Wednesday, October 31, 2012

7 pleasures and a little me time in the land of smiles!

We were on a short vacation last week and returned yesterday. Before I headed for the vacation, I was already telling the hubs that I want to do something for myself and also spend some quality family time. 

We were at the Marriott at Mai Khao Beach and it was absolutely beautiful. As we had reinforcement (read: gramps and our helper), it was a good time for me to head out, explore, have some me time and also some quality family time. 

Here's my list of 7 pleasures to share, from the land of smiles! 

1) Appreciating nature, culture and the wonderful works of God. 

This was a sunset view at Marriott where we watched the lighting ceremony (hence the silhouette of the dancer)

2) Taking care of myself through exercising. 

I joined the resort's classes for Yoga, water aerobics (in the pool below) and did some laps when I could 

3) Shopping and window shopping :D

4) Spending time laughing, chilling and just hanging out with Dumpling

5) Lounging by the pool and getting a much needed tan! 

6) Ahem... errmmm... appreciating the food? 
(And all in the name of "research and sharing" for Jennifer's Foodie Fridays!) :p 

7) And finally, having a massage done and listening to the lulling sounds of the waves, by the sea :)

Linking up with Adeline

The Accidental Mom Blogger

Monday, October 29, 2012

Next step into our phonics journey ~ Jolly Phonics!

I have not blogged for quite a while on our homeschooling journey. Mainly because Dumpling and I are doing 'lesser' activities but more focused and more in depth now that she is older and we are able to discuss more. 

We are very blessed because Dumpling caught on phonics when she was loads younger and was reading independently around 2+. Once a child is able to read, everything else becomes easier.Here, she does her read aloud on one of her favourite series Mr. Men where she read Mr. Impossible for the first time. 

She is now able to attempt Math questions on her own too. I'd sit next to her and I would encourage her to attempt the questions before I check it. Here's one of her favorite activities on logic:

Hence, reading is an important skillset to develop as it does 'overlap' into other disciplines since one would need to for instance to read the instructions to be able to attempt the questions.

With her grasping the oral part and reading well, she started to create and tell her own stories. Then she started to attempt short phrases. Hence with phonics, it helps her along as she is able to 'sound out' and form the words she wanted to write.

When she was younger, we were using Letterland. Now, we are using Jolly Phonics at home. Jolly Phonics teaches both sight words and phonics and I like that there's a continuation into Grammar for Dumpling. She is at a stage where she is ready for more and the 'system' is able to support her into setting her path for Primary One.

For the kinesthetic learners, Jolly Phonics would come in handy as it offers "actions" to go with the letter sounds. Being able to read is different from being able to recall and form words / spell out. While Dumpling can already read, when we first started, I still went ahead with revising all the letter sounds just to start off. This is because what was useful for us was the grouping of the letters, the 'system' does not start with "a" but into the letter groups below:
With this unique grouping, it allows for "blending" straight from Group 1 which is different from some of the other systems out there. At a later stage, the system also teaches alternative spelling which yet again, was a useful progression for us and for kids who are ready to move beyond the basic individual letter sounds. 

On the homefront, as Dumpling was ready, we also embarked on sight words and she has able to form words and started to write short sentences:

(picture above: 'play' with 'ay' as one of the alternative spellings)

Above shows a simple activity extended from after reading Mr. Bounce. She loves these sort of word formation / spelling exercises. I like using this series as it enables us to build on her vocabulary using funny and simple stories based on the personalities of the various characters. :) And of course, we are complementing the phonics bit with other homeschooling efforts to continue to build on her critical thinking skills and her general knowledge.

One of the resources which is helpful is the letter song and you can search for these on Youtube. Additionally, if you are not against using the PC / laptop to do short bursts of activities, one of the resources which Dumpling enjoys is the phonics games CD. Here's a video from a few months back on CVC. When the answer is wrong, the acorn does not drop into the basket. This is just one of the many games the CD covers.

Progressing on from there, Dumpling has been moving along steadily on building up her phonological awareness and here's another clip to share. This was taken after reading Mr. Impossible where we started with a simple CVC blend before working on vowel patterns and then sounding out a longer word - 'habit'. 

So far, I am thankful that the phonics journey has been useful for us. With the concept of phonics, she is able to sound out words that she is unsure of. We are happy to have embarked on Jolly Phonics and Grammar for Dumpling's next phase in the English language. Though at times, it is tiring to homeschool after work / a full day of activities, I am happy to see the little one enjoying her journey and progressing well so we will continue to strive on.

How's your phonics journey? What are you using and how have your experience been? Would love to hear from you. :)

A Juggling Mom Motiviational Monday

Friday, October 26, 2012

Foodie Fridays - Triple 3!

Following from the post on my birthday weekend, I wanted to share more about one of my favourite restaurants for International Buffet - Triple 3. The restaurant is located at Mandarin Orchard and I had so many shots of the spread at the place that I had to give the due diligence of dedicating a post on it. :p

There are basically 2 main "lanes" for the buffet spread. I thought that it would be nice to give a "virtual tour" of the spread. As you enter the first lane, the Cheese platter / selection is on your right with the Japanese soba station on the left.

