Tag Archives: expat

My Top 10 Toys to take on the Plane with Kids

It’s that time of year in Singapore. The international schools are on their summer break, its hot and humid (even more so than usual, that is!), and most of the playgroups and sports classes are on hiatus. Many of my expat friends have disappeared to Europe, US or Australia to see their families or take a long family holiday.

We are well-versed on the art of travelling with kids. More is better. Bringing out toys or snacks one at a time is a must. Keeping as much of the kids routine intact on the plane as possible (dinner, PJ’s on, brush teeth, story, milk, sleep). Xavier at 3.5 is easy, happy with an iPad, a movie, a snack. I still bring toys etc to occupy him, but on the most part he is a dream. Marcel at 1.5 is hard work. Stubborn, confident, distracted and wilful. Hence my need for oversupply of options to keep his active little mind engaged.

For those struggling to think of ideas of what to bring on a plane with their little ones, here are my top 10 Toys/Activities to take on a plane.

Playdough – It’s amazing how long I can get out of a couple small tubs of playdough and a few cutters and rollers!

Books – I always bring 2 lift the flap books for Marcel and one of Xavier’s favourite (longer read) books.

Stickers – They will end up everywhere, but will keep the kiddos entertained. Ideally one with a sticker book.

Mini Puzzle – The best we have found are small (9 piece ) puzzles you can colour in, great craft and activity for 3 +

Activity Books – Xavier loves activity books (word finds, mazes, colouring). Marcel will have a scribble of a wipe clean book, or a felt/magnet book works well.

A bag of small toys – I usually pack a lunch bag with a variety of small toys – takes ages for them to sift through.

Duplo or Lego – a small zip lock bag of Duplo for under 3, Lego for 3+ works a treat. You will likely spend a good deal of time hunting under the seats for all the pieces, but it will definitely give you a few happy moments with the kids!

Etch A Sketch – Just a small one. Marcel loves scribbling and pulling the lever to wipe the screen clean.

Finger Puppets – Easy to carry and interactive. Trying to get the puppets on their chubby little fingers is half the fun.

Giftwrap a New Toy – Gift wrap a new toy for the plane (matchbox car, dinosaur, something small). Only bring it out when all other avenues are exhausted. Unwrapping is half the fun.

FullSizeRenderHopefully this list will provide some respite!

Happy travelling.

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).

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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.

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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).

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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 .

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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!

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

Enjoy!

My Neo Life

AN

xo

My Singapore Coffee. Where to find it.

Singapore has amazing coffee. Some of the best I have ever had. It also has a lot of average and decidedly below average coffee (anyone who drinks Starbucks and thinks it’s good, please stop reading now!). It took me some time to weed out the just ok coffee from the good, but I have now managed to find several lovely cafes, listed below. This is by no means a definitive guide, merely the places I frequent (frequently!), which are relatively kid friendly and I would recommend to my readers. All these spots open by 9am at the latest, a must for me considering my two monkeys like to wake anytime from 6am each morning.

Tiong Bahru Bakery

56 Eng Hoon St

#01-70

www.tiongbahrubakery.com

So I have a newish obsession with croissants, thanks to the Tiong Bahru Bakery (Marcel and I are here 3-4 times a week). They do the best croissants in Singapore, along with too many other delicious treats. The coffee is brilliant. The staff are friendly and really look after their valued (me!) customers. Marcel and I sit outside, watch the pigeons fight over our crumbs, flirt with the passers-by and share a croissant (who am I kidding, we always have two). After brekkie we take a quick swing by the wet markets for some fruit and veg, sometimes flowers.

They have a couple other outlets open around Singapore, but their flagship is where it’s at.

 

Common Man Coffee Roasters

22 Martin Road

#01-00

www.commonmancoffeeroasters.com

Strong, good coffee, and the best latte art in town (if you’re into that kind of thing). The main reason I love this place is that they have the best breakfast menu, hands down in Singapore. Their pancakes are the best I have ever had. Caramelised bananas, walnuts, berries, salted caramel. Ridiculously good.

Jimmy Monkey

9 One-North Gateway

#01-51 One-North Residences

www.jimmymonkey.com

If I lived closer to Jimmy Monkey I would be there all the time. Funky little café, simple, yummy food (boiled eggs and cheesy vegemite soliders, yes please!), and their coffee is simply exquisite. My only complaint is the wait time can be excessively long (30-45 minutes on weekends), just for a takeaway coffee. But if you are there early enough or happy to wait it’s worth it.

Jewel Café and Bar

129 Rangoon Road

www.facebook.com/jewelcafeandbar

Lovely staff, easy street parking. The food here isn’t why you would make the journey (its fine, just not amazing), but their coffee is delicious, they have a coffee loyalty card (something which isn’t very common here), always have good tunes playing and great magazine choice.

 

Dutch Colony

Parsarbella at the Grandstand

200 Turf Club Road

www.dutchcolony.sg

The coffee at Dutch Colony is delicious. Creamy, strong, freshly roasted beans. The upside of Dutch Colony’s location is you can kill two (or three) birds with one stone here. There are a few organic grocers, my favourite is Tangy Tangerines, which sells lovely fruit and veg, a couple great soft play centres for the kiddos (Kiddy Fun is our usual choice), delis, butchers, supermarket, the list goes on. Oh and free parking!

