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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mixed Feelings

Finally, after about an approx 6 month wait, the reorg that we are expecting in hubbie's organisation is becoming clear.

Although we kind of know what "lies ahead" but we were hoping.... hoping that God may move differently and maybe we will be back in Asia earlier than later.

Well, God has other plans i suppose.

But i must give thanks to God for not only preserving hubbie's job but also enlarging it in the wake of the reorganisation. In such uncertain economic times, it is indeed better to have a job than none and for that matter, a bigger role.

1Thess 5 : 18
give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.


While we have to accept that we will not be moving back to asia in the near future, we can only trust that God's plans are the best and his timing perfect. That He will bring us back when the time is right.

I really have mixed feelings about this. I was really hoping that maybe with the re-org, we can fast forward our return.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Helsinki & Bornholm

Helsinki wasn't as interesting a destination as Copenhagen & Stockholm which were before it on the itinerary. And after visiting 2 very vibrant and beautiful cities, the expectations kind of built up, resulting in disappointment.

and as we thought there is nothing much to do see around the city centre, we decided to make an unplanned side trip to Soumenlinna, a sea fortress built on a few islands. Its a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All i can say is that not all UNESCO World Heritage Sites are equal in terms of their "charms" =P although they definitely are rich in history.


Bornholm was probably a good way to end the cruise. Its a quiet danish countryside and makes me want to retire there! hehehe. apparently, a decent nice looking house costs ard 50,000 euros or something like that according to the guide. So affordable isn't it!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

St Petersburg

We didn't have much time here. So, we figured that we will have to come back and visit this beautiful city again in the future!

I think we need at least 5 days here. maybe more, i am not sure. with a toddler in tow, we decided to join the half day city tour excursion (instead of a full day) and barely scratched the surface.

no chance to admire the hermitage (winter palace) and visit the museums, the summer palace, the various palaces....o, so much to see and do!

and the city is in the industrialisation (not sure if this is the rite phrase to use...) phase and i am sure in a couple of years, it will look very different from today.

Tallin, Estonia

Tallin was my favorite destination. It is beautiful. A UNESCO World Heritage site, its rich history, culture and medieval buildings simply captured our hearts.

To think that before the cruise, I was wondering if this will be a "worthy" destination! so "ignorant"!! I have never heard of Tallin before and of course, it would not feature on my "to visit" list of cities!

It was part of the Soviet Union before gaining independence in 1991. and together with Latvia and Lithuania forms the Baltic states.

It's really a beautiful town. Hope to be back again some time in the future.....

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stockholm

My #2 favorite on the itinerary.

It's obviously a "rich" city! =P and very pictureques.

We were at the Stockholm Town Hall where the Nobel Prize Dinner is held to admire its more than 20 million gold mosaic tiles! *bling bling*.

We thought that maybe kaira should live here, see if there's a chance for her to marry the next crown prince! LOLOLOLOL.

Copenhagen

Clean, green, picture-perfect (especially Nyhaven!).

We couldn't take any pictures @ the Christianborg Palace (the Queen's Reception Rooms), but it certainly felt different that we are in a place which is currently still in use! (unlike some castles/museums/palaces that we have visited....where whatever action took place in the past.) Understated elegance. and i think that is something that runs through the city as well. not too gaudy, not too elaborate. simple and elegant.

in fact, i felt that Amalienborg palace (the queen's residence) which was our last stop for the day looks kind of drab from the outside! =P (of course we couldn't go in...the Queen didn't invite us for tea!!)

We had alot of time to admire clear blue skies, cloudy skies & sunsets.


Kaira & her friends on board

she loves the 姐姐s and i am sure she looks forward to dinner time cos she will definitely have alexandra as her playmate as alexandra & her parents shares the table with us. and there's also another gal around her age and the 3 of them hangs out on the dance floor every dinner time! (before and after). and they entertain all the 阿伯 阿婆 with their dancing. very cute.


Life On Board the Costa Mediterranea

Our Baltic & Russia Cruise Holiday

This is our first cruise holiday and we weren't really sure what to expect. And we were initially concerned that we will be bored on board cos i have the impression that cruises are "eat and sleep" vacations...and errr, for old folks =P .... hahahah....

