Thursday, April 26, 2012

The One Item that Every Household Should Have

Do you know that there’s one item that can be used for cleaning almost any part of the house, works wonder for dirty laundry, helps remove moisture and odor from enclosed areas, double up as whitening agent for your teeth, relieves nappy rash irritations and do a whole lot more?

Well, I didn’t know either, until I was researching online about how to remove a stain on my hubby’s shirt. Since then (over a year now), I’ve been using it to do various sorts of cleaning around the house.

Have you guessed what it is?

It's the humble baking soda (don't confuse it with baking powder)! Yup, the one you use in your baking.

I use these two brands of baking soda (from NTUC)

I’ve found the baking soda to be such a useful item that I highly recommend that you stock some at home, if you don’t already have it. What's more, it's non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

What I use baking soda for

First, the laundry. By mixing it with the detergent, the clothes turn out cleaner than just using detergent alone (it’s supposed to help remove odor from clothes too but since we don’t have this problem, I can’t really comment on that). In fact, I would reduce the detergent by about a third and replace with baking soda – the less harmful chemicals we use, the better it is for our health and environment, don’t you agree?

I find baking soda especially helpful with items that tend to be on the greasy side, like pillow case and even face towel, which I will soak with baking soda and detergent before washing. The baking soda also makes towels fluffier after wash.

I also use this ‘household wonder’ as an odor remover cum moisture absorbent. I would put baking soda in an open container in the shoe cabinet and it works in removing the smell. You’ll need to stir the powder once in a while. I read from a website that it should be discarded after two months, but I do so every month (I thought that since Singapore is more humid, it should be changed more frequently - after all, the writers of the articles I've researched are written mainly by people living in the US where it's less humid).

I've also recently started using baking soda to wash our fruits and vegetables (instead of those fruits/veggie cleaners) after watching a Chinese infotainment programme. Apparently, it works by neutralising the pesticide (acidic) as baking soda is alkaline.

And oh, I experimented with using baking soda as a shampoo too! I'll probably share more in a future post.

Below are some of the common uses of baking soda. There are lots more of course, so I’ve added some useful links at the end of the post.

General cleaning 
  • Add baking soda on a moist sponge and clean bathroom sink, tub, tiles etc. It works well especially on water stains and doesn’t scratch the surface.
  • Baking soda can be used as an extinguisher to put out fires in clothing, fuel, upholstery and rugs and even stove fires – just throw some on the fire. The carbon dioxide generated by the burning powder will starve the fire of oxygen.
  • Baking soda helps absorb moisture and control humidity. So place some soda in an open container and use in places such as cupboards, cabinets and under sinks. Remember to stir occasionally and replace after one, two months or when you find it no longer effective.

  • Mix soda in water to clean fruits and vegetables. Let them soak a while before rinsing off.
  • Remove odor from your fridge and freezer by putting soda in an open container. Stir from time to time and replace after one, two months or when you find it no longer effective.
  • Add soda to hot water to thoroughly clean baby bottles of any milk residual and smell.
  • Similarly, remove any stale smells from food containers by washing with soda and hot water. If the smell is pretty strong, you can soak the container overnight.
  • Burnt something on your pan? Let the pan soak in soda and water for about 10 minutes. Or you could scrub with baking soda on a moist scouring pad.
  • In case of a badly burnt pan with thick layer of blackened food, make a paste by adding just enough water to the soda (use a thick layer here) and leave overnight and wash the next day.
  • Clear clogged drains by dunking a cup of baking soda down the drain followed by a few jugs of boiling water.

  • Soak and wash diapers with baking soda to remove smell and stains.
  • Stains on clothes? Make a paste with baking soda and water and rub on the area. I’ll let it soak a bit and then give it a scrub before washing. 

Health, Beauty & Hygiene 
  • Remove odor from shoes by sprinkling the insides liberally with soda. Leave overnight and shake out the next day.
  • Add half teaspoon of baking soda to a glass of water as a mouthwash helps remove bad breath.
  • Remove build-up from oil and hairstyling products on your combs and brushes in a solution of water and soda.
  • To relieve diaper rash irritations, add two tablespoons of baking soda into baby’s bath water.
  • Baking soda can clean and whiten your teeth. Sprinkle some onto your toothpaste before brushing. You can also use that to brush and clean dentures.

  • Keep a handy container of baking soda in your car. It can be used to put out fire and won’t damage anything.
  • To relief bug bites, make a thick paste with baking soda and water and apply directly on affected area. 

