Fujifilm X-T10: For when you don’t need a mirror to look good

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“You’re going to have a difficult time returning this”, the product specialist said with certainty, as we parted ways.

The loan was only for a week. Yet as I made my way back to return the beauty, I couldn’t help but cradle it in my hands for the last time. I was clearly smitten head over heels with the Fujifilm X-T10 – a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera – which surprised me through and through. There was no doubt that I was going to miss using it.

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I’ve always wanted a  premium compact camera as a complement/back-up to my D-SLR. I was swooned by the Fujifilm X series camera when I first saw it being featured in a lifestyle magazine. Then, I was still an avid hobbyist photographer, and told myself how it would be the perfect back-up camera to my D-SLR. I was also a complete sucker for aesthetics (well, still am). I loved how the vintage styling of the X series resembled a traditional SLR camera.

And then motherhood happened.

My Photography hobby took a back seat as breastfeeding and parenting duties took priority. I swapped my heavy, bulky camera bag for an equally heavy, bulky diaper bag, relying on my mobile phone as the “default” camera. Yet once in a while, I made it a point to take my D-SLR out of the dry cabinet for a photowalk. Never mind that it was cumbersome to use while babywearing, or that I had to upload the photos onto the comp via SD card before being able to send access them. It sure wasn’t the most practical camera for a newly-minted mum, yet I revelled in the image quality it produced.

And then Ollie happened.

With 2 kids and a heavier, bulkier diaper bag in tow, days of using my D-SLR reduced significantly. I yearned to feed my occasional photography lust again, and I had to find a better solution than lugging a DSLR around.

I’ve always thought Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera (MILC), or also referred as the Micro Four Thirds, which was fast gaining popularity among bloggers and Instagram Influencers, sounded intimidating. What did those 4 words even mean? What was the hype about? And more importantly, was it easy to use? I was however attracted by the promise of “DSLR image quality” minus the bulk and weight mentioned in advertisements. The only thing stopping me from making the purchase was its hefty price tag.

If I was going to fork out close to S$1K for a premium compact, I needed more than a “showroom test” of a few random clicks of random objects. I had to be sure that it was going to be money well-spent. I had to be sure it was going to serve my photography needs. I had to at least take it for a “road test” of sorts, and more importantly, I had to like it enough.

In the last 6 months, I’ve left enough comments on Facebook and Instagram for most of my friends on social media to notice that I was shopping around for a camera. Once, I came close to finding “the one”, only to be reminded of the not-so-good memories I had with the brand, back when they still insisted on using memory sticks when most of the other camera brands had moved on to SD cards.

Until I got acquainted with @i_post_for_love on Instagram through my good friend Bumblebee Mum. I was blown away by his minimally edited (if any) for slight exposure photos, and found out that he was using the Fujifilm X-T1.

And then serendipity struck.

While snooping on the Fujifilm Singapore website to read up on their range of digital cameras, I left an enquiry, asking which camera would be suitable for my current needs. Within the day, I was promptly recommended to try the X-T10 for a week. Woohoo!

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I had so much fun taking photos with the X-T10 ! It was ridiculously easy to use, thanks to its rudimentary knobs and dials to control the camera settings.

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Even my helper liked using the X-T10 too! She enjoyed it so much that she kept offering to take family photos of us at different spots against different backgrounds. Yay for us – no more needing to purchase $20 Groupon vouchers for family photoshoots, and being restricted to photographer’s choice of venue and time!

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When it came to capturing kids at the playground, all instructions of “stay still, don’t move” fell on deaf ears. But of course, how could I expect my kids not to get all excited and stay still at a playground? So all I did the next best thing – flick the lever on the camera to “Auto” mode and clicked away!

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The versatility of the camera continued to surprise me when it came to capturing my foodie adventures. I didn’t have problems of the food looking too “flat” in photos. And I didn’t have spend too long taking and re-taking photos, I could dive straight into eating after a few clicks.

In the case of the cookie with matcha molten lava photo below, I managed to eat the dessert while it was still warm!

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During my week spent with the X-T10, I finally realized why mirrorless cameras were so well received! Unlike DSLRs, there were no camera vibrations and shakes before they’re mirror-less! Bet you didn’t realize I was that clueless. Still, good information to know nonetheless. Heh.

Final verdict? I had such an enjoyable time shooting with the Fujifilm X-T10 that I barely took a photo using my phone in the past week. I especially liked the FUJIFILM Camera Remote App (you have to download it from the app store), which was such a joy to use. It made the wireless transferring of photos from camera to phone so quick and easy, I was using the app so often!

That’s not all.

The app is perfect for group and family photos too. If you don’t trust your helper or kind stranger to take a proper photo of you, just ask her to stand with the camera facing you and make all the adjustments you want remotely from your mobile phone! YES, I’m talking about being able to view that all of you are in frame, ensuring that you don’t expose your unflattering bits before clicking the snap button, adjusting camera settings whether it’s too bright/dim, choosing popular filters such as  ‘Film stimulation’ mode which will gives Instagram a run for their money and even doing a hi-definition video recording of yourself. #mindblown

2 things that I wished was better on the Fujifilm X-T10 were the battery life which was usually drained at the end of the day – but this can be easily solved by getting extra batteries; and the display screen. I wished the display wasn’t as old school as its design, which made selfie shots a lot more challenging because I couldn’t flip it upwards to see ourselves on the screen (then again, that’s probably why their Fujifilm Camera Remote App is so outstanding in having so many features).

