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Archive for the ‘christmas’ Category

Canine Christmas

We started the day slowly, lazing in (that means sleeping in till 8am…yes, that’s lazing nowadays…gone are the good ol’ days of waking at 11am. That’s an unheard of luxury, an impossible luxury these days. But I shall end this very long parenthesis…).

Our first stop, Woodlands, for the yearly feast at Joanne’s mum’s place. First, an interesting little nugget (to me at least). I had put Asher’s shoes on the table top cos he kept wanting to take them and bring them to his playmat. I thought he didn’t know I had put them there cos they were out of his sight. But before we left the house, he tip-toed to retrieve his shoes on his own, and pointed to them to indicate he wanted to wear them for the outing! :) I was quite pleasantly surprised!

Anyway, it appears that Asher loves dogs. There were many dogs in the house, and Asher ran around following them, petting them, and sometimes just looking at them. There were one or two that he seemed to like more, partly cos they were friendlier towards him as well. These two were the ones he liked best, and he gamely pet their fur, and tried to stay near them most of the time :)

The feast on the table, and Asher below waving at the dogs

We went to Aunty Evelyn’s house for dinner too, and there we saw another two dogs! And Asher again crouched near them to pet their noses and their fur :) Maybe we can consider getting a doggie in time… Jon, are you reading this???!? :O)

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Ripping Wrapping

It’s Christmas!

And the first thing Asher did in the morning was to attack his presents. Well, attack is a bit strong. I had to coax him into opening them. I’m sure many (a few?) years from now he’ll need no coaxing whatsoever though…

The first present he opened was from TQ & SS – A Spot life-the-flap book along with a soft toy of Spot! Asher loves the book, and when we come to the end he starts to complain and I have to start all over again!

Then a present from Jane & KL – Another book! Yay! Christmas book with several jigsaw puzzles inside :) Asher’s intrigued by the puzzle pieces, and like for the Spot book, when the puzzles are pieced back together he fusses, and I have to take them apart again. Hope we don’t lose any pieces though!

A present from my parents – A piggy bank! Or rather, a froggy bank! Asher loves it to bits, and the minute he saw it, tested it’s quality to make sure his savings will be safe from the clutches of greedy others. Yes, half an hour after opening everything, he was still lugging his bank about and putting it through more stress tests, like dropping it on the floor, hitting it against some books, etc.

JJSB & Epoh got Asher a wonderful set of cars, planes and helicopters. Asher has since learnt that aeroplanes go “wheeeee” and helicopters make some other noise (I have no idea how to spell that sound! Anyway, Asher can’t say that one yet :) ) I find it adorable how he’ll wave the plane about and go “wheeeee” in his baby voice :)

What else did he get?

PS got Asher crayola drawing materials! I’ve yet to break them out cos I’m saving them for a day I need to keep Asher occupied! But it’s a set I’ve been wanting to get too – the markers that only draw on the special crayola paper – that means, no stains on the wall/floor/table!

Chye & Celia got him a driving toy, which he straightaway put his hands on to steer about :) I think he’s seen Jon and I drive so often, he knows how the steering wheel works. But it’ll take a while to get the hang of all those signals. Good thing for him, baby cars don’t need licenses!

He had several other presents as well – from school (there was a gift exchange), neighbours, and other friends and family.

What did we get him? Board books! I have been looking high and low for some good Christian baby board books, and I finally found some! I pray that these books will be treasured by Asher, not just because they are from us, but because of the message these books bring. Asher, remember, Jesus is the Reason for the Season!

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Christmas Eve

Christmas eve was spent at our place with my family, and in the run up to it we were reminiscing a little about how my parents used to hold a big Christmas party every year. I have many fond memories of Christmas spent together with my family and family friends, feasting, playing bingo, listening to the adults joke and chat, playing with my cousins and neighbours, staying up late, etc. I remember the pile of gifts under the Christmas tree that my mum and I would put up together, and my dad picking up each gift and announcing who it was for and from whom, and each person opening the gift there and then :)

It’s the first time we had a Christmas gathering with the little ones, even though technically it’s their second Christmas. Last year they were too young to really know what was going on, especially Aidan, since he was born just about a week before Christmas!

But one year on, what a difference! The two of them toddling about, babbling, gesturing, playing :) Asher was too sleepy to stay up, so he only received and opened his presents the next morning. But Aidan happily opened his presents to unravel toy trucks and books!

