Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Autumn

It's Autumn when you see those fallen oak leaves. Absolutely a beautiful sight when oak leaves are gathered on ground. Autumn days get colder, sky gets gloomier, sunlight hours get shorter and outdoor play gets lesser.

Then, awaiting Winter. It's our last Autumn here, and we decided to store some memories by playing with oak leaves. 

Loving the pictures we took!

Lovely leaves

Love this shot!

Siblings

And having been through a year of four seasons, Summer is still the best month for everything!

Childlike-Ness

Caught a Disney on Ice show with the kids, at San Jose. The kids enjoyed and according to Jazz, "Best Show ever!" And that's what she says after every Disney performance.

To me, I'm just glad that the tickets were at a good buy. So much cheaper than watching one in SG. Jare didn't need a ticket, he was still entitled to our lap seat. Savings!

"Under the sea"

Intermission = Snack time

Moments like this compelled me to get the really unhealthy, yet satisfying into our tummies. Popcorn and cotton candy! The best entertainment companions. I was the big one craving for cotton candy.

Sometimes, I feel so clueless about doing the things that doesn't define me at all. I remembered some years ago, while I was still dating the man, I fell asleep at such a similar show. Today, with the inclusion of two little beings, I identified most parts of the show and simply enjoyed watching it with them. It's true that in a part of us, there is a child likeness that doesn't outgrow. The kids sometimes make me feel like a child again! De javu at times. Simply sweet.

My man on the other hand thinks he's getting bored with the classics. It would be more exciting to bring cars and planes on ice!  

Monday, 28 October 2013

Halloween Celebration (I)

It's time of the year when spookiness creeps in again. It's Halloween! Our last experience of the spooky western life, before we head home for the next. 

As a parent, the really exciting part about Halloween is sourcing for child friendly costumes for the little ones. I've been thinking about what costumes to get for the kids, until I realised, it's no more about my preferences, but their choices. I had to bring them along to costume shop. Which of course took more effort to get a perfect fit, because both Mum and child have to agree on the purchase. In any case, it was agreed that Jare will play Sulley from Monster Inc. and Jazz, still much into princesses, will play Rapunzel, which she already has. Phew, savings! And Mummy a boring wonder woman, Daddy a boring superman. Still, the heroes of this family.

Thanks Dank for this pic

It was a fun filled day yesterday. We went for a Halloween celebration organized by the housing committee and after lunch, went church for another round of Halloween Carnival. The kids had fun, and so did we!

Our treat bags!

Sulley and his fire truck

Rapunzel uses slide to get down

With bold parents and timid kids, we walked the haunted house. An in-house production with really good effects and actors. I've never had Jare cling onto me so tightly before, he was terrified! And we walked out with crying kids. What an eerie encounter for them!

Event no. 2

The kids seemed to have forgotten about nap when a day is packed with fun. And since nap was abandoned, we went for another Halloween carnival at church. It was absolutely fun and extremely family friendly, no zombies, no scares and no crying kids. Cute costumes everywhere!

We loved the trunks and treats, where Js went car to car to collect treats with their buckets. It was interesting to see how families do up the trunks of their car with themes! I'm creatively impressed and inspired!

Treat collection from 'Where's Willy'

Luigi from Super Mario!

Interesting car

The kids had unlimited fun at the many game stalls and they loved every part of the challenges. I loved watching their expressions of success and failure. For every little effort, the kids were rewarded with a prize ticket, which accumulated, entitled them to exchange for a prize.

Game time

And I thought the kids must be really drained and exhausted after a day of fun, they proved me wrong by asking for another round of bouncy fun. I admire their source of energy when it comes to fun.

It was a truly awesome day! Heartfelt thanks to all volunteers who availed and put up this excitement for everyone. Awaiting 31st October for more fun...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Universal, Seaworld and shopping!

It takes loads of energy for fun. It wasn't too long ago that we just packed and unpacked from a recent Disney trip. Not soon after settling into the comfort of home, it was the long weekend and we hit the road again. We drove down to Universal Studio, Hollywood and Seaworld, San Diego. The highlight of all, was having shopping in our itinerary. We had a mad time of shopping at Dessert Hills premium outlet. Which according to me, is the best place to shop on Earth.

11 Oct - Universal Studio, Hollywood
It wasn't our first visit, but we don't seem tired of its studio tour. Ever amazing! Jazz could get on more rides this time and we had a pleasant surprise of meeting the minions. So cute! The park was donned to Halloween's theme, with zombies lying all around. It was insane that ET and I cowardly walk through the house of horror, with just our two-sleves. Where did courage go? It was horrifying! Actors and props are of Hollywood standard! 