The husband has started looking at camera promotions whenever we receive a one of those Courts/Harvey Norman/Best Denki brochures in the mail, while I’m pretty much convinced that I like the X-T10 enough to part 2 terms of enrichment class fees with it.

Disclaimer: This post was brought to you in collaboration with Fujifilm Singapore, for which I offered to review in exchange for their kind generosity to loan me the X-T10 (with a standard 18-55mm f/2.8 lens) for a week for my personal “road test”. All photos, opinions, words, and inclination to purchase the X-T10 are my own.

My First Theme Cafe Experience in SG: Pokemon Cafe @ Parco Bugis

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When @msmabes first suggested squealed about wanting to go check out the newly opened Pokemon Cafe Singapore some weeks back (I had no idea what a huge fan she was), I blatantly ignored her excitement. Po…ke…who? I mean, I barely knew anything about the cartoon – always preferring my Captain Planet, Gummy Bears, Looney Tunes – to notice anything else. Moreover, my Instagram feed back then was flooded with adorable, hard-to-ignore photos of the equally new Hello Kitty Cafe and Pompompurin Cafe. It was challenging to feel excited over a cartoon I had no inkling of, let alone a theme cafe.

But of course, awesome company and instagram-worthy food trumps everything else.

When my cafe-hopping kakis Mabel (of Amazinglystill) and LY (of Bumblebee Mum) announced the night before that they were going to check out the Pokemon Cafe because the pop-up theme cafe (which means it’s only a temporary set-up) was going to end its debut on 31 Jul 2016, I had to gatecrash their date. #FOMO

Never mind that I had few reports to complete, and a boss’s request to attend to immediately that very morning. #suayorwhat

I was so swarmed with work that I missed some 165 message updates that Mabel was already there, way before the cafe’s opening time, and was the first in line. With so much work on my plate and a client’s meeting right after lunchtime, I started to doubt if I could even meet the girls.

And then the girls did exactly what I wished they didn’t. They started sending photos of the food and drinks ordered which got me “omigosh-ing, how cuteee!” so much (yes, I’m a sucker for pretty stuff) that I dashed out of the office the moment I had a chance, even forgetting to touch up on lipstick, and ran as fast as my legs could carry me. What a close call. I managed to slip myself in as the doors were closing with the “tu tu tu tu tu” warning sound.

This cafe had better be worth all that madness!

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By the time I arrived at Pokemon Cafe, the girls were done with their main courses. So sorry, no photos and verdict on the food, but you can always read their detailed, hilarious and entertaining account here.

They had just ordered 2 of the most “photo-worthy” desserts out of the 4 – so I was told – and hence I decided to add on one more dessert (chose the nicer looking one out of the remaining 2) + a much needed cuppa latte.

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This was also the moment I realized how much of a Pokemon fan Mabel was. All aesthetically cute Pokemon props you see in the photos belong to her. She brought a bag full of them specially for this cafe visit!

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The first dessert was served – Pikachu Sweeeet Pancake ($20)! I clueless asked why the biscuit which I assumed was a “lightning” was facing down instead of up. Was it because the lightning was striking Pikachu?

“It’s NOT a lightning! It’s his tail!”, Mabel and LY chided me unanimously. Whoops. I learn something new everyday.

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Next came the prettiest looking desserts of ’em all – Pokeball Cream Puff ($20), which does not include the ugly hand drawn Pokeball, heart and handwritten date. Find out how we doodled our own dessert in Bumblebee Mum’s post here.

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Truth be told, Mabel volunteered to doodle because both me and LY refused to have anything to do with it. Heh.

And just when I thought I could finally tuck in and feed my hunger after a few snaps…

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Noooooooooooooooooooooooo…

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Followed by banter somemore. Nooooooooooooooooooooooo.

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At last, the dessert which I chose was served  – Pikachu’s Thunder Shock ($15). Which meant even more photo-taking and toy props arranging and snapchatting…

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And because we were informed by the staff that this dessert was “delicate” due to the cotton-wool looking thing (which I was later corrected by my kakis that it’s cotton candy. Haha!), no one dared to shift or hold it too much.

For the 50 minutes that I spent at Pokemon Cafe, more photos were taken than the words spoken. And so I made good use of my last 10 minutes to gobble at record speed:

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Don’t I just look overly delirious at finally being able to taste something? You bet.

While I heard that the food was quite decent from Mabel and LY, the 3 desserts were too sweet (save for the pancakes which tasted blah) for my liking. Out of all the items, I enjoyed the latte the best. Well, at least coffee’s decent 🙂

So, I thought my first experience of a theme cafe was a rather good one. I was told by seasoned theme-cafe goers that the food served isn’t usually expected to be mind-blowing or life-changing. There was seemingly quite a bit of effort put into decking out the food, desserts and drinks to theme – with some dishes like the Pancake desserts even allowing you to take home a souvenir mug – as compared to others who just end up putting theme toothpicks into everything.

