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Baby Signs

Jasmine: Since Dylan was seven months old, I have been teaching him how to sign.

Why signs? I heard that pre-verbal babies can experience frustration when they aren’t able to express what they want, so signing is a way to reduce unnecessary tears for both parent and child. It may also help babies pick up speech faster if you consistently reinforce the sign with the spoken word.

The signs are actual American Sign Language (ASL), we started with “milk” at seven months old. Basically before every feed, even at night, I would ask Dylan if he wanted milk while signing “milk” in front of him. Within two weeks, he was able to pick up the sign and sign back to me whenever he was hungry. When my helper and mum saw that Dylan could sign, they started signing to him too, and that helped him learn all the faster!

Around one year old, which is when most babies are developmentally ready to learn signs (even within a day!), we started teaching Dylan more signs. We chose about half a dozen recommended signs, which I printed out:

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Now, Dylan has a small repertoire, mostly centered on food and mealtimes, which includes

-milk
-drink
-eat
-please (Dylan loves this, he knows he is practically assured of more raisin bread or another go on the kiddy ride when he says “please”)
-more (very useful sign when he isn’t full!)
-all done (another very useful sign to indicate when he has had enough)

The good thing about the last three signs is that they can be used in many contexts, not just mealtimes. Dylan signs “please” and points to the door when he wants to go out. He also knows how to ask for “more” when he wants to read a book again. The one thing he doesn’t like is “all done” coz that means he has to go home or stop playing. Haha.

Here’s a video showing how we combine the signs at mealtime:

It’s been quite fun (and i imagine empowering) for Dylan and us too, being able to communicate with him at this early age!

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Dylan Reviews Hipster Cafes

Dylan: So I heard Mummy and Daddy used to be quite ‘hip’ and always visited many cool restaurants and cafes before I was born. Well, they are trying to revive that lifestyle again, but I’m going to tell you exactly what I think – instead of Daddy’s usual boring write-ups on the food and Mummy’s lengthy descriptions of the decor *yawn*… (Andrew: Well said Dylan – except the part about my boring write-ups! Those are thoroughly researched alright….)

Tiong Bahru Bakery

Dylan: When Daddy told me, we were going to a coffee place, I thought it was just the coffee shop downstairs.. so I dressed just like one of those uncles you see at the coffee shop. Check out the pic below – in my uncle-y shorts, loose t-shirt and the belly scratching!

Mummy says the shirt is from a classy French baby clothing brand, Petit Bateau, and it feels sooo soft, even after repeated washes. Okay Mummy, so it’s a classy uncle shirt!

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Dylan: Little did I know that it was actually going to be this upmarket place with many ang mohs as well as youngsters who looked Singaporean but talked in such funny faux American accents! There was a group of three Aussie girls sitting right in front of me and of course, they were amused by how I was happily clapping and nodding along when Mummy was saying grace. Before we left, this middle-aged auntie also kept playing with me, saying how cute I was… I’m such a babe magnet. (Mummy: you call that auntie a babe??)

One thing I don’t like about these cafes is how squeezy they are…. totally not Dylan-friendly! The good thing is that Tiong Bahru Bakery has baby chairs. Daddy hates crowds and squeezing amongst people, so he wasn’t in a photo-taking mood and didn’t take any photos of the food they bought.

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Mummy took one picture of this burnt bun above, with vegetables inside. Wonder why we had to drive so far just to eat a burnt bun… Isn’t burnt food Mummy’s specialty, according to Daddy? Mummy loved it though. (Mummy: Actually Dilly, this was a squid ink bun, and its distinct  flavour contrasted the umami taste of the  smoked salmon, parma ham and pesto.) Whatever Mummy – it was burnt!

Daddy ordered a ham and cheese baguette, but kept complaining about how hard the baguette was. Seriously, Daddy, don’t you have like…. five times more teeth than me? After eating about a quarter of it, he started to tear pieces of the baguette for me to chew on. Am I not the luckiest baby ever – I get Daddy’s leftovers! I kept chewing on it, even twenty minutes after leaving the cafe:

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If you can see clearly, I’m still holding the piece of bread in my hand. Wonder what Daddy was complaining about it being too tough… I loved it lots – was great for teething!

[Andrew: We didn’t take any photos of the food, but we enjoyed their classic croissant, the kouign aman (try the Mandarin one, if you want something different!) the lemon tart as well as the vanilla millefeuille.]

Chye Seng Huat Hardware

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Dylan: The next place Daddy brought me to,  I dressed more stylishly – in my hip Uniqlo terry romper with car prints now, showing off my fleshy thighs! Isn’t that the in thing now… like hot pants? (Mummy: baby, I don’t know what Daddy’s been teaching you about fashion, but hot pants are never in.)

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Didn’t quite like this place cos they didn’t have baby chairs and it was all bar-seating. Daddy actually knew about that beforehand, because he made the effort to call the cafe, but he still wanted to bring me here, with the stroller as my high chair. This is how determined he is to revive his ‘hipster’ lifestyle…

Oh but one really cool thing about these places! I always get served the exact same porridge in the exact same porridge pot (Mum calls it Tiffany blue polka dot, but I prefer to call a pot a pot)! It’s like someone knew I was coming and made it for me beforehand… magic!

Daddy and I are kind of wearing matchy clothes – my clothes have prints of cars on them, whereas Daddy’s has prints of little pieces of gold and mining picks! Gold-digger.. get it??

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I was just hidden behind the bar counter, without a view of the baristas…. so I whined a little and Daddy had to carry me while eating his French toast – just like old days where he used to carry me with one hand while he ate! Ah, such great memories of old times.

Mummy and Daddy did enjoy the food here, but obviously these places weren’t meant for little people like me, so we didn’t hang around much. Also, Mummy wasn’t fond of the bar stools- something about sitting making her back and ribs ache. I feel your pain Mummy, I have to sit in the stroller all the time whenever you shop.

Apparently, Mummy and Daddy used to spend hours sitting around in cafes like these two, drinking coffee and listening to strange foreign jazz without any rhythm at all! I heard they called such times “dates” but my playdates are so much better…

Is that an adult’s idea of fun?? Bring back the playgyms, I say!

Honeymoon: New York Top 10

[Andrew: Now, this post is grossly overdue and I also have to say, I am so thankful that Dearie nagged me after our honeymoon to upload our photos, because subsequently I lost our SD card and with it, the NYC segment of our honeymoon, which wasn’t loaded in my laptop. I think we are still missing one day’s worth of photos. Sigh. Dear actually put her draft comments for this entry almost 1.5 years ago.]

Jasmine: Having spent 11 days in New York, we could not just narrow our favourites down to a Top 5, hence we’re doing a Top 10 listing instead! These are our personal favourite spots, so certain tourist attractions such as Statue of Liberty may not be found here!

Andrew: NYC is officially one of my favourite cities in the world, with so many things to do, so much energy, so much character and of course, so many great memories of our honeymoon and spending Christmas with Dearie’s family and ice-skating with Dearie. I really do want to come back here again in future and if possible, even spend an extended period of time here.

1. High Line and Chelsea Market

Jasmine: This was one of my most-cherished mornings ever, and the best part was, it was absolutely free! The High Line is  actually a stretch of old railway tracks converted to a high-rise urban “garden”. The winter foliage came in gorgeous hues, and we enjoyed the reprieve that the High Line offered from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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Jasmine: Chelsea Market is also Food Network HQ. Understandably, we unearthed a veritable treasure-trove of casual eats there, though we had to scramble to finish buying everything as the shops were closing early for Christmas Eve! The Wicked spiced hot chocolate from Jacques Torres was decidedly rich and velvety, although I would have preferred even more “heat” at the back of my mouth from the cayenne pepper and chillis.

