Sunday, June 05, 2016

Star Wars to help him turn 7....

For the mums who think I spend too much time with my kid and do too many crafty things with him, sorry. I suggest you walk away now as this post will only aggravate you and make you dislike me more. Yes I like both those things but that's just me. Weird. 

Birthday is a month away but this past weekend we celebrated Kids birthday as school is about to close and all his friends will disappear for the summer. We celebrated on Saturday morning, sharing it with his classmate who is just a week older than him, so also has a summer holiday birthday.

Since this past December vacation, when he watched his first Star Wars movie, Kid has been obsessed. And so Star Wars birthday party it was. And here is what I and he made and did over the past month to get out of my funk:

Activity corner - White cards, cut up foam pieces (and crayons/ pencils not in the picture)

Food signs. Black paper and silver sharpie.

R2D2 lantern and tie fighter banners

Banners - grey sheets of paper, silver sharpie and black stickers + black twine and tape. 

Tape resist Death Star.

 I was going to use this for a 4 corners dancing game (think gentler, no shove version of musical chairs) but we ran out of time so it ended up being wall art. I gave 2 to the kid we shared the party with as a reminder of the day and friendship he and and my son shared. He is leaving permanently for another continent this summer.

Yes I know the spelling is incorrect. I was following my child's bidding (he is at an age where he 'knows EVERYTHING'). Took nothing away from the tasty-ness of eating the 'very evil Stormtroopers'. 

Quick glance at the table - White table cloth and silver star confetti, empty boxes wrapped in silver wrapping paper and on them homemade fake Lego lands created from fake terrarium materials.

1 of 2 terrariums - kid and I made these together. My glass bowls, fake mud, fake rocks, fake shells, fake plants, fake fence and real Star Wars Lego.

1 of 2 terrariums from the planet of Hoth. Fake snow, my glass jug and real Star Wars Lego. 

Small abstract Star Wars foam art. You will see them behind the table on the wall, scattered around the tie fighters banners. 

Star Wars cake. Real Lego figures on it.

Star Wars equivalent of 'pin the tail on the donkey'. Each kid gets a triangular 'Star destroyer' with their name on it. The back has double sided tape. So blindfold, spin around to make them dizzy and then tape peeled and stick. 4 winners - one for each circled Star. 

Tape resist Death Star - two tries to get a 'ray' through the Death Star. 

Star Wars duct tape makes the bowling lane. 

Just some of the bowling pins Kid and I made together. We also had Chewbacca and C3P0.

Inexpensive light sabers - return present part 1.

A book each, a Star Wars pencil and a pack of Force Attax cards in a blue envelope - return present part 2. 

Done. And. Dusted.

Awesome fun. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

In a mood

I was talking to my brother yesterday and he asked why I haven't blogged in an age. Where is the follow up Japan post? What's up? And my stock answer was I'm too bored; who cares etc.

But I got to thinking about it a bit later and realized that actually I'm in a 'mood'. A bad and fairly unhealthy mood. I'm too young (ok middle aged) to be in this mood. And I should be changing things that annoy me instead of indulging in 'what ifs'. I should be kicking away these crazy thoughts. Ones where everyone annoys me no matter what they say or do. Some more than others and with valid reason. Others just by their being Right. Here or Right. There. 

I have often thought I'm quite a happy person. I have literally nothing I can complain about with any real validity or without immediately thinking, 'Well that is just a not real problem compared to x, y or poverty and war'. I've often backed myself into the corner with one of my mini pity parties and given myself a mental dressing down till my sunny side has re-appeared. But I've also always been a person that can forgive but not forget. Lately though the dressing downs work for ever shorter periods and the pity parties have gone but I've wanted more than anything to air out all the 'not forgottens''. Hence the silence. If I don't watch it will probably say things I shouldn't and which really aren't problems but annoy me just the same. As my mother says, if you have nothing nice to say don't say anything at all. I need to break out of this funk. After all, summer is here and really, I HAVE NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT. 


Sunday, April 03, 2016

Japan: 1

Fair warning: long and not very together post about our trip. Ramblings for me to look at in old age and reminisce about.

