nearby places. Kuantan is known for its seafood and you can pick and choose from various restaurants lining the main roads leading to popular hotels and the town center. To name a few, they are Pak Su, Alor Akar and Muhibbah Seafood Restaurant. I'm not able to comment on these restaurants as I didn't get the opportunity to eat at any of these places. But judging from the crowd and some with tour buses parked outside when we passed by these places at night, I would think they would be reasonably good.

One place we did eat at was a western food restaurant called East Grill Steakhouse. The skinny on this place: good service, good food, reasonable price, comfortable, air-conditioned, fairly good menu. May be a bit hard to locate if you're not familiar with Kuantan but a GPS or a phone call to them for directions(we did both) would get you there.

Steak at East Grill

If spending your time at the resort is not enough, there are a few things you could do venturing out. Here's what we did:

Drive up north towards Cherating and Kemaman (about half to one hour's drive). You could visit the turtle sanctuary located beside Club Med Cherating. The turtle sanctuary is a simple, functional place although it is open to visitors. Admission is free (they welcome donations). They have a small exhibition room detailing info about turtles and conservation, and a small pond with some turtles swimming in it. You'd be done within half an hour there. Good initial exposure for kids on turtles, the danger they're in and how to help, although I spotted some bad English on their posters and brochure.

Driving along the coastal road towards Cherating and Kemaman gives you sights of 'kampungs' and cottage industries. You can stop by the roadside at one of the many stalls selling dried 'keropok' which you need to deep fry. You can buy them loose by weight or pre-packed in sealed plastic bags. They come in various flavours such as fish (various types), prawn, and lobster. They also have a 'wet' version that is dough-like called 'keropok lekor'. They have a fishier taste and you can dip it in chilly sauce. You might also want to try 'satar', a local delicacy made from fish paste, spices and coconut, wrapped in banana leaf, skewered and grilled over fire.

After Cherating, you'll come to a town called Chukai in Kemaman. You'ved basically crossed over to the neighbouring state of Trengganu. There's nothing much to see in Chukai (it's a small town) but if you're a foodie like me, there's food to check out there! Holidays and weekends will require you to queue outside Kedai Kopi (Coffeeshop) Hai Peng for its much-touted tasty Kemaman coffee and Hainanese coffeeshop fare. Then you can try Chukai's famous stuffed crabs and other local seafood dishes at one of the restaurants on Jalan Sulaimani. To name a few: Restoran Malaysia and Restoran Tong Juan.

Stuffed crab at Tong Juan

What's good about going to Kuantan:
- relatively short journey, can self-drive if you're going from Singapore or Malaysia
- convenient, numerous comfortable resorts to choose from
- see, learn, experience: local sights and culture, turtle conservation, local food
- relaxing and fun time with family by the beach and in the resort, away from hustle and bustle of the city
- relatively affordable short holiday compared to overseas trips
- Kuantan is within easy driving distance to other places of interest in the east coast of Malaysia, good place for halfway stop if you're driving further up north to Kuala Trengganu

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nasal aspirations

When one has a head cold, the most challenging time of the day is at night when the stuffed up nose finds little reprieve for a decent night's sleep. This is especially frustrating for a little one who has yet to learn the skill of blowing the nose. I remember when I was a child, my mother would rub Vicks Vaporub on my philtrum (just under the nose) which ended up being a nuisance rather than an aid to my breathing as the balm would burn my skin.

However, such affairs are of the past for kids today as we now have many other options available for the same purpose. When I need some help to clear out my nasal passages, I would turn to either eucalyptus or peppermint oil. But these oils in their pure form may be too strong for little bodies. While an aspirator may be helpful when the tyke is awake, it is difficult to aspirate when he is asleep.

That's where Karvol Decongestant Capsules come in. These oil capsules have a vapor action that helps relieve blocked noses for children from 3 months old on. Click Karvol for more information. They are easy to use - simply snip the top off of the capsule and dab the content onto a handkerchief tied securely near to but out of reach of the child. What I do is I dab it onto my baby's pajama collar and onto his pillow.As it is made of a unique combination of aromatic oils including pine, cinnamon and menthol, it smells pretty good!
Karvol is retailed at most major pharmacies at around S$9 and they come in a box of 12 capsules.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A fun way to drink milk

If you find it troublesome to cater to the differing tastebuds your kids have for milk, you might want to try a different way of pleasing your milk guzzlers by using Sipahh milk flavoring straws. Rather than having to stock up on cartons of various flavored milk such as chocolate for kid no.1, strawberry for kid no.2 and plain for kid no.3, or having to buy chocolate or other flavored syrups to mix with milk, these milk flavoring straws might just be your savior.

