Saturday, February 10, 2018

Chinese New Year 2018 | Family Walk in Chinatown

Counting down to Chinese New Year {CNY} next week!! For some reason I feel that it's coming by really fast this year? Do you feel the same way?

I mean, not that I'm complaining as I love all the joyous celebrations but it seems like Christmas wasn't too far away, then it was New Year's and now at the blink of an eye it's Chinese New Year!!

Anyway last weekend we went down for our annual family walk in Chinatown to soak in the festivities and nom on our fave local snacks and CNY goodies.

This year, the Chinatown Chinese New Year Celebrations adopts the theme “Blossoms of Happiness & Prosperity” and will see celebrations taking place around Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road and other streets at the historic Chinatown precinct.

From now until Thu 15 Feb 2018, visitors can feast on mouth-watering New Year delicacies, enjoy the brilliant lights and decorations of the stalls and shop for the many CNY traditional goodies from cookies, decorative items, waxed duck and preserved fruits to potted plants and clothing at the street bazaar shops that are open 6pm-10pm daily {extended hours until 1am on CNY Eve}

Lil Pumpkin and I wore our matching modern cheongsams by local boutique, Glitter Glam {see their full CNY collection on Glitter Glam website!}. We're wearing different colour combinations of the same design and I really like the sweet duo colours and simple, yet intricate flower embroidery in the front. Nothing too flashy and so so comfy even when walking about outdoors in the crowd...

It was also kinda bittersweet knowing that she's wearing the largest size {size 14} in their kids collection now #wheredidmybabygo

She can probably still fit in it next year when she's 10 years old.. but after that, she'd probably has to start wearing adult sizes?? But that's if she still wants to twin with mummy!! As it is, although she still likes the clothes that I choose and buy for her, our little fashionista prefers to dress up herself and choose her own accessories.

Will she soon find mummy too "uncool" to wear matchy-matchy clothes with??! hmmm... 

人山人海!We went on a Saturday evening and yes although it was crowded, it wasn't a stampede and there was still space to walk around without getting shoved and pushed {toooo much}.

Plenty of families and small kids around, but I'd still recommend not bringing your stroller / pram though and to avoid peak periods.

Must-do shot of Lil Pumpkin and her daddy in front of the hand-made sculpted lanterns of the Chinese zodiac animal of the year - which happens to be the Dog for 2018.

Love seeing how much Lil Pumpkin has grown when comparing photos like this but where did our baby go?? Missing photos from 2016 and 2017...

The CNY street bazaar may end on Thu 15 Feb 2018, but the lantern decorations will last until Fri 16 Mar 2018. The daily light-up will take place from 7 pm to midnight from Sundays to Thursdays, and be extended till 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays. On CNY Day 1 and 2 {16 & 17 Feb 2018}, the light-up will continue overnight till 6 am the next morning.

Managed to get a bag of delicious roasted chestnuts too... Mmm love those! I used to eat so much of it but since we only buy it in Chinatown and we don't go there that often nowadays, I haven't eaten that in over a year I think??! #sodeprived

Since the boy and Lil Pumpkin don't like to peel and eat the chestnuts, I finished that whole bag of 500g chestnuts all by myself in 2 days hahahaha...  #donttellmytrainer

We spent about 1hr walking through the street bazaar and small shops.

It's usually the same CNY food and products recycled from year to year, but it still puts us in a cheerful, festive mood nonetheless. Can't wait until our long Chinese New Year weekend break next week!!

Night shot of the lighted-up Dog lanterns.

I was standing on the bridge between Chinatown Point and People's Park Centre trying to get a good shot on my mobile with a crowd of people who obviously had the same idea when the boy said, "You know we can just google for a good image and it'd be much better than whatever you take, right??"

Roll eyes. Yes yes... we can.... so in the end I gave up and we just took a selfie instead because you can't just randomly google a shot of that on the internet, right?? haha.