• Just back from a week in Japan, Land of the Rising Sun, Sakura blossoms, Sushi & Sashimi, kimonos and so so much more
• As a child I had a two story 'world cultures'  book - one story each about a Japanese family and an Eskimo family. I've harboured an irrational desire to visit Japan ever since. 
• Some good advanced planning and actually booking meant that our school term break would coincide exactly with the due date of the cherry blossom blooming.
• For a change, with very little prompting, V booked his leave, our flights and hotels, all within days of our initial discussion on what to do for the break.
• Then it was my half of the bargain - figuring out what to see and do and whether to Japan Rail pass it or not.
• Armed with knowledge from a friendly neighbour that just moved here from Tokyo and various internet sites (including marvelous FB) I got to work.
• This is what we knew thanks to our tickets: fly in to Narita, Tokyo and fly out of Kansai, Osaka. Hotels were 4 nights in Tokyo and 3 in Osaka. 
• All my research confirmed that unless we were doing a bunch of day trips out of either city and willing to travel between the cities on the slightly slower than bullet train then a Japan Rail pass made no sense. 
• People kept saying 'why haven't you got your JR pass', 'it was so useful to have the pass/ you are fools for not getting it etc'....
Thankfully I didn't listen to them. 
• We bought Narita Express tickets from the airport. We purchased Suica cards (much like Oyster/ Octopus cards) which allowed us to use subways, buses and JR lines. We bought Nozomi (bullet) tickets to Osaka. We purchased an open day return to Kyoto and we saved nearly 1/3rd on the cost of the JP pass.
Enough about travel.
• Tokyo: Narita airport was functional but shabby and a bit run down to look at but even then you could see the innovation, technology, design and discipline. Example: luggage carts that go down and up escalators into the train station. 
• Narita express was fast and efficient and the red bricked (recently renovated on the outside) Tokyo station was a manageable maze. Saw my First Lady in Kimono in the line for the taxi!!!
• An evening wandering around Roppongi, crowded and neon lit, but industrial and residential in equal measure was a good introduction to Tokyo.
• Spent half a day exploring the Imperial Palace. Beautifully laid out gardens amidst large stone walls and moats. Pine trees, old guardhouses, enormous gates, bamboo groves, orange trees and of course flowering Sakura trees. 
• Joined at lunchtime by a Japanese friend that moved back from Singapore to Japan over a year and a half ago. So nice to catch up and see her adorable little boy. Missed seeing R who had to be at Girl Scouts...
• Spent half a day wandering around Ginza. Went to the largest Uniqlo in the world and bought Lego Tshirts amongst other not needed but much cheaper than HK/ Singapore stuff. V and Kid went to the Hakuhinkan Toy Park with floors of toys and again the Lego was so much cheaper that indulgent father bought 5 boxes of it much to Kids delight. 
• I spent my afternoon gazing at the beautiful shop windows and wandering through the amazing multi stories paper shops: beautiful handmade paper products, desk accessories, chiyogami paper, origami earrings and other stuff a stationery junkies dreams are made off. People watching from a coffee shop while trying to delicately eat my way through the beautiful confectionary section. 
• A morning at the Meiji shrine where despite the tourist hoardes there was enough peace to enjoy a morning ritual and the calm of the 100,000 Japanese trees. A walk along the fairly glossy Otomesando area with a stop for lunch and ice cream.
• Then an explore of Maranouchi before heading back to Roppongi for sushi dinner at Pintakona.
• Hot chocolate and croissants in the sunshine while exploring Otemachi, before heading the way of the Sky Tree Tower. Endless line almost put us off but we found a shorter line for International travelers and within 10 minutes found ourselves on the first deck 345 ft up. What a sprawling and densely packed city Tokyo is! We then went to the next Gallery up and the views were even better. Lots of oohing and aahing over places we could identify and gazing longingly in the direction of Mt. Fuji which remained obscured by fog despite the sunny day. A real treat to get a real sense of this awesome megapolis with a birds eye view. 
• Spent all afternoon watching Kid play in the bouncy castle and inside the plastic ball on the water - both part of a mini games carnival at the base of the Sky Tree. Yes we could have convinced him of a more historic or tourist worthy site but he had been a wonderful trooper chalking up in excess of 10,000 steps per day and truly deserved the break to do what made him laugh. Sensoji is left to next time.
• Detour on the way back to the hotel to see the crazy road crossing at Shibuya. Pretty amazing that over 1000 people cross using the 6 paths with no one bumping into anyone. 
• Last morning in Tokyo: short walk in local park followed by exploring Akasaka. Lunch at 511: recommended for Kobe Beef. This was the only meal we had booked. Absolutely without a doubt the best most succulent steak I have had in my entire life! Not a memory I will forget in a hurry.
• Dizzying journey to hotel and then on to Tokyo station for our reserved seats on the neat and efficient Nozomi Bullet train to Osaka. 2.5 hours of high speed train - more than the speed it was the sheer smoothness of the train that amazed me. No dhuk- dhuk motion of a usual train, just a near silent whooooosh as the train glides at great speed along the track. 

I'll follow this post with another few. Observations, pictures and of course Osaka/ Kyoto.

I'll leave this post with just one picture: of the first Sakura tree I saw up close. Of all the brilliant trees and bursts of color and varieties on offer this white entirely blossoming spring Sakura will always be my first. 



Thursday, March 17, 2016

Decadence

I am sat at Gate 31, sipping a grande mocha and blogging. I've wandered through the airport and despaired at the sizes of and limited choices in Relay. My light and beautiful black leather tote bag (the kind that is usually filled to the brim and makes my shoulder dip dangerously to one side) and I are learning to navigate the depths of its leather interiors without wadded tissue, random Lego robbers and packs of Crackers joining in the fun.

