Sunday, September 4, 2016

LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS Macy's Thunder Mace and Ultimate Axl review

In a recent survey, I was surprised to discover that we have such a broad range of LEGO products in my house - LEGO STAR WARS, LEGO NINJAGO, LEGO CITY, LEGO CHIMA, LEGO DUPLO, LEGO CLASSIC, LEGO CREATOR, LEGO SUPER HEROES. Even ZY still has his precious LEGO set which he carefully kept for more than thirty years.

After being blessed with 5 sets of LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS and visiting the roadshow during the June hols, L was even more excited about this series.

Ultimate Axl built!

What do the kids like about the NEXO KNIGHTS sets? 

I'll leave them to tell you more about Macy's Thunder Mace (70319) and Ultimate Axl (70336). Thank you, Ch, for writing the script and editing the video!
"There is a TV show that shows on Friday at 6pm on Okto based on these Lego sets. There’s also an app game that you can download for free on iTunes and Google Play and it’s called Merlok 2.0. When you have the Nexo Knights set, you can scan the shields that come with the set and use them to defeat villains in the game. - L"

What I think about the LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS

There is certainly a lot of "coolness" in this theme as the LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS sets can be played in both the physical and digital forms. The two sets reviewed are recommended for children ages 8 to 14 and L completed them fairly quickly by following the instruction manuals. The creative play then continues just as with all other great LEGO themes.

Let's play with Macy's Thunder Mace!

In its digital form, the shield from every set can be scanned on the MERLOK 2.0 app game which can be downloaded to your smartphone or tablet to give an immersive playing experience. Using the power scanner in the app, the power from each type of shield can be collected to build stronger and more powerful knights and to defeat Jestro and his monsters in the game.

Photo credit

However, I have not permitted them to download the game till now. Main reason is the addictive lure to have more shields in order to power up their knights in the app game. The kids know my stand for now, but they are still "trying their luck" to ask once a while. I agreed to read up more about the app game and L has also promised he won't go overboard with playing on the app.

I guess if you exercise strong parental control and restrict the number of minutes your child gets to play on the app, this app game definitely sounds like a very fun one not just for your child, but maybe one that bonds the parent and child too!

**LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS are available at LEGO Certified Stores (LCS), Toys'R'Us, LEGO Mono Brand Stores, departmental stores and select toys stores, ranging in price from SGD $19.90 to SGD $229.90. More information about the products in this theme can be found here.

Disclaimer: No monetary compensation was given for this review and all opinions are ours. We were given Macy's Thunder Mace and Ultimate Axl for the purpose of this review. Photos were taken by Ch on the Canon Powershot SX60 HS.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sandbank International Lunch Buffet

Dining with a sea view in the distance, away from the city crowd, is especially relaxing on a weekday afternoon. And you can do that now at Sandbank with their new All-You-Can-Eat International Lunch Buffet. 

Like their weekend Breakfast Buffet, there is always something for everyone. The buffet spread includes roast meat platter, freshly cooked pasta, thin-crusted pizza, an assortment of finger food, herbal prawns, and a selection of desserts to name a few. 

And for a limited time only, Sandbank is having a promotion for their All-You-Can-Eat International Lunch Buffet where 1 person dines free (inclusive of kids) with every 3 paying adults. 

And, and .. You only need to half the price for children between 4 to 12 years old! 

Here's a sneak preview of Sandbank's International Lunch Buffet. The pictures might cause hunger pangs and an irresistible urge to eat. 

Be warned.

Sandbank Lunch Buffet: grilled beef, roast chicken, sausages, sweet corn and roasted vegetables
Roast platter
Sandbank Lunch Buffet: Pasta & Salad bar
Pasta and Salad section
The pasta can be customised to suit your taste and it is freshly prepared upon request. You can choose between Aglio Olio, carbonara, bolognaise or penne and cheese. The creamy cauliflower soup is flavorful and not to be missed.

The salad section has a good variety of greens, green mango salad (yummy!), chicken mushroom with pesto and an assortment of salad dressing.

My friends and I love the pizza with artichokes toppings! The crust is thin with a crunchy perfection.

Sandbank Lunch Buffet: Thin-crust pizza and finger food

Their fried chicken wings are worth the extra calories. Grab them quickly else they will be gone too soon. The spring rolls and rings are just so-so though.

Other Asian dishes include Steamed Pork in Black Bean Sauce, Teriyaki Chicken, Nasi Lemak, and Tandoori Fish Fillet.

Sandbank Lunch Buffet: Stir fried Nai Bai & Teriyaki Chicken
Stir Fried Nai Bai & Teriyaki Chicken
This is the other one of my favorites. Succulent prawns that are cooked just right in a delicious herbal broth. Even my friend, who is allergic to seafood, couldn't resist taking a sip of the broth and she gave a thumbs-up. Just look at all the herbs that go into the broth!

