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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The All-New CITROËN Grand C4 Picasso

* Guest post by my husband, DD!

A couple of weekends ago, we were very lucky to be lent the ALL-NEW CITROËN GRAND C4 PICASSO to review. (Woohoo!)

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We were particularly excited to be test-driving this car as the All-New CITROËN GRAND C4 PICASSO 2014 is an update to the New CITROËN Grand C4 Picasso launched in 2006 which we currently own (and have affectionately named “Pablo”). Apparently, the 2014 release was necessary because the 2006 CITROËN Grand C4 Picasso has been so popular, it’s sold out!

Anyway, I predict that CITROËN will launch the Ultimate-Newest CITROËN Grand C4 Picasso only in 2020+ so if you buy the All-New 2014 version, fear not. I’m sure you’ll be driving the newest car around for quite some time.

But getting back to business: for the purpose of this review, our All-New 2014 Grand C4 Picasso shall be called... Paul. For those of you who object because you say that Paul and Pablo are essentially the same name, I think you’ll see that “same-same-but-different” pretty much sums up our 2014 v. 2006 Grand C4 Picasso experience.

Introduction

So to begin with, here’s a short introduction to Paul:

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Take note that the child featured in the picture above is a non-standard accessory.

Specs

Here's a simplified spec sheet which sets out the key headlines.

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Spec TablePretty impressive. What really stands out is the Category A COE. Not many MPVs fall into this category. Also, this car is eligible for a S$15,000 CEVS rebate because it fits certain environmentally-friendly criteria and in fact has the lowest carbon emission rating in its class.

Review

Ok, so now on to the actual review. To begin with, let me just say it outright - this is seriously the best MPV in its class.

I'll let some facts do the talking:

  • Roomiest MPV in its class
  • Best fuel economy in its class
  • Best electronic specs in its class
  • Excellent visibility, best in its class
  • Lowest carbon emissions in its class

Actually I can stop here because that's the review done and dusted.

But since the good folks at CITROËN were so kind to let us have Paul for three days, I think they must be expecting a little more... Heh.

So here goes.

Design

A review of the All New Grand C4 Picasso must begin with a word on its design.

In its press release the following is stated about Paul's design:

On the design-front, CITROËN C4 Picasso’s and Grand C4 Picasso’s strong, expressive designs are visible in the dynamic lines and high-tech headlights with LED 3D rear lights. The 5.7 square meters of glazing with the zenith windscreen and panoramic glass roof creates the CITROËN-signature loft-style interior with a bright, uncluttered ambience.

Ermm, did anyone really understand that? Me neither.

Actually, in my humble opinion, design is very simple.

Design only comes in 4 choices as follows:

(A) it looks great
(B) it is sort of nice
(C) I'm somewhat doubtful
(D) it sucks.

Most people whom I spoke to think that Paul's design was an unequivocal (A). Me too. Just as you cannot describe what an iphone actually looks like using words like "dynamic lines", I'll just let photos do the talking.

A

B

C

D

F

The above of course are the professionally taken brochure photos. Looks great, right? After having seen the car, I’m happy to report that it looks as good in person. You... just have to take my word for it.

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Nice!

Drive

Now onto the drive.

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Paul uses an All-New (hey that phrase again!) engine platform, wholly different from Pablo. Apparently the new engine cost CITROËN /Peugeot 630 million Euros to develop! Just to make sure that it wasn't wasted money, the new engine, amongst other things:

  • consumes 22% less fuel than the old engine
  • is lighter and has better weight/performance ratios than the old engine 
  • is designed with tighter electronic integration with onboard electronics in mind

That's why it was 630 million Euros! And no, my inside sources confirmed that the cost was NOT because the smart and clever designers of the super-duper magic new engine conned their employers into giving them more money. It had something to do about developmental costs, materials research, etc*

(*I can't recall and share the exact details because I basically lost interest when my Dilbert-based theory was invalidated. Sorry!)

Anyway, the practical result of the improved engine platform is that driving Paul around was a nice and enjoyable experience. Steering was super light, even effortless. The car also offers good control and close handling with little body roll around corners. Acceleration was good; Paul is of course not a sports car, but it will do nicely whether in city traffic or cruising on a highway.

