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.