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Lantern Festival

Lantern festival must be one of the few nights a year that almost all the kids in Singapore are allowed to sleep late. The boys were so happy to go downstairs and play with lanterns, and we found that the gardens and playground were packed with people. But it made for such lovely atmosphere. Kids were running around with lanterns, playing with sparklers, and lighting up long rows of candles. Reminded me of my own childhood.

The boys just had lanterns and candles, but they had a blast and came home to shower by lantern-light :)

Off to play with lanterns!

Off to play with lanterns!

Pretty lanterns all in a row

Pretty lanterns all in a row

Lots of people at the playground. It was actually a lot darker than this picture shows, and was great for playing with lanterns

Lots of people at the playground. It was actually a lot darker than this picture shows, and was great for playing with lanterns

Friends and strangers gathering around to play with candles

Friends and strangers gathering around to play with candles

4 Months

This 4th month Alyssa started laughing for real. I still remember that date exactly – 14 Aug – because Asher and I had gone to attend an event together. It was after the event that she suddenly found Asher very funny and kept laughing whenever he brought leaned in towards her.

First laughs!

First laughs!

In the last few days she also started to flip over, usually to her right side, and on two occasions even tried to push up a bit with her left arm. Definitely need to surround her with pillows now when she’s on our bed at night sometimes. Don’t want her to fall off the bed! Both Asher and Ellery fell of the bed as babies *sigh*, with Ellery having the dubious honour of falling off it more than 3 times since birth (he last was when he was almost 3 years old), always head first *SIGH*. Jon and I are hoping it’s not some rite of passage for Nair babies. Hoping it’s a boy thing.

She’s putting on weight, looking chubbier, and has broken the 6kg mark. Haven’t seen the PD yet, but I’m pretty sure he’s still going to tell me she’s gaining weight slowly. But she certainly doesn’t look it. She seems quite tall, and people tend to over-estimate her age.

She’s awake most of the day now. I’m kept very busy with her these days, but I confess I talk to her less than I did with the boys. With Ellery I already found myself talking less with him, with her even less. I find that I get lost in my own thoughts a lot, mostly because once the boys and Jon are around I have to chat with them so much. I like it of course, don’t get me wrong, but I suppose because I’m the kind that needs alone time to recharge, I end up being quiet with her. I have to consciously tell myself to snap out of it. Ironically, she doesn’t help herself by being such a good, generally quiet, little girl.

But she has been crying a lot more this past month. When she gets upset, oh man, she can really cry down the house. There were a couple of weeks where she was extremely sticky and would cry piteously if anyone else tried to carry her. Surprisingly it’s toned down this past week, and I’m hoping it stays that way.

She’s also doing the little girl thing. She can sometimes be quite tneh/tgneh (how in the world do you spell that?) It’s Singlish for (how in the world do you explain it?) trying to get attention by making little girlish whines…I suppose that’s a decent explanation. There were a couple of times I was carrying her, and when I put her down she complained (I don’t know how I should spell that either – “nnnngggggg”?? Singlish is clearly a spoken, not written thing…)

It could also be a girl thing that the toys she likes best are those with faces. Her favourite toy so far is Lionel the Lion that one of my aunts gave Asher when he was a baby. Both Asher and Ellery were cool towards it, but it’s Alyssa best friend. When she’s upset, I just need to get Lionel to talk to her and she’d smile. There was once she seemed to even roar back at him, but I could be imagining things.

Alyssa and Lionel

Alyssa and Lionel

She’s become very grabby, and everything she grabs goes in her mouth. She seems to need to chew on something a lot more now – teething? Seems a bit early. But it’s really no fun being her chew toy when I’m breastfeeding her. And when I yelp, she just looks at me and smiles her sweet smile.

8 Sep 2014

8 Sep 2014: Je M’appelle Comparison

8 Sep 2014: Taller

8 Sep 2014: Taller

8 Sep 2014: Sitting more steadily now

8 Sep 2014: Sitting more steadily now

Big hugs from Kor Kor Ellery! I love this series of pictures!

Big hugs from Kor Kor Ellery! I love this series of pictures!

She's so happy to be cuddled!

She’s so happy to be cuddled!

