Monthly Archives: May 2014

Green Toys Submarine and Dump Truck: Product Reviews

Jasmine: I love toys (probably more so than Dylan!!) but we all know that toy production has a harmful impact on the environment, with the waste generated, toxic by-products and also the BPAs and phthalates in some plastic toys which could pose a danger to kids.

I was excited when my endless hours of aimlessly surfing Amazon  toy research  led me to this company, Green Toys, which makes toys out of 100% recycled milk jugs. According to their website, every pound of recycled milk jugs saves enough electricity to power a TV for 3 weeks or a laptop for a month! (Andrew: Btw, every ‘green toy’ we buy is sufficient to power the electricity in our house for 3 days, based on our current electricity bill.)

And not to mention, the entertainment value of the toys was highly rated on Amazon, so when a Green Toys sale came up at Motherswork, I just had to get a couple of toys!

Andrew: Oh man, I thought usually it’s the parents who have to stop the kids from buying more toys! Looks like I’d be alone on this in future. Dearie even commented after leaving the toy shop that we should bring Dylan here some day in future, to which I told her, “You never bring a kid to a toy-shop, because you’ll end up with him wanting to buy everything.”

Submarine

Jasmine: As you know, all Dylan’s bath toys are gifted so this was the first bath toy we got for him. I like that it has so many possibilities in water- it can float when empty, sink when filled with water and has a handy handle and wide spout for pouring!

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Dilly didn’t quite enjoy being ‘rinsed’ with it today and kept wincing and closing his eyes, even trying to climb out of the bath-tub. Heh.

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However, he liked spinning the movable propellers, which rotate underwater. 

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The top of the sub also lifts off so you can put toy figurines in, for more imaginative play! This seems like a great unisex toy, and at just $13 on sale, would be ideal for a birthday gift!

Dump Truck

Andrew: I still remember when I was a kid, one of my favourite toys was a big yellow dump truck! It had a handle by the side, which you could use to tip the dump and I had endless hours of fun with it, pushing it around and loading it with Lego blocks. Occasionally, we would also recreate destruction scenes, where we would specially create a nice house/building using Lego and then ram the whole dump truck through it! LOL. This is the kind of game boys love to play. Anyway, on to Dylan’s toys…

Jasmine: We were deciding between this and the recycling truck, which would be great for inculcating eco-friendliness in kids (one mum blogger wrote that her children had “recycled” every piece of scrap paper in the house by end of the week!). However, we thought that a dump truck would be a classic for both boys and girls, and it could hold many of his toys, such as his little collection of balls:

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Dylan can also tilt the dump bed to empty out whatever’s inside. I can imagine that this is a toy that will grow with him, and will be perfect for sand play. The wheels are super large so they run well both indoors and I presume outdoors too.

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However, what he really enjoyed was our little tweak to the truck- adding Daddy’s belt to convert it into a pull toy.

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Because of the way the belt was positioned, Dilly couldn’t quite steer the truck right, so Andrew improvised again, taping our measuring tape to the truck.

Andrew: First of all Dear, please do not use my accessories/clothes as toys for Dylan. Next thing I know I’ll find my cuff-links dumped in a tupperware of rice as part of your ‘treasure hunt’ activity. Secondly, you clearly have no idea how pull toys work (or any basic sense of motion)! Basically, Dear had attached my belt in such a way that the truck would be pulled sideways, which goes in a completely opposite direction to its wheels… Let a man do it…

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Jasmine: Tip for all wives, if you want your husband to be involved, make sure you do it wrongly so he will feel compelled to “fix it”. Darnit I’m good!

And off Dilly went!

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Jasmine: He had fun pulling along various things in his dump truck, such as the balls, books, diapers (the clean ones) and even… smelly penguin.Which sadly he did not dump.

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Dylan has been playing with the dump truck for the better part of this afternoon and night, so we are now going to box it up and keep it until his little sister is born, then present it to him as a gift from his sister! My mum says I shouldn’t be a cheapo and that I will most likely end up buying more toys since I’ve been put on yet another week of bedrest –_-

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Baby-Proofing Your Home (Stylishly): 6-18 Months

Jasmine: We started babyproofing our home when Dylan started crawling early, around 6 or 7 months. When I started researching babyproofing, I was completely intimidated by the recommended number of areas in the house that we had to look into.

Andrew: I’ve never been a real fan of baby-proofing, and feel that the best ‘baby-proof’ is simply to keep a good eye on your children whenever they are playing. Also, honestly, I’m kinda lazy because there’s just way too many things to baby-proof if you want to start – all the cabinets, cupboards, sockets, doors, table corners (thankfully all our tables are either round, too high for Dylan to reach, or made of light material).

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Jasmine: It helped that we already believed in the Montessori philosophy of setting up a “prepared environment”, which basically advocates setting up a safe space for the child to learn through free exploration and sensory stimulation. Reggio Emilia takes this idea one step further, believing that the environment is the “third teacher” (first is parents, second teachers, or atelieristas as they are known) and the space, materials, and even lighting should be natural and welcoming to promote open-ended play. Thus, we decided we wanted the house to be first and foremost a baby-friendly environment rather than a baby-proofed environment.

Let’s face it, we can never have a 100% baby-proof house as baby will always find a new way to get into potential trouble, but we can try to ensure that some safety fundamentals are in place while creating a baby-friendly home environment where baby can still explore and learn. Baby-proofing is a work-in-progress that we will have to constantly revise as Dylan gets older and smarter, but these are some of our basic baby-proofing measures:

1. Box up electrical appliances/ cords

Andrew: Dylan has a great fascination especially with laptop wires and he would always come to me when I am doing work to drag the wires, or pull out the wire and worse – put it in his mouth!

Jasmine: We bought these boxes from Blue Lounge for areas with high electrical appliance density. Not only do they keep the cords and wires safely away from baby, the house looks instantly neater.

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No more messy wires!