My mum had lovingly prepared dinner of aglio olio pasta, creamed cauliflower, potato gratin, sausages, fresh salad, and TQ brought minestrone soup. All very hearty and healthy. But we eventually moved on to more sinful pleasures like chocolate lava cake with ice-cream, fruit cake and such.

Christmas with family feels right, and I’m glad we spent time chatting, and finding out more little quirks that each of us have (like toothbrushing idiosyncracies…) ;)

Lets keep up this Christmas tradition!

p/s: TQ – pictures!!

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The Boy In The Hat

The school bag was packed,
All set to go.
The boy was dressed,
But what do you know?
We took a while,
There was a delay,
He was just so cute,
I can’t help but say!

The hat was out,
It’s old, it’s worn.
Was a little too big,
But we used it that morn.
On his little head
We popped it over,
He tried to pull it off,
But it went lower! :)

Halp! I can’t see!

He soon learned to bear
With this thing on his head
And went about playing
Beside the bed.

But we had to go,
It was getting late.
Mummy needed to work
And he hadn’t ate!

Before going up to school

On the car ride home
He played with the hat.
“Put it on your head”, said Mummy
And he tried to do that!

Peek-a-boo!
Yoo Hoo!
See what I can do!

So that was the day
a special day was that.
The day we found out Asher
Was the boy in the hat!

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Christmas Tea

Headed to Dawn’s place after church with Asher (sans Jon since he was still recuperating at home). Asher had fallen sounded asleep on the way there, so went for a short detour to Macs to pick up a double cheeseburger cos I was absolutely starving!! No breakfast! Got to Dawn’s place and decided to let Asher continue napping while I left the windows all open and stayed within eatshot in the house. It was a nice cool day and the birds were chirping in the garden, so I figured the car was as good a place as any to nap in. He naps a lot less nowadays, and whenever he does nap, I’m inclined to not move him and let him sleep for as long as possible. Meanwhile, Dawn and I had a good time catching up cos it’s been a while since we sat down to chat.

In the end, he woke up at about the same time as Austin, and the tea time fun began. Dawn had brought down the playpen and dubbed it the “zone of fun”. Evidently the two tots found more fun running around outside the pen. Asher himself has never actually been in a playpen, and it was not unexpected that he wanted out quickly. Austin was a bubble of smiles, and true to Dawn’s description, becomes completely awake from a nap in an instant. Nicky, the son of Bryan’s schoolmates, was there too. He’s a sweet boy, and very polite and well-mannered. I think I might have startled him with the bursting of balloons, though. I was attempting to do some balloon sculptures when I burst my balloon – twice!

There were lots of toys, and they took turns playing with the balls, the racket, the spade, shovel, cones and cups. Some of these were newly opened cos Dawn gave them as party favors for the kids :)

It was a good afternoon, having iced tea and home baked yoghurt cake while chatting about Alien and Aliens (did you know there was a difference? Did you know there is no Alien 2?!), and other random, but interesting things :)

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Christmas Craft

Christmas is coming!

I really wanted to get a tree this year (as I did last year, and the year before that), but I didn’t get around to it. There’s been too many things going on! Jon’s gone for his knee op, so he’s on crutches for 6 weeks; and other stuff too.

So I decided that, like last year, I shall create a ‘tree’ to liven up our home this festive season. My brother had several years ago given me a short string of lights he bought from Thailand that came with little purple baubles that you could blow up and attach to the lights. I had never found a place to use them, but last year used the string of lights to create my ‘tree’. I had wrapped the lights around my lamp-post, and put a teeny tiny tree (about 4-5 inches high that Jon and I had bought from IKEA long ago) on a stool next to the lamp. That was last year’s ‘tree’.

This year, I decided to make my ‘tree’ more tree-like. My raw materials were the same string of lights, the pack of purple baubles, the last little bit of aluminum foil, the box that the aluminum foil came in, the cardboard tube that aluminum foil was wrapped around, plus a scrap piece of ribbon. Oh, and to hold everything together – blu tack!

I took this photo after I was done, so not all my ‘ingredients’ are shown :)

The final result! I must say, I’m quite pleased with it!

I gathered up all the presents we’ve received, and those I’ve wrapped for others, and put them under my ‘tree’ for this photo. Kept them all back under the table in the corner of our house again cos don’t want Asher getting at the presents when he plays :) The ‘tree’ is in a prime spot!

With the lights on…

…and the lights off!

What do you think of my ‘tree’? :) For one thing, it’s definitely eco-friendly!! All material was readily available or reused/recycled scrap! Very much in line with the ‘green’ effort these days :)

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First Christmas

Asher’s first Christmas was pretty exciting for a little boy I think. On Christmas eve we went to Grandpa’s house, and on Christmas day we visited 2 houses. and he received his first Christmas present ever!

