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Monday, August 18, 2014

Playing Dress up with Zalora

I don't know about you, but I decided that it was only appropriate that I spend at least some time during this National Day weekend indulging in one of our national pastimes: SHOPPING. However, with two tikes and a husband who is extremely crowd adverse, I've increasingly taken my shopping online instead of heading to the shopping mall. And why not, when you can find a plethora of options available, sometimes at lower prices than you would find in stores?

Admittedly, some things can be easier to buy online than others. Books, stationery and clothing for the kids top my list of buys. I've also bought household items, food products, and toys, to name a few. But what I do find a bit more tricky to buy are clothes for myself. The fit and the cut of each piece and how it looks on you can be a bit hard to predict on t he basis of measurements and pictures. To be honest, there've been hits and misses. And when something doesn't fit,  I'm sometimes left with trying to give or sell it away since returning an item to an overseas seller is not always a simple (or cheap) proposition.

So I was very interested when my sister-in-law first told me about Zalora and their amazing return policy.

I'm sure you've heard of Zalora, the multi-brand online fashion retailer of apparel, accessories, shoes and beauty products for men and women. But did you know that they have a 30-day free returns policy? If you are not 100% satisfied with your purchase, as long as the item is unused, with tags and in the same condition as it was received, you can return it for a full refund within 30 days of receipt. Just pack the item with the returns slip and drop it off at any SingPost counter or SingPost POPStation. That's it! You get your confirmation at the counter and a refund processed shortly after. 

This easy process has effectively given me a dressing room in the comfort of my own home. I've ordered items I wasn't so sure of to try, and returned the ones I wasn't so fond of while retaining the ones I liked. When I wasn't sure which size to take for a dress once, I ordered two sizes, tried them both on, and then returned the one that didn't fit as well. It has been very convenient with minimal risk.

This is on top of the fact that there is free courier delivery when you purchase above $40 worth of items, and in my experience, delivery has always been quick. When I've had to contact customer service, once because of a faulty zipper on a dress, my issues were taken care of promptly with minimal fuss. I've been shopping at Zalora since the start of the year and it's honestly been a rather pleasant experience thus far. 

So much so that I've been browsing through again their website again recently in a bid to update my everyday look. Being a SAHM to two kids and being on the go in and out of the house quite a bit, T-shirts and shorts are my standard daily uniform. But I've been recently trying to snap out of my usual sloppy auntie look and I've been eyeing some casual dresses instead -- stuff that would take me smoothly from home to school-runs, and which is still presentable enough for coffee and playdates with friends.

Here are some of my picks from their range of pretty fashion dresses:

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From L-R: Ezra by Zalora Colourblocked Fit and Flare Dress ($34.90); Mango Stitched Shoulder Dress ($29 on sale); Mango Belted Printed Dress ($29 on sale); Mango Paisley Print Dress ($69) 

I've also got my eye on some maxi dress which I would like to add to my wardrobe. There's something about a long dress that instantly adds a touch of glamour to a look, which I believe will go a long way in making me look less dowdy.

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 From L-R: Ministry of Retail Summer Love Dress ($45.90); New Look Strappy Aztec Print Maxi Dress ($59.90) Glitter Glam Maxi Dress ($29); Something Borrowed Lace Pleated Maxi Dress ($22.90)

I'm inspired, and I hope you are too! Happy shopping!

* This post is sponsored by Zalora. I've been a customer of Zalora for some time and all opinions herein are my own.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cavalia: A Breathtaking Magical Encounter

There was a tingle in the air as we made our way toward the white spires next to Marina Bay Sands to catch Cavalia on opening night. And well there should, for this is a show that is unlike any other.

Cavalia  Magical Encounter

It isn't everyday that you get to see horses in the middle of the business district, but that's what you get at Cavalia -- and more. Expect to see exciting acrobatic stunts, some amazing riding, beautiful dream-like sequences, and at the heart of it all, a showcase of that bond between humans and horses.

