Thursday, January 18, 2018

Booked for 2018 - entry drafted on 18th Jan 18 #lateposting#

The year has rolled into the 3rd week and our holiday for year end is booked. 

Last year, we booked our holiday on 18th Feb. Record breaking, this year we booked on 18th Jan. Maybe 2019's holiday will be booked on 18th Dec 18? 
But..... I just remembered. We will miss the registration day in Secondary school. Need to send a proxy.  I hope I will also remember to ask hubby to give me auto-roam during the holiday, as school allocation results will be sent out on SMS. 


Free n Easy
The girls wanted F&E again, of course that was subjected to which countries and whether it was safe to do so. 

Listing down
The girls like it in US so much that initially they wanted to go to east coast this year. The man is not keen, citing that NYC is too expensive and the hotels are lousy. Well.... emm...... that's coz' you weren't willing to spend (plus I don't mind 3* hotels as long as I have a bed and a place to shower) for the atas hotels the last time we went. 
They listed down :
1) US - East coast + Niagara Falls. Which che-che went before but she says she has minute recollection of the places she saw. Lil' one kept exclaiming "but I wasn't born yet!!" Maybe it was also the fact that his wife was too overzealous the last time and planned the journey in such way that he had to drive for 7-8 hours that he has phobia. He was livid! Well...... the recent US trip, he planned the max drive time  6 hours but we stretched with constant breaks in between.   
2) Midwest US - I think coz che-che wants to cover more National Parks. But I'm worried about the snow as midwest usually snows earlier than anywhere and it's snow blizzard. 
3) Germany - Che-che has been asking to go Germany since she started taking History. She's keen in the concentration camps. In the man's eyes, nothing to see in concentration camps. I'm beginning to feel the presence of  a 2nd ME!! Though I didn't take History (I hated History) but I was very interested in the Holocaust.
4) France - never been to France
5) Japan - getting nearer and nearer to Singapore. Trying their luck with daddy as long as he don't suggest China or Malaysia.
6) Wait! He did suggest somewhere in the northern part of China. Then che-che suggested Russia.  Honestly I don't mind, I'd love to go Russia one day. But it's dangerous for a F&E. I remember one year he wanted to bring the girls to Serbia and Croatia (by tour), think it was in 2016? So was hoping he's suggest this place again. 
7) In my mind, I also wanted to go nearer to Arctic. I want to see the Northern Lights before I die, before I cannot tahan the cold.  
8) He suggested Turkey, but we had to join a tour if they wanted Turkey. 
9) NZ - che-che wants to go back to the same place again. 大了所以比较董事, she will have the second chance of re-looking and understanding the places better. Lil' one has no recollection of the place coz' she was too young. 

Surprise surprise
I was surprised when out of the blue he mentioned "how about Amsterdam". OMG! Did he read my mind?? I've been missing Amsterdam since last year, hoping to plan for a solo short trip when the girls' major exams are over. Generally I miss Europe. Every place is so different, I miss Switzerland; I miss Italy, London. But yet I've been wanting to go Amsterdam more than anything. I was still thinking if I should bring lil' one there, extend the days after PSLE Marking Days. But sometimes I shudder at the thought of bringing this lil' grandma. She is ahem..... quite troublesome. Not a sightseeing person, only likes to walk in shopping centres; sit down; eat; pee; poo. 

Final destination  
He said he'll consider the airfares first. 

Today, he came home with a printed e-ticket to Amsterdam and back from France.  
It seems so recent that I was mugging through the nights planning the travel journal. I will have to do so again. This time round, better have everything written down where to go. The man is the relax as he goes; whereas che-che and me is like must see everything. But I have an idea that we could still hit the western part of Germany and perhaps where the 3 countries (Germany, Belgium and Netherlands) borders meet. Although I've sat on countless numbers of trains travelling in Europe while I was flying, sometimes crossing the borders I'm still fascinated when I see the officers get onto the train. Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog has caught my attention many years back when I read about the cafe that sits in the middle. Although I've been to Dreiländereck in Basel (where Switzerland, Germany and France meet) thrice, I wouldn't mind going the fourth time.  
Meanwhile... let's get down on ground and study hard. The girls can dream and think about this later after their exams. No time for daydreaming.       

         

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

That moment ! - entry first drafted on 23rd Dec and re-edit #lateposting#

That moment I felt, a step back (actually it was more than one step) I took when I was drawn into space. Literally! It’s been many years since I saw such sight that I almost forgot there are stars in the sky. 