Was good to spend Christmas Eve with family, catching up, chatting, and just having a very pleasant time. Asher was in a fairly good mood and was a very good boy throughout.

Then on Christmas day itself, happily decked out in his Christmas outfit we headed for Aunty PS’s house for a popiah party. Normally he’s quite happy with company, but for some reason he was quite fussy there, and we had to spend quite a bit of time soothing him. Still, that didn’t stop us from playing board games with the others :) Nice to meet with friends on Christmas for some cheeriness :)

But the journey between the two houses was far from cheery. Asher had a dirty diaper when we left the first house, and we thought we could change it when we got to our second destination. But Asher was totally unhappy with that decision. He then went on to make his (very noisy) point by shrieking all the way from Simei to Woodlands – a good 25mins! Our poor ears!!!! He was inconsolable! I literally had to use my fingers to cover my ears for a while to give them some relief! For a small boy, he really had big lungs! Thank goodness we got to the second house eventually!

Asher spent the rest of the evening sleeping in the sling while Jon and I had yummy Christmas fare at Aunty E’s house.

Anyway, interesting little piece of trivia (for me at least). Aunty PS bought cupcakes spelling out ‘Merry Christmas’. Do you know that from those alphabets you can spell “My Asher”? :) She was packing them for us to bring back when we discovered that. Actually, she was going to spell out ‘Cry Asher’, but decided to go for ‘My Asher’. Makes no difference though, he still ended up crying after the visit! :)

So he received his first Christmas present from Kong Kong and Po Po :) A Christmas stocking! We couldn’t resist stuffing him into it hee hee. I would have stuffed him in further if not for his poo-ey diaper. Didn’t want any accidents!

I have a present! Do you?


Hmm…what can it be?


I wanna open it NOW!

Mine! Don’t touch!

See how big it is!

My first Christmas!

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Christmas Musings

Now that I’ve a kid of my own, it gives a new perspective to Christ’s birth. Jesus was a baby! A baby! Just like Asher! I mean, I’ve always known that, but it never really hit home that he was just a small, helpless, infant.

Then I’m wondering. Did Jesus cry a lot? Did Mary and Joseph have a tough time getting him to sleep through the night? Did he have colic? Or was he really a serene and peaceful baby as all the pictures of the nativity scene show? I wonder how he was as a baby. One the one hand, he was here on earth just like any of us, so he could be just like any baby, i.e., coming with all the usual babycare woes. Or, he could be divinely good natured, didn’t cry for no reason, slept through the night easily, etc.

Hmm…

It’s a whole new look at Jesus as a baby! There are no answers I’m sure. Just one of those many questions to ask God next time :)

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Amsterdam – the place with endless rows of crooked buildings! You half feel like some buildings would topple over if not for the fact that they were propped up by the neighbouring buildings.

The houses in Amsterdam are thin and long cos in the old days they charged for land based on the width of the frontage. Much like the peranakan houses in Singapore. In fact, the narrowest house in Amsterdam is only as wide as Jon’s outstretched hands!

We had decided to spend Christmas in Amsterdam thinking it would be bustling, but it was a lot more quiet than we expected. The Dutch themselves take a holiday and most businesses are closed. But it was all fine, the museums kept us busy anyway :)

On the whole Amsterdam was less Christmassy than the Belgian cities we had seen. But at least there was one huge Christmas tree in the middle of the Dam, even if it was mismatched in its lighting – half yellow, half white. But the Dutch really aren’t that into Christmas. On 26th Dec, they started to take down the tree already!!

In any case, Jon and I were really keen to attend a Christmas service, so after a lot of searching we found a protestant church with English services hidden in a begjinhof – a set of houses set around a private courtyard. Such a lovely setting for a church :)

We also had a really nice place to stay in Amsterdam. We put up at Hotel Sint Nicolaas which was just 5 mins from the train station. It was beautifully decorated in a boudoir style and very cosy :) I’d definitely recommend the place!

Well we were wandering to check out the red light district, and on the way came across a souvenir shop that had quirky decor – cows walking on the ceiling, and outside, a giant clog :)

The red light district itself was really a sight to behold ;) Women of all shapes and sizes, of all nationalities and races, and wearing (or maybe not wearing) all manner of clothing. The ladies there have to rent window space in narrow lanes which they stand in and try to seduce passersby. Behind each window is a little room, so when the curtain is drawn you know that someone’s attracted some business. As I was walking in front of Jon, I joked that no one would be interested to seduce him cos they knew I was with him. Then, just as I had said that one of the ladies beckoned to me signaling that she’ll take us both in! (And, no, of course we didn’t take up her offer!!)