Sipahh milk flavoring straws were invented by a man named Peter Baron and was first sold in Australia in 2005. The straw is filled with flavored beads, called UniBeads. According to the Sipahh website, "as the milk is sipped through Sipahh, the UniBeads dissolve and turn boring white milk into a healthy snack that everyone can enjoy".

The website also lists the flavors that are available (they vary by country):

Choc Mint
Choc Honeycomb
Cookies & Cream
Choc Banana
Toffee Apple

Check out the website here for more details and on how to use the straw.

The skinny:

1. Convenience - you need to only stock up on just one flavor i.e. plain milk, be it full cream, skim, low fat, goat's milk or milk alternatives like soy. No need to buy sticky flavored syrups or powders that you need to mix or stir into milk. Less worry on expiry dates, wastage of unfinished milk.  Easier to stock up on straws that take up less space and don't require refrigeration.

2. Handy - each box contains 10 individually-wrapped straws. They can be easily packed into your bag or picnic basket when you're on the go.

3. No wastage - each straw is good for one portion of milk (200-250ml) your child usually drinks.

4. Relatively safe - each straw contains no preservatives, less than ½ teaspoon of sugar and is gluten free. It is suitable for vegetarians and also "helps deliver the goodness of milk including protein, calcium and riboflavin" according to the website. However, like all man-made products, its ingredients have added flavor (non-artificial), color (natural) and sweetener.

5. Pricing - reasonable

6. Choice - too many flavors to choose from, especially if the country you live in offers a wider range.

7. Hygienic and green - each straw is individually wrapped and good for one use only. They are recyclable. Each Sipahh is manufactured according to strict quality standards and under HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point) conditions. Sipahh is also FDA (Food & Drug Administration) safety compliant in the USA.

8. Best used with cold or room temperature milk.

9. Fun - it's quite a novelty at first for your kids to drink milk using these straws. My daughter who usually drinks a portion of less than 200 ml of milk had actually asked me for a top-up when she noticed there were still some undissolved UniBeads left in the straw after finishing about 150ml of milk. They might also be eager to drink more milk simply because they want to try out the different flavors. My daughter likes the chocolate and strawberry but not the banana or caramel.

Check out their FAQs here.

Finally, if you're like me, wondering why on earth this product is strangely named Sipahh, it's just simply this:

"Simply dip into cold milk, Sip, and say Ahh!"

Friday, August 27, 2010

On the road with Ergo

Most if not all baby experts would recommend that we wear our babies as much as possible from the moment they are born. There are many good and practical reasons to wear your baby - check out Babywearing International for more information.

We started carrying our son in a carrier soon after he got home from the hospital. Our first carrier was the Evenflo Snugli. This was a reasonable-priced alternative to the more popular Baby Bjorn. Our baby started out facing in and when he was old enough around 3 months, he put him in facing out. The first time he faced out, he was so thrilled that he kicked his legs furiously when we took him out for a walk! The Snugli carrier worked well for us the first few months but when our son's weight started to progress around about the fifth month, having him in the carrier for more than 10 minutes would strain our shoulders so much that it hurts. Besides, the Snugli has a weight limit - for babies up to 26 lbs. (Note that my son was nowhere near 26 lbs and his weight was already killing my shoulders!)

Hence we went on a quest for a carrier that is more back and shoulders friendly. After sifting through reviews online we decided on the ErgoBaby. And we loved it from the first moment we used it!
Here's the skinny:
The weight limit of the ErgoBaby carrier is a whopping 40 lbs (18 kgs). This means, our son can easily fit in that thing till he's 2 or older. Great way to calm him down after a bout of activity outside. Our son now weighs almost 24 lbs and it's still very easy to carry him around. No strain or sore whatsoever on our shoulders. This carrier works extremely well for us as it is challenging to use the stroller at a lot of places around Singapore.

