Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Day in New Zealand Countryside

Riley's new Rocket launcher

My first Christmas away from our immediate family in the U.S. and wow was it relaxing!  Our host family made this holiday away, so incredible and memorable.  Tempting us from taking a trip every holiday, just to escape the stress.  We love our families, but we always end up feeling guilty we did something wrong or didn't spend enough/equal time with everyone.  Yet, still feel like we didn't spend enough time with any one family, before the holiday season ends. It truly is impossible to balance everyone's time, every single year. 

This year, was the first year we didn't have that feeling.

Maybe it was the distance, maybe we have grown to not be so paranoid? Whatever it was, we truly enjoyed being with our friends in New Zealand to celebrate this Christmas and New Year's.  Thank you B Family for making us feel so included!

Christmas Day celebration was nearly identical to my traditional day: eat, drink, open secret santa gifts, chat and be merry!  The only difference was that we didn't have to bundle up in layers to go outside and the dinner table was outside under the sun, instead of set up in front of the roaring fireplace.  There was no snowmobiling, sledding, ice skating or ice fishing this year, but there was worry that everyone had a hat or sunscreen on.

 Christmas table setting

How did Santa know we were here???

 Riley taking it all in.

I couldn't believe where we were everytime I had a second to consider it. I had heard about this place called New Zealand for the last 13 years, always saying that it is Kev's "other life". One that I had never known, but sounded absolutely amazing. The kids have no idea how lucky they are to have seen so much of the world in their short lives.
New Zealand sheep

The cool air was so fresh, I felt like maybe I could've attempted a marathon in it. Well, at least it would be my best chance of considering it without kealing over dead :-)  


More presents for us? We must be the luckiest little kids around.

More posts on New Zealand:
Coromandel Peninsula

Happy New Year 2012

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sesame Street Live Christmas 2011

Sesame Street Live on stage at Plaza Singapura until Christmas.


Little Miss M singing along, dancing and Riley trying to keep up doing the Hustle was the best part of the show for me.  It's a short show, but they kept the kids engaged the entire time counting, singing, typical Sesame Street style practicing their alphabets and dancing.

Don't get me wrong! It's a wonderful show, I just really enjoy seeing the excitement on my own children's faces and seeing them having fun, more than anything in the world.  They would love to go back for every show, which is twice a day and three times a day on the weekends...I'll keep that part a secret from them for now and replay the video a couple times instead.

video

This was actually our second attempt at catching the show.  The first, was a couple weeks ago, when a new friend, kindly showed me that the Plaza is actually just a short walk from our apartment and brought us to the show.  We were a bit late, so we missed the first half.  This time around, we learned from our mistakes and arrived early to get a seat :-)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Party for Residence

Merry Christmas!

Once a month the management staff at our Serviced Apartment throws a Residence gathering with free-flow tiger, wine and sometimes other fun drinks along with a buffet of food.  This month they made it into our Christmas celebration and invited a fabulous choir to sing some carols.  Made me a feel a little homesick, but still found the Christmas songs entertaining when they changed a few versus, "we know there won't be any snow, but we can still dream..." worked into the Winter Wonderland carols.

video

Santa Claus was suppose to stop by for a quick hello, but we do live in Singapore and rain was inevitable, so his sleigh couldn't get through the downpour.  If it had been snow, there wouldn't have been a problem....just sayin'.

It's starting to feel alot like Christmas! My favorite time of the year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Climate Confusion

Riley enjoying his ride with Little Miss M

It's been a quiet kind of week, in attempt to get everyone feeling well before our Christmas holiday down under.  We are scheduled to fly out on Thursday to New Zealand and without fail, we have been to the doctor 3 times in the past week.  Hopefully, the prescribed antibiotics will kick the cough, runny noses, ear infections and sinus infection trying to take over our household, before our holiday begins.

I have been looking through our closets, trying to find some long sleeves and pants ~ we have a few, but not many.  I left some behind after our trip back to Minnesota, thinking we wouldn't be going anywhere cold.  I have come to realize that cold has a different meaning to the children, than it does to me at this point in their lives.

