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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tennis Action at the WTA Finals

The WTA Finals are in town this week and since we recently got Noey started on tennis, I thought it might be fun to bring him bring him down to catch a match or two. I figured watching match live, by court side, being played by some of the best players in the world might give him a better appreciation of the game and maybe inspire him a little.

And ok, I wanted to watch some matches! It isn't everyday that THE BEST female tennis players in the world stroll into our neck of the woods to play top level sport. I'm not a huge tennis fan but I watched enough television sports with my Dad to know the rules and enjoy most sports. (Just don't ask me about cricket.) So I don't do any sports any more but watching, that's still fun.

After identifying affordable tickets -- the day tickets for the round-robin matches -- I persuaded my dear ol' Dad to join me with the children for an afternoon of tennis action. On the schedule were Maria Sharapova v Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki v Petra Kvitova. I was excited.

It was my first time watching tennis live, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. It was a Friday afternoon but lots of people turned up and there was a good buzz around the stadium. I can only imagine it would be even better in the evening when I assume more people would turn up. The kids were excited too as I tried to give them a run down on the players, the game, and who the various persons standing around were (ie. the linesmen and ball boys!). Noey was also very amused by the signs being led up by supporters, in particular the one when words flashing in hot pink, asking "Maria, will you marry me?"

WTA1Sharapova serves...

WTA2Excited to join in the cheering!

Well, unfortunately (or fortunately, if our objective was to get our monies worth) the game turned out to be an epic 3-setter with a really tight first two sets! We watched Sharapova take the first set 7-5, then reel off most of the points to race to a 5-1 lead. At that point the kids started being rather restless and I told them that it was going to be over soon and we could go outside to play at the Fan Zone. Except that I was so wrong. Radwanska started returning everything and despite there being a few match points, Sharapova just couldn't finish to take the set. Radwanska staged and incredible fight back and unbelievably managed to take the set 7-6 (7-4). It was exciting for me but not so much the kiddos.

WTA8When Radwanska started pulling back the points.

WTA3Little Miss restless and tired.

Lots of good tennis but I must confess that throughout the entire period the one thought that kept running through my mind was that Women's tennis has the best outfits! I mean, with badminton, table tennis, squash (well, if anyone even plays squash any more) it's mostly shorts and tees, but tennis! Radwanska was wearing a dress with colourful butterflies on it which couldn't help but keep staring at. It wasn't exactly my taste but I was just fascinated by the fact that they have options like that! As good a reason for me to pick up tennis as any, no?

WTA10Agnieszka Radwanska concentrates on the job at hand, unlike me -- I'm staring at her dress!

We left after the second set and didn't stay for the tie-breaker since it was already 2 hours and 20 mins of sitting still and the kids really couldn't take it any more. Naomi fell asleep near the end of the second set, so it was only Noey who had a go at the Fan Zone.

WTA4Out like a light! Luckily for me I had my Dad to help with the carrying!

If you're in the area over the weekend, I would recommend that you check out the WTA Fan Zone, which is located next to the Singapore Indoor Stadium, in the area right outside Kallang Wave Mall. It is open to all and both you and the kids can try your hand at a number of activities like trying to clock the fastest service, bouncing on a trampoline while trying to hit balls being served to you by a ball machine at a target, and hitting a tennis ball covered with paint at a wall to create art work. You can also access the social media wall and learn more about the players and their game stats, as well as see computer generated replays of the game. There are also meet the stars autograph sessions at certain times.

WTA5A different kind of paint ball.

WTA6They take a photo for you and e-mail you a free soft copy.

WTA9Jump tennis!

WTA7That's the closest we get to the trophy!

We had a great time wandering around the Fan Zone, the experience enhanced by the many friendly hosts in the zone, who were lovely and helpful and very happy to talk about tennis. The Fan Zone will be open for the duration of the tournament which ends on Sunday.

Despite all the complaints, when their Papa asked them how the event was after he returned home, both children told him they enjoyed it! Hur hur. Well, since Singapore will be hosting the WTA Finals for the next 4 years, I dare say we'll be back again next year.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Being There To Listen

I must admit that on most days, by the time bedtime rolls round, I am eager to pack the kids off to sleep. Already my kids sleep way later than they should -- so late that I'm embarrassed to tell you what time that is! So by the time they get in bed after the reading is done, I'm usually in a hurry for them to just go to sleep already. It's lights out, prayers, and no more talking, thank you very much. I get annoyed when they roll around, ask for water again, and try to prattle on about something.

