Chasing away monday blues at Homebodies

I finally checked out homebodies during lunch today.

And I am glad I did.

It’s difficult to find a nice quiet place in raffles place. At least now I know there is somewhere I can go to when I need some peace and quiet (may not stay this way for long), and my caffeine fix.

Hidden away on the second level of a shophouse, the signage probably will not even call out to a passerby. But once you make your way up the stairs, the cosy coffee joint greets you through a huge piece of glass.

They have a simple no-frills menu. Coffee is either white or black, with varying sizes for each. I got myself the 8oz white (S$5). It was a little too milky for my liking but anyhow, I liked it and was a happy soul after the cuppa.

Food-wise, it only serves hot dogs. You get a choice of original (S$8.50), wagyu (S$10) or kurobuta (S$10) . $1 top up for the brioche or sunflower seed panini (instead of the original hot dog bun). I’m a huge fan of hot dogs so this menu worked for me.

Decor is minimalistic and stylish with lots of wood accents. The result is a cosy and inviting space which feels almost like home. Seems to me a perfect place to read a book, have a cuppa and enjoy the gorgeous view of the Singapore river.

Pictures probably can tell a better story.

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homebodies
60A Boat Quay, 2nd floor
Singapore 049848

{Product Review} – Episencial Body Care Products

I was looking around for a suitable range of body care products for Aly because we had almost used up our then current bottle of 2 in 1 shampoo and body wash and I wanted to try something new.

Let us just say that I was sold when I got to know about the Episencial range of body care products and was thrilled when Babyonline offered to send me the Episencial Playful Foaming Wash and the Episencial Better Body Butter for me to try out.

I have a confession to make.

I was initially attracted to the Episencial range of products because of the cute packaging and the catchy names. I mean who can resist that bright coloured packaging and the artwork? Ok I’m superficial like that! If you find the artwork familiar, it’s because it is created by Eric Carle, the author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a popular children’s picture book.

Check out the cute artwork

Check out the cute artwork

Just to prove it’s not all just about looks for me, here are the reasons why I like the Episencial range of products.

First of all, this USA-made line of products uses only natural ingredients, which are mostly organic. I like that I can use the products with peace of mind, knowing that I am not putting anything harsh or chemical ridden on a baby’s delicate skin. I don’t exclusively use organic products and am generally fine with using non-organic products. However, I would say that I am rather particular about body care products because these come into direct contact with the baby’s skin and can be absorbed into the baby’s bloodstream.

I’m also impressed by the fact that the products are made using solar power and are packaged in recycled and sustainable materials. The bottles are also BpA and phthalate free. I am usually not such a “green” person but it’s reassuring to know that it’s something the people behind this brand believe in, which is consistent with their policy to manufacture chemical-free and natural products.

Best of all, these organic products are reasonably priced. Who says affordability and organic cannot go together? The Playful Foaming Wash retails at S$23.90 and the Better Body Butter retails at S$33.90.

EPISENCIAL PLAYFUL FOAMING WASH

The Playful Foaming Wash is a 2-in-1 hair and body cleanser which is “timeless, for all ages, 0 to 150 years” (this is printed on the bottle. I like their humour). I like that it foams up easily and I love its mild tangy citrus scent (from natural juice extracts) which leaves a nice and fresh after-bath scent. Aly loves it too! She’s been in love with oranges since she gets to eat quite a bit of them during Chinese New Year and last weekend, when i prompted her to put her hand (with soap) to her nose and asked if it smells like orange, she broke into a grin and nodded her head (and body) vigorously in the typical Aly’s “yes” fashion.

All smiles during bathtime

All smiles during bathtime

Aly is at the stage where she wants to bathe herself, so she will be busy helping to rub soap all over herself when I am bathing her. This means it’s inevitable that some soap will get into her eyes. The foaming wash is pH-balanced and is completely tear-free and quick rinsing which are considerations that rank high on my “things-to-look-out-for” list.

