Friday, July 13, 2018

Singapore National Climbing Standards {SNCS} Level 1 Certificate Course Experience

I had my first taste of rock-climbing back in University while the boy and I were studying in Australia. That was about 15 years ago?? Wow.

Back then, one of our friends, Felix, found a nice indoor rock-climbing place at Northbridge and introduced the sport to us. Sometimes we went as a group, other times the boy and I went just as a couple thing. We both found it fun and went pretty regularly. The boy was so into it that he soon bought his own shoes, harness, chalk bag etc haha...

At that rock-climbing gym, we didn't need to have any certification to help belay one another - just had to learn how to do it with the easy-to-use safety set-ups, much like the ones you see in Climb Central.

However, when we came back to Singapore, we realised that in most rock-climbing gyms, you need to have at least Singapore National Climbing Standards {SNCS} Level 1 Certificate to belay and climb. Especially if you want to climb outdoors.

Since we didn't do it regularly anymore, and also since the boy injured his shoulders which meant that he doesn't do it at all for now, we made do with just going to those gyms like Climb Central or Clip 'N Climb where there was auto-belay walls where Lil Pumpkin & I could climb on our own, and set-ups where I could help Lil Pumpkin belay even if I didn't have the SNCS L1 Cert.

よーし!I get an immense sense of satisfaction from overcoming the challenges of scaling the tall walls ( ᐛ )و

It's not just challenging physically, but also mentally as well as you need the mental endurance to not give up even when you're tired and stuck, and mental alertness to problem-solve and plan your best route to get to the top.

As a sport, it also promotes muscular strength and aerobic endurance too so it complements my gym training as well. Superman says it's a good activity for me to burn more calories and if I do it more often, my grip strength will definitely get better haha..

Last month, I finally got off my arse and went for the SNCS L1 Certificate course so that I could belay and climb more independently in more of the local rock-climbing gyms with some other friends who are interested in rock-climbing as well °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°

Here's what to expect in case you're interested in doing it yourself...

SNCS Level 1 is a beginner’s introduction to climbing. No prior climbing experience is required, but it is of course good to have climbed before so that you have a better understanding of what the instructor's are saying.

This is a top-rope certification course {7hrs full day session with 1 lunch break, or 2 x 3.5hrs half-day sessions}. It will introduce you to the basics of the sport - such as equipment, checking procedures, and climbing calls, but the main objective is to teach you how to:
  1. safely use a harness, rope and belay device,
  2. tie a figure-of-8 knot, and 
  3. belay a climber using the 5-step belay technique
As you can see from the syllabus, the course will go through 7 sections of basic climbing where participants will learn:
  1. what sport-climbing {top-rope and bouldering} is,
  2. the correct usage, proper care & limitations of climbing safety equipment,
  3. basic climbing safety knots,
  4. how to safely belay a climber using the 5-step belay technique, 
  5. basic climbing techniques,
  6. practical top-rope climbing, and
  7. final assessment and course review
Note: You need to be 13 years or older to take the course, so unfortunately Lil Pumpkin couldn't do it with me now. She'll have to wait a few more years, and participants under 21 must have a guardian of over 21 to sign on their behalf.

The SNCS Level 1 Certificate Course is standardised and conducted by most of the popular rock-climbing gyms in Singapore e.g. Kinetics, Onsight Climbing, Gorilla Gym, The Rock School etc. by Singapore Mountaineering Federation certified instructors. You can go over to their websites to have a look at their course schedules but they are usually conducted every month over the weekends.

The course costs about S$65-75 and is usually cheaper if you are a gym member.

If you pass the course, you would be issued with the life-long SNCS Sport Climbing Level 1 certificate {card-sized}, accredited by the Singapore Mountaineering Federation.

There's no need for any renewal and after that, you can go on to take the Level 2 {learn how to lead climb and lead belay} and Level 3 {learn techniques of climbing bolted multi-pitch routes safely}.