Other than carrying the baby in the front, you can also piggy-back baby or carry her on the side. Check it out here at ErgoBaby. Our son loves to be carried in the back! Great help when we're at the grocery store where it's crowded and busy. Little tot's hands are free to explore and touch the fruits and vegetables on sale but he is not able to sip around freely on his own.

The ErgoBaby Sport that we got is made of lightweight cotton material unlike many other carriers and this is greatly appreciated in the hot and humid weather condition where we are. When our son is finally tired and needs a nap, the carrier comes with a sleep hood that you use over the sleepy head as he naps restfully against his mommy or daddy's body.

For more tips on what to look for in a baby carrier, check out the babywearing website. Meanwhile, we are glad that ours will serve still serve us for a while.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Retro books

I love most things retro. Hence when I discovered this Classic Books website, I was thrilled! Part of the United States' online Library of Congress, it has digital version of vintage children's books that you can browse. Categorized according to age, it has books for kids and teens. I love the rich illustrations of these books and their standard of the English language. It is good to know that something is done to preserve such treasures.
Pixs credit:
While my son is not allowed any television at his tender young age of 18 months, occasionally we would give him an online video or digital book treat. He would sit on my lap as we browse some of the books here. One of our favorites is Apple Pie by Kate Greenaway. I hope your tot will enjoy these digital online books as much as we do!

Monday, August 16, 2010

To Infinity and Beyond....

This picture can be found here.
Has it been two months already that Toy Story 3 first hit the theaters and stole our hearts? Has everyone gotten over one of the best family movies of the year? Or are we still on a high, fueled by all the follow-up merchandise and toys galore? I remember when my daughter was around three or four years old and was hooked to Toy Story and Toy Story 2, she just couldn't get enough of Woody, Buzz, Jessie and the gang - Toy Story DVDs, Woody, Jessie and Buzz dolls, figurine collection from a fast food chain, stickers, books, VSmile game....

With Toy Story 3, the craze has reawakened -- newer versions of toys and games and just about anything and everything. And many of these might just leave a dent on your pocket if junior were to get everything he wants. Luckily for me, my junior merely raved about Buzz switching to Spanish mode as she has moved on to more 'senior' stuff now that she's older.

If you're looking for something cheap, or free, and good (yes, sometimes they do exist) for your little Toy Story fan, you just need to go to Disney's official Toy Story website here. There's plenty of activities and online games for your child (and you!) to do and play.

There are recipes to make Mr Potato Head cake pops, Green Alien cupcakes, instructions to make a Toy Story pinata, party invitation cards, many printable coloring pages, etc. Imagine junior's next birthday party theme....

As for online games, you can find quite a number of them like Daycare Dash, Woody's Wild Adventure, Rex's Game, Hamm's Game, Jessie's Game and Toy Story Mania where you can even build your own games.

These should be enough 'ammunition' to stock up on to keep your child occupied for a few instalments of online games since school is still out for the summer break. Or for those of us in Singapore and Malaysia, it's the wet season these few weeks and these online games may just be a good change from the regular Gameboy, Playstation or Nintendo that can keep the kids indoors.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Family-friendly Japanese dining

If you love Japanese food but found dining at a restaurant with a toddler a little too much work, Shokudo Japanese Food Bazaar is definitely worth checking out. Other than its unconventional concept of more than 10 booths that cook up (right before you!) over 300 varieties of Japanese food, its 15,000 square feet of floor space includes a family dining area with a children's play space.
So, while you're dipping your piece of sashimi into the wasabi-laced soy sauce, your anticipation will not be broken by cries of boredom as your kids are happily occupied at the play area which is furnished with low tables and toys designed to encourage the development of young minds and motor movements.

Ever since my son was an infant, Shokudo has been our go-to restaurant when I've a craving for some belly-warming ramen and decently priced sashimi. Of course, there are also the chawan mushi (savory egg custard) and Japanese pizzas which we all love so much as a family.

The skinny? A great dining place that's young children friendly for good Japanese fare. And if you dine there often enough, you can pick up their frequent diner card for a mere $30 that could chalk up savings from dining discounts and birthday specials that amount to much more than the membership fee. My annual membership just expired and I think it's time to renew it...
Shokudo Japanese Food Bazaar @ Raffles City:
Raffles City Shopping Center
252 North Bridge Road, #B1-44E
Tel: +65 6837 3793
Dining Hours:
11.30am – 10.00pm

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Too tired to read to your child?