EPISENCIAL BETTER BODY BUTTER

I am really particular about body lotions because I really dislike those that are difficult to apply and which leave a greasy feel after application. I have the same high standards for baby moisturizer because I have to be the one applying it for Aly! This is why i love the Better Body Butter. It has a light texture (i.e. non-greasy), can be applied easily and smoothly and is absorbed easily into the skin.

It contains organic olive oil, shea butter and sunflower oil to restore natural skin lipids, and to prevent cradle cap and scaly skin. It also contains organic jojoba and avocado oils to help replenish essential fatty acid levels for proper hydration. As one of the natural ingredients is organic lavender oil, the better body butter has a light lavender scent, which has a soothing and calming effect on me (Yes, I have also been using the product!)

Aly is blessed with good skin but there will be dry patches on her thighs and ankles from time to time. It may be due to the fact that she sleeps in an air-conditioned room or because we often miss those areas but I have been using the body butter on her for about three weeks now and her skin has never been as smooth as now. No more dry patches! Oh, and can I just add that Aly also loves applying body butter to herself?

Aly loves the body butter too!

Aly loves the body butter too!

The only thing that I didn’t quite like about the products were that they didn’t have a pump. This means it can get a bit cumbersome because I have to free up both hands to open the bottle cap (which, to be fair, flips up easily) overturn the bottle, squeeze the bottle and put the bottle down before I can apply the cleanser or body butter on Aly. A pump would have been much more convenient and would leave me with a free hand (to hold on to a fidgety baby).

Overall, I am happy with the products and am looking to purchase their Nurturing Balm next! The Episencial range also includes the following products: Protective Face Balm SPF35, Sunny Sunscreen SPF35, Soothing Cream and Sweet Dreams Bubble Bath.

Now for the GOOD NEWS! There is an ongoing promotion at Babyonline for all Episencial products – a massive 30% discount off the original prices. This means that the Playful Foaming Wash costs only S$16.73 and the Better Body Butter costs only S$23.73 now! This promotion will end on 28 February 2013.

Do check out Babyonline’s website or drop by their retail outlet at Katong I12 (112 East Coast Road #B1-13) if you are interested in purchasing the products. While you are at it, do also like Babyonline’s facebook page so that you can be kept updated of their promotions!

Disclosure: I received a bottle of the Playful Foaming Wash and a bottle of the Better Body Butter for the purposes of this review. All opinions stated herein are my own.

{Review and Giveaway} The Shepherd’s Pie

I have always been a huge fan of meat pies, it’s my ultimate comfort food. Unfortunately, there isn’t that much of a pie culture in Singapore, and I’ve not been able to find what I deem a good pie….until I stumbled upon The Shepherd’s Pie, that is.

Ever since we moved in to our new place, we have been hosting a series of get togethers at our new home, and each time, I struggle with the question of what food to get for the party. It is a source of stress for me since I am not a good cook and with Aly, it is difficult for me to set aside the time to whip up some homemade food for the party (ok, I admit this is just an excuse. It’s really cos I can’t cook for nuts!). After a while, we also got tired of the usual pizzas and fast food. So, two weekends ago, when I invited my bunch of girlfriends over for tea, one of them suggested ordering from The Shepherd’s Pie and so we did. After some discussion, we decided on the classic chicken and black pepper beef pies.

I called The Shepherd’s Pie at their hotline, and was promptly directed to an operator who took down my orders. The process was simple and fuss free. For advance orders, it is also possible to place your orders online. On the day of the get together, the pies arrived piping hot within the stipulated one hour time frame, and payment is made upon delivery. Each pie is 9″ by 9″ and two pies were more than enough to feed a bunch of 8 girls and the husband, leaving all of us extremely stuffed but satisfied. The pies got a thumbs up from all my friends and were extremely well received.

Last Saturday, Ys and I decided to eat in because he wanted to stay home to watch a soccer match and we decided to order the Rendang Beef pie (since we were somewhat in an adventurous mood) from The Shepherd’s Pie again. It turned out to be the perfect (comforting) dinner for the cold and rainy Saturday evening.

The ultimate comfort food

The makings of a good pie – A golden crust of mashed potato.