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IMG_1693 Of note also was Bar Suzette Creperie- its unusual combinations of crepes such as truffle hummus and pear walnut gorgonzola had Andrew queuing up a second time to buy some for our Christmas lunch the next day. Heh.

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Andrew: Chelsea market was like heaven for me, with the aroma of freshly baked goods, piping hot seafood and warm beverages wafting at every corner you turned. Hot chocolate was almost a staple everyday, so comforting in the cold winter climate. You could truly feel the ‘Christmas’ atmosphere too as there were so many colorful and elaborately decorated Christmas cakes and gingerbread men! Oh, I remember too that Dearie bought a crazy, bolero swirly thing at Chelsea market, which she has never worn since because she never found the occasion to wear it. It’s still hanging there in her drawer – hey Dear, I think you can use it as a sensory toy for Dylan. Finally it has some use. 

2. NYC Photoshoot

Jasmine: Though we have dedicated an entire post to this, indulge us as we just unabashedly spam more pictures in this space.

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Andrew: Yes, this photo-shoot will always be memorable because it was the first time I was ever chased out of a library!

You know, I thought a honeymoon shoot would be one of our last shoots after our pre-wedding/wedding photos. Little did I know that it was only the start of many photo shoots to come… 6 now and counting! Dylan has already had 3 photo-shoots (if you exclude the maternity one) – that’s gotta go into the Guinness Book of Records!

3. Jerseyboys

Jasmine: We caught Jersey Boys and Spiderman: Turn off the Dark (flop, more style than substance, not even worth a discounted ticket) and were surprised by the former. The musical biography of the band, the Four Seasons, the show was what all musicals should be: entertaining, strong visual appeal, good illustration of universal themes i.e. self-identity and media, with a lot of heart and feel-good factor. Most of the songs did help further the plot, and the witty touch of using video cameras to shoot Frankie Valli recording “live” later sparked off much discussion between Andrew and I, about self-portrayal and branding in the media, and the verisimilitude between reality and constructions of reality. Ok, moving on.

Andrew: Well, we did go to watch Spiderman, knowing that it was bad. It was clearly pitched more for kids as there were many families in the crowd. I thought there were some cool special effects done in a theatre-setting, but of course it’s difficult for a super-hero storyline to be made exciting in a live theatrical performance. Loved the songs from Jerseyboys and kept youtubing some of them after the musical. Tried to replicate some of their dance moves too, but wasn’t successful ONLY because I was limited by space constraints in our squeezy Yotel room. (Jasmine: I think you were limited by the space constraints of your own body lah.)

4. Woodbury

Jasmine: We actually had no intention of going, but after hearing from many insistent friends that we should make the pilgrimmage, we went down on the same day that the Lims were headed there. It. Did. Not. Disappoint. You would be surprised to know that Andrew outspent me- I only bought a BCBG leather bomber jacket (50% off), BCBG purse for Mum, and some Ralph Lauren Home stuff. Mr Chong, however, was the big spender, scoring steals from Elie Tahari, Theory, shoes… That was one time he did not complain about having to go shopping.

Andrew: Many people went to Woodbury armed with huge suitcases to buy lots of branded goods, so our buys were in comparison modest (including mine). However, it was then that I realised I had busted one of my credit card limits – oops! – but all the clothes have come in real handy, I still wear some of them now!

5. Michelin-Starred Restaurants: Daniel and Babbo

Jasmine: We had to try a couple of Michelin-starred restaurants, so I chose Daniel (a three-starred restaurant given a special mention for ambience) and Andrew chose Babbo (a one-starred restaurant helmed by Iron Chef Mario Batali). Daniel is a really indulgent place that does not deviate much from traditional French cuisine, but amplifies the taste and texture of every one of its luxurious ingredients. While not as innovative as other fine dining establishments we have patronised in the US, New Zealand and Singapore, Daniel knew how to end strong. We were spoilt silly at Daniel, with endless amounts of petit fours and desserts!

Andrew: As always, these classy restaurants tend to be romantically (i.e. very dimly) lit, hence making photos quite challenging. We were very lucky to get ourselves a place at these restaurants as they tend to have very long waiting lists. The best part was enjoying a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at Babbo where I really pampered myself with wine pairings for all the pasta dishes. Our dinner at Babbo started at 10 p.m.! Yes, we were that desperate to try as many Michelin star restaurants as we could.

Daniel

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Babbo

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IMG_1838   Trying to pretend to appreciate the wine by smelling it

6. Ice-Skating at Bryant Park

Jasmine: Not exactly a morning person, I was initially reluctant to wake up early to go ice-skating, and indeed, spent the first 45 min pulling myself along the side of the rink, whilst little kids whizzed past gracefully. Andrew also lapped me several times. However, I eventually got the hang of it and it was quite romantic, holding hands with my beloved and watching NYC spin by.

Andrew (speaking out loud): Dearie, do you remember if we took any ice-skating photos?

Jasmine: Yes. I was wearing my red coat.

Andrew: Oh wow. What a helpful visual cue. (scans album) I think it’s lost.

Unfortunately, this was one of the photos that I can no longer find, but I don’t think we took many photos anyway probably cos one hand was holding Jazzy and the other was trying to balance myself. Jazzy was so grouchy at having to wake up so early to go ice-skating, but she eventually got into the swing of it (after much cajoling and collapsing – both her and I). It was romantic indeed and one of my great memories of married life!

7. MOMA and MOMA Store

Water Lilies by Monet – just beautiful!

Jasmine: We visited a number of museums, such as the Natural History Museum and the Guggenheim. I was slightly let down by the MOMA experience as we went on a “free entry Thursday night”, where the crowds were out in full force, lessening my enjoyment of the artwork somewhat. However, the MOMA store was outstanding!

Diamond-studded cup handle

The hand-bowl

Andrew: Trust Dearie to zoom into the store at any place that we go to. I don’t think we actually ended up buying anything, just taking photos of things we found quirky. Of course, even at that stage, Dearie started thinking of things we could put in our new house when we hadn’t even started looking for a flat yet. I guess you could say she is visionary in the sense that her ‘vision’ makes me ‘w-eary’.

8. Katz Deli/ Russ & Daughters

Andrew: While we had great food at the Michelin starred restaurants, we also had very affordable, but equally delicious food at more humble but very popular food outlets around NYC. Loved loved loved the pastrami sandwich!

Pastrami sandwich – which was soooo good!

Old school meal tickets

Jasmine: I have nothing to say except “YUMMEH”. At the Lims’ Christmas party, Dai Ee also served cream cheese with wasabe caviar from Russ & Daughters, which was the bomb.

Cream cheese and smoked salmon bagel!

9. Yotel

Jasmine: Recommended by our friend Joshua, this hotel was conveniently located near Times Square and had a futuristic, space-age decor like no other.

This TV console had surprising storage capacity! Mesh nets and recesses with different shapes to organise bric-a-brac neatly.

Andrew: Besides the decor, I loved the facilities of this hotel – they had a microwave on every floor and free flow of hot drinks. They also had complimentary breakfast everyday, which was muffins and hot drinks but well, for the price you paid, you can’t complain.

10. M&M store

Jasmine: Although I feared that this would be a touristy shop selling cheesy and overrated merchandise, I was so wrong. We actually went in twice, and found many trinkets and even cute T-shirts for ourselves.

Andrew: We bought lots of stuff from here back home as souvenirs – rompers, pillowcases and of course, some M&Ms!

There were just so many other great places we went to in NYC that this post can’t do it justice. Safe to say, we’ll be back some time in the future!