2. Socket covers

Jasmine: This is a must, because we had seen Dylan poking his little fingers into the sockets on quite a number of occasions.

The first thing you can do is to move heavy furniture to block the sockets if they are infrequently used.  Do ensure that the furniture is sturdy enough that it won’t fall down on baby, which was the case when Agnes pulled herself up on my mum’s telephone table and the whole thing (glass cups, telephone and all) came crashing down on her!

Our two sets of sockets in our nursery are blocked by the mirrored dresser and armchair. This used to be Dyl’s favourite hiding corner but we have since moved the dresser to block the sockets behind it. (Andrew: This little boy just LOVES that corner so much. There were occasions where I’d just find him, sitting there, staring at his reflection in the corner and smiling to himself!)

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Just an excuse to show a cute photo! Dino-hat from Adeline.

If barricading sockets with furniture isn’t feasible, we got our socket covers quite cheaply from Ikea. Choose ones that are white and flat so that it draws minimal attention.

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We also tried to hide them where possible, for example in Dylan’s play area in the living room, where we have draped the curtain and then wedged two cushions in front of the socket:

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Andrew: Of course, even with socket covers, that doesn’t negate the need to watch over him. There were times where I’ve seen him tugging at the socket covers, trying to remove them. You would notice that for Dearie, baby-proofing is not just functional, it must be done in style… if it were me, I’d just dump something in front of the sockets like boxes or a stack of books to cover them. After all, that’d achieve the purpose right? (Jasmine: Not really, that would draw baby’s attention to the exact spot we want him to avoid.)

3. Use drawer latches or keep dangerous things in boxes

Jasmine: Dyl loves exploring cupboards and drawers and rummaging through all the contents. He’s not being naughty; exploring is a baby’s job and that’s how they learn about the world around them.

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Andrew: His favourite cabinet right now is our tupperware cabinet, which is just located at floor level. He’d open it and spend a while just taking out each tupperware, opening it up and throwing them all over the floor. In fact, he’s doing that right now as I type this – so much for watching over him… He has so much fun doing all these activities that sometimes I wonder how much I should restrict him…

Jasmine: We should honour the child’s impulse and curiosity while setting boundaries on acceptable areas and things to play with.  So that is the one kitchen cabinet we have identified as being ok for Dylan to play in.

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I thought it would be good for learning but I didn’t know it would be this educational! Dilly stacked five boxes for the first time- the most he’s ever stacked up till now is two!

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Okay clever baby, you’ve earned your license to play with the boxes all you want!

For the other cabinets, we wanted to get drawer latches but most of the ones in stores (Mothercare, Homefix, Ikea) needed to be drilled into the drawers, which I neither had the time nor energy for. (Andrew: Neither do I… I’m not really the handiman sort.)

Instead, what we did was to store all toxic substances (detergent etc) on high shelves. The lower kitchen cupboards are now just full of safer, lighter items like floormats, plastic boxes etc.

In addition, I also box up all potentially dangerous items or small electrical parts so that they’re even harder for Dylan to access. Right now they’re just in simple lidded boxes but I probably will have to switch to boxes with more difficult clasps once Dylan wises up to my ways.

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Andrew: Such baby-proofing is also an excuse for Dearie to sort out my electricals for me, because I used to just leave all my various chargers and devices all around the place. She’s nagged me nonstop to do it, but I’ve always given the excuse that it’s in the most convenient (Jasmine: and unsightly) place for me… I guess now she can pack them all up, in the name of baby-proofing…

4. Fan covers

Jasmine: Similar to the socket covers, when Dylan started pulling himself up, we had to rescue him a few times from sticking his fingers inside the fan when the blades were spinning.

Thankfully, we found this fan cover (this was the last piece) a couple months back at Spring Maternity, after a fruitless search at NTUC. It was quite expensive at  $11 but it does the job of protecting Dylan’s fingers. The bug is actually a pocket for air freshener but that is quite an unnecessary frill.

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Andrew: To me, this was the most essential and useful piece of baby-proofing. We have quite a few fans around the house. Dyls gets so active and sweaty during the day, so we tend to turn on the fan to keep him cool. Things which move tend to attract him a lot, so he has on many occasions walked towards the fan and almost stuck his finger in. I wonder though if that brightly coloured bug in the middle has the reverse effect of ‘attracting’ him to the fan, even more!

Although I did say that the best baby-proofing is to keep watch on the baby, I am on the lookout currently for a good safety gate to barricade the kitchen from Dylan. We have an open-concept kitchen, i.e. no door to the kitchen, hence there’s nothing to latch the gate on to. Still on the hunt! (Jasmine: actually I have already identified a retractable safety gate which matches our decor. The problem is that we need something to latch it on to, which means replacing our current open bar counter with a kitchen counter with built-in storage to prevent Dilly from going through. And if you must know, I have already gotten a quote for the new kitchen counter. Just waiting for your approval :p)

Dylan’s Second Newborn Shoot: Indoor Photography

Jasmine: You know it’s Jasmine and Andrew’s baby when Baby D gets not one photoshoot but two! (Andrew: Kinda crazy – he’s had 3 photoshoots already and another 2 in the pipeline this year! Watch out for our next post on his photoshoot in Shanghai!)

Our maternity shoot photographer, whose pictures we loved and blogged about here, was so kind as to offer us a complimentary newborn shoot! We had already done one newborn shoot when Dylan was nine days old,  so we scheduled this shoot to complement rather than duplicate the previous. Thus, instead of a studio setup with professional lighting and backdrops, we opted for a natural feel in our home by daylight, and the “props” were everyday items used by Dylan. We also chose to have this newborn shoot when Dylan was one month old, a big milestone for new parents, so that it might serve as a visual record of how he had grown since the studio shoot.

