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For some reason, there has been so much talk about durians this year. You can smell when the durian season rolls around, but it seems there’s been an extra interest in the King of Fruits this season. Everyone is talking about durians! And all this talk just made us want to go out and get some for ourselves!

The boys have had durian flavoured cakes, ice-cream, and durian puffs, but have never eaten it straight from the source. We’ve had durian with our family before but the boys had been too engrossed playing with their cousins to notice any strange, spiky fruits lying about, nor a fragrant/pungent smell wafting through the house.

So when Jon and I decided to head to Katong to buy home some durians, it really was the boys’ first ever durian makan session. What fun it was!

I like the durian opening process, and discovering the inside of each fruit is just so fascinating to me! One more section, and one more section, and one more… Knowing that the boys have never seen a durian being opened before (yes, so suaku), I asked them how they thought the durian flesh was taken out from the fruit. Asher thought you needed very thick gloves to handle the durian, then the skin had to be pealed off like a kiwi. Ellery thought all the spikes had to be cut blunt then the skin peeled off like an orange round and around. They both guessed that the inside of the durian would be like a melon, and you could cut it into slices. Very amusing :) They badgered me to tell them what it was really like, but I simply told them to wait and see.

Thick gloves, check.

Thick gloves, check.

Goodness. Having not bought durians for a few seasons, I did not realise that there were so many types of durians now. Besides the famous D24 and mao shan wang, there are the black pearl, golden phoenix, red prawn, green bamboo, XO, etc. Honestly, I have no idea what the differences are between these types. I just tell the durian seller, “bittersweet and creamy!” We were recommended the green bamboo durians. Jon and I had a late night durian outing a few nights before but the durian was very disappointing. We had gone too late, so there weren’t many choices left. The durian was thin, ‘watery’, and too sweet for my liking. But these durians from 227 Katong Durian were so good! And although business was brisk, the stall holders were patient. You could also see that they took care to choose good durians for you (important if you are, like me, quite clueless about how to pick good durians).

227 Katong Durian

227 Katong Durian

Asher was so eager to have some he was quite upset that we didn’t let him have a taste when the Uncle asked us to try it. I did though, and it was good! I couldn’t wait to get home!

Out came the newspapers to line the floor. Out came the durians from the bag. Eager hands couldn’t wait to get their fingers on creamy treats. Were it not for the thorns, the boys would have grabbed the durians themselves.

Mini durian party

Mini durian party

As Jon opened the first durian, the boys were more interested in the fleshy pieces. It was perfect! Exactly as I had hoped – bittersweet and creamy. They licked their fingers and thought that was it. Then Jon opened another segment. Asher’s eyes went wide! It was hilarious! They were absolutely delighted that the durians had small sections with ‘baby’ durians inside (small bite sized pieces).

Mmmmmmm

Mmmmmmm

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

We didn’t get many, so before we knew it, all the durian was gone! Poof! So much faster than I had expected. I told them there’ll be a next round. Ellery thought I meant that very night and he was so disappointed there would be no more durians! We showed them how to drink from the durian shells so their bodies wouldn’t be ‘heaty’, and wash their hands by rubbing the inside of the durian shell so there wouldn’t be a strong smell left on their fingers. It was past bedtime, so I hurried them to bed with playful threats of swinging durian shells at them if they didn’t go to bed quickly.

Spiky

King of Fruits

When I think of durian makan sessions, I remember all the times from my childhood when my parents or their friends bought durians, how we shared them with friends, neighbours, cousins (and a priceless memory of my cheeky brother chasing my durian-hating cousin with a piece of durian), and church friends (everyone would pool orders at church camp in Malaysia and an uncle would buy back several baskets of the fruit!).

The next day Asher surprised us with this note. And I realised that we love the King of Fruits not just because it tastes great, but because it gives us the chance to build bonds of love.

SONY DSC

A sweet surprise in the morning

Durian is more than just a yummy fruit. Durian is a reason to gather, an experience to share.

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How overdue can this get?? :)
Finallt got down to finishing the post on Alyssa’s party held in May!

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What a packed day it was to be! There was another party on the same day as Alyssa’s. That would be in the morning, while hers would be in the afternoon. Jon brought the boys, so I was left to prep the room while taking care of Alyssa at the same time.

