Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day 1 Hongkong

A good start to our 5-day holiday in Hongkong. Upon entering the aircraft of in my opinion the best airline in the world (of course I may be biased lah), I immediately noticed that the wall panels were a different colour, beigy and really really nice. I thought, eh, chi guai, this looks different. Then I passed Business Class and saw the huge seats there. And I realised we're on an airplane with the new seats that are used in the A380. Whooopeee, check out our Economy seats.

Gorgeous, gorgeous. I tell you, that few extra inches makes a lot of difference okay. I know, cos I felt the difference when I flew on the older seats on our way back from Hongkong. The colours used were soothing too, love them.

Yes, Sean brings Mary along on flights, and his old Carters blanket too. Brian keeps them for him.

Check this out. Huge screen, no more cumbersome console (is that what they call that handset thing) near your sides, it's stowed nicely in front of you. And I didn't take a picture, but the tray table can be folded in half (or two, whatever floats your boat) and when folded, there's a little mirror there, for us vain ones to pretty ourselves up before landing (or to check that there's no spinach stuck between your teeth, never an attractive sight). Clever!

Was a great flight and the food was actually good. Arrived in Chek Lak Kop airport on schedule. The last time I was in Hongkong was when Eddie was the Assistant Station Manager here (circa 1994/5) and landing was always such a fantastic experience, yup, that was Kai Tak airport in Kowloon. Chek Lak Kop reminds me of KLIA actually, big and spacious.

View from the back of our taxi. Cab fare, about S$60+ from airport to Tsimshatsui.

Freshened up and then headed to the Esprit outlet right around the corner from the hotel. A quick walk around and I only found one thing I 'maybe' liked, and bought it. But I eventually found some really good buys here on my last night in Hongkong.

Address: 4-6 Hankow Road, Tsimshatsui.

Walked around Harbour City, a huge shopping mall near the Star Ferry terminal. At this point, I've got to thank Kelly (a Hongkong native and my friend Helena's best friend) and my ex-colleague Hwee Hoon for all their recommendations on shopping and eating. Oh, Li Ping too, for passing me the travel itinerary template that her husband Yong uses each time they travel, very anal but at the end of the day, very useful.

Dinner was at Peking Garden at Star House 3rd Floor, 3 Salisbury Rd. Food was good but the Peking Duck, the signature dish here, wasn't really what we're used to. It's brownish in colour and very fatty and seems deep-fried, I'm not sure. The ones we have in London and Singapore are reddish-brown in colour and sweeter.

Returned to the hotel to change into more comfortable shoes, then headed out for more shopping. Tsimshatsui area has not changed much. But the shops are Park Lane appear to have gone slightly downmarket. Good thing it did cos I found hair clips and hair bands at one of the shops there. The exact same clip I got from Isetan Parkway just two days ago for S$12 was selling for S$3.60 here!

On our way back, we stopped at Xiu Liu Shan (I think that's the name), for mango dessert although we were already very stuffed. The boys refused to have any -- spoilsports!

Back to the hotel to bathe and sleep before our full day at Disneyland tomorrow.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What Sean does when he Ponteng school

This past Tuesday, I kept Sean home for a couple of reasons but never mind that.

When he stays home, he typically:

1. Does some Kumon so Mummy can satisfy herself that she has done some work with him at home.
2. Reads all day. This is a book he read that day, which I bought for Brian probably 6 years ago.

3. Leaves books strewn on floor (this series of books on numbers, called Numberlies, is really quite silly, but he likes to look at them every now and then and laugh).

4. And as usual dozes off while reading. (This time, while reading one of his Korkor's favourite Horrible Science book, Shocking Electricity, he only reads the comics in there.)

This is actually my effort at cataloguing some of the books the boys like and enjoy, something I have been promising Hsien I would do for a long time.

While I was writing this, he was near me reading this book I had picked up for only GBP6.99 from Book Case in London's Chiswick High Road, called The Planets, A Journey through the Solar System. Great buy! His current favourite. Shucks, I just realised the book is only US$14.99 on Amazon. Oh well. As the reviewers said, this book has stunning pictures, really amazing ones! I love it too.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Brian turns 10!

Well, my big baby turned 10 today. Hard to believe it's been 10 years. He's still so kiddo, and very much my baby :)

We don't have big dos for our kids' birthdays, unlike someone (salute you Roslyn). Baking cakes for school already left me a tired wreck.

The cupcakes I made. Unfortunately, I don't have any fondant here, so gotta make do with simple decorations. As it is, I had to get Eddie to buy icing sugar, cocoa and vanilla extract when he was in London a couple of weeks back.