(ok, for me technically my second as i went on a cruise to nowhere when i was a teen with my parents. but i have very vague memories of the cruise experience honestly. and it was only 2D1N).

but, it was a really pleasant experience and we will definitely consider another cruise holiday! hubbie likes the idea that the hotel is "following" us from destination to destination, don't have to worry about packing and unpacking. plus the destinations were new to us and so quite exciting! and of course, like i mentioned in my earlier post, kaira enjoyed the cruise and that's such a plus!

This was our itinerary :

Day 1 : embarkation @ Amsterdam passenger terminal
Day 2 : At Sea
Day 3 : Copenhagen, Denmark
Day 4 : At Sea
Day 5 : Stockholm, Sweden
Day 6 : Helsinki, Finland
Day 7 : St Petersburg, Russia
Day 8 : Tallin, Estonia
Day 9 : Bornholm, Denmark
Day 10 : At Sea
Day 11 : back @ Amsterdam & Home Sweet Home.

We booked the cruise which is classified under "Baltic & Russia" as it included several scandinavian destinations which were places I wanted to visit...personally think this itinerary is great! hehehe. gives one a glimpse of the major cities with a few surprises thrown in. i had no idea what "Tallin" was about and i was kind of lazy and didn't do any research on it. Guess what, this is our favorite destination of the entire itinerary!!(notice i say glimpse! not for those who wants an in depth exploration of the place/country! but for people like us with a toddler, i think this is just nice! i will wait till i can travel without her, to spend more time in each country!)

The most disappointing was Helsinki. No wonder Kimi speaks like this. LOLOLOLOL.

K, shall write more about each destination soon :)

Here's us on the first day on board.

A Decree Has Been Passed!

We are back from our cruise holiday and "Emperor Chow" has passed a decree --- that future holidays of the chow family, where possible, shall be cruise holidays! LOLOLOL.

Yup, you can imagine that we had a relatively good time!! Or maybe i should say, Princess Chow had a good time, so we had a good time ;)

She was quite friendly most of the time with all the uncles and aunties on board and had great fun with the other kids! and with a large ship, there were so many "corners" she can explore, she's never tired of the ship since we don't spend that much time on the ship anyway. and she's never hungry -- cos she just wants to play!

anyway, we both concluded that a cruise holiday works really great for us. first time travelling with kaira that we don't feel stressed at all! and we can even enjoy our meals in peace and for 11 days! =)

u bet i am planning on another cruise holiday soon.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kaira's 18th month

She's really into asserting herself and it's becoming increasingly difficult to deal with her each.

Feeding times, which used to be soooooo easy cos she eats almost everything offered to her and she's always very enthusiastic about meal times, have been a challenge. There are days when she refused to eat what she's been offered (even though she used to love them) and she's also less adventurous in trying new things! and some days, she just wants to eat what she likes!! like cake, yoghurt and biscuits. nothing else. thank God she still likes to eat her fruits. It was especially difficult during our trip to Paris. she basically doesn't want to it proper meals. she just wants to snack! very notti gal; same for our cruise holiday. =(

Hope that she will be back to her enthusiastic eating self soon.

But she's making good progress in term of feeding herself with the fork and spoon. Although many times she will prefer to use her fingers, but she's definitely more accurate now with the fork and spoon. But its still a messy affair ;)

Speech -- she now likes to imitate words that we say. and ine arly May, she suddenly was into 2 words... like down stairs, go there, bottle, people, hold hands etc etc. She like to practice them. and she will surprise me with new combinations each day! such is joy :) like one day she was standing on her stool. she likes us to hold her hands to help her to come down and usually she will stretch out her hands and call "ma ma" and indicate that she wants to be hand-held. but that day, she said "hold hands" without any prompting. took me by surprise :) and within a few days she's trying to say 3 syllable words. and she's into imitating whatever we are saying now. so very cute sometimes.

Singing -- when we turn on the music she will sometimes "hum" along...especially when in the car. very cute. although it doesn't sound anything at all like the tune being played...hehehe.