No photos are allowed in the area. I’ve heard and read plenty of stories about how if you try to take a photo, a bouncer will appear from nowhere and throw your camera into the river, tear out the film, or carry out some other destructive action.

The other more wholesome areas of Amsterdam featured its many canals. On a map, Amsterdam looks like a series of concentric circles – land, canal, land, canal.

Although less pretty and photogenic compared to Bruges, especially having seen Bruges magically covered in frost, Amsterdam does have its own character. We indulged in a canal cruise since it was a nice sunny day and we had some time on our hands. It just so happened that the particular one we took was called “Lovers Cruise” ;) We had already walked most of the paths covered on the canal cruise, but the cruise still gave a different perspective to the place. The buildings looked a lot grander from the river, and I found the commentary very informative, giving background to the city’s architecture, and some other tidbits.

We visited the Rijksmuseum which we agreed was very well curated. There was restoration being done, so quite a bit of the museum was closed off, but the main highlights were still displayed. And actually it was a good thing cos we had a more manageable collection to deal with. Rembrant’s work really is very impressive, and the famous Night Watch deserves the admiration it receives. It’s a huge painting, and your eyes dart all around trying to take in all the action.

The Anne Frank museum was also an experience. I found walking into the rear annex quite exhilarating, trying to imagine what life must have been like then. It is much more spacious than I expected, and it’s amazing it remained hidden for as long as it did. I also found it sobering to read the Franks’ names in the book containing the names of those sent to concentration camps.

But my favourite museum by far was the Van Gogh museum! I love his work, and found the trip there absolutely worthwhile. It was fascinating to see that he went through a period where he was exploring Japanese art, experimenting with the techniques and stylistics employed by the Japanese. I was also particularly touched by 2 pieces. One was a painting he painted for his nephew. Even though he was in the depth of depression, he painted a lively picture of almond blossoms specially for his new-born nephew. The other was the ominous painting of a wheatfield with crows. I really felt sad and even teary thinking about how he must have been feeling and what he was going through. To feel that life is hopeless and a dead-end. It was really quite moving.

On our last day there we took a half-day tour to check out some windmills! :) The tour also included a stop by a clog workshop and a cheese-making house. It was nice to get out of the city and see the countryside. I was particularly impressed with how the Dutch had drained out the water to increase their land. I had always known they did this, but to see physically the scale on which it was done, and to know that water must continually be pumped out to this day, I thought the Dutch really deserved respect for that. It was such an incredible idea. I was imagining how it might have been at that time. Was the person who suggested the idea taken seriously at first go? It must have seemed an incredulous idea to drain out all that water! But it was done, and it is impressive.

I thought the clog making demonstration was also intriguing, mostly because of the demonstration on how fresh the wood was. The presenter was showing how from a lump of wood the clog is made, and then he declared that the wood has to be very fresh. And to prove just how fresh it was, he blew hard inside the clog, and suddenly water (and quite a lot of it!) flowed out! I was surprised! It looked and felt like a dry piece of wood!

For lunch we popped by a little lakeside town of Volendam. Quaint, small, and not much to do. At least the fish and chips were alright :)

Food wise, I think the only really Dutch food we had was pea soup! There really wasn’t much ‘dutch’ food around anyway. Tons of italian pizzarias, kebabs, argentinean steakhouses…er..where was the Dutch food??! We had Indonesian Rijsttafel on Christmas eve, which was yummy! And we chit-chatted with the Indonesian staff there. In some ways, it was like ka-ki-nang cos we were from Southeast Asia. A “Pak” here, and “terima kasih” there, we made friends with the waiters and (we think) the boss. At the end of dinner they served us tea on the house :) We also found out that the restaurant was named Tujuh Maret cos that is the birth date of the boss :)

Oh! I remember what Dutch food we had now. Pancakes! Dutch pancakes are more like crepes actually…so even then, it’s kinda French? heh..

We also added to the beer count in Amsterdam, trying the Amstel and Wieckse in…a gay bar! We wandered in without realising it was a gay bar. We just thought it looked like a really nice place. And it was! The people were friendly, and you can tell the place has regulars cos the bartender knew the customers well. The place was airing 80s MTVs, and it was real fun when a song like “summer rain” came on and everyone, including the bartender, would start to shimmy to the song and sing along :)

Overall, we had a load of fun in the little bit of Netherlands that we saw :)

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Compared to quaint Bruges, Antwerp had an element of grandeur, though both were equally elegant. Again, all the Christmas markets really added to the atmosphere. I was really glad we were travelling during the Christmas period :) It’s just gave me such a wonderful feeling! And of course we indulged in some of the goodies – like this fabulously sinful cherry & whipped cream waffle! (I didn’t eat the whole thing on my own lah!)

