Thursday, December 31, 2009



No, this was not one of the Christmas presents that Josh and Zoë got. It’s actually from the stash of toys/games that I bought earlier this year. I tend to buy, on-the-spot, toys/games and even clothes that might not be right or age-appropriate at the time I buy them. So, yes, I do have a stash of toys and games for “emergencies” –e.g. for trips, last-minute presents, when they get bored.

Two weeks of no school over the Christmas holidays means more TV time than usual and I am not very keen for them to be glued to the set the whole morning, but neither was I up for cleaning up after them after a “painting” session. So I dug around. And I found S’Match.

I’d always loved memory games as a child. I think one of the best presents I got was a memory game that came with (removable) plastic tiles mounted on the game board. You could easily “flip” the cards over with your finger for matches. I think my parents must have given that game away and I have not come across anything anywhere close to that game since –in terms of set-up. Anyway, when I saw S’Match, I thought it would be something that Josh and Zoë would enjoy. Besides, it’s from the makers of Zingo! (ThinkFun), so how could I go wrong?

Despite the big box, the only contents were --

• 1 S’Match!® Spinner
• 30 Picture Cards - very small, but sturdy ones
• 1 Parent’s Guide

S’Match is very similar to your usual memory game in that you have to make matches, but S’Match is literally a memory game with a spin. Before each turn, the players get to spin the spinner to find out what type of match they’re supposed to make: A match by Color, by Number or by Category.

sample matches

On the box, it says for Ages 4+. If you have a precocious 2-year old, even she can join in –and win! I think luck had a hand in Zoë’s winning against Josh by one pair in the first game they played. She just seemed to be able to pick all the right cards at the right time. Seriously, though, because the cards had both words and pictures, for as long as your pre-schooler understands color concepts, can count, and understands how certain objects belong to certain categories (musical instruments, things that ‘go’, animals), she can definitely join in and have fun.

The Parent’s Guide that comes with the game has plenty of great tips on how to improve your child’s thinking skills –including some that take you beyond the game itself.


S’Match is available from for US$19.95. Here in Hong Kong, it retails for HK$179.90 and should be available at any of the following: Seibu, Bumps 2 Babes, Toys ‘R’ Us, Apita or Wing On.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No-Sew Quilt

I did some early Christmas shopping this year and spotted this:

image Alex Knot-a-Quilt Fleece No-Sew Quilt Kit

It said on the bag that it was 6+. There are no 6+ little girls in my life right now, but I got it anyway. Because I thought Josh and Zoë would love the colors… and to be honest, I thought it would be fun to make my own quilt. Heh. Yes, I got myself a present designed for 6-year olds.

It took me weeks to finish the whole thing, but I’m pretty happy with the result. See?


There are 48 pieces of squares in six bold colors and all I had to do was to knot the fringes on the squares together. I did have to undo some knots a few times to redo, because I’d missed a fringe. That? Not so fun. Totally my fault, though, for not paying attention.

It makes for a nice throw or a blanket for a pretend picnic. Josh and Zoë are having fun with it and I’m having fun watching them having fun.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brain Quest®

When we were going away for the summer, I had meticulously packed a whole Trunki full of activity books, stickers, simple games, snacks, puzzles, coloring pens, crayons… well, basically anything that I thought would make the long-haul trip more fun (for the kids) and bearable (for us!).

Included in the stash was a set of Brain Quest® cards that I had bought. I was actually very pleased with myself for finding that at Dymocks, knowing that this alone would keep both Josh and Zoë occupied for at the very least 30 minutes or more.

BQ-Decks_horiz Image: Brain Quest®

I never really got to test it on the plane, because we forgot the entire Trunki in our mad rush to the airport.

BUT, I finally opened the Trunki last week and dug out the little treasures stashed in there. It was a lazy afternoon and I decided to give Brain Quest® a try with both Josh and Zoë. See, I had bought the Ages 3-4 one, because I thought the Ages 2-3 one would be a bit too easy for Zoë. I was right, as Zoë was able to answer about 90% of the questions asked in the cards that I’d shown her so far –and she’s not even 2-1/2 yet (just had to mention that)! Josh, of course, zoomed through pretty much all of them. Okay, bragging moment over.

What I really liked about these cards, though, is how much fun we all had while going through them. The cards are colorful, of high quality, AND are all attached together at the bottom with a grommet so that you’ll never have to worry about misplacing any one of them. We had moments of intense concentration (from Zoë), giggles and squeals as they try to beat each other to giving the right answer. While you can just read the questions straight out and move on to the next as soon as it’s answered, you can also ask follow-up questions to the original questions and engage your children in a mini-discussion.

The questions in the Ages 3-4 pack cover a range of topics, from letter recognition to math concepts to general knowledge –all designed in a fun, age-appropriate manner, with colorful illustrations.

I am off to get the next pack –Ages 5-6, –for Josh.

You can get them here in Hong Kong at Dymocks for HK$110.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Time’s Up!


I don’t know how I am going to get through the day without this. This timer here is the voice of authority around here. When it buzzes, my children know that it is time. Time to turn off the TV. Time to stop playing and (get dressed, eat dinner, etc.).

It’s amazing how a little inexpensive digital timer like this can help so much with setting limits. I can tell Josh and Zoë to stop doing something, but sometimes they’d negotiate or whine. But when I set the timer and tell them that they have stop whatever it is that they’re doing when the timer buzzes, they stop. With nary a whine or “but, Mommy…”

What does a timer have that I don’t?! Hmmph.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mighty Mind® / Super Mind®

Sorry for the long period of silence. I’ve just been busy with other stuff. I’ll try to do a post at least once a month (or more!), starting again in September, as July/August will be busy months for moi. Thanks for visiting!