Then recently, while sorting through my iPhoto library, I stumbled across something I had just about forgotten. It was a recording of a conversation I had with Noey when he was 2, nearly 3 years old. It was actually a video, but there was no picture as it was pitch dark: I had recorded it while chatting with him after lights out at bedtime. And, my goodness, it was the cutest thing. I had forgotten his baby voice, and how he used to refer to himself in third person all the time. I burst out laughing at the sound of his voice gleefully telling me that "Noey wants to beat Lincoln because he is a naughty boy". It was in fact one of the night chats that I used to enjoy so much with him in times past.

It made me stop and wonder how that slowly evolved into today's hurry-hurry-be-quiet routine. Was I missing out on something valuable by not allowing my kids to talk to me at night?

I know I have to make some changes, I must. Before they stop talking to me altogether. I would loathe the day when I would miss out on silly conversations like this:

Impish

Me: Noey, did you know that when I was younger I thought I would name my son Ethan?

Noey: Why?

Me: Because I liked the name Ethan! Though not so much now.

Noey: Did you think you of naming Meimei Weethan?

Me: Weethan?

Noey: Yes, because she needs to go to the toilet all the time!


My son. He's growing up to be quite the comedian. And I want him to be having such funny conversations with me as he does just that.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Read :: Shakespeare Stories

Shakespeare is, to my mind, one of the greatest storytellers there ever was. I think few would disagree with that! There's a certain magic in his use of verse and turn of language that makes him one of the most quoted writers in history. 

My first encounter with Shakespeare was through my mother, who was a literature teacher for a season, amongst the various subjects that she taught in the course of her teaching career. I don't remember why or how it came up in conversation, but through repetition, I have her favourite quotes burned in my memory. She was fond of Macbeth, the result of which is that stirring pots, whether filled with soup or bubbles would automatically make "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble" ring in my head. (Also because I'm geeky like that!) Sadly I never studied Macbeth for literature in school, but it remains one of my favourite literature texts because my mother made it come alive for me.

I intended to introduce Shakespeare to my kids at some point of time, and came across an unexpected opportunity when I chanced on these Shakespeare stories by Andrew Matthews while browsing in, err, a toy shop in Tanglin Mall.

ShakespeareStories1Twelfth Night and Hamlet.

Sitting innocuously on the shelf, I was drawn to the Quentin Blake-esque illustrations. (The illustrator is actually Tony Ross.) I took a flip through and liked what I read -- concise re-tellings of Shakespeare's stories, well-written and paced, which succeeded in bringing across the dramatic and figurative themes of the plays. Since I am incapable of only buying one book at a time, I picked up six titles.

Noey plunged into them straightaway, and after coming home and reading them, I immediately regretted not picking up everything. Especially when I realised that at $4.90 each at this shop, they were a real steal! When I went back to the shop to get more, they were sold out.

I read through a few books with Noey and I thought it did a good job of explaining the sometimes complicated story lines in a way that was understandable to children while conveying the true (and sometimes dark and gruesome) essence of the story. What matters most is that he found them interesting enough to read all the books I bought. Each book starts with an introduction to the characters, the story, followed by a couple of pages with a summary of the themes and some additional background to the tale. Right at the end there is two pages on Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre, where most of Shakespeare's most famous plays were performed.

ShakespeareStories2

ShakespeareStories3

Altogether a good read, recommended as a first introduction to Shakespeare for 7 to 9 year olds. While surfing on Book Depository, I noticed that they sell these Shakespeare Stories as collections of 4 stories, which look to be more value for money. I might have bought these if I didn't buy the individual stories already.

ShakespeareStories5Shakespeare Stories: Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, Anthony and Cleopatra
More Shakespeare Stories: A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest, Hamlet, Henry V

I also chanced upon Mr Shakespeare's Plays and Bravo, Mr William Shakespeare!by Marcia Williams, which I immediately snapped up because these are Shakespeare's plays presented in the form of comics, something which I think Noey is going to love. I'll update about this after it arrives.


Mr Shakespeare's Plays and Bravo, Mr William Shakespeare! by Marcia Williams.

Of course, the best way to enjoy Shakespeare is on stage. In this regard, I am particularly excited about the fact that this November, Shakespeare's Globe -- yes, the theatre company from the modern incarnation from THE Globe Theatre of Shakespeare's time -- will be staging A Midsummer Night's Dream, right here at the Esplanade Theatres in Singapore!

This play is one that I did study and know (or at least used to know) fairly well. I've watched the movie version and seen it performed in the park. But this version promises to be a treat for the senses, as the set will be a miniature version of the stage at the Bankside Globe, complete with the iconic pillars, balcony and hand-painted detailing!! I'm super excited about that, plus the Renaissance-style costumes and staging, which would, I think, give one a glimpse of what it might have been like back in Shakespeare's day. Unfortunately Noey's a little young for this (kids 6 and under would not be admitted), plus I doubt he would have the stamina to sit through a 3-hour long Shakespeare play. So I won't be bringing him but if you have older children, it's definitely worth considering. 