Unfortunately they did not have any Brie / Camembert cheese that afternoon but I still found some other cheese variety to munch on. :p

Above: the soba station

This Dim sum station (which served a fixed selection of items a mix item "basket") is next to the Soba station which is then followed by...

The Indian station which has a mix of North and South Indian selection :) 

Then it is my favourite station - the meats! I was in seventh heaven that morning as there was lamb, ham and beef - tenderloin AND Wagyu beef that afternoon!!!! 

There were various sauces to choose from and here's a close up of my lamb with mint sauce and some mash on the side. (In the back is the Wagyu beef - I was too lazy to walk twice so I had both on the same plate :p) and then I would be done with my meat intake

Or so I thought! (Went back for round 2 of more beef :p )

After the Indian station, as one makes a "left" turn, you will pass the sashimi station... There was a queue that afternoon so I could not get a clear shot of the station but do not fret, here's a shot of my portion. Hee hee hee...

It was absolutely divine! Fresh, juicy and "fatty". Yummmyyyyyyy

Across from the sashimi / sushi station is the seafood selection. Tada! It is definitely a must visit for seafood lovers with its choice of shellfish and crustacean. 

And thereafter it is a great spread of desserts

 From macarons (Dumpling likes it but I can't stomach all macarons; it is way too sweet for my liking!) 

to mango pudding...

to cakes...

to tiramisu!!!! (one of the few cakes I eat) and to all kids' fantasy...

chocolate fountain!

And across from the chocolate fountain was the Teppanyaki station where they had yummy beef and fresh, prawns and of course vegetables for a well-balanced diet!

Above: the prawns were fresh water prawns and were really crunchy

Dumpling had no lack of food choice either as she had soup and bread, some cheddar, a mini burger (as above), some shrimps, ham and of course, finishing her meal off with... 

Linking up with Jennifer for

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Talkative Thursday: Chronicles of Beanie to Dumpling

Children grow so fast that it's scary. I got a bit emo when I was looking at dumpling's hands and feet over the weekend and noted how much bigger they are as compared to when she was a baby. See how tiny her feet were!!!!

The learning curve for me into parenthood was in the first year. It was also the same time that I was battling post natal depression and I just didn't have the energy or was in the right frame of mind to bring her for a studio shoot which I so wanted to do before popping. It was until I was in the second year of mummyhood before we ventured bringing her for it and I got hooked!

We booked a family shoot with The Studio Loft and had solo shots of Dumpling as well as some family photos. :)

Year 1 of shoot - look at the baby face!

Year 1 of shoot - check out her tee! :p

In a rare moment where we have a family pic as the hubs is usually behind the lenses

Since then it's been an annual affair for me to chronicle her growth with my yearly visits to The Studio Loft. I love the first series of pictures when she still has her 'baby fats' and when she looked babyish.

She then seemed to have grown quite suddenly when she was hitting 3 ~ her features are more defined and she looks older, like a little lady. The picture below was a walk-in Children's Day promo with The Studio Loft last year. Their props are always gorgeous and I love the 'doodle' approach they use as it adds an air of child-like innocence and fun to the entire shoot. 

Year 2 of shoot - safari props

This year, their themes were 'row row row your boat' / 'fishing', 'around the world' and 'rockstar' with the same doodle props concept which I have come to associate The Studio Loft with.

They also started an appointment system instead of the walk-ins like previous years so this made it much easier for mums to schedule our time. There was also more 'help' rendered with just 1 photographer but another 2 others on hand to help with coaxing / coaching the kids and the shifting of props. 

Here's Dumpling's "fishing / row row row your boat" photos:

'Around the World' and

and 'Rockstar' (with a dash of attitude to spare!)


It is a special 'journey' for me, this annual shoot that we do. :) I am thankful for a healthy and happy child and I am also thankful to be able to have something to chronicle her growth and I hope to continue through till maybe she is in K2. :) We did an outdoor shoot with a friend a year odd back too. :) I will leave that for another post. Heh

What about you? Do you go for studio shoots too? :)

For the month of October, Susan is celebrating the many things we are thankful to our children for. Here's linking up:

Also linking up with Sandra's Talkative Thursdays

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post or did I receive any compensation from The Studio Loft. All opinions are 100% mine. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wordless Wednesdays - Harry Potter Fun: Have you seen this wizard?

Dumpling just had her Birthday celebration and we did a Harry Potter theme. Last week I shared our Harry Potter chocolate frogs goodie bag idea, today, it is on "photo ops". :) 

Just print and cut out to form the frame then get the kids to pose in it and voila! Good and  simple fun with less than $2! :) Best of all, the kids can help with the cutting and pasting too! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Birthday Blast - Harry Potter Cupcakes!

Sponsored Post:

Dumpling has always been a very decisive person and this includes ideas and themes for her birthdays! Except for the first year, she has been basically discussing and planning her own do with us.

Her party last year was on The Gruffalo. It was fun fun fun. Amongst some of the things which stood out were the cupcakes. We had loads of relatives and friends who raved about our cupcakes and contacted us even after the party to ask for the contact. And here’s why:

Taking into consideration that these are all 3D fondants and handcrafted on mini cupcakes, one can see how intricate the details are! 