Kids love stories, whether it is at bedtime or any other time. There had been times when my daughter was younger and couldn't read on her own, that she would ask for one story after another and we would end up tired with dry throats from reading book after book.

A win-win solution that we found useful were audio books, books that come with a CD. What's good about it is that you and your child can listen to the stories without having you read them.If your child is learning how to read on her own, they are a great help too.

Audio books are easily available in local bookstores or online stores but they are usually more expensive than regular books. If you wish to save some money, check out this site, Storynory.

Storynory Kid's Audio Stories has a pretty sizeable collection of free audio stories, separated into different categories such as fairy tales, Bible stories, Christmas stories, animal stories, Hans Christian Andersen, Brothers Grimm, Aesop, Greek myths, other original stories and even poems and videos.

All you need to do is select the story you wish to listen to and click to play. The text of the story appears on screen and you can also print it out if you wish. The site also allows you to subscribe to it.

Storynory brings you a new story every week. The stories are downloadable, available via iTunes, so you can store them in your preferred mobile device such as your iPod. It makes it easier for your child to listen to the stories when you are on the move, travelling or do not have a computer in your child's room when you need the stories for bedtime.

My husband used to download the stories to his iPhone and they've come in very handy during those boring times in the car, while waiting at the doctor's, or when we wanted our child to sit still in a restaurant.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My First Question and Answer Book

Some children's reference or general knowledge books tend to be too wordy, over-intense in terms of the content, and crowded with small print with boring pictures and layout.

When I found this book two years ago for my then five-year-old daughter, I was quite surprised and pleased as it is very colorful with lots of white space, yet containing attractive and descriptive pictures. Most of all, it is easy to read with simple yet adequate facts for pre-school or elementary school kids to understand.

Although it's quite thick (512 pages), the book is properly organised with 18 categories. Each category has its own table of contents, with an additional general index at the back. Every question is answered in two pages with short paragraphs, and sidebar facts and trivia.

It also contains activity boxes that encourage the child to think and probe further.

Subjects covered in this book: space, planet Earth, oceans, weather, science, inventions, your body, dinosaurs, bugs, reptiles and amphibians, birds, mammals, ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, Vikings, knights and castles, pirates and finally explorers.

This book is published by Miles Kelly Publishing (ISBN 978-1-84236-914-2).


If your child is interested in online activities, check out this site called StoryPlace. They call themselves "The Children's Digital Library" and have two main sections, pre-school and elementary.

This site is very colourful and easy to navigate. It contains many short stories that the child can read online on his own (read: minimal help from mom!) as they are very simple with short sentences, colorful graphics and arrow prompts for the child to click on to go to the next page.

Besides stories, it also has online activities and print-outs, plus a reading list of recommended books and activities for parents to have with their kids. There are lots of themes for the child to choose from to read or play, such as animals, music, shapes, colors, bath time, etc.

So if you wish to keep your child quiet yet doing something productive, this kid-safe and kid-friendly website could be the solution.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fun with Dr Seuss

Many of us know Dr Seuss for his rhyming stories for children. His unique style is peculiar yet sensible, his rhymes are catchy and funny.

My daughter was first introduced to Dr Seuss and his infamous Cat in the Hat when she was three years old. She was enthralled with the sound of his words and his illustrations. Thereafter, we got more of his books and PC games for her. One of her favourite stories then was Horton Hatches The Egg and later on, Horton Hears A Who!

Do you know that Theodor Seuss Geisel was once a political cartoonist? He was chief editorial cartoonist for a New York newspaper before World War II. You can read more about it and view a catalog of his political cartoons here.

Besides books and educational games in CD-ROMs, your child can also learn and have fun in this website, Dr Seuss's Seussville . It's definitely a good place to go to when your child cannot go outdoors to play (it's the rainy season here in Malaysia and Singapore now).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Not so tyke-friendly train system

As any mother would know, during those infant months, when it is time for a feed, one must drop everything to make sure that the screaming baby's tummy is filled. And often such episodes are unpredictable especially during a growth spurt. Fast forward to a year later when that cherub is now a busy toddler. Sometimes the only break our sleep-deprived bodies get from having to run after the active tot is when they get a favorite snack.