Yes, I am at the airport without my little One. Kid isn't that little anymore. Where earlier this would have elicited huge tears, now it's just knowing in advance and having a plan. He waved me off at the elevator and went back to the important task of defending the universe against Star Wars baddies. Later he has a play date and a full day of activities tomorrow before a weekend of dad fun. Only my organisational skills were needed before I embarked. A big spreadsheet on the fridge has activities, menus, important contact details and clues to find hidden treasure. A smaller sheet is for him to write me notes about the weather and his best moment of the day. And one kiss later, bye mom. 

I am on my way to India. Specifically to Goa. To celebrate my besties 40th birthday. 6 women, no spouses, partners, children, pets, work. 3 days of lie ins, long lunches, rambling walks and some sun on our backs. She is the last of the lot to turn the big 4-0. The baby among us. In a way we are all celebrating our own turns into 40. That is what awaits. 

I have never been to Goa. I don't know a single person from or in Goa but I know plenty who make this pilgrimage every year. I'm off to see what the fuss is all about. Wish me no sunburn, just a gentle sea breeze and a kind sun and few days of life reaffirmation. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

A lie-in

 - Before my life in the UK I had never heard the phrase 'lie-in'. Once I understood that it just meant sleeping/ staying supine/ in bed that little bit extra,  I realized I'd been doing it my whole life anyway. I just didn't know the right terminology. 

- All wrongs are righted. I know what a lie in is, and to top it all, I'm quite the expert.

- By all means, post surgery I'm officially entitled to lie-ins. But I like to get up and get my kid ready for school and have breakfast chats about the way to beat Count Dooku and what storm troopers should be doing before its time for the bus.

- So I usually come back up, change back into PJs and have interrupted lie-ins.

Today was an early morning. I've just dropped my mum to the airport after 2 weeks with us. Of course I felt the great need to show her HK, take her shopping and to eat at places I love. 

- We didn't do quite as many sightseeing things as I would have liked but as she reminded me I was still meant to be 'at rest'. One memorable day was the Ngong Ping cable car ride to see the Tian Tan Buddha. I'd seen in it 2005, pre- cable car and was keen to revisit. Living at the diametrically opposite end of the city meant a long-ish journey to get there. Finally on the cable car and up we go to find.....drumroll....the worst fog in days -  a visibility of almost nothing feet. Wandered around in the fog and came right back down. But at least we spent the morning talking, meeting interesting people and having a cable car ride. 

- I managed post drop off lie ins on most days as my mum reads late into the night and her late nights lead to late mornings while on holiday. As she rightly says the doorbell here does not ring 10 times between 6 and 8am and so it's far easier to sleep that little bit extra than in Delhi where a retinue of people ring the bell for one thing or another each day. 

- The continued cold weather makes lie-ins just the recipe. I look out of my window and see the dragon boats out there on the water, practicing to be top of their game. I curse myself a little for being a sloth and not partaking in such activities. The moment passes as I doze.

- I have a meeting this morning and am having to give up my lie in. Boo.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The sublime works of Margaret Forster


One of my favorite authors died this week. Margaret Forster. She had such a wonderful way with words, letting the reader right into the rooms her characters inhabited. I wasn't a fly on the wall but instead a guest in the corner of the room, on a beautiful chintzy upholstered chair, watching as her 'people' lived full and interesting lives. She had this wonderfully clear view of the world and a capacity to elaborate the story on behalf of the many. 

I first discovered her writing in 2002, buying a book called 'The Memory Box' from a charity shop on Finchley Road in London. I remember only that it was a wet drizzly February day and that it was one of the days I had taken a random bus from the end of the road to the end of the line. I had wandered up and down Golders Green, eaten my sandwich on a bench and then walked all the way down to Finchley, peeking into shops as I went, ducking into others if the drizzle picked up pace. As the wife of a student, new to the city and with no job and limited resources the charity shop seemed like a welcome place while it rained. It was a treasure trove. I left with 4 books - one of them was Margaret Forster's 'The Memory Box'. I only recall many of these details as I pulled it out of my bookshelf this morning and find my name, the date and where I bought it all in my neatest handwriting inside the cover. It was a book that stayed with me, being read again and again over the years and the many moves. I bought a few more of her books from Amazon (notably 'Diary of an ordinary woman) and found others in other charity shops, each a gem. 

Over the years I returned to that and the many many Charity shops around London, each time leaving with a little piles of books that cost £1 or £2 each. Inexpensive books donated to charity by generous readers was always one of the highlights of my time in London. When it was time to leave I sifted through my many books and gave 50 books each to my top 8 charity shops. My own goodbye to a city that kept me in inexpensive books for a decade. I gave away most of the Margaret Forster's - but I kept two: The Memory Box and The Battle for Christabel. And tonight I'm going to re-read one of these. Margaret Forster, RIP.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Gong Xi Fa Cai


That is the Mandarin greeting in the title. This is the Cantonese: Gong Hei Fat Choy

Hong Kong is something special at Chinese New Year. The whole city wears an air of festivity and the beautiful decorations remind everyone to look forward, into the blessings and goodness of the coming year. We had a lovely day of celebration today and have a few more ahead of us before everyday life takes back over.

