Back to blogging at IATH (again?!)

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I admit it. I’ve been bad in maintaining my blog. I probably will continue to be. The initial effort to blog at my own name domain didn’t work. FAIL – big time. I was either too lazy to do it or rather, I found several other new hobbies. It was easier to find time to sit down and blog when I was a full-time working mum – I could steal time here and there in between work tasks. But now, when the kids are in school, I get busy with my part-time job, preparing meals, doing the laundry, going to the gym, running errands and catching up with friends. When the kids come home, the chaos begins. I can’t even hear myself talking, so how to blog la?

Then again, I realised something. There’s only one thing that inspires me to blog. My children. I blog not to be known by others, but rather it’s a personal journal for my children to read when they’re older. I’ll let you in a secret – one of the reasons I have been procrastinating is because I have been emailing these thoughts and milestones to my children’s personal email addresses which I created for them more than a year ago.

But recently, I found another very good reason to revive IATH. Yeah yeah, I know this is the umpteenth time I’m reviving it. It keeps dying, I know. Shame on me, I KNOW! You’ll soon know the reason.

And oh, why not continue at joeyhow.com? Because I’m a cheapskate! I refused to pay that annual fee to sustain the domain LOL. Yes, that’s me. Not bashful this time.

Welcome back to IATH, love!

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Year-End Class Party

So I haven’t been able to update my blog as much as I wanted to. Maintaining a blog proved harder than when I was working a full-time office job. In between juggling tasks for my part-time work, ferrying the kids around, doing household chores and attending to the kids’ needs, I’m left with not many chances to sit down in front of the computer and pen down my thoughts. No doubt that I have my mornings free now that Xan is in the nursery, but the hours are usually used to catch up on work. And when I have the free time – which is ever so seldom – I’d prefer to curl up on the sofa with a book.

Today is a rare day, when the kids are playing on their own, dinner is already prepared and I have done my work for the day. I have been itching to blog about what I was up to for the past two months – so much thoughts, so little space 🙂

After coming back for our family holiday in Southwest UK, I plunged right into the role of party planning for E’s class. The school year ends in June, with a new year beginning in September. E completed his Kindergarten 2 stage and is moving on to Year 1 in a couple months. It’s a big milestone for all of them.

Being a class mum, I was enlisted to organise a class party and prepare gifts for teachers. Here’s what I did:

Party goodies for the children
A party is not complete without goodie bags! To make it special, I assembled the snacks into robots holding flags. Each flag spells out the name of every child, with an inspirational word for each alphabet. For example: E nthusiastic; W ise; A mazing; N ice

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The robots going marching one-by-one, hurrah hurrah!

The children also brought home an inflatable summer beach ball. It’s economical, relevant to the theme of their leaving for summer, and is personalised. It took the Husband and I almost 2 hours to inflate 25 balls and write the names of all kids on them, with the message “We had a ball at KG2!” 

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Thank goodness for a very sporting and cooperative teacher who entertained my request for her help in enlisting an award name for each child! I designed some chocolate bar wrappers, printed out the names of awards and stuck them on each Kit Kat. On the day of party, we had a mini awards ceremony. If you want the template, drop me an email 🙂

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All children and teachers also left with a printed class photo collage which yours truly photographed and created the collage using PicMonkey. Some of the responses I got from the children had me grinning cheek to cheek the whole day!

KG2AM Photo Collage

Teachers’ Gifts 
The main gifts for the teachers were shopping gift vouchers from the collective class fund. But we decided to do more.

What’s more meaningful and memorable as a gift than the combined work of the children themselves? I visited E’s class one of those mornings to get the kids’ handprints on a canvas and formed a colourful heart shape for the Lead Teacher. I was initially thinking to write the names on each handprint but the artwork was too pretty on its own already. On the back of the canvas, I printed out a small piece of paper with the name of the teacher and class/year as well as a quote “A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart

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Heart shaped handprints for the Lead Teacher

 

For the Teacher Assistant, I printed out the outline of a donut and got the kids to colour and decorate them. Then, I cut them according to shape, stuck them on a piece of paper and named each donut, completing the work with the key message “DONUT know what we would have done without you. Thank you!”  This was presented to the teacher in a nice photo frame.

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25 yummylicious donuts for Teacher Assistant 1

 

The third artwork for another Teacher Assistant was simpler, with scoops of ice cream on a cone. Each scoop has the name of each child. The message was “Thanks for making our year a special treat!”

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Gigantic ice-cream for the Teacher Assistant

 

Party / Graduation Day
Some photos taken on the party day which coincided with their school’s graduation day.

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KG2 Graduation Ceremony
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Due to the upcoming Ramadhan celebration, no in-school class parties were allowed. As such, we held it at a soft play area
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Simple set-up
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With the mums, kids and teachers
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The parents in the class were really sweet. They pooled some money to buy us class mums some flowers and goodies from L’Occitane. It was a total surprise!