I did find auto shifting from 1st to 2nd gear slightly choppy but owners needn't worry – this should smoothen out once the engine figures out the driver's driving pattern. Alternatively you can use the paddle shifts to dictate gear changes to optimise your driving experience.

Refined Interior

What also makes Paul stand out is the fact that everything in the interior has been upgraded from Pablo and especially its electronics. Its interior looks really, really nice! And the middle row is noticeably roomier than Pablo.

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Paul features, among other things:

  • a 7" touchscreen main control panel
  • Factory-fitted bluetooth connectivity
  • Factory-fitted USB socket with iPod/iPhone/iPad connectivity

All main settings are controlled via the touch screen interface. Air con, radio/bluetooth, GPS, phone, etc. And it's done in a refined and intuitive manner too.

I desperately tried to press as many buttons on the touchscreen interface as quickly as possible to try to make it hang, and see whether a voice would come up and lecture me about that, but there was no success there. So yes, the interface is steady and reliable – not to mention that it also looks great!

Boot Space

I didn't take too many pictures of the boot but don't worry, it is a class leading 537 litres. That means you can put in ALOT of stuff. The tailgate is also automatic! Press a button to open and press a button to close. This is pretty standard issue for the likes of the BMW 5 and 7 series, but for a mid-range MPV this is cool! The only bad thing about the automatic tailgate is that if you're angry with your boss or kids you gotta slam the passenger doors instead.

Comparison with Pablo

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Honestly there is no comparison between Pablo and Paul. Paul is in every way, a total, truly All-New, upgrade to Pablo. From the engine/chassis, to the electronics, to the interior ("CITROËN -signature loft styled", remember?), everything has been upgraded. Just to name a few things:

  • Longer wheelbase -> roomier interior 
  • New engine -> better performance and fuel consumption 
  • All electronic controls

If, like me, you're also driving a 2006 Grand C4 Picasso, you'll definitely be tempted to upgrade. As a measure of what sort of impression Paul made on the kids, they were so reluctant to return Paul they promised to be good for a week!

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Areas For Improvement

Ok, so with that said, one gets the impression that this is the perfect family car. With so many features that are in fact class-leading, it certainly might be.

But no car is absolutely absolutely perfect, and the one thing I thought could be improved upon was the Eco Drive. I understand that it comes as a standard on all models sold in Asiapac. So if you've never driven a vehicle with Eco Drive before, you have to get used to the engine switching off when the car halts. But that aside, I found that the Eco Drive implementation on Paul was not as refined as it could be. Once, while I was travelling very (very) slowly up a twisty carpark ramp, Eco Drive kicked in and switched off the engine. Luckily nothing happened. I wasn't able to find out how to turn Eco Drive off but the representatives at CITROËN have told me that it is possible to turn this setting off as part of the car settings.

Closing Note

Here are more gratuitous pics of Paul.

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Basically, if you're looking to buy a mid-range MPV, you should really consider this vehicle. You might find, as I did, that the 2014 CITROËN Grand C4 Picasso blows away all its same-class competitors on all counts. Perhaps, among its competition, only the Volkwagen Touran runs the CITROËN close. The Volks has more power, similar fit and finish but less space and poorer fuel economy. In particular, space-wise, the Touran is much smaller and the third row is for very occasional use, whereas the CITROËN's third row is reasonably comfortable.

Personally, I also wouldn't really consider the Japanese MPVs to be close competition for the CITROËN. First of all, for some reason, the Japanese manufacturers favour using big engines to deliver the same sort of ride - this is sort of okay and I don't want to get into the naturally aspirated vs turbo engine debate but what it means, at a very practical level, is that bigger engines mean higher COE, higher road taxes and poorer fuel economy. Second of all to get to the same level of fit and finish that the CITROËN has - well you're looking at a large-ish jump of $20-30K at least, so whether this is ok with you is your call. For me, there is no question that among the mid-range MPV class, the 2014 CITROËN Grand C4 Picasso ticks all the right boxes!