Is it worth a visit? It is, if you’re there to take Instagram-worthy photos, or are a fan/have kids who are fans of Pokemon. I’m a theme-cafe virgin no more!

Now, whose up for Hello Kitty Cafe and Pompompurin Cafe date next?

 

Family Fun: Exploring Marine Cove at East Coast Park, which makes an awesome outdoor Birthday venue

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The husband & I are not fans of crowded places. Hence he took me by surprise when he said “let’s go!” after I casually mentioned that Marine Cove, aka the “old” McDonalds at East Coast Park, just re-opened this week, with a mega huge playground to boot and that we should probably stay away especially on the first weekend of opening – much like the recently launched McDonalds’ Salted Egg Yolk Burger which have resulted in insanely long queues – annoying me aplenty for the last 2 mornings when I simply wanted to get my kids good ol’ shoestring fries and cup corn…

But of course, nothing could deter this “Eastside kid” who spent most of his life in the East with many fond memories at “East Coast Park Macs” despite my best attempts to suggest spending the day elsewhere.

And what d’ya know, arriving at Marine Cove at lunchtime – 12.30pm – actually paid off in terms of finding parking (we parked at carpark C3, with close proximity to the playground) and decent play space (the playground was relatively empty!).

And before you scream what an insane and irresponsible parent I am, potentially giving my family a heat stroke at the expense of avoiding crowds, the first thought the came to mind when I saw the playground was – PERFECT BIRTHDAY VENUE WITH GUARANTEED FUN, WITHOUT NEEDING TO SPEND TOO MUCH MONEY TO HOST EVERYONE! 

I digress.

As I was explaining myself earlier…the intention was to have lunch first at one of the many new eateries before playground time. But of course how often do our plans go as intended? The kids got so excited seeing the playground that they ditched their favourite skate scooters on the spot, and just ran towards the slides! And so I did the next best thing, which was to slap lots of sunscreen on them, have them drink lots of water to hydrate, make them wear their caps and sunglasses and most importantly, let them have fun!

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And yes, I wondered the same too about the 3 main metal slides, especially under the unforgiving heat, not hot meh? They were definitely hot when I touched them, though it didn’t seem to deter the kids – Liam was happy to slide his bum on the hot metal slide for 4 consecutive times – save for one unhappy incident where the older kids behind him pushed and kicked their way down because they wanted to slide down faster. Parents with toddlers will be relieved to know that the slide at the little ones’ area is a plastic one. Ollie went up and down on his own about 10 times, and enjoyed it so much that it was challenging to get him to move on to play other stuff.

Things to note for parents with kids 4 years and younger: To get to one of the 3 main metal slides, you will have to climb up a rope ladder. For some reason, the stairs next to the rope ladder leading to level 2 – where 2 of the 3 slides’ entrances are located – was closed, so there’s no other way up except to climb the rope.

And here’s where I had a proud mama moment.

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There are 2 rope ladders up to the slides. One leads directly to the entrances of the slides while the other takes you to the start of a rope bridge which you have to cross (as seen in the above photo) in order to get to the “main tower” where the slides are.

Right after completing his climb up the rope ladder, Liam froze after taking a few steps onto the rope bridge. The ability to look straight down beneath his feet scared him, fearing that he would slip through the squares of the “floor”, that our shouts of encouragement could not be heard. Our 4-year-old starting retracing his steps and wanted to climb back down the rope ladder only to realize that he couldn’t do so with so many kids filling up every possible gap on the rope ladder and us not being able to get close enough to him to support his climb down.

The husband was about to join the queue to climb up (yes, a queue started to form just to climb the rope ladder!) when we saw Liam slowly but surely overcoming his initial fear, conquering it with steady steps and a firm grasp on the rope! What a champ, he even managed to climb up to the tallest slide without a hitch despite the older kids all trying to overtake him from behind (and you could see several parents of younger kids starting to be a little frantic that they could only watch their kids from a slope – there’s no direct access to them once the kids are on the rope).

I was so proud of my firstborn that I teared.

During our visit to Marine Cove, we also took a stroll (17 minutes for a leisure stroll, 10 minutes if you skate scoot) to Parkland Green for lunch – it was the quietest we’ve seen since its opening – and went to the beach post-lunch for a much welcomed sand play.

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This photo got me realizing that it’s been a long time since I took a couple shot with the husband…

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And my favourite photo of the outing has got to be this family one taken by our super helper! Wished I had a camera to capture this in raw format though instead of relying on the iPhone, but I still love it nonetheless.

Despite the crowds and heat, would we still be back at Marine Cove in the near future? That’s for sure. I’m looking forward to having future play dates here and having some of that awesome-looking salad from their new salad bar, and desserts from the impressive range of cakes at McDonalds.

