Chinatown: preserving the heritage of yesteryear

Our next destination in Singapore was the vibrant, historical (and touristy) district of Chinatown. This was actually one of the places I was most excited to visit. That is because we were visiting close to the time of the Chinese New year and this is the year of the dog (Octavia’s favourite animal). I was also excited to try some good-quality Chinese food and visit the old temples.

Chinatown is historically a Chinese ethnic-centric area in the Outram district. It was actually named ‘Chinatown’ by the British. However, it was originally known as Niu che shui (Mandarin), meaning “bullock water-cart”, because the water supply was primarily transported by animal-driven carts in the 19th century. Chinatown features post-war historical shophouses, street hawking scenes and markets of yesteryear and is the only district in South East Asia that houses three different religious places of worship (Hindu, Muslim and Buddist). Although it is a very touristy place, where you can find plenty of souvenirs, it is also a part of the city where the heritage of yesteryear has been well preserved.


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3# Life Update: home again, Singapore buys

Hi everyone, I’m finally home again after our 10 days trip to Singapore. I got back a couple of days ago, but I’ve been too burnt out to do much. The time difference to Brisbane is only two hours, so I’m more exhausted from the trip in general rather than jet lag. I was a bit disappointed to come back home to real life. I was enjoying having my bed made, my meals prepared and exploring new exciting places every day. However, I missed my bed, my colouring pencils, soy cappuccinos and my family (in no particular order).

So before I share some of my travel adventures and stories, I thought I would show you some of the stuff I came back with. I didn’t do that much shopping really. I planned on coming back with a lot more. Marco, on the other hand, thinks I came back with more than enough. He only came back with a couple of pairs of shoes. I guess for the amount of time I allocated to shopping I thought I would have found more things I really wanted, but I guess I’m more sensible these days. So I’m happy with all my buys.


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My Christmas List…

Something I love about being an adult is being able to fulfil my own Christmas list. No more disappointments or being told that my wishes too numerous and unrealistic. Ok, some of it may be even too unrealistic for me to fulfil but at least I get to decide what is attainable and will remain a dream. Unfortunately with adulthood, so come the understanding of the value of money and that ‘things’ don’t make you happy. Nevertheless, ‘Santa’ has a sack of presents for me this year, so Christmas is going to be fantastic!

My interest (and obsessions) this year mostly revolve around colouring,  reading historical, politic and fantasy novels, Disney and travel. This is probably pretty obvious if you’re a frequent visitor to my blog. My life has changed so much since becoming a mother. I prefer to spend my spare time blogging, colouring, reading, watching late night and TV series, playing Disney Magic Kingdoms, planning future travel and eating out with friends. Shopping was previously a lifelong passion, but now it just seems too hard to look in a shop, let alone try something on and make it to the cash register to buy it. Until recently, everything I bought needed to double as nursing wear. So I expect in the new year I may try to get a few new items to update my wardrobe. I’m not too worried about that yet. At the moment I’m more interested in hobbies that are a bit more solitary since I spend my of my time accompanied by a small person, whose needs are more important than my own.


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Eco Toys for 2-3 years olds

In time for Christmas, I thought I better share with you guys some of my favourite picks of Eco Toys for two to three-year-olds. My daughter 2 and a half, so we are familiar with many of these toys. This age group love to do a lot of pretending play. This is an expression of what they have learned from the world that surrounds them. It’s a really fun time to watch them pretending to copy us and be in charge of something smaller than them. It also makes play with us a bit more interesting, as the toddler can now take the lead.

My daughter is really interested in animals, miniature homes, baby dolls to care for, puzzles, cooking and performing with instruments.  When I began looking for toys to satisfy these interests I did find that most are recommended for age 3 years and above. However, I manage to track down quite a few eco toys that can be played with from age 2 years. Since my daughter has never been one to put things in her mouth I have bought her a few toys for 3 years old, with no issues. However, always be aware of the recommended ages and that these toys often contain small parts that your child could put in their mouth.