They are really 'petite'
 
12 Oct - SeaWorld, San Diego 
Also not our first visit, but we had more fun this round because there were different stations in the park for trick or treat. Though only managed to cover 7 out of 10 stations, we had good fun. I joined in for the treat fun, collected so much candies that our Halloween treat supplies have been covered!

My man always think he has 3 children. I agree!

Killer whale. My ever beautiful looking mammal

13 to 14 Oct: After theme parks, we stayed at a beautiful town called palm springs, and while driving from here to our happy shopping destination, we made pit stops with interesting sights.

Wind farms - Natural form of energy generation is found in some parts of the states. And we thought these windmills look beautiful standing just as it is. Decided to stop for a portrait with these hardworking mills.

Windmills are beautiful when gathered

World's Largest Dinosaur - Driving from Palm dessert to LA, it's almost impossible to miss 2 gigantic dinosaurs alongside. We were compelled to stop. Nope, we didn't pay to enter the museum, we were contented with just the outside.

This T-Rex is the same fellow who appeared in the movie, 'Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.' Perfectly alright not to hear of this movie, it was a 1985 film. I suppose, as young as we may be, it's alien to us.

World's largest indeed!

Shopping concludes it all. The most deadly kind of happiness is shopping! It drains money out of us, gradually and surely. I confess, I lost much sanity while shopping. The aftermath is lethal! 

The combined forces of 2 women

And this is what I meant by, happiness comes with a price, a heavy price tag! ET came with 1 luggage, went home with 2. Shopping has a new definition for her. Other than the regret of National Parks being closed, I think we've presented the best of California to ET. Hope you've enjoyed your stay, friend!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Being where we are give us truly exciting and extraordinary weekends. Filling each weekend with interesting events around our proximity.

20 July - California Rodeo Salinas
Went to a Rodeo event at Salinas, where we caught sight of the horse parade and had fun at the event carnival. Together with their proud local ranchers, about 100 horses hoofed and neighed through a long stretch of street. It was also then, I realised how beautiful these long existed animals are.
 
Horsies parade
 
After which, we spectated the bull riding, calf dressing, professional rodeo and mutton busting competitions. Each category brought on a different form of excitement. Bull riding gets really nervous once the rider falls off the bull, and escape for his dear life. And if the bull doesn't go back to where it's supposed to, cowboys on standby get into action with their lassos. Cool! 
 
Bull on the run!
 
Calf dressing was another swift acted competition, with the objective to successfully dress a calf in a pair of giant wranglers within the shortest amount of time. And the really cute one is, mutton busting, where little boys and girls attempted to ride on the sheep with all strength and will. Tame as the sheep may be, they are fast moving, giving the little kids only seconds to ride on before falling off to soft ground.

The kids' carnival exhausted the bulk of Js energy. They enjoyed their unlimited access to the bouncy castle, game stalls and other creative stations. 
 
My cowboy having fun at the game stall

Technical lesson - Building a toolbox

Js petting a bunny
 
Totally in love with such an experience and glad to be around for this event, which is held annually. 

That same evening, we caught a theatre show, Pinocchio. A performance put up by little children between 5 to 12. They are really a bunch of talented drama kids. Both Js enjoyed it, so did we. I'm inspired to stir some interest in Jazz, for speech and drama classes. 

28 July - Gilroy Garlic Festival
Gilroy is well-known for its garlic crop, and it just held its annual Garlic Festival. We were there for garlicky food! The food was great tasting, which takes my verdict of, 'worth the calories.' It was crowded, with extreme queues to some stalls. For our first garlic ice-cream experience, my man stood 20 mins under sun for our vanilla garlic ice-cream. To Js, it tasted as rewarding as the usual treats. Vanilla garlic ice-cream, sounds weird but we shove everything down. I was over-suspicious about it, but it wasn't too bad. 
 
Garlic ice-cream in half a cantaloupe
 
Mass production for the crowd

Gilroy garlic festival
 
The kids caught a puppet show and we made wooden toolbox again. One thing I appreciate from the many events organized here, is the presence of kids friendly activities. Where both young and old can have good share of fun.

09 August - Skydiving!
Boldly challenged ourselves into the highly adventurous activity. I am usually the most timid person around, I was astounded by my own achievement. Man! It was totally frightening! First few seconds of free falling was beyond imagination, as if I was out of the world. All I could think of, was 'parachute, please open.' And that was the moment when I could relax a little better. If you think skydiving is not possible with kids around, you've entertained an excuse. We brought Js along, and together with HP's kids, they patiently waited for the grown ups, for a good 4 hours! All so smooth and good.


