Royal Caribbean, Mariner of the Seas

Vacation? Yes, please. We usually plan our own itineraries when we travel abroad. I enjoy spending vast amounts of time looking for places to eat, spots to visit. Gratifying too, especially in Tokyo, when we figured out how to navigate the city on their public transport! So mention a cruise getaway, and I felt a little unaccomplished. No planning, researching or discovering little nooks and alleys? MEH! Let’s see how this goes.

Boarding times are staggered according to your room’s location on the deck, but you can always choose to board early in order to lunch on the ship, which was what we did. “Windjammer” is open for all 3 meals of the day, including tea. We’ve never made it to tea, as there are always activities going on, and besides, they feed you very well for lunch. Windjammer serves the food buffet style. It can be a little unnerving to look for a table and get your food during the peak period, especially if you pile your plate too high, and have to take a long walk back amidst the crowd to your table!

Eating at the main dining area is more sedated. You get to choose your dishes from a small selection, and the waiters serve it to you with some small talk. Though they are only open at lunch on certain days.

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The main dining room at dinner

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Scallop gratin for dinner one night

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Roast beef

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A selection of desserts

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Tiramisu

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Chocolate slice

Kids have their own little menu, of mostly Western dishes. The closest thing to anything Asian was a starter of a chicken noodle soup, which Nic ordered 3 night in a row.

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Singapore noodles at lunch

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Nasi goreng with satay. Was expecting our local satay, but it turned out to be a piece of grilled chicken on a skewer.

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Ending the meal with an apple parcel

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Grilled salmon for Joel

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Highly recommended is the ice skating performance “Ice Under the Big Top.” The skaters hail from USA, Poland, Japan and Australia. Try to get a seat in the front row if you are keen for an interactive experience!

One of the highlights of the trip was the Meet and Greet breakfast session with the DreamWorks characters. If you did not manage to make a reservation prior to the trip, try to book it once you get on board. Several families tried to gatecrash for picture taking, but were politely refused.

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The menu for the Meet and Greet session

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My ham and cheese omelette

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Kids’ waffles

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We got King Julien and Gloria at our breakfast!

If you missed out on this session, there are definitely other chances . The ship has slotted in at least one Meet and Greet session a day for the characters. Just refer to the itinerary, and wait in line patiently for that Kodak moment!

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One such session was with the penguins!

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Nic trying her hand at mini golf

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Taking a dip

Other activities on board include rock climbing (for kids 6 years old and older), movie screenings and ice skating. Royal Caribbean also has a drop off programme for children aged between 3 to 11 years old. Joel and Nic were in the Aquanaut programme, in which one night was a pirate theme, where everyone did a parade through the ship’s Promenade, shouting a pirate cheer.

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The kids decorated their pirate scarf, did their own treasure map and had pirate makeup for the parade

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In the end, am I a cruise convert? At times, it felt like being on holiday with 500 other families, and the queue for some activities can take awhile. One thing that we don’t have to worry about was the food, as they even have a free flow of yoghurt, pizza and hot dogs if you have space for it. As my friend best described it, a cruise vacation is best for the very young, or the very old. For those in between, they may be better suited for a land holiday.

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with Royal Caribbean in any way, and paid for the cruise ourselves. No compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Washi Polaroid Christmas Tree Ornament

Are you a big fan of washi tape and polaroids? If you don’t want to splurge on getting the character polaroid film, you can always dress up the plain ones with washi tape. As ’tis the season to be jolly, attach a piece of yarn, twine or string to the back of it, and you get an ornament to hang on the tree!

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Apply washi tape all around the edge

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Ready in 3 minutes!

It’s fast and easy, even for the little ones!

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Angus Steak House, Takashimaya

There are some days that I switch to caveman mode and think about gnawing on a piece of steak. When that happens, I like to swing by Angus Steak House at Takashimaya.

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I started my meal with a Minestrone soup. The other options were Pumpkin and Mushroom. As this restaurant has a Japanese influence, the soup was light and thin.

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The starter was a mini pie. When the waitress was quizzed on what was inside, she said it was a black pepper prawn. Though the dish did not have a hint of black pepper at all.

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Salad, with a tangy dressing. Worked nicely as a palate cleanser after the mini pie.

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Not your usual, run of the mill bread roll. Served warm, and slathered with butter, it will have you asking for another.

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My sirloin! I enjoyed even the fatty bits, which usually I’d avoid. Though it was leaning on the side of well done, despite me asking for medium well.

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My partner’s tenderloin. His was done medium, and it turned out to be ACE. Every piece was a melt in the mouth moment.

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Ended the meal with a tiramisu. On the whole, dinner was splendid, by my standard. Service was always with a smile. A bone to pick, their waitresses still wear the traditional French maid uniform. Would be better if they don something else to reflect the strong and empowered woman of today!

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with Angus Steak House in any way, and paid for the meal ourselves. No compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Easy Christmas Tree Bunting

I admit, I’m a big fan of buntings. They dress up a naked wall, and have a festive air about them. Besides walls, they also go well on cards, and cakes! Since Christmas is around the corner, and the kids need something to occupy them, this bunting is perfect for the holiday season.

You will need, paints, brushes, drawing paper, a pencil, yarn and a Christmas tree template.

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First, fill an entire piece of drawing paper with green paint. Feel free to let your child choose their preferred colour. Purple or pink trees will look as brilliant as good old green!

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Proceed to add little polka dots or whatever design you fancy all over.