Stickiness -- she's very sticky to us. Since coming back from singapore, we had a hard time adjusting her back to sunday school. Before we left for singapore, we could leave her there with the sunday school teacher & other kids and she was fine. But since we got back from singapore, she will cry when we leave the room :( so we have to stay there with her. Honestly do not know how to help her. everyday during the week, i will tell her not to cry in sunday school, that there's nothing to be afraid about, that we will come back to pick her up, and she will nod her head. but when it comes to the actual day, she cries buckets!! i hope she overcomes this soon, i cannot imagine how she will be when i have to put her in school next year.

Stickiness to Papa -- whenever he's around, the mummy here becomes invisible. in fact, i imagine that you would think that i am the "evil stepmother" who tortures her when her papa is away when you see how she behaves sometimes when her papa is around.

Others -- she surprised me sometimes when she will keep the toys she's playing with, without me asking! o wow. i wish that she will do it every time!! then, the house will be much neater =) but alas, she only does it for certain sets of toys and only when she's in the mood.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One more day to go....

before we go for our scandinavian cruise! really looking forward it.

hope little kaira will be most cooperative so that we will have an enjoyable time!

will be gone for 2 weeks .... will update when we are back!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A friend i have not seen in years....

came over for a visit on Saturday as she was on a business trip in Utrecht.

Kaira loved having Auntie Li-Hsien around and it was nice seeing her so warm and friendly towards a "Stranger". I was concerned that she will be uncooperative and unfriendly but she was such a darling! and had a great time playing with auntie.

even after li-hsien left, kaira will sign "where" and ask for auntie. very sweet. hope we will have more visitors in the days ahead!


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

About Work (even though its so "long" ago)

Much has been said about the AWARE saga that took place recently.... i do not intend to discuss it or give my views.... water under the bridge.

But something that caught my attention when i read the reports was that Josie Lau (the president of the exco which was given a vote of no confidence) is supposed to be heading the credit card marketing team @ DBS Bank.

And it made me wonder how is it that she has the energy and time to engage in an ECA (such as AWARE) that requires such time and commitment and if she had continued in her post, that she believed that she has the capacity to manage the demands of both positions.

Or maybe its just me? that i can be so consumed with work that i do not have time nor energy to even think about having "ECAs" much less be involved in one. i mean, if i have time, i would like to REST, catch up with friends or just laze around. i do not have the passion for something else that may require more energy than sipping tea! heehee.

i wasn't even heading the entire card marketing team then. Just a sub-team reporting to the head of marketing. But that was enough. My job totally consumed me. If my memory serves me right, i worked an average of 12 hours a day. The only time i have to exercise was mid-night!! (and yup, i made hubbie accompany me for my jogs which is usually ard 11pm-12am, to ensure my safety.....hehehe) by the time i get to bed, its ard 1am or even later. and i am in the office no later than 8am. some weekends were spent working (whether at the agency, events or what have u). and sometimes even have to spend the night at agency to get whatever needs to be out.

i really wonder how is her workload? if it's as consuming as mine, then hats off to her that she even considered taking on something extra which requires alot of commitment and time. (but of course, now no need lah! since they have to step down now). if it's less consuming than mine, what has changed since my departure from the card industry? or may be she's the kind of boss who manage to have a work-life balance ?????? (hehehe....read between the lines... ;p)

Or was it just me? An over-committed work-horse (work dog?? whatever). ;)

Monday, May 04, 2009

FOOD vs FACE

cannot deny that i have aged. not just because i get physically worned out quickly but also my body is showing "signs" of age. 真的是岁月的摧残.

i have always known that certain foods trigger "allergic reactions" in me and it shows on my face. flushed redness, sometimes bumps and what have u. but when i was younger, these reactions go off fairly quickly (say a day or 2) and things are back to normal again.

so, being the food loving me, i don't really restrict my diet or avoid foods that may cause such reactions.

but now, it's a different story. the reactions takes a longer time to heal and the effects are definitely worse. :( if i am to try to identify the list of foods that will results in allergic reactions, i think its gonna be a long list!! and do i want to avoid them for the rest of my life?? haizzz. i am not sure.