If you are a parent that would fit into either of these categories, and if you plan to visit Singapore (or you already live here!) you may want to be informed that you can be fined up to S$500 for either breastfeeding or giving an impatient rug rat some snacks (for keeping him from another meltdown) on Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train system. This no-food, no-drink rule applies not only on the trains themselves but also in the station. So, the next time your two-month old wails for your breasts, do not even think that you can appease her until you "approach our customer service officers who will accord them the temporary use of the staff room" - according to the FAQ's on the SMRT website (click here to read the restrictions).

While I love the fact the trains are mostly pristinely clean due to this restriction on eating and drinking, I do wonder if this regulation has been taken to its impractical extreme. Here's a scenario from a personal experience: you're in a crowded train with your 18-month old and you've a 30-minute ride on the train. After 10 minutes of reading the books you've brought along to entertain him, he starts to get bored - and finicky. His verbal protest soon turns into squealing and his noisy retaliation is clearly bothering the other passengers. The ONLY thing that will stop him from a full-fledged meltdown is his favorite string cheese. Question - should I give him his snack - that will immediately ease the stressful situation for everyone - OR should I maintain my adherence to the "rule" and let my poor tot bawl for 20 minutes till we reach our destination?

My other question: Should some of these rules be reviewed for their baby-friendliness (or unfriendliness) in view of the Singapore government's drive to increase the national birth rate?
(Pix credit:
It would be interesting to note here that back in 1994, a legislation was signed in New York to protect a woman's right to breast-feed "in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother's breast is covered during or incidental to the breast-feeding."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Home away from home

Sometimes a hotel room, however luxurious it may be, may just not be practical when you're a family with young children. Once you fit in an extra bed or baby cot, there's hardly any space left to move around. And with kids having to change clothes ever so often, laundry service at a hotel could just put a dent to your pocket.

You could get a family suite which will solve the space issue but you'd still be left wondering if you need to pack ten days' worth of clothes for a five-day trip, and wash baby's bottles in the bathroom sink, among other considerations.

Serviced apartments, in my opinion, are a great alternative. They offer comfort, space and all the amenities of home. They are good value for money for the cost-conscious. While some cater for long-term stays only, there are others that accommodate short-stay visitors.

During my last trip to Singapore, I stayed at the Somerset Compass serviced apartment for four nights. The three-bedroom apartment was very spacious with a well-equipped kitchen.

The spacious living room with TV, DVD player and cable TV:
The dining area with 8-seater dining table:
The fully-equipped kitchen, with toaster, fridge, microwave, cooker, kettle, coffeemaker, pots and pans, crockery, cutlery, washer/dryer:
Located off Orchard Road, Somerset Compass is just a five-minute walk away from the closest mall, Paragon. It is also walking distance from the Somerset MRT station.

You can either call or get online to make your reservation. Customer service was satisfactory and we had no problems during check-in. The apartment is cleaned everyday except Sundays. Breakfast is provided at a small resident's lounge. While the spread cannot be compared to the extensive ones offered by hotels, it was functional. When I was there, they served pastries, bread/toast, eggs, sausages, milk, coffee, tea, juice, cereal and fresh fruits.

They also have a children's wading pool, adult pool and playground.

What I like about the place:

- Location: Walking distance to shoppers' paradise on Orchard Road, and transportation such as bus, taxi and MRT. You can even catch a shuttle service from a nearby bus stop to go to the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo.
- Ample space for children to rest, or rather be active, indoors. The living room is equipped with a television with cable TV, and a DVD player (so you can bring along Junior's favourite DVD without having to pack a player!)
- Comfort: king-sized bed in the master bedroom with ensuite bath, proper living and dining area with good furniture.
- Kitchen: clean and spacious with enough crockery, pots and pans, toaster, large fridge, coffee maker and microwave to cook up a feast. Dishwashing liquid is provided.
- Laundry: a washer-dryer is at your disposal with detergent provided as well. Just pop your clothes in before you go out to the Zoo, Bird Park, Sentosa Island, Orchard Road etc, and voila!, you don't have to contend with a mountain of dirty laundry after your holiday.
- Internet connection is available with no extra charge, but you need to bring your own laptop.