But that's not the end though...

Some gyms also require you to be further verified to use their premises even if you do have a SNCS Level 1 certificate. Maybe they don't trust it?? haha..

During the SNCS Level 1 course, you will learn how to belay using an ATC {Air Traffic Controller} belay device. However, if you wish to belay using a belay device attached to your harness and climb at Ground Up, Climb Central & Onsight Climbing premises, you need to know how to belay using an ABD {Assisted Breaking Device} belay device as they only allow those belay devices there.

Sooooo... if you wish to climb at those 3 popular gyms, you will need to be ABD verified after you receive your SNCS Level 1 cert. This requires further assessment and costs S$10/pax. After passing verification, you will receive a Verification tag that is recognised at Ground Up, Climb Central & Onsight Climbing as the test requirements are the same.

In Gorilla Gym, you can use either an ATC or ABD belay device, but you still need to be verified that you have the skills and competency to climb & belay and pass to be issued the Verification tag. The verification assessment is free and can be done on-the-spot though.

If you pay attention to what's taught during the course day, it should be easy to pass (*^▽^)/

I won't say exactly where I took my SNCS Level 1 course as I reckon it could have been conducted better so won't recommend it to others. Although the instructors were friendly and we had adequate practice time, instructions on how to tie the figure-of-8 knot was a little sketchy and they didn't touch on different types of climbing and basic climbing techniques.

I mean, I already kinda knew how to rock-climb {albeit inefficiently?? haha} and had also tried bouldering before, but there were people in my class who had no rock-climbing experience. Since it's in the syllabus {but not tested}, would have been good to have been taught about the effective use of handholds & footholds, and perhaps tips on how to overcome different wall configurations.

Also, although the cost of the course was supposed to cover equipment rental cost, we were only loaned the harness and belay devices and we didn't get to climb with proper climbing shoes - just our own covered shoes. I think courses conducted at other gyms let you use their harnesses, belay devices and climbing shoes. 

I would have also liked if they touched on where you can find rock-climbing equipment, what brands they personally like, how to choose your equipment, and introduce community groups on how we can meet other like-minded and experienced climbers. Would have been good to share to beginner climbers like myself, no?

I did ask, but their answers were too general and inadequate. I didn't want to probe further due to lack of time and perhaps they didn't want to "sell" anything or show favoritism to any shops?

Anyway, I joined some online community groups who were eager to spread their knowledge, and I did a fair bit of research on what I should get, and where I should get them.

Will share more in my next rock-climbing post so stay tuned!! ( ◞・౪・)

P.S. If you're interested, check out my experience taking the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course in Singapore too!! Yes, I passed that!! hehehe...

One-on-On Personal Training Updates:

Genesis Gym Personal Training Updates:
The Beginning - Signing Up for Personal Training

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Japanese Beef Curry {ビーフカレー} with Supersoft Tortilla Wraps

It's been pretty cold and wet lately, and the weatherman says that we can expect even more rainy days ahead these few weeks.

The rainy weather certainly makes us want to cuddle under our covers and crave for comfort food that can warm our tummies and souls. Food like the wholesome Japanese Beef Curry that I made over the weekend and served with the new Mission Supersoft Original Wraps.

Kinda like Indian curry and prata??! hehe..

Actually I wanted to serve it over lettuce in tortilla bowls that were baked crispy, but then the wraps taste sooooo good even on it's own! The new Supersoft formula makes the wraps softer, more flexible and more buttery-flavoured so I figured it's best to just eat it just slightly toasted on its own.

The new Supersoft Original Wraps is an upgraded version of the Original Wrap that we all love. It's made from wheat and one piece has about 138 calories & 4g of protein. Not too bad if you're on a low-carb nutritional plan like me.

For one meal, I'd usually take 2 pieces while Lil Pumpkin eats 1-1.5 pieces, depending on what I make it with. One pack comes with 8 pieces.