Yeah, me and my Kor Kor

Yeah, me and my Kor Kor

13 Sep: First time on the Bumbo

13 Sep: First time on the Bumbo

Bubble Magic, the show is called, and magic it is indeed.

It’s amazing what they can do with bubbles! There are buskers who sometimes perform bubble acts at malls around Singapore, but Bubble Magic is a whole other, way higher, level of Wow.

Developed by the award-winning and world-renowned bubble whizz, Pep Bou, Bubble Magic is a joyful two man show that combines the beauty of bubbles with comedy, ingenious lighting, colourful music and versatile costumes that are transformed with just a few accessories.

It starts interestingly with the two characters stumbling upon a glass in the darkness. It turns out to be a glass of bubble solution and that’s where the magic begins. At first they seem hesitant because they are not sure what they can do with the solution (going so far as to even taste it!), but as they experiment with it, they create more and more wonderful things – giant bubbles, strings of small bubbles, lighted bubbles, fishbowl bubbles, smoke-filled bubbles, sliding bubbles, and a train inside a bubble tunnel! At one point I even felt like I was in a giant lava lamp when they created smoke-filled bubbles, lit up in purple, that floated around the dimly-lit stage area.

Fish in a bubble bowl

Fish in a bubble bowl (Picture taken from Bubble Magic)

When these bubbles separate and float up you feel like your are in a lava lamp! (Picture taken from Bubble Magic)

The boys were riveted throughout! Asher, who sat next to me, kept saying, “Look at that!” Ellery, who was further away, had a huge smile on his face throughout and was completely absorbed. It’s evidence of the show’s appeal because Ellery often loses concentration after a while and starts to daydream about other things. That didn’t happen with Bubble Magic.

Some of the things they did were really mind-blowing in that it was something I never ever thought you could do with bubbles. Like bouncing bubbles on your hand, or rolling it across your back, or sliding them down a long piece of (I think) fleece. I mean, it’s not earth-shattering news, but as bubbles go, Wow! Did you ever think of that?  How many years of your life have you spent just blowing them from a bubble wand, watching them drift away and go *pop*?  And I was (and still am) not quite sure how one of the performers managed to make a bubble that was sliding downhill suddenly change direction and go upwards. Magic?

Working together to create more fantastic bubbles

Working together to create more fantastic bubbles (Picture taken from Bubble Magic)

There were also plenty of comical moments too. The two performers had such good chemistry and excellent comic timing. They knew exactly when to be subtle, and when to go over the top. They were really so funny! The characters they played were constantly annoying each other to hilarious effect. The audience simply loved it!

I also thought the bubble-puppet act was very amusing! Bubble-puppet? You have to watch it to know what I mean :) It was great how the bubble-puppets reacted to the light – shivering over the blue light as if that was ice, and burning up over the red light as if it was fire. There was a bubble-puppet chase and a ‘sudden death’. High drama and comedy, I say!

Transparent and smoke-filled bubbles made even more wonderful with clever use of lights

Transparent and smoke-filled bubbles made even more wonderful with clever use of lights (Picture from Bubble Magic)

The grand finale - a theatre full of bubbles!

The grand finale – a theatre full of bubbles!

Bubble magic is a blend of visual poetry and sheer fun in equal measure. It will certainly blow you away ;) If you don’t know where to bring your kids for the remaining few days of this holiday week, go watch Bubble Magic! They will definitely love it, and so will you.

Bubbe Magic – Pep Bou’s Wonderful World of Bubbles is on until this Sunday, 14 Sep 2014.
Where: Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel
Time: 11am & 130pm
Book your tickets NOW from SISTIC.

————————————————————–
I received complementary tickets for this show. All opinions are my own.

More on Tanjung Jara Resort in this post!

The Service

Attentive. Discreet. Classy.

That’s how I would describe it. And I firmly believe it is because of the excellent work done by the General Manager, Philippe Cavory. It’s really a case of leading by example. He’s everywhere! When we arrived he was at the lobby to greet us as we were served Tanjung Jara Resort’s apparently famous Roselle Tea. When we chilled out at the beachfront, we saw him walking the grounds, adjusting the bins and pinning back the curtains at one of the cabanas since he saw them out of place – no task too small or beneath him. At the little Malay cultural event, he was there to chat with the guests. And one afternoon when we were in the room, we received a call from the front desk saying that the GM wanted to serve us complementary wine and hors d’oeuvres. Wow!