We were getting out of the car outside our room in Grand Canyon, I looked just above the roof and beyond miles away are countless dust specks. My jaw dropped! Having lived my life in light-polluted Singapore; spent the few days in LA and well-litted Las Vegas, I was suddenly blinded by the darkness and some sparkly hope in the sky showing me the way. Ha!
At that moment the man was more eager to enter the room, the girls jumped down from the car and che-che had to exclaim so loudly "wow! mummy! camera camera!" when I had my hands full with food items. Honestly, I was really angry at that impatient girl. How can she expect me wring the camera bag out of me when I have my hands full (and hers empty). Kept asking me for the camera. I simply dumped the heavy food bags onto the floor near the door and went out again to marvel at the sky. I understand that girl's excitedness coz' she's never seen anything like this before.  

I've always been so interested in looking at stars. With our hectic life in Singapore, there is simply no time for us to stop and look into the sky. Anyway, even if I had the time, I can see more streetlights and headlights than the stars. I never thought that it was possible to see stars in Singapore but che-che told me in the darkest spot where she went camping with the school, she was able to see stars and the nice big moon. I guess I must have rubbed my interest in her. She spent the night (2am) outside the room in the dark with another friend and admiring the sky while everyone else were counting sheeps (and perhaps one classmate - busy counting the number of Hail Marys she recited)

I'm not good in identifying the constellations because they all look sparkly the same to me. And how would I know if they are stars or satellites? And it's not like I have the opportunity to practice in Singapore every night right? Though I know I would get a telescope if we lived in a penthouse. 

My interest started a long long time ago
I love going into the cockpit on night flights and have seen the stars and milky way from there before. I remember talking to some pilots and I bet they were trying hard to entertain me when I asked them questions. Obviously, they weren't interested in the stars or some rubbish stuffs this stewardess was talking and asking. Oh well..... 
I rubbed shoulders with stars onboard but still I'm not so attracted to them as compared to the celestial stars. After the 911 incident, there was no way any crew can step into the cockpit.   

Anyway, back to the time in Grand Canyon. I was quite distracted and kept going out of the room. It's been so long since I saw the pitch of black with twinkling stars. Although we travel every year, we were mainly in the cities. This is the only time we travelled out into the National Parks and I must say the girls love it. Che-che loves nature, ignorant lil' one is more afraid of encountering bears. That girl ah! So timid. 
Out of the three NP we went, only GC and DV are designated International Dark Sky Park (IDSP). Woah! Sounds alien right? Basically it gives me an idea of how dark 伸手不见五指 DV would be. They do have stargazing activity but we didn't join any! As we arrived at each destination at close to 6pm, the only thing I wanted to do was to shower and sleep. I didn't think much about joining the experts. I should have! 

Two regrets :
1) I should have dragged myself and che-che out somewhere in the dark (and maybe get mauled to death by the bears/wildlife) out of our accomodation coz we have no idea when we will travel F&E or able to see the sky filled with stars.
2) I should have done a better research prior to trip on the camera settings. Infact, I did task che-che to do it since she was free (and she's the one wanting to bring the camera) and I was busy doing up the travel journal. But it seems like she didn't do a good job, probably she used the internet time to do her own things? In the end, I realised that I needed a smaller aperture of 2.8 but both lens has a min of 3.5. No wonder I couldn't get any pictures of the stars


I thought to myself as I stood outside (I should have brought out a chair and sit outside that time) if I could sit outside everyday and stargaze it would mean that my life has slowed down. That will be the time when they girls leave the house. For years, I've been so busy with the girls and household, did I miss out anything more important than that? What's my perspective on life? Have I given so much in return for nothing? If my life would have been different and carefree if I had not settled down and have children, perhaps still flying close to the stars and UV radiation. Would I have achieved more and lived my life to the fullest? As I held my breath and gaze into the sky, suddenly it seems like everything was still (though the earth is still rotating), I felt so connected to nature. If I am lying down on the ground, I bet I'll be reaching my hands out as if trying to reach for the stars.     


Rubbed interest into che-che
I have no idea when she was interested in astronomy. Maybe when I was flashing flashcards to lil' one? I made my own flashcards then, and constellation was one of the topics I covered. I should have seen it coming when she insisted we had to go Griffith Observatory in LA. At first, I thought she was crazy enough to go there after watching Lala Land but she told me she wants to go in. Meaning she has some interest. Alas, our time there was short coz everyone else isn't as interested as us. What to do? This is partially the reason why during my flying days I like to travel alone.    
I know since I have a person with common interest, we can go together next time. Can go with che-che coz we are quiet n probably talk when necessary. If lil’ one is with us, she’ll want to go back to hotel to sleep. Or she yaks too much that I get interrupted while I’m absorbing all the earth energy into me. Making me frustrated that I’ll want to commit suicide or make myself prone to being taken away by aliens. Haha! 