The Dylan Diaries: Ubud Day 3

Dylan: Oh, one thing to mention before we go on, I kept on being mistaken for a girl when I was in Bali! The people there kept calling me cantik cantik… (which means ‘pretty’)  – must be ‘coz of my long hair! Gender stereotypes exist even at a young age – they should ask my jiu jiu about keeping long hair! Every time they called me ‘pretty’, I felt like showing them this:

1005965_10151672286254049_1163641478_nI ain’t no pretty boy 

Anyway… So, on Day 3, we went to Green Village, an eco-friendly community with houses, a school and a chocolate factory made entirely out of bamboo! Our guide told us that the benefit is that the house remains mostly cool and such buildings are eco-friendly as bamboo grows quickly… Well, not as quickly as me! I can type at six months old, I’m a genius!

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Entrance to the house

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We’ve been seeing lots of greenery this trip… unlike back home in Singapore, where Mummy and Daddy only bring me to shopping malls and indoor playgrounds. Mummy never wants to bring me to gardens, parks and beaches… The only time we’ve been to a garden was when I was still in Mummy’s womb and we went for a photo shoot at Botanic Gardens.  The only green I get to see now is Mummy’s sling!

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Living area of the house

Now, a word about baby fashion (because I am my mother’s son). I’m so glad they put me in respectable shorts today, instead of those silly rompers which expose the whole leg. Mummy loves grabbing what she calls my “fleshy thighs”. Stop it, Mum! It’s embarrassing! You don’t see Daddy wearing his underwear out in public, do you?

(Mummy: NOBODY wants to see that… Ok Dyl, point taken, but you do realise that you’re a baby and can get away with wearing rompers, right?)

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I loved all the winding staircases, and pressing every light switch I came across! I couldn’t be kept in the carrier, so everyone took turns carrying me! Haha… and I was so squirmy..

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… that Mummy decided to put me behind bars!  Check out my disgruntled face and  Mummy’s gleeful look!

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Daddy kinda got himself trapped too… See, pictures like these make me NEVER wanna wear rompers.

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Daddy tried swinging with me in it, which was fun… but it was even more fun when I got to do it on my own!

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Daddy proposed to Mummy that we could have a swing in our house, but Mummy turned down the idea immediately cos she said it didn’t go with her ‘design aesthetic’ or something to that effect – Boo! (Mummy: If it’s a miniscule vintage swing, I’ll consider!)

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These odd-shaped mirrors were really fun… family selfie! It was Mummy’s turn to propose having something like this in our home – that smile on Daddy’s face that you see above just disappeared immediately… That’s why Daddy hates bringing Mummy to houses.

After a while, I kinda got too heavy, so they just dumped me in various locations…

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I’m sinking down here and all they can do is take photos and say how cute I look…

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Yea, there’s granny, just looking on as I sink helplessly in the hammock…

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And instead of carrying me out, Daddy just takes more photos…

Priorities, people!

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I’d like a rotating shelf like this of my own – to climb on! This one’s cool, it swings open to reveal the toilet! I’ve already mastered our coffee table and sofa back home… Give me a challenge, Mummy!

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And finally they carried me, but the star of the photo was… the house!

Chocolate Factory

I probably shouldn’t mention it but I made Mummy very stressed because I refused to drink my milky in the car. Would you drink milky when there was a chocolate factory waiting for you to visit? I think NOT!

If you are wondering how I survived the trip without being allowed to join in any of the nice meals pictured, my (and Mummy’s secret) is that we nursed on drives! Well, thankfully Mummy miraculously recovered from her anger just in time to take another 10294 pictures with me.

Once again, they brought me to a food place where I couldn’t eat anything…. So, I just slept!

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  Organic chocolate products and cocoa drinks available for sampling, but not by me. Life is tough. 

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Hmm, daddy seems to do the activity above quite frequently on this trip!

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The colour’s so familiar, yet smelt so good

Then I woke up and thought a stranger was carrying me –

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Turns out it was just Daddy, donning the latest in men’s hairpieces! Isn’t Daddy just such the fashionista – green hat, grey starry sling! That isn’t a good angle of me honestly, I look so fat! Where’s my jawline? And to make things worse…

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Green School

Our final stop in Green Village was Green School – an international school in Ubud with a curriculum centred around the environment. It was made of bamboo too.IMG_4848

Music hall for performances, designed like a shell to enhance the acoustics

Mummy and Daddy started geeking out about curriculum design, student-centricity, authentic learning. I was thoroughly fascinated- NOT:IMG_4855

Since I wasn’t quite awake throughout the whole visit, I’ll let Mummy and Daddy take over this portion… They don’t write as well as me but just bear with them, ok?

Mummy: Anchored on the principles of community engagement and sustainable living, Green School had an interesting curriculum that encouraged students to embark on inter-disciplinary projects to give back to the community while putting critical thinking and subject-specific skills in action.

We did feel, however, that as innovative as it sounded, we have many similar forward-looking (and more rigorous) programmes in Singapore schools, although our infrastructure may not be quite as… aesthetically creative. Heh.

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 A cubbyhole for kindergarteners, inspired by a pineapple

The preschool classrooms were self-contained, yet open and well-ventilated, with clearly-demarcated areas for eating, performing (a stage with curtains), storytelling, craft work, and even toileting.

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Boat play structure

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The high school classrooms were larger than the preschool classrooms. In addition to the traditional rows of desks for frontal learning, the school also customised the learning space with a cozier cafe-styled “hang out” area for group discussions (not pictured) based on students’ feedback.

Dinner @ Cinta Grill & Inn

Dylan: Ok boring. I’m not due for preschool for another 2 years, Mummy.

We headed out for a barbecue and grill dinner…

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But the wait was so long, that Mummy wandered away into the inn just behind, to Daddy’s horror, as she muttered something about ‘design inspiration’ and pulled me along. Dada, if I tell you I’m innocent, will you give me some of that chocolate you bought from the chocolate factory, please??

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Why do they enjoy putting me in the midst of huge sofas, as if I were one of the cushions??

And to finish the night on a sweet note, desserts at Cafe Wayan!IMG_4905

 

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Death by Chocolate cake (back), Coconut Meringue Pie (front)

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Kueh Dardar Guling

Ooh, this was the best! I got to enjoy a super-rich, gooey chocolate milk, meringue pie milk and kueh milk for my bedtime feed. (Daddy: This was seriously the best dessert place of the trip! Highly recommended!)

Final Day

It’s been a great trip, but I’m so glad to go back home too – to the comfort of my own cot!

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It was a relatively empty flight – so instead of roughing it out on my parents’ laps, I got a seat all to myself! Daddy, fetch me my headset please.

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Of course, before we went back, we went shopping at Sukawati art market where we got the best souvenir of all:

1238315_10151865177684049_1820056444_n No, it’s not Daddy –

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It’s this whimsical painting for my nursery! Finally, a toy that Mummy doesn’t roll out for a week and then hide it away, never to be seen again.

I love it so much that I sometimes wake up at night just to poke all the dots on the painting! Thought they’d be happy that I appreciate their art so much but they just seem more keen on putting me back to sleep each time.

What a great trip with my family 🙂

Music for Baby

Jasmine: I shall not go down Andrew’s route of promising that this shall be a “short’” post only to have it turn out to be essay-length. (Andrew: I was intending to keep that post short, not expecting you would add so much to it!) Although I am a big fan of DIY toys and un-toys (household/ untraditional objects used for babies’ play), I am willing to spend on one category of toys, namely, quality musical instruments.