Lastly, you can maximise the usage of the baking soda by re-using it. For example, after you’ve used soda to remove odor from the shoe cabinet, dunk it down the sink and add hot water to prevent drain blockage.

Is there any household products (especially non-toxic, eco-friendly ones)  that you swear by? Please do share so we can be better homemakers!

Useful links - More Uses of Baking Soda

If you're also looking at ways to go green at home, you may like to check out this Green Living workshop. Read the reviews and tips gleaned by fellow mom bloggers:

'Non-toxic homes, healthier families' by June of mamawearpapashirt
'Green Living: How to create a non toxic home' by Delphine of life in the wee hours 
'I am seeing green' by Rawafish of why not

Be inspired!

Monday, April 23, 2012

AquaBambinos Swim School - A Review and Free Trial Lessons

Among the many sports, swimming is one that we hope Kenan will be skilled in.

However, when it comes to being in the water, the best I can do is to keep myself afloat.

My hubby, on the other hand, is considered a good swimmer. So I've always thought he will be the one to teach our boy swimming - and I remembered how he used to talk about doing the father-son bonding thing through swimming together.

Many, many months later, let's just say that the spirit is willing but the flesh.

So after coming to terms with the fact the hubby is losing this battle against inertia, I did what most smart moms would do - outsource to the experts.

I think God agreed that it's a good idea too. Shortly after, I found a flyer in my letterbox from AquaBambinos about its open house. A quick visit to its website showed that they have classes for toddlers and after a phone call to the school, Kenan was on his way to his first ever swim lesson.

About AquaBambinos

AquaBambinos, located within the Burghley Lifestyle Hub, is an indoor swimming school. It's pool water is "heated to a comfortable temperature of 30 degrees celsius".

The swimming pool built on a deck

(copyrighted by AquaBambinos) Lots of toys to engage young swimmers

(copyrighted by AquaBambinos) There's even a slide by the pool

Classes are available for babies and children from ages 6 months to 7 year-old. Class ratio is kept to a maximum of 1:6 parent-child pairs per group for parent-accompanied classes and 1:5 for non-accompanied classes.

Facilities include bathrooms with hot water showers, lockers, changing tables, toilets and a waiting area where there are some colour pencils and papers available. There's also a playground within the Lifestyle Hub's compound but I didn't see it during our visit, shall go look for it the next time.

As the school has just opened in January this year, all its facilities are still new and well maintained.

Bathroom with hot water facility (left); lockers for parents (right)

Our experience

There were three other kids during the trial lesson. At first, Kenan simply refused to go into the pool. We almost gave up trying, until he caught sight of the balls in the water and decided that it would be fun to play with them and other toys.

I found the teacher very good - she could engage each child and showed lots of patience as well as enthusiasm. When I taught Kenan an action wrongly, she also patiently showed me how to to do it until I got it right.

Of course, I like the fact that it's an indoor swim school, so regardless of the unpredictable weather, the lessons will go on uninterrupted. No worries about make up classes or going there and then later having the class cancelled due to sudden rain.

What's most surprising was that I actually enjoyed the class!

To be honest, I'm so happy to bring my boy to a swim class that’s indoors, because this vain mommy is afraid of having more freckles on her face from direct sunlight exposure.

That aside, it's been fun learning together with my boy, especially seeing how quickly he learnt certain actions - it made me feel so proud of him! It's been equally rewarding to see how he's transformed from the boy who refused to go into the pool, to one who almost didn't want to get out of it.

I'm now looking at the class schedule and see if we can find a slot that best fit our timing.

Kenan doing a little doodling at the waiting area

Win free trial class.. for not one but TWO winners!

Here's how:
1. Like AquaBambinos' Facebook page
2. Like Mommy Cafe's Facebook page
3. Your child should be between 6 months to 7 year-old.
3. Leave a comment on Mommy Cafe Facebook page, OR here on this blog post*, telling us your child's age, and something about his/her swim experience (negative or positive) and why you hope to win this trial lesson.
4. The contest will end on 29 April 2012, Sunday at 11:59pm.
5. The winners will be randomly picked, results will be announced on Mommy Cafe's Facebook page and on this blog.

Join the contest now - TWO lucky winners will get a free trial lesson each with AquaBambinos! Do spread the word too!

*I'm adding this option after someone told me she rather comment here than on FB :) 

Friday, April 20, 2012


I can’t even pinpoint when it happened.  But ever since the boy started going school, he’s been rapidly building up his vocabulary and linguistic skills, and before I knew it, we were already having simple conversations! Almost every day, he would also spring us a surprise with a new word or two.

