Cheongsam Spotting

I have not had much ideas for a new post after the last one, so I thought I would showcase pictures of cheongsams I have been taking whenever I chanced upon any.

I had not mentioned anything on Vourgeois for a long time. Here are two cheongsam dresses available at the store located on the 4th level of One Raffles Place. The design is typical of Vourgeois style: block colored silk fabrics, and the embellishments, if any, are sequins. There is little variations in the design, and the dresses come in the straight cut fit with hidden back zip.
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I chanced upon this dress at Ong Shunmugam boutique I went to my regular alteration shop, “hey, this looks like the design from Our Bitsy Prints!”. I sent the photo to Melanie who told me OBP was inspired by the Verdame dress from the Valentino S/S collection, and the designer at Ong Shunmugam likely had the same Eureka moment.
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This is a mandarin top and pants set from OS. When I first saw it, my thought was “I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing this.” It looks similar to what my late grandma wore.
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Then there is this funny looking dress which looks like a mish-mash of fabrics (or “rojak” as we call here).
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Ong Shunmugam also offers peplum cheongsams. I thought the length seems a little too long, and the dresses look matronly as a result.
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A simple cheongsam dress from Mama & Misse, with flare bottom.
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This is a beautiful lace cheongsam from Hana. I like the graduated color of the lining fabric.
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The cheongsam news snippets

In this month, there have been launches from some online boutiques and sneek peeks of what to expect. Joli Pretty launched their second collection on 7 August, while The Happy Cheongsam launched its 5th collection last Friday, and The Lady General had one as well.

The Launches
Joli Pretty’s latest collecton is a continuation of their first, with the same design except for two dresses. And these two have sold out so far, though the reason could be that they retail at $89 each because of the polyester fabric. One is a bias cut dress with frontal colorful parrots print and block black color on the back. It is an interesting design though I have reservation about the parrots print which reminds me of a cushion cover.
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The other is a short sleeved A-line dress with owls print which is better. The design reminds me of the simple elegance of Shanghai Tang but with a whimsical tone.
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THC’s collection is inspired by California, though to be honest, I don’t see any link. There are two pretty dresses, like this formal turquoise green cheongsam below with a rosette on the belt. It would make an outstanding outfit for a cocktail party or a wedding luncheon.
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Then there is this dress that reminds me of something similar from Sissae.
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Except that for the Sissae dress, the print is pointing down.

When I first saw TLG’s latest collection, I spotted the peplum cheongsams with batik bottom, and initially went “that is so auntie!”.
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The problem is that it is a knee length dress, and of course the brown color doesn’t help. But on further thoughts, TLG may be catering to a wide range of clientele ranging from their 20s’ to 50’s or above. So the peplum dresses are actually appropropate for the older women.

For the younger set, there is the youthful orchid print flared bottom cheongsam with a wide belt, which is rather pretty. I prefer this to the purple Ji dress of the same design; I find the print a little too loud and getai-like (stage dress).
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TLG also offers a casual cheongsam with a retro feel. The designer, Elaine, has got it right with a short dress catered for the weekends. This will be a refreshing change from the usual jeans or shorts.
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Looking at the TLG dresses, I noticed the incorporation of local features like the batik and orchids, something that Our Bitsy Prints and Blum do too, and this is heartening.This is something to encourage and support, where we make the cheongsams our own using our cultural heritage.

Sneek Peeks
Our Bitsy Prints will be launching their latest collection this Thursday, featuring geometric prints. One of the new designs is a relaxed fit, but I find the color rather dreary.

OBP - geometric prints</

Here is what you can expect when the dresses are available two days ago. I see a mix of old and new designs. And are there two dresses with tulip bottom that I spotted?
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Lark and Peony offers a peek into the prints for its 2015 Chinese New Year designs, and again the trend is geometric, but of vibrant and contrasting colors; as well as whimsical Russian dolls and autumn leaves prints which remind me of those from Miz Apparels. Something to look forward to.
Lark & Peony prints

A search for cheongsam continues…

…with Studio 55 where designer, Peter Kor, creates comfortable and stylish cheongsams with premium cotton fabric from Japan.

I went to the boutique last week, which is located at 15 Purvis Street. For your  info, it’s across the road from Ya Kun coffee joint. That was what Peter told me when I couldn’t find it, and with this landmark guide, it became easy.

Studio 55 has a rather classy decor of simple but elegant Chinese furniture, with soothing operatic music playing in the background. It is also rather spacious, and because I was the only “customer” there, the place feels rather serene. There is a curtain at the back of the shop and I could hear the sewing machine operating behind it. Currently, the clothes are on sale, going for 50% off, and some even at 70% off.