Our surprise!

Our surprise!

It’s the little things that really leave an impression. Serving guests who were along the beachfront iced water on a hot day (all beach hotels should do this!), delivering our room service meal in record time when we told them the kids were very hungry, helping to carry my bowl of noodles back to the table when they saw my hands were full with Alyssa.

Activities

There’s a whole variety of activities to keep you busy at Tanjung Jara Resort. I’d have taken part in more of them if Alyssa wasn’t stuck to me since I’m still her milk bottle at the moment. For starters, I’d have visited the spa. The treatments sound won-der-ful. Oh well. We had planned to go for a hike as well, but the kids were having so much fun at the pool that we decided to just stay put.

We did get to enjoy the Kampong Sucimurni Lifestyle event which is held weekly for guests, especially those not from the region, to experience traditional Malay village life. There were little stations for guests to try traditional games, local snacks and drinks, and there was even a monkey climbing trees to pick fresh coconuts that are opened on the spot. The kids loved the snacks. Ellery, in particular, made hundreds of trips to the snack table to help him to more keropok (crackers).

Kampong Sucimurni Lifestyle day

Kampong Sucimurni Lifestyle day

Coffee, tea, and Roselle water (a type of hibiscus)

Coffee, tea, and Roselle water (a type of hibiscus)

Monkey picking coconuts

Monkey picking coconuts

There’s also an island nearby that’s a good spot for snorkeling. My brother and nephew went for a day trip and saw a reef shark, a turtle, lots of fishes big and small, tons of sea cucumbers, and Nemo, Nemo, Nemo.

Food

The breakfast buffet at Di Atas Sungei features a mix of Western standards and – the best part – local delicacies like nasi dagang (rice steamed with coconut milk in leaves). One of the mornings they served a soup made from pure fish stock that was sooo good. The freshly baked croissants are good too. They bake trays and trays of them. Philippe is French, so I suppose that’s why he ensures good croissants are available!

The food at Di Atas Sungei can be quite pricey for dinner though so we didn’t eat there at night. We found a wonderful seafood restaurant less than 5 minutes away from the resort that served up excellent food at cheap prices. Cheap and good – Singaporean’s love to hear that! Restoran Seafood C. B. Wee has been around since 1983 and is popular among the locals. Interestingly a lot of them come here to eat the Western food, but for all the 3 nights that we went there we had seafood.  I think we went through most their menu.

Restoran C. B. Wee

Restoran C. B. Wee

 

There were 8 adults and 6 kids (not counting the baby), so we really had a feast each night. Steamed fish, chicken, squid, lots of veg, small prawns, medium prawns, and giant prawns. I love prawns, but have never tried the giant ones before. It’s so much cheaper there than in Singapore. A single prawn sells for upwards of $25 at Newton hawker centre. At C.B. Wee, depending on how good the catch that day, you cold get a whole plate of giant prawns!

Awesome food. If you stay at Tanjung Jara Resort you got to eat here.

Just a few of the dishes we ordered

Just a few of the dishes we ordered

Look at the size of that prawn

Look at the size of that prawn

Overall, Tanjung Jara Resort if a lovely place to stay if you are willing to make the drive up. My brother’s friend who joined us drove straight from Singapore to Tanjung Jara in 8 hours, and he drives fast. If you do come, you can be assured of a relaxing stay with good service and good food.

Some of the kids

Some of the kids

The plan was to have breakfast at Restoran Hoi Yin again as we were not yet done with our curry mee fix, but unfortunately the place was simply too crowded for hungry bellies to wait, so we ended up at a prata place a few doors down.

After breakfast the boys couldn’t resist playing in the sea one more time before we left. They weren’t even dressed in their swimming clothes! From just dipping their feet, it became ankles, and knees. And when the waves splashed their pants, they just didn’t care after that and simply jumped into the waves. Ah well. That’s all part of the fun of a beach holiday :) I figured they could just live in their boardshorts for the next few days.