These photos are taken by hubby's friend. He went so fast, we didn't even get to go to this section. But perhaps coz we were taking our time reading the information (and for me-some extra time needed to explain to the blur sotong lil' one)


12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope in the Observatory Dome. I wasn't able to take a picture of this, Samsung phone has better camera aspects. Taken by hubby's friend. He has good eye for photography.
Taken outside Griffith Observatory. Look at the city lights. And there were blinking lights in the sky too! Aircrafts arriving and departing LAX airport. So busy! 

Need to be well-informed
In order to rub some interest to lil' one, I bought 2 books for her. It's really cute and shows you the orientation of the Little Dipper in different season. Once che-che thought what she saw was Big Dipper aka Ursa Major but when she looked at the book (when we got home in Singapore), she realised she was looking at Little Dipper.  


This planisphere caught my attention and I bought this for che-che and myself. This is good for the dummies, like us. At Lone Pine, I was trying to use it and commented that I needed a light to see if I've turned to the correct date. I was surprised that che-che shouted out to me to use a red light instead; I can't use torch light. She knew! 
The Night Sky is a rotating star finder- or planisphere that allows the user to recognize the constellations for any time of night, any day of the year. The sky appears to rotate (due to the rotation and orbital motion of the earth), so to be successful recognizing the constellations a beginner needs to know which stars are above the horizon at any time.
This is the full-sized version of The Night Sky suitable for the 40°-50° latitude zone (northern United States and parts of Europe). We have versions for the following latitude zones: 50°-60°, 40°-50°, 30°-40°, 20°-30°, and the Southern Hemisphere. We also have pocket-sized versions available for the same latitude zone.

Preparation
In order to help me (and to be more well prepared the next time), I've downloaded SkyWalk2, Sky Live, Moon Phase in my handphone. SkyWalk2 is god-sent, it has never been so easy to spot the planets, stars or satellites. Che-che followed suit and downloaded the same apps. I also get email updates on EarthSky News.  

Here's the first constellation I spotted - Orion in GC.

I am definitely going to get the correct lens and firmer tripod soon. And be more well-prepared with warmer accessories to keep myself warm if we are going stargazing next time in the winter. Won't freeze and die outside. This looks good, right? 




    

Sunday, January 7, 2018

House Hunters International - entry drafted on 7th Aug 17 #lateposting#

Hmm....... hubby has been taking interest in watching this. And with such low price, some can even find a house facing a lake. Whatever it is, houses are much cheaper there compared to Singapore.

Is he thinking of moving?? I hope so. Move better the education system make me or the girls go insane.

National Parks - entry drafted on 26th Dec 17 #lateposting#


I noticed that che-che loves National Parks as much as I do. Hoping we'll have the chance to cover more parks in this lifetime. We bought an annual pass, which enables us to enter more than 2000 federal recreation sites. Each NP would cost us $30 per car, we went 3 and wasn't sure if we would go the 4th - Sequoia and Kings Canyon NPark. Even so, we have covered the cost for 3 parks. 
This was partially the reason why the girls wanted to go US again in 2018, so that we can use the pass again. 
I scanned in the card into the computer for keepsake, I passed the original card to che-che, the garang guni girl.  


In G Canyon, che-che saw this book and wanted to start collecting the travel stamps  

And then lil' one wanted one as well. So got her a different book

Hopefully more National Parks are coming our way soon.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Hello and Goodbye Mr Sun - entry drafted on 28th Dec 17 #lateposting#

Though I don't really welcome the Sun glaring and heating up our tropical Singapore, I do enjoy Mr Sun in US. 

Sunrise and sunset 
We watched one sunrise in Grand Canyon and three sunsets - first one in Santa Monica; second in Grand Canyon and the last in Carmel. When was the last time I watched any sunrise or sunset? It was really serene watching sunrise and sunsets. Better still when the place itself is beautiful.   
Che-che loves it (since nobody has the chance or time to be so relaxed back home) and one day she asked me a very good question :
"why our sunset colours in Singapore is so boring and different but it has a wide variety of colours here?" My lamest and perhaps ‘trying to act smart in front of her’ answer is pollution. Ha! Pollution makes the best excuse for anything.

Does this answer her question? 
Click here 


Here's another read on what determines sunrise and sunset colours


There are more links in the web to answer her question which I will not have the time to find out until when I retire... haha! retire from the girls. Meanwhile enjoy these lovely photographs che-che took.