I wish you and your family a wonderful year of the Monkey. May all good health and happiness and prosperity be yours. 

Friday, February 05, 2016

This phone cover situation

I'm not sure when I began to care what my phone cover looked like. I remember being all fine with the tacky-but-sturdy plastic cover that were standard Vodafone issued in the UK. And then whoomp, it's like through a time machine to this future where I'm always trying to decide if I need a new cover or not. 

I had a Chumbak one for ages (which I loved loved loved and was so ghisoed by the time I changed phones) but then I went off them for no good reason. Then my phone changed and I had a clear plastic one and no matter how hard I looked I couldn't find anything I liked. So I 'tried' a whole bunch, bought randomly and from many different places. Nothing stuck.

In December, on the Mumbai leg of our journey, I admired my niece R's mobile cover. I was talking about how hard it was to decide what to get and that hers looked cute. Next thing I knew, for the princely sum of Rs.200 she had ordered me the exact same off Amazon India. 


I used it for a few weeks but the liquid wasn't really moving at a normal speed and the stars and stuff getting stuck at corners was just plain annoying me. So I rummaged around my cupboard and found I had bought this wood carved over for my friend T who loves Totoro. 


And now I'm pretending to love Totoro (till I find what I really want, which is something that probably does not even exist). Sometimes my own ridiculous and convoluted thoughts about mundane things annoy me. This is one of those times. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Childhood traditions 2

Here is one I set up when Kid was 2 and haven't yet stopped 4 years later. 

1. Every day when he comes home from school (and before that, from daycare/ play school) I would have 3 possible activities set out. As an example: a puzzle box, a small pile of books and a third set up of a way of using an existing toy or doing some craft. 


2. So he would change out of the day of grubby clothes, chomp down his snack and then pick one activity. You would think building a toy or crafting would be what he picked everyday but I was surprised by how many times he picked books or puzzles. (An aside: The joy of lying on ones bed with a small child tucked up in the crook of ones arm and reading together - that's a priceless memory which will sustain me well into old age.)

3. The choices have grown more complex as he has grown. A simple set of paints and canvas like above wouldn't be taken as seriously now as a few years or even months ago. Not unless it involves stencils or glue or something else with texture. I'm having to up my game to keep him interested in continuing to play with me. 

4. Activities usually involve lying/ sitting on the floor and take about 15-20 minutes. It takes me about the same amount of time after he has gone to school to figure out what the 3 choices are and set them up. Over the years I have discovered that we have a plethora of toys that get forgotten and I often reintroduce them this way to see if he has indeed outgrown them. 

5. This is what I like to call 'Precious time' . It's time that moves both slowly and quickly; he focuses on a task (this has helped in many ways with school work etc), he unwinds with something new everyday that does not involve a gadget, he gets to use his imagination in amazing ways and most importantly, he talks. I get a near 15-20 minute dialogue about life in general (in the context of the activity/ toy) and I need to prod only very gently for detail. 

6. We've kept this tradition on for 4+ years now and I won't stop till he rebels. Here is way a recent 20 minute craft pile we created: the Life Star (imaginary brother of the Star Wars Death Star which he would like in Lego but has agreed he would be hard pressed to manage till he is older {recommended age 14+, 3000+ pieces}. Cardboard box, tape and glue, colouring pens, Lego people and imagination. He will get hours of play with it)


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Summer shoes


I bought these cotton and hemp shoes for a pittance in Chatuchak market in Bangkok this summer. My sil got the same pair and proceeded to wear them instantly, wearing them thin and lamenting only having bought one pair.

 Still voting against closed shoes in the heat of Singapore I put them at the bottom of the shoe cupboard and forgot about them till I was hunting through the shoe pile in the recent Hong Kong cold spell. A cold spell I was grossly underprepared for. These turned out to be the only properly closed shoes I owned when the shivering cold began. I quickly remedied the situation with a few pairs of shoes - closed, black, boots etc. But in the few days while I got sorted these were my saviour. The thin cotton and hemp mix didn't keep the feet warm and they were soaked through the second the rain even threatened to fall but goodness me I was grateful for them in place of my boat like flip flops filling with water! 


Monday, February 01, 2016

Monkey year

What better way to begin a month of writing with something auspicious? In a short week we will be celebrating Chinese New Year, that most hallowed of celebrations. V and I were here in Hong Kong in 2005 for CNY and although 11 years later that seems like a lifetime away I have some pretty amazing snapshot memories of it. 

The decorations are everywhere! This is the prettiest I have seen so far - in a mall - and I am surprisingly not put off by the red & pink combo which usually does not sit well with me.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Speed

January has sped by. Literally sped by.