Why? Well, this is not musical training- “training” being a word I’m wary of especially when used in relation to very young children, because I’m not out to raise a Mozart, and I don’t believe in forcing a young child to learn an instrument before he is developmentally ready, and more importantly, interested. (Andrew: I am hoping my children will love music and learn how to play an instrument. I’m personally quite sad that I never persisted in my piano lessons or continuing my er-hu after I left school!)

However, studies have shown that infants can recognise tunes from as early as two months old! Moreover, infants can not only differentiate good music from bad or out-of-tune music, but exhibit earlier communication skills and are easier to soothe with frequent musical exposure. Thus, we have amassed a small collection of musical toys for Dylan’s enjoyment!

IMG_4568 While in Bali, we bought him a hand drum and thumb piano from Ubud Market. Check out the intricate dot designs on both!

1. Drums

Dilly loves drums, or for that matter, any chance to make a loud noise. We have two drums. This hand drum was a souvenir from Ubud Market which cost a few dollars…

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And the Lollipop drum from Remo, a well known percussion company. Dylan adores drumming on this with his hands or with the mallet, as it has a resonant sound. It’s interesting that he has been playing with this drum for months now, whereas his interest in the Balinese drum was somewhat shortlived, probably because the sound quality of the Lollipop drum was so superior.

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Oops, hit his eye instead.

Andrew: The way he plays with these instruments also shows him slowly growing in his hand-eye coordination skills! Initially he used to only be able to bite on the drum sticks and we had to stop him from stuffing them into his mouth, especially the one from Ubud. Then he moved on to using his hands to smack on the drums or hold the drum and smack it against the floor, and now, he can hold on to the drum stick and hit the drum with it! Looking at him play with it though has also taught me how restricted we can be as adults – we see a drum and a drumstick and can only think of ‘one correct way’ to play with it, but for babies, there are so many ways to do it, and ultimately with the same result – making sound (or noise)!

Jasmine: Yeah anything that makes noise is a guaranteed baby-pleaser. Dyl is just as satisfied clanging on pots and pans, or yesterday, a set of metal biscuit tins. I was beating out a rhythm on four Redondo biscuit tins, and he was clapping and dancing (putting both fingers in the air and swaying his body, as you’ll see in the video later) along to my beat!

2. Thumb piano (kalimbas)

Jasmine: We heard from our Balinese driver that this thumb piano, or kalimbas, is a popular instrument played to help the Balinese relax. It has several metal prongs, each of which produces a vibrating sound when plucked. Interestingly, when one prong is plucked, its vibration sets off the prongs next to it, which vibrate in different tones as well, giving the thumb piano a very unusual, slightly discordant quality.

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Jasmine: At six months old when we bought it, we thought Dylan would be too young to pluck it, but he gamely figured it out.

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Jasmine: I love picking up musical instruments on our travels, even if they’re just tourist souvenirs, as it exposes Dylan to music of another culture. Plus, erm, they’re really cheap. My ultimate dream would be to buy Dylan an angklung– I’ve always enjoyed its timbre.

Andrew: This was his favourite toy when he was 6 months old when he couldn’t quite sit up straight yet and we had to prop him on the sofa, in between two cushions. I guess he liked this toy too because it gave him some ‘support’ to prevent him from falling forward. Heh. Anyway, I have too many shots of him playing with this ‘piano’, because he always looks so intently at it and plucks it with such vigour, as if he really thinks he’s playing a masterpiece.

 3. Xylophone

Jasmine: Or Glockenspiel, as it is otherwise called. Again, I’m happy to invest in quality instruments, as they stand the test of time (and toddler tantrums) and sustain a baby’s attention much longer due to the clear musical tones. There were many baby xylophones available on Amazon, but reviews noted that they were not in tune or had a tinny, shallow sound. This glockenspiel from Hohner, however, plays a full octave accurately and echoes nicely when struck. I’ve even heard Andrew try to play whole songs on it.

Agnes came over for a playdate and this was one of the first toys that both babies gravitated to (the others being my sensory basket of balls, and my lava sensory bottle, which I am very gratified and pleased about haha).

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Jasmine: The Hohner glockenspiel also comes with an easy-to-tote plastic bag and scores with a variety of popular jingles. The yellow stick for hitting the glockenspiel can also be attached to the back of glockenspiel so you don’t lose it- you can just about make it out in this picture, behind the red key.

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Andrew: Once again, Dylan’s progression and growth can be seen in the way he interacted with this toy. In his younger years (or, I mean, months), all he could do was smash it and bite the stick, but now he can take the stick and slam it on the keys – I think he knows he is making music. He used to love the colours too and would always crawl towards it when I started playing it. Well, now he also uses this as an ‘alternative’ walker – putting his hands on it then pushing it all around the home. Basically, anything that he can put his hands on to give him some stability to ‘stand up’ becomes an instant walker with him. 

4. Maracas

Jasmine: These bumblebee maracas were an accidental find when The Better Toy Store opened a booth at Parkway’s atrium. They had a “buy 2 and get 1 free” promotion, so I got these maracas, a bottle of German bubble solution and a coloring ball (crayons embedded in a ball for easier manipulation by baby fingers). Total cost was about $22 for all 3 items? These maracas are such a hit with Dylan because the reward from shaking it is so immediate. I kinda wish I had bought more to give away.

Agnes liked it… When Steffy said “party time!” Agnes started shaking one, then both maracas like a pro.

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And here’s Dyls having a blast with it. Sometimes he examines the bumblebee faces, and sometimes he just treats the stick end as a chew toy…

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Andrew: What an adorably cheerful boy! I remember he had a great time with the maracas at Blue House, and when we got him his own, he loved them a lot too! This was the toy that he used ‘correctly’ immediately, no chewing, no slamming – just immediately shaking it!

5. Piano

Jasmine: But of course, there’s no better thing than the real thing. Dylan loves the piano in my mum’s house, which must be at least 20 years old, as both my sister and I played it when we were in kindergarten and primary school.

Dylan loves sitting in Ee Ee’s lap while she plays the piano. He also likes standing at the piano like a maestro and banging on the keys with his hands or feet while Char plays.

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Andrew: And recently, he’s gotten into dancing too! Check out the video below!

Jasmine: Even when we don’t have musical instruments, Dylan loves for us to sing and dance with him, as we do the waltz, swing him around or throw him in the air. It’s a great way to bond!

Home-Made Baby Foods

Andrew: We’ve written quite a few posts about dining out with baby. However, obviously, that’s neither baby’s staple nor his main source of nutrition as we don’t dine out as often as we used to. So it makes sense for us to blog about the food that he eats on an everyday basis – and that’s almost just as interesting, if not more, than the food he eats at restaurants. Honestly, I used to think all babies ate was plain porridge, milk and blended vegetables, but now I realise there’s a whole realm of interesting menus that can be put together, even for a baby! We’ll have to thank my mother-in-law for her creativity and great culinary skills and my wife too for her research skills and willingness to push the boundaries (I’m the more cautious one).

Jasmine: Actually, this post would not exist if not for my mum, who created all the dishes for Dilly! Anyone who knows me and my numerous failed attempts at cooking e.g. burnt eggs which sent smoke through the house (and I still thought there was a fire in the next block) knows that I should probably stay away from the kitchen. (Andrew: Oh yes, that’d be impossible to forget given that the smell was still there when I went back the next day. Heh.)

Our principle for baby food is simple: let Dylan learn to enjoy food! Inspired by baby-led weaning (BLW) philosophies, this meant letting Dilly feed himself where possible, letting Dilly control the amount of food he took in, and letting him experience food in a multi-sensory way through sight, smell, taste and texture. Of course, this meant that having a certain tolerance for mess (of which there was alot– both on the high chair and the floor around it!) and patience, as Dylan would sometimes reject a food on the first try. Instead of forcing it down, we would then wait a few weeks or months to re-introduce it so he might like it the next time!