I love SG


Friday, 11 October 2013

Best of Anahiem, Bye Disney!

Celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary at Disneyland! With the kids and ET, who thoughtfully bought us gifts and mini celebrated for us. And with great fun and adventures like these, on every other weekend, 'no gifts' policy works well for us. I've been really thankful for my stay and well paced life for the past 1 year. Thank you, Man! Gift policy might return next year. Hint hint.

Got much of a mixed feel when we ended our Disney weekend. Our annual pass has expired! We max it to its final date. It's been amazing how we don't get tired of it. Almost every long weekend, we would eagerly drive down Anaheim for Disney fun. Our annual passes have served us well.

Not a spokesperson, but if you have time frame of more than a year in California, with kids, go for the annual pass. It was some of our best moments spent in that land. Jazz grew taller for more rides since we first visited, and she got really bold too! A better rider than me. She was my comfort on those heart pounding rides.

Although, we walked away with 2 missed rides, I'm still happy with the wrap up. 
 
Happy 7th, my man!
 
Since it was our last and final trip there, we pampered our stayed in the Disneyland hotel! Which had been a wonderful stay.

A dream is a wish your heart makes.. when you're fast asleep

My man thinks we're done with it for good, but I have a secret desire... I wana be back!

Another final trip with ET today, before she embarks for home next week. I think we've been pretty good  hosts. And while offer lasts, come visit us, friends!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Aloha in Hawaii!

Aloha! We set foot in Hawaii, Oahu and Big Island! We finally met up with ET. She travelled a long long way to meet us there! The long awaited moment of meeting her has finally arrived.We spent about a week there, and unknowingly had our skin tanned a few shades darker. Weather is totally like Singapore, hot, but not as humid. It's been a long time since I saw Js perspire till hair wet.

Why Hawaii took our heart:
1. Authentic and delicious Japanese food! Oahu is populated with loads of Japanese visitors. We've been more than once mistakenly spoke to as one.
2. Beautiful Ocean view! Shiny clear blue ocean, blended in the different hues of blue made its view absolutely breathtaking. Gentle and strong waves sweeping onto its beach made everything even more spectacular.
3. Rainbows! Place where rainbows are truly faithful. We see them everyday, the single, the double and the full bow. After every drizzle, all we needed to do, was to look up for one.
4. The windward of the island represents a world with lush mountains and pristine beaches while the landscapes of leeward coasts are mainly dry, with clustered civilization (Oahu). A different landscape on different part of the Island.

Day 1
We visited the Swap Meet and Marketplace upon collecting our car. A place where goods are sold cheaply, as compared to the commercial stores. It’s where you can get souvenirs like crafts, accessories and clothing. Also a great place to taste their local fruits and snacks. 

I bought a hat, and place like this was a test of my bargaining skill. Other than that, we walked off rather fruitless, except with a taste of shaved ice. I thought our ice kachang tasted better. 

Looking like our pasar malam

Shaved ice

We drove off to stroll the streets of Honululu (Kalakaua Ave). Walking down the street reminded me of our very own Orchard road. Long stretch of branded shops after shops, open till late night. I could even shop after the kids sleep, but as much as my strength and body were willing, money is constrained. Sleeping seemed a better alternative.

Day 2
We drove eastward, passed Diamond Head and loop the island anti clockwise. Went sightseeing and stopped at various viewpoints along the coastline to get a good dose of beautiful natural creation. Took us about 1.5 hours driving via HW72 to HW83 before we reached Kualoa Ranch, a place where various movies (Jurassic Park, Lost and Godzilla) were filmed in before. Beautiful scenery, but I didn't think it was extremely impressive compared to the Pacific Coastline at Monterey, CA HW1 route.

Love the ocean
Site where Jurassic Park was filmed
 
Ended our day with a luau show at Paradise Cove, took us another 1.5hrs to travel there. Where we experienced the authentic Hawaiian culture and food. Hawaiian food is superb! I'm already missing it. Such a thing is very touristy, but didn’t mind being that part of enjoyment. Js are sure followers when other kids volunteered themselves to the Hula dance on stage. 

Traditional hula dance

Day 3
We visited the Pearl Habor, a short drive from Waikiki beach, where we gained more knowledge about WW2. Yes, watch the movie! It’s more than just a historic encounter. It’s about sacrifices, bloodshed, heroes, peace and remembrance. "I salute you, American Military!"