2nd tier all heart sprinkles, for the girls.

Third tier, a mish-mash of whatever sprinkles/goodies I felt like using. Apparently, the gummy ones were popular.

I was in two minds whether to bake this chocolate cake or not, and only started work at 10pm last night and only finished piping the words (after waiting for the chocolate frosting to harden in the fridge) at 2am.

His class of 17 students and 2 teachers finished almost everything. Good thing then that I decided to bake the chocolate cake.

Cooked Brian his favourite dishes for dinner.

Oh, Sean woke up this morning and immediately wished his brother Happy Birthday. The boys hugged. Still bleary-eyed, he then went to his box of soft toys and from there he took out a birthday 'card' (A4 sized paper actually) for Brian. He had drawn it last night and hidden it there :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Definitely a White Christmas for us

It snowed yesterday and this is just mid-October. The snowfall was really heavy and continued all day. We face 6 months of winter, this is just the start. Wish us luck and plenty of warmth :).

I'm not hiding a baby in the house, any crying sound you hear on the background is just the DVD the boys were watching, Nanny McPhee.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Moscow's first Starbucks


Located at Mega Mall Khimki, about 15 minutes drive from our place, on normal traffic, hours when there's a jam. A second Starbucks will open soon in Old Arbat, a touristy area right in the city.

I have not actually patronised the place. The smallest latte is about S$10 and I got this from another site, "a large mocha coffee will set you back an exorbitant 4.50 pounds, 35 percent more than in London, a city known in the rest of the world for its costliness."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Keeping healthy after 40

I love The Happiness Project. There are so many practical tips there for day-to-day living. Every Wednesday is Tip Day and this week's was Six tips for preparing yourself for a vigorous, healthy old age. Go take a read.

The 6 tips are:

1. Exercise regularly.
2. Yoga.
3. Strength-training.
4. Wear sunscreen every day.
5. Floss and go to the dentist.
6. Act happy, be happy.

No1 I can tick off, thanks to my Denise Austin DVDs.

There are yoga classes where we live but so far I've only attended once, will make a point to go for these at least once a week, so tick No2 away.

No3 is also done, as I've signed up with a personal trainer to help me with strength-training.

No4 I've been doing for a long time.

No5 is something I'll have to add on at my Joe's Goals page.

And No6, yeah, don't sweat the small stuff, think good thoughts, there are some things you can't control.

I have my own tips which seem to be working in making me feel better all round:

7. Squeeze half a lime, mix with water, and drink. Do this first thing in the morning and right before sleeping.
8. Go to bed at 10pm.
9. No eating after 6pm...if that eating rice/noodles after 6pm. By setting this rule, you stop yourself from munching on chips, or attacking that tub of ice-cream while watching TV.
10. Regular sauna to rid your body of toxins.


Some comments on that post are worth noting:

Keep learning so your brain will stay sharp and you'll have less chance of developing dementia and related brain disfunction. It's not only good for you, but a caring act you can do now for the people that will take care of you then.

Don't take yourself too seriously. Develop a sense of humor. Reconnect with the wonder and excitement of childhood.

My father says: before 40, genetics is responsible for how good you look; after 40, it's all your own responsibility.


Digressing a bit, I have to say that every city we live in, there are pluses and minuses (some cities more minuses than pluses). I choose to focus on the pluses. Moscow will be good for my effort in getting fit and healthy. My focus in Moscow is simple, it is to get my exercise regime back on track (a regime which was non-existent in food-heaven London). There are no fantastic weekend makan outings in Moscow to distract me from this goal, so no more excuses. Hitting 40 in two years, gotta start getting those gears working smoothly.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My Thai lunch

Besides Chinese and Malay food, my other very favourite cuisines are Thai and Japanese. Today (Thursday, this is a back-post), May, a Thai mummy from school, and also wife of the Thai Airways' station manager, cooked us (3 other mummies; me, Kala and Katherine from Indiana) an authentic Thai lunch.

This is what we had, Tom Yam Goong with rice, Fried Glass Noodles, Dumplings and Minced Pork with basil. Oooh scrumptious...I have the recipe for some of the dishes, and will share this another time (promises promises...).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sambal Ikan Bilis recipe is UP...

...and as a bonus (or rather, to make up for this tardy post) I even have an extra recipe, Sambal Prawns, for you guys.

They are both here.

I made both sambals on Friday just to be (about) sure of the recipe. The ikan bilis one was still more popular with the folks at home. Try this out and let me know how it goes.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

We found out that Sean...