*This post is sponsored by Citroen. We were loaned the use of the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso for the purposes of this review and all opinions remain strictly our own.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Thanksgiving

Today I am feeling thankful for...

… friends who willingly step up and pitch in. Who saw a need and filled it with their various talents to make our Easter Egg Hunt a truly collaborative effort.

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… for happy faces and egg and spoon races. For games thoughtfully planned and sportingly undertaken.

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… for eager little hands that hunted down eggs and filled up their baskets. 

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… for moments shared and friendships made and strengthened. For the opportunity for our children to connect and share the same.

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… for the one empty egg, that reminded us of that empty tomb, empty because Jesus arose from the dead and is alive forever more.

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… for the wonderful redemptive work of Christ, and for God's grace, so unmerited but so richly given.

I had a wonderful Easter break and I hope you did too.

Linking up with:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Learning About Easter

It is Good Friday today. A day when we pause to consider the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross, even as we look forward with joy celebrating the triumph of His resurrection on Eater Sunday. Most of all, it is a time to be thankful, for the unmerited favour we received through God's abundant grace in the process.

I've not done as much as I would have liked to really get into the season. My days have been full, really full, mostly in a good way. But I think it's never too late to spend some time reading the word of God and being thankful. For this purpose, I've found the BSF guide to teaching your child about Easter really helpful. Aside from some practical tips on how to get kids to share in this meaningful occasion, I've found the table at the end, which sets out passages and talking points for a bible study with your children really helpful for guiding our discussion.

BSF Easter Readings

Here are some other links that you might find useful as we meditate and celebrate this season:

  • A resurrection eggs printable, also from Scissors Paper Stone.
Have a blessed end to the week, one and all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day 2014

Free Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream! That certainly got my attention.

Free Cone Day has been a Ben & Jerry's tradition since 1979, a day when the ice-cream chain thanks its loyal customers for their support over the past year by dishing out free ice-cream to all! I think it's a nice gesture with the added bonus that it's great for PR! 

I've missed the event year after year, always realising at the last minute that it was D-Day. But this time! This time I had rather providentially walked past the the promotional poster at Great World City just the week before. I made a mental note of the date, then hatched a plan with our swim mates to head over for free ice-cream after our swim session on 8 April. We picked Dempsey, thinking that it's more inaccessible location might mean smaller crowds in the middle of the afternoon.

Well, the crowd wasn't small. There were loads of students! But the queue was very well managed and there was a carnival-like atmosphere around which made the whole process more palatable. Instead of holding the event at their store, Ben & Jerry's had wisely set up shop in the open carpark behind their store, so there was plenty of space for the snacking queue, and more stations for the scoopies who were busy dishing out ice-cream. There were also plenty of helpers getting folks to pose with props and being around to ensure that the queue was kept moving. Thumbs up on a well-run event! 

B JFCD1We made it to Free Cone Day!

B JFCD2That's me, the 1st year Cone Newbie. They handed out stickers to everyone, from 1st year Cone Newbies to 2nd Year Scoop Rockers, up to 6th year Moo Masters and 8th year Resident Gurus!  

B JFCD3Donation boxes were strategically placed to collect donations for Ben & Jerry's charity partner, The Children's Charities Association of Singapore. 

We stood in line for about half an hour before we got to the front of the queue. In that time, we had plenty of time to contemplate the all important question of which flavour we were going to get. I was pleasantly surprised to see that pretty much the full menu of scoop shop flavours were made available, though the the downside to going later in the day was that about half of the flavours had run out. They were out of New York Superfudge Chunk (my favourite flavour!!) and in fact, all chocolate-based flavours like Chocolate Therapy, Phish Food and Chocolate Fudge Brownie. In the end, I opted for their newest flavour Couch Potato, a vanilla ice-cream with a salty caramel swirl and chocolate covered potato chip clusters. It was surprisingly good! The kids wolfed down their English Toffee Crunch and Strawberry.

B JFCD4Friendly scoopies serving up our ice-cream

B JFCD5The little miss is well-pleased.