MSD Globe 2

MSD3 Small

Ticketing and Show Information

Season: 13 to 16 November 2014
Venue: Esplanade Theatre
Performance Times: Thurs and Fri 8pm; Sat 3pm and 8pm; Sun 3pm
Ticket Prices: $148, $128, $118, $98, $78 (Matinee tickets are $10 less)
Duration: 2 hours 40 mins + 15 minute interval
Booking: Sistic at sistic.com.sg or calling 63485555

Which was your favourite Shakespeare text? Do you have any Shakespeare story book for kids to recommend?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hop & Honk {Giveaway}

You know the story of The Ugly Ducking and you know the story of The Frog Prince, but do you know what happens when one meets the other?

Find out in Hop & Honk, an all-new original production by iTheatre that will be coming your way at the end of this month! 

HAH production 005B

An ugly duckling who really does not fit in at home…
A frog who thinks he is a prince…
Both need a family.
Both need a best friend.
Both want to be loved but both are very very alone.

Join these two cute but confused creatures in their adventures and misadventures as they seek to find acceptance and security in this production that cleverly intertwines the classic fairy tales of The Ugly Duckling and The Frog Prince into an brand new family musical. 

"We are always on the lookout look for something new and exciting. Telling just one story can be fun, but we wanted to test the boundaries by combining and intertwining two seemingly quite different stories from two of history's most prolific children's authors, Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm. It's unusual, but it is a very fun challenge – and the result we think will be double the entertainment value, throwing new light on some interesting aspects of both stories," explains ITheatre's artistic director Brian Seward, the creative force behind Hop & Honk

HAH production 001

HAH production 003a

Promising top-class performers, toe-tapping music, spectacular sets, glittering costumes, magical lighting and jaw-dropping puppetry, while bringing across key values like racial harmony, tolerance and understanding as well as the importance of self-worth, teamwork and creative thinking, Hop & Honk sounds like a show that's not to be missed!

HAH014 LandscapeHiRes

Ticketing and Show Information

Season: 29 October to 15 November 2014
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre, National Library Building
Ticket Prices: $32 (Cat 1), $30 (Cat 2)
Recommended for: 4 to 18 year olds and families
Duration: 85 minutes + 15 minute interval (100 minutes in total) 
Booking: Sistic at sistic.com.sg or calling 63485555

GIVEAWAY!

Yes, we have a giveaway for you! Win a FAMILY PACK OF 4 TICKETS to Hop & Honk on Saturday 8 November 2014 at 7.30pm! Please note that the winner will have to pick up the tickets at ITheatre's office at 27 Kerbau Road by 24 October 2014. To stand a chance of winning those tickets, you have to complete the following steps:

1. Like Life is in the Small Things on Facebook

2. Like the ITheatreSG on Facebook

3. Comment on this Facebook Photo telling me why you should win, AND Tag a friend! 

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

Terms & Conditions:

  • This giveaway ends on Sun 19 Oct 2014, 11.59pm and is open to Singapore residents only. 
  • Winners will be contacted using the contact particulars provided when entering this giveaway and will have 24 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be drawn. 
  • All incomplete entries will be disqualified. All entries will be verified before the winners are announced. 
  • To be fair to our sponsors, please note that all fake Facebook accounts (eg. accounts set up purely to take part in contests with no or very few real friends) will also be ineligible to win.
  • The winner of this giveaway will have to pick up the tickets at ITheatre's office at 27 Kerbau Road by 24 October 2014, failing which they will be forfeited. 

Good Luck!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hairy Maclary and Friends: Full of Rambuctious Fun!

"Out of the gate and off for a walk went
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy"

And walk he did, right on to the stage right here in Singapore!

HairyMaclary2

It was with great anticipation that we went to catch the opening show of Hairy Maclary & Friends earlier this evening. My kids have been acquainted with Hairy Maclary and gang for some time now, thanks to their Godma who introduced them to Lynley Dodd's books. So they were understandably looking forward to seeing the whole crew in the flesh. I, on the other hand was most curious to see how Hairy Maclary was to be translated to the stage. Most of the charm of the stories comes from the selctively-repetitive-but-always-delightful rhythmic rhyming verse that the littlest ones love and which and encourages them to join in. Would that charm be lost in translation?