Golden crust of mashed potato

Golden crust of mashed potato

Underneath the crisp crust is a layer of buttery smooth mashed potato and mozzarella cheese followed by a layer of flavourful beef stew, with generous amounts of onions, carrots, corn and spices.

A cross section of the pie

A cross section of the pie

I like how The Shepherd’s Pie adapted the traditional Rendang dish for their pies. The result of this fusion is an interesting one. I also liked that the coconut milk taste was not too rich nor overpowering, and was just enough to bring out the flavour of the ground beef. All I can say is, the creamy coconut base and mashed potato makes a perfect pairing, and is the ultimate comfort food. I have to confess though, after about two helpings, it got a little jelak which is why I would recommend this as a pie to share with friends or family! (Here’s a little tip – unfinished portions can be kept chilled in the fridge for up to two days and reheated whenever you want to have the pie again. It tastes just as good!)

It was also not as spicy as I imagined it to be. In fact, I thought the black pepper beef pie was spicier! So for those of you looking for pies with some punch, go for the black pepper beef/chicken pie. The black pepper pie is my current favourite, after trying three different flavours! Ys’ vote goes to the rendang beef pie though.

I also liked that all three pies we tried were not too salty (and this comes from someone who has a low tolerance for salty food), and is a welcoming change from all the salty take out food we consume everyday.

So, all in all, I am really pleased with both the service and quality of pies at The Shepherd’s Pie and foresee myself turning to them for future potlucks and gatherings. In fact, I would even order a pie from them if we are too lazy to head out to eat and would just like some comfort food for the weekend.

I should also mention that the pies from The Shepherd’s Pie are halal certified, which is great for us, since ys and I have quite a number of Muslim friends.

The different flavours available on the menu at The Sheperd’s Pie are:

  • Beef Options – Classic Beef, Black Pepper Beef, Rendang Beef
  • Chicken Options – Classic Chicken, Black Pepper Chicken, Teriyaki Chicken
  • Others – Veggie Lovers, Lamb Special

The Shepherd’s Pie is opened everyday, from 11.00am to 9.00pm and orders are taken from 11.30am to 8.30pm.

For same day deliveries, please call 6789 0707. For advance orders, you have an extra option of placing an order via their website.

Craving for a pie already? The Shepherd’s Pie has kindly agreed to sponsor a giveaway for the readers of this blog! Just complete the following three simple steps by 21 January 2013 and you may be the lucky reader to have a piping hot pie of your choice (either Classic Chicken or Classic Beef) delivered to your doorstep!

  1. Like The Shepherd’s Pie facebook page.
  2. Leave a comment and let me know if you would like to have the Classic Chicken Pie or Classic Beef Pie and who you would like to share the pie with.
  3. In your comment, leave an email which I can contact you at should you win the giveaway.

Terms and Conditions of Giveaway:

  1. This giveaway is open to persons residing in Singapore only.
  2. Giveaway will end at 8pm on 21 January 2013.
  3. The winner of the giveaway will be chosen randomly via Random Picker.
  4. Results will be announced on this blog on 22 January 2013.
Good luck!
**UPDATED
Winner of the Giveaway is MIRACULE
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Disclaimer: I received a Beef Rendang Pie for the purposes of the review. All opinions stated herein are my own.

Fun at Gymboree

We started Aly on Gymboree classes at Tanglin mall about three months back, just after she turned six months old.

There are various types of classes available but only the music class and the play and learn stage 1 class were appropriate for Aly’s age group then. If I remember correctly, a baby as young as 3 month old would be able to join the play and learn stage 1 class.

For the stage 1 class, a lot of focus was given to building the baby’s upper body strength and most activities involved the baby lying on the back or on the stomach. Tummy time was encouraged via all the activities. There was also a lot more parent-child interaction as opposed to interaction among the babies (I mean, what do they know at this stage right?). Aly “graduated” from stage 1 once she could sit unsupported. So after three lessons, we moved on to play and learn stage 2, which Aly definitely enjoyed more because it involved less activities which required her to lie on her back (which she hated to do).