The categories that I have covered include:

  • Animal figurines
  • Animal and doll houses
  • Vehicles
  • Baby dolls and accessories
  • Puzzles
  • Memory games
  • Kitchens and appliances
  • Tea and coffee sets
  • Pretend food and utensils
  • Workbenches and Tools
  • Building & destroying
  • Little Shopper
  • Activity/Music Centre
  • Other pretending play toys
  • Ride-On

These picks are of course only a snapshot of what many of these great eco brands offer. So take a look at what else is available in their ranges to find the best toys that suit your child. These toys are all currently available in the Australian market. Be sure to google the toy name, as the websites that are linked to the brands and probably won’t able to ship to Australia. There are plenty of in-store and online toy stores that stock these items. If you have any questions about these toys, their materials and safety, its always best to email the brand directly and I’m sure they would be too happy to answer your questions.

If the child your buying for is younger then 2 years, please check out my previous posts Eco Toys for under 12 months and Eco Toys for 12-24 month.

At the end of this post, I have also included some links and information on where to find Eco toys, Safety standards and Certifications and a bio on these Eco brands.


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Family Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas. I look forward to it all year. For me its a time for magic, lots of presents, self-reflection, quality time with family and extra special delicious food. A few years ago the Christmas baton was handed to me, so I have been holding Christmas at my house ever since. Yes its a lot of work, but I love it.

Since I had my daughter, it’s been so wonderful to pass on the Christmas magic on to her. This year will be Octavia third Christmas and she will be 2 years and 8 months. Now she really understands who Santa is, what presents are and why mama keeps going Christmas shopping. She is so excited about this and has made going shopping with her easier if we are looking for things to tell Santa we want and need. We haven’t discussed the religious aspect of Christmas yet, I think this will be a conversation for next year or the year after.

Before we had Octavia’s first Christmas we began some Christmas traditions. We only started with few and will add a new one every year. I think it’s important to make traditions because it’s something we can all look forward, activities we can do together and will create magical childhood memories that we cherish forever.


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Disney Fashion for Grownups

I am a long time Disney fan and visiting the theme parks was really a dream come true. When you visit the parks you feel like you’re in a ‘Disney bubble’. In this bubble, you are so emersed in this magical world and there is so much merchandise that you feel like you need to have. A lot of this stuff I didn’t really need as much as I felt like I did in those few magical days (eg. Minnie Ears). However, there are some items that I cherish and are happy I bought.


Since visiting the Disney parks in Tokyo, Florida and Paris, I am more of a fanatic for the Disney merchandise. At the parks, there are some exclusive items that you can’t get anywhere else, such as Minnie Paris Collection or The Cherry Tree Lane Collection. However, there are some other brands that sell very cool Disney inspired clothing and accessories for adults, that aren’t tacky and still inspires your Peter Pan complex. These are some of my favorite brands with Disney inspired clothing and accessories.

By the way, if you are interested in visiting Disney parks or want to reminisce with me, see my photos and guides for the Disney theme parks here.


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Pottery Barn Kids eco-friendly finds

I just love hunting for homewares and home decor. I could spend hours looking in showrooms and pinning my favourite furnishings and decor. Since having my daughter I am always on the look out for pretty eco-friendly, organic or non-toxic furnishing and manchester. Brands that carry these lines are usually hard-to-find, expensive or only sell online (imported). Big retailers usually don’t carry these kinds of goods. When I have asked questions about the products they sell I usually get a blank stare and the (imaginary) Australian compliance lines. One big retailer that I have found that carries beautiful interior goods for kids, which offers eco-friendly options is Pottery Barn Kids.

Pottery Barn Kids is part of the American parent company Williams-Sonoma, along with Pottery Barn and West Elm. Over the past few years, they have opened stores across Australia. These three brands are mostly housed in the same locations. Their products vary from reasonably priced to expensive. However, I do find the quality of the furnishings are quite good compared to large Australian retailers and the website gives plenty of information on materials and certification. In saying that there a lot of terrible MDF furniture and a bit of green washing, but if you know what your looking for you can find some great products. I have noticed that many eco-friendly products lines on the American website are not offered in Australia stores. However, I was assured by a store manager that these products will make their way over in time.At the end of this post, you can find the information of different certifications that most of these products carry.

These are some of my favourite eco-friendly finds that are available in store at the moment:

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Milano: a home away from home

Next stop on our trip was Italy. We stayed in Milano for a few nights so we could spend time with family and visit some nearby cities before heading up north to Luino. Milano has a special place in my heart, as I spent a semester living here when I was in my third year of Italian studies a few years back. When I wasn’t studying, I was walking, eating and shopping my way through the city or travelling to nearby cities. I’ve already seen all the sites, so I wanted to spend a day just enjoying my favourite places and doing a bit of shopping.

