Category Archives: family

Shop Small this Christmas

I love Christmas shopping. My planning usually starts months ahead of time thanks to the glorious world of online shopping; creating lists, bookmarking my favourite shops and deliberating on what to buy for each friend and family member. Formally I would always do most of my shopping at the big brand name stores, but over the last few years I am buying more and more from smaller business, supporting those who live and breathe their products or the labels they stock, and I really enjoy knowing that I am buying something that isn’t mass produced, from a fellow mum, young entrepreneur or artist.

I’ve compiled a list below of my favourites in affordable home wares, kids clothing, toys and art for my readers.

For Kids

Cissy Wears

Still one of my favourite for online kids shopping. CW stocks an extensive range of cool kids clothing, toys, gorgeous books, stocking stuffers and now even has a lovely range of gifts for adults.

Dudes n Dolls

Really cool and well-priced rompers, harems pants, dresses and leggings in neutral colours.

Eco Toys

The best place to buy sustainable, non toxic and fantastic quality kids toys. Some of the boy favourite toys (and Xavier’s amazing Wishbone Bike) have come from here. I’ve also found that Eco Toys offers the best price compared to other smaller shops with similar products. They gift wrap too.

IMG_9138

Lil’ Creatures

My friend Carly is the creative genius behind Lil’ Creatures, without a doubt the cutest in kids and babies costumes. Think reindeers, koalas, bunny’s and wombats . A unique gift idea for any little one.

Mini Willa

The cutest affordable prints for kiddos. I have the ‘Rabman’ (“Is it a rabbit, or a man? No it’s a Super Rabman”) print for Xavier for Christmas – Scandinavian chic at its best. They also have a small clothing line and a few other items that ship worldwide, but the prints are where it’s at.

Rookie and Co

Buy a personalised snapback for a little boy (or girl) that fits comfortably and looks cool and they’ll love you (only hats my two will wear). One of my go to gift ideas.

x and m

For Adults

Established for Design

EFD is a fantastic little online shop (there is a retail store in Malvern East Victoria too), showcasing the best in emerging, independent and local designers. A lovely range of art, jewellery and home wares, with heaps of options under $100.

Kip and Co

My favourite in bright, colourful and unique bedding. Also have a lovely range of towels, tableware, PJ’s and fantastic large comfy beanbags (I’ve just bought one for the boys).

Maissone

This gorgeous home wares shop in Singapore, Tiong Bahru, which conveniently (and dangerously!) has a lovely online shop too. Michelle stocks beautiful Thread Design linens, jewellery, planters, clocks and has a great selection of copper (the new must have) living accessories.

Norsu Interiors

Melbourne based home wares boutique specialising in Nordic and European designs. They recently opened their Art Lab, selling affordable, good quality prints.

Sketch.inc

If you’re looking for something truly original and unique, check out Sketch.inc. Becky Kemp hand paints kokeshi dolls in her studio in London. Karl, Frida, Anna Wintour, Amelia Earhart are a small selection of the dolls you can buy or you can order custom painted kokeshi’s (send a picture and she will paint for you) for something extra special. She also sells lovely prints, brooches and stationery.

Studio NL

A small family run business, Studio NL (formally Naked Lunge), sells lovely haberdashery, home wares, beautiful little cloth dolls and small selection of accessories. Lots of stocking filler ideas.

 

Happy Shopping Friends!

My Neo Life

AN

xo

My Family Fun – Where to go in Singapore

Weekends are family time in our house. Gone are my sleep ins, long lunches, spontaneous shopping expeditions with girlfriends and the odd (who am I kidding, regular) afternoon nap. These have been happily (in the most part!), replaced with running around parks, bike rides, animal watching and discovering our newish home with my three favourite boys in tow.

Singapore is one of those places that is built for families. Water parks, playgrounds, indoor play centres, museums, libraries are liberally dotted all over island. A lot of the activities we list among our favourites are free or reasonably priced.

Here are my favourite places to take kids in Singapore:

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is our number one place to take the boys. Walking distance to Marina Bay Sands, The Gardens are a stunning example of the beauty of nature coupled with awe-inspiring architecture. If it’s too hot or raining a visit to the Flower Dome or Cloud Mountain make for the perfect respite. The Far-East Children’s Garden is free, suitable for all ages and has a fantastic water park. There are yummy restaurants and cafes catering for every palate, and a good outdoor hawker centre. During school holidays they always have free craft activities for the kiddos and there are safe areas to ride bikes and fly kites. Something for everyone.

The Gardens are open 7 days from 9am. The Children’s Garden closes on Mondays! (I found that out the hard way..)