More Chinese New Year posts:

P.S. Last day to use my promo code of 10% OFF Peas and Plums modern cheongsam pieces for mums & kids! Check out the rest of our Bub & Me activities or list of kid-friendly places in Singapore too :)

Friday, February 2, 2018

Singapore Cheongsams :: Denim on Denim Modern Cheongsam for Mums & Kids + Promo Code

Chinese New Year is coming up real soon {in 2 weeks time actually} and you know what that means!! Yes, cheongsams galore... yay!! *throws confetti* Love love love seeing all the unique and beautiful cheongsams that come up for the season and so happy that someone FINALLY used my fave denim to create some eclectic modern cheongsam tops that can be used to celebrate CNY, or for casual days out throughout the year too.

Peas and Plums is a new online boutique opened by 2 local stay-at-home mummies #golocal 

Using materials sourced from the U.S. & Japan but made in Singapore, they wanted to add some pizzazz to the market with their line of ladies and kids' apparel, which has a mix of funky, cheeky and edgy designs. As mothers, they know that comfort is essential so whatever clothes they sell are always tried and tested by them and their kids first. If they personally don't look or feel good in it, it never hits their shops.

Oh in case you were wondering, they named their shop after a fruit and vegetable because as mums, they are always finding innovative ways to make their kids eat enough fruits and vegetable hahaha...

They just launched in mid-Jan 2018 and I absolutely screamed with delight when I saw that their first collection for CNY mixed my 2 fashion loves - modern cheongsams x denim - together.

Ok well, maybe not exactly denim.. but denim's lightweight doppelgänger, chambray. Denim is rugged and heavy {usually} on account of its diagonal weave. However, chambray is plainly woven, or done in a crisscross method, making it airier and softer... and therefore although it still looks like cool denim, it is much more comfortable to wear especially in our hot, tropical weather.

The lighter-weight chambray can either have a dressy or casual appeal. Props must be given to Peas and Plums on finding inventive ways to bring this soft and durable fabric into our local fashion fold with a traditional Chinese twist.

BOLD Chambray with Buttons top is dark blue chambray top with specially designed striped-red buttons and trimming running down the front. It has a matching stripped-red inner lining that contrasts nicely with the dark blue chambray so that you can leave the top unbuttoned and wear it open like a "vest".

Personally, I would leave it all buttoned up as I like to show off the playful button embellishments, and although it's modern, I still like it to look like a cheongsam top.

The buttons hold securely, but they are also easy to open with the loop bands with one hand too... as soon as I tried them on I thought they were perfect for breastfeeding mums, like my sister, who needs stylish front-opening tops for their CNY outfits!

SASSY Stripes with Zip is another interesting chambray top mixed with other lightweight cotton fabric. A biker-inspired cheongsam top, it features mixed stripes, a peplum hem and a striking gold tone zipper {huat ah!!} to evoke a sense of summer spent riding the open roads on a cool Harley Davidson. Agree?? heh

The SASSY Stripes with Zip seems less stiff than the BOLD Chambray with Buttons and even though I'm wearing size M for both tops, it seems a bit looser too.

For both tops, I paired them with simple denim bottoms for a "denim on denim" look. Effortlessly chic and looks great as an everyday style. My tip is to experiment with different shades and washes, and perhaps add some bright accessories for contrast and shape to your outfit. 

The mandarin collars are rather short for cheongsam tops {about 1.5cm?} and I would prefer them to be slightly higher at maybe 4-5cm as that's part of what makes cheongsams distinctive, but I guess a lot of ladies who don't usually wear cheongsams prefer these shorter collars as they are more comfortable and less restricting. Higher collars are usually stiffer & can make the neck feel warmer.

But anyway, I don't have many cheongsam tops or dresses with low collars so these are good additions to my collection :)

For Peas and Plums first kids collection for boys and girls aged 4-9 years old, they have a much wider range to choose from. Lucky them!

Lil Pumpkin usually gets dresses for her cheongsam pieces but I was thrilled to find that Peas and Plums sell modern cheongsam-inspired 2-piece sets with shorts and pants options!! Cheongsam sets with pants are so rare, don't you think?!

The FUNKY Light Chambray set has a lightweight chambray cheongsam top with contrast trim and a back button, which Lil Pumpkin can easily unbutton herself, and an elastic-waist chambray jogger pants with rectangular patch deep pockets.