I’ll do my review based on the play and learn stage 2 class.

Class structure:

Each class is 45 minutes long, which is perfect I think!

Class starts off with some singing accompanied by actions, including the standard “welcome song”. Parents are encouraged to sing along and the kids generally enjoy this segment since most kids enjoy music a great deal.

There is the standard tummy surfing time where the parent lies down, lift both legs up, prop baby on his/her tummy, on your legs, while you move your legs up and down and from side to side so they feel they are “flying”. This is followed by a ball game where the baby is held under their arms as the parents swing baby to kick a beach ball (which is passed from baby to baby around the group). Aly loves these two activities!

What follows after is the parent sharing session where parents are encouraged to discuss and share on the topic of the day. In the meantime, the children are kept busy with the colourful plastic balls. I guess this segment can be quite interesting since the crowd is made up of mostly expatriates and there is therefore quite a good mix of people with different nationalities and backgrounds. The information shared may not be that useful since we don’t really go into the details but it definitely provided me a glimpse of the various parenting styles.

After the sharing session comes the free play session. Basically, the kids get to do whatever they want with the structures that are set up for each class. This is the time kids are encouraged to crawl up a wedge, or use the slide or crawl through tunnels or climb stairs etc. There will be plastic balls and shakers placed all around the structures to motivate the kids to crawl or pull themselves up. The parents get to decide on which part of the structure to start the kid on, depending on the stage of the baby’s development. Like Aly was stuck on the wedge for the longest time because she wasn’t motivated to crawl and we were trying to “train” her to crawl upwards.

After the free play session would be the bubble and parachute time where the teacher would blow bubbles for the kids. This I reckon must be the babies’ favourite part of the class because bubbles would fill the air and the babies are generally fascinated with them. This is supposed to train their eye tracking skills. Parachute time is where the babies lie or sit under a huge huge huge colourful piece of cloth, whilst all the parents would hold the edges of the cloth, bringing the cloth up and down to teach the kids spatial awareness and colours. Aly used to be really afraid of the parachute but she loves it now!

Class ends off with more singing and dancing!

what I like about the class:
I like that both parents can be present at class unless the number of kids exceed 10. I had ys with me for maybe 8 out of 11 classes we have attended? This is great because i see Aly’s class as a chance for the whole family to have fun together. I know of some gyms that don’t allow both parents to join.

I love all the singing which I am able to adapt for daily use, like the “clean up song” which encourages kids to clean up after playtime.

The teachers are super friendly and they already know Aly by the third class or something. It does feel nice to enter the door and have the teachers remember your child’s name.

The class is not too big. I attend the weekend class and most of the time, there are less than 10 babies in a class.

I like that Aly can play freely without me having to worry about her flipping or falling down since the whole place is padded.

I like that there are assistants around to note the development of each kid and that the teacher actually goes around during free play to guide the kids along (to crawl and pull him/herself up for example).

It’s nice for Aly to be able to interact with other kids and to learn the concept of sharing.

I like to see Aly being so happy and excitable in class :p

what I don’t quite like about the class:

The program feels really repetitive and after about 8 lessons at stage 2 I feel like we are doing the same thing over and over again. After a while, the structures started looking familiar and the songs started sounding familiar. But just as I was lamenting about the repetitiveness, Gymboree surprised us by introducing some new songs to the class last week, and coming up with really interesting structures I have never seen before! I’m hoping the situation would improve from here.

Related to the first point – there is no structure and it feels like there is no progression. But I guess it’s difficult to fix a particular progressive structure given that the ages of the babies range from 5 months to 11 months.

conclusion:
We don’t regret sending Aly to gymboree because she enjoys the activities a great deal. We cannot really tell if her psycho motor skills have improved significantly but we honestly do think that the environment allows her to learn more quickly. Because the entire floor is padded, we don’t really have to worry about her falling and hurting herself so we generally allow her to explore on her own during free play. She also watches other kids and I’ve always hoped that it will encourage her to learn from other babies. Most importantly, from her squeals and chuckles, we can tell that Aly loves going to class and because of that, we are glad we introduced her to Gymboree!