B JFCD6Even little B got in on the action, with a cone AND ice-cream in a cup!

It was a nice afternoon treat. Maybe I'll be back for my 2nd year next year! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tulipmania with Miffy at Gardens By The Bay

There will be tulips blooming in Singapore over this week and guess which little tike had a tiny part to play in that?

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Following its hugely successful run last year, Tulipmania will be returning to Gardens By The Bay this year, starting tomorrow! From 14 April to 4 May 2014, the flower field in the Flower Dome will be awash with tulips and hyacinths, and it promises to be a spectacular sight. 

But before that, the flowers have to be planted, and we were really excited to be invited to be part of the gardening crew for the day. 

We were first briefed on the layout of plants on the flower field, which looks to be quite different from last year's arrangement. Instead of rows, the flowers will be grown around miniatures of Dutch canal scenes, houses and windmills in a setup inspired by Madurodam, a popular miniature park in the Netherlands.

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Just as I was starting to get a little bit worried about the size of the task, we were led to the back-of-house and shown what we actually had to do: plant tulip bulbs in pairs in planter boxes. (Whew!) These planter boxes would, when completed, be installed in front of Dutch houses to bloom. The tulip bulbs, all 25,000 of them, had arrived overnight from Holland, conveniently grown in their own little individual planters. So all we had to do was pop them out and replant them in the planter boxes. I was surprised to learn that it takes 4 to 5 years to grow tulip bulbs to the size that were being used for Tulipmania. Size matters! The bigger the bulbs, the bigger and stronger the flowers they produce. 

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We were given gardening tools and big bags of compost and told to get going. All the kids needed to hear were the reassuring words: "it doesn't matter if you make a mess!". With that, they were off! Naomi's favourite bit was digging in compost.

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And Noey's was trying to work out the optimum height to achieve the best compost-in-planter to compost-on-table ratio.

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He was pretty pleased with our handiwork when we were done! Some of the bulbs didn't quite sit straight, but another interesting thing we learnt about tulip bulbs is that they are phototropic, ie. they will always grow towards the light. So it didn't matter if the bulbs were leaning to a side as they would naturally grow up straight up to the light anyway. Very forgiving toward us amateur gardeners, I'd say!

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The real highlight for the morning however, weren't so much the tulips but a certain bunny who caused quite a stir with her appearance -- Miffy! If you're wondering what Miffy has to do with tulips, the answer is that is that, like these tulips, Miffy hails from The Netherlands. (Hands up those of you who thought that Miffy was Japanese!) Miffy's original Dutch name is Nijntje, a shortening of diminutive konijnte or "little rabbit".

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It was our first time meeting Miffy live and the kids were very taken by her, especially Meips. She couldn't keep away from Miffy and kept trailing Miffy around, wanting to go hold her hand and give her a hug. I had to physically remove her to prevent her from getting in the photos of others.

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As an added bonus, the children were give the opportunity to do some planting in the flower field under the watchful eye of Miffy. Boy, were they enthusiastic! Armed with shovels and their hyacinth bulbs, they got down to work.

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The kids both enjoyed the process thoroughly and proved themselves to be pretty good gardeners, though Meips was foiled in her attempt to shower her Gor-gor with soil.

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After all that work, someone really needed to rest!

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We'll be back again at Tulipmania again this week to see the flowers in bloom. The tulips are expected to start blooming from tomorrow and the best time to catch them is likely to be the upcoming Good Friday long weekend (or slightly before that!). If you're excited to catch Miffy, do note that Miffy will only be making special appearances at Tulipmania at the following events:

1. Easter Egg Hunt with Miffy
Date: Sunday 20 April 2014
Egg Hunt Sessions: 11am, 1pm and 3pm.
(Each session is 1 hour long and registration opens in the Flower Dome 30 mins before each session.)
Eligibility: Chidren aged 3 to 12 years. (Children between the ages of 3 to 6 require parental supervision.)
Admission charges to the Cooled Conservatories apply.

2. Tulip Cheer
Date: Saturday 26 April 2014
Appearance Timings: 11am, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm.

