Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Baby Raccoons

Hubby dear was on his way to the Laundry Room, one block away, when he heard some noises coming from the tree outside the Laundry Room. He looked up and was pleasantly surprised to see two baby raccoons, playing on the lower tree branches. He ran home, grabbed the camera, went back and took a couple of photos.

They were two playful babies! And sure were making a lot of noises! Hubby dear showed our two little neighbours and their mom the raccoons. The two little boys were so fascinated, that they stood under the tree for almost half an hour, watching the baby raccoons. The raccoons did went higher up the tree when they saw a crowd =)

I remembered last year, two huge raccoons were trapped in the trash bin while scavenging for food late at night. It was easy for them to climb in, but there was no way they could climb out after that! They were afraid, and they were cuddling each other very tightly when we spotted them in the bin. Although they were considered to be pests, we were not keen to have them killed by the garbage trucks that would be coming later. Not knowing how to rescue them, we called the police. A police officer came and put a thick long stick into the bin. Moments later, the two huge raccoons climbed out, and disappeared into the woods behind our neighbourhood.

Seeing the baby raccoons this afternoon, makes me wonder if they are babies of the two raccoons trapped in the bin last year =)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Vacation - Boston

Summer vacation is a three-month affair. Imagine, no school for three months! Hence, the kids here equate Summer to School's Out! I still remembered visiting my boy's class in First Grade, and when we introduced Singapore as "Summer all year round", one boy asked "Does it mean there's no school for the whole year?!".

With such a long break from school, we had to plan some activities for the boys. A vacation inclusive, as the housekeeper (that's me!) needs a break from her 24/7 work too! We had actually make plans to visit Yellowstone National Park in August. However, an email from a dear old friend of hubby dear led to an early vacation in June, to Boston! Hubby dear's old friend would be in New York for a business trip, and asked if we were keen to meet up. He could meet us either in New York, or Boston. Hubby dear eagerly and happily agreed to the meet up ... Boston, it would be!

Our accommodation was at the Beacon Hill area, and getting there from the Airport was a breeze! We chose not to drive, as parking could be a headache in downtown Boston. Walking is the best way to explore the town, and if you are tired of walking, take the subway, bus or train! We bought a 7-day MTBA link pass each, at $15. Kids under 11 travel free with an accompanying adult. Sweet, isn't it? And so, we spent our 5 days in Boston, walking and taking the subway =)

After we got out from the subway, we walked along the busy street (lots of cars on the road!) towards our hotel. I had to stop a couple of times, partly to adjust the weight of the luggage on my back, and to admire the architecture of the buildings at the Beacon Hill area! I'm in love with these red-brick buildings! Here's another shot of the buildings along Charles Street, on a slope.

And don't you just love the Post Office?

And through the lovely Public Garden ..... to meet the Ducklings!

Make Way for Ducklings is a children's book by Robert McCloskey. This bronze sculpture in the Public Garden, of Mother Duck and her eight ducklings, is constructed by Nancy Schon. On the day of our first visit to Boston and the Public Garden, we saw that the ducklings were dressed in the Bruin's jerseys! Yes, that was the day of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup, with the Boston Bruins playing against the Canucks from Vancouver, Canada. Bruins' fans celebrated their victory late into the night. I was nursing a terrible sore-throat that night, and was woken by the noises, ahem, I meant the cheers of celebration, and only managed to fall asleep around 2am, when things quieten down.

Ducks and ducklings, swimming leisurely in the pond on a warm Wednesday afternoon. The boys spent almost half an hour standing by the pond, taking photographs of the ducks and ducklings, of birds and squirrels. Here's a picture of the Garden by the pond.

We saw wedding couples taking photographs by the pond. An old man was busking, playing a wedding song for the bride and groom, with his bored-looking dog lying beside him.

And we were off to find dinner. Something nice to fill the stomach, after all the walking. Something nice to treat ourselves, since we were on vacation. Hubby dear opted for seafood, and hence, we ended up at Legal Seafood.

Hubby dear ordered a seafood combo ... the bowl of rice was not captured in the picture. Even without the rice, it was a huge portion! The food was not bad, but in my opinion, the seafood combo hubby dear had at Monterey was a lot better.

I ordered some fish dish with rice, while the kids had their kids' meal of pizza with fish and chips. Even the kids' portion was huge.