There are other flavours in the Mission wraps range - 6-Grain, Wholegrain, Onion & Chives, Garlic and Potato.. but they haven't been "upgraded" to the Supersoft formula yet. Soon, I reckon.

Japanese curry if one of our family's all-time favourite and even Lil Pumpkin loves to eat it! She can kinda take medium-hot spicy level, but I usually choose mild spicy {which is practically non-spicy for us haha} for her. We eat it with rice, udon noodles or wraps like this.

It is also super easy and quick for me to make because I just use store-bought curry sauce mix {usually from S&B Foods range} and throw in lots of meat and vegetables in one wok. 

Prep time:
40 mins

S&B Mild Tasty Curry Sauce Mix {とろけるカレー、甘口}, 200g
8 pieces Mission Supersoft Original Wraps 8"
Cooking oil, 1.5 tsp
400g beef {cubed or sliced}
1 medium onion {sliced}
3 medium carrots {chopped chunky}
3 celery sticks {chopped}
1 medium tomato {chopped chunky}
1 konnyaku {こんにゃく, sliced chunky} block, 250g
Water, 6 cups

  1. Cut your meat, konnyaku and vegetables.
  2. Heat oil in large non-stick wok.
  3. Stir-fry meat and onions in wok until the onions are lightly browned {about 3-5 mins}.
  4. Add in the carrots, celery and konnyaku.
  5. Add water and bring to boil. 
  6. Lower heat, cover and simmer until meat is tender {about 10 mins}.
  7. Break the Curry Sauce Mix blocks into pieces and add them in.
  8. Stir until completely melted and curry consistency is thick and smooth.
  9. Add in tomato chunks, cover and switch off fire. Let it sit while you prepare the wraps.
  10. Warm the wraps in the microwave for 20s. You can also warm them in a dry {no oil} pan over medium heat for 30s. 
  11. Cut wraps into triangles, if you like.
  12. Serve hot immediately.
Feel free to use other types of curry sauce mix. There's about 5-6 in the market now and can be easily found in the Japanese section of major supermarkets, and even Daiso.

Lots of people like to add white potatoes to their Japanese curry too but since it's higher calories, I leave them out or switch to just sweet potato or pumpkin for extra sweetness sometimes. Japanese curry goes well with melted cheese topping *drools* and hard-boiled eggs too (/^▽^)/

Yup, Lil Pumpkin can finish that whole bowl of Japanese curry all by herself!!

It's always a joy watching Lil Pumpkin eat the food I cook. Even if it's not the yummiest or prettiest, my sweet child would still grin and compliment me on my cooking... makes me feel like I'm the best darn chef ever hehe ( ᐛ )و

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Home Living | Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute Plus Vacuum Cleaner Review

In the world of household appliances, there's a new superstar - the Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute Plus Cordless Vacuum Cleaner. It is Dyson's latest powerful stick vacuum.

I'm sure you've seen the ads everywhere on social media, TV and print. Or maybe it's just me? But it seems that everywhere I look, the Dyson Cyclone V10 vacuum cleaner seems to be calling out to me, shouting out how absolutely fabulous and powerful it is as a vacuum cleaner.

If the Dyson Cyclone V10 was a celebrity, I think it'd be a Joseph Schooling haha.. he seems to be everywhere nowadays too since he's the newest Hugo Boss & Milo ambassador, signed a 3-year partnership with DBS in April and just last month, was also named ambassador of One Championship {Asian MMA promoter} so has been going around on a series of community activities and social media engagements as part of their campaigns. Oh, and this week he just opened his own swimming school!!

A post shared by アイ・サクラ  (@aisakuraharuka) on
Anyway, I was getting all hyped up over the Dyson Cyclone V10 because it seems like my dream vacuum cleaner as one machine for the whole home!

I've mentioned a few times, vacuuming is my fave household chore.