Before that though, we started the morning playing and cuddling on our bed. It was a nice time of family bonding before the hectic day began :)

Sibling love

Sibling love

Squeezing together for a family shot :)

Squeezing together for a family shot :)

All the Logistics

This was the first time I had an empty function room as a blank slate for a party. All our previous parties for the boys were either held in our home or somewhere with a play area. So there was always the home decor, or the decor of whichever venue we were at, and all I needed to do was embellish a little. A blank slate was a different proposition altogether. How do I make the place look cheerful and provide the kids some entertainment while on a budget? The room had plain white walls and nothing besides tables and chairs.

An empty room - my blank slate

An empty room – my blank slate

In the end I decided to go for paper decorations as I thought it’d be easier to prepare. I saw on pinterest some instructions for making pompoms that seemed pretty manageable, and bunting didn’t seem like too difficult a task.

What colour scheme then? For lack of a better option, we went with colours that would match the Alyssa’s dress. Sounds funny right? Yes, I thought so too haha. It was a hand-me-down dress that I didn’t think much of while it was on the hanger, but one day when we put it on her, she looked so sweet and lovely I knew I wanted her to wear it for her birthday. Jon and I have never been the kind to give too much attention to what the kids wear, but we both agreed in this instance that the dress was perfect for the occasion.

The dress and matching papers for the decorations

The dress and matching papers for the decorations

Pom poms and bunting - I liked these so much they are now hanging in Alyssa's bedroom :)

Pom poms and bunting – I liked these so much they are now hanging in Alyssa’s bedroom :)

It's not much, but I think the décor makes the place seem more festive

It’s not much, but I think the décor makes the place seem more festive

What entertainment? With so many kids on the list, we agreed there had to be a baby/toddler area and an area for the bigger kids. We decided to go with the ever popular bouncy castle for the older kids, and a ball pit for the young ones. I never expected the price difference between different companies for bouncy castle rentals to be so great. For one of the models I was looking at, one of the better known companies quoted me upwards of $400 excluding delivery and extra charges for each flight of stairs (there were two). I found the same model for rental at a different company for about half that price, including delivery! The big company had a price-match policy, but when I told them about the price I found, they told me to go rent from that company instead! So much for a price match!

In the end we rented the castle from Kiddom as they had the best price. The one thing I wished Kiddom would have done was to put some foam mats around the castle for added safety. Maybe they could consider including those as part of the rental. Party Mojo also had good prices, but the castles I was interested in were all already booked up.

Some of the kids in the bouncy castle

Some of the kids in the bouncy castle

Boing boing boing!

Boing boing boing!

Down the slide

Down the slide

The bouncy castle. I’m not sure that’s something I would get again for a party. I’m still undecided. On the one hand, the kids really enjoy it. On the other hand, it can well…get out of hand! We had a few scuffles among the more active boys. Thankfully none of the kids got injured from the bouncy castle though. Asher, however, did get his arm hurt in a fall (running on flat ground, somehow tripping and landing badly). He was so out of it after that, he just huddled in one corner for the rest of the evening. To be fair, he said it was very painful (and that’s another story how we went to A&E).

The little ones all loved the ball pit that we hired from The Toy Rental Shop. It was large enough for 8 to 10 little kiddos to be in at the same time. And because the kids haven’t really started walking, they all had sufficient space, and more than enough colourful balls to play with. I loved how The Toy Rental Shop’s ball pit came with a little slide. Alyssa was in love with that slide! She kept wanting to go on it over and over. I think that’s really where her love affair with slides began.

The big ball pit

The big ball pit

Alyssa so excited to see Asher outside!

Alyssa so excited to see Asher outside! The ball pit was indoors, while the bouncy castle was outdoors (to keep the noise out!)

Here Mummy!

Here Mummy!

Little Dean enjoying the ball pit

Little Dean enjoying the ball pit

Alyssa fascinated by aunty Leah's ponytail

Alyssa fascinated by aunty Leah’s ponytail

The bus with the slide at the back

The bus with the slide at the back

Trying to get a shot of all the cousins (but Asher was still huddled in the corner and didn't want to join in)

Trying to get a shot of all the cousins (but Asher still nursing his injury and didn’t want to join in)

The Toy Rental Shop even gave us complimentary goodie bags to give out to the children, so the kids had 2 goodie bags each when they left!