Picture time!

Tummy surfing time:

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Structures for free play:

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Aly having fun with the set up:

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Parachute and bubbles time:

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Tiong Bahru Bakery

I have to admit that for the longest time (living in my little well), I thought that the much hyped about Tiong Bahru bakery was a local bakery. I didn’t know much about it except that it’s become really packed and popular since it opened in (where else but) Tiong Bahru just a couple of months ago. Well, but a quick search on the Internet has revealed that it’s actually the brainchild of the local spa esprit group and Gontran Cherrier, a French celerity baker.

No wonder.

So anyway I finally managed to check it out last night because it recently opened a second store at raffles city! I was there for dinner and only a few tables were occupied. It has a weird system though. Basically you cannot get seats first. You have to queue, place your order, pay and then get assigned a table (table number will be reflected on receipt) before you can collect your cutlery and sit down at the assigned table.

I thought the chorizo croque Monsieur and the sandwich were pretty regular. It didn’t make me go WOW. But oh well to be fair I did not order their croissants which are their bestsellers. I thought the lemon tart was really yummy and refreshing though. I really enjoyed it! my only complaint was that the crust was a little bit too hard for my liking. My flat white was perfect!

I’ll probably return to try their croissants and other desserts (which looked pretty promising) someday but I think I’ll pass on their sandwiches.

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Tiong Bahru bakery
252 North Bridge Road
#B1-11/12
Raffles City Shopping Centre
Singapore

Stroller Review: Combi Well Comfort Stroller

This super lightweight stroller is a hand me down and has served me really well!

Things I like about the combi well comfort stroller:

  1. Weighing at only 4.3kg (means it’s lighter than Aly!), it is super lightweight and very manageable when I am out with Aly alone. Since Aly was 6 weeks old, I have brought her out on my own with the stroller. It is so light that I am able to carry her in one hand and haul the stroller in and out of a taxi boot with the other. Although I much prefer my manduca carrier these days when I bring her out alone, I still appreciate the well comfort stroller especially if I am out for meals. At least Aly is able to nap comfortably and I am able to have my meal without having to worry about dripping sauce or food on her (when she’s in a carrier).
  2. The size of the stroller means i am able to manoeuvre narrow aisles/spaces quite effortlessly. I also have higher chances of fitting into crowded lifts!
  3. The canopy is able to extend all the way down. This is helpful during nap times. There is also a flap which you can open so that you can spy on the little one even while pushing the stroller.
  4. The handle is reversible so you can choose to have the baby face you or face the direction the stroller is moving in. This is great for newborns. In fact, I am still thankful for this because Aly does get bouts of separation anxiety from time to time. She is quite happy when she is able to see me pushing the stroller.
  5. The stroller can be used for babies from one month old because it can recline fully.

The not-so-great things about the stroller:

  1. The seat is rather short and narrow. At 4 months old, Aly already almost takes up the whole length of the seat. Soon, her legs will be dangling out of the stroller. I’m waiting to see how long it can last me before Aly outgrows the stroller.
  2. It can be quite rickety especially when going over rough surfaces. The small wheels tend to get caught in drain openings, holes in pavements etc. But then again, I would say it’s more of a “shopping mall stroller” rather than an outdoor stroller. I have to point out though that because of the size of the wheels, they may get caught on escalators (the part where the step reaches the end of the escalator and when the stroller should naturally glide over the slight bump, onto the floor). It has happened to me once when Aly was sleeping in the stroller and I am now rather paranoid about getting on escalators. However, I have learnt that the trick is to tip the stroller slightly over the bump instead of expecting it to glide naturally from the escalator step to the floor.
  3. It has a really really small basket (that might as well not be there). It is also not that accessible and many times I just give up trying to put something in.
  4. Although the handle is reversible, when you push the stroller with baby facing you, you look like you are in a drunken stupor because of the wheels. This is because the back wheels (that do not swivel) now become the front wheels. As a result, it only works well if you move in a straight line (which isn’t possible). But I have to say with some practice, it is manageable.
  5. It is not advisable to hang your stroller bag on the stroller handlebar because the stroller will most likely topple over once you carry the baby out of the stroller (but hey, you can’t expect so much from a lightweight stroller!). I do hang some of my light shopping, and sometimes my handbag on the hooks I attach onto the handlebar though.