Xan’s Nursery
As for Xan’s nursery teacher and her assistants, I organised a group gift buy to get some shopping vouchers for them. We will be presenting these to them on the last day of school, along with a bouquet of flowers, donuts for all staff and DIY thank you cards by the children.

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Getting the fingerprints of 2-year olds proved to me a lot more challenging than doing the same with older kids. Good fun nonetheless!

Upon seeing these efforts, some of my friends asked what motivated me to put in so much work for a party. One of my friend’s son saw me constructing the robot snacks the other day. His instant reaction was “Wowwww…” and stared for the longest time ever.

On the party day, the kids went berserk seeing the beach balls in the party room. They cost us only 5 dirhams each (RM4+) though it took us quite a bit of time and energy to inflate them all. Before the party ended, the kids were asked to take a ball each. One of the boys couldn’t believe his ears and asked me “I can take this?!” I nodded, he grabbed one and dashed out. Moments later, he came back to me and with a confused yet excited look, he asked again, “I can take this home? It’s mine?” I answered a big “YES, yes, yes dear!” That grateful look on his face was simply priceless.

It never stops to amaze me how such simple stuff can bring such big joy and gratitude to kids. Things we take for granted all the time. It only proves that gifts need not be expensive or big – but when it’s meaningful, personalised and gifted with the recipient in mind, it makes a world of difference to them.

That’s why I went the extra mile, and will never stop to. It makes me feel good when they feel special.

REVIEW: Clarisonic Mia

Living in Dubai is expensive. From property and food to education and clothes, I can safely say that the only things that are cheap here are petrol, cars and Yemeni honey. I’m comparing this with what we were getting – apple to apple – back in Malaysia.

When we first moved here, I had to make do without months of facial treatment and haircut. One-hour plus facials range from AED250 – AED400 (RM252 – RM403). Haircuts for ladies are at least AED150 (RM151) at a non-fancy salon. Let’s not even bring up manicure, pedicure and massages. Even eyebrow threading costs AED15 (RM15) here! Not unlike the pampering tai-tai lifestyle many imagined, right?

I once went for a facial at a salon nearby where I lived. Not only it was very basic, the extraction lacked thoroughness and was painful, and the therapist left marks all over my face. My face didn’t feel and look clean too. Two days later, my skin felt rough again. From then on, I only get my facial done whenever I’m back in Malaysia. Despite diligently putting on scrub and mask every week, my skin gets congested quickly….until I discovered Clarisonic Mia.

My skin condition
Before I share more about my discovery, here’s a brief background of my skin: I’m not born with genes of clear, smooth complexion but I’m blessed with a non-outbreak prone skin despite its sensitivity, large pores and uneven skin tone. I have a combination skin with oily T-zone and dry at all other areas. My biggest concern is the frequent built-up of black/white heads and dead skin cells around my nose, cheeks and chin, making my skin really rough and dull.

Why Clarisonic?
I’ve came across good reviews about Clarisonic cleansing system and have seen them being sold in Sephoras before but never got a chance to check it out until I passed by its pop-up store in Bangsar Village in November 2014. I sat down for the demo, was impressed with the device but didn’t buy it due to the price. After returning to Dubai, I continued keeping a look-out for such similar device from other brands. After months of contemplation and weighing the pros and cons, I finally chose to go with Clarisonic due to one key reason – compared to others, Clarisonic is gentler and doesn’t twist or spin the skin. In what feels like vibration, it’s actually oscillation cleansing the skin thoroughly.

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Compact and easy to bring along for travel

 

Clarisonic Mia
I got my Clarisonic Mia in Malaysia at a promotional price of RM380 during the Chinese New Year season. I chose the most basic model – Mia – as based on my previous experience getting electrical device with various add-on features such as two speed levels, massage function, travel case etc., I would usually end up using its one function. Compared to Clarisonic Mia 2, the Mia model only has one speed level, one year warranty, a charger and a brush head. I have been using it for over six weeks now and have yet to regret not forking out a bit more money to get the higher range. In short, I chose Mia because it is affordable, straightforward and does its job.

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The entire assemble of Clarisonic Mia of is simple and functional.

How to use it?
Wet your face and the brush, apply some cleanser all over, turn on the device and gently move the brush around your face. While in use, apply only slight pressure on the skin. The device automatically stops after one minute. Rinse off the cleanser and follow with your regular skincare regimen.

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Pros
1. Skin feels squeaky clean and smooth after use. Like after-facial kind of clean. After a month’s use, my pores are visibly finer. My skin seems more radiant too.
2. No more rough surfaces around the skin, especially on my chin where the white heads usually gather.
3. My itchy hands like to squeeze white heads out of my pores but ever since Clarisonic, there were less that oozes out.
4. Because it’s waterproof, I usually bring it into the shower with me. Killing two birds with one stone for full-time mums where time is a luxury!
5.  Very economical in the long run considering that the price of one Mia can get me only one facial session in Dubai. It’s great for skin maintenance especially since I can only get a proper manual facial done every 4-5 months.
6. Easy to charge, light and compact to bring around. It’s just like an electric toothbrush.