 

40 Hands

78 Yong Siak Street

#01-12

www.40handscoffee.com

The original home of great coffee. 40 Hands put Tiong Bahru on the map as the place for coffee in Singapore, and really changed the café scene here. Xavier and I come here for our Mummy/X-man special time, for freshly squeezed apple and watermelon juice and coffee. Not a place I would recommend to take babies, unless you are happy sitting outside with your pram. There are no high chairs and it’s a narrow space inside.

And there you have it! My favourite cafes. Enjoy.

My Neo Life

AN

xo

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Someone shares Mummy’s love of croissant’s

 

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 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 Travelling Life.

Living the life of an expat means one thing for me. Travel. Travel to see your family, travel to explore your new country or region. When we lived in the Caribbean in our pre kiddo existence we would head off every 6 weeks or so. New York. Los Angeles. Toronto. London. Cuba. Jamaica. Sydney. The flights were sometimes long, sometimes delayed. I once booked a connecting flight and mixed my ams and pms up and spent a night at the Miami airport. I read a lot of books. Watched a lot of movies. Drank.

Life travelling with kids is so different. Delayed flights go from being a mild irritation to a quick calculation of adjusted sleep times. Snack, nappy and toy inventory. I no longer saunter around the airport buying duty free makeup, stocking up on magazines and sneak in a cheeky vino prior to the flight. I no longer wear a cute outfit and bring all my toiletries for a quick re do of my makeup before landing.

Having said that it’s not all bad. The upside constantly taking the kids on flights (Marcel had his first international flight at 12 days old!), is that you and they are well trained on the drill. You know what to expect. You know what to do to keep them happy on a plane. You know exactly what and what not to bring. And you also lose the anxiety of what will happen on the plane. Because you know after a few short hours it’s all over. You have arrived.

Xavier, at 3, absolutely loves flying. He knows the drill. He insists on bringing “Dog” his favourite toy who has been on every flight with him. As soon as he is seated he will pop his headphones on and watch a movie or kids programme. He has a drink and snack. Sometimes a nap. Does his colouring. Plays with his dinosaurs. Really, he is a dream. Marcel is at the age where his attention will only be on one thing for a maximum of a couple minutes before he is onto his next. He needs lots of toys, snacks, attention. My husband and I will take turns occupying him and given Xavier can amuse himself for a period of time, with any luck we can both can now (almost!) fit in a movie and eat our meal on the plane.

I have learnt to always bring more rather than less. Don’t just bring a bottle of milk and a toy. I have a Mary Poppins bag of epic proportions, crammed with toys, extra clothes, snacks, treats, IPad, books, colouring books, crayons, wet wipes. And always a change of clothes for Mum and Dad (I learnt that the hard way!).

I also learnt that the timing of the flight is critical. For us, night flights are avoided like the plague. The kids will sleep ok, but you never do. Arriving at your destination with two tired kids and two sleep deprived parents does not a fun holiday make. We love morning flights. Earlier the better. Waking the kids up for a flight usually means by the time you board, they are close to needing a nap. With any luck we can have both boys sleeping at the same time. Heaven.

I am still conscious that our boys can disturb fellow passengers on planes. I really try to keep them 100% happy to minimise the irritation to others (I have been on flights where I have received the eye roll when a single guy is seated next to us). I take great satisfaction when someone comments on how well they have behaved when we are disembarking. But you know what I have learned? If we do have a meltdown, if we do have a nappy disaster, if our flights are crazy delayed. We will still make it. We will still enjoy our holiday. And the people on our flight may be bothered by our crying babies, but they will still get wherever they need to. To their holiday, their business meeting, their home. And you are very likely to never see them again.

In three short weeks we are off to Tasmania for a friend’s wedding. We have a few days in Sydney to break up the flight and see family and friends on the way. My Mary Poppins bag will be at the ready.

My Neo Life

AN

xo

First Flight with two boys

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

A New Year. My Neo Resolution

With the dawn of a new year we all become inspired. To make promises, challenges for our person. Some we can keep, some don’t last the day. My resolution for this year is to make it count.

Mohammed Ali once said “Don’t count the days, make the days count” My resolve for this year is do just that.

I’m a mother of two boys, Xavier and Marcel. Wife to Mark. I’m a lover of fashion and dabbler in interiors. I always find time every day for a coffee (a good one!). I call Singapore home.

For a long time now I have talked of my desire to do something with my love of fashion, motherhood experiences and expat experiences. One of the hardest part of becoming a parent, and particularly a mother is the loss of your own personal time. You can still carve out a little bit of each day (most of the time!) for yourself, however I have found that over the past 3 years since Xavier and Marcel were born, I usually spent the time I had reading (mainly about child development..), trawling through my favourite shopping sites and fashion mags, grabbing a coffee, sometimes catching up with a friend. All fine. But this year, now that Marcel is no longer a newborn, I want to spend that time, hopefully still doing some of the same, but also sharing some of my fashion inspirations, my go-to websites, my expat and mum experience with you, the reader.

My Neo life.

AN

xo