What was in our own goodie bag? I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t really like goodie bags that leave me with a lot of useless things. And I also personally feel that packing it in fancy bags is such a waste because the kids just want what’s inside and throw the packaging away very quickly. So we went with simple brown paper bags (though another friend used them too, and she had a wonderful idea of washi taping them! I think that’s a great idea to prettify the bag a little!), with the contents differing depending on the age of the child. For the younger ones they got baby snacks, a simple Chinese book, and a small puzzle. For the older kids, they got a book and some snacks too, but older kid snacks. I made sure that I got different titles for all the books so that it didn’t matter which bag the kids picked up, they wouldn’t get the same titles as their siblings.

Younger kid's pack

Younger kid’s pack

Older kid's pack

Older kid’s pack

 

For food, Jon and I have always wanted to cater from a prata place and have a live prata station. Having the space of a function room and the wide verandah adjacent to it gave us the opportunity. We went with Casuarina Curry. They were prompt and the food was excellent. Besides prata, we catered nasi biryani and a variety of curries. I was very happy to see everyone ordering prata and enjoying the food. Prata is the best. Add teh tarik, and you are in comfort food heaven. So of course there was teh tarik too!

The friendly chef

The friendly chef

Tucking into the food

Tucking into the food

Prata and briyani, mmm

Prata and biryani, mmm

Chocolate prata was very popular among the kids

Chocolate prata was very popular among the kids

P.A.R.T.Y!

Jon and I aren’t really party people. We like gatherings, but not big parties. But somehow, we always feel that the first birthday needs to be more inclusive, with all the uncles, aunties, grandies, cousins, friends, etc. So the first birthdays tend to be big. I’m really happy to see everyone, but there is so little time to spend with each person. And it’s tricky juggling the different groups of people. Actually, I think everyone is quite happy to make themselves at home, feed and entertain themselves, but as the host, I just feel like I should be doing more for them. When I’m the guest at such parties I’m quite happy to be doing my own thing, talking to people around me, chomping down yummy food, and running after my kids. But when the roles are reversed I worry about the people getting bored, people not enjoying themselves, etc. And then I’m taking care of Alyssa too.

friends

friends

more friends!

more friends!

family

strange family

strange family (in particular the one on the le… ;O) )

little friends

little friends – Jo Jo loved hugging Alyssa that day. Very sweet!

Alyssa with cousin David

Alyssa with cousin David

I had a friend who was so kind to offer to babysit Alyssa for a bit while I had some dinner and spoke to some of the guests. Her own two kids are bigger now, but my no mean all grown up, so I was extremely touched by her gesture. Alyssa seemed to sense that this lady was loving and kind, and thought Alyssa was getting very sticky to me, she didn’t cry when I left her with my friend.

Eat, play, sing a birthday song, blow the candles, cut the birthday cake, and before you knew it, the party came to an end.

Singing the song

Birthday cake time

Standard stunned look by 1-year-olds staring at a crowd of people around them

Standard stunned look by 1-year-olds staring at a crowd of people around them

Cutting the cake

Cutting the cake

Alyssa and her kitty cake

Alyssa and her kitty cake

It’s always a bit anti-climactic at the end of a big party. All the prep, all the effort, and whoosh, it’s over. This party in particular, had so much prep to think about. Less themed stuff than I did for the boys, but a lot more thinking for every other aspect. I was very happy that Alyssa had fun at her own party. The ball pit was a huge winner. Can I say again, I’m so glad we got it! She was happy, we met with family and friends; good food, good company – it was a good party. I really should worry less! :)

And anyway, that’s the last 1st year party we will be doing. Ever! (Or that’s the plan at least…)

Playing with the pom poms the day after in her brand new cat romper that she got as a present

Playing with the pom poms the day after in her brand new cat romper that she got as a present

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My dear little cupcake, oh how you bring us all so much joy and laughter. You are a funny little girl, and we all – your gor gors, mummy and daddy – all love you immensely. You have really lived up to your name which means “great happiness”. You don’t cry much, and when you do there’s usually a good reason. When you were born, you didn’t cry! You just gave a dainty little, “eh!”. As a little baby, you were so quiet your uncle Terrence called you a soft toy. Though after calling you that you decided you hated car rides and would scream through them. Thankfully you outgrew that phase.