So without further ado, here are some of the foods that Dilly has enjoyed!

Finger Food

Jasmine: This has been a firm favourite of Dylan’s and barely needs any additional preparation, as we simply fish it out from our adult corn soup. A mummy friend we have says her children love corn too, maybe because of the juice that bursts from popping the kernels. Even when he was toothless, Dylan was very capable of biting off 3-4 rows of kernels around the edges.

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Another finger food that keeps him occupied and quietly munching for a good 30 minutes is Granny’s potato wedges. These can be endlessly varied but the trick is to cut it into wedges or strips to make it easier for baby to hold. (If you have a crinkle cutter like those used to make fries, that works too.) On lazy days we just cut a sweet potato into strips and oven-bake it. On other occasions, Granny will mash sweet potato or potato with bits of fish and cheese, and coat it with breadcrumbs for extra grip.

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One in each hand

Andrew: Honestly, I do love Dylan’s finger food too and when he can’t finish his sweet potato strips, I eat up the leftovers (unless there’s salmon in them)! They are so healthy, yet tasty. Why we like to start off with finger food too is purely practical – it’s the part of the meal where we can practise some form of baby-led weaning and allow him to feed himself, while we try to have our own dinner before he moves on to his porridge course where we have to feed him more (to prevent him from making a mess).

photo(4)Mashed potato and carrots on carrot sticks 

Andrew: Dillie has the tendency to be rather ‘demanding’ and greedy  – eating half a piece of finger food, and then dumping it down and asking for a new piece. This is when we seize the opportunity to teach him the importance of finishing what he has first, pointing to the unfinished piece and not passing him a new piece until he is done.

Jasmine: Another great baby finger food is tamago. This was not made by my mum but by my cousin Adeline for baby Dylan and Agnes last Christmas. Adeline thought the tamago was a hit until she realised that most of it had hit the floor. However, Dylan still liked tasting it and spent ages chewing it, so I’d say it was a hit nonetheless.

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Soup

Jasmine: The soup version of the potato wedges above, this is made with chicken or beef broth, and ingredients like carrot, corn, codfish, potato and tofu are thrown in. Dylan loves soup- the only minus of this dish is that it’s not as travel or dining-out friendly as the finger foods above. Mum also does a thicker version which is closer in texture to corn or fish chowder. I’ve tried it, its tasty, creamy and yet feels very healthy and nourishing.

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Corn chowder, next to his porridge

Andrew: I am a great lover of Chinese soups, having grown up in a household where soup was a standard item of every dinner. Hopefully starting him off with soups young will also inculcate this same love in him as he grows up! Here are two other types of soup that Dillie has enjoyed:

photo(3)Beef broth

Porridge

Jasmine: I kid you not, Dylan eats more porridge than adults (or maybe just my mum and I). While I was initially resistant to offering porridge because it would be hard for Dylan to feed himself, my mum was very keen on doing so. This porridge is packed with good stuff, like oats, brown rice, broccoli, carrots and fish, and at a regular meal, Dylan eats the equivalent of two adult rice bowls.

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Mum has also made a brown rice risotto version which Dylan likes too!

What I like about this is that we can incorporate so many superfoods into this one dish, which are great for his cognitive and physical development. We also cut the cubes of carrot and fish bigger so that Dylan can practise his fine motor skills by picking them up and popping it into his mouth.

Andrew: This is no regular bowl of porridge – it requires a lot of effort and some skill in order to get the required texture that Dillie loves. Our helpers often couldn’t achieve the required texture and it ended up too grainy, and Dillie just spat out the porridge after a few bites. Well, babies are the most honest judges of food, I say. The rice grains need to be soaked for at least one or two hours before boiling and after that, they need to be boiled at medium heat, stirred from time to time, adding water when it becomes dry, until the rice grains break and the porridge achieves a creamy consistency. When done right, Dylan laps the whole bowl up voraciously, wailing in between spoonfuls if we are too slow to feed him. Granny has recently even started introducing oats into the porridge too.

Jasmine: And a shoutout to three items which have made the feeding experience much much less daunting: the Ikea Antilop high chair, the Calibowl and the Beaba spoons.

There are tons of fancy high chairs with cushioned padding and what not, but that leaves us with too many nooks and crannies to clean. The Ikea Antilop, at $29.90 (including the tray), is super easy to wash, and is a must for the BLW messes that inevitably result.

The Calibowl, also pictured below, has a strong suction base. This means that Dylan’s attempts to explore gravity e.g. drop the whole bowl of food on the ground cannot work and the food is not wasted. The Calibowl also has a spill-proof lip, and there have been several occasions where Dylan tried to tilt the bowl over (usually when the suction did not work due to porridge or water getting under the base) and the lip stopped the food inside from spilling out. It also has a lid so we can pack finger food and bring it out with us.

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Andrew: And here you can see the great thing about the Calibowl – porridge offers a great amount of sensory play for the little one. So when baby has his fill and no longer wants to eat, we just put the bowl there and let him play and he has great fun, while making a great mess.

Jasmine: Lastly, the Beaba spoons (not pictured) are my favourite! The Beaba spoons have just the right shape, and can hold enough liquid or food while being small enough for baby’s mouth. The other spoons we tried from Pigeon and Avent were too shallow for soup or water. As a result, we also use the Beaba spoons for feeding medicine to Dylan- he thinks it’s a nice supper treat and laps it up happily, sometimes going back for seconds, whereas if we tried to shoot a syringeful of medicine in his mouth he would wail miserably. Definitely getting more when baby girl is ready for solids, especially since they come in the prettiest colours, like pale green and mauve.

Dinner Platters

Jasmine: Clearly an act of love by his Granny! On special occasions or at her house, Granny loves to whip up a feast for Dylan using ingredients from the adult meal! This is spaghetti (great for sensory play) with steamed vegetables, including another favourite, broccoli (because it has a built in “handle”) and a swanky glass of water- actually just disposable partyware that I saved from a themed staff retreat.

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Andrew: It’s a combination of all of the above things, all in one platter. 

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Breakfast Foods

Jasmine: And most recently, Granny has been coming in earlier so she has started preparing breakfast for Dylan too! This week, Dylan got to have banana pancakes and raisin cheese toast. Yum!

Andrew: Even I don’t have such good breakfasts!

Jasmine: Well… you have your, erm, instant kopi C.

Banana Pancakes

Jasmine: These are banana bites, in a chip shape and coated with pancake batter for easier grip, but Dylan did not seem to like it so much. We waited a couple months….

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And re-introduced it this week as banana pancakes, with smaller banana chunks spread throughout. Result: Dylan loves it now!

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p.s. These two gorgeous plates were bought by my mum. The blue floral one from Kyoto in Japan, and the white one from a household sale for a few bucks. I love using gorgeous functional items and it’s great that Dylan can appreciate and handle such beautiful fragile items (albeit under very close supervision) from young.

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Andrew: Banana is undoubtedly Dylan’s favourite fruit; to the extent that I try not to eat it around him or else he will look at me longingly, pointing at the banana, until I can’t help but give him a bite. Combining it in a pancake just makes it all the more hearty for this little boy. Look at how he stuffs one whole pancake in his mouth.

Twice-Toasted Raisin Cheese Toast

Jasmine: Another quick and fuss-free breakfast was lightly buttering and toasting a slice of Dylan’s favourite raisin bread from Four Leaves, then toasting it again with some mozarella and cheddar on top. My mum then cut it into cubes and let Dilly feed himself.

