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.

 

 

 

 

 

HOLIDAY!

Since we haven’t had a family vacation since, well since I don’t even remember, we booked a midweek break to the island of Bintan, not too far away in Indoneesa.

It still seems weird to me that we can take a 50 min ferry ride and be in Indonesia, but that’s what we did.  The ferry over was smooth and it went so fast we hardly knew we were on it (the one back was a bit choppy and poor Ellie didn’t fair well, next time sea sick bands).

There's our ride

There’s our ride

On the Ferry

On the ferry

Once we got to Bintan, we cleared immigration and took a bus to the resort.  The resort we went to, Nirwana Gardens, offers a large main hotel, huts off the beach, luxury villas, and huts on the beach.  We went with the Mayang Sari Beach Resort which were the huts right on the beach.  It was the totally right choice for us.  We were able to sit on our front porch and watch the girls playing in the sand and shallow surf.  It was so easy with the kiddos.

Our hut was right behind that orange life ring

Our hut was right behind that orange life ring

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That’s Ken chillin’ in a chair on the beach

The side of our hut

The side of our hut

Towel Hut

Towel hut

Now that's a palm

Now that’s a palm

Before

Before

After

After

Bintan is a popular getaway for people from Singapore.  It is so easy that loads of people go over for long weekends.  The fact we were there during the week was great.  We practically had the beach to ourselves, it was so calm and relaxing.

When you stay at any of the resort properties, you get access to the all of them. We went over to the main hotel and Ken and I enjoyed the infinity pool while the girls played and joined in activities at the kids club.

DSCN1435 DSCN1445There was an activity center at the resort as well.  The package we got included a huge buffet breakfast (YUMMY) each morning and an activity pass to allow us to do everything at the activity center.

We spent one whole morning exploring over there. Ken and Ellie did the Flying Fox – a very high, very long zip line adventure. Ellie was a bit scared at first but she jumped and zipped and had a blast.

The tower they jumped from

The tower they jumped from

Ken

Ken

Superman er I mean Ken

Superman, er I mean Ken

 

Ellie

Ellie

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After the ride

After the ride

The girls did archery.  Ellie keep commenting on her being as good as Katniss.  Er, not there yet, but keep trying.

DSCN1430There were pony rides.

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Finally there were elephant feedings and rides.  The girls fed them bananas and then we all took a ride. I have to admit it felt weird and wrong. (The elephants were clearly well taken care of and there were lots on handlers hanging out with them, feeding them and making sure they had water. Also, the elephant rides were only offered for a few hours a day and there were six elephants so that no one elephant was worked too much. )

Pre- Ride feeding

Pre-ride feeding

First off, you are really high off the ground.  There was NO saddle. The girls went on the elephants’ heads in front of one of the handlers and Ken and I rode behind the handlers.  You sat on a blanket and held on with your hands on the handler’s shoulders. My poor guy probably had bruises the next day I was gripping his shoulders so hard.  The handlers held on with their toes through loops in a rope that went across the elephants’ back.  Now, I’m afraid of heights and with every move the elephant made, I was convinced I would fall to my death. The only thing keeping me from freaking out was the girls. That’s the great thing about having children – not wanting to pass your fears on to them, you can’t freak out whenever you want.

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Ken and Sadie's stopped for a drink on the way back

Ken and Sadie’s stopped for a drink on the way back

I was never so glad as I was when that was done. I can check that one off the list but, I don’t think I will be doing that again, ever.  The girls on the other hand LOVED it.

Elephants hanging out resting later in the day

Elephants hanging out resting later in the day

The best part of the whole holiday was the beach and chill time. Hanging out with the kiddos, playing in the water and the sand, just having time to be together without the rush of getting to school and work and groceries and cleaning and washing dishes.

The sunsets were awesome

The sunsets were awesome

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Hangin' on our front porch

Hangin’ on our front porch

It was a wonderful four days and I can’t wait to go back.

Things I’ve learned – Singapore Day One

After a long (we left my parents in Roanoke at 8:30 am Monday morning and walked into our apt in Singapore at 12:50 p.m. East Coast time Tuesday) and luckily mostly uneventful journey we made it to our new home weary but safe and sound.

It took awhile to settle down and even though we were tired we were all back up and at them at 7:20 a.m.

Today I learned:

Hearing a little girl say “Daddy there’s a lizard on the wall” is a very interesting way to wake up.

I really enjoy having my morning coffee on MY veranda.

There is an amazing resort-like infinity pool right outside our building.

Singapore has just upgraded all of its Internet lines to fiberoptic so there is a 3-4 week wait for high speed fiberoptic Internet hookup.

A bag of salad mix costs $7.50 and gold fish crackers are $4.99 a bag at the local grocery store but a family of four can eat chicken and rice with soup for $9.00 total at the hawlker stands down the street.