15th December (Friday)
Sunset in Santa Monica pier. Many people gathered, just like us, waiting for the sunset. Che-che took a timelapse on her phone but her hands were really shaky, I got really giddy after watching it. I think I shall get her a tripod next time. Anyway, she was a little smarter after that, for her sunrise in Grand Canyon, she brought along a box to prop her phone up. 

At 5.14pm, Mr Sun got drowned in the waters. Goodbye tough man, I know you'll be up again tomorrow.


20th December (Wednesday)
Sunrise at Yavapai Point in Grand Canyon. Excited che-che woke us up, wanting to watch sunrise but the two old folks (us) weren't keen. In the end, somebody had to drive her out right? So everyone went along.. and so at 4+, we went out to the Visitor Centre. The 2 men went to enquire on a good spot, we were asked to turn back to the lodge as we're too early. I made a check - sunrise is at 7.35am the night before, did mention we're early but nobody listens to me. All geh-kiang... 
No regrets for dragging my fat ass out of the lodge. It's beautiful.   

Sunset at 5.15pm Hubby and lil' grandma wanted to rest. So left with the rests of us. SH, hubby's friend, drove. Initially I had wanted to head to Desert View to get a picture of sunset together with the tower. But it's too far away, so I suggested to the western side - Hermit's Rest. But midway, we stopped at Abyss when we saw the lookout point is equally nice. Turned out it was a good decision, coz Mr Sun was eager to go back to see his Mrs. It was really quick, he was gone - just like that. If we had headed to Hermit's Rest, we would have missed seeing him committing suicide in the canyon.

We spotted Mrs Moon behind the clouds. She was playing hard to get. Click here for timing 


22nd December (Friday)  
Oh yes! I totally forgot this. Death Valley. We were making our escape out of  Death Valley (checked out a day earlier) coz there wasn't any water. Haha! Certainly we weren't caught in this situation. 
Death Valley doesn't sound like we won't make it out alive. Just that the water pipe burst in our lodging and we all couldn't shower. They said it'll probably be fixed by 5pm but we didn't want risk any chances of going to sleep without a nice shower. Plus hubby wanted to trim his driving time the next day to Three Rivers, so decided at last minute to head to Lone Pine. 
We saw the sunset as we were making a dash out of Death Valley. Sunset at 5.17pm No wonder the girls said the colours are so different. If somebody needs to paint the sunrises and sunsets, they need to mix alot of colours.
Che-che took this on iphone, I posted this in Facebook. Too lazy to find pictures now. Who won the race? Mr Sun! Coz 1 hour later, we were still in DValley!! Driving out from Panamint range. Mr Sun has gone to paktor with his Mrs.       


26th December (Tuesday) 
After 4 days of break (we didn't catch any in Three Rivers or Yosemite) , we caught our last sunset in the US in Carmel arriving the area around 5+. With almost perfect execution, we wasted no time and saw Mr Sun setting at 5.20pm

Not bad huh? My girl got the photographer's "eyes"
"Goodbye yolk", the hubby said

 Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens, everyday can end beautifully 
- by Kristen Butler

This is my pano shot. Unedited.


#iamlearningnewthingseveryday#


Grand Canyon - entry drafted on 5th Dec 17 #lateposting#

Che-che asked me last night if we could make a trip to walk on the glass walkway. I was a little shocked at first, why would Grand Canyon need a glass walkway when people can hike down (walk on the real thing) and ... since there is no fence on the edge, miss one step and you'll probably plummet down the canyon, would anyone need the thrill of walking on a glass walkway? 

Truth to be told I have never heard of this before, because ....I guess I'm ignorant. Trying to act smart (even before I made checks), I told her nobody goes to West Rim, the South Rim is more exciting and has much more beautiful view than what she can see in West Rim. The glass walk is nothing when she can stand real close to the edge. Of course I didn't tell her how many accidental deaths there are in Grand Canyon. In my opinion, West Rim is offered to tour groups who wants to "see" Grand Canyon but don't have much time. For most, it would be their first time to Grand Canyon, so they would think that Grand Canyon is what they saw. They wouldn't know that they're missing the most spectacular views in South Rim, better still when you can stay in the park. I guess I was half right in my guess coz a friend went there and later I found out that she went with a tour group. Hmm..... no wonder. 


In  my opinion, I would prefer to go South Rim. It has a higher elevation of 7000 ft. Moreover, this being my second time, if I had seen the better view,  would I "downgrade" my view?