I remember having fun with tangrams when I was growing up. Only seven pieces of flat shapes, but endless possibilities. Very challenging, although at times frustrating, but always lots of fun.

When I saw these games at a toy sale, I immediately grabbed them. This was when Josh was only 2 years old. Yes, I’m a hoarder. Guilty as charged.

MightyMindRev SuperMindRev

Anyway, one lazy afternoon, when we were bored with the usual games and I didn’t want him watching TV or playing on the computer, I remembered about the Mighty Mind® game and brought it out.

Here is Josh, working on the first few puzzles:

The pack came with 30 image cards and 32 geometric shapes. Each of the cards are numbered and follow a logical sequence of patterns starting with two half circles that the child manipulates to form a full circle. Each card “guides” the child through different shape combinations and increases in complexity.


It was wonderful seeing Josh’s “Aha!” moments when he realized that X plus X shape makes a Y shape. You could almost see his increasing confidence as he moved on to each card. After sitting down and explaining to him how the game works, I pretty much left him to his own devices and he would just call out to me to go and see each time he completed an image. He kept at it for quite a while –at least an hour, --which was awesome and allowed me a little bit of peace and quiet to do my stuff.


Once you are done with Mighty Mind® (Ages 3-8), you can move on the Super Mind® (Ages 5-9). Super Mind® follows the same concept, except that the images are more complex and more challenging.

DSC01488 DSC01481

Josh is pretty self-motivating most of the time, but sometimes he’d take a look and would go, “Aw, Mommy! It’s so tough!” Because of this, I was a bit wary about introducing Super Mind® to him now, lest he finds the complexity of the patterns too overwhelming and be turned off and not enjoy the game anymore. But we’d pretty much gone through all the cards in Mighty Mind® and he wanted a “surprise” from me for finishing his Math worksheets yesterday.

To my surprise and delight, he eagerly tackled the new patterns and actually completed the first five (photo of Pattern #36 above) before deciding to “save it for another day.” I think he surprised himself, too, because as he progressed, his excitement at completing each one grew. Look at this, Mommy –all done! I did it!

Great game for the preschoolers. Even Zoë was doing the first few patterns on the Mighty Mind® set. Zoë did it, Mommy!

Upon further research, I found that this game is apparently a winner of the Parent's Choice Toy of the Year award and has been nominated four times by Parenting Magazine to the Toy Hall of Fame, among other accolades and citations.mightymindawards

I got these two sets from Toys ‘R’ Us, but I do believe that these are also available at Apita and possibly Wing On, too. I can’t remember the exact cost, but for sure, each one was under HK$200. If you can’t find them anywhere here in Hong Kong, I’m pretty sure that you can order the games through

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Help-Yourself Book Boxes

For the longest time, the books in the children's room were held together by bookends. But I had to constantly put books back and rearrange them, forever tightening the bookends so that books stay upright. Because the kids could only see the spine of the book, sometimes they would pull down several books before getting to the one that they want. And then I'm left with books strewn all over the place. It's partly my fault, though. I have tried encouraging them to put the books back, but it's not easy for them to insert the books back upright; well, at least not as neatly upright as I'd want them to be and not without somehow mangling the pages (travesty!) when they try to force the books back into place.

When I saw the Help-Yourself Book Boxes in the Lakeshore Learning catalogue, I just had to get them. I'm a Lakeshore Learning fan, if you don't already know. But I'd be an even bigger fan if I can get their products here in Hong Kong without paying the additional shipping cost and having to wait almost two months before the orders arrive.

Back to the book bins...

I ordered a set of six and ordered an additional two. When they finally came, I was a bit surprised to see that they appeared smaller than what I thought they would be. I thought that I would have enough for all the books in the children's room, with a couple to spare for the additional books they have in our room and in the living room. I ended up using all eight bins just for the books in their room. Either I misjudged the number of books they have or I misjudged the size of the book boxes.

After I organized all the books in the book bins, I knew I had to get more. They were so neat, figuratively and literally. What I like about them is that it allows for the tikesters to very easily flip through the books and pick out the ones they want, without having to pull different ones out to get a good look and then discarding them by the side.

Each book box is 14" x 7" x 5" high and is the just right size allowing the kids to be able to put the books back properly and neatly without me worrying about damage to the books. (I'm a bit anal that way.) I say it is "just right" size because when I found out that I didn't order enough book boxes, I went to Ikea and got a few of the Trofast storage boxes in different sizes to see if they would work just as well. For sure, the Ikea storage boxes would be cheaper and I could easily run down and get more without having to wait for two months. They were either too wide, not deep enough, not big enough, too deep, etc. See, if the box is too shallow, the books will not stand up well (or at all); if it's too deep, I'd have the same problem as when I was using bookends where the kids would have to pull out books to find the ones they want. The book boxes from Lakeshore Learning were designed for books, for the little ones to easily "help themselves" to the books they want.

Each of the boxes comes with labels, so if you are so inclined, you can categorize and group books into different bins. It's a pity they only come in blue. It would be nice to have them in other colors, too. Regardless, I LOVE the Help-Yourself Book Boxes.

A set of six costs HK$419 and each extra book box is HK$70.

To place an order --
  • Go to the Lakeshore Learning website and look for the item that you want.
  • Note down the Item Number (usually 2 letters followed by 3 numbers).
  • Call or email ( the local distributor and let them know which items you want; you will have to give them the item number.
  • They will call you back with a quote and also let you know when you might expect your order.
  • Payment is : 30% deposit, 70% by cash before delivery.
Psst. If you know of where I can get something similar here in Hong Kong, please let me know. I could always use a few more and I'd rather not have to wait for two more months. You can contact me at Thanks!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I learned about Starfall from two online friends (JC and JRC). They were discussing whether or not Starfall is useful, etc. I got curious and checked it out... and loved it!