Some people like doing dishes, some like folding laundry but me.. I really don't mind vacuuming all day long!! :P There's something about the droning sound and watching all the dirt get sucked up that makes it very therapeutic to me. Even after a hard day's work, it is the first cleaning task I'm willing to tackle because it actually helps me to relax.

So imagine my delight when I received Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute Plus Cordless Vacuum Cleaner for Mother's Day this year!! Hurray!!

As you can see in my unboxing video with Lil Pumpkin, Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute Plus comes with
  • 1 x stick vacuum unit
  • 2 x cleaner heads {soft roller & direct-drive}
  • 1 x combination tool {brush & suction}
  • 1 x crevice tool {for precise cleaning around edges & narrow gaps}
  • 1 x mini motorised tool {tackles hair & ground in dirt in tight spaces}
  • 1 x mini soft dusting brush {has soft nylon bristles to clean delicate surfaces & fabrics}
  • 1 x flexi crevice tool {extends & bends for hard-to-reach places}
  • 1 x extension hose {combines with other tools for longer reach}
  • 1x tool bag
So many useful tools! With the push of a few "quick release" red buttons, you can easily snap on and reconfigure the stick vacuum with the different tools. There is a 2-years warranty for the product.

I've had cordless vacuum cleaners {stick & handheld} before and they are certainly very easy to use compared to traditional corded vacuum cleaners that tend to be bulkier and heavier.

Without a cord dragging behind it, cordless vacuum cleaners can be used just about anywhere and doesn't get tangled with any furniture or toy behind! It's definitely less heavy and cumbersome, and I don't need to go searching for a power point all the time which makes it unbelievably easy and fast to go from room to room.

They are also a space saver when it comes to storage. 

Trust me when I say that once you've had a cordless vacuum cleaner, you NEVER want to use a corded vacuum cleaner ever again.

The Dyson V10 is more than just a typical cordless vacuum cleaner though.

Yes, there is no doubt that is is light {2.6kg} and compact enough to be easily maneuvered and stored, but it is also really, really powerful unlike a typical cordless vacuum cleaner.

Note: Actual comments from my friends when I posted some pics of me using the vacuum. They love it too! haha

One common complaint that some people have for cordless vacuum cleaners is that it lacks the suction power of corded vacuum cleaners and runs out of charge pretty quickly.

I find not so for the Dyson Cyclone V10 though, as especially at the upper settings {there are 3 modes}, it can clean very thoroughly thanks to its latest motor which Dyson claims is the smallest, lightest, yet strongest that they have ever produced.

It also has a 7-cell, energy dense battery to run at higher voltage and create more power. At its lowest mode {which is still pretty strong}, battery life is about 1 hour and that's more than enough time I want to spend vacuuming at a go (✌゚∀゚)☞

An interesting feature is that it uses a "trigger system" to switch on/off i.e. you'd need to hold down the power button continuously with your index & middle fingers whenever in use. Your fingers might cramp / get tired after a while, but at least it preserves the battery life and ensures that you're not wasting its energy when not in use.

You can read all about Dyson V10's technology here but all in all, it can generate powerful suction and capture really small particles like our gym chalk powder or even bigger gravel pebbles easily.

It is even more powerful than the previous model, Dyson V8 as there has been an upgrade in terms of design.

It still uses Dyson's patented cyclone cleaning system for powerful suction, but now the motor, dust canister and cyclone are streamlined, so air is drawn into the cyclones in a straight line – creating 20% more suction power than the Dyson V8 vacuum cleaner, which had its cyclones & canister perpendicular to the extension wand and cleaner head {like a "T-shape"}.

What makes it seem even more powerful in sucking up dirt are the motorised cleaner heads too I reckon.

The Dyson V10 Absolute Plus comes with 2 cleaner heads with a motor located inside the brush bars for extra power! The soft roller cleaner head for hard floors is covered in soft woven nylon to capture large debris, while anti-static carbon fibre filaments simultaneously remove fine dust.