I went to the show expecting it to be good, but I was honestly quite blown away by the whole experience. It was action from the get go, as the performers thrilled with acts of agility and strength. With a live band supporting them from behind the scenes, there was a raw energy pulsating through that had me clapping and bouncing in my seat. Good as the performers were, the real stars of the show were undoubtedly the horses, and when they first made their appearance, an audible gasp rippled through the audience.

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Having met the horses, I can say that they are truly majestic, both on stage and off it. It was quite a sight to see them cantering around the stage, sometimes freely! The beauty of Cavalia however, really shines through that intimate relationship that the horses have with their riders and handlers. I thought this was particularly evident in three acts.

The first was the highly entertaining and thrilling Trick Riding acts. My favourite was the Roman Riding segment, where riders stood astride a pair of horses, rode them and even jumped while standing. Something you probably don't know about me is that I used to ride when in my youth. My parents unbelievably signed my sister and I up for several terms of riding lessons and those were, hands down, the coolest classes they've ever signed us up for. That also means that I have just about enough riding knowledge to know that what the riders like Fairland Ferguson attempt here is truly difficult! My heart was definitely in my mouth at certain points! It takes a great amount of trust and understanding between the horse and the rider to be able to pull it off, especially when additional teams are added. And my, did they pull it off flawlessly.

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The traditional art of Dressage is another such act. Dressage is very delicate -- horse ballet, they call it. It actually takes both horse and rider a significant amount of time working together to make it look effortless! I marvelled as we watched the horse here dance lightly on his toes, moving to the music, responding to just the smallest of cues from the rider. While not as arresting as trick riding, it again takes the horse and rider to truly know each other to move in sync.

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Finally the act that I felt really exemplified the essence of Cavalia was watching Keith Dupont talk his horses into running in unison, changing direction and even executing synchronised pirouettes with just his voice. The horse whisperer, he was. It wasn't high key but it was incredible to watch. 

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The fact that the show was such a stunning visual treat was also because of the amazing set. Featuring a single 50-metre wide stage, with a 60-metre wide screen behind it, the horses are given the space to move and run against an ever-changing digital backdrop. This, together with creative lighting and special effects, draws the audience into the action and into another world. At one point, a water screen forms on which images are projected in tandem with the performances. Even more amazingly, 120,000 litres of water are also pumped in towards the end of the show to create a lake, which the horses thunder through.

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Guess it was no wonder that when the show was brought to a close, the audience were brought to their feet spontaneously. Cavalia really is spectacular. We LOVED it. Do yourselves a favour and don't miss it!

Cavalia Ticketing and Show Information

Season: 12 August to 14 September 2014
Venue: Under the White Theatre Tent at Bayfront Avenue beside Marina Bay Sands
Performance Times: Tuesday to Friday 7.30pm; Saturday 2pm & 7.30pm; Sunday 12pm & 5.30pm (No shows on 13, 19 and 26 August)
Ticket Prices: VIP: $308, $288, $248, $208; Standard: $188, $148, $98, $88, $58. 
Booking Through Internet: www.cavalia.sg or Sistic
Booking By Phone: +65 31586735 (Cavalia) or +65 6688 8826 (Sistic)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cavalia: Meeting the Equine Stars of the Show

If you've been around the Marina Bay area in the last couple of weeks, you would have noticed an addition in the foreground of our city skyline.

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Standing tall and proud in the heart of our financial district are tall white fairytale spires, housing the stage, setting and stables for the innovative equestrian theatrical spectacular -- Cavalia, which opened yesterday, 12 August 2014. Created by Normand Latourelle, one of the co-founders of the world-renown Cirque du Soleil, Cavalia brings together 50 horses and 46 riders, aerialists, acrobats, dancers and musicians to put on a lavish show of fantasy and fun that showcases and celebrates the relationship between humans and horses. It is this focus that make Cavalia truly one-of-a-kind.