Apparently, he ate everything up. Mum hypothesizes that it is because the mozarella was gooey and warm but the bits of cheddar gave it a more robust flavour, and that complemented the sweetness of the raisins and buttered bread. Food critic in the making, y’all…. I wrangled a slice for myself too (made from the crusts that weren’t good enough for Dylan, humph) and it was crispy and rustic!

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Andrew: Looks perfectly delicious for an adult’s breakfast even. 🙂 Even at such a young age, Dylan is quite discerning about his food – he much prefers the 4 Leaves raisin loaf to the one from Breadtalk, which I fed him once when I brought him out with me to Toastbox for my favourite kaya toast set breakfast. He is quite the bread-lover and occasionally enjoys buns from Mugiya too! Just look at him delightfully savouring his breakfast below:

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Jasmine: Thanks Granny for giving Dylan so many happy memories of food! We like to say he is a greedy baby but he is growing so well!

Our Family Play Date @ Blue House

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Jasmine: So, we’re always on the lookout for baby-friendly activities, and my cousin Steffy recommended the Infant & Toddler Atelier, saying that I would love it.

As a working mum, it’s quite hard for me to bring Dilly to playgroups and mummy meetups as most take place in the morning or afternoon, but a glance at the Atelier’s Facebook pictures validated Steffy’s opinion so I took her up on her offer when a free-er afternoon rolled around.

Verdict: Dylan and I liked it so much that we brought Daddy back with us the second time round (so he could pay for a drop-in package haha)!

For a comparison of the Reggio Emilia and Montessori philosophies, click here.

Andrew: I was so inspired when I saw photos of Dylan’s first visit there with Agnes that I really wanted to find time to bring him there too. When I went there, they had this set of ‘rules’ for parents there, which were more like tips on how to make the most of this experience. (Jasmine: OH. I didn’t even know that. All I thought of was PHOTO TIME.) The one I remembered was just to let your kids play without interfering, allowing them to explore on their own. Liked that part the most because we didn’t really have to worry about him wandering off into ‘dangerous’ corners – the whole place was so baby-friendly that we could just let him crawl around and play. The problem was that he was a little clingy during our second visit and didn’t venture too far from us.

Jasmine: Dylan’s first stop was the light table. The light tables were brought in from Italy, and are great for exploring colour, translucency and shape. I’ve also seen light tables used elsewhere for painting and sand art, which I’d love to try with Dilly someday when I get/ make my own light table! *hints Andrew for budget*

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Jasmine: This time, I sat Dilly on the table itself so he could reach the other higher tables which had different coloured lights. The Blue House had also switched out some of the manipulatives from the previous time around, so Dilly got to play with new ones.

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Jasmine: A similar area was the one with a visualiser, to give kids a different perspective of their surroundings. When I came the last time, the visualiser was pointed at some blocks so the child could see the movement of the blocks, projected in real time.

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Andrew: I thought this was a genius play area. Dylan is always attracted to screens, so he liked it, plus it isn’t a screen which is harmful to his eyes (like iPad or TV). Frankly, I enjoyed it a lot too -  seeing ourselves in the ‘big screen’.

Jasmine: Next up, the make-believe areas!

This area, simulating a home, was one of Dilly’s favourite places the last time, and it proved to be a hit again. Yes, much clanging was produced, but to my surprise, Dyl did something he couldn’t do the previous time- place the lid squarely atop the pot.

I also like the Reggio Emilia idea of “interrupting” play with an unexpected object. Instead of equipping this “kitchen” with exact replicas of food, cardboard discs and cardboard tubes were put in, to free up the child’s imagination instead of limiting it to “this is a piece of bread” or “this is a hotdog”.

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Jasmine: And a cool mirrored tent next to the kitchen area!tentpic

Jasmine: The same idea of “interrupted play” was present in the traffic area.

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Jasmine: While this Ikea mat is a staple in most playgyms, Blue House paired it with wooden cars, unfinished wooden blocks, a “ramp” for cars made from half a cardboard tube and a tunnel/ bridge that used to be half a tire. Nice combination of textures!

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The sorting station

Jasmine: Another big thing Blue House had going on was the infusion of recycled materials. This homemade sorting station included a box with holes punched out for babies to drop balls into, and an egg carton which babies could use to sort different-coloured bottle caps.

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Jasmine: Another clever idea was to cover a tin with textured paper and punch holes of different sizes in the lid for poking straws into. I’m totally borrowing this idea!IMG_5238

Reading nooks

Jasmine: Dyl already loves to “hide” himself in a corner of our dining room and have us “find” him, so these reading nooks were natural extensions of that.

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Andrew: There was also a bag of musical instruments, which Dylan got quite occupied playing with – until he started putting them into his mouth and gnawing on them like a chicken drumstick and we had to relegate the toy to the box of ‘things for washing’. 🙂 Glad to know they keep up a good standard of hygiene here as I’m sure quite a number of kids gnaw on the toys.

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“Exercise areas”

Jasmine: By far, the big winner of today was the Yakult pit. The recycled version of the standard ball pit, Dylan was happy not just playing in there, but moving the bottles up to the mirrored surface for more play, and putting them into and taking them out of a nearby basket on a coil.

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Andrew: Am amazed that it’s so simple to create a fun playing area for him. Am now exploring how we can create a similar area in our own home for him! Too bad Jas no longer drinks Yakult – which I recall used to be her staple when we first married – oh, how our diets have changed. 🙂

Jasmine: Oh, but we did something clever, which was to tell my mum about it, and the doting grandmother immediately responded that she already had 10 Vitagen bottles and would start building up her collection. Haha, granny love!

In addition, mirrors are used strategically in Reggio Emilia to enhance inquiry and construction of self-image. Mirrors are placed under the work surface or in front of it, so the child can see what is under the materials or see himself at work, lending another perspective to the task at hand.

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Jasmine: Also love how odd objects (CDs, keys, twigs) are suspended overhead for another dimension for exploration.

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Other random pics of fun:

IMG_5252 Dilly “climbing steps”IMG_5253IMG_5254Sensory bottle exploration IMG_5255          A wavy foam play area (Dylan also enjoyed the sensory rubber balls, so I’m trying to get my hands on one to “interrupt” his normal ball pool play)

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Jasmine: In conclusion, this was what we liked about Blue House:

  • Creative use of natural and recycled materials, allowing for open-ended imaginative play
  • Strategic use of mirrors to enhance inquiry
  • Combination of hard and soft play surfaces (unlike other playgyms where everything is cushioned and padded)
  • Lots of natural light and space
  • Stylishly color-coordinated, proving that childrens’ spaces can be beautiful and stimulating, while the soothing gender-neutral tones allow children to focus on their explorations (unlike the garish primary colours that dominate playgyms)
  • Diaper change station and toilets within the Atelier itself
  • 5 min walk from Pasarbella (not exactly related but thought foodies might like to know)
  • That amazing light table

Fun but Useful Baby Shower Gifts

Jasmine: So, being abit of a shopaholic, I have branched out into a sub-category of shopping that I never knew existed prior to my becoming a mum- baby products!