 

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Want to find out more about Marine Cove? Get comprehensive information and ogle at prettier, clearer, better overview of the playground without photobombers and unbiased photos from these highly-recommended blogs:

Cheekiemonkies

Wacky Duo 

The J Babies

The not-necessary-disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, but one I had lots of fun writing about.

Family Fun: National Gallery Singapore is not as boring as it sounds

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We’re one of those families who don’t like to clutter our weekends with back-to-back enrichment classes for the kids because we reckon with our full-time working arrangement and having the kids at school during the weekdays, the weekends should be reserved for family fun!

So 2 weekends ago, when we found ourselves in an ironic situation of not knowing where to go or what to do – we basically had no plans –  I proposed checking out the National Gallery Singapore on a whim!

“The National…WHAT?”, the husband broke out of his monotone and exclaimed. No, he wasn’t excited, he thought it was a joke! And before I could clarify myself, he stressed “You’re suggesting taking the boys to some museum thing and you think it will be fun? Where is this place anyway?”

Ahh-hah! And there, you just witness my husband making an ass of himself by ASSUMING.

“It’ll be fun!!! It’s one of our clients, and I’ve been told that it’s interesting!” I promised, and off we went.

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But first, a photo outside these gorgeous steps of the Former Supreme Court! As you can tell, the boys weren’t interested in my priorities to give me that one proper shot. I’d have to content with this one…

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I’ve always marveled at the rich history & architecture of City Hall and Former Supreme Court Buildings, so you can imagine my excitement when I finally went behind its doors for the first time.

“Welcome to National Gallery Singapore”, a middle-aged lady greeted us with a warm smile.

“Is this your first time here?” she went on.

“Yes it is. I understand there’s a huge play area for kids.”, I enquired while the husband took quick glances around the building, still wearing his skeptical expression (that it wasn’t going to be suitable for the kids).

“You must be referring to the Keppel Centre for Art, just go straight this way, behind that door.”, she pointed

“I understand that it’s FREE admission right?”, I confirmed, with raised eyebrows. I mean, that was also partly why I didn’t mind coming by with the troop…

“Yes it is, you can register and get your admission tickets at the Keppel Centre for Art as well”, she replied, before sending us on our way.

Little did I expect so much thought to go into Art, Fun and Imaginative play for the little ones that it started from the corridor? We took barely 20 steps after saying bye to the middle-aged lady and there we were, greeted by a large scale, colourful puzzle board out of nowhere. The boys were so curious to find out what it did that they DID NOT even bother asking (us) if they could stop and play, and just headed straight for it.

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Meant to develop curiousity, imagination and tactile sensitibilities, the boys were intrigued by the colourful chips moving within the colourful maze. I absolutely mean it when I say, they could stay there to play with the puzzle board for a very long time. We were stuck at the Art Corrridor for a good 45 minutes before I finally decided to grab the littlest and go, because there was so much more that I wanted to explore before closing time!

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Not leaving the Art Corridor without a group shot of course!

Using the National Museum of Singapore’s standard as a benchmark when it comes to dressing up PLAY areas for the kids, so lo & behold, I did not expect to be blown away  by NGS with the visual explosion of colours at the Art Playscape.

Again, the boys paid no heed to my repeated instructions to “wait in line with mummy to get tickets!” and decided to run in and explore on their own!

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Filled with whimsical visuals of an Enchanted Tree House, Magical forests and the most adorable creatures, I felt like I was in storyland. I couldn’t resist kissing bears, trying to get my kids down for a make-believe picnic (to which I failed miserably because they just wanted to hang in the treehouse all day) and skipping around to feast my eyes to much delight. If only I could throw a birthday party in here, I definitely would!

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It was Fathers’ Day weekend when we visited, and so in one of the many interesting project rooms was an activity for the kids to make their very own Father’s Day card through ink transfer. I absolutely adored how the kids learnt how ink could be transferred on through their hands-on experience of making the card!

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And then it was off to lots of fun and colourful building using cardboxes, Magna Tiles and Magnets! We must have spent another hour here building all sorts of configurations with the boys. Ollie got so excited at one point <he must have had an Eureka moment> that he went about gathering empty baskets and stacking them before climbing in to play with ’em Magnets. Talk about immersive learning!

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I very much wanted to check out the various exhibits but some of them were too dark and quiet that Ollie started screaming to get out (I was also grateful to the staff for checking in on us to see if we needed anything instead of throwing us judgemental stares). So instead, we went to the highest floor and starting making our way down via steps and glass slopes – which excited the kids till no end – as I continued admiring the building’s architecture from various heights and angles. Win-win.

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And then I came across one of my favourite cafes, Plain Vanilla Bakery on the ground floor! Since there were a few of us, I had to take the opportunity to indulge the boys and mum in some desserts which was such a hit that all of us “fought” to quickly take more bites before it was gone!

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Definitely one of the better days spent together checking out something new together. We’ll definitely be back at National Gallery Singapore, me at least, to go for a few guided tours and exhibits that I didn’t get to complete during our first visit, and of course have more cake! 🙂

Legoland Malaysia: we finally made the first visit in 2016!