I had the opportunity to go meet the horses and their riders last week and I can tell you everyone there that morning were extremely taken by these beautiful creatures. (I mean the horses, of course, though the riders didn't look too bad themselves!) With their glossy manes and fine form, these were some of the most good-looking and well-cared for horses I've ever encountered.

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And the bond between horse and human? It was immediately apparent in the interactions between them as we walked through the stables.

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A total of 50 horses were flown comfortably over 11,000km on board a 747 aircraft specially equipped with air stalls and settled into their 1,500 square metre stable on site. There they each have a designated box with lots of space to stretch, lie down, sprawl out, roll or relax. An interesting fact I learnt was that the horses' stalls are always lined up in the same order so that they will always have the same neighbours wherever they travel to in the world, to give them that sense of familiarity even with changes in environment.

The genuine love of the riders/trainers underscores Cavalia's training philosophy, which is rooted in patience, trust and deep-seated respect. I was told that while the horses enjoy being on stage, where they perform a choreographed routine, they are also given the latitude to express themselves. Of course, this means that there are times when things do not go according to plan! But that's just how it is when performing with animals. The riders/trainers will prompt, encourage, and maybe offer a treat or two, but if the horse does not feel like doing something, it will not be forced to do so.

At Cavalia, the horses are family. And that's what makes the difference.

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After having met the horses, I couldn't wait to catch the show. I was not disappointed -- it was truly SPECTACULAR! 

More on that coming up in my next post!

Cavalia Ticketing and Show Information

Season: 12 August to 14 September 2014
Venue: Under the White Theatre Tent at Bayfront Avenue beside Marina Bay Sands
Performance Times: Tuesday to Friday 7.30pm; Saturday 2pm & 7.30pm; Sunday 12pm & 5.30pm (No shows on 13, 19 and 26 August)
Ticket Prices: VIP: $308, $288, $248, $208; Standard: $188, $148, $98, $88, $58. 
Booking Through Internet: www.cavalia.sg or Sistic
Booking By Phone: +65 31586735 (Cavalia) or +65 6688 8826 (Sistic)

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Getting Into the Frame at Alive Museum Singapore

Here's something you might not know about my kids: they actually don't really like taking photographs.

What, did I fool you with those photos of their gorgeous smiles? Despite the fact that their mummy blogs and their daddy loves cameras and photography, the truth is, for every great picture where they are (1) in focus and (2) actually looking at the camera (obviously my standard of what makes a great picture is not very high), I have tons of NG shots of blurry children facing me but with their eyes focused somewhere else. If there was a sound reel, you'd hear me going "stand here for just ONE SECOND, please", and "stop jumping!" and "face mummy!" and "eyes here!" very very often.

Noey is a bigger culprit of this than Mei, who is generally more obliging. But when plans were made for us to go to Alive Museum Singapore for a night out, I knew that the tables were about to be turned. And I was right. Ok, I still had to use "face mummy!" and "eyes here!", but more often than not, they were the ones calling after me, posing without being asked, and smiling for the camera. Nice.

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Alive Museum Singapore is the biggest 3D illusionary museum in Singapore, with over 80 exhibits that you can touch and feel, and best of all, be a part of by jumping into the frame. Most of this is achieved through the use of special painting techniques, where such trick art fool the eyes and stimulate your mind, warping reality. 

We got a taste of playing with trick art when we encountered some at Westgate during the June holidays. After seeing all the fun the kids had with the giant teacup, I figured they were really going to enjoy being part of the picture. Still they totally surprised me by really getting in the act! Noey in particular was really keen and came up with a lot of his own poses, which I found very rather amusing! 

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One of the unique features of Alive Museum Singapore is the fact that there are a number of locally themed pieces, incorporating scenes and landmarks of Singapore. Alive Museum Singapore is also currently involved in the Singapore 50 project, engaging local communities to create artworks that define the essence of Singapore. 20 artworks will be created and showcased together with the regular exhibits by year-end, bringing the total number of exhibits to 100.

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I must admit the kids weren't the only ones to get into the action - us parents had a lot of fun doing so too.