Tickets for the Flower Dome or Cloud Mountain start from $8.00 for children (those under 3 are free).

FullSizeRender (3) - Copy FullSizeRender (2) - Copy

Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Singapore Botanic Gardens are another weekly favourite for us. Gorgeous open spaces, stunning lush parkland, a great place in a built up city to escape and let the kiddos run and explore.

The Jacob Ballas Childrens Garden has a small waterpark, playground, maze, treehouse, herb gardens, the boys love it. We also take their bikes, pay $1 and grab some fish food from the dispensers near the Tanglin Gate entrance and ride down to the lake to feed the (hideous) cat fish and other fishies there. A fun and low key way to spend an afternoon.

The Botanic Gardens are open daily from 5am, Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden from 8am (closed on Mondays). Admission is free.

FullSizeRender (1) - CopyIMG_0215

Singapore Zoo

If you’re willing to brave the heat or have the kids stay up late for the Night Safari, the Singapore Zoo is fantastic. You can have breakfast with the orangutans, watch the elephants paint (no, really!), step into the Fragile Forest biodome or take the tram on the Night Safari and observe the animals roaming freely, literally within touching distance.

The boys love (really love) the zoo. Xavier adores animals, and when you can see lions, tigers, polar bears, giraffes, monkeys, stinky warthogs and crocodiles within the space of a morning he is literally in heaven. But it can be a hot and tiring expedition! One we enjoy, but usually when friends are in town or for a special occasion.

The Singapore Zoo is open 7 days from 8.30 am. Get there early!

The Night Safari is open 7 days from 7.30pm.

Tickets for both are 10% cheaper (up to 30% if you use a local credit card) if you buy online in advance (and you don’t need to bring a print out, just your phone). Prices start from $18.90 for children (those under 3 are free).

FullSizeRender (2)

Tanjong Beach

Located on Sentosa Island, Tanjong Beach is a lovely little stretch of beach, perfect for young ones to have a play and a quick dip. There is a yummy restaurant (Tanjong Beach Club), we normally grab brunch and head down for a swim and sandcastle building expedition. There are beach volley ball courts, dogs are welcome and there is plenty of space for a kick of a football or a bike ride.

Open all year round. Admission is free.

The Tanjong Beach Club is open from 11am during the week (Closes Mondays) and 10am on weekends .

IMG_9710 (3)

Pony Ride at Horse City

What kid doesn’t love a pony ride?! Horse City, on Turf Club Road is our favourite spot. On weekends $10.00 will get you a ride on Jameel, the resident pony. Feed the donkeys, ponies and have a cuddle with a rabbit, a perfect spot for an animal obsessed kiddo. Horse City is just down the road from The Grandstand, a great shopping complex full of gourmet butchers, bakeries, delis, one of my favourite coffee places in Singa and loads of shops and indoor play centres. A great area with something for the whole family.

Pony rides start from 10am on weekends, $10.00 per ride. $2.00 buys you some carrots to feed the animals.

Asian Civilisations Museum

We finally had a look at the ACM a month ago, and were pleasantly surprised with what we found. The Museum is FREE and there is currently a wonderful exhibition on the top floor ‘Once Upon a Time in Asia: The Animal Race’ for children, on now until 16 August. There are fun interactive displays inspired by objects in ACM’s collection, you can make your own art to take home, there are storytellers recounting Asian tales and the kids can learn about the Chinese zodiac and more about their animal sign (Xave wasn’t too pleased to hear he was a rabbit, year of the dragon was much more appealing to a 3 year old boy!)

ACM opens daily from 10am, 7 days. Admission is free.

S.E.A. Aquarium

One of my favourite place to take the boys on my own is the S.E.A Aquarium at Sentosa. All indoors (i.e. Air Conditioned!), easy to get around with a pram and one place where both the boys are mesmerised. The variety of sea creatures is incredible. The tanks and enclosures are pristine, there are over 800 species and 100,000 sea creatures to view. It is simply spectacular. We love heading to the largest viewing area the ‘Open Ocean”, sitting down right in front with a snack and just taking in the grace and splendour of some truly magical creatures, while mesmerizing Harry Potter-esque music plays through the speakers.

The Aquarium opens daily from 10am. I would recommend going first thing, it gets very busy in the afternoons.

Admission starts from $22.00. Children under 4 are free!

IMG_9312

And there you have it, a guide to our favourite activities and places to visit in Singapore.

Enjoy!

My Neo Life

AN

xo

A Wedding.

We just returned from a week long wedding festivus in Tasmania. My sister and best friend Jenny married the guy she should, Ben, in an intimate, emotional and laughter filled ceremony in Franklin, Tasmania. I was lucky enough to be the Maid of Honour on their extraordinary day.