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Unlike Universal Studios Singapore, which got us so excited and wanting more that we got ourselves long-term passes on that very first visit and made almost weekly pilgrimages thereafter – back in 2014/15 – there has never been the impetus to go to LEGOLAND Malaysia.

Maybe it’s the thought of having to bring so many passports along (and having to keep them close constantly amidst the many bags we already lug along with both kids in tow), the concerns of being potentially being stuck in a jam at the customs especially on a weekend, or just having to navigate on unfamiliar roads away from home. With many friends who’ve been there, sharing with us about the strict height restrictions on most of the rides – which would probably limit Liam to being allowed to go on only a handful of them – we concluded there was no hurry to make that first trip till he was a little older and taller.

That was until I won a set of combo tickets recently.

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Having heard many comments on the lackluster food sold within Legoland Malaysia and reading posts on where we could fill our bellies with delicious local fare nearby before starting our day at Legoland, I was filled with excitement thinking of breakfast plans. But of course all the logistics for a road trip that comes with 2 kids got the better of us that morning. So instead, we were off to our usual late start.

Driving to Legoland via the Tuas checkpoint was straightforward. Traffic was good on a Sunday morning at 9.50am, we arrived at the Legoland 15 minutes after passing through Malaysian Customs.

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We parked at Legoland hotel (RM50 for the whole day) after failing to get available lots at the nearby Medini Mall. There was also available parking at the outdoor carpark (at RM10) for Legoland visitors, but we decided not to after realizing that the next set of available lots were quite a distance away. With 4 kids and many bags to manage under the scorching heat, the shortest walking distance to the theme park was unanimously preferred.

A note to readers, if you plan to make use of any promotions found on Legoland Malaysia’s Facebook Page or on their website at the ticketing counter, don’t hold your breath. I presented a ‘Buy 1 ticket, get 50% off the 2nd” promotion voucher (which was taken from Legoland MY’s Facebook Page) when our good friends were purchasing admission tickets, and was surprised when the ticketing staff and manager questioned the reliability of my source, claimed that there were no ongoing promotions, and summarily dismissing any requests to verify it. Not wanting to delay the excited kids further from starting their day of fun, my friends went ahead with paying full price.

It was only days after when I grumbled about this incident to a few friends that we realized it was an online-only promotion which was stated in the fine print, buried within the inner pages on the website. So note to self and readers: always read the easy-to-miss fine print when it comes to promotions. While I wished the ticketing staff was more informed on this promotion instead of dismissing us, I’d definitely recommend purchasing any promotional tickets online for less ambiguity and direct entry!

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On to the fun! We were told by friends to start from the right side of the park (as you walk in from the entrance) to access the more age/height-appropriate rides and activities for our kids. And so we did, starting with the Junior Driving School at LEGO City.

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Being a weekend and the June school holidays, wait time was approximately 30 minutes. And though Ollie was not of minimum height to sit the ride, he was happy just car-hopping from one display car to the next.

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As expected, the kids were too restless to stay in the queue to wait for their turn. Thankfully there was a table filled with Lego bricks just next to the queue, which was enough to entertain them for a good 15-20 minutes while us parents queued in their places. A simple and much appreciated thought to keep the kids close and be able to watch over them from the queue.

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When the kids finally got behind the wheel, I was surprised to find out that it was just for one tiny round, with one of our kids’ car getting stalled for most of the time. Say what? There was no way I was going to queue another 30 minutes for a second round and I was secretly relieved that the boys were happy to move on to the next ride. The Driving School for the older kids just next to the Junior Driving School definitely looked a lot more decent, so perhaps if we ever do come back – we’ll go for that.

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Next, we hopped across to Boating School! Wait time was approximately 30 minutes as well, but this time there was a very spacious outdoor playground (The Shipyard) next door to occupy the kids while us parents stayed in the queue again.

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To our surprise, Ollie was allowed to go on the Boating ride (yay!), on condition that he don on a life-vest for the entire duration which made him scream and attempt to squirm out of it when he realized how uncomfortable it was.

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Next, we went for Liam’s favourite – the LEGOLAND Express!

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Liam, our little train-lover, was so thrilled to sit on the Legoland Express that he started making his own sound-effects throughout the entire duration, and kept asking if we could go on it for another 5 times without getting off. Thank goodness we managed to convince him otherwise because during the second-half of the 10 min train ride, most of us actually felt like this:

Legoland Malaysia _ So Natty 12With the awful blazing temperature burning through our thickly-layered sun-screened skin, we headed to the nearest eatery for some much needed shade, drink and calories. While we did have our food expectations managed to the usual theme parks’ standard, we definitely didn’t expect the food to be so well themed – ’em vegetables were as hard as lego bricks to bite into. Fortunately there was a saving grace at lunch, which was having a Lego table filled with bricks right next to us to busy the kids after they were done eating. It was nice to relish moments of quiet in between adult conversation for a bit.

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Post-lunch, to our horror, we realized we had only covered 1 out of 9 areas in the morning! With 5.5 hours left to visit the remaining 8 attractions, we hurried our way towards LEGO Technic.