At first I was a tad worried that this set would end up looking like she was wearing PJs but nope, it looks different & fashionable, and I love that she can run, play, catch and craft easily in it without worries of her being, erm, immodest hahaha..

The good thing about 2-piece sets is that you can easily mix-and-match the pieces separately with other tops/ bottoms to get more mileage and value-for-money for the set.

Lil Pumpkin couldn't wait to try on the Peppy Pink Elephant set once she saw it. I guess the sweet pink {her fave colour!} and adorable elephant prints really appealed to her.

[Note: The shorts sets also comes yellow giraffes and blue elephants prints, and they have polka dot cheongsam dresses. Very, very kawaiiiiiii~!]

Made of 100% light Japanese cotton, the cheongsam top has a concealed zip at the back and also comes with elastic-waisted culottes with rectangular patch pockets. Best part is, like everything else in their store, it's all machine-washable. Yup, no need for any time-consuming hand-washing or sending to the cleaners.. just have to pop them in the washing machine for a rinse.. great for us busy mums!

If I have one gripe, it's that with chambray and cotton materials, you need to iron the clothes.... and everyone knows that I hate ironing!! *cringe*

Our cheeky girl said, "Mummy, it's so cute!! Can I wear this out tomorrow??"

Erm no darling, you've to wait until Chinese New Year... believe me, Mummy can't wait to wear her new cheongsam tops too!! hahaha

Lil Pumpkin is wearing size L {kids} for both sets and it fits her just nicely actually.

Peas and Plums are selling their modern cheongsam collection for a limited time only for CNY season so do hurry if you want to get your hands on them!! Use my promo code below for 10% discount all items on their online boutique!

Unfortunately, Peas and Plums currently do not have a physical store for you to try on the clothes before purchase but they have a 14-days exchange policy whereby you can return or switch the items bought for another item or the correct size as long as the tags are intact & the items are not washed/ damaged.

They carry clothes for ladies sized S {UK 8} to L {UK 12} and kids sized S {4-5 years old} to L {8 to 9 years old}. Price range for all items from S$40 to S$60+ only! Free delivery to Singapore addresses for all orders above S$100, and they ship overseas as well.

Check out the full range and more details on Peas and Plums website & Facebook page. Let me know if you're getting something from them, ya?? I'd love to see your pics!

Promo code: Quote "aipeasnplums" for 10% OFF all items in store. Valid until Sat 10 Feb 2018 only.

P.S. Also check out these shops that sell traditional and modern cheongsams all year round. Just updated it yesterday.

*Disclosure: This is a review for Peas and Plums Singapore. All opinions are my own.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Japan 2017 | How to Get a Tattoo at Tokyo Three Tides {スリータイズ タトゥー/ 三巴刺青}

Ok I said that the highlight for our Japan trip last year for the boy was to see the capybaras soaking in an onsen at Saitama Children's Zoo, but I think getting his first traditional Japanese style tattoo at the famous Tokyo Three Tides tattoo shop isn't too far off either.

Traditional Japanese tattoos usually feature Japanese deities and monsters, mythical creatures such as dragons, but also animals e.g. birds, koi fish, tigers etc., and flowers such as sakura, peonies and chrysanthemums. There are specific rules like you can't tattoo Buddha below the waist as it's very disrespectful, or clouds can only be used above the waist as they represent the sky... and there are also certain ways things are drawn, certain colours that are usually used, certain meanings to the different symbols, and how certain motifs are put together e.g. karashishi with peonies. Sounds complicated, but very meaningful.  

It was a tick off his bucket list and to be honest, I'm kinda jealous that he did it without me!! haha.. 

Note: We've gotten tattooed at Cat Claw Kyoto by Ritsu years before, but not in traditional Japanese style. One day, I hope to have a master do a tebori {手彫り, tattooing by hand & not tattoo guns} tattoo for me.

As a foreigner in Japan, it's not often easy getting things done if you don't speak or understand Japanese.