We have written a previous post on Dylan’s favourite toys, which focuses on presents for the baby’s entertainment and development. However, this post serves as a curation of my favourite buys to make the parents’ lives easier in those early months, so hopefully this will come in handy if you are looking for unusual but practical gifts for a baby shower or full month (instead of the usual vouchers and diapers- which I still love receiving haha). [Andrew: I still believe that vouchers are THE BEST gifts. :)]

In ascending age order e.g. from 0 months up, we have…

1. Hooded towel apron

wpid-IMG-20140318-WA0007.jpgJasmine: This is not your usual hooded towel but a supersize version which snaps around your neck and back like an apron.

wpid-IMG-20140318-WA0006.jpgWhen Dylan was a newborn, this was useful because I didn’t have to worry about holding on to the towel while trying to keep a slippery newborn above water, as I could just fasten it around my neck. Now that Dylan is older and loves to play in the water, the towel makes an effective splash guard protecting my clothes from getting wet. As the towel is laid out diagonally, it is roomier than other adult-size towels even. I also like that I can just hug him to myself and pop the hood on instead of figuring out how to wrap him up. Comes in several colours, including your usual cream, pink and blue, at Kiddy Palace.

andrewhoodedAndrew: Even daddy gets to use it! This was particularly useful when we were at Bali and we had to walk down a flight of stairs to bring him to to the bathroom.

2. Pacifier clip

wpid-20140222_200108.jpgJasmine: Easily the most convenient and cheapest thing we have bought. Sometimes we are not fast enough to catch the pacifier when Dyl spits it out, which may end up on the floor and in need of a sterilisation. This clip PREVENTS that. Also useful for hooking toys and other things on him.

The paci clip also has a “sister” which is a two-sided clip that you can clip a paper napkin onto and TADAA, instant disposable bib!

Andrew: This clip is also handy for attaching other lighter things to him, like his teething toy. Sometimes Dillie ends up treating this clip as a toy and gnaws non-stop at it – we’ve had to buy a new one because the strap of the first one just became so damp  with his saliva.

3. Comotomo silicone teether

Jasmine: You know how babies love eating their hands? We got this when Dyl was teething. It’s shaped like their chubby little fingers, with a different ridged texture at the tip of each. Dyl loved it when we first got it, and he would gnaw on it for up to half an hour before losing interest.

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Nowadays though, I’ve since discovered how to make a FREE teether: put two ice-cubes in a plastic bag and knot it tightly. The cold helps numb some of the teething pain. Also good for abit of spill-free water play when the ice melts at the end.

4. Comotomo bottle

comotomoJasmine: Okay, milk bottles are a really personal choice, so I wouldn’t recommend getting this unless you know the parents very well. For me, this was the perfect transition bottle allowing Dyl to switch between bottlefeeding when I was at work and breastfeeding when I was at home. Of course, quite a few other bottles which claim to support breastfeeding (here’s looking at you Medela) but the shape of the bottle is nothing like mum’s breast. The Medela one we had had a LONG (like jutting out by 2cm) teat and narrow base.  No offense, but no wonder Dylan had nipple confusion when he tried the Medela teat- which was also too fast for him. I mean, which woman’s nipple looks like that?!

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In contrast, this Comotomo bottle is shaped like a breast and encourages the correct type of sucking action. Because the sides are made of soft, flexible silicone rather than the usual hard plastic, you can even squeeze the sides to mimic a letdown.

Have a good laugh at how it looks- but then get one if your friend is planning to mix bottle and breastfeeds.

5. Full body bib

wpid-IMG-20140223-WA0010.jpgJasmine: Another thing we cannot live without, especially when we are eating out. Forge those pretty but tiny cloth bibs, which are only good for catching drool, this big guy is the real deal. Not only does it have long sleeves and a crumb-catching pocket, it also is made of light nylon material and is open at the back, meaning that baby won’t get overheated by the extra layer. This has saved Dylan’s clothes from everything from bread crumbs to mashed potato to porridge.

Ikea used to sell them (pic below) but they are no longer produced it seems; we got ours from a baby mall in Shanghai and it comes out with us every time. I imagine that it wouldn’t be too difficult to fashion from an old umbrella, heh!

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Andrew: Another good thing about this bib is that it is easily wiped down after a meal, which gives it an edge over cloth bibs that become soaked if your baby drips his soup or porridge over it (which happens like almost all the time). Plastic bibs are easy to wipe down, but not as compact/foldable or easy to pack as this full body bib. Furthermore, this ‘bib’ can’t be easily moved by baby – Dillie often likes to grip on his plastic duck bib and shift it away/around when it gets too uncomfortable.

Jasmine: When all else fails, put baby in a box 🙂

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6. Tinylove Supermat

Jasmine: If you are planning to splurge (by which I mean over $70), this would be it. If your friend is an active outdoorsy type, this is ideal. Large enough for a baby who is just beginning to roll or crawl, and even large enough to accommodate two, we lug this Supermat with us to cell group weekly, as it forms a clean play area for Dylan while the rest of our cell members sit around him on the ground of the void deck. It washes well and the colors still look as bright as the day it first arrived, though I probably don’t wash it as often as I should, heh.

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The Supermat is different from a playgym in that it has no aerial component or arches with toys, and is twice as big, probably ‘coz it was designed for older babies who had outgrown the playgym and were starting to gain mobility. It’s colorful and has plenty of built-in activities on the mat to entertain him, but the most useful thing is that it comes with a sturdy little hoop so I can hook a soft book or toy on it and change it out when he gets bored, without fear that it will fall off or get lost. The patchwork pattern has proven popular with our friends/ cousins’ older kids, even those up to 6 yrs of age! I have seen little boys use the mat as “homebase” while they play catching, and little girls play hopscotch or use it as a picnic mat while they spread their own toys all over it. Quite amazing how much creativity the kids display when playing on the mat!

The best part is that it’s not available in Singapore – so extra points for cool factor and buying a present no-one else thought of- and it retails on Amazon for cheaper than anywhere else on the web. There. That was my community service act for the day 🙂

Andrew: When Dylan was younger, he used to love the mirror and the little ‘leaf’ on the mat, which he would use as a teething toy. Now, he just crawls back and forth on it – it’s harder to get him to stay on the mat lately. We’ve brought this mat with us overseas – to Bali and Shanghai and it’s always served as a useful play area for Dylan. What’s good about this mat is that it also serves as a ‘zone of comfort’ for him, which can be useful to counter his anxiety when at a new place.

Savour 2014

Andrew: Felt a little dissatisfied mentioning Savour in just a short paragraph in the baby-dining post, so I thought we’d dedicate a post to what we did manage to try there. We were there for a much shorter time than in 2012, but nonetheless, it was still a fun experience.

I must say going in the evening is definitely much more pleasant than going for lunch, though the price is significantly higher too. The location this year was much better too, at Marina Bay Promontory – much more breezy and the area was smaller, making it easier to walk round, buy food and come back to your table. As we only had about 1+hrs, we focused mainly on trying the international chefs.

Christopher Paucod (1 Michelin Star Chef for Lugdunum Bouchon Lyonnais in Japan)

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Tatin de Boudin Noir aux pommes
House made blood pork sausage with apples, Tatin’s tart style

Andrew: Bought these 3 dishes as part of a set – as you’d get the third free if you buy two. This blood sausage was the one we were initially very dubious about, but ended up being the best of the three. Rich and robust flavour of the blood sausage was nicely balanced by the sweetness of the apples and the sauce. Loved it so much!

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Eclair d’escargots, fondue de tomate, beurre ail & persil: Snails “Eclair Style” served with tomato, persil & garlic

Andrew: I was actually drawn to the store by this dish, but as it turned out, it wasn’t that great taste-wise. Somehow the eclair pastry muted the flavours of the escargot and I similarly thought the sauce mix was too overpowering.

Jasmine: The eclair texture was just right, but that’s about all I can say. Pleasant but otherwise forgettable.image

Cervelle des canuts et sa baguette de campagne
Whipped fresh cheese with chives, garlic & parsley served with fresh baguette

Andrew: This was nice! And of course we were glad that there was bread for Dylan (which you see him chewing on in the earlier post). The dip went well with the texture of the baguette and chives, garlic & parsley are always a sure-win strategy for me.

