Wednesday 29 January 2014

Home Game - Get it caught!

Getting hooked on game invention, my sweetie girl came to me with great excitement one afternoon. She explained her concept of a game, which she thought was the best game invention of the century. Imagine that excitement. Sometimes, I really dislike myself for not showing good hope in her beliefs and thoughts. My mind usually wonders away when she tries to unfold long stretch of stories, especially when I'm caught at an inappropriate moment. I went 'uh ah, ok, alright, oh," as she brought me through her invention. I nodded my head and looked impressed. After which, I said, "okay, let's put words into actions." Tried to shoo her away from what I was engaged in. Oops!

She invented a simple game which just needed:
  • recycle papers and 
  • glue
How to play:
She grabbed some used papers, left 1 piece uncut and cut the rest into quarters. Put some glue in the middle of that big uncut piece of paper, set her challenging distance, and started throwing the quarter of papers onto the big piece, aiming to get them caught by the glue. 

In midst of whatever I was working on, I got distracted by her interesting idea and joined in! Then, she realised once the first piece got aimed, she needed to put more glue on the top piece and on and on. She also realised, that paper, being extremely light weight moved slower with air. It swayed left, right, up and down, before deciding where to land. It wasn't an easy game, I found out. But, it was doable! 
Her challenging space

Not too bad of a fun invention from my 4 year old.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Home game - Score it!

I've been frequently collecting trash for unknown purposes, but I knew this embedded habit of mine will be of good use some day. One afternoon, while the kids were gleefully painting outdoor, I went through my stash for egg cartons. I had a simple game invention in mind. A funfair, game stall inspired thought.

All you need:
  • Egg cartons
  • 3 or more colour paint
  • Brushes
  • Light small ball
  • Pen and papers for scores 

Our colourful tray of dips

It was easy! Since the kids had brushes and paint on hand, I borrowed manpower to paint the egg cartons. We worked with 6 different colours.

Score reference
Dips that were painted the least times of colour, carried the heaviest point. For the remaining, we assigned randomly. With that, we came up with a scoring system.

Game's ready! Set a considerable distance from the egg cartons and ball thrower, give each thrower 3 tries to score. The game explains itself, the highest scorer after 3 tries, wins! And trust me, I thought it was an easy game, but not. Even with 3 tries, I had my ball out of the cartons, giving me 0 score. Build more cartons if you like!  

Moral of game - I thought I could get Jazz to work on her addition, but it was too many numbers to sum up for her. In any case, I grabbed opportunity to reinforce her Chinese and drilled Jare into characters recognition. I communicated the game in Mandarin, but it was alot of effort to get Jare engaged in Chinese. And, while painting, we went through the colours equation:
Blue + Yellow = Green, Blue + Red = Purple, Yellow + Red = Orange!

A simple game, but the kids got really excited over this self made game. Jazz is so much into game invention now. How did I just realized we didn't need to invest too much in paid toys?!!!

Saturday 25 January 2014

Snowboarding and Skiing is Fun!

Last weekend, together with our large kampong of 16 adults, 9 children and a dog, we trooped off for some snowy sports at Sierra, Lake Tahoe. The man and I had our first snowboarding experience, and Jazz, her first ski experience. I didn't think she would continue to be keen after doing a 3 hours lesson on day 1, but my instinct went wrong. She was all so excited and anticipated for the next lesson, after her first. While I accumulated bumps and bruises during my lesson, Jazz did well and steady throughout hers. How superb if they exceptionally allowed me into their tenderly taught lessons. Junior class seemed a better fit for me.

It was interestingly fun on how Jazz related her lesson guide to us. The travelator that brought them up slope is called the 'Magic carpet.' The 'A' sign that their ski should make to a halt is called 'Pizza.' And parallel ski, called 'French Fries' was not good for stopping. It sure got the kids hungry while learning. I'm glad she enjoyed her lessons the fun way. 
Looking like a pro!!!

While Jazz expressed interest in skiing, Jare showed no interests to glide with equipments on snow. We took turn to babysit him, played snow and loitered around while waiting for each other to be done with lesson. 
He loves snow play!
At the end of our trip, I gained some interest in snowboarding, but definitely not some talent to advance in it. Having done some basic skiing many years ago, I affirmed that skiing seemed easier to comprehend than snowboarding. Nah, not my excuse. The man, with more talent, flexibility and agility, had better stunts to flaunt on his snowboard. I think he has developed deep love for it.