It's better in the city where there often are English signs or people speaking English around to help, but nonetheless Japan still is a country that holds traditions and cultural etiquette in high respect. I'm sharing his experience so that if you're thinking about getting a tattoo in Tokyo Three Tides, or anywhere in Japan in general, you'd know what to expect and do #yourewelcome

Tattoos in Japan are still a complex issue. On one hand, more native Japanese, especially the younger generation, seem more open towards them, yet on the other hand, they are still stigmatised for their association with the Yakuza {Japanese gangs} who pledge their allegiance with full-body markings.

People with visible tattoos are still not allowed in {most?} onsens, public baths or even swimming pools. This applies to both Japanese, and foreigners. You cannot show your tattoos at certain areas like gyms, and definitely not at work in the office. Some jobs don't even accept you if you have a tattoo.

{When I lived in Japan, the only times I went into the onsen was if it was late at night when no other people were around or if it was a private onsen. I didn't have as many obvious tattoos as I do now, but even then I had to cover them up even at the gym and at work.}

Last year, an Osaka court even upheld a ruling that only medical doctors can legally administer tattoos in Japan, meaning tattoo artists are now technically committing a crime every time they work on their art!! Tattooing, along with laser hair removal and chemical peels, is considered medical work since it involves needle piercing the skin. I'm not sure how vigorously the government is tracking this, but it certainly is food for thought.

It's a shame really, as traditional Japanese tattoos are so exquisite and there are many highly skilled and coveted tattoo artists living there, or even originating from there.

Three Tides Tattoo, is world-renowned in the tattoo industry. Their tattoo artists are well-known in Japan and overseas, and mostly specialise in Japanese-style tattoos, if I'm not wrong.

I reckon one of the reasons why they are so sought-after, other than because their distinct design and tattooing skills, is because they are foreigner-friendly {e.g. staff can speak English, located in popular tourist areas, active on social media} so a lot of their clientele are foreigners who help to spread their name to their friends and families overseas and online.

Anyway, they have 2 locations in Osaka and Tokyo. Their Tokyo shop is located in Harajuku, a little off the main Takashita-dori street.

We've been down that street many times and actually I was the one wanted to go in first, because I wanted to buy some socks from them haha #truestory

Their artists also design goods such as bags, T-shirts, towels, socks, enamel pins, figurines etc. for sale and had collaborations with Porter, Puma, Atmos and even Sanrio for Hello Kitty x Three Tides Tattoo mugs!!

Unfortunately, those mugs aren't available for sale anymore boohoo..

We went in and the boy said he wanted to get a tattoo. Whhhhaaat??! I know he's been thinking of getting a new one for a while but didn't think it was going to be on this trip heh. Anyway we talked to the receptionist / tattoo artist at the counter and she checked the schedule. She speaks English but is obviously more comfortable to converse in Japanese so I helped in the translation and luckily for the boy, Ichibay had a few slots open.. yay!!

Hide Ichibay, is according to one of the boy's tattoo artist friends, is apparently "a legend" in the industry by the way haha. See Ichibay's work on Instagram or in this write-up about him.

Ichibay wasn't in though and we couldn't confirm a tattoo slot until the design was discussed with him so we left. That was a Saturday and the next 2 days was spent communicating back and forth via email with Rita about the boy's tattoo design, who in turn related it to Ichibay.

To prevent miscommunication, I drafted the emails for the boy in English and Japanese, and sent photos for reference haha. As the boy and Douglas, would know... I am very, very anal when it comes to the tattoo details because I believe that they are meant to be permanent.

I reckon some people are quite flippant about getting inked because there are a few ways you can remove tattoos nowadays e.g. through lasers, or you can even cover up unwanted tattoos. However, personally I feel that if you are getting a tattoo, you must think through it carefully and choose something meaningful that you can live with for life. Don't get something that you will regret and if you're not 100% satisfied from the beginning, don't get it.

Above is a cost guide from Tokyo Three Tides website that I translated. On Monday, we went back to the shop for the boy to talk personally to Ichibay about the design, confirm the tattoo slot, and to make his deposit of 10,800yen {non-refundable, tax included}.

On Thursday, the boy had his tattoo appointment in the afternoon.

Tokyo Three Tides has 3 floors. The first floor is the reception, merchandise store and has small couch to wait at. It is open to public.