Peter is a very slender man in his 50’s, with greying short hair, glasses, and a slouch. He speaks well, in a gentle manner, and rather friendly too. When he found out I was looking for cheongsams, he offered to show me the designs available. (A note here: I didn’t take any photos because it didn’t seem appropriate to do so inside the shop, and Peter is a nice guy. But I guess I could have asked.)

There are not many cheongsams since it is the end of the “season”. A couple of the dresses are in the straight cut form with plain prints. Then there is one that has a flamenco hemline which I really like. Peter told me he wants to make an interesting design, and I have to admit it it, and unique as well. There is a dress (last piece) in a beautiful sapphire blue color that has puffed sleeves with front key – hole opening. I was told that the color may look aging, but it is popular with the younger ladies who make the dress looks vibrant. In fact it was designed for the Chinese New Year this year.

I thought the fabrics of the cheongsams are silk, but turned out they are Japanese premium cotton. Seriously, they are of such high quality that they can passed off as silk. I asked Peter why he opted for cotton instead, and he explained that it is a fabric that is more comfortable for our humid climate, and also easy on cleaning. Unlike silk, cotton can be hand washed and there is the option of saving on the dry cleaning cost.

Peter is insistent on using only Japanese premium cotton fabrics for his dresses; in fact the blue colored fabric mentioned above is a kimono print. With the summer season drawing to a close soon, the autumn/winter season will see a change in prints with beautiful and rich patterns. Peter is already planning his next collections which will be available starting next month.

I noticed that all the dresses have hidden back zip, and there are only faux buttons in front. Peter explained that he had in mind the busy working women, who cannot afford too much time getting dressed in the morning. The dress is easier than separates, especially with just a zip. I have to admit this is true. Even since I had Buddy, I hardly put on separates (except on Friday when sometimes I will wear tights, also easy to put on). I rather have dresses, so that I don’t have to wreck my brain on what to wear. In fact when I’m running short of time, I’ll grab a cheongsam with back zip. Those with multiple fabric buttons are reserved only for days when I have extra minutes to spare, which is not often, but luckily I don’t have many such dresses.

Peter said that with separates, there’s a risk of pairing mistakes like clashing prints, which would make you look like a fashion disaster. He expressed dismay at the attires of some younger ladies who wear totally inappropriate outfits to work, like micro-mini skirt, and low cut tops, which look more club wear than work wear, and wondered why the companies tolerated it. I have to agree with him; I have raised my eyebrows at some women at Raffles Place. The hot weather here is no excuse for dressing like a night club hostess. I guess their bosses are men and enjoy ogling at them.

Our conversation moved on to a pertinent part of the cheongsam: the collar. In this respect, Peter is a traditionalist, like me he believes that the high collar is the essence of the cheongsam. So he insists on the minimum length of  1.75″ or about 4.5cm. In fact his preference is 2″ or 5cm. Some customers asked if he could reduce the collar length and he declined. He feels that with the high collar, the wearer is then made to straighten her back with the neck held up. (I can attest to this. When I wear a high-collared cheongsam, that is what I do automatically.) 

The cheongsam looks best on a woman with the right posture, and slouching is a big no-no. So the high collar does enable the posture needed to make the woman looks good in the dress. Short collar will just make it looks stunted, and worse, if the wearer slouches. In fact, I personally think a high-collared cheongsam makes the lady looks more elegant and regal, though some might argue it is not comfortable. But Peter will not back down. He  told his customers that they either accept it, or they can forget about getting the dress. He will not compromise.

Peter also took the chance to show me a red cheongsam with a luxurious red lace overlay. The lace is not monotonous, unlike many I saw, with a 3D pattern on it. Peter is experimenting with interesting fabrics and prints like gingham. He has also used kimono fabrics but found them hard to handle because they come in 14″ width panel. Basically you have to sew the blocks together to make the dress (which was described in The Lady General’s website on the making of the kimono fabric cheongsams). The problem also is that the fabric can be rather stiff, like brocade, and doesn’t drape well on the body. Peter then showed me a beautiful deep gold jacket using a Chinoiserie brocade, saying that the fabric is better used for the jacket instead.

I think I must have spent at least half an hour chatting with Peter, and it was really enjoyable talking to him. I will like to return next month to check out the new designs, especially the prints. By the way, before I forget, the dresses are not very expensive, the prices hovering at around S$300, or slightly more for lace cheongsam. Peter only make each piece in a couple of sizes.

A search for cheongsams

For quite some time, I have noticed this lady, in her 50’s with a bob hair cut, who is always in the traditional straight-cut cheongsams, and working in the same office vicinity as me. I have never seen in her any other attires. Though she is no Maggie Cheung, she is well groomed in her fitted cheongsam with make up and heels.

I had always been curious about her; because for the longest time she was the only cheongsam clad lady other than myself. Even now, she is the only person I have seen who wears the dress all the time (even I don’t do that), and always the same design. I had wondered where she gets her dresses made, and thought she would have to spend a lot of money on tailoring them. So I decided to strike up a conversation with her when I had the chance, but for some time I only had fleeting glimpses.

Finally last Friday, I was about to go down the escalator when I spotted her standing along the side while moving down. I grabbed my chance and approached, and she turns out to be a pretty friendly and chatty lady. She takes the same train line as me and so we had quite a long chat on the way home.

In my excitement to get info on her cheongsams, I forgot to ask her for her name, so let’s call her “The Lady”. She revealed that her dresses are tailor-made in Shanghai and she didn’t have to pay for them! Her older sister goes there every month and will have a couple of dresses made for her. The Lady provided her measurements the first time, and since then her sister will pick the fabric, arrange for them made at the same shop and pays for all of them. But The Lady admits that the fittings aren’t that good because there is a high turnover of seamstresses, and she has to alter them every time. And she uses Alter Pro too! So this explains why she wears the same design all the time.

Though The Lady doesn’t pay for her cheongsams, she is aware that they are rather cheap, a less than S$ 50 each (or about US$41). She also recommended a popular cheongsam chain store in China called “Silk King” which makes good quality cheongsam at a higher price of around S$200 (US$166) at fast turnaround time, even within 24 hours with advance notice.

We spoke about the cheongsam scene in Singapore, and she has also noticed an increasing number of women in cheongsams. (Cheongsam clad ladies stand out, and I will actually take a closer look at the dress and have fun guessing where it is from.) She herself feels uncomfortable wearing other attires. Like me, she has no problem with the high collar. “Someone told me she found it uncomfortable to have the collar wraps round the neck and maybe I got used to it. That’s probably true.”

She knows about the cheongsam boutiques at Raffles Place. “I went into Hana once, and asked for the price The owner said (imitating an uppity tone) “these are more than S $1,000.” I was shocked! So expensive!” With that she stuck out her tongue, and continued, “there is this lady in my gym class who once wore a black Hana cheongsam, a simple piece, and she paid S$1,000 for the dress. The rest of us don’t think it is worth it.”

I guess Hana considers itself as providing master tailoring skill for its cheongsams and so is charging international prices. But I must admit some of the fabrics used for their cheongsams can be rather luxurious, such as intricate laces, like these dresses below.

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Then there are those with just the prints.
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The Lady has her recommended cheongsam shops instead, both of which I wasn’t aware of. (I need to find more cheongsam boutiques out there.) One is Mama & Misse. I checked out the website and realized it has been around for a long time and has a few stores, located at International Plaza, Thomson Plaza, and People’s Park Complex. I decided to visit the one at IP to have a closer look at the dresses.

The cheongsams available are mostly in the traditional straight-cut design with open front panel on the right chest and side zip. There are some modern pieces with back zip or pleated bottom, and I even found a couple with the tulip bottom fit. In general, I find the prints rather dated, and no interesting designs. However the workmanship is good, and initial look seems comparable to Hana.

I took pictures of the cheongsams in the window display (surreptitiously as usual), and asked the staff if I could took one of this long elegant piece inside the store, but was declined. Though she said the pictures available online can be used since they are in public domain.

A lace piece on display, similar to what Haha offers except that the lace doesn’t seem as intricate.
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The prices of the off-the-rack cheongsam range from S $250 for one in cotton fabric to more than S $400 for one in lace. The boutique also offers tailoring service, where you can either have the shop sourced the fabric for you or you provide it. For the former, the price will be upward of S $500. For labor cost alone, the price is more than S $200 for cotton fabric and more than S $300 for silk fabric. You are also expected to provide the lining material, otherwise you will be charged S $30 for it. The workmanship also includes piping and buttons, which the customer can provide separate fabrics for them in case the shop may not have the right colors. The costs are definitely cheaper than Hana or Kang’s Boutique, and similar to Lady Xiang. It takes 3 fittings for the cheongsam to be completed and duration is a month.

These cheongsams featured below are taken from the Facebook page of the boutique.