but i also don't like bumps on my face, redness etc cos it looks hideoussssss!!! aaaargh. some days even hubbie asked me what's wrong with my face?? ;( so sad.

i know i shouldn't drink alcohol, eat peanuts, prawn and other seafood. i know i should avoid spiced mixes. certain biscuits as well. but if i do that, my diet will be so BLAND!! yucks!!

allergy, eczema, rosacea whatever the term is ...... i wish i could turn back the clock where skin is of concern! no creams/potions whatever which i've tried helps! although i am currently using the weleda almond cream which helps a little...just a teeny weeny bit.

its just horrible to wake up to a flushed face, sometimes bumpy too! but i think it's worse if i have to restrict my diet! ;p

so there, FOOD vs FACE, food wins (for now at least!).

Sunday, May 03, 2009

More thoughts on paris

Le Marais -- when i read the description of this area on the net, i was quite excited and certainly looked forward to seeing the "beautiful french houses" which were supposed to be plentiful. But, hmmmmm, they were nice, but weren't as beautiful as i imagined! ;p But this is definitely an area for the hip and cool. lots of boutiques, galleries, cafes and it is a nice area to stroll, window shop and one may chance upon some unique items! the area has an arty feel.... and fashionable as well but not the Champs Elysees type if u know what i mean.

walking
-- i did so much walking my legs ached on the 2nd day. even though i wore my sneakers...maybe next time i should bring my sports shoes instead! but guess its only through walking that one can "see" !

Madeleines -- was expecting to see this everywhere!! but haahah.... nope.... but i bought my madeleine mould! yeah! will go search for a recipe to try it out soon :)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Kaira's Portrait

If it was for me, i would definitely not do it. But couldn't resist one for her ... thought it would be a nice Parisian souvenir for her

BUT, don't think it looks like her!! LOL. O well, can't bear to blame the artist who was so hard at work drawing her. ;)

Paris Discoveries

Metro Maze -- less complicated than the Japanese subway i think, but nevertheless quite a maze. so must read and plan carefully and know which stations are the interchanges. Plus, its so pram-unfriendly! lots of stairs (up & down) and lots of walking especially if one is changing train. hardly any escalators/lifts although a few of the stations do have them. I think Parisian mummies who travel alone with their child do not take the subway! If they do, i don't know how they manage to do it alone!
So glad we bought a lightweight stroller for the trip (tips from past travellers!). cannot imagine lugging the heavy weight around!

Traiteur -- think it means delicatessen or something...but to me it means TAKEAWAY available! there are quite a few of them near the hotel we stayed and usually they are japanese/chinese takeaway -- a very welcoming sight for us! hehehe. we had chinese takeaway for dinner on our last nite. But still not as "cheap" as we imagined it to be! but could also be because we were overenthusiastic about the 菜饭 and ordered enuff for 4 instead of 2 ;) costs us 21 euros!!! hahahah. but at least we felt VERY SATISFIED after the meal. ;) we are such deprived souls ;) of course if we wanted to save $$, we would have just ate bread+cheese (but i so totally dislike this option!!! hehehehe)

Food -- most eat-in places open for dinner @ 7pm. we discovered that when we went to Chinatown for our Asian Food "fix" on the second night. we are early diners, wanted to have dinner ard 6+pm...hehehe, goood thing one of the japanese restaurant kindly agreed to serve us even though we arrived @ abt 630pm. :)

One of things that i was excited about thinking about paris, wasn't the 3-star michelin food (which i know i won't have the chance the taste this time round ;p) -- it was Chinatown!!! hahahaha. goes to show how lacking eindhoven is in this area. so i was very happy to have japanese dinner on our second nite!

Coming back to dining time, one area which serves food all day round is the Latin Quarters... no need to "wait" till 7pm! ALthough it is extremely touristy an area, i kind of liked it there, cos its lively and the service friendly! (probably due to the competition) and though not exceeding great, the foods OK. and reasonably priced.

After all, this is Paris, if one wants to dine-in, it is not cheap. our average lunch bill is ard 20 euros and dinner food bill is abt 25 to 40 euros for 2 persons. (now u know why we decided to have take away on our last nite. in fact, we skipped dinner on our first nite and had cereal for dinner....hehehe.) we usually choose to dine-in, cos we needed a place to feed kaira.... abit difficult to feed her on the go. else we would have chosen the cheaper option of having a sandwich on the go.