The second floor is the workspace for 3-4 tattoo artists, and the top floor is another workspace which I assume is a tatami room where they do the tebori tattoos, and the rest-room. The second and third floor are only accessible to those with appointments, as space is tight and they want to protect the privacy of the clients too.

Ichibay let me up with the boy, but since it was full house on top and perhaps they were worried Lil Pumpkin might accidentally disturb the artists at work, she had to wait on the couch below... which she was ok to do with a video to entertain herself haha.

I just stayed with the boy at the beginning to help him check the size & position of the tattoo {original art by Ichibay} and watch Ichibay at work for a while, then went down to wait with Lil Pumpkin. Ichibay is a very efficient tattoo artist and even though it was estimated to take around 1-1.5hrs, I think he took only 1hr to complete the tattoo.

Granted, it wasn't a very elaborate tattoo but it was significant to the boy nonetheless. He says that it reminded him of Xixi, one of his clinic pets that passed away some time back.

Tokyo Three Tides tattoo artists charge per hour. Each artist's price would be different and Ichibay's price was 20,000yen per hour {as of Dec 2017}. On top of that, the tattoo studio also charges 4,000yen for used materials and 8% service tax. The exact price, however, will also depend on the design/size that you and the tattoo artist agree on.

When making payment, your deposit {10,800yen} is deducted from the total amount. Do note as well that if you use credit cards, you will have to pay I think 3%? more for merchant fee, so it's best if you pay by cash.

He was mighty pleased with the tattoo and I think it's very well done too, especially in the shading. So happy for hubby!!

  • Advance appointment reservation is preferred, but walk-ins & on-the-day tattoos are accepted if available. Good for tourists!
  • You can choose your preferred tattoo artist and design, obviously. 
  • However, do note that the English ability of the tattoo artists may be limited. If possible, bring someone who speaks Japanese with you when talking to the artist about your design / during your appointment to make sure the artist fully understands your needs and ideas. On the day of the boy's tattoo, there was a foreigner receptionist there that could speak English, but I'm not sure how's her translation skills and if she works there full-time.
  • Confirmation of tattoo slots are only made after tattoo designs are confirmed.
  • When confirming tattoo slots, you need to show identification and pay the deposit {either in-store or via PayPal}.  
  • The deposit is non-refundable, even in cancellation.
  • If you can't make your appointment, you may change it at no extra fee but notification must be given in at least a week in advance.
  • Arriving over 30mins late for the appointment without prior notification will result in cancellation & forfeit of deposit. 
  • You can go back to the shop 1 month later for them to check on your tattoo after it has healed. 
  • If necessary, they will help you to touch up the colours, make alterations etc. for free then.

Tokyo Three Tides {スリータイズ タトゥー/ 三巴刺青}
3-24-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo {東京都渋谷区神宮前3-24-2}
Opening hours: Daily 12noon - 8pm
Tel: +81 03-6455-5908

P.S. I actually started a tattoo blog, Red Shibui, haha some time back as a pet project. Haven't had time to update it but if you want to know some general FAQs about getting a tattoo, pop by to have a look!

Other things to do in Japan:

Useful info for Japan travel:

Friday, January 19, 2018

Japan 2017 | Capybara Onsen @ Saitama Children's Zoo {埼玉県こども動物自然公園のカピバラ温泉}

The highlight of our Japan trip last year for Lil Pumpkin was to Tokyo Disneyland, but for the boy {ok, and for me too haha!} it was definitely to see the kawaii capybaras at Saitama Children's Zoo!!

Standing about 60cm tall at the shoulder, 120cm in length and weighing around 2kg, capabaras are the world's largest rodents... and probably the only ones I find cute haha. The semi-aquatic animals are native to Central and South America and live near ponds, marshes, rivers etc. for food and to keep its dry skin healthy.

Fun Fact: Capybaras are so trainable that in Surinam a blind man once used a capybara as a guide animal.

In Japan, they are arguably the country's favourite animal and became wildly popular in recent years thanks to the cute cartoon character Kapibara-san {カピバラさん} that's known to carry its smaller siblings / friends on its head.

You can find Kapibara-san in most departmental stores and can buy his products ranging from stationary, to lunchboxes, socks, towels, snacks, cups, notebooks etc.