Cheongsam in tweed fabric

Cheongsam in tweed fabric

    

Cheongsam in sari fabric

Cheongsam in sari fabric

Cheongsam in batik fabric

Cheongsam in batik fabric

Cheongsam with chiffon lace fabric

Cheongsam in chiffon lace fabric

Modern piece with tulip bottom cut

Modern piece with pleated bottom cut

A retro-looking piece with short mermaid tail

A retro-looking piece with short mermaid tail

An interesting print of broad colored brush strokes

An interesting print of broad colored brush strokes

 

 

The other boutique recommended by The Lady is Studio 55 at Purvis Street. I checked online and found that it is opened by a local designer, Peter Kor. I haven’t visited the store yet, and will write a post on it once I have done so. Meanwhile I welcome information on other cheongsam boutiques I haven’t covered.

Baby in Daycare

This is a follow up to my first post on preschool centers “And the competition starts now” dated 5 November 2012. I was prompted by a reader’s request for information on screening of daycare centers, and I realized I should write about my experience of putting Buddy in daycare.

When Buddy was almost 6 months old we had to find a daycare for him, or what is known here as “childcare”. We had initially planned for him to be cared for by my mom. Unfortunately she had to care for my premature nephew then, and he required a lot of attention. As expected we were caught in a lurch and my husband wasn’t happy that my mom couldn’t keep her promise. We had to scramble to find a daycare for Buddy then as I was returning to work in a month’s time. We were afraid we couldn’t find a daycare with vacancy near our home.

So what I did was to use the Childcare link website to find all the daycare centers within 5 km of our home. Though there are not as many daycare as there are pre-schools, the number is still sizable. We checked out all the locations to see which are the most convenient for us.

There were three centers that we made appointments for a meeting. (As far as I know, all daycare centers offer pre-school curriculum up to kindergarten.) One of them was a Sparkletots Centre located at Tampines, another was Baby Montessori and a third was one that is located fairly close to our home.

I had mentioned in my earlier post that I had a brief glance at a kindergarten group at the Sparkletots Tampines and wasn’t very impressed by the lack of enthusiasm that was observed at Pat’s School house. But I must admit I was biased then, and it wasn’t a proper observation to begin with. After all we only spent time at the infant care area. At the Tampines center , there was a high teacher to baby ratio, which if I remember correctly, was 1 to 3. The babies also had a lot of toys. In fact there was a newly opened toy box in the supervisor’s office. The facilities were also rather new since it only started operation a year ago.

A teacher explained to us on the general schedule for the babies, which isn’t structured since they are too young for it. I remember she mentioned they arranged for a child specialist who would come weekly to engage in song and music activities with the jnfants. At the end of each day there is an update report for the parents, providing information on how much milk the baby takes, the number of hours of nap, number of diaper change and pooping, and type of activities the baby engaged in that day. We liked what we heard, but the infant class was filled then and we had to be on wait list.

As for the Baby Montessori daycare, it had been established for many years and so comparatively the facilities are rather run down. It is located in a 2-storey house surrounded by a large outdoor play area, which is lacking in Sparkletots. When we arrived it was nap time for the babies (and some looked like toddlers), though not all were sleeping. They were lying on sleepers instead of cots which is the case at Sparkletots. Also it wasn’t air-conditioned, unlike Sparkletots.

The indoor play area is located on the second floor, and there is a room with a few proper cots. I guess the staff found it convenient to put all the babies together. One of the staff is a registered nurse which I thought is rather reassuring. The staff who brought us around kept emphasizing the importance of interacting with the child, and how they put in effort in this area. But teacher to baby ratio is lower than Sparkletots, and the center had a long wait list too.

The third daycare that we went to is also located on the ground floor of a HDB flat, like Sparkletots. This was the least of our preference. There were not many babies there unlike the other two centers. I found the infant care area a little too dim for my liking, unlike the bright and cheery environment at Sparkletots. The reason is because there is no separate sleep area for the babies, unlike the latter where the cots are placed in a separate room where the lights are off, but teachers can look in through the full glass windows. The place doesn’t give me the impression of having a lot of resources for the babies though they get to engaged in craft activities, and there is a record book for each of them. Expectedly there were vacancies.

My husband and I discussed and decided on Sparkletots for Buddy. My husband was impressed with the resources and high teacher to baby ratio. With more teachers around, the babies get more interaction. Besides there are a number of Sparkletots centers around our home, with two within walking distance. What more, my husband feels that it offers the best value for money.