Project X was the first ride to catch the attention of Liam, our little adrenaline junkie. However the ride required riders to be at a minimum height of 110cm (he’s currently at 105cm), and so we were turned away at the door. He was disappointed of course, but got excited soon after we checked that he qualified for the minimum height limit for Aquazone Wave Racers (pictured below), which was 100cm.

“A 100cm ride Mummy! That’s a 100cm ride! I can take a 100cm ride!” he yelled in jubilee as he skipped to queue with the rest of the kids. And this is when I wished Legoland, being the kids friendly theme park that they portray to be, exercised more sensitivity and consistency. Liam was about to get on the ride with his papa when a staff decided to ask how old he was. Seriously? Just when he is about to get on the ride? Why wasn’t he asked when he was being measured before being allowed through?

Legoland Malaysia Aquazone Wave Racers

And of course, our son, thinking that the staff just wanted to engage in friendly conversation replied enthusiastically: “4! I’m 4 years old!”.

Pfft!

What happened next sent our son into a meltdown. He was asked to get off the ride because he had to be 6 years and above to ride it (what? on a ride that spins round and round at a moderate speed, that’s parent-accompanied, and doesn’t even go up in the air?) and was visibly shaken when he saw other kids of similar build and height getting through without being asked their age.

As though that wasn’t enough to break Liam’s cheerfulness, yours truly puncture his unhappiness further by proceeding to sit on the very same ride he was denied only because our friend’s kid wanted to go on it, and insisted that I accompanied him. I couldn’t bear to disappoint another kid consecutively and so I ended up pissing my own even more. Best mum of the year, I know.

“I don’t like you, mummy. Go away, mummy. I don’t want to see you, mummy”, I heard him scream, as I was spun round and round, getting drenched by water sprayed from all directions.

But of course, a huge apology coupled with lots of tight cuddles and promises not to go on another ride without him again returned all smiles and cheer back into my little man almost immediately.

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So Natty Legoland Body Dryer

I was tempted to dry my soaked overalls in the body dryer but decided the RM10 (per use) was better spent on getting the boys cold milo to quench their thirst instead. Plus, the afternoon sun did a good job of drying my clothes up quickly at no cost.

After exiting the LEGO Technic sector, we arrived at the Star Wars attraction, which was a much welcomed stop because… AIR-CON.

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Air-con jokes aside, fan girl here was very impressed by the various scenes built to such intricate details coupled with lights, sound and action. I was tempted to purchase a few boxes of Star Wars Lego for the fan husband, but no. Not till we get ourselves a Lego table in our new home.

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LEGO Kingdom was probably the most exciting spot for Liam, because he could finally sit on ’em roller coasters. While he met the height limit for both The Dragon  (the bigger, taller and more exhilarating roller coaster of the two) and The Dragon’s Apprentice (a junior version of The Dragon), he was denied entry to The Dragon as the minimum age required was 8 years old. At least they asked for his age and denied him entry at the door and not when he was about to board the ride!

He did manage to have fun with The Dragon’s Apprentice roller coaster, which was similar to the ‘Enchanted Airways’ roller coaster at Universal Studios Singapore, and made the most out of it by getting his papa to go on with him for another 4 times – each time on the front row seats! So proud of my boy, and am happy that I managed to capture this shot via the iPhone too:

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Royal Joust was another ride which the kids enjoyed too that they went on it twice.

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And while the older boys were enjoying galloping on their mechanic horses round a decent sized track, I decided to indulge Ollie at Duplo’s Playtown. I thought it was very considerate of Legoland Malaysia to carve out a rather big section just for the little ones who weren’t tall enough to go on most rides to play here. There was even a mini train ride available but Ollie wasn’t interested because there was just so many other things to check out!
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I also liked that the entire Duplo’s Playtown was toddler safe with its fully padded flooring. I didn’t have to worry about over-excited Ollie tripping over himself, which happened a few times.

With slightly under 2 hours and 2 more sectors left to explore – Land of Adventure and Miniland, we rushed over to Land of Adventure, which was another favourite among the kids.

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The bigger kids went wild at the Beetle Bounce and Lost Kingdom rides while Ollie was happy to park himself at the Pharaoh’s Revenge playground, playing with the other kids and picking up balls from the ball canon. My only gripe was the poorly maintained floor which looked like it was in dire need of repairing, especially when shoes were not allowed in the area.

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 With 45 minutes to closing time, we ran back to LEGO City after realizing that the LEGO City Airport ride was located there.

This ride was quite a highlight for Ollie because he met the minimum required height and it was his first “above ground” ride ever! He got so excited as our plane “lifted” off and went higher that he chuckled joyfully all the way!

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Ollie loved the ride so much that he demanded to go on it for a 2nd time, while the rest of us gave the fire station across a quick visit, only to have the dads regret it big time because they ended up doing all the manual labour in order to move the fire engines and police trucks from one end to another!

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Legoland Firetruck

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Legoland Fire Station

We spent the last 15 minutes prior to closing at MINILAND, our last stop!