Playing at the beach

Playing at the beach

So, happy impromptu beach fun over, a quick dip in the pool, a quick bath, and we were off to our next destination.

Tanjung Jara Resort

Tanjung Jara didn’t look that far on the map but we took surprisingly long – 4 hours – because the traffic was heavier on this stretch. The entrance to Tanjung Jara Resort was just an understated carved stone wall with the name of the hotel on it. When you turn in, you drive along a narrow road lined thickly with trees and bushes – you can’t even see the hotel. It felt lush, secluded, and exclusive. When we finally saw the main building, it was like a secret revealed.

The hotel sign

What you see from the road

We were welcomed with three grand chimes of the gong – a sound we heard over the course of the next few days, ringing out in the background each time other guests arrived. I couldn’t help thinking it was like a reverse situation of the Hunger Games in that the gongs signified the arrival of more people, rather than the other way around.

You can get fish food from the reception to feed the fishes. The kids loved this!

You can get fish food from the reception to feed the fishes. The kids loved this!

The Rooms and Surroundings

The place was beautiful and calming. A sanctuary of peacefulness. Inspired by traditional Malay architecture, the hotel was designed to reflect the elegance and grandeur of 17th century Malay palaces. When you walk the grounds, you feel like you are in a lavish kampung (traditional Malay village). And indeed a lavish kampung it was. The interiors featured solid wood furniture with rustic, yet elegant, touches, and reached a level of comfort and luxury that YTL hotels are known for.

We stayed in the Bumbung Sea View Room, which was on the upper level of a two-storey building. Extremely spacious, there was a king-sized bed, a day bed, two desks, a bench to relax on at the foot of the bed, and still lots and lots of space for the boys to play even after we put in the cot. Then there’s the bathroom. Gosh, it is about the size of my master bedroom at home, perhaps even bigger. I especially loved the dressing table which was perfect for use as a diaper changing station. With all the space, it was very comfortable for the 5 of us.

Our second-floor room

Our second-floor room

The first thing they do in any room - jump on the bed :)

The first thing they do in any room – jump on the bed :)

The other side of the room

The other side of the room

Nap time heh heh heh

Nap time heh heh heh

Kids stoning at TV time

Kids stoning at TV time

The changing table! This is just tone corner of the bathroom!

The changing table! This is just tone corner of the bathroom!

Two sinks, lots of counter space, and less just half of the bathroom...

Two sinks, lots of counter space

Our house was built away from the seafront, but it was just a short walk to the beach. The waves can get quite strong on windy days, so make sure you watch your kid at all times when they are playing in the sea. Asher got flipped over by the waves once and had a bit of a struggle getting back on his feet. Jon was by his side anyway, but this is just to stress how important it is to watch your kids like hawks here. Waves ‘crashing’, is really an apt description. But also because of that, it is extremely fun to play among the waves here.

The single-storey beachfront room

The single-storey beachfront room

Many beachfront cabanas to relax in

Many beachfront cabanas to relax in

Lovely spot to enjoy a book

Lovely spot to enjoy a book

On a calmer day you can walk quite far out and it's still shallow

On a calmer day you can walk quite far out and it’s still shallow

Jon and the boys :)

Jon and the boys :)

Alyssa enjoying her first beach holiday

Alyssa enjoying her first beach holiday

We loved the pool too. It’s next to the beach so you can hear gorgeous sounds of the waves, but swim in the relative safety of the pool – ‘relative’ because you should always watch your kids when they are in water anyway (yes, I’m harping on this point, but it’s so important!). On the third day we spent the entire day  by the pool. The kids had such a good time, stopping only for lunch, and when they were forced out of the pool by a sudden, blustery storm. The rain was torrential, and as we scrambled to find shelter at the nearby cafe, especially for the then 3-month old Alyssa, it was as if we were escaping a typhoon. The cafe certainly made a lot of money from the storm though, because all the guests started ordering hot chocolate, coffee, tea and snacks. Alyssa was wrapped up in a warm towel and sleeping soundly, completely oblivious to the raging storm outside. She only woke up when we got back to our room quite a while later.