The artists at Whips Cupcakes are so talented. All I did was to produce a printout of the various characters (all thanks to google) and they created these for us! The attention to details was just amazing!

But what totally blew me away (and I was even sharing this on my Facebook updates and with friends on what’s app a year back) was that Whips Cupcakes actually made a mock up for me of the Gruffalo before I confirmed my order! Now, how’s that for customer service?

So, when Whips Cupcakes offered to sponsor the cupcakes for Dumpling’s party this year, we were all very excited. Having placed and bought cupcakes for them over the past two years, we know that the cupcakes would be another hit and not only will they look good, they would taste great too!

Once again, we were not disappointed. 

We had a mix of 2D and 3D fondant on various cake bases

Now, how's that for attention to details? See how cute Ron's freckles are?

Here's one for the Qudditch fans ~ a Nimbus 2000 and the golden snitch? :p

Has Dumbledore ever looked cuter? :p

And of course, not forgetting the main character and the well loved sorting hat!

Close up: the team at Whips Cupcakes even added edible glitter to the fondant for that extra dash of "magic" :D

Needless to say, everyone (including the parents!) LOVED it! Everything was perfect!

Now, let’s talk about the taste test:

We had 3 different cakebases – vanilla, chocolate and red velvet topped with buttercream, lemon buttercream, cheese cream and of course the fondant. What drew me to the cupcakes initially was that they are not overly sweet and because of that, it balances well with the fondant on top. :)

I do not have a sweet tooth so I steer clear from desserts and frosted icing most of the time. So I guess that it is no surprise that my favourite from Whips Cupcakes is Red Velvet with the rich and smooth creamy cheese buttercream. Dumpling’s choices are a tie between the Chocolate AND Red Velvet. My hubs love the Vanilla base and Red Velvet too.

The cake base is moist and the texture, very fine. It tears easily yet is dense. The proportion of buttercream and cheese cream versus that of the cake base is just nice for us too as it adds a smooth buttery texture as one bites through.  

Best of all, the cupcakes come in a mini size (which is what we ordered for Dumpling’s party) which are perfect for the little ones! No more worries about that mad sugar rush and of course, the worry of wastage since the size is just nice for the kids to pop and chew.

We could not be happier with our cupcakes and the designs. As one of the guests put it “Wow, these are really good! Real wholesome, not dry and just good.”

About Whips Cupcakes:

I recently caught up with Kim, the new owner of Whips Cupcakes. (The founder of Whips Cupcakes, Maria, has relocated to the UK in September.) Kim is an ice cream lover and a cupcake enthusiast who ventured into this business after being in the corporate world for more than 20 years.

The team at Whips Cupcakes

Deciding that she needed a change, Kim scouted around for business ventures opportunity and “fell in love with Whips Cupcakes” when she first saw it.

So why cupcakes and more specifically, why Whips Cupcakes?

Kim: Cupcakes fit the bill no matter what the occasion. It also allows for more flexibility when planning parties, as there can be many flavours and designs. In addition, it saves the hassle of cake cutting.

As for why "Whips Cupcakes", I had a crush on baking recently and wanted to have a small bakery of my own and "Whips Cupcakes" is just the right size for me and what drew me to buy over this business was that I saw how happy the customers were when they purchased the lovely cupcakes and it made me happy too. 

What are the most interesting / challenging designs you have done?

Kim: That would be where we attempt to capture human features – for e.g. 3D figurines of couples based on their photos. Other challenging designs would include Disney princesses as well. 

(Source: Photos and cupcakes creations from Whips Cupcakes)

What is the vision for Whips Cupcakes moving on?

Kim: I see this as a store that is well-loved by customers and a workplace where its employees find joy working in. I also see this as a place where customers can come to us to explore and discuss together. This is because we pride ourselves as a cupcake store that specializes in customization. We try not to disappoint and turn away customers as much as we can. We have actually done custom 2D and 3D fondant orders with 24hours notice. That’s what Whips Cupcakes is committed to – a cupcake store where we will brainstorm and create with our customers. 

Fancy winning a box of yummilicious cupcakes (6 minis in a box)? Whips Cupcakes has agreed to sponsor a box each for 5 lucky winners! 

Here’s how:
1) Leave a comment on this page on why you deserve to win it
(Whips Cupcakes will select the best 5 answers – something funny / personable, etc.)
2) Click and"LIKE" Whips Cupcakes FB page
3) Click and"LIKE" Beanie N Us FB page
(Contest is for Singapore only and ends 15 November 2012. Winner will be announced on this blog site as well as on our FB pages.)

Additionally, for the month of November, quote “BEANIE N US” when you place an order with Whips Cupcakes (minimum purchase of $30) and you get 10% off! 

Icon Village (Behind Amara Hotel ~ Tanjong Pagar MRT Station)
12 Gopeng Street #01-85
Singapore 078877

Monday to Friday
11am to 6.30pm
Weekends and Public Holidays
Open for collection of orders 
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