It is a very simple, straightforward site that helps children learn to read, using phonics. There are different "early reading" programs out there. I haven't had a chance to research them all, but the main categories that I know of are the ones that use flash cards and the ones that use phonics. Both approaches have their own "fans." My own path to reading started with phonics in kindergarten and it's something that I know works. I remember my own eureka moment with the word carpenter, that if I just sounded out the different letters and mini-words that I could read long words, too. After that, reading was a cinch. And a JOY.

Because of my own experience with phonics and because Josh views clicking on the computer as a fun activity, I decided to try and see how he would take to Starfall. It didn't take him long to familiarize himself and find his own way around the site.

There are four "steps":
  1. Starfall ABCs - Teaches letter-sound relationships
  2. Learn to Read - Uses systematic, sequential phonics. Has rows that feature a different vowel sound. Each row has a PLAY component, a BOOK part, and a SKILLS section. Under PLAY, the children can listen to and manipulate different letters to form different words. The BOOK part reinforces the vowel sound and uses the same words that the children had "played" with. The SKILLS section either has fun mini-movies, mini-games or videos that further reinforce the lessons. It also teaches digraphs (sh, wh, th, ch), the 'silent E,' Y as a vowel, etc.
  3. It's Fun to Read - Fun stuff with tongue twisters, games, an art gallery featuring famous painters (Van Gogh, Chagall, Gaugin, et al.), music by famous composers (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, et al.), simple poetry, riddles, etc.)
  4. I'm Reading - Features short, simple stories that the children can read, including fiction/non-fiction, Chinese fables, Greek myths, folk tales, and little plays.
While it is recommended that the child progress sequentially, it is okay for them to go explore and click out of sequence. I pretty much let Josh go where he wants. If he comes across a word that he doesn't know, he can always click on it and it will be sounded out for him.

There is such a wealth of interesting and fun learning activities in Starfall and children learn about a whole host of topics beyond just learning to read. You can even download printable activity sheets to work on.

Oh, another thing I like is that at the end of each activity, the child gets asked his opinion. "Did you like this ___?" He gets to pick from "Yes," "Kind of," or "Not really." Josh mouses over all three options, but I've only ever known Josh to pick "Yes."

While it doesn't exactly say on the site when you can start your child on Starfall, I sometimes let Zoë sit with Josh while he plays around with Starfall. Sometimes I sit her on my lap and we play the "Who Am I" game on the site; that's her favorite. We always have a good laugh over her choices. What's more, it always makes for good give-and-take conversations with Zoë.

There is so much more that I can tell you, but I'm going to stop here, because it would be better for you to go to the site and check it out yourself. Seriously. I urge you. Go do it.

Click here to go to the Starfall website and have fun with your child!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Leapfrog Fridge Phonics

I'd almost forgotten that we had this until the kids, in one of their rummage rampages, dug this out from under a pile of other toys. We were given this by my sister-in-law when Josh was around one year old.

This is a great toy for keeping your toddler occupied for at least 30 minutes. She'll be busy manipulating the different letters in and out and pressing them to hear the different letter names and sounds . Don't expect your toddler to immediately pick up alphabet sounds from just one or two turns at playing, but the Leapfrog Fridge Phonics does provide a fun way for her to get familiarized with the different alphabet names and sounds. Because everything is magnetized, you can also bring the whole set into the kitchen with you to let your toddler play with them on the fridge door, allowing you to keep an eye on her while you prepare meals.

The Leapfrog Fridge Phonics comes with a magnetic letter reader and 26 big, magnetic letters that are easy for little hands to grasp. When you put each letter into the letter reader, the letter reader "sings" a fun phonics song that teaches the letter name and its sound/s.

The Leapfrog Fridge Phonics is available at Toys R Us for HK$199.90.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shangri-la Value Vacations

Whenever we plan our holidays now, the first thing we check is if there is a Shangri-la at the destination that we're thinking of going to.

Our first holiday with two kids under 3 years old was to Cebu and we stayed at the Shangri-La Mactan. We didn't go for any of the package tours that the travel agent recommended, but instead opted to book the plane tickets and the hotel separately. We had specifically wanted the Value Vacations offer that Shangri-La had on their website.

Our travel agent didn't know about this offer, even though it is a groupwide offer that Shangri-la does. Fair enough, as this is something that Shangri-la doesn't really promote to the travel agents, because they get direct bookings for these most of the time. We could have booked directly online, but because we were bringing our helper along and wanted her in the same room with us, we decided to let our travel agent do the work in checking this and that for us.

When we got there, the King bed that we had requested turned out to be ginormous! It might have been two Queen or King beds put together. The whole family could sleep there with plenty of room to roll about! There was another pull-out bed in the room, next to the balcony, which opens up to a lush, green lawn.

The Value Vacations deal offers free daily buffet breakfast and buffet dinner, which was sooo convenient, especially if you are traveling with kids. There was a great variety of food to choose from and I didn't have to stress over what food to give Josh and making sure that he would eat whatever we ordered. For me, what made meals so wonderful were the yummy ripe mangoes that were just there for the taking. I totally feasted on them. Some have been peeled and sliced up; others were whole mangoes that I've seen some guests take plenty of to bring to the beach or pool side with them.

