Thursday, September 25, 2014

Giveaway: "JJ's Science Adventure: Magnets" by Aurelia Tan

Parenting on Purpose is pleased to organise an exciting giveaway for 2 copies of "JJ's Science Adventure: Magnets", a book by local writer Aurelia Tan, retailing at S$18.90.

How to Win the Giveaway:
1. Comment on our review on the book found here. Tell us what excites you about magnets.
3. Share this blog post on your Facebook Wall with the Caption “Giveaway for JJ's Science Adventure: Magnets". Or you can just copy and paste this link.

This contest will be open from now to 1 Oct 2014.

Update: We have our winners! Congratulations to Grace Soo and Robert Sim who have each won a copy of "JJ's Science Adventures: Magnets" by Aurelia Tan. Could the prize winners please email us at and provide your address for us to send the books to you. Thank you!

Stepping Into the Science Portal - A Review of "JJ's Science Adventure: Magnets"

I must admit that when I received local writer and educator Aurelia Tan's book in the mail, it was with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety.

I was excited to see what the attractively-illustrated comic had to offer; after all, it has already won the Readers' Favorite Illustration Award 2014, which recognises books with quality illustrations. At the same time, my last foray into the topic of "Magnets" was when I was in Primary 3 (and I think it was about the same time that I decided I did not have a future in Physics - not only did I not understand the concepts taught, I wondered why on earth I had to study these things). 

Well, not only did I finally garner the courage to open the book, but I finished it in one happy half hour over coffee at a cafe, and found myself looking forward to the next installation in the series! If only everything we need to know could be learned this way...

I suppose it is for students just like the kind that I was that Aurelia has ventured to write this series of Science comic books. I loved comics when I was young, and much preferred being buried in an Asterix or Tintin comic than my Science textbooks, of course! A Science teacher herself, Aurelia explains in the book's Preface that her students often felt the textbooks they had in school were 'boring' and failed to engage the students the way that hands-on experiments did. Her book series  is thus aimed at catering to students' different learning styles and motivating them in their areas of interest.
Why can't we have a gold magnet?
As a homeschooling mother, I feel a great resonance with the author in terms of her educational philosophy. Our pedagogies and thoughts on education are constantly being shaped and refined even as we begin our journey homeschooling our 2 young boys, aged 4 and 2. Increasingly, we realise the importance of delight-directed learning. Children learn best when it is something that interests them. 

We have also learned, like Aurelia, from the latest scientific research, that most of what we remember has deep neural connections with our emotions. In other words, the things we best remember are the things we feel and and able to emotionally engage with. The information we often find in textbooks is disconnected from real life, and the parts that have been selected for the children to study do not link up in a coherent whole. Science is best experienced first-hand, not from a textbook - if the greatest inventors had sat around all day reading, how would they have ever discovered anything new?
Magnets in the medical world.
It is on this premise that Aurelia has conceptualised the series "Aurelia's Comics for Education", or ACE for short. Illustrator Nicholas Liem has done a great job with the manga-like drawings which are sure to be a draw for most pre-teens, and Aurelia gives her characters a little bit of spunk and personality, which I am sure she will be building on in the next few books. 

The plot is plausible and engaging, built on the premise of a grandfather inventor who creates a "World Maker", a machine that is able to create different worlds in different dimensions, to help his two brainy grandchildren learn Science.

The scientific concepts, such as the physical properties of magnets, are weaved so skilfully into the story line that I had to go back and purposefully search them out as I could not believe I had learned them in the course of reading the book. The illustrations help where certain concepts might be more difficult to grasp. 

I can certainly see our two boys devouring the story lines, with topics sure to excite, like how the "MagLev" trains in Japan work, and whether we will soon be able to travel in a vacuum tube train from New York to London in an hour!

Magnets for the future!
Parents will be happy to know that the Learning Objectives are highlighted and in bold, and are aligned to the latest MOE syllabus. For someone not strong in the area of Physics, like me, it is such a relief to know that my child will be able to acquire some of these concepts by simply reading a comic book. You can be sure that you will find me reading the series first, to brush up on my understanding of the topics before teaching it to my kids in homeschool!

Looking forward to the next book in the series, "Heat and Light". You can find more information on how to obtain a copy of Magnets here.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pigeon at the Wheel

A review of “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”, a production by the UK-based Big Wooden Horse Company. Written for local family portal Little Day Out.

What do you do when a (not so) charming, (not very) agreeable, and extremely persuasive Pigeon asks you to let him drive the bus?

That’s the premise of this simple play, which was based on a popular series of books by American writer Mo Willems. 

But while the storyline behind the play is simple, the production is far from simplistic. Big Wooden Horse’s Artistic Director Adam Bampton-Smith drew on the original elements present in the book, but took the content one step further. For instance, Bampton-Smith added to the characters of Pigeon and Bus Driver, and there are now other figures such as the Hot Dog Man and the Truck Driver, which add to the diversity of the adult figures in the play. There is of course the very likeable character of Duckie, who won this reviewer’s heart for being wise yet simply adorable.

In terms of stage sets, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” was extremely creative and effective in its use of movable blocks to construct and deconstruct props such as the park bench, pet cat (also known as Mr Tickles), and even the actual bus itself. When presented against delightful backdrops of luscious park trees and even a huge glowing star, the audience of mainly children were transported into the believable world created by Pigeon and the Bus Driver.

Audience engagement was clearly a hit for this show. One might be mistaken into thinking that the children in the audience have a limited vocabulary. The experience of this reviewer was that throughout his entire time in the theatre, that there seemed only to be a single word “No!” being shouted from the lips of every child in the crowd. 

In all, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” is a delightful play for young children. The songs and dances were outstanding. In particular this reviewer loved the song “Pigeon at the Wheel”, which conveyed the playful aspirations of Pigeon in his attempt to drive the bus. There were also sufficient “learning points” to keep this reviewer happy; for instance children were taught the importance of obeying authority and in sharing with their friends. There was also an interesting twist at the end which helped the children to implicitly learn concepts of role reversal and how not to always be rigid in their thinking.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. How did this reviewer’s 2-year-old son E respond to the show? Well, given that it was E’s first musical, it seemed he enjoyed the production thoroughly. The little boy was observed staring at the characters intently with his thumb comfortably wedged inside his mouth. And when it was time to leave, this reviewer found his son fast asleep. He had apparently been lulled to sleep at the closing lullaby tunes. What an eventful outing for the young child!

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! is now in the theatres and will run till 28 September. It  is recommended for families and specifically for those aged 2 to 8.

The original Little Day Out article can be found here.

Please refer to this page for our Behind-the-Scenes interviews with the Artistic Directors of Big Wooden Horse Company and I Theatre.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Japan 2013: Kyoto Chapter 4

Crafting Tradition

It was our last day in Kyoto, and we wanted to soak in all that the ancient capital had to offer. One of our guide books suggested a lovely walk, starting from the famous Kiyomizudera Temple (said to be one of the most celebrated temples in Japan), followed by a trek through the traditional craft streets of Sanenzaka and Ninenzaka, before ending off at Maruyama Park. We were glad that we decided to follow the suggested itinerary and we picked up several pieces of lovely Japanese crockery as well as delectable morsels to feast on!

The delightful craft streets not too far from the temple grounds. Quite a lovely place to shop and
soak in the atmosphere. 
We stop for a lovely cup of tea (served of course with lovely sweets).
The boys were thrilled to find a traditional playground and played to
their hearts' content.
A summer's lunch at one of the traditional restaurants near Maruyama Park.
One of the most elegant and delicate meals I have eaten in my life!

Maruyama Park

By the time we got to the park, it was late afternoon, and our family had the most lovely time exploring its vast grounds.

The Official Kyoto Travel Guide describes the park in this manner:

Maruyama Park is the oldest park in Kyoto, much beloved by residents and young people. It lies next to Yasaka-Jinja Shrine, at the base of Kyoto's eastern mountains, and covers an area of 86,000 square meters. It contants stroll gardens, rest houses, small orchards, Japanese restaurants, and much more. It is the perfect place to sit and rest after a morning or afternoon spent touring the many sights in the Hagashiyama area.

The older boy enjoying a peaceful moment with the ducks.
A precious moment with Daddy & Mummy.
One of the interesting experiences we had at the park was our encounter with a group of Japanese boys who were catching dragonflies. You can read more about our encounter in a previous post entitled Boys Will Be Boys.

Seeking strategies to catch the dragonflies.
Examining the catch.
As the sun began to set, we packed up our things and headed back to the hotel area where we found a simple dinner place to round up the dinner. Tomorrow was a big day - we were driving off to the lovely town of Kurashiki, and we wanted to wake up bright and early to cover the most ground possible.

Previously: The great Hizugawa Expedition to Arashiyama.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dancing the Dream

A feature story written for local family portal Little Day Out.

Little Day Out chats with Ms Rosa Park, Senior Artist at the Singapore Dance Theatre, to learn how to help children appreciate the dance; and how we as parents can empower our children to pursue their dreams.

The soft classical music lingered in the background even as I made my way to the meeting room of the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT). Turning my attention away from the group of young ballet dancers practising for their next performance, I smiled at the lovely lady I was here to meet - Rosa Park, a renowned dancer with years of experience playing principal or soloist positions in the various companies she has danced with. This has included full-length classicals such as Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Romeo & Juliet.

About the Dance Appreciation Series: Introduction to Ballet Classics

The SDT will be reproducing excerpts of some of these famous performances in its upcoming Dance Appreciation Series, to be showcased in conjunction with Esplanade Presents Octoburst! 2014 – A Children’s Festival

The Dance Appreciation Series (DAS), Rosa explained, aims to educate children about dance through exposure to the performing arts. A narration discussing each piece takes place before the dance begins, and children will learn about various aspects of the dance. For instance, what each movement means, and why the dancers move in a certain manner. In addition, the DAS features excerpts of famous ballets, which will be of more interest to children, in bite-size portions to cater to the children's shorter attention spans. 

What can children look forward to when they come to the DAS? 

For the segment from Sleeping Beauty, Rosa revealed that there is a sequence where she dances with four princes one after another, all the while balancing on one foot. And during the Don Quixote excerpt, there just might be the possibility that Rosa will have to do 32 fouettes! (A series of fouettes appears as multiple turns on one leg, with the other leg propelling the body around and around with a whipping motion.)

What can parents do to help their children benefit more from the DAS?

Rosa shared that families should just come ready to allow their children to be fully engaged in their first encounter with this art form. For other full-length ballet performances, parents could even read the ballet’s story to the child prior to the show.

Would children as young as two years old be able to enjoy dance?

The DAS is recommended for two-year-olds and above. Rosa emphasised that for young children, it is important to expose them to different life experiences at an early age and to help them to appreciate the nuances of each experience as it occurs. Being a mother of two, Rosa has brought her own daughters to watch ballet performances since a young age, and they have both developed a keen interest in ballet and especially the beautiful tu-tus.

What makes the DAS so unique?

The DAS will be held in the Esplanade Concert Hall where audiences will be close to the dancers. The proximity and the more intimate and cosy setting will allow audiences to better relate to the dances. “I can’t imagine doing DAS in Fort Canning like Ballet Under the Stars. It’s too huge and it will be difficult for audiences to understand what is going on despite the explanations.”

So how then did SDT’s Senior Artist come to love ballet? 

Rosa shared that she was first drawn to the ballet due to the lovely costumes on stage. Of course, dancing is hard work and although she first started out at the age of four, it was only later at the age of nine that she chose to pursue her interest through rigorous training. Rosa continues to oscillate between pursuing her career as a dancer and her other interests in life. Even now, she still finds it a challenge to juggle her role as a dancer and a mother at home. But it has been her love of the stage that keeps her going. “Sometimes, during rehearsals it’s very hard, and I tell myself I don’t want to do this anymore. But when I get on stage I get excited once again and I know I’ll keep on going.”

As I left the meeting room, I couldn’t help but feel that I had been swept away by my conversation with Rosa, whose delightful countenance was a breath of fresh air in a spring morning. The words of the SDT’s Senior Artist resounded in my ears: “I wish that all children can find out what they really like and are good at; and pursue their dreams... Dance could be one such way; especially in Singapore.”

Perhaps it’s not only about appreciating the dance; but more - to glide along in tandem with the spirit of the dance; to live each moment as it is, and to pursue your dreams wherever they take you. 

The Dance Appreciation Series: Introduction to Ballet Classics will be held at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 3 October at 1 pm and 4 pm. It is suitable for children from two and above. Told through narration and dance excerpts, this hour-long performance specially created for our young audiences will feature some of the world’s most famous classical ballets like Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Nutcracker and La Bayadere! Children are encouraged to come dressed in their favourite character costumes and to take photographs with the cast after the show.
Beginning our dance appreciation series with 4yo Z.
A story about Edgar Degas and his "Little Dancer" Marie.

Suggestions on how to help your child learn about dance and the performing arts:

1) Let your child listen to classical music and watch famous ballets on Youtube. Our 4yo enjoys watching Swan Lake and the Nutcracker after we introduced them to him.

2) Tell your child the story of the dance and what each dance movement means while you are watching the performance with him or her. Our 4yo has been very intrigued when the "bad man" dies in Swan Lake and has asked us numerous questions regarding that part of the dance.

The original Little Day Out article can be found here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Japan 2013: Kyoto Chapter 3

Journey to Arashiyama - The Hozugawa Expedition

When the sun arose, we began our exciting journey to the charming district of Arashiyama, famed for its meditative bamboo groves and luscious gardens. We could easily have taken a train there, but life is meant to be lived in a more exciting manner. As such, we decided to embark on an exciting two-hour river cruise down the Hozugawa River. provides some interesting history about the river.

The Hozugawa River was originally employed to transport logs that were used to build many of Kyoto andOsaka's famous temples and castles. During the Edo Period the river was cleared of obstructions so that boats carrying grain, firewood and other cargo could safely navigate it. Trains and trucks eventually made river transport obsolete, and operations ceased after several hundred years of use. However, the boats were brought back and eventually became popular as a sightseeing attraction.

Taking the scenic boat ride takes a little logistical preparation, but it's nothing too difficult for a young family with a 3/1/2-year-old and a 1/1/2-year old. We first took a train to the JR Kameoka Station, then walked through 10 minutes of breathtakingly scenic countryside, before arriving at our destination, the departure point of the boat cruise. This is a link to a good website which provides details information on the journey.
Our littler boy E sitting comfortably in Daddy's backpack on the trek to the boat pier.
Our little family during one of the calmer moments on the boat ride.
Always lovely to be the only non-locals wherever we go. It was truly a lovely ride with
 mountainous views on both sides!


It was just about time for lunch when we arrived at the bustling district of Arashiyama. We settled for a delightful soba meal. Just the perfect touch for a summery day.

The soba in Arashiyama is supposed to be famous given that much of the production is from the town itself.
After a comforting lunch it was off to see the sights. First-off, Tenryuji Temple and its lovely gardens. describes the famous historical complex in this manner:

Tenryuji was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji. Takauji dedicated the temple to Emperor Go-Daigo, who had just passed away. The two important historic figures used to be allies until Takauji turned against the emperor in a struggle for supremacy over Japan. By building the temple, Takauji intended to appease the former emperor's spirits.

Tenryuji has many areas for rest and meditation.  
Soaking in the historical architecture and manicured beauty of the complex.
The miniature lake in the gardens where we stopped for a brief rest.
At the northern area of the garden lies a special bamboo grove. Apparently
visitors are meant to sit down, enjoy the bamboo, and meditate on life.
Our older son Z apparently found the process to be rather therapeutic!
After a peaceful time at Tenryuji, it was time to get our feet moving again. We spent a lovely late afternoon wandering through the bamboo-lined forest areas in Arashiyama, making for a most splendid time.
E is clearly snug and comfy in Daddy's backpack.
Z too had a lovely walk among the bamboo. Now here's a child who is at home
in nature!
Daddy stops for a photo for the memories.
Time all but whizzed by as we enjoyed our walk among the bamboos. By the time we got to our final stop for the day, the Okochi Sanso Villa Gardens, it was almost closing time at 5pm. But the gardens are reputed to have certain "royal" qualities, and we knew we couldn't miss it. describes the villa in this manner:
The late great silent movie actor Denjiro Okochi was a major star from the 1920s until his death in 1962. His legacy today however is as much related to his films as to his tremendous villa in western Kyoto. He attained stardom at a young age, and spent an enormous amount of time and money on buidling a spectacular second home in the hills of Arashiyama, Kyoto.
The resulting villa and gardens cover approximately 20 thousand square meters. They include several buildings, lovely gardens, a sweeping view of the entire city of Kyoto, and on the other side a view down into the Hozu River below. Denjiro Okochi took some 30 years in the creation and building of the villa. He planted a garden that highlights all four seasons: cherry blossoms, azaleas, Japanese maple trees, and many pines.
Lovely stone paths dot the villa, and the route around the garden
was extremely delightful!
Lovely views from the villa gardens.
After our lovely walk in the villa gardens (complete with a delicious cup of tea and a sweet), we made our way back to the train station and headed back to Kyoto. There is such a delightful quality about Arashiyama and we wished we could have stayed just one more day...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The God Of Our Messes

We have had a messy week. A small taste of what it must have been like to be Israelites in the wilderness, wandering around with our two kids in tow. Yet so grateful for our families and how they have opened up their homes for us and the boys to stay in these few nights, when the unbearable hum of electric drills and constant banging on concrete above and below have become something we had to flee from.

The home upgrading scheme, this we could plan ahead for, schedule; and yet, when we finally had to execute our plans, life happened.  Though a man may plan his steps,  it is the Lord who governs them...
Seeking an oasis in the deserts of life.
And so it was, on Tuesday, at the end of a fulfilling session of work, that I received a call from my mother-in-law. A terrible accident with the boys,  she said. A mother's heart can get buried in an instant. It can fall from heights so high into abysses previously unknown. 

Which is I suppose a good thing, as every bit of news henceforth, no matter how terrible, proceeds to inform me that I still have my precious babies with me. It is a realisation of the undeserved grace we face daily and the merciful host of heavenly angels surrounding my precious ones. As I end the call and make the necessary plans to get help, I am able to remain calm in the face of the news, even as I give thanks for the fact that He is with me, with us.

Whatever semblance of calm reserves summoned, we flee as quickly as we can to the ER. At the hospital doors, we stand nervously at the porch, awaiting a child whose state I can only imagine, yet try not to. My two babies appear, the older one's face ashen with fear. I turn to look with breath withheld at the other bundle cradled in his Daddy's arms, blood soaked hair and shirt. My heart cries out, and so does he. So, so grateful for the help that comes our way. My cousin, on duty at the ER that day. 

We receive help, and gradually, word that he is going to be okay. It's a surface wound,  just a lot of blood. He was well enough to sing the "Lonely Goatherd" refrain from his favourite The Sound of Music soundtrack on the way to the hospital. Loving hands tend to him. We are comforted, though still shaken. Weary, but full of praise. 
Treasuring each moment as it occurs. 
There's something to be said about what happens when the pieces that hold our lives so tenuously together fall apart. There is a cleansing, a stripping away, a refiner's fire, that leaves what is pure, sacred and sanctified remaining.  There are only three things that will remain: faith,  hope,  and love. But the greatest of these is love.

It's been a messy year. Transitions in work, financial situations, childcare arrangements. Changes to homeschool curriculum, rethinking of pedagogy and our whole approach to what education really means.
Beauty even in the midst of mess.
I am deciding more and more to take it slow, to enjoy and savour these young days. To stand back and observe my children at play and purposefully learn about their character, personality, interests,  motivations. Delight-directed learning and a Mummy-Teacher who is calm, relaxed and enjoying her flock. Who doesn't thrive when their very beings are being rejoiced in?

I have also decided not take comments about our messy house or our rowdy boys to heart. He doesn't look at the condition of our homes but the condition of our hearts. Our loud and rambunctious boys and the piles of books and toys lying around are a sign of love, life and learning happening. I am reminding myself to embrace what we have been given. And we have been given much.
Keeping our eyes focussed on what is unseen.
What is being stripped away from you today, dearest Friend, as you read this? What are the precious things that remain? 

Words spoken recently from wise ones, which we cherish: Keep on doing what you've been doing. What soul-building, confidence-restoring words to a battered soul. 

I choose to say the same to you, dear Ones who are parenting along with us in this messed-up world: Keep on doing what you're doing. May you find clarity amidst the mess.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Please Help the Pigeon Fly to Singapore: A Behind the Scenes Story for “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” by Big Wooden Horse Company

A feature story written for local family portal Little Day Out.

Little Day Out chats with Adam Bampton-Smith, Artistic Director of the Big Wooden Horse Company, to understand how he brought to life the amazing character of Pigeon, based on the popular series of books by Mo Willems.
Image courtesy of I Theatre.
A simple book. Simple drawings. A simple premise. But the characters are far from simple.

Mo Willems’ “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” shot to instant fame when it won the Caldecott Honor for being the “most distinguished American picture book for children” in 2003. The book won accolades by educators across the country for its depiction of a pigeon, who tries numerous ways to cajole the book’s readers into letting him drive a bus.

Adam Bampton-Smith, who adapted the book into a play, incorporated elements not only from the book “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!”, but also aspects of two other books, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!” and “Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog.” Bampton-Smith commented that while he was careful to keep the “fun, cheeky element” of the Pigeon and Duckie characters in the book, he also added in things that are not in the book, such as a Hot Dog Man and Truck Driver, who become part of the action and help create the drama and story.

The challenge was to craft a musical production from a book which has only about 70 words. Bampton-Smith notes that there will be lots of words and songs, and the script will be extremely engaging. This is especially since the experience would likely be the first for many younger children.

“Going to a live performance is in itself a valuable and unique experience, it is often the case that it is the first time younger children have been to see a show and if they are entertained hopefully they will continue to attend theatre in adult life.”

I Theatre’s Brian Seward, who brought the production into Singapore, first watched the play in Edinburgh, in the United Kingdom. The I Theatre Artistic Director said the play was just “enormously entertaining” in and of itself. 

“It was enormously funny, very interactive, and - just for a change - it doesn't have any major 'learning points’.”

But Seward was quick to point out that older audiences would appreciate that there ARE actually learning points. He noted that while the story is a simple one, it is however very engaging; especially with a “VERY irritating but entertaining character, who behaves just like a lot of children would love to behave, but don't dare”.

Little Day Out asked Seward if it was difficult to translate the British cultural references for viewership in front of a Singapore audience. In response, Seward agreed that while there are challenges, these exist largely in the cultural references and language. He however stressed that it was important to look out for universal human situations and emotions; to downplay the cultural differences and instead bring out the story.

“When I watched it in the UK, the audience loved it, and were laughing so much. I could see that Singapore audiences would react very similarly.”

Agreeing, Bampton-Smith expressed confidence that Singapore audiences will enjoy the play. “I think fun, excitement and entertainment are universal, especially in children, so I am sure it will translate well.” He urged audience to sit back, have fun, and join in to tell the Pigeon what to do!

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! will be appearing in Singapore from 18 to 28 September. It  is recommended for families and specifically for those aged 2 to 8.

The original Little Day Out article can be found here.

A review of the play can be found here.

Japan 2013: Kyoto Chapter 2

Ginkakuji - The Silver Pavilion

It was mid-morning by the time we arrived at one of Kyoto's most famous sites - the grand gardens of Ginkakuji. discusses the origins of this lovely horticultural paradise:

Ginkakuji (銀閣寺, Silver Pavilion) is a Zen temple along Kyoto's eastern mountains (Higashiyama). In 1482, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today's temple, modeling it after Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), his grandfather's retirement villa at the base of Kyoto's northern mountains (Kitayama). The villa was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimasa's death in 1490.

As the retirement villa of an art obsessed shogun, Ginkakuji became a center of contemporary culture, known as the Higashiyama Culture in contrast to the Kitayama Culture of his grandfather's times. Unlike the Kitayama Culture, which remained limited to the aristocratic circles of Kyoto, the Higashiyama Culture had a broad impact on the entire country. The arts developed and refined during the time include the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, noh theater, poetry, garden design and architecture.

The artistic grandeur of Ginkakuji could be seen in the magnificent palatial-like gardens surrounding the pavilion. We had a wonderful time simply taking in the sights, and enjoying the numerous floral varietals. It was truly a lovely Sunday morning walk!
Luscious greenery.

A special father-son time.
Little Z enjoying the walk.
Z and his Ee Ee Chen.
One for the road!

Exploring Gion

As the afternoon sun headed towards the horizon, we made our way to Gion, described as one of Kyoto's most famous geisha districts. The tourist in us was hoping to catch a glimpse of at least one of Japan's historically-renown artisans. While our wish was not granted, we were, however, able to soak in Kyoto's historical and cultural atmosphere. Little craft shops dotted the charming streets which we spend the afternoon weaving through. And when our feet finally decided to protest, we stopped alongside the Kamogawa River, which runs through the centre of the city, for a much-deserved time of rest.

Little E sitting snugly in Daddy's backpack as he soaks in the sights of the Kamogawa River.
Z in the mood for posing.
And he also decides to do a dance by the river. Quite an enjoyable evening!
The Lim family enjoying Kyoto just like other families - playing by the river
as the sun sets.

We head off for a delectable ramen dinner in one of Kyoto's fashionable dining districts.
Sue and Andrea clearly in ramen bliss!
As the sun sets, we head off to a lovely ramen dinner, one of the best we have ever had, before returning to our lovely hotel to prepare for the next day's exciting river adventure to the ancient town of Arashiyama.

Previously: The red gates of the majestic Fushimi Inari.
Next: The exciting Hozugawa boat ride and a reflective time in the Arashiyama bamboo groves.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Feasting the Senses: A Review of Sensorium 360° by the Singapore Art Museum

Everywhere in Singapore will be crowded during the quarterly school holidays. That was our assumption as we headed to the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) for its special exhibition - Sensorium 360°: Contemporary Art and the Sensed World. We were, thankfully, proven wrong, and apart from pockets of overseas guests and student groups, the visit was relatively peaceful. This is some information about the exhibition as provided by SAM.

Sensorium 360° is an exhibition of Southeast Asian and Asian contemporary art that calls upon the complexity of the human senses, and explores how sensory experiences locate us in understanding the world and knowing the self. While the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell are the most commonly known, other identified senses include the ability to detect movement, pain, balance and even time. Oft taken for granted, these physiological capacities are indispensable in enabling us to apprehend the world within and without – taking in its pleasures and pains, even as we absorb data and information.
What is a sense?
And the visit was certainly a feast for the senses - our two boys definitely thought so, as they bounded from room to room and enjoyed one exhibit after another. For instance, 2-year-old E really enjoyed the Continuum of Consciousness by Linda Solay. The exhibit comprises a single column of crystal glasses collected by Solay and her family during the war. This was the centrepiece of a large dark room which E enjoyed visiting.
I was surprised that my 2-year-old simply sat on a bench for more than
5 minutes at one stretch just admiring the crystal column.
Another dark room experience was one entitled Cage, presented by artist Li Hui. The numerous green laser lights shing throughout the room were a fascination to many, including myself. I could almost imagine being entrapped in a "cage" of laser lights!
The virtual "cage" of lights. Are we truly trapped in our little cages?
Our 4-year-old son Z was not a fan of the dark rooms, being more of a "touchy-feely" kind of boy. He did however enjoy the exhibits which incorporated more of the sense of touch.
Exploring the sense of touch.
What is in the box? Labels depict possible emotions that you may feel
once you put your hand in the box. Do you dare to accept the challenge? 
Then there were the lovely scented exhibits which brought us into different places just through the sense of smell.

Anyone fancy a fresh whiff of the ocean or the comforting scent of a champagne in the evening?
Getting hungry? Allow the sense of taste of overwhelm you. Vietnamese artist Bui Cong Khanh explores the provenance of Hoi An Chicken Rice in Vietnam, telling the story of how early Chinese immigrants to Vietnam brought in a dish previously known as Hainanese Chicken Rice, and how this eventually evolved into a local Vietnamese version.
The globalisation of food and culture in Hoi An, Vietnam
A particularly interesting exhibit was one by Goldie Poblador, who attempted to connect the senses of sound and smell. Our boys particularly enjoyed the music of La Paloma, while imbibing fragrances pleasing to the senses.

Our little musician deep in concentration.
One of the most enjoyable exhibits was entitled Twinning Machine 4.0 by Tad Ermitano. A camera captures the image of the audience, and this is then projected onto a screen to form a type of "anti-mirror".
A rather interesting experience to watch a reflected image of yourself appearing on the screen
moments after you carry out the action - experiencing a kind of time delay effect.
Arguably we are certain that the boys enjoyed the breast exhibit best! This unique display, by Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak, is meant to simulate the intimate bonds forged between mother and child during a baby's early stages, during which he or she suckles at the breast for nourishment and comfort. 
2-year-old E jumps from "breast" to "breast". Made of organza, the rotund soft sculptures
were the perfect playground for our two boys.
Mummy shares an intimate moment with the boys.
Brothers at play.
In all, Sensorium 360° was a fantastic experience for the entire family. There's so much to learn for the children (although we felt that they seemed to have more fun than actually partake in the learning per se). As for the adults, there were special moments when we were able to immerse ourselves into the exhibits and allow our senses to take over. Truly a feast!
Two contented children at the end of the day!