You are a little charmer. Everywhere we go people stop to say hello to you. And if they don’t, you wave at them and then they can’t help but stop to talk to you. There were times where I think I needed you more than you needed me. I had a few meetings with people that I was a little anxious about, but your presence always acted as a buffer and an ice-breaker, to the point now I’m comfortable even if you were not there. But I don’t think I would have had the courage without you and your happy presence.

Compared to your brothers, you are so much easier to care for. SOOOO much easier. I start to understand now why people couldn’t comprehend just how difficult your brothers were as babies (well, in particular your eldest brother) because maybe they were more like you, more calm and just easier to manage. I’m so grateful. So, so grateful.

But, like your brothers you don’t like sleeping through the night – why oh why? I look forward to that day. Very much.

Again comparing to your brothers, you’ve had a lot less attention than they did when they were your age. You are basically carted around with me when we fetch them for their activities, and when you follow me to run errands. Though I inevitably have to slow down to nurse you, I find that I’m not with you in the moment as much as I was with them. I’m sorry about that. I guess I’m really just stretched and that nursing time, I can just be still and think about my own things.

But you are so loving nonetheless.

I do love cuddling you so. Your smiles and cheerful presence are so precious. I find myself saying over and over “you are so cute!” though I guess as you get older I should cut back on that because it’s not just about being cute. It’s about having the right kind of values and convictions. I hope that as you grow up we’ll be able to impart to you the right values. And most of all, that you’ll grow up knowing and loving God.

I thank God for you! I love you so much, but God loves you more!

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The tarts disappeared so quickly! The boys would bring the container of tarts around and munch wherever they went. Jon and I kept taking a piece every time we walked past too. Before we knew it, there were none left!

So how? No choice but to make more!

We started at 830pm, and at midnight we were still making tarts! Gosh.

And for the first time, Jon helped us! I’ve never ever seen Jon help with baking before, so it was definitely a photoworthy moment.

The tarts continue to disappear. We intended to keep some tarts for our friends to try, but it looks like the jar will be empty by the time we meet them!

Round 2

Round 2

Smiley face!

Smiley face!

Jon helping with baking!!

Jon helping with baking!!

Father-son bonding :)

Father-son bonding :)

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After last year’s successful pineapple tart baking session which yielded what is, purely in my opinion, the best pineapple tarts around, my Mum and aunts decided to assemble for a pineapple tart session this year too! I was already planning to bake them again this year anyway since I couldn’t bear the thought of eating any other pineapple tarts ;O)

It took a really really really long time to bake 3 batches. The tarts are not difficult to make, just time consuming. We joked that we can’t make a business of this because it’s just too much effort for too little money! After about 9 hours of work, we made only slightly over 300 tarts – enough to fill 7-9 containers. After deducting for costs and manpower, there’s really no point. BUT. For personal consumption, it’s so worth it.

We started from after lunch, and carried on till after dinner. It was a multi-generational effort. My grandaunt, mum, aunt, me, Asher and Ellery all at one point helped to make tarts. A fun day of bonding!

Mummy rolling out the dough

Mummy rolling out the dough

Tried to let Alyssa play with flour but...

Tried to let Alyssa play with flour but…

She ended up eating it so that was the end of that plan

She ended up eating it so that was the end of that plan

The neat tarts my mum and aunts made

The neat tarts my mum and aunts made

The messy tarts the kids made :)

The messy tarts the kids made :)

My mum even made a dragon for Ellery!

My mum even made a dragon for Ellery!

It was actually very crisp and yummy!

It was actually very crisp and yummy!

Baking with Por Por!

Baking with Por Por!

The underpaid workers

9hours later but still happy as tarts!

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It almost went by without us singing him a birthday song!

There were grand plans. Ellery had been asking to go to the zoo for a long time, but for various reasons we didn’t get to go. There was Legoland, which we were supposed to bring the boys to as a combined treat, but that did not materialise after our move as we got so tied up with house things (rectifications and all that).

In the end, everything was kept simple.

On Christmas day itself we had a special breakfast of pancakes cooked at the table, just like at Slappy Cakes. The boys had loved it when we ate there and my aunt had so generously bought us a crepe maker last Christmas so that we could do that same thing at home. In the end we only used it for pancakes one year later! We had became addicted to crepes and often had those for breakfast instead :)

Home style slappy cakes!

Home style slappy cakes!

Christmas pancakes!

Christmas pancakes!

After breakfast we made logcakes for our neighbours as a way to say hello. The boys had fun delivering them, and we discovered a couple of neighbours celebrate Christmas in a big way. Some others we discovered were vegetarian and couldn’t accept our cake because we used eggs. Need to look for eggless cake recipes!

Sprinkling on the snow

Sprinkling on the snow

As always we were double booked for Christmas lunch, so we did house-hopping and lots of eating! Usually people at these two homes would greet Ellery a happy birthday, and at the first home we’d sing a birthday song. But somehow this year all that didn’t happen. Thankfully Ellery was patient and didn’t demand or expect anything.

Being cheeky in the car and not wanting to stay still for a picture :)

Being cheeky in the car and not wanting to stay still for a picture :)

Lounging in our friend's house

Lounging in our friend’s house

We left the second house in the late evening and went to Toys R Us so that the boys could choose their own presents. But Ellery fell asleep in the car! We thought he’d wake up in the noise of Toys R Us but he didn’t. We headed for dinner and tried to wake him but he was just too tired. We were joking about how we were celebrating a birthday without the birthday boy! But just as we were finishing our meal he woke up! Just in time to eat something and enjoy some dessert :)

Birthday boy sound asleep

Birthday boy sound asleep

Finally up!

Finally up and being squished

It was back to Toys R Us again, and Ellery chose a bow and arrow set because he had played with a set in one of the houses earlier in the day and loved it!

Home, bathed, bedtime story, in bed. Then Ellery said he wanted to have a birthday song and cake cutting. Throughout the day I had wanted to do it, but there just wasn’t the opportunity. So although it was already 10pm, we pulled out a logcake that we had saved for Ellery, decorated it and sang him a song.

He loved it! Especially when we found that one of the candles was a trick candle that kept lighting up again. The boys had such a good time trying to blow it out :) I think in the end the cake was quite covered in saliva…hmm…

I was really happy to see Ellery beaming :) A simple birthday song and cake at home can be so special :)

An over decorated cake haha!

An over decorated cake haha!

Happy Birthday!!

Happy Birthday!!

Blowing out the candles

Blowing out the candles

Finally blew out the trick candle!

Finally blew out the trick candle!

Cut cut cut

Cut cut cut

Brothers :)

Playful brothers

Loving brothers :)

Loving brothers

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My dear Ellery, you have certainly grown. You have leaned out and are starting to lose your baby fat. Many people say you look thinner.

You still say the funniest things, and I have a long list of quotes from you that are just hilarious :) I laugh out loud everytime I re-read them! I must save them for you so that you can read what you said as a little boy.

You continue to be independent minded and like doing things in your own way, which is a good thing, but that same quality also makes you rather stubborn and difficult to discipline. Oh, what fights we have had this year. I have had a tough time reminding myself to model kindness and gentleness for you this year. But you can also be extremely charming and loving. You spout sweet nothings at random moments, and that always warms my heart. Whenever you say, “Mummy, I love you soooo much!” I can’t help but squeeze you tight, kiss your head, and all irritations of the day are dissolved.

It’s been a tough year for you too. On the one hand, you’ve become a very sweet and loving older brother to Alyssa. You were so happy when Alyssa was born you ran through school yelling, “I’m a Kor Kor now!!!” You play with her, hug and kiss her (even with dirty hands and oily mouth). On the other hand, I think you unconsciously feel the reduction in attention given to you and have been very whiny since your sister arrived. I have heard that middle children either become very independent, or very whiny. I think you’ve gone the whiny route. I’m hoping it’s a phase, and I’m hoping it ends soon. I try to pull out special moments with you, but it’s tough. I hope you know Mummy is trying her very best.

A new challenge has appeared this year too. One that I was anxious would come, and it did. You were an early reader and many people said to you or within hearing how “clever” they thought you were, and they praised you a lot. Too much. At that time I was thinking to myself that they really should hold back on excessive praise because it might negatively affect Asher, and more so, it might negatively affect you. Now it appears that you are only keen to try things that are easy. Anything that you think you’ll not be good at you immediately say, before even trying, that you can’t do it. I really pray that this is also a phase that will pass quickly. I pray that we’ll be able to build up your confidence to try things that at first seem difficult, and that you’ll realise you actually can do many things if you put your mind to it. Also, that we don’t expect you to be super at everything, but that you at least give things your best effort.