The Value Vacations rate includes:

  • Late checkout at 3pm
  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Complimentary buffet dinner
  • Free buffet meals for children under 6
  • USD 20 credit for recreational facilities
  • Free use of water sports facilities (non-motorised)
  • Unlimited laundry - This is great, because (1) you won't have to bring so many clothes with you and (2) you won't be lugging home a suitcase full of dirty laundry.
  • Complimentary broadband Internet access
  • A minimum 2-night stay is required
Note: We went to Kota Kinabalu and stayed at the Shangri-la Tanjung Aru. Same deal, but this property was less flexible about the number of people they allow into each room --maximum of only four, including the kids. Also, the King bed was much smaller. I guess after the beds at the Shangri-la Mactan, one gets spoiled for any other!

Monday, March 16, 2009


This is what helped me to get my milk supply up again after having been hospitalized for almost a week and not being able to breastfeed Zoë.

I've tried papaya soup, fish soup, Mother's Milk tea, but as a galactagogue, nothing worked as well as fenugreek, for me anyway. I decided to give fenugreek a try upon recommendations from friends and also after reading about it at (a wonderful resource on breastfeeding!).

I tried several health stores before finding fenugreek capsules at CitySuper in Times Square (the little pharmacy next to the supermarket section, actually). At the time, I got it for HK$168 for a bottle of 90 capsules (500mg).

All I needed was a bottle (actually, less even!) and there was marked increase in my milk supply. I took a total of 9 caps per day --3 at each meal. I'd read that there are possible effects which include sweat and urine, breast milk and breastfed baby possibly smelling like maple syrup, but luckily I didn't experience any nasty side effect.

For more information about fenugreek as a galactagogue, please click here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Braun Hand Blender

A question from a new mom at one of the mommy forums:
I saw some "special" kit that sells various utensils for making baby's food, are those necessary or any use at all? What do you use for making your baby's food?
Well, the one thing that I have found to be useful back when Josh and Zoë were babies, just starting solids, is the Braun hand blender. This is one of the few things we bought that have "extended" usefulness beyond the baby years. I still use it now and I still find it a great help in food preparation not just for the kids, but also for regular stuff for ourselves. With the hand blender, we've made baby purees, smoothies/milk shakes, dips, soups, etc. And the good thing is that it's quite compact and store away very easily.

We bought ours from Canada, but I've since seen the same model at Fortress (around HK$600). Ours is exactly the same as what you see on the photo here. It came with a hand blender, chopper, metal whisk, and covered beaker (great for those yummy milk shakes!).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Learn-to-Dress Monkey

We love this Learn-to-Dress Monkey by Alex Toys.

I first saw it at the Komodo showroom, but held back from buying as I had already bought a big stash. When I went back around Christmas, I saw it again and I just had to get it. So I did.

The monkey was our Christmas gift for Zoë.

She and Monkey are best buddies now. Monkey is a 22" plush toy (no batteries to replace, no annoying noises!) that features 11 different dressing activities that your toddler can learn --buttoning, zipping up and down, putting on socks and shoes, tying shoelaces, working with snaps, etc. It's a great toy to help develop fine motor skills.

Zoë would take off all the clothes, socks, and shoes and then try to put them all back on Monkey again. She'd even put the socks on her own feet! What's also great is that Monkey has become her "doll." She plays Doctor with him, she sings a lullaby for Monkey to help him go to sleep... I'm sure she'll discover princesses and Barbies soon enough, but for now, I'm quite happy that Monkey is it.

The Alex Learn-to-Dress Monkey retails for HK$259.90 and is available at Wing On or Apita.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Badger Anti-Bug Balm

I am a bug magnet. Whenever I go to the beach at DB, I always end up coming back with over 20 no-see-um bites up and down my legs and arms. Ugly, disgusting, and oh-so-very-itchy!!!

Now, I always have a small tin of Badger Anti-Bug Balm with me and I smear on the balm whenever I go to places where I think there's even a remote chance of me being bug bait.

What I like about the Badger Anti-Bug Balm is that it's organic, made from all-natural ingredients (no DEET!), as with many other Badger products. It has a very pleasant citronella smell and is not greasy at all. If you're the type who would prefer to not have your hands touch the balm at all, you can get the the balm in a push-stick (like a deodorant stick) instead.

I got my Badger Anti-Bug Balm from Doubibou. It's only HK$49. You can order online; Doubibou ships to Hong Kong. Or you can also find out when Doubibou comes to Hong Kong (for various fairs, etc.) and arrange to meet up with her when she does.

Active Ingredients:
*Citronella Oil (5.0%), Cedar Oil (2.0%), *Lemongrass Oil (2.0%), *Rosemary Oil (1.0%), & *Geranium Oil (1.0%). Other Ingredients: *Extra Virgin Olive Oil, *Golden Yellow Beeswax, and *Castor Bean Oil.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Get it here.
I initially bought this book by Mo Willems because I could use it in my workshops to help illustrate how infant sign language could alleviate frustration and enhance communication with pre-verbal children.

Of course, when Josh saw this book lying around, he wanted me to read him the story. It very quickly became one of our favorites. Then when Zoë was old enough to sit through bedtime stories with Josh, she would ask for "Bunny book" whenever we'd sit down and get ready for bedtime reading. She likes Trixie and would tell us when Trixie is "sad" or "happy" or "crying." Now, she's gotten to the point where she completes the sentences as we would read.

The story is short and simple and just right for reading at bedtime. It's long enough to have an interesting story line, but short enough that we can get through a reading without me desperately wanting a glass of water afterward. What's interesting is also the way the author superimposes his illustrations against sepia-tone photos of a Brooklyn neighborhood.

Reading Knuffle Bunny, Chris and I always marvel at how Willems is able to capture so well how kids go to pieces when they are upset. We could both sooo relate to how Trixie's dad felt when she went "boneless." We never knew there's this term out there to accurately describe how the kids go loose-limbed and all when they don't want us to pick them up!