Unfortunately our preferences didn’t have vacancies then. We put our names down on the wait list and also in a number of other centers further away. I made sure I followed up with the supervisor of our most preferred center who assured me that the wait list was a short one and likely Buddy would get a place. When I called again a couple of days later, I was given the good news. Since then Buddy has progressed from the infant care to toddler class.

Looking back, we realized that putting Buddy in Sparkletots infant care was a blessing in disguise, though we didn’t plan for it. He wouldn’t have received as much interaction and development if he had been taken care by my mom. The fact is my mom wouldn’t be able to provide the required attention Buddy needed. Though the schedule isn’t structured at infant care, he got to be involved in craft works, gym, music and reading etc. He learned to be independent, like he was able to drink from the bottle on his own before he turned one, and by the time he went to toddler class he was able to feed himself. The development continues at toddler class, where he starts to learn discipline and self control.

It is only some time after we put Buddy in Sparkletots that we realize how much resources it has. After all, it is funded by PCF (PAP Charity Foundation), an organization with high capability of fund raising. I have mentioned in a couple of earlier posts that my husband and I were amazed by the furniture and toys available to the infants. They have special chairs and tables designed for babies who are able to sit up, and numerous toys that we cannot match at home. We also like the fact that the center teamed up with the National Library Board to arrange for the mobile library called “Molly” for visits to encourage reading in kids as young as toddlers.

So if you are wondering what to ask during the introductory visit to the daycare, here are some suggested questions:
1) what is the teacher to baby ratio?
2) are the babies placed in a separate area from the toddlers and older kids?
3) what kind of activities do you provide for the babies?
4) how do you handle emergencies like the baby gets injured or sick?
5) what are the liability and responsibilities of the daycare should baby gets hurt?
6) are there CCTVs available and switched on during operation hours, and how long is the record kept?
7) what are the parents expected to provide for the baby in daycare, like milk powder, diapers?
8) other than the monthly school fee and yearly insurance, are there any other charges?

I have no qualms about encouraging parents to put their babies in daycare, but the key is to find a good one. I would be wary of those standalone providers or those using brand name as a marketing gimmick. But most importantly you have to assured that the center will take good care of your child.

An interim comic relief

I ran out of ideas for my blog until a couple of days ago. So while I’m preparing for the next post, I thought I will provide some comic relief for the time being.

1) Deathbed Instructions
(Something that Singaporeans will get it.)

Ramasamy is on his deathbed. He asked his nurse to be a witness to his will.

His wife, his daughter and two sons are at his bedside..all grieving…

“So”, he says to them:

“Lingam, I want you to take the houses in Steven road ..”

“Saraswathy, take the apartments over in Bukit Timah estate…”

“Jega, I want you to take the offices over in CBD Central….”

“Lulumali, my dear wife, please take all the residential buildings in Tekka”..

The nurse is just so amazed and envy by all this, and as Ramasamy passes away, she says, “Mrs. Lulumali, your husband must have been such a hardworking and rich man to have accumulated all these wealth for all of you…

Lulumali replies,  “we send newspaper one la!..

 

2) When you wish presbyopia on your neighbors

Not long ago, C relayed this incident to us.

“Last night, I took out the garbage, and bumped into my next door neighbors, sending their friends. So I said ‘hi’ to them, waved and smiled. Came back in the house, went to take a shower, and saw myself in the mirror. There was a thick black border round my face and upper lip!”

“Huh? How come?”

“I had a black peel-off mask after dinner, and thought I had peeled the whole thing off my face…I consoled myself that it was dark outside, Though the garbage bins are just under the street lights.”

“It’s ok wa, auntie…’

“The street lights just outside your house?

“Yeah…maybe they thought it was shadows”

“Yeah… maybe they have presbyopia.”

Cheongsam for the occasion

The Happy Cheongsam launched their 4th collection two Thursdays ago and Our Bitsy Prints launched their 15th collection last Thursday. But this time I am not reviewng their cheongsams, instead I am going to highlight the pretty dresses for the special occasions, together with those from the new collections of other brands.

The latest launch from THC comes in candy colored Shantung silk, and this sweet-looking pastel yellow dress has the tulip bottom fit that I like. In fact it is the same design as the Tiffany blue dress from the first collection except that the collar is 4cm high. If you are looking for a pretty dress to wear for a meeting with the to-be in-laws, this will do the trick to present a positive first impression.
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A neon pink dress, also from THC, that features a bow on the waist. This is perfect for a bride at an afternoon tea reception or marriage registry. This will also look great during Chinese New Year, which will set you apart from the rest of the boring red.
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Both dresses from THC are also good for first dates. He won’t be able to take his eyes away from you.

I really like this pretty perankan print from OBP, which is inspired by the unique peranakan tiles that OBP founders discovered in the old houses located at Joo Chiat. I love that it is paired with a bright teal green color. This dress is an eye turner wherever you go.
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The fabric is made from organic cotton. I was wondering if there is a difference in feel between the organic and non-organic cotton. It turns out not. Melanie from OBP explained:
“The normal cotton that we use for day-to-day purposes on our regular tee shirts etc is actually genetically modified so that the produce can meet the world’s demand. However, when harvesting “normal” cotton, there will be some harm to the environment; especially to some vital insects. 

Organic cotton does not have any visible/physical differences from normal cotton though, so you won’t be able to tell, but it’s just that they are harvested in a less harmful manner to the environment. This fabric is also made with eco-responsible, low impact dyes for printing and dying of the prints.”

So you are helping to protect the environment by using organic cotton.

OBP also launched a bright yellow dress (fabric is organic cotton as well) with sapphire-colored piping and detachable belt. I like this design with its high collar (reminds me of the Mongolian traditional wear), and the cheery print and color combination is a standout.
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I was hoping to get my hands on either one of the above dresses but unfortunately I was too slow. I must say OBP’s latest launch has a number of interesting and pretty prints. Good work, ladies!

I haven’t checked out Sissae’s new collections til now. Their dresses have gone bold and sexy!

This va-va-voom sultry black dress titillates with its peekaboo design. It is a stunner for an evening at a fine restaurant. If you are dressed to impress on a first date, this is a knock-out!
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The below cheongsam with a midi skirt may seem conservative, but I think the fabrics of crepe and organza silk make it look really graceful. The print on the skirt gives it a contemporary feel as well. It is the perfect follow-up date dress to the one above, showing you are not all sultry but capable of channelling elegance.
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The following Shanghai Tang red wool dress has an ultra short collar. I’m usually not one to go for it but the fabric and cut drape so beautifully on the bodice and makes it irresistibly. It is simple and yet sophisticated, that I can’t help myself from droolng over the design. I have to make an exception to this ultra modern look.
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Finally I found a dress from Lark and Peony that I like: a beautiful sapphire blue dress with obi belt. Though it’s a classic cut with high collar, it comes with short puff sleeves. I like how the obi belt complements the dress, adding a touch of elegance. The dress is named after a warrior princess, and indeed the beautiful royal color is fit for one. (I wish there is a description of the fabric though.)
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This is an interesting print from Elegente: dramatic red coral on white silk, a statement piece.
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When a child gets hurt

The other day when I was checking out updates on Facebook, I saw a friend had commented on a post about a baby girl gotten hurt in a daycare (in Singapore). There was a picture of the baby with lacerations around her left eye. I am not sure how old the baby girl is because only her face was shown and there was no mention of her age, but I am guessing she may be between 12 to 16 months old.

According to the mother who put up the post, she got a call from the daycare in the late afternoon that her baby girl was hurt. Apparently the baby was on a high chair, and a two years old toddler jumped onto the back of the chair which caused it to fall over. The poor baby knocked her face against a table. The teacher told the mother that the baby was bleeding from the cut and she would take her to the nearest clinic.
When the parents arrived at the daycare, they were shocked to see the teacher with their still bleeding baby in her arm, and there was a rather deep wound close to her left eye. The teacher explained that the clinic was closed and so the child couldn’t receive any medical attention. 

The parents then decided to take the baby to the private hospital, Gleneagles, which was where the girl was born, with the teacher following them. The nurses there told them the baby needed to see an eye specialist before they could administer any treatment. The doctor came and remarked that the cut was close to the eye and might require surgery, and the baby had to stay overnight for observation. Eye drops were then applied into her eye.

The parents spoke to the daycare supervisor about payment for the medical costs and the latter told them to get the treatment first and the daycare would pay for it.  The bill came up to more than S $7500, and when approached, the day care refused to pay the full amount, claiming that the parents could have gone to the nearest hospital instead of Gleneagles, and they would only pay for the treatment cost of S$1600, and not the doctor’s fee which amounted to S $5000. The parents were wondering what recourse they have other than hiring a lawyer which would be another big sum of money.

I really hope the baby girl will recover fully and get well soon. To be honest, I don’t think there is anything the parents can do to get full reimbursement from the daycare. I do hope the baby has medical insurance. But judging from what the mother wrote about how they tried wrangling with the supervisor and how resistant the daycare is, it doesn’t seem like the baby is insured.