The symbol for Antwerp is a shining A! Probably cos Antwerp is famous for its diamond industry. We went to check out the diamond museum, which gives all the background on mining diamonds, polishing, cutting, and interestingly, even on the cultural aspect of it – a significant part of their collection featured hip hop icons, and bling-bling style jewellery! :) And yes, Jon’s Mr T was featured! :)

Even though it’s one of the largest cities in Belgium, it was really quite small. From almost anywhere in the heart of the city you could see the tower of the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Cathedral. Of course there are some places in the outskirts that you need to take public transport to get to, but it really isn’t all that far.

We walked the promenade on the first day, and it reminded me of New York! :) For reason it felt like I was looking over to New Jersey. Anyway, once you turn around and see the cathedral you’ll be promptly reminded that you’re in Antwerp.

The Grote Markt was a real highlight. It was cosy yet grand. Cosy because the square isn’t very large, plus there was a large crowd at the Christmas market; grand because the buildings around the square are topped with gold statues – St George killing the dragon, an eagle, some soldiers, etc – and they gleam gloriously in the sun :p

We went to check out the fine art museum to see the work of Pieter Paul Rubens, the darling son of Antwerp. The museum was quite compact, and we managed to cover the collections that we wanted to see :) I found that although Rubens was the main highlight, I thought some of Jacob Jordaens’ work was more impressive. Dramatic and emotive, I felt his paintings really leapt out at you, and you could almost see the figures moving.

Antwerp is known for its shopping, so we wandered through the shopping area as well. There was this shoe shop that the Lonely Planet hailed as the best shoe shop in Belgium, so of course I had to check it out. But, oh man, it’s not a place for shoppers like me. Each pair was around 400 Euros or so, some much more! So it was a look, even touch, but not bring home kinda place. Can’t really remember the name of the shop, I don’t see a point! ;)

Check out this knife holder we saw in one of the shop windows! Poor man…so hated…

I also had a go at being a Paparazzi! An animal paparazzi that is. I stalked a dog through a section of the shopping district! It was HUGE. I was trying to take a nice photo of him, but he kept moving! So at one point I was literally running after the dog trying to get a shot of him. The best shot I got was a silhouette of him, but you can really see how big he is. If he stands on his hind legs he’ll tower even over Jon!

One shop we came across had the most interesting shop sign I’ve seen! IKKS had it’s sign mounted on a wall that had water flowing down it. But on top of that, streams of water were flowing into the alphabets which were hollowed out like buckets. So every now and then when the letters filled up with water, they would tip over and the water would splash out into the drain below. Each letter tips at different times because of the different sizes of the alphabet-buckets. I managed to catch a photo of the before and after, take a look!

Another quirky place we went to see was the street called Cogels Osylei, famed for the diverse architectural styles. At some point the residents there decided to each out-do one another in how weird and wonderful their houses could be. As a result on that street alone you can find anything from Art Deco to Gothic, fanciful to just fantasy! All elements like stained glass, turret roofs, sculptures, balconies, mosaic..you name it, it’s probably somewhere on that street. Some houses even have names like ‘The Sunflower’ or ‘Morning Star’. Quite an interesting walk down from one end to the other just ogling at the houses.

Well, how can I end off Antwerp without mentioning the food? It was excellent! The best find in the city – stoemp! Stoemp is belgian mashed potatoes, which are incredibly smooth, and usually have some sort of vegetable mixed in. You can choose to have carrots, leek, cabbage, etc., in your stoemp. The first night we had dinner at Eethuisje De Stoemppot, famous for their stoemp. It’s served in mounds, and the stoemp is so good that many people have seconds (which is a lot!), or order it over and above their main course! We also tried traditional Belgian beef stew, which was again wonderful!

Second night, we went to a restaurant called the Walrus, also known for it’s good food. And again we were not disappointed! We tried horse steak, and it really does taste different from beef, lamb, chicken, etc. It’s flavourful, but not overpowering. More subtle than lamb, more complex than beef. Yummy. And of course, more stoemp!

And to top it all off, beer! We tried Westmalle Duvel and had some Hoegaarden, which somehow does taste better there :)

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