It was a month of two halves for me. The first half was the lovely (second part) of the India holiday and then the busy-ness that getting back to a new school term entails. I thought the back to school but would mean things slowing down but it's been quite the opposite. The second half of the month involved hospital, planned surgery, recovery, many doctors visits and enduring the coldest winter Hong Kong has seen in a while. It's all good now and I'm back to up and running with some speed if not full speed.

I had forgotten about the whole picture/ write everyday in January till the first couple of weeks had passed. Decided I would put that on hold when I was less preoccupied with my own situation. Well it's February tomorrow and here goes. A bit of writing everyday. My own blog-stagram as it were.

Monday, January 11, 2016

2016...not the resolution one.

It's here, this New Year, 2016; bright and happy if greeting cards and whatsapp messages are to be believed. We are back from our wonderful trip and have been rudely awoken into Term 2 by alarms this morning as School beckons. 

It was mostly a great trip. For the first time ever Kid had not. a. single. meltdown or crying fest for anything. On the contrary my seasoned traveler took everything from ridiculous flight delays to lost-for-7-hours-with-incompetent-driver and ridiculously early safari times to the running out of his favorite crackers in his stride. He showed great patience and a far greater understanding of many things on this trip than he has before: the sometimes chaotic sights and sounds, the entirely encompassing love of family and the aging of his grandparents. There was a moment in a restaurant which had a step up and then a step down and I had my mothers hand. Before I could say anything he went and offered and held my dads hand to help him. My dad didn't need the help but he takes every chance to hold his small grandsons hand and this moment brought a lump to my throat for them both. 

Some bits of our time in Delhi:
- In the quite mild Delhi mornings I had lovely lie-ins (even 8am counts!) while Kid and my dad ate hot buttered toast in front of the heater and Oggy the Cockroach (in Hindi and a programme I never ordinarily let him watch). 
- We had lunch at Punjabi by Nature twice and Kid ate buttered naans and chicken tikkis galore. He loved it even more than Peshawari in Mumbai (which he had proclaimed was his true love just the week before). 
- We had to hire taxis to follow the odd even Delhi experiment. Not practical for us but certainly a wonderfully de-congested ride through Delhi on all 4 days.
- I had a get together with 15 school classmates one evening. I hosted it at home and had it catered by the wonderful Rumi's kitchen. We ate and talked till tummies and jaws could bear no more. Many I was seeing for the first time since school but many were just catching up from previous trips. It was a great evening with many interesting discussions and much reminiscing about our youth. 
- Wandered around Dilli Haat after 15 years. It has changed and almost all for the better. Lovely to see that they are more organized and better at displaying their beautiful hand made crafts. Even better to see signs asking people not to bargain and instead to respect the prices set by these artisans. I didn't buy as much as I anticipated but did get a spiffy pair of sandals and Kid got a wire puzzle thing from my mum (I was pleased to note it looks exactly like the ones She used to buy us when were kids). 
- Saw a few other people, none for long enough though. Spent loads of time with my mum and dad and Nik and P chatting about something anything nothing. Eating kathi rolls, indo-Chinese, grilled cheese toast and copious amounts of chocolate. 

It's the start of a new term, a new year and 11 days in I'm already behind in my list of things to do. I have some reflections and resolutions to post and I'm hoping the positive attitude I gained in the Delhi air lasts. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Eat my dust (or The last one for this year)

1. Back to points as I seem to function well within them. This is my last post in what has been a big and busy year.

2. I'm in Mumbai after 4 days in Kanha. We had a sleek and powerful leopard saunter out in front of our jeep just as we were giving up hope of seeing any animals on our first 6am Safari. A 2 minute walk just ahead of us. Magic.

3. The next day's 6am safari was turning out to be disappointing when suddenly, on our left, just outside my jeep window we passed a majestic Tigress standing still as a statue. After considering us for about 45 seconds she turned and crossed behind our jeep and wandered at a leisurely pace through the grassland and into the dense forest. 

4. The journey to Kanha was pretty painful with a driver who lied about knowing the way and drove us around for a few extra hours. And that's an understatement. We subsequently did two early morning safaris and ate dust in the open air jeeps, following the mud tracks and stopping to exchange news with other jeeps on their sightings. Despite long showers our ears remain clogged with dust. But the majesty of wild animals from both Cats to Barahsinghas and blue-singed peacock to the many others made up for all the drama of the journey. The forest was beautiful; dense and very green. The hotel was wonderful and the hospitality just amazing. Every person we met seemed to care deeply about it and told us personal stories of their own brushes with animals and of the many conservation efforts and the delicate balance between the man and wilderness. Such passion was entirely endearing. 

