Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Date at Starker Zhongshan Park

Even though we live in Balestier, we only recently started exploring the restaurants at Zhongshang Park and thought it was a wonderful new place to hang out. It's like this big patch of greenery, with reflection pools all around and surrounded by restaurants and hotels. Most of the restaurants have glass facades overlooking the main park so you can either be inside the restaurant enjoying the scenery or actually sit outside and enjoy the outdoors. The first time we went there, it was for dinner at Kotobuki, after which we took a stroll in the park with the kids. There were kids chasing bubbles or kids chasing dogs. All very idyllic. There was this restaurant across the park with outdoor seating and all the outdoor tables were booked. It looked to me like this was the place with the best views of the park. We eventually strolled over and checked it out and promptly booked reservations there for Valentine's. That restaurant was Starker.  

Husband enjoying Starker housepour

Trio Mushroom Soup

Angus Beef Tenderloin, plated beautifully but portion seemed small for the price (upwards of SGD30), also a bit dry but likely because I asked for it well done, next time I'll probably order it medium well  

Husband ordered 12-inch Quattro Formaggio Pizza which tasted delicious, and since my beef tenderloin was surprisingly minuscule, I had room for 2 slices of these

Creme brulee for dessert - don't be fooled by the size though, the dish is very shallow so technically it's not really a large serving

Great interiors, maybe a bit too bright, I would have preferred a slightly dimmer, cozier look and feel  

Looks like we found another new favorite place. Definitely a hidden gem. Next time we'll probably bring the kids on a weekend and enjoy a slow Saturday at the park.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dinosaurs! Dinosaurs!

We were choosing between two dinosaur exhibits, the one at Science Centre or the one at Marina Bay Sands. I figured the ones here which are animatronic would be more child-friendly than the ones at Marina Bay Sands which are more authentic but probably less fun. Good choice. The dinosaur at the entrance alone was awe-worthy.
The animatronic dinosaur at the entrance of Science Centre. It was huuuge!

Another cool-looking dinosaur at the entrance.
Dino-heads as signage to the exhibit
Posing for pics in front of a dinosaur head
Kids are amazed at the dinosaur fossils

Dino mommy with her babies - all animatronic 

A row of triceratops heads

Fossil digging time!
Goofing around
There were interesting sculptures just outside Science Centre, like this Transformer-esque one near the garden area.
It was a cool exhibit, interesting enough even for my 2.5 year old, at one point we came to another huge and scary dinosaur inside the exhibit and my kids kept running to and from the dinosaur pretending to be scared. Not a lot of people even on a Saturday so quite enjoyable just strolling through. I would recommend for a nice, leisurely afternoon activity and afterwards, you can take the kids for a splash at the water playground - just bring swimsuits.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Know What You're Getting Into

I wrote a post recently about here and about what it cost me to win a product from this penny auction. While I've been fortunate enough to win three auctions so far - a GoPro camera, 100 Free Tokens and a Tiffany necklace - it did take a huge amount of my time and energy and whatever savings I had in total probably weren't enough to justify the effort I put into it. 

To some extent as well I feel that customers at this site are at the mercy of the company. You know those terms and conditions you're asked to sign before participating or joining events? They have one here too for this site but who actually reads these things? Well, if you're joining any auction at, you really should.

For example, when I won the Tiffany necklace, I won it for less than a dollar, which to me meant that the company probably lost money on this transaction. The retail value of the necklace was noted to be SGD200 but even computing all the tokens spent on this auction from all participants, it wasn't enough to cover the necklace cost itself. But no matter, right, they must have forecasted they would win in some transactions and lose on some transactions? Well, what happened was this. After winning the auction and promptly paying for the item, I get an email from asking for ID verification of my account. They send me an email on a Friday afternoon and ask for a response by Monday the following week (see below).

Good day and hope this email finds you well.

We will need your full name as in your name in your NRIC for updating your records in our systems. Please reply to this email with the information and we will amend it for you. Be assured that all users' information are treated with the strictest confidentiality - you may cover your NRIC number for added comfort.

Please send us a screenshot of the front and back of your ID for verification.

Kindly take note should we not hear from you by the  16th September 2013, we would return the item to inventory. We will then await your reply with your bank details to refund the bid price plus shipping charge to your bank account.

Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for visiting us at and have a great day!


Your Team @ Sold

Now there were a couple of things I found objectionable about this. I already won the auction. If they really wanted to verify account ownership, I don't have any issues with that, but they could have done this as part of a regular process. This didn't feel like part of a regular process. And since I had alarm bells ringing in my head about this whole thing I also wanted to know if the email itself was actually valid and really did come from Sold. So I called their hotline to confirm and sent an email and eventually received a response (see below). 

Thank you for your email. We do understand your hesitancy on this matter. We do conduct regular ID verification on all our users to maintain a fair bidding platform for all. Please be assured that your details are treated with the utmost secrecy and we do not share these details with any third parties as some organizations do. We do not mean to offend anyone; however the ID verification process is an important part of our operation to ensure there is no abuse of the system. As stated in our Terms of Use:


5. has the right and at its absolute discretion to verify the identity of each individual user. In the event of being unable to verify or authenticate user identity using reasonable endeavors, then may ask users to provide photo ID, proof of address and other documentation as requires. Should such proof not be provided or should the details not match the user information, has the right to suspend or permanently remove such unverified user accounts and withdraw any auctions won by such users.

Thank you for your cooperation and we await your reply to move forward.

Thank you for visiting us at and have a great day!


Your Team @ Sold

Now thankfully, I gave them the ID verification they required in time but I was stunned to realize that as per the terms and conditions they could just forfeit my auction winning if I hadn't given my ID verification in time.

In any case, it put me off of bidding on the site.

Another example of how well the rules favor the company - if you go on the site now, you'll find a notice to all users to use up all their tokens by October 15 after which all tokens will be forfeited. Strange that I never received any notice of this via email and chanced upon it only on the site. Again I'm sure this is all within the rules, but imagine if you were a user and still had tokens and hadn't visited the site for some time only to come back past deadline to find all your tokens suddenly forfeited. Tokens you would likely had paid for. It's a good thing I've used up all of mine, otherwise this would really put me in a tizzy.

It just goes to show, when you're trying out new things, you really should try to be more aware of what you're getting into.

Ben & Jerry's Chunkfest 2013

Chunkfest 2013 is back! If you want a peek into what happened at last year's Chunkfest, I wrote about it here

Furniture Find from Hock Siong

It's true what they say that once you own a home, you never really stop fixing it up. My husband and I have been renters for the longest time (9 years) and only just recently moved into our own apartment. During this time we were content with buying stuff from IKEA or sourcing secondhand gems from craigslist, balking at paying huge sums of money for items we wouldn't be able to bring with us to the next place we would be renting. I liked the pieces we found for our home but never really loved any of them, never really had that little bit of heartache you have when forced to give up something that no longer served a purpose in your life.

Now that we had an apartment of our own, we could finally choose the pieces we wanted, pieces that weren't just functional but were also beautiful and said something about the kind of people we were and wanted to be. 

For example, I've always wanted a more structured yet still comfortable sofa. The tufted blue one below is a peg I've kept when I was looking for sofas for the living room. 

My husband and I eventually found this grey structured sofa. The sofa back hidden by the pillows are also tufted. I love it because it looks a bit serious but it's still comfortable and inviting. The kids climb all over the sofa and sometimes take out the cushion seats to make them into makeshift forts. They couldn't do that previously with our old one-piece sofa as the cushion seat was too big to be moved around. The seat back cushion is also removable and there's a ledge that's big enough for a child to walk on, which is sometimes what the kids do.   

We've found a couple of pieces we love like our sofa pictured above and our dining set. But I'm still looking for other pieces for the home. For example, I was, until recently been longing to find ball lamps here in Singapore. I saw them previously featured in the home of one of my favorite Filipino celebrity personalities, Daphne Osena Paez and resolved to find one for myself as well. 

Ball lamp image taken from pinterest

Lo and behold I found them being advertised on the facebook page of Hock Siong which is a popular secondhand store here in Singapore. They cost SGD150 which may be a bit expensive for a secondhand store but given that it's an item I've always wanted, I think it's worth it.