Here are some of our recent conversations:

After a bad tantrum episode, I felt really mad and told him, “Kenan, mommy doesn’t want to stay home; I shall go out to work!”

With tears rolling in his eyes, he replied, “No, mommy stay home! Daddy go work!”

* * * * * * * * * *

One day, I was driving the boy to school and he suddenly said, “Mummy, be careful!”

I swear I wasn’t speeding, nor did I jammed on the brake to cause him to issue that cautionary note. But from that day on, l always remember those words and the cute little voice that said it whenever I’m on the road.

* * * * * * * * * *

I took out a packet of Milo from the fridge and was about to drink it when the little boy discovered what I was doing. He wanted a share of it too.

“Kenan, mommy’s hungry, so you just drink a little and leave the rest for me, ok?” I said.

I handed it to him, he took a sip and passed it back to me.

“Kenan drink a little only, mommy drink a lot!” I was absolutely touched that he could resist the temptation to drink more, which he would normally do as he enjoys Milo.

* * * * * * * * * *

The boy had been playing with a balloon for few days. So when I discovered it’s gone, I asked him what happened to the balloon.

Thinking for a moment, the boy reported, “Balloon boom already!”
A second later, he reiterated, “Burst!” and clapped his hands to mimic the sound.

* * * * * * * * * *

I’m always the one to tuck the boy to sleep. He refused to let anyone else do it. Ever since he started talking, whenever I tried to get the hubby to help, Kenan would always protest saying, “No, daddy go away!” or he would wave frantically and say, “Daddy bye-bye!” and pushes the dad out of the room.

After that, the hubby would always tell me how hurt he feels. Poor thing. He didn’t expect to have such a “mommy’s boy”! After all, he was the one who’s been so keen to have a child!

* * * * * * * * * *

Last Sunday, the boy was going out with his dad to the usual weekend dinner with the extended family. I had to stay home to look after my mom, who had just discharged from the hospital.

“Kenan, mommy won’t be going out with you and daddy tonight. Mommy has to stay home to take care of por-por,” I explained to the boy.

 “I want to stay home with mommy, I love mommy,” then he came over and hugged me tightly.

* * * * * * * * * *

I'm really beginning to enjoy these simple conversations with my little boy. But will there be a day when I'll complain that he talks too much or asks too many questions (especially those that I have no immediate answers to)?

I hope that if that day comes, I'll learn to be patient with him, so that he will continue to be curious about the world around him and develop a genuine love for learning. 

And if you do hear me complaining, please remind me to exercise greater patience!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Port of Lost Wonder: Where Pirate Ship and Foam Party Come Together

Have you heard the news yet? Singapore's first kids' club by the beach, Port of Lost Wonder (POLW) has opened!

Thanks to the very nice people of Sentosa, I got invited to a preview of this latest attraction on the Island last Saturday, which was also the day of their official launch.

As Kenan had class in the afternoon, we couldn't stay long, but it was enough for this mommy to recce the new kids’ wet 'n wild wonderland - and to share the details here.

Adventures at POLW

The POLW at Palawan Beach is just a few minutes' walk from the Beach Car Park

This is where you pay for admission and obtain your curio coins, which are for kids to pay for activities or a surprise snack

The coins come in a bag like this; kids will also receive a Port Pass to record their activities, collect stamps and redeem prizes!

Even before we entered POLW, the boy was already having fun! There was a bubble-making machine near the entrance spewing hundreds of bubbles to the delight of our boy.

Let the Fun Begin!

1. Ahoy matey!

The HUGE pirate ship docked right in the middle of the place is obviously the main draw of POLW.

Children were all having a splashing good time as they moved up and down the decks, jump into the waters and go down the numerous slides. However, parents do keep a close eye on your young children as they play with the various features, and in case the older kids get rowdy in their excitement.

The front and back of the Pirate Ship

2. Sand and foam
Enough of water play? Then head to the sand pit at the back to build some awesome sandcastles or have a frothy good time at a real cool kids-only foam party (pay 30 curios).

3. Pot a plant and meet some animal friends
Over at the Curiosity Island, children can work their little green fingers at a 'Pots & Planks' activity where they get to plant seedlings in a pot or boot and bring it home. The activity cost $20. From what I see on the board, it's not the POLW currency i.e. curios coins, they are referring to.

From what I read on the POLW website, there's also some activities involving little animals but I didn't see it when we were there and was a tad disappointed. Perhaps it wasn't time yet. Gotta check this one out another day as my boy is fond of animals.

There's also supposed to be board games, traditional games and storytelling, which I didn't see on that day. Made a mental note to look out for these too, at our next visit.