Go get yourselves a copy and enjoy!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Olbas for Children

I hate it when the kids get sick. I feel so helpless when they're so miserable.

Zoë has a runny nose now and poor thing, she has difficulty breathing when she sleeps. Now, we've been warned against Vicks, even Baby Vicks, about how it's not good for kids under 2. Good thing we have Olbas (for infants and children over 3 months).

Olbas Oil apparently originated from Basel, Switzerland over 100 years ago. It is a mixture of six essential pure plant oils that give off vapors to help clear nasal congestion.

For Zoë, I put 4-5 drops of Olbas on a piece of tissue paper and then put the tissue paper inside the pillowcase. For Josh, I use 8-10 drops. Alternatively, you can also add a few drops to a basin of hot water and leave in the bedroom overnight; that is, if you are sure that the children won't get to the basin of water and spill it, get themselves all wet or worse, scald themselves.

I use Olbas, too, for myself when I have a clogged nose and can't breathe. There is the regular Olbas and there is Olbas for Children. I got mine from Bumps to Babes in Central.

What's great about Olbas is that it is a completely natural essential oil formula and there are other uses to it besides being an nasal decongestant. Olbas is also good for massaging on your temples when you have a headache, on your feet and legs to soothe overtired and sore muscles.

Olbas for Children Active Ingredients (%w/w): Cajuput Oil 4.625, Clove Oil 0.025, Eucalyptus Oil 8.8625, Juniperberry Oil 0.675, Levomenthol 1.025, Dementholised Mint Oil 8.8625, Methyl Salicylate 0.925.

Other ingredients: Isopropyl Myristate, Orange Fragrance.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Get it HERE.
What a wonderful, wonderful book.

The mother in this book (by Alison McGhee) walks her child through the milestones in the child's life, from infancy (One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one) to the future when she grows bigger, becomes an adult, has her own child (Someday I will watch you brushing your child's hair), grows old (Someday, a long time from now, your own hair will glow silver in the sun. And when that day comes, love, you will remember me).

<*Tears* Excuse me, while I go grab a tissue.>

I would read this book to Josh and Zoë and with each line I read, the heartfelt emotions and wishes of a mother comes through. Not because I am a particular good reader, but rather because the wishes and feelings of the mother in the book are so universal, that we could easily relate and feel the same way. My voice always, always catch when I get towards the end and without fail, I'd tear up.

(One time, I looked over at Josh and saw that he was a bit teary-eyed, too. I didn't ask him why. I just reached over and gave him a big hug and he hugged me back. Sweet boy.)

The illustrations are simple and clean, very beautiful. This is a book that makes for a very nice gift to mommy friends, especially mommy friends with daughters.

"Sometimes, when you sleep, I watch you dream, and I dream too..."
I LOVE this book.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fun With Feathers

We got some brightly colored feathers in a craft kit and while Josh was busy gluing some of them to make a collage, one feather drifted off and fell on the floor. A slight breeze blew through and the feather lifted gracefully off the floor and moved a few inches.

Zoë saw this and went, "Wow!" And that gave me an idea.

I went down on all fours and started to blow on the feather. Zoë followed suit, but had more difficulty getting the feather to move because she had more spit coming out than air. I then decided to make it easier and got out a hand fan and gave it to Zoë and asked her to chase the feather around with it. I threw some more feathers to the floor, different colors. Zoë had a blast waving the fan and watching the feathers swirl. Josh eventually abandoned his collage and decided to join in the fun.

It was beautiful watching all the colorful feathers swirling about, but what's an even more wonderful sight was these two tikesters laughing and giggling and just having a most delightful time with this super simple game.

What you need:
1. Feathers - We got ours from an Alex craft kit, but you can probably get a small bag of colorful feathers from one of the Chinese stationery shops or from Artland in Wanchai.

2. Hand fan - We use these ones that we got from the Philippines. Light, but can create BIG air. Any fan will do, though.

Have fun!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Food Scissors

This is the one thing that I have to have with us whenever we eat out with Zoë (and Josh, when he was younger). The couple of times that I'd forgotten to bring it, I wasn't a happy camper. True, I could just as easily cut the food with a knife, but having used the food scissors to conveniently cut up food into bite-size pieces for the little ones, I've become quite spoiled.

I bought my first kiddie food scissor at UNY (now Apita), from their kitchen section. It was a tiny one, with a red crab as its cover. There was even some magnet at the back of the cover so that you could attach it to the fridge door. The whole thing was so small, that we somehow lost it... probably unknowingly chucked it in the bin when clearing the dishes.

Desperate for another one, I just walked into a shop downstairs from where we live that sells imported Japanese goods. The only pair they had was a Hello Kitty one. And it was pink. I still bought it. Now if you know me, you'd know that I had to have been really desperate to get a Hello Kitty item.

No regrets, though. Color and character aside, this pair of scissors is bigger than the one before and therefore, so much easier to use and easier to clean. Yet, still small and compact enough to carry in a purse.

I can't really recall exactly how much I paid for this pair, but it was anywhere between HK$80 - 150. Worth every penny.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The "Naked-Baby" Class

If we ever have another baby, I would definitely do PEKIP again. I wish I'd known about it when Josh was little, but I only learned about it when we had Zoë.

We started doing PEKIP when Zoë was five months old and we continued until she "graduated" at 12 months. For me, it was one of the more worthwhile mommy-baby classes around.

PEKIP, run by Anne Knecht-Boyer, is an educational child development program that teaches quality games and activities that parents can play with their babies. It is all about sensory integration and stimulating activities that help with motor skills development (fine and gross).