We were so stuffed after dinner! Luckily, we got a workout walking back ... it was a 30-minute walk back to our hotel. The boys would have to sleep early, since they had woken up early to catch the flight to Boston. Tomorrow will be another day of walking ... we will be going on the Freedom Trail!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day is this Sunday, June 19. It's too early to say "Happy Father's Day". However, since we will be in Boston on Sunday, I see no harm in having the kids give their Papa, their cards and presents earlier.

Just a simple card. Simple enough for me to prepare, and simple enough for the kids to assemble. The kids chose the embellishment they want for their card, and I helped them cut the paper.

Darling son KW opted for big "DAD". Just stick and paste. He was more interested in writing on the inside of the card than "decorating" the card. He didn't refuse though, when I offered him the star hand held punch, to add more "interest" to his card. Can you see the stars on the bottom right corner of the card?

Darling son YW, on the other hand, was very keen in decorating the card. When asked if he would like a ribbon on the card ... OK! How about stamping on the card? YES! And so, he happily stuck the ribbon and embellishment, stamped the inside and outside of the card, and wrote. A lot more work than his GorGor's card =) And he was all smiles after completing the card.

To all fathers, here's wishing you a very Happy Father's Day!

Monday, June 13, 2011

School's Out!

School has ended, and Summer is here! Summer camp, swimming, tennis, soccer ... you name it, they've got it in the programme at the local sports and recreation club.

My boys' swimming class will only start in two weeks' time, while my friend's kids will only be going for their Summer Camp next week. We decided to bring our kids to the Olbrich Garden, for a day of fun and play, since the sun's out! A day of fun awaiting ... for two moms, four active boys, and a very sweet girl ...

We love the flowers in the Garden! Take a look at these beauties!

The kids were tired after the walking, and we took a short break under the shade of this huge tree.

Love the green, love the colors, love the space and the clear blue sky!

The boys were happy to be running up and down the slope ... but we had to be careful not to disturb the birds ....

We had fun, and the afternoon passed by quickly. The boys were exhausted by the time we got home. They really dislike walking in the heat, but with good company, they have no complaints =)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Birthday Cards

What kind of card says "whoop-dee-dooo!"?
Open the card and the inside reads :
Happy Birthday, We are helping you stretch the celebration!

I popped the bee, which was part of the stamped image, and added some liquid pearl to the centre of the flowers. Happy belated birthday, Judith! Hope you like the card =)

How about this one?

It was only after I took a photograph of the card that I realized I should have used the same card stock for both the card base and the square piece to mount the mouse on. The finished card didn't look too bad despite the color difference.

Happy belated birthday, Anna!
No worries, no extra calories intake from the cake =P

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nikon D7000

Our new camera has finally arrived! Nikon D7000! Our old D70 has mold inside the lens, as well as inside the camera. Photographs taken had white spots on them, and the card slot seemed to be faulty as well. Photographs uploaded onto my laptop could not be read, and "disappeared" completed. Lost and gone forever. This had happened quite a few times. It was very frustrating, especially when they were photographs taken during trips. So we decided to invest in another DSLR, since the old was almost seven years old. We bought it when my little boy was born =)

Our first shot. No flash used, taken at night under orange light. What do you think? What you see is what we captured. I did not photoshop the picture. In my opinion, the lens and the focus are pretty sharp. I foresee lots of usage out of this camera, both indoors and out, day and night.

How about this one? I did up the contrast and a little of the color.
The picture was taken from inside the apartment with the zoom (18-200mm) lens. The flowers were just outside my living room window. There was the window pane, followed by the window mesh, then the flowers. The new camera definitely did a great job in capturing the flowers, as compared to when using a point and shoot.

I'm happy with our purchase, and looking forward to purchasing the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8 lens. It is suppose to be good for portraits and low-light photography. And not to mention, it produces sharp images and is reasonably affordable.

It has been raining and I cannot bring the camera out for outdoor shots.
Looking forward to better weather!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bird in Distress

The weather had warmed up, and the temperature had gone up to a high of 34C! We left all our windows open and since it was cooler in the living room, we were there most of the time.