I used it on our floors to clean up cereal, rice, protein powder etc. and it did and excellent job of cleaning everything up nicely. And yes, it is light enough for me to clean and vacuum our walls too.. I love this function and no, it's not that crazy to want to vacuum your walls. I mean, don't you get cobwebs and dust patches on them too?? You can really deep-clean anywhere with Dyson V10.

We don't use carpets at home but if you do, the direct-drive cleaner head works better as it has stiff nylon bristles to dig deep, spin and help remove ground-in dirt and debris. The boy likes to use this cleaner on our home gym mats though as it is porous and traps our chalk powder and dirt easy.

These cleaning heads are interchangeable and with the push of a single button you can easily snap the alternate cleaning head in.

There are a few other features that attracted me to the Dyson Cyclone V10.

For one, it can easily convert into a powerful handheld vacuum cleaner in just one click, something which my previous cordless vacuum cleaner could not do so before the Dyson Cyclone V10, we actually had a stick vacuum cleaner and a separate handheld vacuum cleaner at home.

This was appealing to me because for the price of one machine, I basically get TWO which is such a sweet deal! Also, it saves me the space of storing two machines too.

You can attach the various tools directly to the handheld vacuum cleaner too to reach every nook and cranny at home or even the car. 

Lil Pumpkin likes to use the handheld more and I love that she enjoys using it to clean up her own toy and study areas haha... #lessworkformummy ( ᐛ )و

Another thing is, the dust canister capacity is also pretty large.

It is actually 40% bigger than the previous Dyson V8 vacuum {0.77L compared to 0.54L}, which means less stopping to empty the canister and you can clean more of your home or car in one go.

The long, slim canister has a 'point and shoot' mechanism.

It hygienically ejects all the dust and debris deep into the canister, in one action – so there's no need to touch the dirt... which suits me fine because even though I like to suck up all the dirt in a vacuum, I hate to actually empty it because I don't like to touch the gunk inside o(≧∇≦o)

If there's anything that I find annoying, it's that the stick vacuum cleaner is not self-standing because it is top-heavy.

It does come with a wall-mounted dock to hold the vacuum and tools, but you need to screw it into the wall, and I don't particularly like to create holes in our walls unless absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you need to just lay it on the floor or rest it against the wall. There's a rubber strip on the underside of the dust canister handle so you don't have to worry about it slipping down though.

Oh, another thing is that although it claims to be "acoustically engineered" to reduce noisy turbulence and volume, the Dyson V10 vacuum cleaner is loud. Nothing like the Dyson bladeless fans.

It's music to your ears if you want to hear how powerful it is, but you do not want to use it if the baby is sleeping hehe

Overall, I think having a trustworthy and powerful vacuum cleaner is essential for any household. If you live in a place full of toys, books, furniture, clothes... basically things which make a house a home, and space is a premium, then surely you need a compact & cordless vacuum cleaner.

And if you are getting a compact & cordless vacuum cleaner, then the Dyson Cyclone V10 is the way to go. It is not cheap {prices start from S$899, buy on Dyson Singapore website with free shipping}, but you are paying for quality from a trusted international brand, and it will definitely give you a bang for your buck plus make you feel good about cleaning the house.

Tested, confirm, guarantee plus chop by the boy, Lil Pumpkin and me (*^▽^*)

P.S. Giving away TWO of these Science Made Easy with Doodles Pictorial Guidebook! A perfect Science study companion for P3 - P6 students, or even for younger children if you'd like to introduce Science concepts to them... so pop by to take part if interested. Ends tomorrow, Fri 29 Jun 2018.

* Disclosure: This is a review for Dyson Singapore. All opinions are my own.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Science Made Easy with Doodles Primary School Pictorial Guidebook + GIVEAWAY

It's easy to tell when Lil Pumpkin likes a book because she will go read it all by herself again, and again, and again... without any prompting by me. Like this Science Made Easy with Doodles book that's co-authored by local writers, Aurelia Tan and Dr. Koh Siak Meng.