Weddings are such a special occasion. Family come together who haven’t spoken or seen each other in years. Friends move the world to make it there, travelling distances, taking leave when they have none, bringing kiddos in tow. You get to dress said kiddos in ridiculously cute outfits (hence today’s featured image of Xavier!). People surprise you with their generosity, their love and the lengths they will go to help you and those dearest to you.

There are some great stories I could tell from the day (and the night before) the wedding, but in the end I really just wanted to publish the speech I gave for my sister.

 

My Sister

When Jen asked me to make a speech at her wedding, I immediately started thinking about all the stories I could tell, of us growing up together, our travels, our big crazy family. But the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to get up here and tell you any embarrassing or funny tales from our childhood , or the last few years. I really just want to take this time, quite possibly the only opportunity I will have in front of the 150 or so people who mean the most to her, to tell Jen and you all why I love my sister.

I love my sister because she is the kindest person I know. Her main concern in life is caring for the feeling of others. Whenever a friend or family member is in any form of crisis she puts her own needs to one side to be there for them.

She is humble about her accomplishments and proud of others achievements.

She knows what she believes and will stand by her convictions, while respecting the views of others

She can be ridiculously funny and doesn’t realise it.

She is generous. With her time, advice and love.

She will take time off work to visit me and spend her holiday keeping a sick child entertained by singing in an unintended Norwegian accent.

She is the Geelong Cats most passionate supporter.

She is the most loving person I know.

I love my sister because she married a smart, interesting, fun and generous guy, who I am now proud to call my brother in law.

Jen, I am honoured to call myself your sister, and more importantly, your best friend.

Love you Jeffy Weez

My Neo Life

AN

xo

Our Singapore Paradise.

Singapore is a pretty incredible place to live with kids. It’s clean, safe, friendly, and there are a ridiculous amount of activities, sports, parks, play gyms etc etc etc designed for kids. Since moving here over a year ago I have become more and more in love with the place. Wherever we go (often me with the two kiddos in tow) people are friendly and helpful. Given the size of the expat community here and the number of young families on the island, we have made some very dear friends already. Xavier is in his element at his preschool (a little Montessori school around the corner from us). And I’ve adjusted to life as stay at home mumma of two.

Marcel and I have a couple playgroups we attend while Xavier is at school. Xavier has swimming lessons once a week, we head to an indoor playcentre with friends on rainy afternoons, and we always make it to the Botanic Gardens a couple times each week, for a picnic or a run/bike ride.

I joined, as I always do, a bookclub which I love (and recommend to anyone moving to a new city or country to do the same, its a great way to meet people and make friends). I also, for the first time since high school, joined a choir. Called the numama choir, we meet once a week during the day, babies are more than welcome to come along too, and I love it. Marcel plays with the other kiddos, listens to me sing (or try I should say!) with the other mums. We also have yoga once a week which my friend organised at her condo. All the mums bring their kids. It’s manic, but I get some exercise done, the little ones all play together and the boys can pretend they’re doing yoga too.

Weekends are family time, spent out for breakfast at our favourite eatery, the Tiong Bahru Bakery, mornings at Tanjong Beach, Gardens by the Bay, the Botanic Gardens, East Coast Park. Swimming at the British Club or at home. Jamie’s Italian at Vivo City is a favourite for lunch. Oh and Din Tai Fung for dinner at least one night. Best dumplings. Ever.

There are some things I still find tough here. Driving can be stressful, with a lot of traffic and some crazy drivers with no regard for road rules. Groceries are expensive, and I usually have to trek to 3-4 different supermarkets to get everything we need (one is good for Aussie brands, the other good for household cleaning and basics, the markets for some fruit and veg, the rest at another, and a butchers for meat!). The weather, (hot one day, hot the next, rainy and hot the day after that), can be tough with young kiddos, as it means you can be be cooped up indoors due to rain or heat for the greater part of the day. But I’ve managed to accept the things I can’t change (i.e bad drivers and hot humid weather), and organise the shopping so it doesn’t take over every day. And honestly, I shouldn’t complain given the life we live here on the whole.

Its school holidays for us next week. We have a teddy bear picnic at one of the international schools, a trip to the Zoo, swimming, yoga, playgroup all lined up. Fun with my boys in Paradise.

My Neo Life

AN

xo

My Tasmanian home.

We just returned to Singapore from our holiday, a friend’s wedding in Tasmania. My family moved to Tassie from Blue Mountains NSW when I was 13. They live in the Huon Valley (south of Hobart where all the apple and cherry orchards are found). I spent high school and uni there. And every time I go home to visit my Mum and Dad, my family and my oldest and dearest friends, I remember why I love it so much.