It was almost 2.30pm when I heard continuous chirping coming from my bedroom. And so, I went up to the bedroom to check. To my surprise, I found a tiny bird perched on the ledge outside the window, chirping away. He didn't seem to be intimated by my presence. Birds usually do not land on window ledge, and when they do, they will fly away the moment they sense that there is someone approaching.

And so, I watched this little fellow for a while. He didn't seem to have the intention of flying away. In fact, he turned around to look at me, and started chirping away again, as if he was trying to tell me something. Are you injured? Are you lost? I would love to help, but I just couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. I also did not want to scare the bird. So I decided that I should just wait and see.

At 4.30pm, I noticed that the bird had moved from one side of my window to the other. Still chirping away, with no intention of flying away. His hard work of continuous chirping paid off, as after a while, I saw a similar bird flying by, and landed beside the stranded bird. I was watching them at a distance away, so the second bird didn't fly away. However, when I approached the window, trying to take a photograph of the two birds together, it flew away even before I reached the window.

Not wanting to frighten the second bird, as he might be able to help the stranded bird, I moved away from the window, watching them at a respectable distance. Sure enough, the bird flew back, cautiously, as it now perched on a tree branch instead of the window ledge. He was chirping away loudly, and so did the stranded bird.

The next thing I knew, there was four to five bigger birds that came, all perched on the higher branches, chirping away. It was like an orchestra! What a sight! I got really excited when I saw the robin and the red cardinal! I ran to the window with my camera, oops, and frightened the two bigger birds perched on the lower branches. I did, however, managed to take a picture of the robin and carinal, since they were perched high up in the tree.

Then I turned to the window ledge to check on the stranded bird.
It was gone! It was now hopping and chirping away on the ground, with the other bird! They flew away after a while.

I was really glad that it was just lost, and not injured. And he managed to be reunited with his friend. What an experience!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mitsuwa Marketplace

Do you like the ANPANman? Do you like eating bread?
I love bread, and I miss all kinds of bread and buns back home.
The above bun was not made by me, but bought from Mitsuwa Marketplace, a 2-hour drive from where we stay.

We heard about the Mitsuwa Marketplace through our friend.
Thanks, Cindy, for informing us of such a wonderful place!
As I walked through the bakery inside the marketplace, I thought of Four Leaves and BreadTalk. We had to get a bun each, and the boys chose buns which were bigger than mine!

There was a food fair going on, and we spotted these Takoyaki! There was a long queue for this, but hubby dear patiently stood in the queue while I shopped around the supermarket. The takoyaki looked promising, until I saw them poured the sauce in =( They were so heavy handed with the sauce! So instead of eating it when we got home, we decided to eat it before our drive home. The takoyaki had gotten soggy, even though it was in the box for about five minutes, and the sauce was tasty but salty. I still prefer those back home, with just a dash of mayo and lots of bonito flakes.

And this was one yummy pie made from apple and sweet potato! A nice crust at the bottom, topped with some mashed and cooked sweet potato, layered on with slices of apples, and topped the pie with some criss-cross crust .... We should have bought more of this pie! I have to look for the recipe when I am less busy and try to make!

We bought some Japanese snacks, but the above was the family's favorite ... Daifuku! We were fighting to have the last piece, LOL. The boys wanted more and more after eating their first. I had to limit to two per person. Hubby dear kindly rejected his share, so the boys got three each. It is soft, chewy but doesn't stick to your teeth, and the filling inside is light and refreshing.

Right now, I am eagerly awaiting our next trip to the marketplace. And we will definitely be having our lunch there! And the boys will surely remind me to get more packets of their favorite Daifuku and buns.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kids' Drawing and Writing

Darling son KW brought home from school the above drawing. Asked him what it was, he said it was a page on his imagined computer game. From wanting to be Lego-Designer, he is now a computer game "designer".

Here's his Lego Design called Blizzards' Peak. I found it among his stack of drawings on the table while tidying up the room.

Here's another drawing of the Ben 10 aliens. The drawing on the aliens were done during the Ben10-craze sometime back. So many sheets of drawing ... if only I can sell them for some pocket money for them =p

Darling son YW brought home a piece of writing on Spring.

Here's what he wrote about Spring :

Spring is good because we can play with water guns.
Spring is good and fun because you can wear shorts.
Spring is sunny and there are birthdays in spring.
Spring is sometimes hot.