The truth is I really like the stroller a lot and we have found ourselves bringing this out more than our peg perego, especially because Aly doesn’t seem to like sitting in strollers very much these days (so we don’t feel so silly lugging around a heavy stroller which is not used). Of course, ultimately the stroller you choose would depend on many factors, and it is important to consider what your priorities are before making the purchase.

Here’s the official combi YouTube video of the combi well comfort stroller.

 

Diaper bag review Part 1: Skip Hop Dash

I have a grand total of 3 diaper bags and 1 diaper clutch and no… I’m not a diaper bagaholic. 3 of them were gifts. Thankfully, they are all very different and each serve its own purpose.

So here’s part 1 of a 4 part series review of my diaper bags and I shall start with the skip hop dash diaper bag, which was a gift from a friend. I use this when I bring Aly out on my own because 1) it’s pink and I like pink, 2) it’s really light and 3) it’s just the right size for a half day shopping trip/afternoon tea/lunch or dinner with friends.

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The skip hop dash is a messenger style bag that is the perfect accessory for a practical mom. With 11 compartments, you can keep your belongings organized and never have to fret about not being able to find something when the baby is wailing.

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It also comes with a matching diaper changing mat that can be folded and fits nicely in the compartment at the back of the bag. Design wise, there’s a huge selection of designs you can choose from, ranging from plain solid muted colours to bright mod designs like the one I have.

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I’ve tried to carry a couple of diaper bags when I was hunting around for one and I’m pretty sure this is one of the lightest in the market (those diaper bags that look like handbags are usually a lot heavier). Trust me, a lightweight diaper bag is important especially if you are likely to be out alone with baby (read: no husband to carry diaper bag for you) without the stroller.

The dash, like other skip hop diaper bags, have these shuttle clips that allow you to clip the bag onto any stroller with ease so the bag hangs nicely from the stroller.

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I also like that the bag features magnetic closures (other than a zippered compartment for personal belongings). This allows easy access to the compartments so that you can reach for that pacifier or handkerchief with ease, which is particularly useful when you’re carrying the baby with the other arm. This is a bit more challenging with bags that come with zippered compartments.

What do I not like about the bag? There may be 11 compartments but due to the size of the bag, once you fill up one compartment, there will be little or no space left in the adjacent compartment. There are also no insulated compartments. Im not really complaining though because roomier and insulated compartments would have compromised on the size and weight of the bag. I guess one cannot ask for the best of both worlds. One thing that gets to me though, is that when I carry the bag on my shoulder (instead of slinging crossbody) the bag slips off quite frequently. This is especially so when I carry the baby in a soft structured baby carrier and cannot sling the bag crossbody. I am guessing a tote bag would not give me the same problems. The magnetic closures on the flap of the bag are also not very strong and I often have trouble keeping the bag closed properly if I have too many things in the bag.

Verdict: this is the perfect bag for moms who would bring baby out on their own or for that half day outing. May be a bit too small for babies who are formula fed because of the need to carry bottles, for moms who practise cloth diapering or when the baby is older and starts on solids and requires a couple of toys to keep him/her entertained. Overall, I’m happy with the bag!

Dimensions: 12.25″ wide x 11.5″ high x 4.25″ deep

Number of pockets: 11 (2 on the front of the bag ideal for packets of tissues, handkerchiefs, pacifier; 2 at the sides of the bag, ideal for bottles or foldable umbrellas; 3 pockets on the inside of the bag, which are good for diapers, burp cloths, wetbags and other misc items; 2 tiny side pockets on the inside of the bag (which are pretty useless in my view, especially if you have placed bottles in the adjacent side compartments); 1 zippered compartment for personal belongings;1 pocket on the back of the bag for the folded diaper changing mat).

Diaper changing mat: yes

Price: S$129.90 on baby online store