Its one of those places where you know everyone (or they know your sister, or your mum or your friends…). Even though it has been 10 years since I left and moved to Sydney, I still go home and can’t walk down the street without seeing someone I know (the downside of this – you can’t leave the house without looking decent, you’ll run into someone you haven’t seen in 10 years!).

Xaiver and Marcel have the time of their lives when we visit my mum and dads place. There are places to run and jump and hide. A swing. Animals. Nana and Pa. Great Granny (Gigi), lives next door and always has presents for both of them. Aunties and Uncles to amuse them (and give Mum and Dad a bit of a break!) The river is only a few hundred metres away with beautiful scenery. The weather is usually cool, a welcome change from Singapore’s sticky, unchanging humidity. We can head further south to the Tahune Airwalk (treetop walk overlooking the Huon River). We eat like kings. We can visit the Bonorong Wildlife Park and feed the wallabies. MONA Winery and Museum (where we were for my friend’s wedding) is only a short drive or ferry from Hobart. We are guilty of not showing the boys more of Tassie when we are there (Freycinet, Cradle Mountain, Bruny Island, etc etc), but find that with all the people to see we usually run out of time. But there is always the next trip (only 4 weeks away this time, back for my sister’s wedding!).

Seeing friends from home at home is also just the best. You reminisce about old times. Give each other crap the way you always did. Notice how some have stayed the same, others have changed, but you are still close, you have history, you know they are people who will be in your life forever.

My Neo Life

AN

xo

My Neo is ONE.

I read somewhere once that we are merely caretakers of our children’s lives. We have them for a few precious years where they trust us implicitly, are dependent on us for love, care, support. And then it all changes. They want to do things for themselves. They start to have their own opinions, beliefs, aspirations, goals. And ultimately their own lives.

Which makes the first few years even more precious. My baby, Marcel is ONE this week. No longer an infant. No longer waking during the night. Starting to stand and will soon take his first steps. Saying “Dadda” and “Hi”.

My eldest, Xavier is three and already asserting himself as an individual in his own right. He knows what he likes and doesn’t like. He prefers Daddy to Mummy (most of the time). He wants to go to the toilet on his own, put his shoes on himself, and pick his night-time story. He loves going to preschool, and doesn’t like telling me anything that happened that day (“what did you do at school Xave?”, “We played Mum, that’s all”). He loves dinosaurs, animals, riding his bike.

I still remember vividly when both boys were born. That feeling when you hold your baby for the first time. They were so alert, eyes wide open, staring at the world (and YOU). I love the squishiness of a newborn. The way they smell. It’s just so precious.

And whilst there is part of me that finds it so sad that those baby days are over for both my boys, the older the boys get the more exciting motherhood becomes for me. Seeing their little personalities emerge. The changes to the way they look. Their likes and dislikes. What kind of person they will become. (I just hope they are kind and happy). I’m excited to see them grow and develop.

But as I head towards the weekend and Marcels birthday, I’m going to hug my boys tighter. Consciously take snapshots of their interactions, the funny things Xavier will say and the concentration on Marcel’s face as he tries to stack blocks. Because it is all going to be over in an instant. And I want as many memories of these days as I can get.

My Neo Life

AN

xo

My Café Life

Back when I was working, I always picked up a coffee on the way to work. The morning ritual. Flat white, large, no sugar. Without my coffee in my hand the day seem to start all wrong. With it, my day seemed to calibrate nicely. Mild disappointment would always set in when the coffee was over. Work began.

After Xavier was born, my morning ritual continued. But instead of a grab and dash coffee, it became an event. A day starter. A bonding experience for me and my little guy. A way to start our day. Xavier and I used to head to our local café (West End Deli, best café in Perth if any reader is ever there!). We would sit with our coffee, cino, sometimes baguette and avocado, sometimes crumpet and I would talk to him. He would play with his toys. Other locals from our area would pop in and out. We made friends with a lot of our neighbours. As he got older, we started colouring together, playing games, having proper conversations. It became less about Mumma sating her need for a coffee, and more about special time with my little guy (added bonus: it wasn’t at a play gym or the park, but somewhere I wanted to be too!). Don’t get me wrong, some days, I would just head out by myself and sit at the café on my own. Because I needed to. A coffee by myself. I’d go before my husband left for work and just enjoy reading the newspaper uninterrupted (or after a particularly sleepless night with Xavier, just start blankly at the pages clutching my coffee!).