It's not even a fictional storybook, but actually a unique pictorial companion guide to the current MOE Science syllabus that extrapolates all the important core concepts and condenses them into colourful & cute little drawings that make it easy for young students, like Lil Pumpkin, to understand.

Lil Pumpkin is a visual learner and has always been interested in arts and doodles, so this was exactly what she needed to introduce her to the key scientific facts, concepts and principles that she is/ will be learning in school, and help her to remember them better.

Wordy textbooks with little or no pictures just doesn't cut it for her at the moment (ી(΄◞ิ౪◟ิ‵)ʃ)

“Science Made Easy with Doodles” is a complete set of 18 doodles, for the nine Lower Primary and nine Upper Primary Science units in the Ministry of Education {MOE} Science curriculum. It covers Diversity, Cycles, Systems, Interactions & Energy in both Lower Block {P3 & P4) and Upper Block {P5 & P6}.

The book itself is A4-sized and wire-bound. Every page is fully colour-printed on a hardy artcard and laminated, so we don't have to worry about the pages getting crumpled or tearing if water is accidentally spilled on it.

It happened before though, as since it's so light and provides a quick and easy revision of Science topics, we like to bring the book out for Lil Pumpkin to read while waiting, and she accidentally knocked a cup of water over it during dinner. We quickly wiped it dry with tissue and there wasn't any damage or need to dry it much further. 

Here are some examples of the cute doodles, which Lil Pumpkin likes to copy out sometimes and that's good I reckon because it helps her to remember better haha.

Each page highlights and summarises key teaching points of 1 unit. Just the fundamental information, nothing too in-depth or confusing. I love that all the abstract science concepts in this new school subject are broken down step-by-step, and presented clearly & succinctly for Lil Pumpkin.

Actually, I heard that quite a number of schools have also used the illustrations found in the book as learning walls for the students!!

If you're interested, "Science Made Easy with Doodles" book costs S$32 and is sold online here and in Junior Page bookstore at Alexandra Retail Centre {ARC} & KK Hospital. Check out Harvest Edutainment website for more information on the A2-sized wall posters and customised wallpaper that are available too.

For my own special friends & blog readers, I've TWO Science Made Easy with Doodles Pictorial Guidebook {worth S$32} to give away!! A perfect Science study companion for P3 - P6 students, or even for younger children if you'd like to introduce Science concepts to them.

Giveaway Method: Random Draw

1. Be a Sakura Haruka Facebook page fan

2. Subscribe to my upcoming newsletter. Make sure the email add you used to subscribe is working as I'll be using that to contact the winner. Remember to confirm the subscription and check your junk folder in case the confirmation email goes there.

3. Like & Share this Facebook photo and tag 3 friends. Make sure your post is public!

4. Leave me a blog comment telling me your best Science tip + FB name you used to like the page + name you used to subscribe to the newsletter. For those unsure of how to comment, choose "Name/URL" option then add your name and comment.

Bonus entry:
1. Follow @AiSakuraHaruka on Instagram
2. Repost this photo on IG & tag @AiSakuraHaruka #ASHxScienceDoodlesGiveaway + your FB name + 3 friends. Make sure your post is public!

TWO random winners will be chosen. Just complete all 4 simple steps + bonus entry {if you like}!

UPDATE: The giveaway has ended. The winner is Petrina Pang & Katherine Ke. Stay tuned for more blog giveaways on Sakura Haruka! Check out my current readers promos too. Thanks for your support!

* Open to Singapore residents only.
* Ends Friday, 29 Jun 2018 2359hrs {Singapore time} 
* Incomplete or inappropriate entries will be deemed invalid and will not be included.
* Winners will be announced by Tuesday 3 July 2018 on this blog post and notified via email with further instructions on how to collect prize. Winners have 2 days to reply, or the prize will be redrawn.
For more of Lil Pumpkin's Primary School journey:

For tips on P1 preparation:

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