Mummy hasn’t had much time and attention for you this year, unfortunately. Mummy has been very stretched, but I hope you know how much I love you, how special you are to me! You are so unique, and I love you deeply!

 

 

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New Year’s Eve was rushed yet relaxed. I had one main thing to do – finish my photobook from our Hong Kong holiday. I had a Groupon voucher which had it’s validity extended, then further extended and was expiring on 31 Dec. Yes, I’ve been making sure that I create a photobook for every single holiday we’ve taken since my technology troubles last January. It takes a lot of effort to hammer out the photobooks – several nights of sleeping at 3am or 4am and feeling terrible the next day, but when I hold the finished product in my hands it feels so worth it. I’m always very happy whenever I leaf through the books. I never got around to printing pictures for all the key events, only some, but I thought I’d at least capture our holidays in hardcopy.

The boys had a blast. From the moment they were up, right until they went to bed at 1230am on 1 Jan, they were playing and playing and playing. We did not interfere nor interrupt their play except for meals, we didn’t drag them anywhere, and didn’t stop them from creating a giant mess in their bedroom and at the play area. It was wonderful to hear all the happy sounds! No fighting! The wonders of rest. Just the day before Ellery was a complete grouch and whinier than ever from morning to night. He went to bed several hours earlier than usual and was a thoroughly cheery person on New Year’s Eve. He was like a different person, a different child altogether!

My family had invited themselves over (which was fine by us) because my father told us about how at the stroke of midnight, ships all over the world sound their horns and some shoot flares! We were really excited! The boys too forced themselves to stay awake until midnight in order to hear the ships. In the end it was softer than we had expected, though we were aren’t that close to the ships I suppose. I’m sure on the ship it’s really loud. So at the turn of the new year a low blares slowly rippled across the water, and after a while, red flares were fired into the night sky by quite a lot of ships. Not all at one go, but a few at a time such that there was at least one red glow in the sky for the next 30 mins. It’s really beautiful to see.

We were treated to a double sighting of these flares. When Indonesia welcomed in the new year the ships in Batam fired up their flares too, and we could even see fireworks twinkling in the distance at many spots on the island.

I think this is something I’d definitely stay up for every year!

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

 

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We happened to be meeting my parents for dinner, and as the rain had stopped we decided to go and check out the Gardens by the Bay Christmas Wonderland event. I had heard that there was a Christmas market and was very keen to go. I loved all the Christmas markets in Europe when we were staying in London, and hoped to relive some of that at Gardens by the Bay. And I suppose it’s as close as it gets. Because of the rain, the air was very cool, almost cold. And with all the beautiful light sculptures and market stalls, it did feel like we could be in a cold country somewhere.

Beautiful light sculptures

Beautiful light sculptures

Family photo (and my kids have laser eyes)

Family photo (and my kids have laser eyes)

2014-12-19 20.28.39 The light sculptures made it seem like there were ornate buildings completely decorated with lights. I wished there was mulled wine, because that was one of the things I completely loved when we were in Europe during Christmas time. The drink somehow makes everything feel much more Christmassy. But there were only regular wine stalls, no mulled wine. I have tried making mulled wine in Singapore before, but it’s best drunk in cool weather.

Boys were so happy to go on a train ride

Boys were so happy to go on a train ride

It was as close to ‘magical’ as you can get when there was fake snow drifting through the air at the Spalliera, a lighted sculpture that formed a ring around a grassy patch (or what was once a grassy patch – hope the grass grows back!). I loved it. The cool weather, the ‘snow’, seeing the kids so happy, Jon, my parents. What more could you wish for? (well, except maybe a glass of mulled wine!)

So happy to see the 'snow'

So happy to see the ‘snow’

Trying to reach for the 'snow'

Trying to reach for the ‘snow’

Inside the snowy ring

Inside the snowy ring

Christmas Wonderland goes on until 1st Jan 2015, but the Christmas markets have ended their run. Gardens by the Bay people, if you are reading this, next year please get someone to sell mulled wine please!!

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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

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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!

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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.

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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

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