I grew up in winter tundra land, but Riley has spent half of his life here, on the equator where the average year-round temperature is around 90F.  Needless to say, that the refreshing, comfortable 70s will feel a bit cool for us all. 

Kevin has been trying to remember back to his Christmas holiday beach trips growing up in NZ and can only recall swimming and hanging out on the beach all day, telling me we won't need warmer clothes, we'll be at the beach!  I refer back to the 10-day forecast stating the actual temperature highs and lows and remind him that we aren't coming out of winter. We are coming out of the tropics. 

It will be nice, but it will feel cool to the children.  Funny how that works.

I remember warm spring days in Minnesota.  Snow melting, sun shining, people wearing shorts, t-shirts, convertible tops down and the temperature gauge reading in the 50's-60's.  Yes, it felt warm to us coming out of below zero temps and snow storms for months, but it really isn't hot.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Home is where Daddy is

Makayla said she was ready to go home.  I asked her, "what exactly do you mean...home? Which home would you like to go to?"

Her reply, "where daddy is!"  Meaning, Singapore.

After 6 weeks of being away from him and 9 months of being away from "our big house where the other people live",  she has come up with the understanding that home is not where all of her toys, books, clothes and bed may lie, but rather where our family of 4 is together under one roof.

Sure, we all enjoyed our extended holiday back to the U.S. to stay with several relatives and friends over the course of 8 weeks.  We even had a chance to spend some time at our house, that we are renting out, and had the opportunity to catch up with some of our old neighbors and pet friends. 

I thought at first that it would confusing for the kids, bringing them to their old house, where TT lived with us and we were only a short drive from all of our grandparents and, at the time, cousins.  But, she wandered around the house with the furniture still intact and eventually, found her way to her old bedroom. 

I think this was the moment she actually  realised that this was our old house.  Then, made her way into Riley's old room, "what happened to Riley's crib?!"

It has been confusing trying to figure out where home actually is for all of us.  I once thought  that it was the place that all of my belongings were stationed ~ our home base.  Currently, we don't have that home base available to go to, having rented our house in the U.S. furnished.  We have more "possessions" in storage, some scattered throughout our parent's homes and a few things here, with us, in Singapore.

Yet, when Little Miss M told me she wanted to go home, I knew exactly what she meant.  We were only 2 airplane rides and 2 taxi fares away ~ about 10,000 miles and we were there.  Hugging daddy with a great big smile.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Lights on Orchard




Prior to our move to Singapore, people we talked to that had previously lived on the Little Red Dot would always say the same thing, "Oh, the Christmas lights on Orchard are amazing!"

Last year, we had our pre-move trip in December and were awwwed by the amount of lights and how they were displayed.  This year, I was looking forward to the time they were finally switched on again.  The massive, brightly displayed trees and ornaments hanging over the road and up the tall buildings are worth a look.

Every time I go out, there are more and more trees and lights going up around me.  This morning, I went downstairs and they were decorating the massive evergreen tree in both of our lobbies.  You can not find a real evergreen in Singapore, so they had them shipped in from overseas, jut to capture the scent so familiar with my traditional Christmas'.  The smell of evergreen...Love!


Elephant Benefit sculpture for Save the Asian Elephants along Orchard

Lights under The Flyer

Orchard Road

Istana Park along Orchard

Monday, December 5, 2011

Universal Studios Singapore

New York

Universal Studios Singapore isn't quite as big as Universal Studios Florida, but there were still a few rides for the kids and a few more for the grown-ups.  The benefit of taking the kids at this age ~ they are still free to get in!

We went in the morning, in hopes of missing the afternoon rain, but the rain started before we were able to see everything.  It still worked out alright, as most of the ques (lines) to enter the rides are covered.

After a few "star" sightings, cotton candy that melted to pink sugar-on-a-stick before it could be eaten, rides, pizza, walking around and seeing how Hollywood produces the effects for a movie , we were lucky enough to find a cab home in the rain.