...doesn't like cotton candy :)

This was taken at the Moscow zoo, on a weekday that school was out for the boys (some Faculty meeting or something). Moscow Zoo is located right in the centre of the city. I shall refrain from doing the typical Singaporean/SingaPRean comparison of other zoos with the Singapore zoo (which I am definitely making a point to visit again when I'm next back home).

Pictures of our day at Moscow Zoo.



Book boo-boo

This picture shows two pages from one of Sean's favourite Human Body books. This book is one of four from the Factfinder series, the other 3 being Astronomy, World History and Wildlife. I bought them 6 years ago from Popular Bookshop (yes, you can find some gems there sometimes) when Brian was about 4.

Now take a look at this page. Do you notice anything wrong with it? Look at the figure at the top and its description (nervous system), then the figure at the bottom right and its description (lymphatic system). Sean pointed out to us just now that the figure at the top is the lymphatic, not nervous, system, and the one below is the nervous, not lymphatic, system.

Science-goon that I am, I asked, "Are you sure?"

Sean: Yes, the nervous system has the brain, and this (pointing to the figure on top) doesn't.

Me: Hmmm...I'm not sure about that. Then what's this blue thing here (pointing to the figure on top).

Sean: Sometimes the lymphatic system shows the veins.

Of course disbelieving me had to check google images and confirm that Sean was right about the error in a book we've had in our home for 6 years.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dances with Shadow

The weather has been so beautiful these past few weeks. Today in particular was fantastic, even in the morning, it was a nice 24 degrees, and the sun was shining brightly.

I was at a mall waiting for two lunch partners when I saw this man, who looks about 50+ or 60, making some slick moves at the ice-skating rink one level below where I was.

I later realised he was actually dancing with his shadow! The sun was shining so brightly into the mall that he couldn't help himself, I think. Who needs a partner when you have your own shadow to dance with :) The image of this guy having such a good time made my heart smile today.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Thinker

That's an old photo of me (taken in 1999/2000) at Paris' Musee Rodin with my best pose of The Thinker.

I AM The Thinker.

Well, at least that's what the results of my Enneagram Personality Type Indicator test said.

I am most like Type 5 (Score: 7), The Thinker. The Perceptive, Cerebral type.
I am least like Type 1 (Score: -11), The Reformer. The Rational, Idealistic type.

Characteristics of The Thinker/Observer:
Observers have a need for knowledge and are introverted, curious, analytical, and insightful.

How to Get Along with Me
Be independent, not clingy. (very important, Clingy is a major No-No)
Speak in a straightforward and brief manner.
I need time alone to process my feelings and thoughts.
Remember that if I seem aloof, distant, or arrogant, it may be that I am feeling uncomfortable.
Make me feel welcome, but not too intensely, or I might doubt your sincerity.
If I become irritated when I have to repeat things, it may be because it was such an effort to get my thoughts out in the first place. (Remember I am logical but not very verbal so it's not easy putting my thoughts into words sometimes).
Don't come on like a bulldozer.
Help me to avoid my pet peeves: big parties, other people's loud music, overdone emotions, and intrusions on my privacy.

What I Like About Being a Five
Standing back and viewing life objectively
Coming to a thorough understanding; perceiving causes and effects
My sense of integrity: doing what I think is right and not being influenced by social pressure
Not being caught up in material possessions and status (an on-going learning process).
Being calm in a crisis (er not so true, I'm very gancheong in crisis).

What's Hard About Being a Five
Being slow to put my knowledge and insights out in the world
Feeling bad when I act defensive or like a know-it-all
Being pressured to be with people when I don't want to be
Watching others with better social skills, but less intelligence or technical skill, do better professionally (hahahaha, I think this is really true, I'm sure I know more than those wayang kings!)

Fives as Children Often
Spend a lot of time alone reading, making collections, and so on
Have a few special friends rather than many
Are very bright and curious and do well in school
Have independent minds and often question their parents and teachers
Watch events from a detached point of view, gathering information
Assume a poker face in order not to look afraid
Are sensitive; avoid interpersonal conflict
Feel intruded upon and controlled and/or ignored and neglected

Fives as Parents
Are often kind, perceptive, and devoted
Are sometimes authoritarian and demanding (Mummy is ALWAYS right!)
May expect more intellectual achievement than is developmentally appropriate (ooops! but hey, you get what you expect)
May be intolerant of their children expressing strong emotions (STOP STOP STOP NO CRYING NO WHINING SHUT UP!!!)

And for this fantastic insight into my warped personality, I have Hsien to thank.