5. After leaving behind the 3 beautiful German Shepard dogs (Cheetah, Maya and Punch) at the hotel we are back in Mumbai to ring in the New Year before we scatter off to different places. Kid and I to Dilli meri jaan, V to another year at his desk job and the Cousin and his parents to Singers for school and work. We leave behind Another brother and his wife and Girl Cousin who are playing wonderful hosts to our hosts of suitcases and laundry and general small children clutter. 

6. It was a big year for me. Even though only about 2.5 of you bothered to wish me (yes I am still M.a.d) time marched on and in mid July I turned the big 4-0. It was a return to the scene of my childhood and a visit to the apartment complex we lived in in Bangkok. New memories with the Kid and Cousin and all 4 adults in a city so old and yet so new. I loved every minute of the trip; from leisurely meals at some of the finest restaurants (the celebrated Gaggan which everyone raves about but didn't quite do it for me and Nahm for a Thai meal I will not forget in a hurry), to river side jaunts, the reverence and beauty of the reclining Buddha and the frantic bustle of Chatuchak. 

7. Turning 40 is a big deal. Yes it's just a number and all my peers are turning it too but I've been working my way up to it and reminding myself daily (for many years) that I would soon be 40in2015. I found something of a piece of myself and peace within myself this year. I am not one for the mumbo jumbo of soul searching but I felt that in the run up to it I found a lot of clarity in my life. A big part of this was letting go of angst and control over actions of others and my own feelings towards people and situations that I had no power to change. I feel like I am in a calmer space now. I live under no illusion of youth and fully accept that I am well into middle age and frankly it's a wonderful place to be. And so dear readers, happy birthday to me!

8. We made some important life decisions this year. Both inadvertently and purposefully (and not without some trepidation). One of those big decisions involved moving countries and leaving behind Cousin and aunt/ uncle, a school we adored and many friends we had grown close to in Singapore. In hindsight, and in spite of the teething difficulties of any move, it has been good for us. It was the right decision from many angles and it has brought to the forefront that despite the distance the boys remain close as brothers can be and that is something we can continue to foster with ease. I think my greatest lesson was about how a positive attitude can mean that difficult decisions often have surprisingly good outcomes.

9. One of the most surprising outcomes has been how much I love Hong Kong. I only ever really noticed the mid levels and Central and Causeway Bay till we actually decided to move. And to me they were a cleaner version of busy Mumbai; a jumble of buildings and people packed densely into an important centre of Commerce. I wasn't too keen, although I'm always up for an adventure. I decided we should give it a shot, adventures are the adrenaline of life and that I could learn to love it as I once had cold London. Surprisingly, (only to me) once here I quickly fell in love with how that Centre is but a snap shot of the city. It is predominantly lush and green, an interesting mix of history and modern day drama, wonderfully complex beneath the sharp edges of a bustling commercial Centre. I'm loving all the exploring and new facets to the city at each turn. 

10. The health report is mixed. My approaching 40 body decided to give my sloth like brain some shaking. As my mind grew lighter, more sure, more settled it was my body that began collapsing around it. A number of health issues crept up this year but they have been swiftly dealt with and now I am nearly back to an even keel.

11. This years introspection has brought to the fore an entirely new appreciation for how vivid and complex life is. From the refugee crisis to pollution and poverty to continued Gender inequality, there were many things to ponder, act upon and preach on behalf off. The adage every drop helps to make an ocean has never been truer. And while I try and live the best possible life I can and teach my child to go at the world gently and with kindness I find myself looking for practical solutions, everyday things that can be my 'drops'. So so many have been imbibed and learnt this year. I'm hoping 2016 is going to be a continuation, an education and enhancement to this way of life. Of one thing I am sure - there is far more good than evil, far more kindness than anger and far more people rooting for peace than strife. Now if only more people would see how their individual efforts could bring change, 2016 and the years beyond are bound to be safer, brighter and more peaceful. 

12. All that remains is to say that Christmas Day marked 14 years of marriage for V and I. It has been a wonderful journey and even in its rare moments of mild strife I have never for an instant regretted this life choice. In fact this year we have reveled in It and found a balance that bears marking. Unlike our London days with our bunches of tulips, homemade Pizza, bottle of wine and walk in the cold sunshine we celebrated by landing in Mumbai at 5am (many many hours late). We had a day of family and I had but a moment all day to reflect on how I did miss that old quiet life but equally loved this new laughter and love family-filled one. All that remains is to wish you and yours a wonderful and safe New Year celebration and a year of interesting and enjoyable experiences. Be kind and see you on the other side! 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Decorating decorating

I start and then I cannot stop. Here is what we have been up to where Christmas is concerned:


Ok this is not me but our building lobby. It all began one Sunday morning two weeks ago. The boundary wall was festooned with fairy lights and these beautiful pots of Poinsettias appeared all along the lobby. It all looked wonderful; festive and elegant without being over the top.

Then the next day a Christmas tree appeared in the lobby. Real and smelling all woodsy, with elegant red shiny baubles and fake red wrapped gifts all tied up in bows below it. Still good.