I'm amazed at the things he can write about spring! And that he is observant enough to notice that Spring, although cold and missing most of the time, can sometimes be HOT! Yes, there were a couple of days when it felt like summer instead of spring. I really enjoy reading his writing. Did you notice that the teacher do not correct him on the spelling? As such, the kids are encouraged and motivated to just write and write. And they can just write about anything! I love their creativity and their imagination!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Click, Clack, Moo!

The school term is almost coming to an end. Teachers are almost done with the assessments and wrapping up the different units for their teaching. Field trips, class plays and other activities are usually organised during this period.

Darling son YW's class put up two plays, each lasting five minutes. He was the narrator of the play, Click, Clack, Moo. Here's our three narrators.

And here's Farmer Brown, the cows who love to type, and the chicken.

We had fun watching the play. The kids worked hard rehearsing their play, and they did well! Being younger, they were given shorter lines, and each play lasted only five minutes.

I think these plays help to boost the kids' self confidence and their public speaking skills. I really hope that Singapore's primary schools can be just as fun and as nurturing. Memorizing phrases for composition is not being creative. Doing lots of homework is no fun. Staying back for extra lessons is exhausting. Why did all the fun and creativity go then? Kids are kids. And kids learn best through play, not through numerous assessments. You want them to learn a skill and to know their strength and weakness. You don't want them to learn a fact to get an "A", only to forget about it a couple of months later.

So for the time being, I'll let my boys enjoy their childhood as much as they can, before entering the stressful education system in two years' time.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Just Saying Hello

A friend back home sent me a card, knowing that I picked up card-making as a hobby recently. What a sweet and girly card! Thank you, YM, for this very pretty card.

Here's a close up look at the card .... I love that green gingham ribbon, and those pretty flower embellishment. Like the outfit of the girl too. I'm saving up for the Cuttlebug Die-cut and Embossing Machine. Meanwhile, I'm patiently waiting for sales and free shipping offer at the online store =)

It had been a busy week, but I managed to make three cards. One Hedgehog card for YM, since she loves those Penny Black Hedgehog stamps, and two belated birthday cards. Drove to the post office and sent all three at one go! Hopefully, the cards won't get lost in the mail ... it's a long way to travel, halfway around the globe.

I love coloring, but I'm not keen to spend lots of money on Copic Markers, Prismacolor or Koh-I-Noor color pencils. I like the blending method, but I do not like using mineral spirits for the blending. Normal color pencils yields a dull colored image. So what should I do?

Since I have a box of oil pastels sitting in the drawer, I decided to use them, to try out the blending method. I read with interest from forums that GooGone and Baby Oil work great as well! The bottle of GooGone which I already own, not only helps remove the goo from all my bottles (I can then recycle these bottles), I can now use it for blending colors in my stamped images.

The blending effect didn't turn out too bad. I did however, found it difficult to color in the small spaces in the stamped image. Oh well, you can't have the best of both worlds, I guess =)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Author's Tea

We missed the Author's Tea last year, when Darling son KW was in Grade 2, as we flew back home for vacation. This year, we had to attend, as this would be the last year my boy would be in Mrs W's class.

The Author's Tea showcased stories written by the students. Do you see the Author's Chair in the photo above? Well, that's the chair for our little authors. They grabbed their book, sat on the chair, and with their parents sitting besides them, read the story out loud for everyone!

Well, the kids were given the freedom to write on anything they want. It could be a fiction or a non-fiction story. Most kids chose fiction, while one girl wrote about whales. The class was taught a unit on Whales and Mammals. Darling son chose to write a story about a friend's Grandma who swallowed a fly.

Seriously, the parents play no part in helping to write the story. The story and story illustrations were done in class. We had no idea what our kids were going to read to us. So you see the amusement on the adults' faces when the kids read "I love playing computer games, but I had to share the computer with my Dad." or "My dad ......".

We had a good time, and we sat through a 1.5-hour session, listening the stories. The event started at 6.30pm at the school library, and when it ended, it was almost 8pm! The kids were hungry, and were happily munching away the cookies brought to the event by the parents.

The boys were tired by the end they went to bed. And Darling son KW came to us and said "Thank you for coming to my author's tea.". So sweet. And we told him we enjoyed his story!

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