The Somerset Serviced Residence has properties all around the world. Find them here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Music for all in the family

Many of us have probably heard of the Mozart effect where it is believed that listening to classical music would boost the intelligence of your baby. While researchers may have debunked it recently, one cannot deny that music definitely has some kind of effect on the little ones. That is why many of us hum, sing or play the lullabies to our cherubs at bedtime. In a separate study in New York, however, it was found that music boosts memory retrieval in young infants (this was reported in an issue of The America Association of Pediatrics’s newsletter).

Regardless of the benefits listening to certain kinds of music, my husband and I both decided before our son was born that we want to expose him to a diverse genres of music – especially the ones that we love which covers a pretty broad range between husband and me. After all, who would inherit all our CD collection if not him, our singleton? But playing a White Stripe CD to a 2-month old baby would seem rather inappropriate. Besides we would not want to deprive him of the silliness of three escaping blind mice or Old MacDonald and his farm. But we want to heed the warning that one day demands will be made for a same song to be played over and over again. So, is there a way to compromise between a toddler’s wants and his parents’ tolerance for the same song the 100th time?

Then, we found a series of jazz CD's which claims to have songs for kids which won't drive parents crazy when they are played for the 20 millionth time - Jazz for Kids. What it is is jazzy renditions of fun and silly kiddie songs. We ordered one from the series, Jazz for Kids: Sing, Clap, Wiggle and Shake, and WE loved it! Our son first heard it when he was 3-month old and he still loves it today after a year. His all-time favorites from the album are Old McDonald (Ella Fitzgerald) and Ain't nobody here but us chickens (Louis Jordan). I personally love it, too, being a diehard jazz lover. We subsequently got a few other similar ones including Nicky’s Jazz for Kids and Miss Ella’s Playhouse.

If jazz if not your cup of tea - never mind - they also have Motown for Kids and Johnny Cash for Kids (if you’re into Country music). The next one on our list to purchase is Barenaked Ladies’ Snacktime.

For a sample of how some of these albums sound, go to, search for the album by name and listen to the one minute clip of all songs on the album. Good fun – for the kids and you. Enjoy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

If you are looking for an outdoorsy, no-frills, back-to-nature type of outing with your kids, you could check out the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary which is located in Pahang, Malaysia, about two hours' drive from Kuala Lumpur.
This elephant conservation park had been set up in 1989 by Perhilitan (Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks) to protect these beautiful creatures.

The location is a distance away from towns or cities so prepare for the trip with enough snacks and drinks in the car. While there's a small canteen and convenience store, I would suggest you pack a proper picnic lunch. The garden area of the place has picnic benches and wooden pavilions for you to rest and have your lunch there if you wish.

They have a small museum providing information about elephants, a video room where you can watch a short documentary of how elephant rescue and conservation efforts are conducted, and take part in activities such as feeding, riding and bathing with the elephants in the nearby river.

Bring along a set of extra clothing, cap, tissues and wet wipes just in case. With kids, you never know how sweaty or dirty they can get from running around, or accidentally spilling food or drink. And you'd certainly need a change of clothes if you intend to jump into the river with the elephants! Wear comfy clothes and sandals as it could get quite hot in the outdoors.

It would suffice to make a day trip there. Click here to get directions to the place. This other website gives a good overview of the place and the activities conducted. Entrance is free but they welcome donations.

If you have extra time, there is also a privately-run place called Deerland nearby which charges an entrance fee for you to visit their collection of wild animals.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cozy dining at Bayu Timor

Bayu Timor is a cozy restaurant cum Indonesian wooden furniture gallery located in a bustling neighbourhood called Taman Megah in the suburb of Petaling Jaya.

If you're looking for a quiet and cozy place to dine with your family, this could be a nice change from the regular busy restaurants or fast food outlets in malls. It occupies two shoplots with one a smaller cafe setting furnished with glass-topped tables and wicker-type breakfast armchairs; and the other a restaurant setting furnished with original Indonesian wooden furniture and craft, giving it an almost homely and rustic feel.

Everything here is for sale, even the chairs and tables you're dining on I was told by a friend who first introduced me to this place over a year ago.