Andrew: This shoot was much better, as we had somewhat grown more confident in handling him and also, since it was at home, we could put him to sleep in settings he was comfortable in. We chose a more casual feel for this photo-shoot, to re-create a simple day of just being at home with Dilly (with many costume-changes, which might not be too far-off from the truth when he was at that stage!).

Here are various types of shots we had:

Symbolic Items

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Baby socks gifted by my sister

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Jasmine: Scrabble tiles and a pair of mittens (the backdrop is actually the fitted sheet in Dylan’s crib). This was a really thoughtful link to our maternity shoot, where we used Scrabble tiles to announce Dylan’s name.

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Jasmine: Not really a symbolic item per se, but a meaningful one. We wanted some shots of Dylan on this big beanbag sunbear, as I bought this during my pregnancy thinking it would help my back and be thereafter used in the nursery. Dylan still loves it now although the bear is abit deflated (kinda like his smelly penguin), he will throw himself on it, “suntan” while lying on it and basically climb everywhere.

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Andrew: This bear is kind of like a signature piece in our house, which many people are quite amused with whenever they come visiting. This carpet is also quite unique, specially bought by Dearie from a US home decor website (pier1.com). I love the colours in this shot! The bear’s one of my favourite lazy piece of furniture and I used to just lie back on it in the living room and do my reading or watch TV in the living room. Taking this shot was quite a delicate balancing act as we had to place him there gently enough so that he wouldn’t wake up and then stand round to ensure he wouldn’t just slip off. The things we do just for a photo!

Dylan’s costumes

Jasmine: As mentioned, this shoot was a simple home affair so we had to provide all our own props- which was also fun as we had total creative control! We had to get Dilly undressed first…

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Not another photo-shoot… I just want to sleep…

Jasmine: And comfortable enough to take this shot, which looks quite dreamy, but is actually Dylan wrapped in the Aden+Anais swaddle cloth, lying on our sofa:

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Jasmine: Before taking pictures with this adorable lamb hat that Ee Ee knitted (if you recall, she also knitted the peapod in our other newborn shoot, and said it was her gift to Dylan)…

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Hmm… will I get a chance to pee on Daddy again this time? *evil thoughts*

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I want my milk…

Jasmine: I love this shot of my little lamb yawning while flaunting his double chin. If he were willing I’d have him wear that lamb hat everyday.

babydylan (39)Haven’t I been in this position for too long already? Somebody move me!

Another outfit was the SuperCute romper which Dylan wore for his man yue:

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Jasmine: At this point he was so milk-drunk that the photos were hilarious. Superhero sleeping on the job.

Andrew: We really had a good laugh taking the photos above – this superhero had to have his neck and back propped up by Daddy for this shot. So fun!

Family shots

Jasmine: It was also nice to sit down and enjoy our baby, while having the photographers document those happy moments:

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Andrew: This is really one of my favourite shots. Reminds me of how much he has grown – he used to be so small that we could just cradle him in our arms. Now no longer.

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Andrew: 2 contrasting shots pre and post-delivery below – me holding wife and baby in both shots 🙂

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We should have been more intentional to do a contrasting pre/post shot – that would have been sweet! Dear, for your noting as you plan our next photo-shoots. Thanks!

Interiors

Jasmine: I bet Andrew will say this category is an excuse to show off new purchases for the nursery…. (Andrew: I would have expected no-less from you…)

And he’s right, darn it.

But just two: the Ikea Maskros pendant light from Ikea and a canvas print which I fell in love with, by Canadian artist Nancy Ramirez, who combines both traditional and digital media to create art that is contrastive- the sharp lines of digital design versus the hand-painted shapes and vibrant hues of abstract painting.

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Oops, the artist actually asked me to send her a picture of her work in the nursery, and not only have I not done so after a year, we have also since replaced it with a larger one from Bali!

Close-ups of his tiny feet and hands

And lastly, no newborn shoot would be complete without detail shots of newborn preciousness: tiny feet, a full head of hair, pillowy cheeks.

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Andrew: All in all, this was a fun photo-shoot, with many tender, family moments captured. I thought the photographers did quite a good job of using various parts of our house as a backdrop for the photos. Not sure if Dylan enjoyed it as much, but we sure did!

As a bonus, the photographers – Ashley and Alvin – also specially made an announcement card for us for our man yue. What great service!

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Thanks once again to Likes of Love for this beautiful photoshoot. From what we’ve seen on their site recently, they have started to go more into maternity and family shoots!

Wacky Baby Products

Jasmine: I guess it’s no secret that we quite love testing out baby products and toys- if I were to link all the posts we’ve done, I’d probably need a glossary. Heh. We do believe in durability, aesthetic appeal, open-endedness and ease of cleanliness, and read reviews with great fervour to separate the must-haves from the nice-to-haves.  (Andrew: Dearie’s the one who judiciously researches every product we buy on Amazon to ensure we buy the stuff that has the best customer reviews – to the extent that once we stood at Isetan for about 20 minutes, while she checked thru Amazon for which wooden toy had the best reviews. Yes, that’s how crazy my wife is.)

We have, however, occasionally caved in to buy some silly or outright wacky baby products- and here are our reviews:

1. Baby shower hat ($6 at Isetan)

Jasmine: This is supposed to keep shampoo and water out of baby’s eyes as the water drains off the grooves. In reality though, using one hand as a “visor” to shield baby’s eyes works just as well. (Andrew: No it doesn’t… when was the last time you bathed baby?) Now I supervise, dear 😀

We just bought this silly hat on impulse coz it makes Dylan look like a sunflower. Weirdly too, we found this in the kitchenware section of Isetan.

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Andrew: Dylan used to detest things on his head, like hats, and would keep pullin them off, but he had no issues with this shower hat. It worked well when I had to wash vigorously, with the showerhead to remove the rice grains in his hair after a very messy lunch. Well, aren’t his meals all messy? Anyway, the size is also customizable to your baby’s head size, by cutting slits in the middle. The crazy things people come up with! Dillie looks soo cute in it!