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Ollie liked MiniLand so much, he couldn’t resist squeezing himself through the barriers when we were all busy photo-taking, to play with everything! Didn’t help that everything in MiniLand looked like it was perfect for his size too! Thankfully nothing was damaged or broken apart from the already worn-out state on some of the models.

While Legoland Malaysia didn’t blow me away on my first visit (not enough for me to commit to a long term pass on the spot), it definitely made a very good impression on Liam despite being turned away undesirably at one of the rides. He enjoyed himself so much that he’s been asking when we can go back again. While I’m unsure if I’d want to pay full price tickets (approx. $79/adult) for a return visit unless another good promotion comes along (and this time round I’m so booking online) or new rides unveil, we might make another visit if we can get availability at the Legoland hotel for the legendary $500/night stay and take the opportunity to visit the water park as well. This first trip was such as exhausting one for all of us, I reckon visiting Legoland Malaysia over a span of two days would be more enjoyable.

Do let me know if you come across any good promotion on admission tickets and Legoland Hotel stay!

You only get one life. #MeBeforeYou

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I don’t think a novel has ever affected me in such a big way since Motherhood. I practically buried my nose in it for the last 4 mornings and nights – sacrificing morning naps on the bus for more pages of Lou Clark and Will Traynor, (almost) walking into walls, coaxing the boys to sleep at an earlier bedtime – just so that I could read even more pages and re-read the witty banter and dialogue between the two. As I finally finished the last few pages, doing my best to read the last chapter in the slowest manner possible, I felt a void of emptiness in my heart growing bigger as I flipped page after page.

I sobbed. Big time.

It made me reflect on my life, and questioned if I was truly living my life as fully as possible. Sure, I had lots going on now – motherhood, work, the husband who actually reminded me quite a bit of Will when it came to pushing me to try new things – although he’s since retreated from most of that enthusiasm since the kids. It got me thinking, if this was it. If this was contentment for me, or if there was more I seek but was holding back. Was I still allowing other people’s expectations define me? Strange how I get more risk averse as the kids get older.

Then there’s the part of whether I can get past myself. To learn to trust myself more, believe in myself more and  quit being afraid of the ‘what ifs’. A good friend has been telling me about the hunger he sees in me, and how this hunger will take me far, take me to places I want to go. But the only person holding me back is myself.

My life for the last 6 months has been about pushing myself out of the comfort zone. I’ve challenged status quo since the start of this year by doing some amazing things that even surprised me. I took up the husband’s challenge to eat well which has led to a pretty satisfying and healthy weight loss, with increase in muscle gain and antioxidants percentage over a span of 3 months. I completed a course in an area I had absolutely no prior knowledge to despite struggling to grasp the basics of it initially – glad I didn’t give up. I got more than what I anticipated and expected at the full-time job with longer hours and an insanely steep learning curve – all voluntary if I may add – yet it’s still making me not regret that decision. And more recently, I’ve started taking up music classes again. Sure hope I’d be able to play some of my favourite tunes really soon!

I guess I just wanted to put it here on the blog, with a time stamp, to remind my future self to keep going, especially when the going gets tougher. It’s been 2 years of crazy so far, and seems like there’s more to go, with what’s ahead. To the future Natty, I hope that each time you read this post, you’d still be living life boldly, pushing yourself more, and not let any single situation define you (as you almost did 2 weeks’ back). More importantly, I hope you’d stay less affected and be less nice for your own good to people who don’t appreciate it. And know that while we may never fully understand the choices other people make, we’ll have to come to accept them eventually.

And if all else fails, always remember what your fictional boyfriend, Will Traynor, says: “I worked out what would make me happy, and I worked out what I wanted to do, and I trained myself to do the job that would make those two things happen”

#liveboldly #MebeforeYou #JojoMoyes

An Afternoon spent at Coney Island Park…and a funny story

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As much as I truly enjoyed my last 4 days “solo parenting” (I say ” ” because my mum volunteered to take on bulk of the parenting duties so that her daughter could have some ‘me time’ – hooray), marking the start of the husband’s work trip with a girls night out and ending it on another high with a day out alone, self-nourishing myself with me-time activities with the likes of being able to bury my nose in a book for 3 consecutive nights, it was such a relief having the husband back last night.

Not that he helps out a lot with the kids – I actually freak out more when my super helper goes on leave – but it was nice to have him back to spend family time and me not needing to worry about having to plan my route and being behind the wheel. I much rather laze in the back seat with my kids and make them laugh. Or maybe I just need a really tiny car to gain spatial confidence.

After a rather hurried work week, I decided that we should take things nice & slow today. There was the inclination to check out the RSAF Open House especially after seeing photos after photos on my IG and FB, but I suspected the husband wasn’t prepared to jostle with the crowd and deal with 2 little active boys who would probably jump out of the queue just when we were so close to being next in line for photo op. And so when the husband asked for the 5th time what our plans for the day were, I decided on a whim that we’d make a trip down to Punggol Waterway Park.  Our last visit there was some 10 months ago, and since I knew how much Liam wanted to skate scoot, and now that Ollie was walking/running, I thought it’d be perfect since it was just a short drive down.