Far Far Away - Shrek



Beetlejuice

Madagascar

Ancient Egypt

The Lost World

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bali

Tanah Lot on the Indian Ocean

Terraces of rice, temples, beaches, shopping and relaxing by the pool at our villa.....Bali.  I have to admit that the "perfect, white sand beaches of paradise" didn't quite live up to our expectations, but after we adjusted our mindsets a bit, we really enjoyed the culture.

The most popular temple we went to was the Tanah Lot Temple, one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. Each of the sea temples were established within eyesight of the next to form a chain along the south-western coast (Wikipedia).

The Tanah Lot has a natural spring on the underside of the rock, where the holy water for Hindu ceremonies at the temple is fetched.


No swimming allowed out of respect of the Gods within 100meters of any temple, but we could walk in the Indian Ocean waters.


The technique of rice farming and the work today is done pretty much the way it was a thousand years ago – one reason why most of the amazing rice terraces are still intact. After seeing the Rice terraces of Bali one might think that rice is actually only the by product of a bigger project: landscape art.   




Prayer twice a day for the Hindus, even at our villa:


The volcanoes, mountains, rice terraces that make up the landscape art throughout the entire drive to Kintamani was breathtaking.  Arriving at the active Batur Volcano that stands 1717m with beautiful Lake Batur at its foot, we welcomed the fresh, cool breeze and the cool humidity free air.   

I would've loved to hike up the volcano, then down the mountain to the lake for a swim...next time!



Bali harvests the most expensive coffee in the world ~ Luwak coffee. Luwak is a local name of the Asian palm civet in Sumatra.
Luwak

Kopi Luwak or civet coffee, is coffee made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Luwak, then passed through its digestive tract. A civet eats the berries for their fleshy pulp and chooses to eat only the best of the berries, leaving the rest. In its stomach, enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Civets also eat small vertebrates, insects, ripe fruits and seeds. Passing through a civet’s intestines the beans are then defecated, having kept their shape. After gathering, thorough washing, sun drying, light roasting and brewing, these beans yield an aromatic coffee with much less bitterness, widely noted as the most expensive coffee in the world.
After learning of the process to make this expensive coffee, I couldn't stomach the thought of drinking it.  Papa tried a cup, but didn't care for it.

We explored temples, a volcano, rice terraces, swam in the Indian Ocean, shopped the markets, watched the sunset of Bali, went to the Monkey forest, purchased our first Mahogany wood Buddha Statue after seeing how they are hand carved, drank some Bintang, experienced the Suckling Pig delicacy, watched Silver jewelry being made and still had time to relax by the pool and read a book.



Riley shopping for a new hat.

More posts on Bali:


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bali Villa Life


My favorite part of the private villa in the Seminyak area of Bali, was the open air bathroom and shower, along with the private pool to swim even after the kiddos past out.  Apart from a few mosquitoes buzzing around and the slippery when wet (which happened to be all day long) marble floors, I enjoyed having the privacy.  Well...private when the cook/security guard/gardener and driver weren't peeking through the front blinds.  Yes, Papa, it would have been nice to be on the beach, but the 10 minute walk down the hill, really wasn't that far off.  Especially, since we had someone to drive us there.


Grandma and Papa kept mentioning a wake-up call every morning that sounded at first like a rooster, then like frog, then, maybe a gecko, but for sure some kind of creature in the ceiling...hmmmm...there were plenty of geckos hanging around, but we never did figure out what the 'croaking' sound was that woke them every morning... 

Riley continues to love the water, kicking, splashing and wanting to go on his own so bad.  He finally found that the small float helps him stay above the water, so he can kick on his own and is funny to watch...
video

Makayla started swimming on her own, with no floaty muscles! She is so excited to be going with no floats, comes up for air and goes back down with a smile.  She is now starting to go the short length of the pool ~ Big girl!

video

Since Bali is the only island in Indonesia that is Hindu majority, rather than Muslim, there are temples all over. Even our villa had an area for offerings (prayer) twice a day.




More posts on Bali:

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