2. Japanese baby banana toothbrush ($9.90 at Kiddy Palace)

Jasmine: We were actually rather late in starting dental hygiene. Apparently, we are supposed to start brushing as early as 4 months of age, or whenever baby gets his first tooth. The idea is to start young so that he won’t be resistant to having a toothbrush in his mouth- however, if you know babies, they can’t resist putting things in their mouths, especially contraband items, so I don’t really feel like we missed the boat here. Heh.

We did get this Japanese baby banana toothbrush for him, which also doubles as a teether as there are different grooves on the base. Dyl loves the squeaky sound of the brush against his teeth, and will not only brush his teeth (and gums) himself, but let us do so for him as he squeals happily.

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It’s easy to hold and looks like his favourite thing in the world, bananas! What’s not to love?

We later realised this was an imitation of the original Baby Banana Toothbrush- which costs double the price (Oral B should really tap this toddler market) but is supposedly very good quality- reinforced bristles to withstand the tearing power of teething babies who use it as a teether. We bought one for Baby Leia, hopefully she will like using hers too.

3. Summer Infant Tiny Diner placemat ($12 from Amazon)

Jasmine: “What is this thing?” was the unspoken question my family had when we unrolled it and put it in front of Dylan when we went for Mother’s Day dinner.

It is a placemat with suction cups to adhere it to any table, to provide a clean eating surface for baby. We thought this would be quite handy for Dyl to practise Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) or have finger foods at restaurants.

Well, he didn’t get to make much of a mess ‘coz all he got was cucumber…

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Sorry, I take my words back.

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Also comes with a crumb-catcher pocket to minimise spillage or droppage.

Andrew: This is a great invention, which makes meal times that much more bearable. At restaurants, we usually like to give Dilly some finger food, because that means we can continue to eat while we occupy ourselves with our own food. Problem is sometimes the surface can be dirty, or Dilly just ends up smearing the food all over the table. With this mat, that reduces the mess slightly. More good meal-times ahead for Jazzy and Andrew!

4. Pacifier Medicine Dispenser ($4.90 at Toys R Us)

Jasmine: And lastly, most babies hate being given medicine through a syringe, so we thought this was equal parts ridiculous and genius. We haven’t tried it yet, but Andrew suggests that we can offer this to baby with some yucky liquid inside to break Dylan of his pacifier habit. So mean.

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Andrew: We bought this when we first had to give medicine to Dillie and he kept squirming whenever we used the syringe to ‘squirt’ medicine into his mouth. However, since then, he has become used to taking medicine from a spoon, so no more use for this! As you can see, it’s still nicely packaged, so I’m not sure when we’re going to find a use for it – maybe for baby girl?

Jasmine: I think maybe Andrew can try it if he falls sick. Men tend to be so whiny when ill…

Visiting Baby Cousins (And Baby Auntie)

Andrew: We always say that Dylan has so many little girl babies to play with, but that’s good too – because he gets to learn how to interact and take care of his little sister, coming soon. In the span of a few months, we’ve had two new baby girls added to the family and this always gives us a good reason to go visit!

Baby Jewel @ 2 months old (Photos courtesy of my cousin, Davyd)

Andrew: We visited Baby Jewel to pass her her man yue presents as we had to miss it as Dylan was unwell. Going house visiting also shows us how much our son has grown as he no longer has as much stranger anxiety as before. He only cried and was clingy for about the first 10 – 15 minutes when entering Davyd and Fran’s home, and after that, he became so comfortable with the place, running all around, smiling at everyone, playing with their scrabble tiles and repeatedly removing the rubber protectors at the corners of the coffee table.

Jasmine: The corner protectors were actually meant to be child-safe. Ahem, Dilly.

Andrew: Jewel was sleeping for the first half of our visit, but woke up soon after and then, we tried to teach Dylan how to interact with a little baby girl. See him just sitting there, staring and not knowing what to do.

Still looking on, curiously…. even as Jewel stretches out her hand to him

Before finally lurching himself forward to give her a hug, and turn his face to the camera – this boy’s quite the camwhore!

Jasmine: Dylan was actually very sweet. In addition to his affectionate side, I think all the training with the penguins is paying off, and he actually tried to rub noses with Jewel and lay his head on her head and tummy. One thing that didn’t work was the “soft touch” though- Dylan’s version of soft touch with Jewel was to almost jab her tummy. I had to quickly take his hand away.

Andrew: It’s so great to see the family just ‘growing up’ together!  Can’t imagine that these were the same cousins we used to play catching with, and play pranks on our uncle and aunties and have sleep-overs. Davyd somehow always loves to recount the story of how I cried during the first sleep-over at their place once the lights were turned off and we had to call my parents to bring me back. Heh. My shyness is something I definitely do not want my son to inherit, though I will love him all the same of course!

Dylan squirms and tries to break free, whereas newborn Jewel lies comfortably in his father’s arms.

Baby Leia @ 1 week old (Photos courtesy of Charlene and Ee Zhai)

Jasmine: My mum, sis and I went to visit my aunt who had just given birth to her sixth child (respect!!), Leia!

Dylan was very happy getting all dressed up: in the Venetian gondolier shirt Char bought him from Italy:

The thing I love about visiting other parents with young kids is that their houses are already baby-friendly and we never have to worry about entertaining Dylan- either the toys or the boys will! When we reached Ee Zhai’s house, Ee Zhai brought out wooden blocks and musical instruments for Dylan to play with, and her boys Elliot and later Ansel came to build towers for Dylan to knock down.

This gave us plenty of time to coo over the new arrival, little Leia!

Oops, a few people saw this pic on FB and thought I had already given birth.

Both baby Jewel and Leia seem so light after carrying Dilly all this while!

Here’s Dilly meeting his auntie.

Leia: Argh, who is this monster next to me?

Four generations in one pic: my grandmum, my mum and aunt, my cousin baby Leia and my precious son Dilly!