I was glad to discover that it wasn't. The production found its answer in the use of music. I knew it was going to be good when we walked in to find a keyboardist on stage playing live. Each story was told with a wonderful catchy tune, ably performed by the actors to live music. I'm still humming Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy as I type!

And of course, there were the dogs. The kids squealed in delight as Hairy Maclary and each of his canine friends bounded their way onto the stage. Even if you were not familiar with the characters at the start of the show, I'm sure you will be at the end of it as the audience was encouraged to shout out their names, point out their pictures and join to perform the individual actions for each dog. Just in case you need an introduction, here's the crew:

HairyMaclary1

The show was highly interactive from the start, which was something that my children absolutely enjoyed. Miss Plum and Samuel Stone did a great job getting the audience to shout, point clap and stamp along. I also enjoyed not having to shush them, though I did have to make Noey sit down at one point when he got too excited and stood on his seat. Definitely good fun for kids 2+ and up!

I think the only thing that we were disappointed about was that there wasn't a chance to get up close with Hairy and his friends at the end of the show. I had to stop Mei a couple of times in her attempts to climb over the seats in front of us because she wanted to "pat the doggies, Mummy!" Folks in the front row did manage to pat Hairy just before he disappeared off stage so that's something you might want to think about when choosing seats! 

There are only 6 more shows left for Hairy Maclary and Friends this weekend, so do get your tickets soon if you haven't!

Ticketing and Show Information

Season: 10 to 12 October 2014
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre, National Library Building
Perfomance Times: Friday 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am, 2pm, 4.30pm
Ticket Prices: $62 (Cat 1), $52 (Cat 2), $42 (Cat 3), $35 (Cat 4) (Quote ABA2014 and get 10% off all tickets!)
Booking: Sistic at sistic.com.sg or calling 63485555

Hairy Group 2013

Do check out www.hairymaclary.com to learn more about Hairy Maclary and friends. You might also like to check out the Hairy Maclary books by Lynley Dodd, in particular these ones, which the tales in this performance were based: 

HairyMaclary3

There are also plenty of readings of Hariy Maclary which can be found on Youtube if you need some help getting acquainted! (Or if you would like someone else to read a book to your kids for a change!) 

Enjoy! 

*We were invited to watch this show for review purposes, which we did so gladly as we love Hairy Maclary! All opinions remain authentically our own.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

A Date with a Very Hungry Caterpillar and Friends

Eric Carle's books are staples in our home library and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Mixed-Up Chameleon and Little Cloud are among our favourites. So you can imagine how delighted the children were to get up close and personal with some of their favourite characters as they leapt off the pages of the books onto the stage in the stunning production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favourites by the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia.

I'd watched this production with Noey on a school excursion two (or maybe three) years ago and was fascinated by the magic of black light theatre. This year, thanks to Act 3 International, the kids and I were in for a treat as we were invited to step backstage, turn up the lights and learn a bit about how the puppets come to life. I was definitely as excited as the kids were.
If you are not familiar with black light theatre, it involves the use of UV lighting, a dark stage, black curtains, and fluorescent costumes to create a magical effect where the puppeteers disappear into the background, with the puppets and props appearing as if they are animated on their own.

EricCarle1Lights on...

EricCarle2… and lights off!

It is in theory a very simple concept, but we were soon to learn that it wasn't that simple at all to pull off! For one, the puppeteers work in complete darkness, dressed in black with black gloves and black hoods over their heads and faces. I was also surprised to realise that there were only three of them (two puppeteers and one stage manager) working all the puppets and shifting all the sets around. In perfect synchronisation too!

We were given the opportunity to try to manipulate the puppets ourselves and found that it was not that easy to make the puppets move in the same life-like fashion as they do in the hands of the professionals. The caterpillars (there are actually three used in the show) are actually made out of a thick cushion-like material, with the individual donut rings threaded together. Like all the props, they were all handmade in-house. I was personally wowed by how much the puppets resembled the original artwork.

EricCarle4Getting the caterpillars to "crawl" forward. The longer caterpillar has two poles which you can manipulate while for the smaller caterpillar, you simply pinch a segment in each hand to move it.

EricCarle3On Monday he ate through one apple, but he was still hungry.
You can see the flaps on the apple which the puppeteers would fold over as the caterpillar "eats".

We moved on to give the chameleon a go and the kids had fun re-enacting the scene where the chameleon shoots out its tongue to catch the fly. In the process we learnt that the flickering fly is created simply from twisting a two-sided painted fly-on-a-stick between your hands, and flying it around of course. The long tongue on the other hand actually affixed on a conveyor belt adjusted at an appropriate angle, which the puppeteer can pull in and retract easily. The kids tried their hands at this and hmm, maybe it didn't quite come out right, but they sure had fun!