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Non-toxic Art Materials and Crafts for Kids

Kids love being creative, covering their skin and tasting art materials. However, some of these products contain harmful toxins that can be absorbed through the skin, breathed in and ingested. Luckily there are heaps of quality non-toxic brands that can be found in Australia. Most of these products are made in Australian, America and Germany and comply with strict safety standards. They can be found in department stores and children’s boutiques, but some may have to be purchased online.

The following art materials and crafts that I have recommended include crayons, pencils, markers, paints, face paint, chalk, play dough, modelling clay and glue and craft activities. I have also recommended some DIY recipes and information on the brands and products (bottom).


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Eco Toys for 12-24 Month

Buying eco, non-toxic toys for this age group can be a little trick. They go from being little babies to toddlers so fast and need toys that stimulate their fine motor skills. Many of these more interesting toys can have smaller pieces and are recommended for 24 months or even 3 years. However, I found some toys that can be used by toddlers between 12-24 months. The categories I cover include:

  • Activity Centers
  • Musical Instruments
  • Shape Sorter
  • Puzzles
  • Blocks
  • Walkers
  • Ride on
  • Push n’ roll
  • Small Wooden Dolls  and Accessories
  • Larger Baby Dolls and Accessorie

  • Cars and other Vehicles

For more information on the brands that I recommended and some info about them check them out at the bottom of this post.

This is a follow-up to my last post on this subject, Eco Toys for under 12 months. If you’re interested in buying for this age group or want to know more about why I prefer eco, non-toxic toys and more tips, please check it out.

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Organic Baby and Kids Clothes

Something that was very important to me when I was preparing for my daughter was buying organic baby clothes, produced with GMO-free, pesticide-free materials and free of chemical processing. I resisted the urge to buy every cute baby outfit I saw and stick to safer and more eco-friendly brands that I felt more comfortable with.

So why do I prefer organic clothing for my baby? Well for a start something I found with most organic brands is that they can tell you where the fabric is from, where the clothes are made and how they are processed. This transparency is something that you will not get from big department stores or many brands. They can’t tell you anything and will just repeat the same old line that it meets ‘Australian standards’. Unfortunately, these standards don’t cover harmful substances or meet standards covered under OEKO-TEX certification. Many of these organic brands are covered under Global Organic Textile Standard or  OEKO-TEX. If they are not I’d be asking a few more questions.

Babies skin is a lot thinner than ours and can easier absorb harmful chemicals. I feel better knowing that the clothes I am buying for her wouldn’t have anything harmful chemicals and dyes. Cotton is heavily sprayed with pesticides and synthetic fabrics are made with petrochemicals, plastics and other substances. Then the fabrics need to manufactured into clothes, so finishing chemicals and flame retardants may be added. The Australian Standard states that Children’s nightwear and limited daywear (for sizes 00 to 14)  must have fire hazard information label. This means they have been chemically treated or are a snug fit. If not buying organic it’s always best to check that snug fit is the reason for low fire danger. For more information on this subject check out the links below.

Not all organic baby clothes are created equal so it’s always best to check out their website or ask a few more questions before you commit to purchasing. Below are some questions that I like to ask.

Tips for buying organic on a budget:

  • Sign up to baby boutique and favourite brand websites for sales and vip events
  • Take advantage of Instore sales and Outlet stores
  • Gift registry for stores or websites
  • Buy basics in bulk to take advantages or sales and free shipping
  • Web search favourite brands and style until you find sale/free shipping
  • David Jones Gift vouchers
  • Only buy what you need!
  • Invest in organic pyjamas (to avoid flame retardants)

Below are some organic brands available to buy in Australia. Although there are heaps great brands, many you may only find online or in baby boutiques. You can find a few brands in David Jones, such as Purebaby, Huxbaby and Naturebaby. The only brand that I am aware of that has physical stores and outlets is Purebaby. H&M also have their Conscious range, which uses organic cotton. Target and Best & Less also have an organic baby range (note you get what you pay for). Although buying in-store can be easier sometimes, some of these other brands have quite unique prints and have quite good quality materials that continue to look new after many washes.

My favourites are Purebaby, Sapling Child and Joey Jelly Bean. All of which haven’t faded over time and stretch well for growing babies. H& M is good for basics and washes well. Best & Less was probably my least favourite in terms of fabric longevity and shape.

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