4. Picnic at the deck
POLW has thoughtfully incorporated a lounging area called The Deck so parents tired out from running after their energetic kids can take a break here. Families can also buy picnic baskets from Port Belly restaurant and enjoy a meal together in the open shaded area.

Other thoughtful designs include a diaper changing area, as well as locker facility.

Are you falling in love with this place yet? We'll likely be back soon, before the word goes out far and wide and it gets too crowded! 

Port of Lost Wonder
54 Palawan Beach Walk

Opening Hours:
10:00am to 6:30pm daily (last admission to POLW at 4:30pm)

Admission Charges: 
Weekdays -$8.00 (receive 50 curio coins and Port Pass)
Weekends & holidays - $15.00 (receive 100 curio coins and Port Pass)
Annual membership - $90.00 (600 curio coins, Port Pass and unlimited admission)

Charges is per child - accompanying adults enter for free. Love it!

Another reason why you should visit now? POLW is also having an opening specials - there's 15% off ticketing charges, and 20% off membership. For a limited period only.

For more information, check out POLW website or its Facebook page.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Falling Back into Place

Drained is how I felt the past two weeks.

Mom had been to the A&E twice during that period of time, and on the second visit, she got admitted.

The daily ferrying of the boy to and fro school, the looming deadlines, and spending a few hours every day in the hospital, made me feel drained of energy and emotions. On some days, I wished I could just lie in bed and not wake up. But the fact that I'm mom makes having a full day's rest impossible - at least in my case, because Kenan is a "mommy's boy" who looks to me for almost everything.

So, I'm really thankful when the mom-in-law agreed to stay over a few days to help me look after Kenan and supervise the maid. At least I could then go to the hospital for a few hours everyday with peace of mind, knowing that my boy will be well taken care of.

I'm also grateful for the hubby who tried to cheer me up and surprised me with a box of my favourite cakes. By the way, the bakery is not within our neighbourhood, I'm touched that he went that extra mile for me.

I call this the 'rainbow cake' - the cheerful colours sure perked me up. But nothing beats the sweet gesture of the hubby that warmed my heart...

After a few days' stay in hospital, mom is now back at home and slowly recovering.

Life is falling back into the usual routine, and routine is something I find myself craving for more and more these days. I like how routine gives me a sense of surety - just like knowing that the sun will always shine after the rain, reminding me that God is always there with and for me, even though I may not feel His Presence all the time.

Through waves and clouds and storms
His power will clear your way; 
Wait for his time; the darkest night 
Shall end in brightest day. 
--Paul Gerhardt

This post is a link up with Mama J's weekly Grateful Gatherings.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

L'etoile - A Remote "Star" Discovered

I eat when I'm stressed. I eat when I'm happy. I celebrate special occasions, a project completed, getting a new client - basically whatever 'excuses' that  I can find for the moment, with eating.

And I don't just eat at "the usual places" (though there are favourites that I keep going back to). Instead, the hubby and I would go on a hunt for somewhere new. We love both the excitement of the hunt and the satisfaction and delight from finding a gem.

And we've been exploring a few places lately, the L'etoile cafe being one of our latest find. It was an overcast Sunday afternoon; the boy was napping when we decided on a whim to head out for afternoon tea. I did a quick check on google for new cafes and found L'etoile. We love it that it's not in the city; there's something attractive about an off-the-beaten-track location. They usually make for good getaways from the daily hustle and bustle, don't you think so?

L'etoile, which means "star" in French, is housed in a white, two storey shophouse at the junction of Owen Road and Dorset Road in Little India. Other shops nearby were closed on the day of our visit, so I can't say if it will be equally peaceful on a weekday (I've never been to this part of Singapore before this).

The Vibe: The indie cafe is inspired by French-themed Japanese cafes that the owner used to frequent when she was living in Nagoya some years back. This explains why the cafe exudes an eclectic charm that is both homely and inviting - simple, modern furniture such as wooden tables with red plastic chairs and sofa seats on the first floor, while a different world awaits the unsuspected customer as he ascends the staircase and steps into the spacious second floor: pretty lace curtains, black fans twirling lazily from the ceiling, old pieces of furniture and vintage items like a typewriter, grandfather clock and sewing-machine-turned-coffee-table are scattered around the room, with eye-catching, hand-painted bird cages adorning the walls.

Not surprising then, that all the seats here were occupied and we had to make do with the only vacant table on the first level (it's near the toilet and unfortunately, there was some unpleasant smell whenever someone opened the door).