Cons
1. It’s recommended to change the brush every 3 months. Each brush costs RM93 to RM110. Ouch!
2. Only one year warranty for the Mia model. No problem with mine so far, but still…why one year for this and two years for the rest? Marketing gimmick!
3. Slight skin flare-up at the beginning but once you get the hang of it, you’ll know how to best use it on your skin.

Tips
* When I first started using Mia, my skin reacted to the twice-a-day regimen. The skin around my cheeks itched and flared up. After reading up more about it, I dropped the usage to once every two days and shortened the time used on the affected areas. This trick worked for me. As with everything in life, moderation is key. Once my skin settled, I upped it to once daily – applying slight pressure while using it and concentrating more on areas that require attention.

* The Clarisonic devices are generally more expensive in UAE. For the same product, Mia 2 is AED720 in UAE and RM550 in Malaysia. Not surprised!

* From its official website, it seems that the Mia model has been phased out where the lowest range available now is Mia 2. I don’t see the Mia model being sold in the Sephora stores in Dubai too. However, Mia is still selling in Malaysia. If you would like to get one, head over to one of its store or buy online here.

Disclaimer: This is a non-sponsored review. I purchased the Clarisonic Mia on my own and did not receive any free products or remuneration from any party for this review. The remarks are solely based on my observation and preference, and may differ from yours.

My 1st International Day at DIA

Growing up, I remember only seeing my parents, particularly my mum, appearing in my school for only several specific occasions – when I wasn’t feeling well, did something wrong, or report card day. Times have changed. With my being a full-time mum in Dubai where education approach in international schools is very much Western-style oriented and parents involvement is highly encouraged, I get to participate in E’s class activities every now and then. So far, I have organised in-class celebrations for World Teacher’s Day and Chinese New Year as well as went on a field trip and participated in the book reading week. E has always looked forward to our involvement, beaming with pride whenever we got busy in his class.

The school recently threw an International Day celebration, where parents from different nationalities came together to set up stores for their respective countries, showcasing their culture, information and most importantly, gave out food for sampling. I wasn’t aware of this event until I received an email from the school urging participation from more countries. With quite a number of Malaysians in this school, I was rather surprised to find that the usual group of Malaysian mums did not sign up this time around. My patriotic self panicked and started asking around. How can there be no “Malaysia” in this event? We have so much to share to the world!

It’s easy to forget our roots when we live abroad. That’s why we have always placed a priority in having our kids embrace their culture and be proud of their background. Determined to make it happen, I got in touch with one of the veteran school mums who used to lead the Malaysian team every year and volunteered to take the lead this year – having no idea what my role is all about!

Work-in-progress
They are probably the kindest lot of people I have met in Dubai so far because once the first meeting was called, everything just fell into place. We decided to join forces with the one-man-show “Brunei” team. One guided me on my tasks, another contacted the Malaysian Tourism for brochures, posters and souvenirs, while someone went to the Malaysian Consulate to pick up decoration items. There were 8-9 of us in the group, with each mum volunteering to sponsor 1-2 local Malaysian dishes for serving that day. I got busy gathering all items and printed out small posters about Malaysia to be pinned up on that day. It was not as tough as I’ve initially imagined. After attending two rounds of flag parade rehearsals, we were ready to rock and roll!

DIA International Day, 12th March 2015
On the day of event, the students were asked to go to school in either their country’s national costume, national colours or famous sports team colours. As E only had a set of Baju Melayu which he would be wearing for the parade later that day, I sewed a small flag on a plain yellow shirt and paired it with a dark blue pants. Voila, we’ve got an Anak Malaysia there!

11046578_10153005504084724_8083726155740059328_nFor the in-class celebration, each child also brought in a country food. As I was busy with the evening event, he brought some love letters we got from Malaysia to share with his friends.

As the evening came, we started setting up the booth. All of us came dressed in our traditional costumes. I wore my one and only red Baju Kebaya which I wore on my wedding day in 2007. This was my third time wearing it, with the second time being a visit to the palace, representing my company in presenting a cake to the former King.

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The parade started and E was the flag bearer, along with my friend’s son. I was initially worried that he would have a stage fright but boy, he made us all so proud, holding the flag up high and strutting his stuff!

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After that, we got busy serving the food and giving out souvenirs to the guests.

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There were roti jala, onde-onde, Hainanese chicken rice ball, seri muka, kuih lapis, karipap, turmeric rice with beef rendang, yam cake, pulut inti and air bandung. Even some Malaysian fruits like mangosteen, rambutan and papaya.

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The Husband took some time off from work on that day to run a teh tarik corner. Many guests nodded in approval as they took a sip of his teh tarik 😀

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We also took turns to go visiting each ‘country’ and try out their food. There were a total of 45 participating countries this year. We were so full by the time we finished the round.

1622754_10153005505694724_8820939752994730331_nWe had a great fun representing Malaysia, so much so I don’t mind doing this again next year!