Their menu is extensive enough to give you a good range of soups, appetizers, local/Asian fare, Western dishes, pizza, sandwiches and desserts. A number of food bloggers have recommended their rojak, Sarawak laksa and nyonya kuih. I like their set meals as they offer four separate menus to choose from, each menu comes with dessert of the day and coffee/tea. They offer it daily (unlike some other places that offer them on weekdays only) and the portions are just nice, reasonably good value for money (RM19.90).

My husband ordered the Chicken Maryland set while I had the roast lamb with black pepper sauce.

Chicken Maryland with sweet and sour sauce, chicken sausage (partly hidden behind the chicken), banana spring roll, corn fritter and coleslaw.

Roast lamb with black pepper sauce, potato au gratin and vegetables

Dessert of the day with tea (or coffee)

They also have a Children's Menu that comes with iced Milo and ice cream for dessert (RM12.90 for children below 12 years). My eight-year-old daughter had the Fish and Chips set. The portion was sizeable (four chunky fish nuggets) and she couldn't finish everything as it was served with fries and coleslaw. For a kid who shuns vegetables and raisins most times, she enjoyed the coleslaw which had a slightly tangy and refreshing zing, and even ate the raisins. Her verdict: Yummy, better than coleslaw from XXX (a certain fried chicken fast food chain).

Fish and chips, french fries and coleslaw

Vanilla ice cream with nuts

The skinny?
Good, quiet, cozy family dining venue. We were there before the usual 1.00pm crowd on a Saturday so the place was about 50% full. Food served quickly enough, satisfying in taste, portion and menu range. Pricing is reasonable considering the menu and ambience. Suitable for families with young school-going children as they have a children's menu.

The cafe section could be more suitable for families with babies/toddlers. although the floor area is not as large as the restaurant, it has more free space to accommodate fold-up strollers and active toddlers, and devoid of heavy furniture and fragile displays. The air-conditioning there is cooler compared to the restaurant section which covers a larger area and has a back door that's left open constantly to let light in I believe (because they are sliding metal shutters).

Their wait staff are foreign workers. While we didn't have any major problems with them, I feel that they could be trained a bit more to have an added finesse in going about their duties. You need to tell them clearly your needs/orders. They may not have the presence of mind to ask if you're done with the empty plates and remove them. One waiter came to our table with a slightly wet empty tray and decided to shake off the water right in front of us onto the floor before clearing our table.

Their food is also for take-away with nyonya kuih and cakes available in a glass covered case for your selection in the cafe section. They also sell their cakes whole and you can pre-order whole turkeys or roast leg of lamb.

They have branches in Sungai Wang Plaza (Kuala Lumpur) and Alamanda (Putrajaya).

Address: 13, Jalan SS24/8, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya.
Tel: +603 7804 6436

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Good for guts

A little over a month ago, my then 15-month old son had a bad case of gastroenteritis. After spending two days at the hospital, he was allowed to go home armed with some antibiotics. However, our pediatrician (as much as we like him, we wished he's not a man of so few words!), failed to warn us that the little guy's gut will take weeks to fully recover from the infection and that we should continue to give him probiotics supplement even though his runs have stopped. Soon the damage caused by our cherub's infection resulted in his temporary lactose intolerance and yeast infection. To make things worse, a mere ten days later, he had another bout of diarrhea. The probiotics that we have been giving him did not seem to help much.

Then, I was let in on a secret by a fellow mom who is a nurse (I later discovered that this was really a public secret as many parents already knew about this. So this post is for the benefit of those who, like me, have somehow missed that boat!) The secret was a highly effective and beneficial strain of probiotics called Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (ATCC 53103) found in a product called LactoGG. Click here to the site. Though slightly more expensive than other OTC probiotics, I have found that the relief it brings to my little boy's gut (and mine, from the anxiety of parenting a sick child!) far outweighs the extra cost.

A day after we started the little guy on it, his condition began to improve and by the second day, his yeast infection was gone and his runs got more infrequent. Soon, he was back to his normal self. Informed now that it takes a while for his gut to heal completely, we plan to continue to give him a capsule of LactoGG a day by adding it into his yogurt at snack time. It has been a while since I last rave about anything this way but I would recommend LactoGG even as a regular supplement. Great thing about it is that it works for adults, too.
We found it at a neighborhood pharmacy retailing around S$68 for a box of 30 capsules: