Review: Total Solutions Oven Cleaner

The other day, I decided to roast a chicken for dinner. I thought it was a win-win situation, really – we get dinner and then I might get some leftovers to brown bag for lunch the following week.

One of my favourite roast chicken recipes has to be Thomas Keller’s. It’s amazingly simple! Just salt and pepper and into the oven the chook goes. That’s all. What you end up with is a deliciously flavoured chicken that is tender even on the breast (and I hate breast meat) with an addictively crispy skin.

BUT. And this is a huge BUT. With the simplicity in prepping and cooking comes a huge caveat: and that is the CLEANING. This chicken sizzles with grease – even though no oil is used – and it splatters. All. Over. Your. Oven. Urghs. I didn’t read the reviews before attempting the recipe and when the oil geyser began in my oven, I closed my eyes and stifled a groan.

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I suppose there was no better timing than then to try the Total Solutions Oven Cleaner that Our Lifestyle Shop had given us.

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Once the chicken was devoured and the oven had sufficiently cooled down, I put the cleaner to good use. Shake the canister, hold upright, and spray indulgently into the oven. Leave it overnight and then all you have to do is to wipe it down with a paper towel.

The next morning, I wiped down the inside of my oven walls with trepidation. The grease came off, just like that! At the end of the cleaning exercise, I did have a little bit of white residue coating the walls of my oven but I was told that it is perfectly normal and fine, and that residue will disappear when I next use the oven.

FOR BUBSICLES READERS!
Enjoy a 5% discount on Total Solutions Oven Cleaner (Usual Price: $42.90). Simply use the code “bubsicleshasanewoven” when checking out your basket. Offer ends September 25, 2016.

Disclaimer: We were given the product for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Review: People Impact IQEQ Programme

I am not much of a fan of enrichment classes.

Right now, my kids do not attend any classes except for swimming and (soon) music lessons. That’s all we have signed them up for and that’s all husband and I agreed to sign them up for. Whatever academic stuff that they know, they learn through the daycare.

Sometimes, I wonder if I am not helping them with this mentality. Sometimes, I wonder if they will struggle when they go to primary school and realise that their classmates are miles ahead of them in terms of academic development. But we consciously choose to allow them these few years of playfulness and freedom, so that’s a risk we have to take.

When People Impact asked if I was keen to try Aidan out for their IQEQ programme, I hesitated. But like any good reporter would do, I decided to do my research and checked out their website. What I saw intrigued me.

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Instead of focusing on academic skills like literacy and numeracy, the programme seemed to be emphasising more on “soft” skills such as creativity, problem-solving and communication. As an educator, my students have shown me that it is those with high EQ and people skills who are able to succeed in life. The students who do worst in school can thrive and excel when they are out in the industry because they have the right personality and attitudes.

So yes, I decided to check it out with Aidan. We attended one of the classes that was meant for the older kids in kindergarten and even though parents were usually not allowed to sit in, I was given the opportunity to do so and observe.

When we got into the classroom, I was pleasantly surprised by the intricately designed “maze” on the floor. Judging by their reactions, so were the kids. There were seven of them in total, including Aidan, and I was told that the usual teacher-student ratio is 1:8. There were two teachers that day, CK and Aileen, who got Aidan to introduce himself to the class since he was new. I was rather surprised that A was immediately comfortable in that new environment, given that he can be pretty reserved. He was happy to introduce himself and Teacher CK assigned the other boy in the class to be his mate – the two got along so well!

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The first activity had something to do with the 4×4 maze on the floor. The kids were first divided into two groups. Within the groups, they were to work in pairs, with one child giving instructions to the other on how to “safely” exit the maze without being eaten by the lions.

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I was honestly very impressed by the activity. It not only reinforced spatial skills in the children – they had to instruct their teammate which direction to turn and how many steps to take, for instance – and it also encouraged them to speak up with confidence. The children clearly enjoyed this very much, they were full of relieved smiles when they managed to guide their friends out of the maze!

The next activity was Cloud Nine. This time, the children were split into three groups of different colours. The teachers would show each group a picture and every child had to name an object immediately and physically associated with the item in the picture. For instance, a picture of a table could elicit answers like “chair”, “cup” and “pencil”. Once every group member has given an appropriate answer, their hot air balloon would be allowed to ascend to the next cloud on the wall. The idea was to move up to the ninth cloud.

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This took quite a fair bit of time as the children needed some guidance now and then. But the kids gave it all their attention since the activity played on their innate sense of competition. Everyone wanted to move up to the next level! And it was a clever way of broadening the children’s perspectives, allowing them to draw the relevant associations from difference sources of information.

The third – and last – activity was conducted in a separate classroom, which the teachers had ingeniously turned into a pseudo laser-tag room using raffia strings. Here, the kids were divided into two groups and tasked to retrieve numbered tags from the walls while navigating through the complicated “laser” beams safely. If someone touched a raffia string, the attached bell would chime and the child had to freeze on the spot until a teammate makes his/her way over to tap her shoulder, thus freeing her. It was a game of team work and also built their gross motor skills.

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The kids were alternately IMPRESSED and SCARED of the laser beams! You could see from the anxiety on their faces that they thought it was real, that they really couldn’t move if they touched the string. And when they got out safely, they all broke out in huge smiles. Before his turn, Aidan whispered to me that he was a little scared. But he did great! He not only managed to retrieve his number swiftly, he was able to help save his friends a couple of times.

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Once the session was over, the teachers would invite the parents in and give them a quick debrief on what their children were up to that day. They would also sit down with certain parents to give them one-on-one feedback on their children’s progress.

During their one-on-one session with me, Teacher CK noted three things about Aidan: firstly, he was a very verbal child, and had no problems speaking up and understanding instructions (just goes to show that he has selective listening at home, HAH!). Secondly, he apparently has good focus for someone his age (for instance, he was able to sit and wait while the other kids had their turns). Lastly, he was definitely not the dullest tool in the shed, phew! I was told that they would love to have him in the programme because they felt that he had the potential to be a leader.

Wow, who knew? That little tyrant who drives me nuts on a regular basis could potentially have a high ROI. Although why he cannot focus on simple tasks like putting his toys away at home when he supposedly has strong focus leaves me perplexed.

All in all, I left the centre very impressed. You could tell from the details of the activities that the teachers had spent time and effort in crafting them. Each activity nailed their intended objectives. More importantly, the children kept up their attention and energy levels for the entire two hours that they were there. Aidan had skipped his nap to attend the class and he never wavered. The teachers were able to effectively facilitate the activities and motivated them through positive affirmation.

Would I continue the classes for Aidan? I would definitely love to – costs and logistics notwithstanding. Aidan clearly had fun and we capped off that lovely mummy-firstborn afternoon by going for coffee at one of our favourite cafes, One Man Coffee.

SPECIAL FOR BUBSICLES READERS
If you are keen to try out the IQEQ programme, you can sign up for a single trial class for your child at just $5/child (Usual: $20). Or take up a special one-month regular class package $288 (Usual: $588).

Just email info (at) people-impact (dot) com (dot) sg with your name and contact details as well as your child’s name and age. You’ll have to let them know that Yann from Bubsicles sent you their way to enjoy this deal!

This special offer expires one month from the published date of article. However, you can sign up first with this special offer and arrange for a later date to come for the lesson.

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Disclaimer: We were invited to attend a trial class by People Impact. All opinions are strictly my own and no monetary compensation was received.

GIVEAWAY! Mummybebe baby products

As most of you know by now, I am quite the crunchy mama. I like my products natural this and natural that. When local distributor mummybebe contacted me to ask if they could send me some of the products that they have, I was more than happy to say yes.

One of the brands that they carry is Farlin. Now, I usually associate the brand with the bigger items such as bath tubs, breast pumps, walkers/rockers etc. I was pleasantly surprised to know that they also carry baby cleaning products that are natural and eco-friendly.

Take, for example, the Farlin 2.0 Baby Bottle Wash. It is a FDA-certified product and is also phosphate-fee, phosphorus-free & fluorescence-free. While my kiddos don’t use milk bottles anymore, we use it everyday to wash their water bottles.

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And to add on to their eco-friendliness, the product also comes in refill packs. The 100ml travel-sized bottle is also great when you are on holiday – I recently found myself washing out all our water bottles using a bar of soap. Ack. Should have gotten me one of these.

Mummybebe was also kind enough to send across the Farlin Bon Bon Bowl. I decided to let my thug baby, I mean Zac, try it.

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Did it pass?

Well, yes. The bowl, which is supposed to be non-slip on any surface, held on pretty bravely until the very end. I would say that it works if you do not have a child who is stubbornly ripping the bowl off from the table. But I do love the versatility of the bowl.

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There is a soft silicon lid, which supposedly allows baby to have his food take-out (but which we didn’t try because Zac eats everything that we eat these days). There is a food divider as well as a feeding bowl. I placed some meat and rice into the dividers and soup into the food bowl for Zac. Worked pretty well! However, the bowl is pretty small so you have to replenish the food for big eaters.

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The bowl also comes with a soft-tip spoon, which is useful for babies learning to grasp cutlery.

In a nutshell, I think this bowl is great for little ones who are weaning for the first time. I can see how this would be useful for both baby-led weaning babies as well as puree-fed ones. Mums with toddlers with healthy appetites (and a desire to move things) like mine may find this a bit too small.

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GIVEAWAY!

I asked mummybebe if they would be so kind as to allow our readers to enjoy their products and they kindly said YES.

So three lucky readers stand to win a $50 e-voucher, to be redeemed for any product at mummybebe. All you need to do is follow the steps below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions
Giveaways are open to Singapore residents only. Winners will be contacted using the contact particulars provided when entering this draw (email address as requested) and will have 48 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be drawn.

All incomplete entries will be disqualified. All entries will be verified before the winners are announced. To be fair to our sponsors, please note that all fake Facebook accounts (eg. accounts set up purely to take part in contests with no or very few real friends) will also be ineligible to win. Giveaways are in no way directly linked to Facebook.

Disclaimer: We were given the book for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

GIVEAWAY! When does Squirky’s search end?

And just like that, we have come to the end of The Adventures of Squirky the Alien.

In the penultimate book, How do you get to the Garden Galaxy (which we wrote about here and which gave us all the sads), Squirky managed to track down the whereabouts of his biological parents. Faced with the prospect of finally reuniting with his parents, he eventually decided to give up that opportunity in order to go back to his life on earth with his adoptive parents.

I got to say, that decision truly gutted me. It was such a beautifully bittersweet moment – and I felt like writer Melanie Lee had personally sucker punched me. It was such a real dilemma, one that I can imagine many adoptive children go through.

And so, it was a pleasant surprise when Melanie wrote me to say that the last book was completed. I received it in the mail with much anticipation and could not wait to read it.

Was it a happy ending? Well, I won’t give it away here but needless to say, I thought it was the perfect ending. I really, really loved it. I felt that it reflected life so honestly, that we all make hard choices in our lives and we live these choices everyday. Some days are good, some days are tough – but we grit our teeth and move on. And so it was with Squirky too.

My boys and I, we have gone on the journey with Squirky for six books now and I have to say that it was a good, learning experience. Through the books, Aidan and I have spoken about the importance of empathy, for instance. And, funnily enough, almost-two Zac is a fan of Squirky! He loves to pull the books out of the shelf and wave them in my face with an imperious “Read! Book! Mummy, read!”

It got to the point that I had to hide the books because I was reading them for the nth time for the evening/week and I could practically memorise EVERYTHING (sorry Melanie!). Heh.

If you were looking for something new to read to your kids, I highly recommend this series. Not only is it culturally relevant, it’s full of lovely conversational moments that you can use to guide your tots. Plus, support local eh!

Dear Melanie, thank you for being so honest and open about your experience as an adoptive parent, and for bringing Squirky to life through your words. And thank you for sharing this story with me!

GIVEAWAY!
We have two copies of When Does The Search End? to give away! All you need to do is to complete the following steps.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note
Melanie Lee and illustrator David Liew are part of this year’s Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC), which is happening from 25 to 29 May 2016 at the National Library Building, Singapore.

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Check out these events below:

1. Launch of The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #6: When Does the Search End? [Note: This event is FREE and anyone can come!]
Date: Sun 29 May 2016
Time: 3-3.30pm
Venue: NLB Building, L1 Plaza

2. Squirky author Melanie will be co-presenting a talk on “Being Honest about Difficult Issues with Stories” with NIE Associate Professor Ruth Wong [Note: You will need to have signed up for either the Parents Forum or Preschool & Primary Teachers Congress]
Date: Sun 29 May 2016
Time: 1.15-2.15pm
Venue: NLB Building, L16 The Pod

She will also be moderating a panel discussing themes close to the Squirky book series:
– To S.I.R. (Socially Inclusive Reads) with Love: A socially inclusive picture book for kids, with or without special needs [Note: You will need to have signed up for the Preschool & Primary Teachers Congress]
Date: Sun 29 May 2016
Time: 11.15-12.15pm
Venue: NLB Building, B1 Multipurpose Room

Terms and conditions
Giveaways are open to Singapore residents only. Winners will be contacted using the contact particulars provided when entering this draw (email address as requested) and will have 48 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be drawn.

All incomplete entries will be disqualified. All entries will be verified before the winners are announced. To be fair to our sponsors, please note that all fake Facebook accounts (eg. accounts set up purely to take part in contests with no or very few real friends) will also be ineligible to win. Giveaways are in no way directly linked to Facebook.

Disclaimer: We were given the book for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Review + GIVEAWAY: Flip for Joy

I grew up in an English-speaking family. This means that when it came to Mandarin, the only exposure I got was the mandatory Chinese lessons we had in school. Till today, I remember dreading Chinese lessons because I had a really long-winded Chinese teacher who would spend 80% of class time telling us about her children, her pet goldfish, etc, and then leave 5 minutes or less to rush through the syllabus. You can imagine how much I hated Chinese back then. To prepare for the O levels, my mum signed me up for one-on-one tuition with this really fierce ex-Principal Chinese teacher who would drill me every other day on the language. I remember lugging my heavy school bag to her house for tuition and falling asleep from exhaustion when she made me write some cheem Chinese phrase over and over again. Also, I came from a all-girls convent and speaking Mandarin was very uncool. Huayu was not very cool then.

I have to add that thanks to all that intensive tuition, my Mandarin is not that bad. I can speak and can type out simple text messages in Mandarin. However, anything more complicated will cause my brain to sprain. My in-laws are Mandarin-speaking folks so I have a lot of practise with them. They are the only ones who address me by my Chinese name (no one else does!) and whenever I am at their place, I try and read the giant headlines on Lianhe Wanbao which is usually about some mistress getting beaten up by the wife with interviews with the neighbours, the 3rd aunty’s son, etc.

As with most modern parents these days, we want our child to grow up bilingual. Specifically, we want Elliott to be able to speak English and his mother tongue, Mandarin, fluently. My MIL cares for him 3 times a week and she is really good with reading and speaking to him. These days, he can recite simple children’s rhymes, count from 1-10 and point out household objects, all in Mandarin. I claim ZERO credit. Full credit goes to my in-laws.

I stumbled upon Flip for Joy when I was searching online for “Chinese books for toddlers”. Flip for Joy is a “Singapore-based children’s bookstore, dedicated to sourcing the best Chinese books around the world.” Back then, I ordered the Chinese version of “Where is the green sheep?” titled <绿绵羊在哪里?> because back then, it was one of Elliott’s favourite books. I also got him a book titled <我会穿衣服> as it will allow him to practise buttoning, zipping and lacing various items in the book.

Recently, much to my delight, Elliott was gifted with a few more books from Flip for Joy. Meiru, the 老板娘 of Flip for Joy, contacted me and offered to choose a few Chinese books for Elliott based on his likes. I told her that he’s currently into anything vehicle-related, i.e. cars, trains, trucks, etc. I also shared that he’s into “flap” books.

I was very thrilled when the large package arrived. So many lovely books to read! They were mostly vehicle-themed and one particular one titled <不行,危险!> caught my eye. I laughingly told the husband that my MIL will lurrrrrve this book because she’s always telling Elliott to be careful to not do this, and that. This is a synopsis of the book, taken from Flip for Joy’s page:

A fascinating and fun-filled book with wheels that will teach our little ones about road safety. Children will be able to relate their own experiences on the go to that of the various adorable animals’ and learn how to behave appropriately when travelling in the car. Lift the flaps to see how the animals can enjoy a car ride in a safe manner. The book made of child-friendly material and rounded edges is gentle on the children’s hands. A great book to bring on the go!

Elliott is very taken with the book because…..it has wheels! And flaps that he can lift! He has also recently taken to saying “危险!” whenever I read the book. He probably doesn’t quite understand what the phrase means but whenever I read it, I shake my head and furrow my brows so I think he gets the idea that it is a “no no”.

He is also at the age where every button is a MUST PRESS. Another favourite from the collection is a 3-book series called <这是谁的声音?交通工具系列> because each book comes in the shape of the vehicle (all his favourites – boat! plane! train!) but more importantly, each book has a little button where he can press to hear the sound the vehicle makes.

Despite my less-than-stellar Chinese standards, I can generally read most of the words in these books. I have to admit that some words stump me and I gloss over quickly to the next word. Hur hur. I usually would leave the reading of these books to the husband who will usually read them with gusto and sound effects. It is very cute to hear him reading Chinese books to our little man. The books we have contain simple Chinese words and some even come with hanyu pinyin.  BIG PHEW.

I really like these books because they are hardy and have survived the rough manhandling by my toddler who has thrown them across the room, from a height and even used them as toys (the ones that come with wheels turn into a toy truck for him). Importantly, these books come with rounded edges which make these books safe for little ones. They are also of good quality and as far as I can see, I have not spotted any glaring errors in the books that we have received.

I love that Elliott’s little library has a good mix of English and Chinese books. I am not sure how much of our reading sessions will rub off on him but hopefully, in time to come, he does not fear the Chinese language and instead, develop an appreciation for the language and stories. I look forward to the day when he can read the Chinese language books along with me.

GIVEAWAY

To spread the love, Flip for Joy is kindly giving away two S$20 e-gift cards to readers of Bubsicles. These e-gift cards can be used for any book purchase on the Flip for Joy website. It is a one-time usage e-gift card and will be valid for 6 months.

To qualify:

  1. Like our Bubsicles Facebook review post here.
  2. Share the review post on your Facebook timeline.
  3. Like Flip for Joy’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/flipforjoy
  4. Leave a comment on our Facebook review post telling us your favourite title from Flip for Joy and why.

That’s it! We will then choose 2 of the best answers to win the e-gift cards.

This giveaway ends on 12 December, 11:59pm and is open only to Singapore residents. Winners will be contacted via their Facebook account through private message and will have 48 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be selected. All incomplete entries will be disqualified. All entries will be verified before the winners are announced. To be fair to our sponsors, please note that all fake Facebook accounts (eg. accounts set up purely to take part in contests with no or very few real friends) will also be ineligible to win.

Wait. There’s more.

Christmas is round the corner and we all know how stressful Christmas shopping. Share the joy of reading this Christmas and receive a $5 e-gift card (valid for 6 months) from Flip for Joy for every $50 spent in the month of December.

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” ~ Garrison Keillor

Disclaimer: I was given a selected range of Chinese books from Flip for Joy for the purpose of a review. All opinions are mine.

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