Chilling by the pool

Chilling by the pool

My wrapped up baby

My wrapped up baby

Ellery loved scooping the water out of the big pots to wash his sandy feet

Ellery loved scooping the water out of the big pots to wash his sandy feet

More on Tanjung Jara in the next post!

Been meaning to put up this post much sooner but for various reasons was delayed!

Our  family, my brother’s family and my parents headed up to Malaysia for a roadtrip at the end of July. It was a  long anticipated trip that was planned months before. It all started with my Mum coming across an advertisement for a SAFRA roadtrip to Lake Kenyir. It sounded interesting but the driving schedule was quite crazy, so we decided to form our own convoy and head up ourselves.

We met at 6am at my parent’s place. Any thoughts of how 6am was nutty quickly dissipated when we saw that the Causeway had no queue whatsoever. I tried to get the boys to continue sleeping in the car but they were much too excited. My mum had also lovingly packed a cooler box full of cold water, fruit and snacks for each car. The boys immediately tucked into the fruit and happily munched at the back of the car.

A chirpy hello to the grandparents at 6 in the morning

A chirpy hello to the grandparents at 6 in the morning

Lots of comfy cushions & pillows

Lots of comfy cushions & pillows

They were really happy to be chucked right at the back of our MPV. When they found out a few months before that there were seats hidden in the floor they were so surprised and kept asking to sit there. We decided to make the road trip more fun for them by letting them sit right at the back. It was like their little space, and it was just nice for the kid’s short legs :) In hindsight it did throw off the balance of the car somewhat, and my neck got tired from turning around whenever they called me, but they had a great time so that’s fine.

Playing with their own things

Playing with their own things

Pillow fight!

Pillow fight!

Jon the driver, and Alyssa behind him

Jon the driver, and Alyssa behind him

Going in our own convoy was a good idea especially with so many little ones. Between toilet breaks and diaper changes we had to make quite a few stops. Food stops, less than expected because of all the snacks we had packed. Plus, we were looking forward to curry noodles in Kuantan.

Mmmm. I remember this curry noodles from when I was a kid! I think I was 9 years old when I first went to Kuantan with my parents and brother. I distinctly remember eating at the curry noodle shop every day, and that it was very good. We arrived in Kuantan around 2pm and the first thing we did was to head to Restoran Hoi Yin for a bowl of curry noodles. We were the last customers there and they had run out of chicken. But even just the curry gravy with lots of tau pok, fishcake and fish balls, it was delicious! We were fortunate to get some noodles at all because they are extremely popular. It’s something about the food in Malaysia, is it the quality of the ingredients? It just tastes so good. The texture of the noodles was just right, the fishcake and fishballs had a lovely bite. Yum!

(Fyi, Restoran Hoi Yin is at No. 31 Jalan Telok Cempedak, 25050 Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia)

Restoran Hoi Yin

Restoran Hoi Yin

Preparing our bowls of noodles

Preparing our bowls of noodles

Finally! After many years of waiting to eat this again :)

Finally! After many years of waiting to eat this again :)

Each a bowl (kids ate non-spicy kway teow soup)

Each a bowl (kids ate non-spicy kway teow soup)

We stayed the Hyatt Hotel in Kuantan, which was apparently the same place we stayed at when I was a kid. I can’t remember much about the hotel, but I’m guessing they hadn’t changed it much. It looked quite in need of some sprucing up. Our room was really disappointing in terms of cleanliness. I’m ok with small rooms, simple, old fashioned decor, and even some less than perfect housekeeping. But I really couldn’t bear the room we were given. It was sticky! Everything, every surface was sticky. Not sea salt sticky. It was like some kind of solution, or oil, or resin kind of sticky. Everywhere! The floor, the tables, the cupboards! Eeewww! And the boys were running around, then climbing onto the bed. I tried to get them to not step on the pillows but they’d sometimes forget. I used to be quite OCD about cleanliness, but my standards dropped drastically after the boys came along. Still, this was a bit too much. Despite all that I was willing to stay on in the room.

However, after the boys came back from swimming and I was going to shower them, we found that the bathtub (the only place to bathe) got clogged up! That was it. I really didn’t want to bathe in dirty water, step on a dirty floor and then sleep on a dirty bed. Not for the price we were paying.