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It is best to bring with you a healthy sense of humour and be prepared to really get in the act for some photo fun. That's all you really need since you don't need any special equipment. Good pictures can be taken with just your mobile phone. There are pictures on the wall demonstrating the various poses to help you along, and photo point arrows on the ground to show you the best angle. Aside from that however, it is really up to you to make your pictures memorable by coming up with your own poses.

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Definitely fun for the whole family! Thanks Alive Museum Singapore for an entertaining evening and some pretty memorable pictures that I foresee us laughing over in years to come!

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Alive Museum Singapore is located at Suntec City Mall #03-372 (between Towers 3 and 4). Tickets are priced at $25 (adults) and $20 (children between 3-12 years). Operating hours are between 10am to 10pm daily, with last admission at 9pm. Book your tickets online and save 20% on ticket prices with the use of the code "ALIVEOPEN"! Visit www.alivemuseum.sg for more information. 

Current promotion: Like Alive Museum on Facebook and get a free meal at Burger King Suntec just next door, with the purchase of a full-priced ticket. See here for more details: http://alivemuseum.sg/news-events/promotions.

*We received a pair of tickets to Alive Museum Singapore for the purpose of this review. All opinions, fun and crazy pictures are strictly own own.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Happy 49th!

For the whole of Term 3 thus far, the kids have been learning National Day songs in school.

Every day I've been regaled with versions of Majulah Singapura, We Are Singapore, Count On Me Singapore, Home (English version and the chorus in Chinese), Reach Up For The Skies, 我的家在陋巷, In A Heartbeat, and One Singapore. There have been accurate versions (Noey) and not-so-accurate (Mei). But whether accurate or not, they have certainly been sung with gusto.

The kids had a lot of fun celebrating National Day at kindy last Saturday, with the celebration being combined with a mini-games day for the school. Singing and waving flags was definitely one of the highlights.

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Tomorrow, they will sing the songs for the last time, before we pack them away for another year. We don't have tickets to the NDP, so we will be watching the parade at home. I toyed with the idea of dragging everyone out to catch the fireworks live, but in the end, I decided I didn't want to miss the rest of the show. In my childhood and teenage years, it was a tradition in my family to watch the parade together on telly while munching on pizzas. This year, my parents have their own plans but I'll be reviving a part of that at home with the kids. We'll watch, sing, eat, and say a little prayer for this land that we live in and, despite all that we might gripe about, love. 

Happy 49th Birthday Singapore!

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Nightingale by SRT {Giveaway}

It's time for another production by the Singapore Repertory Theatre

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Last Saturday, Noey and I were treated to the opening performance of The Nightingale, the latest offering by SRT's The Little Company (TLC). Like Rapunzel, which we caught and loved earlier this year, The Nightingale is based on a well-known fairy tale, this time by Hans Christian Andersen. It tells the tale of the Emperor of China who hears and is enchanted by the song of a nightingale. Desiring to hear her song day and night, he puts her in a gilded cage to sing for his pleasure. But captivity wears on the nightingale, who eventually stops singing. At the same time, the Emperor is given a mechanical singing nightingale that he is able to make sing for him any time he chooses. What is to happen to the nightingale now? Will the Emperor see the folly of his actions? 

Ann Lek Tan Shou Chen Rachel Tay and Timothy Wan in TLC s The Nightingale  2014 2Three cheers for the Emperor of China!

I have always felt that TLC's productions are of a high quality and I was glad to find that The Nightingale featured the same good scripting and catchy songs that I've come to expect. I find it painful to watch shows where things are dumbed down for kids or that overly rely on physical humour. That was not the case here. In fact, the narration is in done in rhyming verse, something that I appreciated even if Noey might not have noticed. The music, with its catchy tunes, is also a draw. I liked the fact that different genres of music were used to differentiate the nightingales, with the real bird singing a lilting aria, and the mechanical bird singing to a hip hop beat. You can check out the following video to sing along to the mechanical bird's song!