Trying to look like a pro
It was a very great experience and wonderful opportunity to glide on snow with style, but everything got messed up when we failed to maneuver obstacles and humans, or halt the proper way. Fall to stop was my motto, and best, was to fall gracefully.

Snow sports can get pretty addictive. The fact of it being unfounded in our homeland, gave us good root reason to bond with it here. It was a pity that Jazz can't pursue skiing when back, but she sure had a good appetizer for the sport. While time is ticking away, we are planning to go for more!

Road trips got better with the kids, but irregular meal time gave us very famished kids. Over an extremely overdue lunch, Jazz said she was super hungry and did a swap of food bowls:
A very hungry daddy settling with little portion of ramen
You guessed it, she couldn't finish. 

Friday 17 January 2014

The man's 35th

The man grew into another year of maturity, on the 11th. My hunt for the best tasting cake was still of no avail, or rather, I made up a good excuse to self bake one. Searched high and low, deep and wide for an interesting recipe that didn't need any frosting. It was quite a cheat, but a great savior. I dished him a banana split cake, in a trifle bowl. This monkey loves bananas, I supposed it pleased him and the kids well. I shall share the recipe in another post.

With minimal assistance, Jazz designed and did a card for him. Jare contributed by doing some cutting, making it a joint effort. This family sure got busy for the man's big day.
Oops, did I reveal his golden age?!!
It was a simple affair we had. Cake, candles, party hats which Jazz dug out, and a meal out, where he ate like a king. Delighted ourselves in a spread of succulent lobster and well aged beef. It was undoubtedly a delicious and sumptuous meal, for the longest time ever. I confess my home made meals can be quite a bore. 
Dish named: King's meal

With very filled tummies, we headed home for the official ceremony. As usual, candles were blown out by the fastest breath of air, the Js. 

Happy Birthday, Big Baby!

Good smacking kisses on his cheeks

And interestingly, that evening, I couldn't believe bringing ourselves into a restaurant with a disclaimer like this:

Rather upset seeing this
The only saving grace was their great tasting food, which we strongly wanted to try because of its positive reviews. We were even asked if we're alright with this policy before being seated. I felt a tad sense of anger and disgust. My motherly status being was being challenged! Wouldn't such a disclaimer upset any parents, whether they are good or bad parents? Or was it just me? We know babies and toddlers aren't exactly easy when it comes to fine dining. I kept my fingers very crossed throughout the rather constrained meal. The best I could be was a responsible parent.

In any case, we survived the meal peacefully. Jazz got really sensible when she read the print. Jare made it an easy meal for us too. They knew it was Daddy's big day! With that, it made our day wonderful!

Sunday 12 January 2014

National Parks - 28th Dec to 5th Jan

Our bond with Mother nature began from Utah to California. We ambitiously covered 6 National Parks and 1 state park. The man is an extreme park and nature enthusiast, with him, all things are possible when it comes to admiring true natural beauty. As his companions, we gladly acted in accordance with his wishes. And I thought we had quite an intense itinerary of parks. Perhaps, any trip without shopping is just too tough for me. 

We set foot in a state park, Dead horse Point, and did the mighty five of Utah, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. Our final destination was Death Valley. A morbid name given, but it really lived up to its name. It's a miracle we survived it. Haha.

After doing our second park, I told the man that, "Every parks looks the same, isn't it?" And that's what comes from one who doesn't much appreciate repeated nature. And so, if you've a tight itinerary, the worth are Arches, Canyonlands, Zion and Death Valley. My memorable takeaways were those snow caped layered rocks and beautiful arches. Each sediment layer seemed to have a story to unfold. The erosion process revealed much about the life journey of those weak and strong standing rocks throughout the seasons. Which in time to come, they all unite to form a magnificent natural structure. How wonderful Mother nature is!

Window arch in Arches

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands. Awesome!

For some reason, I'm very much in love with the arches nature had created. They were so alive to me.

Canyonlands - Looking like a chocolate layered cake with frosting

Zion - water streaming through the canyon. The zest of life!

One of Zion's highlight was the weeping rock. We were at its foot twice, and decided not to walk the trail as it was covered with ice and snow. We were not equipped to trek a trail under such condition, so we went away. On the second visit, the man again decided that we shouldn't risk this with Js. Curiosity took over me, I announced that I'll trek up solo. It's winter, I was overly eager to know if those tears have froze up. And so I said my last words and went up. A slip off the path wouldn't kill me, but perhaps seriously hurt. In any case, I came back unscathed, and a whole. While making my way back, I saw the man and Js gradually making their way up through a path that we didn't discover earlier on. It gave a safe short cut, avoiding the icy slippery path.

Anyways, the weeping rock was still weeping. No frozen tears, but was a great hike up. Overcoming challenging paths and obstacles as a family is definitely worth celebrating victory aloud.

Our victory to weeping rock
Last destination, Death Valley! We did 2 full days here and it gets really drained. I'm not whining, I know it had been a very blessed trip. My personal favourite was the Mosaic canyon, where the marbled canyon gets narrower as you enter. The climbing, crawling and ducking made our trail beyond the ordinary. Js enjoyed it very much too!

Mosaic Canyon
Being at some of its parts in DV, it kind of relates to being deserted in the dessert. The wilderness and bareness of this dessert gives the total opposite of urbanization. The best time of Death Valley is also in the night. You get one of the darkest night sky when city lights are being blocked out by the mountains, which means another great opportunity for us to stand in awe, beneath the very starry night sky. We even caught some meteor shower!

On our last day, we visited the ghost town, Ballarat. It sent chills straight to my bones! Hardly any souls around, we made a quick tour and drove out. Then a 6 hours drive to home! I thought it was the most exciting part of our journey, after a 21 days of travel.

Deserted house
It had been a very rewarding trip for us. We travelled this trip light, brought no stroller or carrier. And both Js gladly made good used of their walking feet, even when I was shopping the whole day! Jazz had all our praises for being on her feet, even at tired moments. Though Jare was still needy with naps and wanting to be carried sometimes, I was glad that they were short or at appropriate moments. I felt like I've graduated from this part of kola parenting! All of a sudden, I feel the need to carry them more, before they outgrow my arms! Revelation revealed from this trip.

Well, thank God for yet another safe and blessed journey. I'm also thankful for my man whom in my eyes, is the best trip planner and advisor ever! He seeks the best deals and plans the best itinerary without comprising on our comfort. I thought I could do these, but he has shown me that it's an art and talent to work on such a comprehensive vacation. Thanks baby!

Memories storing complete! Life's back to routines and duties...

Saturday 11 January 2014

Denver, Colorado - 25th to 28th Dec

We spent Christmas night at Denver Botanic Gardens, where we enjoyed their special holiday event, Blossoms of light. The entire garden was beautifully and romantically draped with over a million of colourful lights, that transformed the entire place into a unique winter garden. A truly therapeutic and breathtaking sight for any visitors. 

That frigid night paired with those elegant glow, perfected a peaceful Christmas atmosphere. I concluded that we had Christmas in a winter wonderland this year! 

Absolutely beautiful!

Winter Wonderland
Tried doing some post Christmas outlet shopping the next day at Colorado Mills and Cherry Creek shopping center, but wasn't highly motivated to buy much, as sales didn't appeal to me. Both places were great to shop during winter, as they were sheltered indoor. Perfect hideouts from the freezing cold.

Having some days in Denver, we planned to visit its Children's Museum. It was crazy, creative and funny fun Js had. They did from role plays to experiments to exploration and to getting crafty. A pretty small museum, but with much fun packed within. It was an awesome place! They were very much entertained from pretending to be a fireman, to a veterinarian, to a chef, to a cashier and a shopper in the grocery store. I enjoyed every part of their play expressions. 

We made and launched paper rockets together, did some lessons on planets, made cars out of recycled scraps, doodled with paint, explored bubbles and played with trains and tracks. As a child, there is always something fun and exciting to do, I wished I was a child again. An enriching visit we had!

Pretend fireman

I see an animal saver in him!

I think I'm her inspiration
On the same night, we drove to the city hall and convention center for some great and interesting sights.

City hall of Denver - Beautiful Christmas lights!

Curious bear peeping
Had a good snowy white Christmas!

And we drove 5 hours to our next destination in Utah, Arches National Park.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Orlando - 21st to 25th Dec

Our cruise landed us back in Florida where we explored Orlando. We re-visited Universal Studio and Disney World, after a year. We're glad for the re-visit, but this round, had only planned for 2 days of theme park fun. 

We also spent a day in the Kennedy Space Center, where we had an incredible space learning adventure. We walked under the largest rocket ever made, saw an actual moon rock, experienced the International Space Station and stood face-to-face with the retired space shuttle, Atlantis. Just a pity that we couldn't make it in time for the 3D film.

Transportation used to travel on moon

Positioning in the cockpit of rocket, ready for launch!