Based on the descriptions provided by the mother, I seriously doubt if this particular daycare is professionally run.  Firstly why is the baby placed on a high chair? This should only be used under constant adult supervision. I also want to know why are the babies and toddlers put together? Babies require special attention and they should be separated from the older children, even toddlers. And I don’t think there are  enough teachers at the daycare to handle both babies and toddlers.

In Buddy’s daycare, the infant care is in a separate area with dedicated teachers. There is no baby high chair. Instead there are small chairs with straps and a table for older babies who can sit up and feed on their own. Usually the teachers will put these babies on the chair during snack times and when they are read to. In fact it looks to us that the chairs seem pretty comfy because the babies would sit quietly on them, even Buddy didn’t fidget. My husband once joked that seeing those babies on the chairs reminded him of a scene in the movie “Cowboys versus Aliens”, when a bunch of humans were mesmerized as they stared at an alien light.  Well, at least no toddler will clamber up the chair and cause it to fall.

Apparently the daycare in question has no CCTV installed which is a big no no since it’s hard to investigate what really happened.  This is a must have and the center must keep the record for a couple of months, which is what Buddy’s daycare does. Seriously, the safety and development of a child should be of utmost priority for a daycare. And I wonder what exactly is the priority for this particular one.

Also on the topic of daycare, many parents tend to be dazzled by fancy names or association  with some fancy childcare expert. The daycare where this accident happened is one with the fancy name. Whether such daycare follows the guidelines of the so-called childcare expertise is another question altogether. What parents should do before deciding on a daycare for their babies or kids is to conduct interviews and visits to various centers. Yes you have to spend time doing this in order to see for yourself how it is run, how the kids behave, the environment, and security etc.

Before we put Buddy in a daycare, we visited a number of locations which I penned down in an earlier post “And the competition starts now” dated 5 November 2012. Basically you have to prepare a list of questions before the visit, and arrange with the supervisor a time to observe the classes. From the visits and the conversations you will then be able to make an informed decision.

I’m also surprised that the teacher taking care of the injured baby didn’t even call an ambulance to take her to the hospital though she was bleeding.  But I’m even more surprised that the parents took her to a private hospital. For God’s sake, it doesn’t matter where the baby was born, for any emergencies involving babies and children, send them to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) because it is best equipped and trained to handle them. In fact, other hospitals will refer emergency or tough cases of young patients to KKH.  Not only is the hospital a dedicated one for children, but it also provides affordable care because it is a public hospital.

I might sound like I’m promoting KKH, but this is based on my experience with Buddy falling ill. We had sent Buddy to the ER at Changi General Hospital in the middle of night because we didn’t want to make the longer trip to KKH.  The ER doctor advised us that KKH is actually a better place for Buddy to seek treatments. Since then we had been to KKH numerous times when Buddy had very high fever and when he had breathlessness. In fact he was hospitalized for bronchiolitis when he was 13 months old. We had generally good experience with the doctors and nurses there, and the costs are not exorbitant.

Unlike the public hospital, private ones in Singapore are either listed or owned by private investors. Naturally, profit is of priority to the shareholders, and so how do you think the medical costs will be? Even though public hospitals have KPIs but they have huge economy of scale and also partially subsidized by the Ministry of Health.  I don’t think the level of service or available equipment there is any worse off than those in private hospitals.

The abovementioned mother found out too late that Gleneagles hospital is owned by the Parkway group. Actually, she hasn’t got the full picture. It’s owned by Parkway Pantai, a holding company for all the health care services assets in Singapore and Malaysia. And PP is 100% owned by IHH Healthcare, a company that was set up by Khazanah (Malaysian sovereign wealth fund), and has been listed since 2012. When SWF gets onto businesses, the aim is not noble.

Parents should also make sure their babies have hospitalization insurance, which for Singapore’s situation, that will be the MediShield. I also encourage parents to get the extra coverage for co-payment and deductibles, because they can amount to a couple of thousand dollars. In fact before the baby is born, contact your insurance agent to make the request, and the agent will prepare the documentations for you when baby turns a month old. (I’m not sure whether insurance companies will now cover babies right from birth but that was the case 2 years ago.) It especially makes sense to have medical Insurance now when  the Ministry of Health has very recently announced the launch of MediShield Life, which basically covers you for life and for all congenital illnesses. And by the way, getting medical coverage for the baby is far more important than  paying for private cord blood banking.