One of Mum, sis, Leia, Dilly and I before we left! Look how Dylan turned their coffee table into his play table.. Heh.

Char and I were chatting in the backseat, then we suddenly realised Dylan was very quiet. Looked over and realised he had knocked out!

My little koala!

The great thing was that Dylan didn’t seem jealous of me carrying baby Jewel or Leia; in fact, he was more interested in tottering round both houses. Hopefully a good sign for when baby girl is born!

Dylan’s Newborn Shoot – The Studio Process in Singapore

Jasmine: Everyone knows that newborns are only this tiny and sleepy and wrinkly once, so we thought we would splurge on a studio shoot for Dylan! This post details what a studio shoot involves:

Initial consultation

When we first reached, we looked through the photographer’s gallery to let her know what kind of shots and colours we liked. I chose a lot of teals and greens for Dyl! I also told the photog I liked the look of round baskets so you’ll see quite a few being used for Dylan. Based on the photographer’s portfolio, I also wanted to let Dylan be suspended from a vintage weighing scale but we were told that the baby needs to be extremely deeply asleep for that to be remotely possible (and even so they would put a beanbag under for safety). Sadly, we couldn’t make that happen.

Duration

Such shoots are usually between 3-5 hours to give sufficient time for nursing and diaper change sessions.

Facilities

In addition to a sofa and a kids’ play area, there was a room with a bed and aircon for us to nurse Dylan twice during the shoot.

Of course, all props, backdrops and costumes are provided, but you are free to bring your own.

To start off, the photog wrapped Dylan in a scarf. She explained that newborns like to feel secure, so they will usually begin with some form of wrap before proceeding to remove his clothing when he is more comfortable and drowsy. [Andrew: She also had a white noise app which she used to help baby to sleep – evidently quite experienced at this.]

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Dylan: What is this weird fur that I’m sleeping on?

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I was almost going to fall asleep…

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… when this lady with a huge black thing came up and a flash of light woke me up again!

Jasmine: And still wrapped up in the same wrap, but switching out the props and backdrops for some nice family shots:

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Dylan: Yes, Daddy, don’t I smell good all wrapped up… Keep your oily face away from me.

IMG_7770 Dylan: Who are those two weird people hovering above me and breathing down on me?

This is boring. Can we move on to the next prop?

Jasmine: It took at least 2 nursing sessions of 30 min each, but Dylan eventually got a bit sleepier, so it was time to change him to a different prop- a round basket with a fleecy knit blanket.

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 Just chillaxing…

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Learning how to protect my modesty from a young age

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 What’s with the winter hat? We’re in Singapore!

Jasmine: We also brought along a peapod that my Ee Ee knitted specially for Dylan. The furry white backdrop is actually a bean cushion with a white cloth over it.

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Jasmine: Do not be fooled by Dyl’s sleepy look, he actually peed on the peapod and the beanbag.

Andrew: Out of all the shots of Dylan alone, I love the peapod ones the most. He looks so peaceful and just so vulnerable… Love how the green of the peapod pops so nicely against the backdrop too. Was quite happy too that the peapod fit Dylan quite perfectly! It was sweet!  

Jasmine: For our wedding and honeymoon, our shoots were all outdoors, so we seized this chance to get a few studio shots in.

Instead of going with white or black, we opted for a navy blue theme:

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Jasmine: I chose to do my makeup and hair myself due to time constraints. I don’t think it was fantastic, especially since I was still freshly post-partum, had not lost the baby weight and was a little sleep-deprived.

I’d say the three essentials for DIY photoshoot makeup are:

  • a professional quality curling iron (mine was a few years old from a pushcart at Raffles City but had rave reviews online) 
  • false eyelashes (bought from Dollywink)
  • face sculpting kit (not used here, but Dear bought me one from Makeup Forever as a Mother’s Day gift last year and I used it for our Shanghai shoot)

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Me in dress from Tasmania, Andrew in The Class plaid shirt, and Dyl in his birthday suit.

Andrew: You looked great, Dear, especially that it was just 9 days after giving birth. Loved the hair, especially. 🙂 (By the way, Dearie also did the make-up for our NYC photo-shoot on her own, and did my hair for me too.)

Jasmine: Some classic black and white shots. Here’s one with our wedding rings dangling off Dylan’s teeny feet.

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Andrew: The shot actually took quite a lot of effort (as with most of the shots). It was a two man job, well three if you include the photographer. Baby had to be placed securely on a cushion, one person (Dearie) had to hold up a black cloth while watching over baby, and then fit baby’s feet through the cloth, while I knelt down to position my hands around baby’s feet. The result was great – love the sweet and playful element to this shot. 

Jasmine: I was not quite so daring, but Andrew decided to go topless (gasp) for some shots with Dilly!

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Andrew: Prior to our photo-shoot, Dearie had shown me many other new born photo-shoots with tender father and son ‘skin-on-skin’ shots, so I decided to go for it and the photographs turned out very well!  They capture precious moments of me holding Dillie in my arms, smiling and appreciating how small, delicate and beautiful he is; at the same time, holding him in my arms as a gesture of support and protection, keeping him safe and secure. Looking at this pic, I can’t believe how much he has grown – it would be virtually impossible  for me to take a pic like this now as he will just be squirming to get out and start running.

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Andrew: Photographer captioned this shot ‘You’ll always have my back’ – again, a lovely shot which captured a small smile on Dillie’s face. It wasn’t an easy shot to take, as we had to place Dylan delicately on my back at the right position, so he wouldn’t slip off while the shot was taken. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but this shot also captures the right side of both Dylan and my face where you can see our moles – if you look closely enough 🙂 This mole was something the nurses at Gleneagles noticed immediately upon his birth – Jasmine’s aunts say the mole is my ‘signature’ on him! His slightly wavy hair is also something which he has inherited from me, and this is also apparent in this picture.