Sandbank Lunch Buffet: Herbal prawns in broth
Herbal prawns

I usually try to control myself at buffets but with good food and company, it was difficult to stop. I took more than one helping for the clams in wine, and the herbal prawns... and the pizza... and the pasta... I think you get my point.

Sandbank Lunch Buffet: Clams in Wine
Clams in Wine

The dessert and fruits selection is small but of good quality. There wasn't anything I didn't like on my plate. The lunch buffet also comes with free flow hot tea and coffee, as well as apple juice and orange juice.

Sandbank Lunch Buffet: Dessert
Cakes, tarts, and pudding

Of all my three visits to Sandbank, I observe that the staff is very attentive to their customers. Their service is prompt - plates are cleared off the table quickly, a utensil that a child accidentally drops is replaced even before the mommy notices it. Color pencils are available upon request, and they are very helpful with any special request you have for your coffee or tea.

So, if you would like a place to be near the sea but still enjoy the comfort of an air-conditioned dining area on a weekday afternoon, Sandbank is a good choice!

More information about Sandbank

Address: 920 East Coast Parkway, #01-28/32 Parkland Green, Singapore 449875 (opposite Parkway Parade when looking across from East Coast Park)

Telephone: +65 6247 7988

Opening hours: 
Tue/Wed/Thu opens from 4pm - 11pm
Fri/ eve of PH opens from 4pm - 12 midnight
Sat/ PH opens from 8:30am - 12 midnight
Sun opens from 8:30am - 11pm

Sandbank Website | Facebook page | Instagram

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Family First: Camping with three kids at Pasir Ris Park

Beautiful sunrise at Pasir Ris Park, Singapore

Being greeted with such a glorious sight when we open our eyes in the morning is something my family hardly gets in Singapore. This photo was taken in June 2016 when we slept over at Pasir Ris Park.

I'm glad I have a group of friends who love camping. Their photos and chattering about past camping experiences excite us and we have been longing to join them too. Since K's medical conditions have improved over the past few months (she has been disconnected from the feeding pump and oxygen concentrator), we decided to try out a 3D2N camping trip with them.

9 families camping at Pasir Ris Park.
Look at the number of tents we had for the first night!

I have fond memories of my university days where I camped out at Pulau Hantu (a southern island of Singapore) to help my lecturer collect data for her research study. Now that Ch and L are older, I want them to experience what I had enjoyed back at Pulau Hantu - to have fun under the sun, to get used to the lack of comfort items like the fan and air-con, to disconnect from the TV and iPad and to enjoy time with friends. 

A few of our friends were curious about our camping trip and wanted to know if our younger ones adapted well to a change of environment. To be honest, I didn't even expect myself to stay on for the second night. L gets very fussy when he is hot and he will have heat rashes. 

But my biggest concern was K - I was worried that she could not get used to the heat and the unfamiliar surrounding, especially during the night. The paranoid Me even wanted to bring along her portable oxygen tank just in case she develops breathing difficulties. Turns out, K was an amazingly easy kid camper and she slept well on both nights!

Learning from our more seasoned camper friends, we adapted some of their "best practices" to make our camping trip an enjoyable one for our kids. Here's sharing what we did:

:: Upsize the camping tent.

We own a four-man dome tent, but it gets a little squeezy inside if all of us lie down together. Hence, hubby "upgraded" us to an eight-man tent (we only have 5 "men" in our family) which a friend helped to buy from the Winning website. It was spacious with plenty of room to spare even with all our bags in. 

:: Give the kids opportunities to help.

Pitching the tent is hard work but fun and Ch and L gladly took on the task to help ZY. They looked so proud after the tent was up and ready.

A friend also round up all the kids and gave a "Camping 101" on how to wash their own plates and utensils after eating. Being able to help with more "adult tasks" gave the kids some responsibilities and ownership of the camping experience. 

Kids help to pitch tent.

:: Make outdoor sleeping a comfortable experience for the kids.

Else they will never want to go camping again!

I know ... camping is supposed to be a rough-it-out experience but we wanted the kids to sleep well so that they will not be too grouchy in the day. 

The fan is L's sleeping essential and K usually sleeps with the air-con, so I was quite worried about the night as we could have two fusspots to handle. To make matters worse, the first night was extremely hot and humid. There was hardly any breeze even though we were next to the sea! The weather forecast showed a wind speed of only 4 km/h for that night. Fortunately, we brought along handheld fans (the kind that is not battery-powered) and we took turns to fan L and K for the whole night. 

We also brought along inflatable mattresses as advised by our camping friends. Initially, I scorned at the idea of bringing mattresses but it turned out to be a wise choice as sleeping on hard grounds is not something I'll look forward to. The kids took a soft toy each to cuddle at night.