The love for reading

A couple of Saturdays ago, we attended the parent-teacher meeting at the day care, where we met with two of Buddy’s teachers to discuss his progress. Typical of me, I wanted to prepare a list of questions for the teachers. Well I actually only had a couple but I had to put them down in case I forgot.

During the meeting, I whipped out my phone and started to rattle the questions: “what specific interests/activities does he display in school?…” My husband joked, “do you want to table a list of parliamentary questions and have the teachers submit written answers?” He also remarked to me later that I acted like a tiger mom. I was insulted, yes I think this term has a negative connotation. But I’ve to admit that my expectations of Alex may have been a little unrealistic.

I think Buddy was a year old when I bought his first book. Before that I tried to read him the story apps on the ipad, like “Dr Suess’ ABC “,  or played the musical stories from Pink Fong to him.
Over the next several months, I got more books for Buddy, lift-the-flap books, touch and feel books, and a counting book. But he didn’t have the patience for me to read to him,  and instead wanted to turn the page or lift the flap before I finished. Though strangely, the infant care teachers told us he loved to read and be read to.

Until recently we didn’t develop a reading schedule for Buddy. Though my husband felt we should read to him everyday, we didn’t, and any reading was done on an adhoc basis.  But we showed him flash cards on alphabets, first words, numbers and shapes/colors regularly. Buddy picked up the alphabets and words fairly quickly; he can recite 1 to 10 rather well but still can’t count. And I wondered when he would pick up spelling, or able to pronounce a word when he sees one.

I told the teachers of Buddy’s inability to count, and they assured me that it is still early for him. I thought Buddy’s knowledge of numbers is lacking and told my husband we had to teach him at least up to 20. But my husband disagrees; to him knowing numbers from one to a hundred or even a million is not important. Buddy knows one to ten, the rest is just an extension. What matters to my husband is that Buddy understands the concept of numbers. In fact my husband is rather dismissive of memorization, “even Mr Ed (the horse) can count”, and prides analysis and critical thinking above all. “Sure there are some stuff that require memorizing, like multiplication table, but as much as possible, he should go by first principle.”

Anyway a few weeks ago, we went to pick up Buddy, and one of his teachers told me she had borrowed some books on his behalf from the mobile library. In fact she had applied for a library card for him. She got him six books, two in Chinese and four in English. When we were home, I read to Buddy and he was very enthusiastic.

Since then, we have been to the library a few times to get more books for Buddy, though my husband assured me that it was alright to repeat them. The books started the bedtime story routine. Buddy’s appetite for them is voracious. I have to read him three books a night, and I make sure one is in Chinese. He sometimes try to turn the page before I finish, but mostly he will repeat some of the words I told him or point out objects he recognizes.

Even since we stepped into the library (after an absence of donkey years), We realize that it is really unnecessary for us to buy any books for Buddy. The amount of resources in the library is amazing! No one can match the sheer numbers and types of books available, and best of all, they are free (for basic membership). Right now, till the end of July, the library is having a reading promotion and each member can borrow up to 16 items (up from the usual six for basic member). So we took advantage of that and got hell of a lot of books for Buddy. That will save us frequent trips to the library. And when the promo ends, I will combine mine with Buddy’s card.

I do encourage parents to take their kids to the library, and try to make bedtime story a habit for the young kids. It’s also a very good bonding session with the child. Buddy will cuddle up to me when I read to him. Many times, he enjoys the reading and binding session so much that he would ask, “more, more!”.

His love for books and reading was most apparent last night. I thought he was being naughty when he wanted to ride on the micro scooter instead of going for his bath. I told him “no bath, no books!”, but he refused to comply. It was getting late and bed time, which follows bath time, got pushed back. My husband talked to him that if he took his bath he would get books, and eventually he agreed. But I felt he should be punished for the delay and wanted to put him in his cot straight after bath. He wailed, and my husband persuaded me to relent since he had complied, and we didn’t have to drag him into the bathroom. So I read him one Chinese book. He wanted the book with him when he slept.

Later, my husband told me that we could withhold toys, scooter, and ipad from Buddy, but we should never withhold books. In fact we should thank our lucky stars that he has a love for books. He was able to reason with Buddy when given time, and so I should cut our son some slack. Yes I admit I was harsh on Buddy, and was being petulant myself when he refused to say “sorry, mama” to me, though he tried to make amend in his own way by caressing me. (That’s what he does when he realizes he has upset us.) I do realize I should be more mindful that he is only 2, and I should be more patient with him. well I am learning and hopefully able to handle Buddy better going forward.