We went to class each time bringing along with us two huge towels --one to use, the other a spare. Yes, I'd been peed on a couple of times, but thankfully no poo. You don't have to worry about the baby catching a cold. The room temperature is set to around 260C.

What I loved about PEKIP are the many activities that one can play with baby and the different baby-safe props that Anne uses. Some of the activities were so slap-the-forehead simple yet so very interesting and quite easy enough to replicate at home. There were also others that I never dreamed that I could do with a baby and never would have dared try with Zoë if I hadn't first learned how to properly do them during the class.

I liked the fact that all the babies in Zoë's class were born in the same month and it was almost like having a weekly playgroup where the mommies could mingle and compare notes.

I also liked the fact that the activities got increasingly more challenging as the babies grew. We started out with simple exercises or activities that we would do with the babies simply lying on the towels --this was before the babies could sit up or crawl. As we progressed, the babies got to belly-crawl on a mirror slathered with baby lotion, etc. Around 10 months or so, they got to go around an "obstacle course" where they had to go up an incline, come down a mini-slide, crawl over/through/under objects. It was amazing to see their mobility improve with each passing week.

Each session would end with a mini massage session. Anne provided all the natural oils and she would walk us through the strokes. It was a nice way to calm the babies down at the end of each session.

To learn more about PEKIP, click here.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Josh has been doing Socatots at the YWCA since he was 3 years old. I have to say that it's his favorite after-school activity. At one point, I asked him to rank his after-school activities according to how much he likes each one and without missing a beat, he said that he likes Socatots the best.

What we love about Socatots:

  1. It's great that Josh gets to run around and burn off some the unbelievable amount of energy he has.
  2. Kids learn to follow instructions.
  3. Fun drills for motor skills improvement.
  4. Some of the coaches integrate numbers and colors into the drills, making the class more than just physical exercise.
  5. I get to be in there with him during the class to delight in his successes and/or be there to support him when he needs help with some of the activities.

It's great that they have Socatots classes in more places now (Stanley Sports Centre, American Club, Football Club, etc.) apart from the YWCA. I had to queue up for four hours --yes, 4 hours! -before I was able to sign up Josh for his latest class. (Not Socatots' fault, though. The Y just has to get their streamline the application procedure to make it less painful to sign up our kids for any of their classes.)

Will I let Josh move on to Brazilian Soccer when he turns 5? We'll see. I can see that the kids in this class (4 year-olds) can be rougher than the ones in his 3yo class. I guess that's inevitable, though, that the testorone levels get higher as they get older...? For the moment, I love it that Josh enjoys his classes and I love seeing his confidence grow as he gets more agile and more coordinated. I love the way he comes running back to me to give me a high ten whenever he saved or scored a goal. I love it when he discovers that he can easily complete a drill that he'd initially thought might be difficult. I just love it when he has fun, especially when it's the kind of fun where I don't have to clean up after him!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Hong Kong Public Library (HKPL)

One of the things I love about Hong Kong is its public libraries.

I can get almost any book I want from there (for myself or for the kids) and what they don't have, I could always fill up a form to recommend that they purchase it. I've suggested a few books that I wanted to get my hands on, but was too cheap lazy to buy myself and the public library has come through for me. How cool is that.

Some public libraries would have a more extensive selection of English titles than others, I think. The Central Library (Note: The one in Causeway Bay, across from Victoria Park) and the libraries in Central (City Hall) and Stanley would probably have a bit more English titles than others.

The librarians are generally very helpful. Once, I lost (!) a library book and went to pay the fine. The librarian on duty suggested that I simply keep on renewing the book until I've used up all five (or six?) renewals that are allowed for each book, in the vain hope that the book might turn up somewhere. When my time was up, I went back to pay and the librarian took pains to explain to me that I need to keep the receipt for the fine, just in case I find the book or somebody finds and returns the book, then they will refund me what I just paid --for as long as I have the receipt. Nice, no?

The whole process of borrowing books is so painless and that's what I love most about the HKPL. This is what I usually do when I need reading materials:

1. Go to and browse through favorite authors to see if they have any new titles out or I simply go through the bestsellers lists. Anything that seems interesting, I jot down.

2. Search through HKPL's website to see if they have the title/s I want. You can do this by book title or by author. You can even sort results by descending publication year so that you get the latest books at the top of the results list.

3. If I see what I want from the list, I just click on it and a list will come out telling me which libraries would have the book/s and whether they are currently available, reserved by others, or checked out. If the title/s can only be found at a library that's quite far from where I would normally venture, I'd just click the "Make a Reservation" button. It will then lead me to a page asking me at which library would I want to pick up the reserved book/s. There's a pull-down menu and you simply click the one to where you would want to have the book delivered. It will then ask you to key in your Libary Card number (or your HK ID card number --if you've applied to use your Smart ID to enjoy library services) and your PIN.

4. Wait for the email notifying me that the book/s I'd reserved are ready for pick-up. (You get email notification if you have signed up for it; otherwise, I think you get a call from the library.)

5. Once I get the email, I just hie off to the library, shove my HKID into the thingamajig, pay HK$2.50 for each book that I'd reserved, and voila! I have my books.

6. If you need to renew, you can also renew online --as the book is not overdue yet. Each book gets at least five (maybe six) renewals. Each renewal is for a period of two weeks from when you do the renewal.

You can get a library card for your child once he/she turns 3yo. It's great to start them out young and trips to the library rank as highly as trips to Disneyland, in my book (excuse the pun). They're educational, not to mention cheaper, too!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Baby Signs® Program

I started this blog to talk about things that make my parenting job "easier and that much more fun." At the top of that list is the Baby Signs® Program --on both the "easier" and the "that much more fun" parts. The only reason it has taken me this long to write about it is that I was concerned that people might think that I was merely promoting my own business.