Top right pic: Can you see the sewing-machine-turned-coffee-table at the bottom right corner? Bottom pics: there are plenty of reading materials, another reason why you might just end up staying longer.

Being a "lifestyle shop cum cafe", L'etoile sells knick knacks that friends bring back from their holidays (see top left pic).

The food: We weren't particularly hungry, so only ordered the macha azuki cupcake and carrot cake to share. I read that the cakes here are made by a Cordon Bleu-trained patissier, and I eagerly tucked into our orders. 

We both fell in love with the macha cupcake. It wasn't too sweet, the green tea cream was very fragrant and we thought the cupcake had a little caramel taste to it. The carrot cake was, in comparison, a bit lackluster. It was lighter in taste than most carrot cakes I've eaten but the saving grace was how every bite was full of  crunchy walnuts. 

We also enjoyed the pot of aromatic Earl Grey with lavender tea - it was an uplifting drink on a lazy afternoon (we aren't exactly coffee drinkers). However, we thought it was a bit too little for two person. We probably get a pot each the next time.

L'etoile also sells pies, crepes, scones and sandwiches. Brunch is available till 4pm on weekends and on most public holidays.

Family factor: If you have young kids, the cafe has highchairs available. Older kids might find it interesting to explore some of the vintage items on the second floor (most likely they have never seen an old sewing machine or a typewriter), just make sure not to spoil them!

By the way, if you drive, finding a place to park could be a challenge. We managed to park at some parallel lots further down from the cafe, but only because we were lucky to have spotted the only available lot left. Later, I checked and found another car park:

Map taken from

But like many Singaporeans, there's nothing to stop us when there's nice food and drinks awaiting.

160 Owen Road
Operating hours: 9am to 8pm.
Closed on Mondays
Tel: 6298 2872

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Baker & Cook - Simple Name, Great Food

Nestled in a cosy corner of the Greenwood enclave of restaurants is Baker & Cook, a relatively new artisan bakery cum café that has already garnered a following of sorts, judging by the crowd it draws on the Monday afternoon I was there.

Baker & Cook is set up by Dean Brettschneider, who is "regarded as one of the most respected bakers on the planet" and has over 25 years of experience under his belt. He has also authored 10 best-selling baking books and has his own TV shows.

With a celebrity baker as the owner and an maxim that says "passion is our main ingredient", you can bet they serve some really great food here

The Vibe: Warm, chic with a casual feel; a large communal table in the middle of the glass-paneled café adds to the friendly atmosphere here. The service staff are also full of smiles, which makes the place so much more welcoming. Outdoor seats are also available. No doubts the café is designed to be a great hangout place.

The Food: Cakes, muffins, tarts, breads, quiche, pizzas, sandwiches, pies (which come served with choice salad) - there's just so much to choose from.

Explaining about the fare they serve, Dean said, “Being a multi-cultural and multi-racial city, there is mix of nationalities here. That suits my type of baking which is not French, Danish nor German, but a mixture and great range of baking styles which will appeal to the sophisticated population in Singapore.”

And they make their own jams too (three flavours) - Apparently they are to be found at every table but I didn't notice it during my visit. What a pity! Maybe I was too engrossed in my conversations, shall keep a look out the next time I'm there.

Love the Bombolini donut (right bottom pic) - no guilt eating this as it isn't too sweet 

Anyway, I didn't eat much; but I tried their Bombolini donuts and I love it. You don't be deceived by its look though. While it's coated with sugar, it actually isn't too sweet. So is the custard found inside the donut -smooth, fragrant and with just the right amount of sweetness. The secret? They don't use sugar in their dough. I couldn't resist buying some home and my hubby who doesn't exactly fancy sweet bakes said it's good.

Drinks include coffees, teas, smoothies and cold drinks. I had the Vitamin Burst - has "lots of vitamin C from orange juice and a whole kiwi and plenty of anti-oxidants from blueberries". Very refreshing on a hot Monday afternoon, and don't we women need lots of vitamins for that healthy glow?

Family factor: They have highchairs here, so you can bring your little ones. More importantly, it makes for  a lovely place to hang out with other mommies or girl friends!

I'm kinda craving for another donut, maybe it's time to head to Baker & Cook again.

Baker & Cook
77 Hillcrest Road
Singapore 288951
Tel: 6469 8834

Opening hours
Sunday - Thursday: 7am - 8pm
Friday - Saturday: 7am - 10pm


Related Posts with Thumbnails

  © Mommy CafeDesigned by Patricia Alix-Villa of Fancy Girl Designs 2012

Back to TOP