20140731_160040

Beach area at Hyatt Kuantan

Our sticky room

Our sticky room

Thankfully the front desk staff were understanding and they arranged for us to change to a different room. They actually did it quite readily, which made me wonder if other guests had encountered similar problems before. The room we were given in exchange was completely different. It was like we had gone to a different hotel. The decor was different, the layout was different, and even the toiletries were different! I think we were given a recently renovated room. If so, Hyatt should quickly renovate all their other rooms!

The added perk of our new room was that someone lit fireworks at the beach in front of our balcony, so we got to enjoy a surprise fireworks display.

We turned in fairly early after a long day, and in preparation for another day of driving. We were heading up to Tanjung Jara next.

Playing at the beach

Playing at the beach

Happiness is picking seashells

Happiness is picking a bucketful of seashells

Playing 'monkey' in the pool

Playing ‘monkey’ in the pool

Enjoying the sea breeze together

Enjoying the sea breeze together

Sunset from our new room

Sunset from our new room

The boys had no school on Friday and I had all kinds of plans for the day.  But in the end we just whiled the day away at my parent’s place. The boys can be quite homebodies, and were more than happy to play indoors.

But it was such a pity to stay in all day. The weather was beautiful. So I dragged the whole family to Gardens by the Bay to see this year’s Mid-Autumn festival lantern display. We almost turned around though because there was such a long queue of cars entering the carpark. In the end we parked at some far away spot and walked over. I was a little worried than the place would be over-run with people and unbearably crowded, but we were already there and the hubby had actually agreed to go (!) so better to just press on.

Thankfully Gardens by the Bay is spacious enough to absorb the crowd nicely. The lanterns are set up around the lake area nearer the walkway linking MBS to the Gardens. The ones on the lake looked really pretty, especially with their clear reflections in the still lake, and the supertrees in the background. We particularly enjoyed the lanterns showing iconic buildings and characters/animals from different parts of the world.

Floating lantern against a backdrop of supertrees

Floating lantern against a backdrop of supertrees

Sumo wrestler and Mount Fuji in Japan

Sumo wrestler and Mount Fuji in Japan

Big Ben and MBS

Big Ben and MBS

Bull and matador in Spain

Bull and matador in Spain

Asher and I being silly, pretending to be bulls :)

Asher and I being silly, pretending to be bulls :)

 

There were a few that were quite amusing/bewildering. There was one display that I thought was meant to represent India, with the Taj Mahal, an elephant, snake-charming and some characters wearing Indian costumes. But then another mother walked by and told her daughter that it was a scene from the Middle East like where Princess Jasmine lived. Ok to be fair, the building that I thought was the Taj Mahal could be a palace from the Middle East, and there were a couple of characters that were wearing costumes that seemed more like Arabian costumes. So…yes it could be construed either way (though I still think it’s India!).

India?

Pretty sure this is India

Then the Italy display had the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, a chef (yes, they are famous for yummy Italian cuisine), and…a strange girl (no I don’t think they have famous dancers like in Spain), a bird with an eggshell on his head, and a pig. I’m sorry, I don’t get it. Can anyone enlighten me?

Here's the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Here’s the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Who are these creatures are the foot of the Tower??

Who are these creatures are the foot of the Tower??

And who is this (supposedly Italian) woman?

And who is this (supposedly Italian) woman? Looks like Sailor Mars from the Sailor Moon series.

My favourite display was definitely the one showing horses. I thought they were done in surprisingly natural poses. Except for the wires supporting the cloth of the lantern, I thought they were quite realistic in their expressions. The whole display also reminded me of Cavalia which we watched recently!

Handsome horse

Handsome horse

Majestic horse

Majestic horse

There are also food stalls if you are hungry, nightly performances, displays from the lantern making competition that intrigued the boys quite a bit because most of them were made from recycled material, chinese chess, and the ever-intriguing and completely over-my-head Chinese riddles (another thing I wouldn’t mind someone enlightening me about).

Overall it was a lovely walk in the gardens. Asher walked almost the entire time, while Ellery sat in the stroller and complained a lot when we got him to walk a bit when Asher wanted to rest. Need to up that kid’s stamina and determination big time.

The lantern display is on daily until 14 Sep, and is completely free!

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