The National treasure, Atlantis, which launched 33 successful missions to space and back, has now retired beautifully in the center. A magnificent exhibit, tilted at a certain angle for a spectacular viewing sight. 

Magnificent close up view of the Atlantis

And with kids, it definitely is a must to swing by the Angry Birds space encounter. A fun place where angry bird game came alive from our phone! Js were addicted to the catapult game of birds and pigs.

Enjoyed watching them play

As we ended our visit, Jazz told me, "Mummy, I want to be an Astronaut!" Oh well, it sure is a big interesting dream. It all begins with a dream.

That evening, we visited Ripleys, Believe it or not! Entered into a World of aberration, where we read and witnessed the World's craziest, fanciest, and most unbelievable events. Rare treasures, weird and unusual relics collections were also seen there. It kinda freaked me out when I saw an actual exhibit of a human shrunken head!

I touched! Lets wait for the myth to reveal.
A pair of statues before the entrance that 'warned' all ladies about fertility. It says, "Touch these statues if you want to get pregnant!" Isn't this the cheapest fertility treatment ever?!!

And gosh! Couldn't believe meeting such a tall man! Did he really, ever existed.

Barely at his waist
Interesting visit we had. Some things were extremely strange and weird, it frightened Js most times. Jazz kept bugging us to exit the uncanny house. At some points of our tour, I seemed to have lost boldness too! 

We had a great time in Orlando. I delighted in some slight shopping, and lost sanity to yet, another pair of lovely heels.

Next day, we spent Christmas on flight to Denver, Colorado, where our next league of National parks journey began...

Royal Carribean Cruise - 16th to 21st Dec

Finally concluded our bout of travelling. After 21 days of a nomadic life, it sure is a blessing to be settling comfortably home, safe and sound. How did home get so warm each time we're back?!

Our tour adventure started with a 6 days Royal Carribean, Liberty of Seas cruise to Haiti and Jamaica. We took flight to where the cruise liner departed, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It always gives the best itinerary when food and leisure are sited near each other. It was also where I took chance to rejuvenate my body and mind. Indulged in my massage and manicure, while their awesome childcare service took over my kids. Both Js love spending moments in their childcare activities. Maybe a place that allows wives to deposit husbands would be ideal too.

Exciting sea journey

We did many cool stuff on board. The kids encountered their first ice-skating experience, soaked in Jacuzzi, watched the Dreamworks parade, did the YMCA dance, did a Michael Jackson quiz with us, watched a kids' puppet show, and were very much entertained by their acrobat show, Air, the musical, Saturday night fever and skaters on ice, Encore. Our highlight was experiencing all sorts of fun as a family. I've also watched how their concentration and patience grew in some activities and shows that did not draw their attention.

Tired mama brought Js to tour the rink

Jazz also decorated cupcakes at a workshop, which I really love her unassisted creation. Doing the ship, liberty of the seas also gave us opportunity to meet Dreamworks characters like the Madagascar pals, Kungfu panda, Shrek and Princess Fiona. So are you able to decipher her creation? 
Shrek and Princess Fiona cupcakes!

Crazy water fun!

Pools and water play area accepted only diaper free kids. I didn't think I was ever ready to toilet train Jare as we were always on the move, and his toilet frequency didn't seem ideal to me. This pool rule prompted me and inspired him to go diaper-less. For his water fun, he went off diaper, and he sounded his every intention to pee. It was also then, that I knew we were ready for fuss free training. And so, he is toilet trained now! Definitely a big milestone for us. Yay to diapers savings!

First port of call was Labedee, Haiti, where I did my ocean view massage. After which we had beach lunch and fun with the kids.

Soaking in ocean water

Second port of call was Falmouth, Jamaica. We signed up for a land excursion, which ended us on yet another beach. Nothing exciting we did, except to soak up more sun rays, got ourselves a few shades darker, and entertained ourselves with food, drinks and music. The man and I participated in some beach games to gain excitement out of our boredom. Won ourselves 2 mugs in a balloon tossing game.

Yet another beach fun

And of course, we love doing quality pictures. It became our nightly goal to visit different booths for different photo taking backdrops. It was lots of bribery to be done, to get cooperative kids.

White coded evening on board

We had a very good experience on board, I wished we had spent more days for such relaxation. Food was great and entertainment was awesome. Still, if I can say this, Disney cruise wins hands down. Royal Caribbean cruise is more adult centric, while Disney cruise is more child  appealing. And of course, it was much higher premium we paid for Disney.

Next part of our nomadic journey, we did Florida, Colorado, Utah and then back to California.