Then they came and ruined it with giant purple and acorn and silver and green trimmings and wreaths and gnomes and mini snow covered trees all over the available surfaces - along staircases and next to the plants and on the lobby desk and every wall....overdone and far too much clashing going on....

Meanwhile in Casa 30 (OK OK 40) we had begun our own decorating. I like to try and follow the philosophy of reuse and recycle and being makers. We don't get a real tree (we have enough opportunities to see those) and instead make one. It's been a few years since we began this and it's always been interesting as a process and not always beautiful. 

This year we used our TV box. We covered it with brown paper and then used washi tape to create the silhouette of the tree. Then green and white kitchen string with clear mounts and red green blue pins to hold them in place. 


All along the string are little Christmas tree shaped clips, holding in place pictures of people and places and events that have been important to us this year. Clips are a couple of years old: 


That's Mt. Everest base camp and a very excited V's hands in the air. You get the idea.

I can't show you the finished product on the blog but it looks pretty amazing with all the pictures on it. The washi tape is not symmetrical and that's because the tree was created mainly by a 6 year old (with some supervision and an opinion which leads him to shout 'don't help me, I can do it' at regular intervals). I think the final product looks pretty spectacular in a homemade way and the pictures have given us a chance to reflect on the year and all the changes that have come home tonour little family. 

In other parts of the house Christmas decorations have appeared all through December. Our lovely smiley Father Christmas is sat next to the lovely poinsettias that my friend M gave us. 


And the main cabinet in our dining room has this little decoration going on:


The baubles are table decorations I bought two years ago. The trees are a set from IKEA, bought this year - I thought they looked quite interesting. They have some silver bells on them that I have had for a few years. The ceramic ornaments I bought from a very talented woman in Singapore last year. We sent many of those to friends last year and these ones were left for us to use. 

Then today we created a table centrepiece. Fishbowl which we already had combined with a cheap packet of 'make your own snow with water', paper trees from a new multipack, small wooden Santa figurine and of course the ubiquitous Lego police man who completes everything: 


And of course our little wooden tree. It's been painted over a few times but we still love it. 


I find I am reluctant to buy new and buy more things whether it's Diwali or Christmas. I'm enjoying using what we have and repurposing things to be useful over a longer time period. It's the last few days of school before we close for the holidays. It's a busy time of year and the chilly Hong Kong weather is taking some getting used to. I'm having to bundle up after the years of flip flop living. The festive cheer in the air is certainly making it easier to bear the cold. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

When I don't set myself challenges...

...I get lazy.

List of random things:
1. My aunt and uncle celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. We couldn't celebrate with them as their plans to come celebrate in India were scuppered by ill health. But from here and all over India they were being sent love. The pictures of their celebration with my cousin B and his family in the US were lovely. I'm hoping we can celebrate in 2016.

2. Tomorrow, the 13th, is my cousin B's birthday. Join me in wishing her a very happy birthday. When sisters were being given out I won the ultimate prize. Have an amazing day. You keep me sane.

3. Our lovely two sided clock from the Rail museum in Delhi is giving up the ghost. The mechanism on one side is faulty and this is leading to some hilarious confusions with Kid who is just about learning to read the time. 


4. Kid had his Christmas concert last night. We lucked out with seats 3 rows back but right in front of him. Lots of waving when they got into their rows. It was amazing listening to the 1st and 2nd Graders singing and reciting poems and carols and songs. A gymnasium full of innocent and joyful and enthusiastic voices. It was just the right length (25 minutes for each Grade); a wonderful evening where for once I took no pictures or video (part of my technological paring down especially in his presence) putting nothing between myself and my child but my absolute attention and focus on him and his classmates. I'm happy to rely on the school recording, his memory of the evening and the burst of joy I saved in my heart. It was a gym full of pride and love and innocence - if one could package that it would be priceless. 

5. I'm clearly terrible with keeping up. I have a few drafts I'll get to soon but really in January I need a new plan. I'm thinking a picture a day and some writing to go with it. Pictures of my house, this city and my life. Any opinions? 

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Childhood traditions 1

In my childhood, and this is not just from my overactive imagination, my parents Nik and I sat down to eat at 6.30pm every weeknight. Of course for large chunks of time (sometimes months) my dad would be traveling or posted to a different city and then it was just us and mum. But when he was in town this was sacrosanct. 

He got back from work between 5.45 and 6. It was an age before mobile phones and the Internet so there was very little bringing of work home. Once he was home he was all ours. We got back from playing outside around 6. Everyone had a shower before dinner (beside mum who was cooking) and we all pitched in laying the table, getting water and cutlery and condiments. We sat down at 6.30 to eat. My mum cooked up delicious meals and dinner was served. Of course we complained that we had to eat so early and that we didn't have the standard dal chawal fare. Like all children, no matter how good it was, we found something to complain about. 