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Leave it to dry completely, thereafter, trace out the Christmas tree template on the back of the paper.

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Next, cut them all out. Kids will need a little help here.

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Attach them to your yarn using either washi or scotch tape. Your bunting is now ready to be hung!

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Stand back, enjoy, and soak in the magic of the bunting!

Terrarium making at Rosebud

Debbie from Owls Well Blog and I went for a terrarium workshop recently. We left the class with a lovely terrarium to call our own and some tips on how to make and upkeep one!

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Rosebud is a little floral shop located at International Plaza. Cindy, the owner, trained and worked in Gloucester for a year in all things floral. As you enter the shop, you will be greeted by little rows of terrarium. The function of the coloured sand beneath the soil is for drainage. You can substitute them for pebbles if you wish.

Terraiums work by the process of transpiration, and therefore it was advised to leave the lid attached all the time. Another plus point is that they only need watering once in a few weeks! Just 2 puffs of water down the side of the jar will suffice. Cindy also advised they can get by on fluorescent light, and to avoid direct sunlight altogether, which makes this a very ideal indoor plant! After a short introduction to terrariums, we got started.

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Items needed are – a pair of long chopsticks, a spoon, a presser, coloured coarse sand, pebbles for landscaping, plants (petunias are best for beginners) and figurines.

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First, fill the jar with a layer of coloured sand. After it has gotten to about 1 inch in height, use a presser to compact them tightly. If not, the second layer will spill into the first, making it look untidy.

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Debbie and I hard at work, compacting the sand

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Proceed to add the second layer of coloured sand, also using the presser to compact them.

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Next, add 8 spoonfuls of soil. Again, use the presser to level it out. Organic soil is best!

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Leveling it out

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Now, use the spoon to make a cavity for the plant. Use the spoon to burrow into the soil until you see the first layer of the coloured sand. Try to make the cavity a little larger than the base of the plant. This will make it easier to “transplant” the plant!

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Select your plant, or plants. Then bundle the base tightly and carefully, not to damage the roots.

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This little guy is all ready to go into the jar!

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After you’ve dropped the plant into the cavity, use the chopsticks to carefully prop it up. Following that, use the spoon to cover the cavity with the soil neatly.

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Next, take 4 pebbles and place them around the plant, with the purpose of anchoring it down. Use the top end of the chopstick to push them into the soil, partially submerging them. Then it’s time for landscaping!

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Cindy introduced the “sprinkle method”, where you sprinkle the sand over the soil, covering it thinly, followed by another sprinkle of a different coloured sand. You can also do a “half and half”, where 2 colours will be divided equally. If you are feeling adventurous, there’s the triangle design, where 3 colours are involved.

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Now, for my favourite part. It’s time to stick your figurines in! I think it may also be possible to use those cute little toothpicks for bentos instead of figurines. They have a pointy end which makes it easy to stick it in the soil.

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A terrarium to call our own!

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The next day, condensation was spotted along the sides of my jar, which means, IT’S ALIVE!! Am pleased to be able to observe a bit of nature in action.

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with Rosebud in any way, and paid for the terrarium making session ourselves. No compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Arteastiq, Guided art session for kids

I signed Joel up for a 3 hour guided canvas painting session at Arteastiq recently. It describes itself as a social painting and tea sipping place. Thus, Arteastiq is divided into two parts, the first part is a painting studio, while the other part offers food and beverage in a plush setting.

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You can bring a picture of what you want to paint, or you can choose from the files or books available. While we were there, a little boy wanted a picture of a race car, which they did not have. The teacher was kind to go online and chose one together with him. The kids got a 50 x 50 cm canvas, but if you have more creativity to unleash, there is a bigger one at 60 x 80 cm.

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Joel chose a picture from their files, and got to work straight away with the teacher’s assistance. I had a few errands to run, and left him there in their good care. Before I left, I ordered a hot chocolate for him from the menu, as a drink was included in the session. I got a call 2 hours later, informing me that he has completed his art.

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The canvas turned out happy and bright, and I’m glad Joel did not follow the picture to a T, but added some of his own ideas to it. We’re going to let him choose which part of the house this one is hanging from!

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with Arteastiq in any way, and paid for the canvas painting session ourselves. No compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Friday Five, Clay Necklace

All little girls are naturally attracted to jewellery and little bits and bobs, and Nic is no exception. She is especially fond of necklaces, and will carefully choose one from her small collection to match her outfit before we head out. Therefore, she was naturally ecstatic about this craft on making a clay necklace.

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You will need clay, a toothpick or a wooden skewer, string, and a plastic knife.

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First, roll your clay into a ball, then proceed to shape it to a long strip. Cut the strip into equal knobs. If you have a craft board, it will come in handy as a base for cutting, and you can use the little squares as a guide.

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Next, roll them into a round shape. Nic liked this part as she enjoyed shaping the little pillows of clay.

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Continue to mould them into any shape you fancy. We stuck to the classic round shape, and did donut rings as well. This step and the next may be a bit tricky for the kids so they might need a little help.

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Use the toothpick or skewer to poke a hole through for the string. When they are all done, give them some time to dry. We used soft clay from Daiso, and it took about 2 days to dry. The soft clay was a little flaky, even after a week, so I might try “jumping clay” the next time for this craft.

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Time to string them up once they have dried! The order is of course, left to Nic to decide. It helps to tape one end of the string, to make it easier for the bead to slip through.

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Knot it up, when you’re done, and it is ready to wear!

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