EricCarle5The chameleon trying to catch the fly!

I thought Little Cloud might be easier to manipulate but was quickly disabused of the notion when we were taught how to move like clouds. You don't see clouds bouncing around do you? We were shown how to move smoothly and the kids eagerly volunteered to try out for the part. You can see that they took it very seriously, especially Mei, who I think did a great job with her footwork!

EricCarle6


After the wonderful opportunity learning about what goes on behind the scenes, the three of us settled down to watch the show. And I was glad to note that it was as good as I remembered. Better, in fact, given the additional knowledge that we now had. Mei who has never seen the production before was utterly captivated, and got really excited when her favourite very hungry caterpillar came on stage. As for Noey, he was busy explaining to be the whole time how things were done. A little knowledge can be dangerous in his hands. It was a good thing that the whole show was very child-friendly no one batted an eyelid at the excited comments made by the young audience.

I was reminded that I was watching the show with an honest-to-goodness 6-year old though when Noey started protesting about the caterpillar making a cocoon. "It's not a cocoon, it's a chrysalis!" he said indignantly. "Only a moth makes cocoon, a butterfly makes a chrysalis! And it is not a hairy caterpillar! Moth caterpillars are hairy! Tell Eric Carle!" he ended rather huffily.

Cocoon or chrysalis notwithstanding, it was a very enjoyable show. The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favourites has just ended its run here but I wouldn't be surprised if it or its other companion production A Brown Bear, a Moon and a Caterpillar: Treasured Stories by Eric Carle (which we have also watched) return again in a couple of years! Do also check out Act 3 International and join their mailing list to be first to know about other upcoming workshops and productions.

*We thank Act 3 International for the media invite to the workshop and show. All opinions are, as always, our own.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Melbourne Escape

I think I left my blogging mojo in Melbourne.

We arrived back in Singapore about a week and a bit ago and since then, I've been struggling to get back into our regular routines. Perhaps it is because our holiday was too good. Because it was.

It was the first holiday in a long time where it was just us four, 24/7. It was also the first time we've travelled without a stroller, and the first time that we didn't need to consciously factor in naps. It felt almost like the holidays that the husband and I used to take in our more carefree days, pre-kids. Almost, I say, since we are still a long way from not having to hunt down a toilet every hour or so (or when ever it is MOST inconvenient like, say, after trekking down a very long steep flight of stairs to the bottom of a waterfall), but it was close enough.

Together we explored new places and did things together that we don't always have the opportunity to do, with the hustle and bustle of daily life. Before we departed Singapore, I made the conscious effort to turn off most notifications on my phone because I wanted to give the here and now my full attention, and it turned out to be one of my better decisions. With less distractions, I was better able to concentrate on taking a break and being with my family. Of course, one of the first things I did do was to head out to get a local SIM card -- I wasn't planning on surviving without internet altogether! Plus I had a couple of friends to meet and we needed GPS. But I stopped checking my phone all the time, and it was freeing in a way I didn't expect. I think I need to do that a bit more on a regular basis. 

More time together inevitably means that it wasn't smiles all the time. Unfortunately being out of the country doesn't mean that tantrums get left behind! It was challenging at times to deal with the kids (and sometimes the husband, heh) but I think having the husband present with me the whole time meant that we were better able to address all issues which arose together and quickly. I think we've grown as a family as a result.

After having such a great time, maybe it's no wonder that I took ages to adjust back to normal life. Which was a whole lot more hectic with homework to catch up on, and Noey's birthday party to pull together at short notice.

I hope to be updating on my Melbourne holiday both here and on petite travellers. But here is an outline of my itinerary for those of you who have been asking:

Melbourne Itinerary

Days 1 - 3: Melbourne -- City, Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne Museum, Collingwood Children's Farm, St Kilda's including Luna Park

Days 4 - 5: Great Ocean Road -- Erksine Falls + Teddy's Lookout at Lorne, Apollo Bay, Cape Otway Lightstation, Twelve Apostles

Days 6 - 8: Yarra Valley -- Weeribee Plaza/Weeribee Safari Park, Healesville Sanctuary, Wineries, Puffing Billy

Days 9 - 10: Phillip Island -- Caldermeade Farm Cafe, Penguin Parade, Churchill Heritage Farm

Days 11 - 13: Melbourne -- Eureka Skydeck, Shopping, Lygon Street

MelbourneReduced

More pictures and stories on my Instagram account (@mummybean). Check out #mummybeaninmelbourne!

Anyone else feel like they need a holiday right now?


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