And yet, as a middle aged mother trying to forge small traditions in my own home, those dinners were one of the defining moments of my childhood. Our parents ate with us and we talked, being asked to tell them new or funny or interesting or annoying things that happened in school that day. And they entertained all our questions, told us stuff, encouraged discussions and generally laughed a lot. It wasn't a walk in a sunshiny bluebell field but it wasn't far off. Like any family we had days when any one or more of us were grumpy, stressed, bored, upset. But essentially we had mostly great meals. 

Like all families we had numerous little traditions and oddities. This however was the one that I hold most dear. Next time, new traditions we are forging. 

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Chennai my sweet

Chennai is quite possibly my favourite Indian city. And the floods are ravaging it as we watch helplessly from afar. My relatives have all marked themselves safe but no doubt there are many in peril. From pictures of the water touching the under bellies of planes to the sight of people wading through chest high water, the pictures all over the Internet are giving us a mere glimpse into how bad things are. Social media is helping coordinate some rescue efforts, call for supplies and show an outpouring of affection. It's hard to sit and wait for news and TV newsloops are not helping by dramatising a lot of the events instead of just reporting them. 

I'm sitting here colouring away, letting my worries control themselves by making my hands do stuff, like colour my lovely book and create our Christmas tree. Chennai you are in my thoughts. 


Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Colour


It began as a lark. I had read somewhere that colouring was the new 'thing' for adults and I thought it was a good 'joke' present. And every time I walked into a bookshop I would see displays of various complex looking colouring books for grown ups. So I gave my sister in law T and friend H each this book, the Secret Garden, as a parting-from-Singapore gift. As it was a buy 2 get something off the 3rd free I gifted myself a copy as well. And promptly forgot about it. 

Then my friend M came to visit in the early days of having moved into our Hong Kong apartment. I remember her talking about this book on Facebook and so I pulled it off the bookshelf and gave it to her. I hadn't had a moment to colour and I didn't see myself colouring so it was my pleasure to do so. But as soon as it was gone and I could see that gap in my bookshelf I DESPERATELY WANTED the book. I DESPERATELY WANTED to colour. Talk about juvenile. I thought I could shake it. 

Last week I went to a bookshop to buy the last two books for December Pie and saw a display of the colouring books - they seems to be procreating. Anyway, after a quick internal battle in which my juvenile side won, I got myself another copy of The Secret Garden. Ever since that evening Kid and I have spent 15 minutes before dinner colouring (with a timer as it's easy to get carried away). It's slow going (for one of us!) but we are having some great conversations over it. 



I'm not sure about therapeutic but I am certainly enjoying it more than I thought I would. I think I need new pens/ pencils. Also a steadier hand and a bit more imagination in my use of colours. Kid thinks he is a famous artist - no crisis of confidence there. I need patience. I guess that's a lesson I am likely to learn page by page.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

December Pie

Last day of November. I'm tempted to take a month off and not write a smidge. No one is more surprised that I posted Every. Single. Day this month than me. I am a bit pleased that I kept to my self imposed 'write everyday' plan. But I am tired of coming up with things to write/ finding the words to write those things/ not missing a day - but pleased tired, if that makes sense.

Last year Kid saw an 'Elf on the Shelf' at his friends house and ever since been talking about us getting one. I frankly am not for it - can't imagine I would feel enthusiastic enough to move it every night and really do not understand the point of it. 

Also last year, he was sent an advent calendar by a friend in London. He opened all the doors in one sitting (5 minutes while I was heating dinner up) and proceeded to give all the chocolates behind the doors to our lovely (and sweet toothed) helper. 

This November kids in his class have been talking about Christmas celebrations and many of them have advent calendars and Elves for their shelves. So the hints and conversation have popped up a few times this month. And that got me thinking. 

For a kid that doesn't eat chocolate and a family that does not own an elf I decided to come up with an enticing alternative. And here it is:

It's our kindness-calendar meets book-on-a-shelf (meets clean-this-house):


And a bit like pie, here are the Ingredients: 
- 25 books all individually wrapped and waiting
- a basket and a little calendar 
- many shelves and cupboards to provide hiding places
- loads of books/ toys/ clothes that have been outgrown - and many that haven't 
- Small excited child

Method:
- Starting tomorrow, every morning before school he crosses off the date on the mini calendar, and picks a wrapped package. 
- While he is at school I have to hide the package. And set up two clues on bits of paper and leave them with his post school snack.
- When he gets home he uses the clues to find the package and unwraps a brand new book.
- We save the book to read before bedtime. And then we hunt for a toy or book he has outgrown and willing to part with. This is harder than it sounds. We have purged a lot of stuff this year as part of the move. He still has a few books and toys he has outgrown but loves. I also want him to give away a few things that he still uses/ loves. I think he is ready for this lesson of giving/ sharing/ parting with things/ seeing the joy of another child.
- Said toy or book goes in a box for us to carry to India and give someone we know who can use it.

It's December tomorrow - books and life lessons for the Kid; free pass from writing for me. Wish us luck.