Jasmine: Remember what I mentioned about giving enough time for diaper changes? Dylan looks very blissful and snug on Daddy’s back… and then peed right after this shot was taken. However, poor Andrew couldn’t move an inch. I took my time to rescue him. Heh! [Andrew: Way to burst the bubble, Dear… There I was trying to talk about how tender and significant this pic was.]

Ending off with some of my favourite shots from the shoot. I thought the Farm Fresh Eggs basket was quite witty coz Dilly was “hatched” close to Easter.

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We also tried to get Dyl to pose with his face in his hands, but it was very hard as he didn’t have any neck control and he kept nodding off. I have to say though that it was really worth it going for a photog specialising in baby photography, as she was very patient throughout and knew how to calm Dylan down and pose him carefully.

However, the photog managed to salvage some of these shots:

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And this sweet little one, where his head nodded off and he let out a sleepy gas smile!

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A behind-the-scenes shot:

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Jasmine: To be honest though, it was extremely warm in the studio even with aircon and fans, so much so that we were sweating and even Dylan, wrapped up in all those fleecy throws, was sweating too.

Andrew: All in all, it was a rather tiring phoot-shoot given that there were so many factors that needed to come into play, especially baby sleeping soundly. We were very new parents then and weren’t so confident with handling him as well. even swaddling him and putting him in various positions was rather awkward for me. Was glad for the photographer’s guidance throughout! I was exhausted by the end of it all, but when I saw the photographs, it was all worth it! I’m not sure if Dylan would actually appreciate these shots in future, but at least we have well-captured memories of how our sweetest boy looked like when he was just 9 days old. We can never turn back time, hence photos are one of the best ways to bring back happy moments. Just writing this post has brought back many great memories.

Bath Toys!

Jasmine: Bathtime is now one of Dylan’s favourite parts of the day. To be fair, the water on its own is fun enough, but when we throw in some bath toys, he never wants to get out. We have written about the bathing routine here, so this post will focus on some of the toys that have kept Dilly busy in the water. Most were gifts or if bought, were pretty low-cost.

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Stop styling my hair with my shampoo

Andrew: Bath-time has always been his favourite time. There was a period where we were told to cut down his baths to once a day because his eczema was so bad, and it somehow felt that during that period, he was less smiley and cheerful. Poor boy… Bath-time is a fun time for us too and we have many cute videos of him giggling and laughing while we sing to him or tickle him during his bath. Anyway on to our bath-toys…

1. Stacking toys

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A shower hat which we bought coz it looked so silly, the Ikea Mula stacking cups and a Munchkin snail bath set

The Munchkin snail bath set was a gift from Uncle Miao and Aunty Chrystal for Dylan’s man yue. Every item in this set floats and can be played with together or separately. It includes a snail, a sun squirter and three rings with different types of rotors or beads inside, which spin or rattle when water goes in. Dyl loves the rings the best. He uses them as teething toys and they keep him occupied after the bath when we’re changing him, which explains why one ring is missing from the picture- he probably threw it behind the dresser during a change. The rings stack on the snail, so they’re also good for teaching sorting and size recognition.

The Ikea Mula stacking cups were a gift from my former HQ colleague Eileen. I actually asked her to help me get them as our office was only 5 min drive from Ikea, but she refused to take payment from me. So nice of her! They are only $2.90 but Dylan has gotten so much use out of them, both dry and wet! A really good just-for-fun buy if you have a friend with a baby!

In the bath, they are especially useful as they have different sizes and numbers of holes, which varies the pouring experience, as it could be a gush of water or a rain shower. (Andrew: I have to admit I’m quite amused by the cups too and enjoy pulling them out of the bath-tub and looking at the differing streams of water. Actually, I do enjoy bath-tub baths! During our renovation, one of my few requests was to have a bath-tub for our bathroom, but it was too small for it. That would be one of my dreams for our next house.)

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Yakult bottle strategically covering his boy bits

2. Pouring and hand-eye coordination toys

Jasmine: A very impressive title, but essentially just a sift (for flour) and a ball from the bag of ball pool balls Mum bought.

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Jasmine: Inspired by pictures of basketball hoop bath toys I saw online, we thought Dyl would like catching the ball with the sift. However, he seems content for now to just use the sift to splash water all around (and on us).

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 3. Bubbles!

Jasmine: Cannot go wrong with this one! Of course, any bubble solution would do, but we got this great German one, Pustefix, from an atrium sale. The bubbles don’t burst easily and are soap-free, which means it’s better for Dylan’s sensitive skin than other bubble solutions which contain soap. The wand mechanism is also nice for babies, as you have to press the bear’s tummy and the wand will slowly slide out for a peekaboo effect.

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Andrew: I have great memories of me making my own bubble solution when I was young with our own body soap! Heh. My cousins and I also used to see who could make the biggest bubble using our hands or arms…. Anybody can visualise that? Heh.

When Dylan grows older and is able to play with stackable toys like Duplo/lego, we might consider buying him this Megablocks Build and Splash set, which we saw at Toys’ R’ Us while buying Bruce’s present:

Jasmine: If you stack it, you can pour water from the top, which will make each sea animal tip over so that the water will flow to the bottom. 

At $39.90 though, I think I’d rather make my own with empty plastic bottles, especially since it’s not quite as open-ended as the other Megablok sets. But a fun alternative and I can see Dilly liking all the moving parts and running water anyway.

Baby Day Out at Family-Friendly Vivocity

Jasmine: This Sunday, we had a few baby errands to run (buying potty, shoes, swaddle cloths etc), so we decided to head to Vivocity as it had most of the baby shops we needed to visit.

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Easy enough getting there- a 20 min train ride! Hard to miss us coz we were accidentally stripey

We were quite happy with how family friendly it was:

  • wide aisles for steering strollers
  • lots of outdoor spaces for kids to run around
  • large selection of baby boutiques (though regrettably almost none selling maternity wear) including Mothercare and Toys R Us
  • family rooms
  • family-friendly eateries at low and mid-range price points

Unfortunately, it seemed that every other family had the same idea, so it was very crowded!