Most importantly though, just like the Japanese, they looooove to soak in the onsen during the cold winter months!! Best if there's yuzu added in so that they leave feeling clean and lemony-fresh!

Early 2017, a "capybara onsen competition" {yes, that's a thing!!} was held to promote the interest and popularity of the capybaras in Japan. The first animal to enter the onsen for the day was timed and the winner, Umi from Nasu Animal Kingdom in Tochigi, actually stayed in the park's onsen for nearly 5 hours!!! 

One fine day, we decided to take a road trip from Tokyo to Saitama Children's Zoo to see the capybaras.

It takes about 1.5hrs via train and bus to get there.. so we literally spent 3hrs on the road just to see the cute animals.

BUT IT WAS WELL WORTH IT, I tell ya!! haha

Even if you're not there to see the capybaras {what's wrong with you..?? haha}, Saitama Children's Zoo is still an amazing zoo to visit and you should definitely make a day's trip there with the family if you can.

Located in Higashimatsuyama, there are over 230 species of animals spread out over a vast, forested hill and there is so much to explore and do.

Don't expect a super modern zoo with high-tech facilities as Saitama Children's Zoo is rather dated. However, the rustic features make it even more charming and it's so nice just to get out of the city and breathe in the crisp, fresh air while admiring the animals at this suburban zoo.

Other than the animal enclosures and petting areas, the gorgeous free space available gives rise to a number of playgrounds, Dinosaur Corner {about 20 "life-size" dinosaur statues}, "mini amusement park" with rides, outdoor waterplay area, and even a Children's Castle {100yen/entry} with a talking tree, indoor play area, library, bar pool, cinema room and slides!

Lil Pumpkin definitely enjoyed her visit there!!

There are also mini kiosks selling chicken karaage and crepes dotted around the zoo for a quick snack, and quaint Japanese restaurants selling food like udon, soba, fried rice, omu-rice etc. to satsify hungry tummies that need more filling meals.

We had katsu-don and curry katsu rice which were both pretty good.

One thing I really love about Saitama Children's Zoo is how close to nature we were.

Even though it was the beginning of winter, the autumn leaves were still in full force there and it was just gorgeous walking underneath all the fall foliage!

I wish we were better prepared for momiji-gari {紅葉狩り, autumn leaves viewing}... mmmm, perhaps should have brought a mat or some snacks for a picnic??!

Anyway, back to the capybaras.

Saitama Children's Zoo has seasonal attractions and lucky for us while we were there, it was time for their Annual Capybara Onsen that's held every day from 18 Nov 2017 to 31 Mar 2018, 2.30pm - 4pm!! Too cute!!

You feel happy just watching them waddle in and soak to their heart's content but if you want, you can also get up close and personal with them. For 500 yen, you can soak your feet with them in the onsen for 15 mins and also walk away with a limited edition towel & certificate as memorabilia for your unique experience! It takes place 2.30pm - 3.30pm {tickets start selling from 2.15pm} to the first 12 pax only and is not available on rainy days.

The capybara enclosure is pretty easy to find...

Just about 10 mins walk from the main entrance {refer to the map above, and see a bigger Saitama Children's Zoo map here} past the park water fountain feature and up a small slope on the left.

The whole zoo is pram-friendly and there's a zoo train {200yen/ ride or 300yen/day I think} that goes around but I reckon it's really nice to trek around the whole park, especially when the weather was as cool as that day as you can go through the boardwalks in the forest that takes you amongst the trees.

Ahhh... I wish I could just chillax like these capybaras now...

Saitama Children's Zoo {埼玉県こども動物自然公園}
554 Iwadono, Higashimatsuyama, Saitama Prefecture {埼玉県東松山市岩殿554}
Opening hours: 9.30am - 5pm {last entry at 4pm}, 9.30am - 4.30pm {last entry at 3.30pm} for 15 Nov - 10 Feb
Closed on Mondays {except PHs} and 29 Dec - 1 Jan for New Year holidays
Entrance fee:  510 yen {adult}, 210 yen {child}
Tel: +81 0493 35 1234

Other things to do in Japan:

Useful info for Japan travel: