Mother’s Day Weekend 2014

The Thursday before Mother’s Day Ellie had her first over night field trip to the Dairy Farm Adventure Center here in Singapore. It was only about 20 min from their school but they went on a bus and had to have everything for camping out overnight.  There were dorms for them to sleep in but no cots or beds just wooden floors.  Lots of “risk taking” adventures were had and she made it home Friday afternoon full of stories.  The only down point was the rain and thunderstorms caused a few activities to be cut short so instead of doing four things Ellie was only able to do one.

While Ellie was risk taking I was at Sadie’s school for a Mother’s Day celebration.  The kiddos sung to us in Chinese and in English presented us with a paper rose, a necklace they made and a picture they drew of us.

Saturday was spent with Ellie at a birthday party at Snow CIty sledding and Ken, Sadie and I enjoying the Chinese Gardens and the Live Turtle Museum.

Sunday was a beautiful day in every sense of the word.  It started with me sleeping in until 7:45 and then getting up and going to breakfast. Ken found a very neat French bakery and cafe not far from us.  We had a lovely breakfast at Choupinette complete with French toast and chocolate donuts.

After breakfast we went to Sentosa to Palawan Beach.  We hung out at the Bora Bora Beach Club, laid on beach chairs, had frosty tropical drinks, played in the sand and surf and just enjoyed being together.

Late afternoon,  sun kissed and high on vitamin D,  we went to friends for Mother’s Day drinks and socializing.

It was pretty much a prefect Mother’s Day.  I’m a very lucky lady and I couldn’t have asked for more from my two girls and husband.

Easter in Asia

The holidays that are made a big deal are a wee bit different when you live in Asia.  For example, Valentines Day not a big deal, Chinese New Year off the hook.  Easter falls in between.

You get good Friday off of work and can find a few things for Easter baskets.  There was an Easter egg hunt in our complex and many places did special Easter brunches.

The girls awoke to baskets from the Easter bunny (at 5:15 a.m.) and went to the Easter egg hunts.  We had a birthday party in the middle of the day but we did watch a video on Easter and why we celebrate it.  I think our first Asian Easter wasn’t too shabby.

Every six months

Every six months we make a trip to Boston for Ellie’s heart check up.  That usually entails a three hour drive up to Boston all day scans and tests then a drive home.  This time it was a bit more complicated.

We were home from Bali four days (with a birthday party in that time) when we caught a flight and headed to the Sates.  Singapore-Narita-Chicago-Boston, 29 hours later we were walking into our hotel in Boston.  We decided because it was such a crazy journey that only Ellie and I would go.  This meant for the first time Ellie was able to sit in first / business class on the flights.  United has a requirement for employees’ families traveling on passes must be 8 to sit in first / business class.  This was the first time since she turned 8 we didn’t have Sadie with us so we scored business class there and back on the longest leg of the journey.  Ellie was in heaven.  Huge seats and tvs with real blankets and pillows AND ice cream sundaes.  She never wants to fly coach again.

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IMG_5465The visit to Boston Childrens’ went very well.  Dr Marx said there wasn’t much change in her meausrements but he wanted to see her this summer when we were home. He would like to do a stress test.  The expectation is as she gets bigger that she will begin to slow down especially in sustained / long activity because her mitral valve won’t be able to keep up.  He wants to see what long activity does to her numbers.  It will give us a better idea of when her next surgery will be.

Since we finished early at the hospital we went on a walk before returning to the hotel.  After being in an airplane for 29 hours and in the hospital for half a day if felt good to stretch our legs. I knew there where Fens in Boston and that there was Fenway Park but until I walked down a street that had the Fens on one side and Fenway on the other it never connected in my brain Fenway is called Fenway because of the Fens.  Humm.

We even found one of the best burgers in Boston at Boston Burger Company.  It was worth the walk! With a full tummies and a bit of jet lag, we returned to the hotel and were in bed early.

IMG_5391The next morning, early enough to see the sunrise from in the air,  we went to Hampton Roads (the creative way via Newark and Richmond because of full and canceled flights) to visit friends.

IMG_5396We ate a few of our favs with a few of our favs.  We had wonderful time with the Harrells and the Scalffs.  It was just so awesome to reconnect and have time with my besties.Adding the kiddos to the dynamic was just the icing.

We ended the whirl wind six day trip in Richmond.  Since we had to fly into Richmond instead of Norfolk I needed to return the rental car there.  It was an awesome chance to see my oldest friend as well as my second Mom and family.  I got to visit with Cherie, Missy, their families and Polly Ann and Wayne.  It felt so good to see them again even though it was only for a few hours and Ellie got to spend time with Ellie.  It really made my heart full seeing Ellie get along so well with my friends children.  The next generation making us proud …

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Bali Part III – the beach

We ended our vacation with a stay at Bali Dynasty Resort in Kuta Beach.

It really was a family resort.  There was a kids club and pool with a huge water slide and bunk beds in the room with towel creatures on the beds everyday.

I have to say this part of the vacation was my least favorite.  After the peace and serenity of the mountains and Ubud, Kuta beach was a shock to the system.  Crazy and loud it took a little bit to get used to the change.

The kids loved the pool and the kids club and got their hair braided (just  two pieces in the front each).  We had wonderful sunsets over the water.  Ken was able to fit a surf lesson in at a really neat surf school that we actually went back to the next day for lunch. I got a few hours of reading and relaxing by a beautiful adult only pool.  There was a tour of the local area with a visit to a local primary school and the community center and temple (we learned that the big things we saw in front of temples and houses all over the island where giants there to protect if they had fists they were defending the area, if they held their thumbs up they were welcoming all to come inside). We even saw someone moving a table on a scooter. So all in all it wasn’t bad.  I’m glad we went to Kuta and ended our holiday there but I don’t think we will go back to the Bali Dynasty.

Bali Part II: Adventures

You can’t go to Bali without seeing and visiting temples.  We actually learned that every household has their own temple as well as all the villages, towns, and cities.

The first large temple we visited was the Monkey Temple in Ubud.  It was in the Monkey forest and was a real experience.  It lived up to it’s name and there were monkeys everywhere and they sure were cheeky. One tried to steal some dollies we had bought for the girls because they were in a paper bag and the monkeys thought , apparently they were fruit.  Another stole my water bottle right out of my backpack while I was sitting on a wall.

The temple itself was beautiful (you will see we all have on sarongs, they are required in all temples in Bali).

It was very cool walking among the monkeys to a ancient temple even if it was a wee bit scarey.

Villa Awang Awang arranged for one of the staff to take us on a day tour one of the days we were there.  We had a driver and he took us to more amazing temples- including the Tirta Empul Temple where we saw people bathing in the scared waters and the Pura Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple which was very serene and peaceful. There was a fun stop at a coffee farm along the way where we saw coffee being grown tried a selection of local grown coffee including one of the most expensive coffees in the world, Luwak coffee (the coffee that is made from beans that have “passed” through the luwak cat and is often called cat poop coffee).  We saw rice terraces that were so green and beautiful.  In fact the only other time I have seen such green is in Ireland.  We ended the day tour of Mount Batur a volcano that last erupted in 1968.  You can still see where the lava flow was because tress and other vegetation has yet to grow there.

Rice Terraces

Pura Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple

Tirta Empul Temple

Coffee Tasting and roasting

Volcano!!!

We saw so many amazing and awe inspiring things in a few short hours.

 

 

 

 

 

Bali Part I – Serenity

Since moved to Singapore all we have heard about is Bali (pronounced BAHHH- LEEE by everyone here).  I’m off to Bali for the long weekend, we just got back from Bali…

So of course we had to check out what the buzz was all about.  I have to admit many moons ago my dear friend Christy and I had a trip to Bali planned that didn’t work out.  We ended up in Hondras instead (that’s a story for another day).

Flying to Bali is easy and not too expensive.  It’s only a 2 – 2 1/2 hr flight there and with no time change it’s very easy.  (All you East Coasters it’s like flying from the North East to Florida). Since it was so easy, we decided to book up for Ellie’s March break from school.

The trip there was uneventful and actually a new experience for us because we actually bought tickets.  No stand by on this holiday.

IMG_4998Sadie quickly made friends with the Flight Attendants the the luggage/drivers at the airport.

IMG_4999 IMG_5002It was decided that we would spend 4 nights in the mountains near Ubud and 2 nights near the airport and the beach in Kuta.

The first part of the holiday we stayed in two bedroom villa with a private pool at  Villa Awang Awang.

The hotel staff were friendly and really awesome (all we heard over and over again was the phrase “it was my pleasure”).  We had breakfast delivered to our villa every morning and even had dinner and lunch delivered a few times from the local restaurant Padi Organik. It was all set up on the table in the villa, then quickly cleared and cleaned up afterwards. Every morning we were asked what we liked to do that day.  They had no problem taking us into Ubud, on excursions, or to the local spa (were Ken enjoyed looking over the rice fields while having a massage). The grounds were beautiful and peaceful as well.

The surrounding area was all rice paddies and local shops and temples.  We saw the famous rice paddy ducks (they encourage the ducks in the rice fields to eat bugs and to help fertilize) and the volcano in the distance on our morning walks around the village.

One of the staff even took us on a hike down to the river for a swim.  Ellie and Ken really enjoyed this but the current was very strong so Sadie and I hung on the river bank and watched.  On the way to the river we passed a alter were holy water was gathered for all the ceremonies in the village was gathered.

Villa Awang Awang was all peace and serenity.  We were spoiled and it was just what we needed to start the vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

Neko Case

Ken and I were given tickets to the Singapore Symphony a few months back.  We were so impressed with them as well as the space where they performed in the Esplanade.  In true Singapore fashion it is amazing. On the way out of the hall,  we saw a poster for the Mosaic Music Festival that would be there in March.  We glanced at who would be there and quickly did a double take, the headliner was Neko Case.

You might recognize the name as a member of the group the New Pornographers but in the past few years she has made a name for herself as an amazing solo artist as well. We have all of her solo albums and they are on heavy rotation around here.  Ellie loves everything about her.  Loves her voice and her whole look and style.  Ellie’s favorite song by her is hard to say but I know Deep Red Bells is right at the top of her list.

As soon as we got home that night, we were getting tickets for us all to see the show.  The girls were so excited, especially Ellie, to see her in concert.

She didn’t disappoint playing a full set and even some requests she sounded amazing!  I’m so glad the girls love music and going to concerts as much as their Dad and I do.

IMG_4973 IMG_4974 IMG_4976Ellie even scored her guitar pick!  It was such a great night with amazing music.  Thank you Neko Case for really delivering!

Walking in the tree tops

I have become so used to most things here in Singapore that on a day to day basis the things I do and see seem normal now. Every once in awhile we do something that reminds me that we are in a tropical country close to the equator that is so very different from where we used to live.

Last weekend is one of these times.  We did our first family adventure in the car and went to MacRitchie National Park to do the tree top walk. I had heard about this from different people and we had been wanting to do it.

You start in a car park and within mins you are surround by interesting trees, vegetation and critters.

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IMG_4921We saw our first monkeys in the wild in Singapore.

IMG_4936 IMG_4934IMG_4940We also saw a bunch of interesting signs.

IMG_4937After about 2 1/2 km you make it to the ranger station and the the path up to the actual tree top walk.

IMG_4941 IMG_4942The girls still had some steam so we started the incline up to the bridge.  I have to admit about half way up the incline with two little ones you begin to question why you are doing this but I am so glad we did because what lies at the top of the incline was so worth it.

There is a long canopy bridge that spans across the tree tops.  You get such an interesting view of the forest and the birds and monkeys from that distance above everything.  It is a bit unreal and a wee bit scary being that high up.

IMG_4946 IMG_4944 IMG_4948 IMG_4957 IMG_4947 IMG_4951It was so neat to have walked among the tree tops in a rain forest.  Doing things like this is one of the reasons we came to Singapore to experience what we never had.

 

 

 

Car shopping

After seven months of buses, taxis and trains (MRT) we broke down and bought a car.

IMG_4904As I have discussed in the past, cars are very expensive in Singapore.  Part of the reason is that you have to buy a COE, a special license for the car.

The COE is only good for 10 years.  After 10 years you turn the car back into a car dealer who then gives you back a portion of the COE (the government decides how much for each type, make and model of car and reimburses the dealer) and a little bit of money for the car body.  The dealer then sales that car onto another country, usually Malaysia, or sells the car for parts.  Therefore the only cars you will see on the road older than 10 years old are taxis which have different rules.

We did our research and priced out renting a car ($1400-$2000 sing dollars a month for the car which includes insurance and maintenance) and buying a car that only had a 1 1/2 – 2 years left on it’s COE.  Every year closer to the end of the COE the less you pay.  So you don’t have to pay for all 10 years just what’s left on the COE and what you would pay for a used car.  It’s a bit confusing but we did the maths and even with maintenance, road tax (which you pay every year on top of the COE) and insurance if we got a 2005 car and drove it for the next 1 1/2  years or so until the COE ran out it would be cheaper than renting.  Once the COE runs out next year we can get different used car for how long we decide to stay here in Singapore.

That all sounded good until we started looking.  There a couple of places around the island that are basically used car malls.  There a bunch of dealers with all their cars lined up next to each other.  You go look and figure out what you want and who has it.  We knew we wanted a 2005 car that had a COE until at least next Summer.  I didn’t want anything too large because the parking garages and lots here aren’t made for big cars and I was a bit nervous driving here anyway (more on that later).  Something that gave the girls plenty of room and that we could bump a lot of stuff in the back.  Gas is pretty expensive so I wanted something that wouldn’t cost a fortune to drive.  I wasn’t asking for much, was I?

We looked and looked so much my brain started to hurt.  I think we may have over thought and looked it but in the end we got a 2005 Honda Airwave.  It’s a small Honda station wagon that looks big and feels big inside but is really very easy to drive and park because it is small.  It’s perfect for us.

No one was happier than the girls.  No more two buses home from school for Ellie.

IMG_0046It has a very groovy whole roof sunroof that they love looking out.

IMG_4906 IMG_0048Having a car has opened the whole island up to us. I was a bit nervous at first.  Think driving in Northern New Jersey during rush hour, on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car while being cut off by Maseratis, Benetly’s and Farraris.  That’s what it feels like driving here.  I think after a week with the car I’m beginning to get the hang of it but I don’t think I’ll ever master the Singaporean back into parking places trick (you can always tell the Expats in a parking lot they are the only ones that pull into parking places Singaporeans ALWAYS back into places).

There will be times that we still take taxis and buses and the MRT but mostly we will to be driving everywhere.  Ken says having a car makes him feel like he actually lives in Singapore and with what we will be able to explore now I can see why he says it.

 

 

Botanic Gardens

Ellie, Ken and I had all been to the Botanic Gardens but Sadie, who is probably the most interested in plants, never had.

Sunday after celebrating National Margarita Day at El Patio in Holland Village

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we went for a walk at the Botanical Gardens.

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Singapore is currently experiencing it’s longest dry spell in history.  It has only rained three times since the beginning of January and everything is drying up and dying. The haze has been bad because the lack of rain to put out the fires. All of the grass is brown and the leaves on the trees and turning and falling as well.  All of the complexes and gardens are watering non stop to try to keep things alive.

It was interesting seeing the gardens like this.  The main lawns are all dry and brown and Swan Lake is very low.  So low the swans can walk across certain areas.  That said the actual flowers and National Orchid garden have been kept watered and beautiful.

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We even got lucky enough to see a monitor lizard when we first got there.

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It was a dry hot walk but just the thing after having a big Mexican lunch on a Sunday afternoon.