There are always two sides to a coin. Some may applaud this for an easy access to Grand Canyon without travelling for another 2 hours plus into the South Rim. Some likes it coz it's the only place where you can take a helicopter to the bottom of the canyon. 
But I didn't like it when I read that visitors have to pay for a hefty per person price to get in and then another price for the walk, no cameras or handphones allowed, they have a photographer there to help you take photo and then make you buy from them. Another feedback I read is that west rim is not part of the Grand Canyon, and it is owned by Native Americans. One even feedback that it is not properly taken care of. ?? I'm not sure how credible is this feedback.
In South Rim, they charge by per car - $30. And if you have the annual National Park pass, which we have, we are able to offset the charges. 
extracted from : Grand Canyon West - The Skywalk - An Unbiased View
Many visitors wishing to view and tour the Grand Canyon are confused by information about an attraction called Grand Canyon West, sometimes referred to as the West Rim*. It is not in Grand Canyon National Park.
East of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, on the southern side of the Colorado River is the Hualapai Nation Reservation. Their private enterprise is called Grand Canyon West. Grand Canyon West's Eagle Point is where the Grand Canyon Skywalk is located. The Skywalk has been completed and rolled out over the side canyon. It opened March 28, 2007. TheSkywalk is not 4000' above the Colorado River as has been advertised. It is at an elevation about 3000' higher than the river and is on a side canyon.
For anyone contemplating a visit to Grand Canyon West, GrandCanyon.com has a very fair, comprehensive and unbiased video about Grand Canyon West and the Skywalk on their web site (scroll down on their web site). While the page does contain some brief mention of their own tour services, it is primarily a very good overview of what GCW is and what to expect. See this.
Another interesting read on the comparison between the two. Click here.

Friday, January 5, 2018

On This Day ...

5th Jan 2013
Mom with her impromptu birthday cake

@ Novotel Clarke Quay


** Mom's birthday is on 6th. We are always available to meet up for a meal. However this year , for the first time, we have to do a rain check. As che-che is required to be back in school for CCA Fair for half a day and after that I have to bring her to polytechnics' Open House. (She still has no idea what direction she wants to partake.) That will take us some time. 


5th Jan 2013

After a month break in Dec, put the girls back. After much consideration, put them on private with coach. Hopefully che-che gains confidence in water. Been too long already.....



5th Jan 2013
School Week 0 report :
Lil' one did exceptionally well in school. She looked forward to school, only blur didn't know where to go once reach school on 2nd n 3rd day. The PVs n Prefects were there to help. (In this school, parents were only allowed to stay for half hour on 1st day. Couldn't wander to class, absolutely no way to see them. And came to pick up in canteen end of day. 2nd n 3rd day, PVs tell parents to "leave in our hands". New parents n girls were great. No ugly fight between PVs n parents at all. Pick up at respective gates end of day.) 

She finally got to know the name of 'the girl with a Minnie Mouse pencil case'. 
Buddy system starts next week. Good luck to her buddy!! Eat slow; talk too much.


** And she's P6 this year!! How time flies!

5th Jan 2012
Shichida starts at 3pm now. Good news is I don't hv to wait under hot sun for Che-Che outside school. That means ... once a week suntanning. Bad news is I hv to rush back home fast to let them eat n shower b4 abacus class.

** Before, Shichida class starts at 2+pm, so have to pick her up at the gate and go off and reach Toa Payoh just in time. Che-che would always wait for me outside on the seats,doing her school homework and sometimes (she gets exhausted) falls asleep on the seats. There are helpers out there waiting and they would help me look out for her. That time, we still have KZ, so she would quickly shower lil' one; feeds her dinner while I zoned out on the sofa. Taking that short half hour nap is better than nothing. Then I'll send her for her abacus class.
  

5th Jan 2011
Mei-Mei n the oversized bag. Maybe I can put her inside the bag? She came out of room looking funny, like with board hanging on her neck. Then she walk n fell. Ah doh! I complaint to the Principal (joking of course) n he said she's too special; only girl this small size.


** This is my angmoh girl, refuses to speak Chinese then. And you know what? Chinese is her forte now. 

5th Jan 2011

I've labelled her books with her class on it. Still have the files to label. *yawns*. N they haven't inform the girls which Chinese class they're going to? May have to print again tmrw.

Athena told me she likes having someone in her class now, but she misses her BFFEAEAE.



** This is what I hate. And they're still practicing this. I mean...... what's the problem of letting us know before the year ends the girls' class? Every year, I gotta wait until a week or so before I can start typing out the Chinese textbooks and workbooks. And now with banding for Math, is another headache