Anyway, back to the food -- the quality of our meals were mostly average. Unlike our experience in Italy, though equally expensive, sometimes more, most of the time we get really good food and felt that its worth the $$$.

Well, maybe we weren't eating at the right places. Next time, if we go back to Paris again, we hope to do better!

The Louvre Museum is closed on Tuesday! We made a wasted trip cos we didn't check the museum opening time! Had to go back again on Thursday.

The Frustrated Papa


I had to post this picture cos this was a really bad day for Papa Chow. This is our 4th day @ Paris and Kaira was really quite cranky at times and very difficult. she only wants her Papa to carry her and will cry like i am torturing her if i had to carry her while Papa do his stuff. and of all days, we decided to spend the afternon in the Louvre museum and she was totally uncooperative!! really can't see much. maybe we have too high expectations on the little one ah! it's really too much to expect her to be "kuai kuai" while confined in the museum! hahahah

Plus, we couldn't find the flea market that Papa Chow was looking for and to add to his woes, i was really pissed cos the metro ride was such a "challenge". we had to change metro 3 times and I HAD TO LUG the pram UP AND DOWN so many flights of stairs [cos dear little miss kaira only wants her Papa to carry her!!!!) that I got cranky and showed him my black face!! *OOOOPSSS* now he has to deal with 2 CRANKY gals!! ;) very bad day for him.

so here he is, with his "sianzzz" look outside the Louvre Museum (kaira was sleeping.) trying to recharge with a glass of wine! hahahaha. Poor Guy.

Chow Family In Paris

Shopping & Eats in Paris

We try our best to "enjoy" Paris and people watch....! although its tough when u have a hyperactive 17month old toddler who's always raring to go! So we do it while she's sleeping or occupied with her food! Quite tough sometimes! Hahaha.

And the price to pay to have a cuppa and people watch is really atrocious at times! but we are on holiday.... so i try not to think too much! hehehe ;)

Sights of Paris

Paris - Our Hotel - Adagio City ApartHotel

Our first experience with Adagio City Apart'Hotel and i will not hesitate to stay with them again! maybe it was a new development or it was recently refurbished, so the rooms were new and nice and the bed comfortable! and it was rather "spacious" (i.e. have abit of space for kaira to "run" abt). As it's situated near the Eiffel tower, I understand that some rooms have views of the tower... although not ours! was secretly hoping they will "upgrade" us or something but alas ... no such luck! but still quite good view as u can see from the photos below. and within walking distance are quite a few bakeries, grocery stores, takeaway outlets and a shopping street so it is rather a convenient area. all for ard 100 euros a nite, i think it's quite good value for money.


Road To Paris

The Ride To/From Paris
It was supposed to be a 4hr 15 min drive to paris but cos of road closures and traffic delay, we took almost 5 hours plus an hour break for lunch, which meant that the whole journey was ard 6 hours. Thank God it was really smooth and Kaira was quite cooperative! Hallelujah. Of course she had her bouts of crying cos she wanted to get down and walk about and what have u, but those were very short moments and happened like once or twice so it was really manageable and we both concluded it was a smooth ride! Gives us confidence to do such road trips again :)

On the way to Paris, she got bored that she started digging her nose *faints*
Please, don't ask me who she learnt it from! LOLOL.



The ride home was even better than the ride to paris cos alot of the yellow fields were blooming and we saw vast lands of "gold" and cos the sun was out, it was really an enjoyable time looking out of our car windor and enjoying the countryside! Unfortunately i didn't capture any shot.


The Weather
The weather forecast wasn't very encouraging before the trip as it showed rainy and wet days for most of the week. But thank God we saw very little of the rain! although on the first 2 days it was cloudy and dark clouds were always looming! But it rained mostly @ nite and while we were indoors ! hehehe. when we were ready for the outdoors, the sun was out. Thank God for answering my prayers. I was praying very hard that it won't be rainy cos that will be such a damper!


More on the sights and our experience in later posts!