I'd gone back and forth and decided that I am going to write about it anyway, because this is my blog after all and I get to write about anything I want (ha ha!). Seriously though, I am going to talk about it because if anything, the Baby Signs® Program has been one of the greatest things Chris and I have come across since becoming parents (Thanks again to Joanne, who told me about signing!). So good that, Chris, an initial skeptic, was the one who convinced me to explore further, get training, and set up Baby Signs Hong Kong.

When we first started with Josh at 8 months, we were doing it primarily because I thought it would be fun. I'd always been interested in sign language and thought that it would be cool if we could sign with Josh. The benefits of signing were, for me, then, a bonus. (I am a girl... and you know that girls just wanna have fu-un! Sorry, couldn't resist that one.) So, Chris --bless him for doing it along with me even if it was only to humor me! --would sign along with me when we would play with Josh and read to him. We were doing it every day that it became second nature to us to sign along as we would talk, read to Josh. One night, as we were reading Goodnight, Moon to Josh, he raised his little arm and did the sign for MOON. Chris and I looked at each other and whooped our delight. We were not making silly fools of ourselves signing with Josh after all; the little guy actually got it and was now signing back! Chris got so excited that he urged me to learn more signs so that we could teach more to Josh. And so it went. (More about our Baby Signs® story here.)

Signing with both Josh and Zoë had been a lot of fun, to say the least. It was very exciting to be able to communicate effectively with them even way before they could talk. They would use signs to tell us things that we otherwise wouldn't have known that they knew about; they could tell us if they wanted MORE of something, if they felt HOT, if they wanted MILK, etc. It was cute, it was exciting, but most of all, it made for a much richer interaction and communication with them, much much earlier on than would be possible otherwise.

Even when they started talking already, the signs still came in handy. For example, sometimes when their mouths are full and they wanted water, they would just sign WATER, instead of trying to talk with their mouths full. Or, there was this time when we were at Cityplaza and Zoë was looking at the fountains with the arcing streams of water, she kept saying, "'bow, 'bow." We didn't know what she meant by it until she made the sign for RAINBOW, clarifying that she thought the arcing streams of water looked like rainbows. That was the first time she said 'bow in reference to a rainbow. Without the sign, we wouldn't have been able to affirm her observation, share with her her delight in her "discovery" nor even know that she knew what a rainbow was, let alone see that she was able to liken other "arcs" to rainbows!

I can go on and on. I'm quite passionate about this subject. But I will stop here. For now. :)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Moby Wrap

We used the Baby Bjorn with Josh. It was good except that when Josh started getting heavier, my shoulders and back would feel sore after wearing him for even just half an hour. With Zoë, I got the Moby Wrap after attending a baby-wearing workshop that was run by Nappypooh (before S left HK for good).

I loved the Moby for its soft, stretchy fabric. I love that it is just a piece of cloth, no pins, no rings, nothing hard that might dig into the baby's soft flesh. I loved how the wrap kept Zoë snug and secure against me. I loved that my shoulders and back didn't hurt. I loved its versatility --that I could do the Hug Hold (my favorite one), the Kangaroo Hold, the Lotus Hold (with baby facing out). There are also the Hip Hold, and the Hike Hold (never had the guts to try this one, though). You can even use the wrap to hold twins!

It takes getting used to. It takes practice. I had to read the instructions over and over and practice quite a few times before I dared to wear Zoë in it.

My only complaint is that because it's such a LONG piece of fabric, it can be a bit of a hassle getting it on outside the house. At home, I'd simply lay the ends of the wrap either on the bed or on the couch, so that they would not touch the floor when I am "fixing" to wear Zoë. When out, sometimes you can't help but have the ends brush up against the floor. Like I said, it takes practice to do it expertly, knowing how to hold the folds so that the ends won't drag, etc.

But, but, but! Once on, I LOVE it and I love the feel of Zoë snug against me. Did I mention that I love its color, too? I got one exactly like the one featured on the photo --the turquoise one with the UV protection. People I met always noted the striking color and how comfy and snug Zoë looked in it.

I just checked out their website again and noticed that they now have new lines available (Moby D, Moby Select). They even have other products now - Moby Mini (Cute, but I don't think I'll spend US$14.95 just so that Zoë can 'wear' her dolls in a Moby Mini, though); swaddle blankets, Baby Legs, and a few other items that I didn't think I saw when I ordered my Moby Wrap two years ago. Lucky for Chris; I might have been tempted to get the other stuff, too!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Big Kid's SleepSack

When Josh was little, we used cotton Halo SleepSacks. I loved them so much that I was kinda sad when he outgrew them. They're basically a wearable blanket that's oh-so-soft. (At one point, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should get one for myself --if only they carried them in adult sizes!)

After the Halo SleepSack and before we discovered the Big Kid's SleepSack, we were constantly checking up on Josh to make sure that his blanket stays on. Josh (and Zoe, too!) is forever kicking off his blanket. We used to tuck the ends of the blanket under the mattress so that it would be difficult for him to squirm out from under, but no dice. Then, when I was recommending the Halo SleepSack to a friend and I wanted to send her a link to the website, I saw that that they came out with the Big Kid's SleepSack! I just had to get one.

What's different about the Big Kid's SleepSack is that your kid's feet are actually out. This is great for the older kids because they can still walk about without tripping (e.g. if they need to go to the bath room in the middle of the night). I got the 4T-5T for Josh and in the photo above (taken when he was 3yo), the SleepSack was a bit big for him still, but he could wear it with no problem. There are (how can I accurately describe them?) "bands" around the ankles -sort of like in some track pants, -- that keep the material from sliding past the ankles.

