December 23, 2014

Christmas in Singapore - House Tour

My calendar says December 23rd or 23 December as it's called here. Really. It does. Except that it doesn't feel like December at all.

Sure, the tree is up and the Christmas carols are playing, but goodness, I feel like I'm stuck in July. I guess that's what happens when you move to Singapore.
For the very first time ever, we didn't get a real tree. And we decided that if we going to go fake, that we'd go reeaaally fake. Andrew calls it the reverse Christmas tree. And we love it. White tree, green garland. Friends say, "Oh, you must really miss the snow!"

 And we do. I miss being cold. Strange I know. But it's true.

But here, the snow shows up only on the windows with palm trees peeking through the background.

Or in the jam jars turned candle holders. They smell like Christmas. So good. A sweet gift from my kids. I've caught them smelling the candles over the last few days. The smells remind us of home.

 Before we left, we purged, paired down and brought very little with us. But some favourite Christmas decorations did make it across the ocean. And thankfully all in one piece.

 There's not much room in this tiny place for big Christmas displays. Just enough to spread a little Christmas here and there.

No fireplace for stockings, but stockings none the less. Including one for little Sneakers of course.
The presents are wrapped. Mincemeat tarts baked. Tomorrow we pick up the turkey and make some yummy cookies. Just in time for Christmas.

October 20, 2014

Thanksgiving in the Tropics

It's hot here. All the time. Morning. Noon. Night. The calendar says October, but it feels more like a heatwave in the middle of July. It's hard to believe that we celebrated Thanksgiving last weekend. Despite the hot weather, earlier last week we pretended it was fall.
We roasted pumpkins. Two tiny halves from different pumpkins bought from the local wet market. Both grown locally, meaning that they are from neighbouring countries. The pumpkins were all being sold in halves. I couldn't find a whole pumpkin! I did see whole pumpkins this week though. They are a totally different variety than those grown in Canada, harder skin (is that what you call it?), paler and bumpier, but they tasted very similar. The grocery stores here are now selling the standard orange pumpkins imported from the US. But at $25 -$50 a pop, um, I think we'll stick with these. It smelled like fall. Did I mention that we were wearing shorts? 

Tracking down the pie filling was the easy part. Making the pastry turned out to be an adventure in itself. So apparently lard is not sold anywhere on this island. Or if it is, I couldn't find it. After a friend and I made a trip to the butcher for some pork fat, I then had to render it to make pastry. Um, what?! Thank goodness for google. It was actually an easy process. I know you're dying to know how to do it... Just cut up the pork fat into cubes. Put in a dutch oven. Add 1/3 cup of water. And cook it uncovered at 300F for about 3 hours or so. Just check it every 30 minutes. Pour through a strainer. Let it cool. And voila. C'est tout fini! Easy peasy. But smelly. Be warned. Heck, just go some Tenderflake from the shelf, unless of course you live in Singapore. 

Andrew ordered a turkey. Not quite the same as ordering a turkey in Canada where you order one so that you are guaranteed to get the size you want. Here you order a turkey so that, well, you can actually have a turkey. Andrew was more than happy to continue the long tradition of bringing home a turkey in his red backpack. Before moving to Guelph, Andrew trekked home many a turkey from the St. Lawrence Market on the GO train. This year, same backpack, but wearing shorts under palm trees. Crazy!

We brought our roasting pan with us, but it doesn't fit. At all. Not even close. The ovens here are small. Minuscule really. Between a small oven and only three burners, we really had to think about how we were going to get everything cooked.

Thank goodness for tin pans. We actually had to bend it to fit in the oven. But fit it did. Just.

A few hours later the turkey emerged from the tiny oven.  And it was delicious.

 We kept the decorations simple. Maple leaves place cards -- a nice nod to home. Fall colours amongst the palm trees.

And a simple Happy Thanksgiving banner. Letters cut from newspaper and edged in sparkles. Love. We won't mention that there are still sparkles everywhere. Everywhere.

And the best part of celebrating Thanksgiving in Singapore? Friends. For most of them, it was their first Thanksgiving. It was so fun to share our traditions. 

Happy Thanksgiving  and happy fall to everyone back home!

September 10, 2014

Mid-Autumn Festival

One of the great things about living in Singapore is all the festivals. On Monday it was the Mid-Autumn Festival, marked by the lunar calendar. The moon was incredible! I love that there is a tradition dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years.
The picture is a little grainy (I didn't feel like lugging around the dslr, so had to make do with the iPhone), but you get the idea. Big, full moon.

Leading up to this night, lanterns and mooncakes can be found all over Singapore. Legend has it that a girl named Chang E was given some magical seeds. She was told not to eat them, but when thieves came along, she swallowed all of them to prevent them from being stolen. The moment she ate the seeds, she was sent up to the moon where she is forced to spend all of eternity. During the Mid-Autumn festival, when the moon is at its fullest, people stare up at the moon looking for Chang E. There are many different versions of this myth - this version was told to me by seven-year old Naomi as we were devouring mooncakes at pomelo.

Every year at this time mooncakes are everywhere. Some of the malls have stalls upon stalls set up in the atriums where you can go and sample all the different ones. The packaging can be quite extraordinary as well and differs from year to year. These mooncakes are from one of the oldest shops in Singapore called Tai Chong Kok
The designs are so intricate. Carved, wooden moulds are used to make the designs. Nowadays the fillings can vary and the big hotels often come up with new ones. These were filled with a traditional lotus paste. Oh so yummy! And so very rich. Eggs yolks are often found inside, another nod to the moon, but knowing that Andrew can't eat egg, the Kwans gave us ones without egg so that we could all enjoy them. 
On the night itself, we headed over to the Kwans. After supper, the kids carried lit lanterns through the neigbourhood. The whole idea is to enjoy the moon and spend time with family and friends. I don't think Aiden could actually see the moon from there....just a little dramatic reenacting. Goof.