Because the first night was so hot, everyone decided to abandon the tents and slept at the pavilion for the second night. I forgot that the night might get too cold and didn't pack any jackets. As a result, we had to make do with towels as our blankets. 

:: Spray on bug repellent throughout the stay.

We had bad encounters with sandfly bites when we were at the Pasir Ris Park last December. The bites were so potent the itch lasted at least one week. 

Hence, a bug repellent is an essential item especially since we are good mosquito feeders. I go for repellents that contain natural ingredients (for nature's sake) and no DEET (for our safety's sake). They are pretty effective against mozzie bites, but the downside to natural repellents is that re-spraying every few hours is necessary to stay bites-free.

For this camping trip, I used Cottoncubs' Kids' Insect Repellent, which is made with certified organic ingredients (approved by Australian Certified Organic Standard) and pure essential oils. It comes in a 125 ml spray bottle and makes applying and re-applying very easy. I also like that it has a mild natural smell, and we didn't have sticky skin after applying.

For the record, we didn't get any mozzie bites and had fewer sandfly bites than what we got in December. Somehow, K was spared from the bites! ZY had the most bites probably because he didn't re-apply the repellent diligently. 

Oh yes, if you know of any natural repellents that can ward off sandflies, please bring it along. And please let me know. 

Organic Cottoncubs Kids' Insect Repellent helps to repel mozzies.

:: Make bonding time a priority.

One of the best things about camping with others is that the kids have more playmates, hence more fun ideas to play together. A family set up the slackline which is similar to tightrope walking - that occupied the kids for a long time. Another family brought card games and chess. I was amused and proud to see L enthusiastically teaching some of the kids to play GUBS (a card game).

Time passes by very fast when there are so many things we can do. The adults had time to get to know new friends, and to catch up with old peers. The kids "hung out" at each other's tents a lot. Much of the day was also spent playing at the big playground nearby. Our friend brought along his inflatable kayak and the kids took turns to kayak out into the sea!

Camping activities for the kids.

Despite being tired out from a whole day of activities, the kids chatted late into the night, while the adults found amusement listening in to their conversations. I also had some time alone with L at the playground at 12 midnight - a first for us and something he was so surprised and thrilled to be able to do.

Chilling at Pasir Ris Park playground with son at midnight.

:: Bring only camping essentials 

for cooking, washing, bathing ... basically, pare down to the minimum so that you don't have to pack too many things. Share cooking items like oil, salt and pepper, chopping board and knife, etc. That helps to rekindle the "kampong spirit" too.

We use the same pot for cooking and for boiling water to make beverages. We also brought non-disposable plates, utensils, and cups so that we do not generate more rubbish. We did use up almost all the consumables we brought ...

Still, my car boot space was filled to the brim when we went! Tsk tsk! How did that happen?

Other than the BBQ pit, we had "luxurious" items like two camping chairs, the inflatable mattresses, and an air-pump. 

Car boot is fully filled with camping items.

:: Keep camp meals simple but sumptuous.

Camp meals do not always have to be just instant noodles and canned food. And instead of lighting solid fuel and patiently waiting for the food to cook (which we did during our December day camp), we brought along a gas stove to save time on cooking.

This was how I packed the food items for each meal - all the ingredients needed for the meal go into one big Ziploc bag and labelled so we know exactly which bag to use for the meal. I had simple instructions written down so that anyone can cook the meal.

Pack camping meals into individual bags.

I pre-cooked our first camp meal (dinner) at home and heated it up at the campsite. We had yummy tortilla chips with minced beef casserole! Breakfast meals were kept simple - Milo for the kids, coffee for ZY and I - and the families shared luncheon meat, eggs, and bread. We also cooked one-pot pasta (yes, I packed an onion with some button mushrooms too). One of the families shared their delicious creamy potato soup and deep-fried chicken wings, Korean style, all cooked at the camping ground! Oh yes, we even had BBQ food for dinner!

If you don't want to cook your own camp meals on-site, food delivery is always available. Or just drive down to the nearest coffee shop to get some food.

:: Chill together when it rains

The tents are waterproof and are able to keep us out of the rain, but on the second day, dark clouds loomed threateningly. Most of us took shelter at the pavilion to hide from the thunderstorm and spent the time chatting and enjoying one another's company. 

Storm clouds coming.
Look at that cool tent set-up on the right!

Oh, by the way, you will need to apply for a camping permit from any AXS machines or the NParks Camping Permit Internet Application. The permit is free, but each applicant is limited to camping for four days per month. If you make the online application, you will still need to print out the permit from an AXS machine.

Pamela who blogs at Tan Family Chronicles wrote very useful tips to help you plan your family camping trip. Hop over to this and this posts.

We had a good time for this trip and the kids want to do this again. Does anyone want to join us? Which of these is your favourite camping tip? Let me know in the comments section!

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