 Ball lamp image taken from Hock Siong Facebook page  

Let me tell you though that it is worth every penny. The weight alone is unbelievable. My husband could probably use them as weights on the side. The crystal balls and the metal base = HEAVY. My husband jokes about what would happen if he accidentally caused my ball lamp to fall on the floor. Um, he would probably end up in hospital and that's not even a joke, if it fell on his foot it's likely to be technically true.

Don't worry, ball lamp, I'm sure he's just kidding. But in case he isn't, well you know what to do.

Our lovely new ball lamp sitting elegantly on my bedside table

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cookie Decorating for Daddy

We recently went to a friend's son's birthday party and missed the art session and cookie decorating session laid out for the kids. It would have been so much fun, but I thought, hey it should be easy to do this at home so we bought the requisite stuff and had our own cookie decorating session at the house. 

It just so happened we discovered this really good sugar cookie mix from Betty Crocker which we found at Cold Storage weeks back. They end up soft and moist and don't harden even after a week. I stock up on these cookie mixes and on brownie mixes so we don't have to rely on store-bought desserts and just make our own. These are pretty nice and quite cheap. It costs about SGD8 for each packet and we end up with about a dozen or so cookies.  
I also bought icing tubes for us to use, these are the ones that set hard. The small box is about SGD15 and contains four icing tubes of basic colors: red, green, blue and yellow. It's a bit expensive but these are the only ones I could find.

 Sugar cookie mix and icing tubes

Icing tubes with basic colors: yellow, green, blue and red

I had to encourage the kids to try it out as they weren't quite sure what to do but once they've gotten the hang of it they've been obsessed with cookie decorating ever since.

Now every time they want to eat a cookie, they ask me 'Mommy, can we decorate a cookie?' and sometimes if they want to be particularly persuasive they ask me 'Mommy, can we decorate a cookie for Daddy?'although most times cookies decorated for Daddy end up in their tummies anyway but hey it's great fun and at some point in time Daddy will probably end up with a cookie, it just won't happen anytime soon.

Lexi hard at work decorating her cookie 'for Daddy'

Friday, August 30, 2013

My Etsy Experience

I like buying secondhand because I save on money and also get an item with a piece of history. I also don't like the idea of throwing away perfectly functional items so I support any system that recycles items, big or small. This is why I wholeheartedly support ebay and craigslist. However, I've come across etsy recently and was intrigued by its promise of handmade products made by artisans.

It took awhile before I eventually bought anything but here's what I purchased for my home:

Set of 4 playroom posters. 
Posters are sold individually or as a set. Customizable colors. And I chose colors that would match my sofa pillows (gray, blue and yellow). Different themes available. I chose 'Create', 'Read', 'Learn' and 'Play' which are key themes I want my children to learn and eventually follow. There are other themes such as: 'Dream', 'Dance', 'Sing' etc. Each themed poster contains a list of rules to live by.

For example, under 'Play', you have...
The best things in life aren't things
Play is training for life
So many toys so little time
It's not how big you are it's how big you play
Just five minutes more
Some days are simply meant for playing
Play is the beginning of knowledge
Keep calm and play games
Playing it safe always ends in disaster
Fun is good
Those who play together, stay together
Play, laugh and love

These posters shipped out of Australia in a carton tube and I received them within a week and a half. I realized the sizing was a bit off though and didn't fit any of the ready-made frames available at IKEA. I toyed with the idea of getting them custom-framed but then found these silver frames that just about fit them. There's some gap on top and below the poster but you could pass it off as a border style.

Set of 5 pillow covers
I bought these from a pillow seller in the US. I was initially planning to buy black and white pillows then thought it would be fun to add pops of color in. I spent days sifting through pictures of individual pillow covers in etsy trying to match pillows before I realized some pillow stores actually sold them in sets. And not the matchy-matchy type pillows either. These sets were artfully matched as if you weren't trying very hard and they just happened to go together. I also liked that the design looked Dwell Studio-ish but not at the same exorbitant price level.

It took forever for these to arrive. About three weeks. Though to be fair, the seller did say it would take that long. Once it arrived, I promptly went out and bought pillows from the neighborhood provision store.

The quality of the fabric was okay though the stitching/sewing wasn't perfect. Still, I paid a reasonable price for it so all good in the end.