I wish some stores would carry the Halo line here. With Halo SleepSack, I had to get my sister-in-law to buy them from a specialty store in Toronto. With the Big Kid's SleepSack, I ordered from It's actually much cheaper to order from than to order from the Halo website.

If you know of anybody who "makes" or sells something similar to the Big Kid's SleepSack here in Hong Kong, do let me know. I'd love to get a couple more.

What Makes a Rainbow?

What Makes a Rainbow? is one beautiful book by Betty Ann Schwartz. Very colorful, beautifully illustrated, cleverly designed, and quite sturdy.

Primarily, kids learn about different colors from the book, but also they learn about different animals. Every page you turn features a color and the whole spread is washed in that particular color, highlighted with a strip of silk ribbon in the same color. (Oh, it's all about colors, did I mention that?) Each succeeding page adds a new color (so you get an additional strip of ribbon with each turn of the page) until you get all the colors of the rainbow. The last page of the book gives you a pop-up of a rainbow.

Initially I was worried that the ribbons might come out from the kids' pulling and tugging. Well, guess what? Our book survived both Josh's and Zoë's mighty tugs and it's still quite intact!

IMHO, a must-have in every child's library. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Brush-On Painters

Josh loves to paint. I think I first noticed it when at HKPPA, he would always gravitate toward the easel and start painting away. He actually managed to sell (yes, you read right!) one of the "paintings" that he did there when he was around 22 months, but that's a different post altogether (I'll post it in Mini Masterpieces later this week).

Anyway, I started asking the director of the HKPPA where she got her supplies, etc. She was kind enough to lend me her Lakeshore Learning catalog and while browsing through, I came upon these really cool paints that were "mess-free"! What more could a mommy ask?

The Lakeshore Brush-On Painters came in a set of six colors: Purple, Orange, Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue. They're non-toxic, washable, and refillable. They come in soft plastic bottles with a paintbrush on top, so basically all you have to do is squeeze the bottle a bit while you're drawing and voila!

It takes a bit of practice to squeeze and paint at the same time, but what you can also do is you help your child squeeze enough paint on the brush and then hand it back for him to paint with.

What I like:
  • Each bottle comes with its own brush. This way, you don't have to keep rinsing the brushes in between changing colors.
  • You don't have to pour out different colors of paint and then have to throw/wash away the leftover portions once the activity is over.
  • Very easy to clean. You just rinse the whole bottle and the brush and remember to put the cap back on (to prevent paint from drying).
  • The Lakeshore name. It is known for the quality of its products.

The only drawback is that you have to order through the local distributor(Tel. # 2352-5330) and it can take anywhere around 45-60 days before your order arrives (from time of receiving your order deposit). They are very helpful, though.

To place an order --
  • Go to the Lakeshore Learning website and look for the item that you want.
  • Note down the Item Number (usually 2 letters followed by 3 numbers).
  • Call or email ( the local distributor and let them know which items you want; you will have to give them the item number.
  • They will call you back with a quote and also let you know when you might expect your order.
  • Payment is : 30% deposit, 70% by cash before delivery.
Update: I just went on the Lakeshore Learning website to try to find the Brush-On Painters, but couldn't find them. They might have discontinued this item. :( You can still check eBay, maybe...?

Monday, February 9, 2009


Chris told me once about how his dad directly sucked out the snot from his little brother's nose. Gross, right? But when it gets down to it, all of you would probably do the same if that is the only way to ease your kids' discomfort. Thankfully, we never had to.

Before the kids could blow their own noses, we had the Pigeon nasal aspirator, but that didn't do squat. It wasn't effective at getting the snot out. My friend, Joanne, recommended what she calls the "booger-snatcher." I quickly went over to Eugene Club and saw a great selection of nasal aspirators. The closest that came to the one that Joanne described to me was this Piyo Piyo nasal aspirator (see photo). It has two soft rubber tubes: one goes to your mouth (to suck), the tube with the rounded end goes to the baby's nostril. Don't worry, none of the snot will ever touch your lips. Whatever gets sucked out goes through the tube and into the little canister. Each part can be removed for easy cleaning.

What we did was usually was to shoot some saline spray up their noses (optional) and then a few minutes later, use the booger-snatcher. It cleanses and clears up their nasal passages pronto!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Totally Tape

I am always on the lookout for things that will keep my kids occupied during flights.

I think I've hit pay dirt with Totally Tape, a book from Klutz. I got my copy from Book Buddy in Stanley, but I know that you can also find some Klutz books at the stationery shop on the first (or is it the second?) floor of City Hall, on the way up to Maxim's, if you take the stairs.

The book, as you can see, comes with four rolls of tape (red, green, blue, and yellow). What one has to do is use the rolls of tape to "decorate" or match items in the book. Josh had a blast with the different things that he could do with the paper tape. Even though the tape was kid-friendly (no scissors required), he did need help with tearing off pieces of tape, but that's small bother. He was pretty much occupied with trying to get the pieces of tape lined up properly for each activity. :)

Oh, and if you run out, you can order more from You probably can ask the shop to order for you from the local distributor, too, I think.

What's good is that this book is, in classic Klutz style, heaps of fun not just for the child, but for the adult as well. It's great to see the tape "creations" come to life and Josh was quite proud to see that (in Zoe's words) "he did it" himself.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

We had been given this book by our children's godmother and for more than a week, this was all the kids would ask for (both of them!). Sometimes Zoë would just come out with the book at odd times during the day and go, "'geon! Read!"

I think they like the fact that they've been "entrusted" with not letting the pigeon drive the bus and that they'd been given the license to say NO a zillion times throughout the book. What I like is that it turns book-reading into an especially fun interactive activity.