What I did feel could have been done better was the audience participation portion of the play, which felt a bit like it was included in order that there be audience participation rather than being a necessary part of the play. The original story of The Nightingale is also not one of my favourites. Props however to the cast and crew for putting on an engaging show. Noey and I enjoyed it and he gave it five stars (out of five) when asked, so you know he thought it was great!

Ann Lek Tan Shou Chen Rachel Tay and Timothy Wan in TLC s The Nightingale  2014 1What the Emperor wants, the Emperor gets...

The Nightingale is now playing at the DBS Arts Centre - Home of SRT from 1 Aug to 14 Sep 2014, with shows at 11am and 2pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, and at 10am on Tuesdays to Fridays. Tickets are priced on Weekdays at $25 (Cat 1) and $22 (Cat 2) and Weekends $35 (Cat 1) and $32 (Cat 2), and can be purchased from Sistic.

The Nightingale 夜莺 will also be staged in Mandarin from 18 Sep to 11 Oct 2014 following its run in English. You can buy tickets to The Nightingale 夜莺 here.

Ann Lek Tan Shou Chen and Rachel Tay in TLC s The Nightingale  2014 1The Nightingale with the Emperor and the Kitchen Maid.

GIVEAWAY!

Here's a blog readers special: I have ONE PAIR OF TICKETS to the performance of The Nightingale on Saturday 30 Aug, 11am to give away! To enter this draw, you have to complete the following steps:

1. Like the Singapore Repertory Theatre Facebook Page

2. Like the Life is in the Small Things Facebook Page

3. Like and Comment on this Facebook photo, telling me why you would like to win the tickets.

You have to complete all 3 steps to qualify so don't miss any out! Use the Rafflecopter widget below to indicate that you've done the above. You can also get additional chances by completing the rest of the steps.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway ends on Mon 18 August 2014, 11.59pm and is open to Singapore residents only. Winners will be contacted by e-mail and will have 48 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be drawn. All incomplete entries will be disqualified.

P.S. There are another two pairs of tickets up for grabs over at Princess Dana Diaries for the show on Sunday 31 Aug, 11am! Hop over to enter!

*We received complimentary tickets to the show for the purpose of this review, and the giveaway tickets as well as the production photographs used in this post are courtesy of SRT. All opinions are, as always, strictly my own.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Child's Play at the National Museum of Singapore {Giveaway}

In addition to Masak Masak, Children's Season at the National Museum of Singapore this year also saw the launch of Play@NMS, the first dedicated area in the museum for young children. Tucked away on Level 3 of the museum, Play@NMS, unlike Masak Masak, is a permanent gallery designed with the purpose of helping children take their first-steps towards museum-going, with interactive exhibits and special activities that encourage learning through play. 

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Stepping into the Concourse at level 1 of the museum, you will spy Play@NMS right at the top of a flight of stairs. Take the climb and this is what you'll find:

The EXPLORE gallery is the main play area, and this is divided into four sections, modelled after a home. Immediately past the door you'll find the Living Room, with a huge TV - and you as the star! The few times we visited, my little Miss enjoyed her "on-screen" opportunities, but what really got her attention were the comfy chairs, particularly the little one which was just her size. The big sofa on the other hand is an ideal slouchy spot and a great place to curl up with a book when you need a break from playing.

PlayNMS2Not much my Mei loves better than to put on a show. Though she prefers it if no one's watching.

PlayNMS3Puppets, to help you tell your own story!

PlayNMS4Getting comfortable on a little chair made for little people.

PlayNMS5Noey and his friends Dana and Isaac get comfortable.

Another popular area was the Kitchen. I don't know any child who doesn't love masak-masak, or pretend cooking, so as you can imagine, the kids were very happy messing in this area. There are two cooking stations, with one set a little lower for the smaller kids. You can also emboss a picture of a favourite Singapore dish, choosing between ice kachang, roti prata, chill crab and nasi lemak. You can later bring the picture over to another room to colour it. Personally I thought it would be better if they just set up a small table nearby for the kids to colour, that's exactly what they wanted to do once they embossed their pic.