NOWHERE gives out napkins so everyone carries packages of tissues to use as napkins.

Going to a Chinese wet market /grocery store fish section is like going to an aquarium. You see live eels, sharks, crabs and pretty much any kind of live fish and mollusk you can think of swimming around in tanks and containers of water. There are even buckets of LIVE frogs. It’s wild, literally, and will make your 4 year old scream at the top of her lungs when the giant Alaska king crab flashes its claws at her.

It’s hot, sweaty and steamy when you are walking around but if you are just sitting still the cross winds can be lovely.

Not bad for my first day…

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Two days of Birthday Fun

41!

Yup, that’s right  I’m now officially 41, fourty-one years old ( I must admit when I say that in my head I’m saying it like Sally O’Malley but saying 41 instead of 50 –http://youtu.be/aiehDcVZ-vA).

I can honestly say I remember a time when I thought 41 was old but I don’t feel old most of the time.  I think of myself as still young and fun even if my body doesn’t always feel that way.

To celebrate my the end of my 40th year and the beginning of my 41st we had two days of fun.  Aren’t I a lucky girl?

The last day of my 40th year was spent at the Virginia Safari park – http://www.virginiasafaripark.com/.  I have never been and since its only about 40 mins from my parents in Natural Bridge we decided to go.  It was so worth it just in giggles alone.  We laughed the whole way through.  There is just something about seeing animals roaming around on this huge property and then have them wander up to your car and stick their heads right into your car for a little snack that makes you giggle.  You have to be careful because they are greedy and will eat everything in your bucket and even take your bucket if you aren’t careful.

We followed the Safari Park with lunch at the Pink Cadillac Diner which is a 50’s decorated diner – http://www.pinkcadillacdineronline.com/home.html.  The food was good (service was just ok) and the atmosphere was worth a visit.

 

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My actual Birthday I received beautiful flowers and Monique and her girls met us for an adventure on the Roanoke Downtown Market complete with a trip to the famous Roanoke Wiener Stand for hot dogs and cokes.

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It was a wonderful two day celebration, thank you all for helping make it special.

 

RED

Back in January, on a whim, Ken went on line to see if there were any tickets to see Taylor Swift anywhere near us.  Low and behold there were 4 tickets to see her at Metlife Stadium in NJ (AKA the Medowlands, AKA Giants or Jets Stadium).  We couldn’t believe it hadn’t sold out.  He scooped them up with the thought that it would only be a 2 hour drive down and it was on a Saturday so we could go see her.

The girls were beside themselves with excitement and all we had to do is wait the 6 months to the concert.

UNTIL we decided to do the big move.  Off the girls and I went to Virginia and off Ken went to Singapore so we had to adjust plans a bit. Mom stepped in to take Ken’s place,  a hotel was booked, and a drive from Virginia to New Jersey was planned.

So on July 13th my Mom, Ellie, Sadie and I drove up to NJ to see Taylor Swift’s Red tour at Metlife Stadium.

The drive was long but the hotel was very close and we were able to take a shuttle over to the stadium so I didn’t have to drive and park.

We got there just as the first act Joel Crouse was going off stage.  Next up was Austin Mahone which appealed to the teenie boppers in the crowd.

Ed Sheeran took the stage right before Taylor Swift.  I have to say I was very impressed with Ed.  Just him and a guitar and a fancy foot peddle that recorded him playing so that it sounded like he had a back up band.  He sounded even better than he does on the radio and I now declare myself a fan.

Finally the sun began to set and the crowd lit up.  It was amazing to see all the lights from posters and crowd.

Taylor took the stage and Ellie and the crowd of 55,000 went wild.  I’ve been to a lot of shows but never one like this.  Everyone singing along with every song was amazing and Taylor Swift is a true entertainer.  There were costume AND stage changes.  It was a real show and spectacle and she sounded awesome.  She played to the crowd and even with a sold out 55,000 person crowd she made everyone feel included.

The girls had a blast (and if I am honest so did Mom and I).  The 8 hour drive up and the 8 1/2 hour drive back in two days was a bit hard but so worth it.

So excited

So excited

waiting

waiting

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All the lights

All the lights

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Finding Moonrise Kingdom

Ken and I are big Wes Anderson fans and his latest Moonrise Kingdom is by far my favorite.  I don’t really know why but it is.

It was showing on HBO in May so one weekend while I was flying Ken and Ellie watched it -with a few scenes fast forwarded and eyes covered for Ellie’s benefit.  Low and behold a new Wes Anderson fan was made.  Ellie loved it.  Quoting lines like “she stabbed him with lefty scissors” and going on and on about it.

After doing a little research we found out that was filmed in Rhode Island, not too far away from where we lived.  Since so much time had been spent doing work on the house and packing for the move we decided a day adventure trip was what we all needed.

We loaded up and went in search of Moonrise Kingdom.  This is what we found:

What a fun adventure day.