Some 2 wrong turns later, we ended up at the entrance of Punggol Safra instead. We’ve been going to this part of Punggol so often that it became instinctive. The carparks at the park access points were fully occupied and the seemingly long queue for Safra’s carpark deterred us from joining. Having packed all our gear, snacks and excitement and not wanting to disappoint the kids, the husband decided to take a few more turns to see if it’d lead us to another Park access point. Before we knew it, we were driving down the winding, familiar road leading to Punggol Settlement. How could we not remember about this gorgeous outdoor spot?

Spotted at Punggol Settlement

And what do you know, within 10 minutes of our stroll at Punggol Settlement, my prayers to see some RSAF Open House action actually came true. A Chinook flew within our sight and as the husband scrambled to go to video mode on his cam, I was only too grateful that I happened to have camera mode turned on, snapping as many photos as I could without those few seconds.

“Quick boys! stand against there so I can take a photo. The 2nd one (Chinook) is coming!!!”, I heard one dad say. I bet his photo turned out breathtakingly awesome.

 

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It wasn’t till some 25 minutes later into the stroll when I saw the husband enthusiastically skating back towards us and exclaiming how Coney Island’s West Gate entrance was just some few hundred meters away. The husband has been keen to check the newest park on our Island since its opening but I haven’t been eager to follow through on that suggestion because feeding sand flies (from what I’ve been reading online) just ain’t my thing. But since we were just steps away…and the boys and superhelper being so excited that they raced past the entrance, I gave in.

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There was something hauntingly beautiful about Coney Island Park which made me feel like I was on the movie set of Twilight. The boys and helper were obviously enthralled by the casaurina woodlands and grasslands while all I had in mind was just to take as many family photos with such beautiful foliage surrounding us. I know, priorities.

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I could even do a solo shot in peace.

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When we finally got to the beach, I insisted that we take a photo with the signage “Coney Island” but no one except the husband entertained me…

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Because the boys were more eager to play with the soft sand and get their feet dipped in the sea water than to pose for family photos.

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And since our boys couldn’t care less about being in photos with their parents, and the helper offered to take couple shots of us, we jumped at the opportunity to do so!

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Clearly, Ollie wasn’t pleased that I carried him out of the sand to have this family photo taken. At least Liam’s all smiles..

And then came the monkeys. While I was aware that Coney Island Park was home to a variety of habitats (I was thinking more of the bird species), I didn’t expect to meet so many monkeys along one of the nature walks. The first time I came across 2 monkeys, I thought that perhaps they were as random in numbers like the one free-roaming cow I read so much about. Turns out there were many more monkeys hanging by the tree ahead of us. The kids got excited about being able to get so close to them that they decided to slow down for photos instead of picking up pace like what I did!

“Don’t engage them”, I instructed, trying to get the boys to carry on walking. I was truly fretting that the monkeys might come and take my hat and sunglasses like what happened years back to a relative during a Bukit Timah Nature Reserve hike. And I was also doing my best not to show my fear in front of my kids. My efforts to get everyone to ignore the monkeys proved futile.

I was too happy when the husband suggested that we take a seemingly shorter and easier alternate route back out when it was time to make our exit from Coney Island Park. I definitely didn’t miss seeing ’em monkeys earlier and I sure appreciated a more even ground to push the stroller after negotiating a few patches of soft sand and rough gravel in the earlier route.

The route back was such a breeze to stroll that I could even attempt a jump shot:

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Who would have guessed moments later, that smile I wore in my jump shot would be quickly erased with nerves. The husband spotted a few monkeys ahead and backtracked to tell the rest of us to keep to the middle of the path as more were lining up both sides of the path.

“Aiyo, how can it compare to what we saw earlier, a tree full of them?” I quizzed.

“There’s many of them ahead actually” he said.

As I took every step forward, I could see more monkeys making their way from the trees to the path. Luke was in front with his skate scooter, I was in the middle pushing Liam in the stroller while my helper was behind, helping Ollie with the skate scooter.

At first it was just 2-3 of them watching us walk by. I successfully negotiated walking past 3 troops briskly and as calmly as I could when I saw the biggest troop emerge ahead. It felt like the path was going to go on forever!

And then it happened. One of them quicken its steps towards the stroller and started to rummage through the basket beneath, running off with a pack of wet wipes which led me to freak out instantly and scream. Next, I did what the husband told me NOT to. I ran so hard, leading some to chase (thankfully the husband and helper were experienced at distracting them from following me thereafter) until I reached somewhere near the exit, before catching my breath and then realizing that the rest of them were still back there because Ollie insisted on standing there to say “bye bye monkeys”, complete with a flying kiss!

I’m officially the butt of all monkey jokes in the family now.

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We ended our exploratory adventure with a last round of play by the sand playground, catching action of more Chinooks and Apache flying by.

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What an afternoon well spent. Here’s to putting back more exploratory, outdoor (sans Monkeys) family outings in our schedule again!