Also, starting from 14 April 2014, all visitors to the Flower Dome will receive a souvenir Miffy postcard. Don't forget to collect yours as you enter the Flower Dome, while stocks last! 

For more details on ongoing activities for Tulipmania, do check out the Tulipmania page on the Gardens By the Bay website. You can also check out the KLM Facebook Page to follow Miffy's adventures in Singapore. 

Tulipmania
Flower Dome, Gardens By The Bay
14 April to 4 May 2014
9am to 9pm daily
Admission charges to the Cooled Conservatories apply.
(There is an ongoing promotion for Senior Citizens offering a 50% discount off regular Senior Citizen rates for the Flower Dome. ie. resident senior citizens only need pay $4 for entry!)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Four Cow Farm: Pohnpei Sponge and Bath Soaks {Giveaway}

Four Cow Farm is one of my favourite baby skincare brands, and one that I have used in recent years, with Meips in particular. You can read my review of their Nappy Balm and Calendula Remedy here

I like not only the fact that they made with 100% natural and organic ingredients, but also that they contain only the good stuff and none of the bad stuff. The ingredients, emulsifiers and preservatives used have all been carefully selected to bring maximum benefit to the skin while minimising irritation and avoiding items that have questionable long-term effects on our skin and general well-being. So the products have no parabens, propylene glycol, sulfates (ALS/SLS/SLES), cocamidopropyl betaine, artificial fragrances or colours, synthetic detergents, petrochemicals or petrochemical derivatives, mineral oils, lanolin, chlorinated water or phthalates. That's one mighty long list huh! And one that I appreciate.

Four Cow Farm has recently added a couple of items to their product range which we tried and liked, so I'm introducing them to you here.

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First up is the Pohnpei Sponge. I don't know about you, but I love getting a good scrub while having a bath. Definitely makes me feel a whole lot cleaner! And this sponge, it sure is luxurious. None of that synthetic stuff here. This is a natural sponge that has been hand-grown in the waters of Pohnpei Island Micronesia, then harvested and cleansed without the use of harsh chemical dyes. It feels a bit hard when you take it out the box but it softens right up once you soak it in some water. It honestly feels quite lovely on the skin, and I've been using this to scrub the kids' bodies and faces during their daily shower. It is effective yet soft enough that the kids don't kick up a fuss, which is great since I can get the job done quickly! Honestly, I'm eyeing one of these for myself too. 

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Another interesting new product they've added are the Calendula, Oat and Chickweed Soaks. This combines the itch-relieving qualities of chickweed, the moisturising and protective qualities of colloidal oats, and the calming and anti-inflammatory qualities of calendula petals. All these have been combined in a bag (much like a teabag!) that you soak in bath water. I gave the kids this spa-like treatment and allowed them to use the bath soaks in their tubs, which was such a treat for them! The soaks turned the water slightly milky and made their skin feel extra soft. How luxurious! You are also encouraged to pat the bag on skin to release it's goodness, but do be careful or you'll end up like me with oats all over the bathroom! This is recommended to soothe red, itchy and irritated skin affected by eczema, psoriasis, insects bites, hives, heat, acne, rashes, diaper rash or sunburn.

For more information, visit the Four Cow Farm website. You can also purchase their products from their online store and get free deliver within Singapore with an order of $45 or more.

GIVEAWAY!

I have THREE SETS of Four Cow Farm Products to give away! Each set contains one Pohnpei Sponge, one package of Calendula, Oat and Chickweed Bath Soaks (5 sachets), one 250ml bottle of Baby Wash and one 250ml of Baby Lotion for a combined retail value of over $90 per set!. This is a great bathtime set that will allow you to try out effectiveness of the Pohnpei Sponge and Bath Soaks for yourself. 

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To enter, simply follow use the Rafflecopter widget below. The more options you complete, the higher your chances of winning! Three winners will be selected at random. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest ends on Monday 21 April 2014, 11.59pm and is open to Singapore residents only.

* The products in this post and giveaway are sponsored by Four Cow Farm. All opinions are, as always, strictly my own.

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