Andrew: Yes, the lifts were perpetually full, with families & their strollers as well as families and very full trolleys from Giant. We were packed like sardines in a lift with 3 families and a double-stroller!

1. Outdoor spaces

Jasmine: There are three main outdoor spaces, the rooftop, the playground on the 2nd floor and the ground floor.

Dylan loved pottering around close to the harbourfront, and seeing the train go by (this costs $6 a ride, yikes!):

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Andrew: He was really cute and would just suddenly stop in his steps and watch the train go by. The train uncle was really friendly and kept waving at him every time the train went by (all four times).

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Oops, that’s me slacking off guarding the belongings in the background

Jasmine: I don’t think he’s ever had this much space to roam about! He was very pleased, but Andrew was doing the chasing and it was quite nerve-wracking because we were afraid Dyl would run into the river or something.

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This picture made me feel both proud of him and sad- don’t grow up too fast, Dilly!

Andrew: I felt so conflicted as a parent – on the one hand, I really wanted to just let him run as he was so happy! He kept squealing and laughing to himself as he ran about. Yet, as a protective parent, I just kept wanting to put my arms around him to prevent him from falling or to prevent people from walking into him. He did fall quite a few times, but I was so proud of him that he always fell stably and never once cried. He’s doing really well, but yes, growing so fast.

Jasmine: The 2nd floor open-air playground has been voted Best Free Playground, and we could see why. The undulating surfaces were popular as gigantic slides.

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Dylan tried quite a few bouncing/ gliding rides…

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Jasmine: As well as this cocoon swing, which was big enough to accommodate  one of us too!

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Jasmine: There were also colorful animal sculptures which doubled up as seating or additional climbing structures too.

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As expected, there were throngs of kids, but as many of the rides only fit one to three pax, we managed to keep Dyl safely away from the more boisterous older kids. Plenty of chairs and shade thoughtfully provided for parents to lounge on, too.

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Andrew: Best part of this playground was that it was so cooling, perhaps cos of the altitude. There was a very nice breeze and there were chairs and tables around, for parents to just sit down while their kids ran amok in the play area. Someday that’ll be us! Actually probably just me sitting there while Jas shops. I foresee we might be coming back to Vivo quite frequently when Dillie grows older.

2. Large selection of baby boutiques

Jasmine: As mentioned, we needed to buy some baby stuff, and one of our priorities was to get Dylan some proper footwear now that he can toddle about (we’ve been bringing him out pretty much barefoot since he was born). After doing some research and realising that good baby shoes –the ones with proper soles and not just cutesy cloth ones– would cost anywhere between $60-90. Yikes!

Thankfully, we found these Craig sandals by See Kai Run.

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It checked off all the right boxes:

  • grippable flexible sole with enough support for growing feet
  • large toe box for more wriggle room
  • Velcro closures for easy fastening
  • sandals for ventilation

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Matching Daddy and Dilly shoes?

Just nice too that it was $49.90 before our member discount!

I later read a review that said See Kai Run shoes, being made of leather and suede, were generally intended for urban wear e.g. going to classes, and not so much active sporty use e.g. hiking, trampling in rain and mud. However, Dylan wore it out of the store and put it to the test immediately, walking on wet ground and climbing around in the playground. Oops.

3. Family rooms

Jasmine: Reasonably-equipped with the usual amenities: change station, hot and cold water dispensers, tap, dustbin. However, the doors were made of glass, so I’m not sure how any mum could breastfeed in there. (Andrew: If I’m not wrong, I saw nursing rooms in addition to these regular parents’ rooms. I love malls with nursing rooms, because it means bringing much less stuff out, like two bottles of water. )

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4. Family-friendly eateries at low and mid-range price points

IMG_5648Jasmine: This was purely a whim on Dear’s part, but we managed to get a reservation at Jamie’s Italian for an early dinner! Although we had heard from our family members that the food was mediocre, we also realised that most of our friends had ordered pasta dishes a la carte. Thus we went with something different, the plank menu ($138 for 2) [Andrew: Not sure this classifies as a mid-range price point….], which consisted of 3 courses of platters laid out on planks for starters, mains and desserts.

Andrew: When the waiter first came with 4 cans of tomato sauce for our table, I was like, Huh? We didn’t order that?? Dearie also almost asked them to take it back after the appetizer. Little did I realise that these 4 cans were actually stands for the plank! It must take quite a lot of skill to serve customers at this restaurant because I saw some rather skilful maneuvering of the ‘plank’, with several plates on food on it, throughout! Here are some of our favourite dishes on the various planks!

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Deep fried fish with their very own yuzu mayo – batter was light, fish was tasty and went perfectly with the lemon and mayo

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To us, the meat dishes were the star of the main course plank. The chicken was so moist, juicy and tender!  The pastas are supposed to be freshly made, but we didn’t think much of the bolognaise.

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Andrew: Dearie will know that I usually don’t eat cooked salmon and only love sashimi, but I finished almost half of this!

Jasmine: Oh I wanna replicate this at home now! Beetroot, baked salmon, fresh greens and sour cream with lemon can’t be beet, I mean, beat!

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The greens were so-so, but the polenta chips at the back are a signature Jamie’s Italian item. I loved them – crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside, with a nice hint of saltiness from the cheese

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Panna cotta – loved the creamy texture!

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Brownie with popcorn and amaretto ice-cream

Jasmine: We were also impressed that instead of the usual Ikea high chairs, Jamie’s Italian had invested in Stokke baby chairs, which were really good! Not only were they adjustable, the baby chair held Dyl in for a good hour plus (usually he clambers out of high chairs several times, even when buckled) yet gave him enough wiggle room. Of course, the bread and EVOO kept him futher occupied while we were eating.