A must visit if you ever set foot in Hawaii. It was a rare opportunity for us to explore the submarine USS Bowfin and Battleship USS Missouri where the Japanese signed the official instrument of surrender. USS Missouri was also featured in the movie, Battleship. Those who wished to visit the USS Arizona memorial, advice is to reserve your tickets online or go down early to queue. Tickets are limited and can be snapped up fast. I must say the Pearl Habor historic sites really captivated me, I was totally immersed and felt like it was a trip back to history, for the experience of pain and warfare. Be prepared to spend the entire day here.

Real artifact from WWII
 
Day 4
Hawaiian pineapples! We visited Dole plantation at the northern shore of Oahu island (1hr drive), for the complete pineapple experience. Nothing much to rave about this place, but we had great fun in the World's largest maze. Js love the challenge, and I loved my pineapple fruit and ice-cream indulgence. 

Ice cream surprise!

In the evening, we drove to Laniakea beach (further north along HW99 to HW83) to catch sight of sea turtles. Interestingly, people know the names of these turtles that came onshore. We complete the day with a drive clockwise to complete the loop around Oahu island, along the way we experienced sudden shower and plenty of rainbows, no wonder Hawaii is nicknamed the rainbows state.

Envy their slow paced life
Day 5
We stayed at a hotel just opposite the World famous, Waikiki beach. It’s impossible not to get soaked in that blue salty water before bidding farewell. Js had been pestering us about beach play, and we had to make it happen. Our thoughtful friend brought some sand tools along for Js. You could pack some along if you plan for beach fun.

I had much reservation about water play with kids in the open water, but I knew, we must do it! I would recommend going to Kuhio beach which is beside Waikiki beach, this beach has breakwaters built to form a lagoon and the waves are gentler.  Too much inner reservations, too much to miss out in life. Have fun! The waves became really exciting to play with. Jare was initially afraid of it, but got hooked into waves playing after we demonstrated fun. 


Love the moments we had that sunny morning! Perhaps, everyone were involved in united fun, no distractions and no individual play. It was quality time we had!
 
Then, it was pack up and a short flight to the Big Island. Jetting off between islands is the common mode of travel. There are plenty of flight options available. 


Beach Fun!
 
Day 6
How can we miss the volcanoes in Hawaii?!! And there, we landed at Big Island, home to one of the World's most active volcanoes. You can also fly to Kalaoa or Hilo airport and fly back from the other airport to save on travelling around the island. I must say the island is huge and one way trip to the other end of the island will take 2.5hrs drive, so do plan your route carefully. Back to volcanoes, we visited it near night, saw red orange lava and it was glowing! Just a pity, we couldn't catch flowing lava. There's a season for everything. How awesome to not just read about volcanoes on Geography textbooks, but witnessing it. You may check the US national park website on latest update and status of lava flow, some roads may be closed.

We had many great pictures with volcanic sights and rock, where one have to be really cautious walking on the rocks. It hurts, just by pressing your palm on it. I constantly feared for my wriggling Js, a careless abrasion can cry the mountains down. 


'Road Closed' sign was covered by lava flow

Day 7
We drove up mountain top to Mauna Kea, about 10,000 feet above sea level, where it was cloudless, to watch the sunset and star gaze. Verdict: Truly awesome! It was a 'WOW' when we stepped out of the car. We've never seen such clear sky of millions, trillions of stars our entire life. Believe it or not, we even saw the milky way! With great inventions, we identified planets through the telescopes. I spotted the ring dash around planet Saturn, very impressed and absolutely impressed!

Most nice if we could camp out there, lay in a tent with open top and get mesmerized by those stars. It was extremely cold and windy up there, especially the hike for a great sunset view. Several times, I felt as if I could be blown away. After the sunset, it was minimal light pollution, and that explained why we could picture the stars and milky so beautifully. For those with strong heart, you may want to drive up to the summit (14000ft) to view the astronomical research facilities, giant telescopes and great view of sunset and sunrise. The air is thin up there. Likelihood of getting altitude sickness due to rapid ascend from sea level to 14000ft in 2hrs is high. Children under 16 are not recommended to proceed beyond the visitor centre located at 10000ft.

Braving the cold was all worth it! Don’t forget your cold wear if you plan to visit.

The Milky way!

We had a great time in Hawaii! Eating, shopping and nature were all too memorable.

Now that we're back home, I'm just glad that the Volcano National Park was opened when we visited. Government shutdown has not much inconvenient us, except for minimal disruption to our upcoming visit to a National Park, and the man's classes were on hold.