Jasmine: This was my favourite of the three, although the blood sausage was surprisingly good. The chilled cheese with fresh herbs was perfect for a summery day.

MICHAEL CAINES (Gidleigh Park, UK, 2 Michelin Stars)

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Braised Beef Cheek: Potato and horseradish potato puree, shallots confit, roasted shallot and red wine sauce

Andrew: Beef was tender and the puree was smooth and tasty. A dish well-prepared, but not outstanding. 

EZIO GRITTI (I’Osteria via Solata, Italy, 1 Michelin Star) and MARK BEST (Marque, Australia)

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White Chocolate Mousse with Watermelon and Ginger Sauce (front) & Sauternes Custard

Andrew: The white choc mousse was amazing – both texture and taste-wise. Such unique flavours and the mousse just melted in your mouth!

Jasmine: Yes, although the service staff told us that their signature was the Sauternes custard, I far preferred the white chocolate mousse. It was perfectly whipped and airy, and the sweetness of the watermelon (almost like a light jam) was counterpointed nicely by the sprinkling of ginger flavour. Couldn’t get enough of it!

Andrew: Couldn’t appreciate the Sauternes custard though – perhaps it’s just my lack of appreciation for alcoholic desserts, but it tasted to me like cough medicine – and Dearie concurred after I told her that.  Apparently in the original restaurant in Marquee, the Sauternes custard is served in an egg shell (not sure how that would affect the taste) and it’s supposed to be a sophisticated ‘series of tastes’ – from bitter flavour initially, to alcoholic taste and then the intense sweetness. Didn’t quite work for me!

All in all, it was still a fantastic experience and a genius idea. I would definitely come back again next year if we can and make sure we do some research before and spend more time queuing up for the various dishes.

Baby-Friendly Dining

Andrew: Before we got married and had Dylan, this blog used to be almost 70% about the restaurants we visited while dating. Well, obviously restaurant-hopping was greatly limited when Dylan was breast-feeding, but now that he’s started eating more solids, we’ve started exploring again!

Jasmine: Dylan had his first taste of solids (steamed carrot) when he was six months old, and since then it’s been a lot of fun offering him a variety of table foods and cooking for him too! It has also made bringing him out easier- previously he would have to be held while he vainly snatched at food that we had to push out of his reach. Now, he can be part of mealtimes and feed himself while we eat and maybe have a civilised conversation too. This baby has tried quite a few cuisines, from Japanese to Western to Italian!

Andrew and Jasmine: Some of our guidelines for baby-friendliness include:

  1. Availability of High Chairs: High chairs are a given. The Ikea ones are the best at this stage as that is what we use at home. The wooden ones are meant for bigger kids and Dyl wriggles, stands and even turns around backwards in them. Helps when the restaurant is more spacious too, cos it means that people won’t keep bumping into him.
  2. Menu: menu is baby-friendly, healthy, nutritious and allows Dyl to feed himself (so that we can eat too!)
  3. Facilities: Proximity to washroom, and baby room. Most disastrous case was when we went to this Lebanese restaurant at Greenwood which had a miniscule toilet and I had no choice but to change him WHILE CARRYING HIM. Nonetheless he was still uncomfy and kept squirming and bawling – that was a workout on its own.
  4. Staff: This is where Bali really stood out and we haven’t found such standards here. In one restaurant there, they didn’t have high chairs and the waitresses set up a comfortable area for him by putting 2 chairs and many cushions together. They even took turns to carry him while we were having dinner.
  5. Play Facilities: attached playroom or garden scores MAJOR BONUS POINTS

Here are some places we’ve brought Dillie too lately (meaning the past few months) and our thoughts on their baby-friendliness:

Spruce

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Andrew: Service was really good here and the waiter offered to prepare some complimentary toast specially for him when they usually charge for the bread basket. Dylan enjoyed the little mini-burgers for him too. 🙂 It was quite special bringing him here, because we still had memories of celebrating one of our Valentines’ Day here.

Basilico

Andrew: We really enjoyed ourselves here. However, the high chair was too big for Dillie and he kept wanting to climb out of it.

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Jasmine: I was super excited about this restaurant as many bloggers had raved about it being the best Italian buffet in town, and it was! Aromatic truffle risotto, best selection of parma ams and cheeses at ANY buffet I’ve been to. However, we had not factored in the too-big high chair, which meant that Dyl always had to be closely supervised instead of left to eat on his own. However, he seemed to like the spread we prepared for him (plucked from the buffet), which included carrots, oven-roasted potatoes and cheddar and parmesan.

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La Nonna

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Jasmine: This is one of our favourite hole-in-the-wall type restaurants, with some excellent Italian pasta here. I have been here several times over the last few years and have yet to be disappointed. Dilly enjoyed it too, and spent forever gnawing on a baguette with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), while turning around backwards to smile at the girl at the next table. Pfft.

Cafe Melba

Andrew: Dillie was at a phase where he kept wanting to stand, so this was quite tough as he kept wanting to break free from the chair.

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Our dear boy standing tall and proud

Nonetheless, the bread kept him really occupied and there was fantastic mashed potato which he loved and so did Mummy and Daddy. It’s always great when we can all share food as a family. Downside was the restaurant was a little squeezy and also tables were quite full of stuff, so we had to keep stopping him from reaching out for stuff.

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Jasmine: Yes, Dilly also got to try my dark rye bread with cheddar. He eats a lot of bread at restaurants coz it’s easily available, he loves the taste and range of textures especially when topped with cheese or EVOO and can spend forever masticating just one slice = more eating time for me. Outside of restaurants, we rarely give him bread as it’s processed, but inside restaurants, it’s a lifesaver. Everything in moderation 🙂

DB Bistro Moderne

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Andrew: We saw quite a lot of kids and babies in this restaurant. Menu was kid-friendly – burgers and fries, but not exactly baby-friendly. Nonetheless, anywhere with bread is a winner for our dear Dillie. High chair was good too! Big minus points though as the baby room was almost 10 minutes walk away and the worst part was I brought him there only to realise he hadn’t pooped!

Jasmine: Actually, there was a bathroom inside the restaurant, dear. Here’s a pic of their signature burger with foie gras in the centre!

DBBurger

Japanese Restaurants

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Jasmine: I love bringing Dyl to Japanese restaurants as there is a fairly healthy range of textures and tastes. We have been to Sun with Moon, Tampopo Grand, Sushi Tei and MOF. Dyl loves cucumber sushi (yes, he eats the seaweed too), chawanmushi and green tea soba.

Savour 2014

20140309_173754Jasmine: We didn’t get to go to Savour 2013 as I was in confinement then, so when we had a couple free hours that weekend between family commitments this year, we decided to go on a whim! Savour is essentially an outdoor dining carnival consisting of a gourmet village “inhabited” by different celebrity and Michelin-starred chefs from around the world, selling their signature items at fast food prices.

Andrew: Obviously this would score low on baby-friendliness index – no high chair, menu completely not for babies, and very crowded!

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For this case, it’s more of us adapting to ensure he doesn’t fuss too much by bringing a banana to entertain him (while we eat food from 1-Michelin star restaurants!) and bringing his bike instead of a stroller, because of space constraints.

Jasmine: Well, we enjoyed the gourmet experience and Dilly enjoyed the breezy stroll by Marina Bay.

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I wanted to let Dyl try some of the dishes (ok, just the duck breast and pork belly) but Andrew, being the more cautious parent, vetoed it, so Dyl had to settle for banana. Heh.

Andrew: Well, in conclusion, while there are certain factors that make some restaurants more baby-friendly, it’s also how you adapt to the circumstances and ensure that your child is sufficiently entertained throughout.