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Sidetrack: If you own a stroller, pls buy stroller hooks. They double your storage capacity. Look how much stuff we managed to hook on them!

IMG_5652Andrew: Our little boy is such a bread monster and ate almost 2 whole slices of bread plus his usual porridge portion. Man, he can really eat! There were quite a lot of families there and I think there was a decent selection of food for children there too. There are many other great restaurants in Vivo which I want to try, in particular Madam Kwan’s (supposedly best Nasi Lemak store from KL, for almost 2-3 times the price)! We also realised there were two nice playgyms – Polliwogs and Singkids – there, but didn’t have enough time (or energy) to bring Dillie there.

Jasmine: Overall, a good mall for a family day out, but perhaps a weekday would be better!

Cheap Princess Gowns for Weddings

[To my horror, I found these fully-written wedding-related posts from THREE YEARS BACK, before we got married, just sitting in the drafts folder… So I just clicked “publish”. Also, feeling kinda really sad that I have put on so much pregnancy weight since these pictures below were taken!]

Jasmine: I’ve made pretty clear that I’m no fan of the princess gown… Until I actually tried one on, while shopping with my mum at Far East Plaza.

And realised, horror of horror, that with a very simple bodice, the exaggerated train and full skirt could actually look rather… pretty.

I felt like I was cheating on my own wedding dress- the one that I had painstakingly designed and made at Emanuel B.

On a budget of less than $200, I decided that I would search for a second gown that I could rent. I wasn’t planning to have a change of wedding gown on the actual day itself, but just thought I’d rent one for a different bridal silhouette in pictures.

I decided to go really low-end for this because the ballgown style is so overwhelmingly popular at Taiwanese-style studios that there was sure to be much price competition which would drive prices down. I wouldn’t recommend low-end studios if you want a form-fitted sheath or quality materials, but an A-line gown is still relatively easy to do.

Of the low-end rentals I sourced, most charged around $200-300 for a three day rental, inclusive of alteration and dryclean.

The cheapest was Bridal Closet, which offered rentals from $188, which included not only alterations and drycleaning, but also free rental of veils and accessories (though I didn’t need those).

As I needed to have my measurements re-taken for my cheongsam (reached my goal weight… yay!), Bridal Closet had the advantage of being 5 min drive away from my cheongsam tailor, so we decided to pop by.

This was one of the dresses I tried on:

Option 1

It’s got the sweeping train which shows up well in photos and I liked that the beading wasn’t too overdone, but up close I could tell that the skeleton of the bustier had gone awry and the waistline was crooked. Next.

Option 2:

All along, I had been looking for something more modern, like Option 1. However, this dress was decently-tailored. Also, despite my best efforts to veer away from the traditional gown, I kinda liked the way the tulle skirt was gathered and the lacework was pretty, albeit in a retro way.

Even better, both options cost under $200… to buy. Bridal Closet even threw in free alterations and drycleaning.

Here’s what Option 2 looked like after alteration and removal of the sash:

A few key points about bridal shopping for the budget-conscious:

  • Always inspect the garment carefully to ensure that all joinings are straight and seams don’t pucker (looks especially awful on shiny fabrics like satin and gives away bad workmanship immediately)
  • If you are going for a princess gown (or any gown), make sure that the embellishment does not overpower your frame
  • When in doubt, less is more. Remove all annoying accoutrements. Unnecessary adornment is often used to disguise crappy workmanship
  • Shop with one, maximum two trusted friends with good taste. (Especially important for low-end studios, because you’ll really need to spearate the wheat from the chaff)

I saw too many girls at Bridal Closet who were trying on hideous, butt-ugly gowns (Crime Scene Exhibit A: red and black mermaid gown, with TWO sashes bisecting the natural waist and the low waist, thereby successfully showing off her paunch) but their mums and boyfriends were not offering them the wake-up call they really needed.

When Andrew and I were shooting at National Museum, we saw six other bridal couples, and all the brides were wearing princess gowns which were too complicated and looked like they harked from the ’80s. For example, they had pleating on the bust and massive amounts of embroidery on the skirt. The hairstyle (typically, fussy updo with lots of waves and a TIARA on top of all that) never differed from bride to bride and made the whole getup look dated. Someone really needed to tell them that less is more (ironic, coming from the girl with two wedding gowns).

Princess gown or not, I always maintain that the bride should wear the gown and not the other way around.

Wedding DIY: "Here Comes the Bride" Flowergirl Banner

Jasmine: I’d seen weddings where flowergirls carried in a banner bearing the words, "Here comes the bride", and had always found that cute. I thought that making a basic banner from scratch would be a fun (and hopefully, easy) way to incorporate some crafty goodness into our wedding. Following this, I also made another banner that read "I’m not the bride".

So here goes nothing.

Step 1: Cut out ten hearts in two different sizes

Cut out hearts (a mixture of Webster’s Pages and Graphic45) and write the words, "Here Comes the Bride", on them. I had planned to use cardboard letters, but they were way too small, so I had to painstakingly write, colour in, outline and then use 3D accents on top to give the lettering a shiny, raised look.

A pic my sister snapped at random.

Trying to avoid finger cramp

Charlene, our self-appointed New Media Consultant, is really doing a great job, not only helping us capture candid moments, styling her own photoshoots, uploading all pictures and creating our montage (which she likes to point out would "cost us hundreds" elsewhere!).

Step 2: Embellish!

I added crystal accents and Prima flowers to the smaller hearts on the ends of the banner, and also looped the ribbon so that it would be easy for little hands to grasp it.

However, I thought that the scrap of tulle netting provided the best finishing touch, making the banner a tad more whimsical.

Step 3: Secure hearts with ribbons

I used a variety of trim- the music notes ribbon was from Daiso!

 

Layer different textures of ribbon in the same colour palette (in this case, cream) for a rich, dimensional look.

Step 4: Step back and admire!

The back view

The front