They are all holding their lanterns so carefully. A tiny candle, surrounded by paper. Let's just say they all walked to the park.

Thanks Kwans for such a fun night!

August 12, 2014

Friday Night at Clarke Quay

We had a fabulous weekend! And boy, did we need it! The previous weekend was a write-off - Andrew was sick for several days. And the last two weeks have been rough as we are still adjusting to a new country. After loading myself up on cold medication, we managed to take in some of the sights and sounds of Singapore.

School ended early on Friday in celebration of National Day. This gave us plenty of time to get homework out of the way and meet Andrew at his office before we headed over to Clarke Quay. We spent the evening along the waterfront, eating, people watching and enjoying a river cruise. Madeline watched in awe as that round ball was shot like a sling-shot into the air. It was quickly added to her things to do.

I made them pose. They humoured me. Sorta. For a second.

 We hopped on a bumboat for a cruise along the Singapore River. Madeline recently finished a school project about bumboats. In the past they lined the Singapore River and were used to ferry both cargo and people from the ships in the ocean to the shore and the shop houses. You can see the shop houses in the back ground. Shop houses are just that -- shops on the bottom with a place to live above. The ones that have been restored are quite pretty and a definite reflection of Singapore's colonial past.

We took in the sights up and down the river. The Merlion.

We were able to catch a few minutes of the light show that happens nightly at Marina Bay Sands. This was added to Aiden's list of things to see. He's not quite the thrill seeker that Madeline is.

I think this is my favourite building in Singapore. Old Hill Police Station -- Singapore's first police station dating back to the 1800's. I just absolutely love the colourful shutters.

The river cruise was a fab way to spend a Friday night.

July 29, 2014

Our First Long Weekend

So here I sit, on a Tuesday afternoon. Trying to dry out from my quick dash to the store for some milk. And yes, I had an umbrella. I waited until there was a break, or so I thought! I made it there dry, coming back was another story. The rain just seems to come down sideways here. Seriously! I watched as sheets of rain moved sideways. I took a deep breath and made a run for it with the milk in one hand and my umbrella in the other. Things were going fine until I stepped in a puddle that was wa-ay deeper than it looked and lost a foot-flop. One foot-flop retrieved. One jug of milk bought. One drenched person. And to think that I walked under shelter most of the way. Thank goodness there's a small grocery store in our complex!

Yesterday, much to everyone's delight, was a public holiday here in Singapore. It was the celebration of Hari Raya (known as Eid in Canada) which marks the of Ramadan. Those who are Muslim celebrated with feasts, but for us the long weekend was simply some much needed down-time. We are slowly, but surely getting settled in. It's taking awhile. We knew it would. It's not a surprise or even unexpected. But oh do I wish the process would speed up! I think Andrew described the last couple of months best -- a bureaucratic nightmare (you can click on the link to read more). Tons of paperwork. Tons of sorting out. But we're getting there. The kids are now both in school. Andrew loves his job. Our stuff arrived. Our stuff arrived! I'm slowly, but surely making this place into a home and will soon begin to hunt for a job.

It was not an exciting weekend. And that is just what we needed. We hung out around the complex. Read, napped and watched TV. It allowed us to rest. To breathe. To feel renewed.

 We ventured out on Sunday to try a new church. St. George's. The inside was even more beautiful than the outside. The people were quite friendly and we found ourselves invited out to lunch afterwards.

 We ended the weekend with an evening swim. I don't think I will ever get tired of swimming under palm trees.

This weekend is just what the two homebodies and even the two adventurers needed.

July 21, 2014

Oh My!

Well, after a year (or more) hiatus, this little old blog is back! And this time in a new location!

The last several months have been a whirlwind. Somehow between March and May we managed to sell our house, pack up the kids and move from Canada to Singapore. More on that later...

With the good camera packed away, we managed to capture a few moments with our iPhones. I wish we'd been a bit better at documenting the process, but really we were barely keeping our heads above water at times. We are so thankful for all the family and friends that helped us along the way.
We started off from Toronto, flew to Vancouver and then on to Tokyo, all with little Sneakers in tow. Once we got to Tokyo, we said goodbye to Sneakers as he became checked baggage.

Many hours later, like 24 or more. So. Not. Joking. We arrived. Tired and a little worse for wear, but together. With just a little bit of luggage. If you are planning on coming to visit us, the travel will be worth your while. Promise!

And so after several weeks of living with just mattresses and a few chairs as a couch (Not a word of a lie. Most uncomfortable "couch" in the world. Even Sneakers wasn't impressed.) our shipment from home arrived.

I have never been so happy to see boxes! And the unpacking continues...

June 6, 2013

Double Digits

Last week, Mr. Man turned 10. 10! I think he will make a very good 10 year old.
He already has the video thing down. Including a must-needed-gotta-try-the-brand-new-game-before-bed session.

He celebrated turning 10 by playing lacrosse - his new found love. Who knew? This quiet, gentle boy loves lacrosse. His grandparents, aunt and cousin came out to cheer him on. It must have worked - his team tied the game - the first non-loss of the season. Go #12!

Fast forward a few days and one long list later to the ninja invasion.

Seriously. I wasn't joking. Ninjas. Five of them. Ready for some serious ninja training.

Foam swords=hours of fun. Hours.

In the land of ninjas, innocent balloons turn into water snakes.

That need to be taken out with ninja stars.

 And when the snakes are all gone. There is always another threat that comes along.

And when swords just won't do -  more weapons.

Tired ninjas taking a rest. On the roof of course.

Cake to eat.

Sushi to go.

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