PlayNMS8Little T ponders the next dish he is going to whip up.

PLayNMS6"Let's make Chilli Crab!" 

PlayNMS9Getting familiar with the ingredients for different dishes.

PlayNMS7Emboss a picture of your favourite Singapore dish.

PlayNMS10The kitchen play area.

PlayNMS13Colouring/Drawing on her embossed pic over in a separate room.

Behind the kitchen was Noey favourite area, the Bedroom. It was because of a comfy little tent which you could get into to watch some short films on the ceiling. He always spend a good amount of time in here every visit. In the other part of the Bedroom is a mirror with costume decals that kids can "try on" by positioning themselves accordingly. It was a bit of a letdown if you were expecting real costumes for dress-up. The kids didn't really bother trying them. 

PlayNMS11Making themselves comfortable...

The last area is the Garden. It had a big tree and like a shape sorter, it had various flowers, leaves and fruit you could fit into it. Popular with the really little ones, though admittedly Mei's favourite thing to do was to carry the baskets for the shapes around!

PLayNMS12Fitting in the leaves and flowers

Apart from the main hall, there is also an outdoor sundeck for kids to run around in and scribble on a giant chalkboard wall. This proved rather popular with our budding artists.

PlayNMS14Scribble time!

In the weekends, there are also additional activities in the Create gallery where kids can do some art and craft. Play@NMS is recommended for kids aged 3-7, but I personally think kids 5 and under will enjoy it best. While I wish they had done more to make the play spaces more engaging and perhaps more relevant to the National Museum's positioning as a history museum, I am glad that there is now a dedicated space for kids, as I think this is the right step to getting kids (and parents) into the museum. Museums are in fact one of my favourite places to visit, and the kids and I have had many wonderful experiences in museums in Australia and the UK, and Play@NMS as a step in the right direction to make museums places of interest, fun and learning for kids.

Another way to reach kids is through books and in conjunction with the launch of Play@NMS comes Stacey Goes To The National Museum, a new title by author Lianne Ong. (We also previously reviewed her first book, Maxilla!)

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Stacey is a little girl who goes to visit the National Museum with her mummy and ends up going on an unexpected adventure, with the help of a surprising little tour guide. As Stacey journeys through the museum, she encounters some of the Treasures of the National Museum and ends up at Play@NMS. I think it is a good initial introduction to the museum for the little ones, and a good read to pick up just before a museum visit. I particularly love the illustrations by James Tan as he manages to incorporate a wonderful amount of detail into his drawings and yet keep the style of the artwork simple and appealing to children.

This is the first book in an upcoming series -- Stacey and the Museums which will allow children to journey with Stacey through different museums under the purview of the National Heritage Board in Singapore. This sounds like a good idea and we are looking forward to seeing the rest of the series.

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If you'd like to meet the author Lianne Ong and find out more about Stacey,  good news! Lianne will be making an appearance at the National Museum of Singapore's open house on National Day (9 Aug). There will be an exciting storytelling session and interactive activities such as a scavenger trail for the little ones in the Singapore History Gallery. Sounds like a fun way to spend an afternoon to me!

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Stacey Goes To The National Museum is stocked at the gift shop of the National Museum, and is also available online from Armour Publishing at the special web price of $13.64 (15% off the RRP of $16.05).


GIVEAWAY! 

If you'd like a copy of Stacey Goes To The National Museum, here's your chance to grab one because I have ONE COPY to giveaway! To join this giveaway, simply follow the steps of the Rafflecopter widget below. The more steps you complete, the higher our chances of winning.

This giveaway ends on Friday 15 August, 11.59pm, and is open to Singapore residents only. Winners will be picked randomly and contacted by e-mail. Winners have 3 days to respond with their particulars, failing which a new winner will be selected.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

P.S. Hop over to Owls Well to join their giveaway to get another chance at winning a copy of Stacey Goes To The National Museum! Don't miss their cute book trailer too.

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