Following the arrival of Marcel and our move to Singapore, our morning ritual changed. In the early days, I would take both boys, Marcel napping in the pram. Or I would head out and grab a takeaway. The cafes were no longer a walk from our place. But shortly after we moved, Xavier started preschool in the mornings. This was now Mumma and Marcel’s special time. We would and still drop Xavier at his school and drive to one of a few cafes. We order flat white, sometimes a croissant, sometimes (too regularly!) pancakes. Marcel makes friends with the barista. We pop by the wet markets on the way to the car, pick up some fruit and sometimes flowers.

Each parent will find their own way to bond with their children, some in, I’m sure, much more meaningful ways then me and my café kids. But I love that my morning ritual involves them. That we can have our special time in an adult setting. That they (for kids!) are very well behaved in restaurants and cafes because of it.

My Neo Life

AN

xo

My Expat Life

I currently call Singapore home. Over the last decade I have spent a few years living in Sydney, the Cayman Islands (a tiny island in the Caribbean) and more recently Perth. I have learnt through all the moves, the adjustments and opportunities to form new and lasting friendships that it doesn’t really matter where I live, your experience is really what you make of it.

To make life as an expat work there is one golden rule: You need to have the mindset that this is HOME. Don’t think you can completely replicate your old life. Don’t keep wishing all your family and friends lived closer. Don’t keep trying to think of excuses to head home for long trips. Don’t count down the years you expect to be here. It is hard, but as soon as you accept that this home, the rest can fall into place. You will still miss your friends and family. But you will make new friends. Thanks to the glorious advances in technology, there are a plethora of ways you can keep in touch with your family. You can (hopefully) head home frequently enough for quality time with those dearest to you.

I loved living in Perth. We had family there, close friends, a lovely house. And Perth is a beautiful city. The weather is gorgeous most of the year. So when a career opportunity based in Singapore presented itself to my husband Mark, it took a lot of discussion, and weighing up of pros and cons before we made the decision to relocate.

We have now been living here for over a year. The move came not without its challenges. A new-born and toddler in a new country made it difficult for me to get out to make new friends initially. I found an amazing number of mothers groups, toddler groups, music and gym classes, however a lot were at conflicting times to one or both of the boys nap times, or around the time of Xavier’s preschool pick up. But, after making it through the mist and fog of the new-born stage, Marcel, Xavier and I have hit a groove. Xavier has made some gorgeous little friends, loves his preschool, and has settled into life here amazingly well. Marcel is a contented little guy, at the age where everyday brings a new discovery. I have found new pursuits, new friends, new activities for the boys, a new routine. I’ve put myself out there, organised catch ups with other mums, found some new favourite cafes, an exercise class I enjoy (as much as I can really enjoy exercise!), and even joined a choir. I’ve learnt how to navigate the traffic here. I’ve found some beautiful places. I’ve put down roots.

Singapore is ace.

My Neo Life

AN

xo

Mumma Neo life. No Mumsy Allowed.

There are two little monkeys who consume the better part of my energy every day. Xavier (3) and Marcel (11 months). To say I’ve learnt a lot over the past 3 years would be an understatement. I’ve learnt I have patience I never knew an impatient person such as me could have. I learnt what is important and what isn’t. I’ve learnt that sleep is something I will forever be chasing (for me and those two kiddos!). I’ve never laughed or cried so much. I’ve realised that life couldn’t get any better. I’ve learnt that I have undeniably changed from the person I was before kids. And I’ve learnt even with all this change to my being, I am still me. And as important as it is to care for the needs and wants of my family, my needs and wants are important too. For my own well-being as well as theirs.

The best advice I can give any new parent is to always try to find time for yourself. For something you enjoy. For me, in the early days with one bubs, that could merely be a square (or four, who am I kidding!) of chocolate and a flick through Vogue when Xavier was napping. Sometimes it was a pedicure. Sometimes it was a coffee and banana bread at our local café on my own. Sometimes it was an hour watching my guilty pleasure – The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (no judgements!). It could be a night out with my girlfriends. Date night with my husband. Whatever was possible to ensure I could still feel like ME whilst looking after my little humans.

I have also learnt that there are some things from your before kids life you can enjoy together. The morning café ritual still continues for me, sometimes on my own, but a lot of the time with one or both of the boys. We order a flat white and babycino. Xavier colours and puzzles. Marcel flirts with the wait staff. I take a gratuitous pic of their cuteness on my iPhone. And its great.

And I have found it therapeutic to still, every morning, make an effort with my ‘mum’ outfit. Today it’s a printed Tshirt. Drop crotch pair of shorts. Denim vest. Newbark loafers. Comfortable, practical, but still kind of on trend. No Mumsy allowed. And I still feel like me.

My Neo Life

AN

xo