Saturday, July 02, 2016

Another day, another Taipei

While yesterday was all about the Big Glossy building and a Big meal, today was about a little bit of history and culture. 


We began at the LongShan or LungShan (depending on who is speaking) temple. Founded in 1738 and dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy this beautiful building is not the original. It was rebuilt between 1919 and 1924 and during this time a number of Taoist deities were included in its grounds. A beautiful gate leads to a courtyard and then the 3 halls of prayer which surround their own courtyard. The beautiful jasmine incense filled air and praying people mingled with tourists like us. Kid greatly admired the Koi pond and artificial waterfall.


We left the temple and headed to the Heritage and Cultural Education Centre. Located just a few blocks away from the temple this little gem is a block of its own; interconnected streets showcasing the original two storey buildings of the Bo-pi-Liao neighbourhood.


The rooms showcased the evolution of this areas history starting from 200 years ago (Qing Dynasty), passing the Japanese colonial rule and then later the Nationalist era. Using the old buildings as a base the many rooms and courtyards showcased various transport modes for trade (rickshaws, barges), architecture (2 stories, deep shaded corridors to keep rain and sun at bay), education (from Confucian moral and ethical views to Japanese New education to the Nine Year compulsory national schools), leisure pursuits (the old style wooden games were a hoot to play - I enjoyed them as much as Kid), commerce (shophouses and various stores/ services), missionaries and the introduction of various types of medicine (apothecary, herb alley to modern medicine). It was a fascinating if hot few hours and we were grateful for the few rooms which were air conditioned. 




Then we headed to lunch at the highly recommended AAD @ Taipei Fish Market. After looking through the various (smelly) fish tanks we wandered through the very crowded supermarket and food stalls. We finally settled in the courtyard eating a variety of fishy and meaty delights skewered on a barbecue. This place is called Addiction Aquatic Development - a name I don't fully understand but think of as very cute. Like the name of our server which was 'Cute'. 






Sated, we headed back to the hotel while the clouds began to gather and thunder threatened.

Instead of the zoo and the MaoKong cable car it turned into indoor afternoon admiring the lightening and thunderstorm. We read, did puzzles, ate cake & ice cream, watched Wimbledon and had an epic pillow fight. Then we went for a swim and ended the day with dinner in the local arcade.


Thank you Taipei. It's been fun. 

Friday, July 01, 2016

Taipei 101 on Day 1....

It's turning into a busy summer. We had a few quick days in Singapore as soon as school closed and before a fun summer camp back in Hong Kong. Tthen a quick look at the calendar revealed a public holiday in Hong Kong today and so with some quick decision making we booked last minute flights and headed here to Taipei, capital of Taiwan.

I always imagine we can achieve more in a day than we actually can and so research where to visit and what to eat rigorously in the march up to the holiday. Making notes, prioritising etc. I was short on time with this one but found plenty of bloggers who have done this trip (with or without kids) and wealth of  other Internet resources to help compile a quick list. 

There is however an entirely separate matter - managing my expectations. Initially I always think we can knock numerous things off the list to see, do and eat. This is usually without considering that places must interest us all and food must appeal to us all. Of course once finally here I must also accommodate my own slow pace with the speed of V and enthusiasm of Kid and find a happy medium for us all. 

So today, Day 1 in Taipei, we ate a wonderful hotel breakfast and headed off to the tallest building in town, Taipei 101. The lines were short and post ticket purchase we were whisked up at great speed to the 89th level. The elevator once (2014-15) held the Guiness Book record for fastest elevator and while the record may have been beaten the ride was amazingly quick.


The Observation deck was similar to the one we had seen in the SkyTree in Tokyo. Big windows framing the city in every direction. 


I took this to show the curlicue design on the outside of the building up close. Taipei is dense but orderly in its planning and there is plenty of greenery around, hills and parks abound. 


We then went up to the 91st floor which has an outdoor observation deck. Boiling hot sun and 3 sides closed off meant there were almost no people on it beside us. Kid enjoyed his time at the binoculars while we sweated it out. I thought the framed windows a few floors lower provided a better unobstructed view in addition to providing blessed air conditioning. 

Then it was time to walk down a few floors to the engineering marvel that is a damper. Forgive me, for I am the daughter of an engineer (who would have loved looking at this with us). 


Sitting just 660 ft. from a major fault line, Taipei 101 is prone to earthquakes and fierce winds common in this area of the Asia-Pacific. To achieve stability and lessen the impact of violent motion, a gigantic tuned mass damper was designed. The damper consist of a steel sphere 18 feet across and weighing 728 ton, suspended from the 92nd to the 87th floor. Acting like a giant pendulum, the massive steel ball sways to counteract the building’s movement caused by strong gusts of wind. Kid and I both thought it looked like a giant beehive! We did marvel at its ingenuity and sheer size though. 


Then we took the neat and clean MRT 4 stops to Dongmen and walked briskly to our lunch destination. It was always the plan to visit and pay homage to the original  Din Tai Fung. A pilgrimage if you like. And so we waited patiently with the masses for 30 minutes before we were seated on the 3rd level of this very narrow dining epic. 


Steaming baskets of delectable xiaolongbao (soup filled dumplings) and Sui Mai alongside their unique egg fried rice and signature hot and sour soup covered our table. Kid was in food heaven as were we! It all tastes better her than any of the others - and that's probably not true but hunger and excitement certainly made it feel so! 

Then back to the hotel for a bit of down time. V went off to have a massage while Kid and I attempted a nap. We were foiled by all manner of sticking activities in a Lego Star Wars book. 


When it grew cooler we decided to head out again, this time to stretch our legs and give Kid a chance for a runaround. Daan park in the middle of the city is a beautiful manicured green space with something for everyone. Trees, grass and flowerbeds, walking paths, inline skating rink, sandpit, climbing frames and swings. Enjoyed the hubbub of Taiwanese kids and parents immensely!


And then, this:


Giant rain clouds, a couple of flashes of lightening and thunder and we found ourselves back in a taxi and headed to dinner. 


At the suggestion of someone from V's work we came to a small restaurant which serves variations on beef noodle soup. The one above was our choice; melt in the mouth beef, perfect al dente noodles, all in a peppery broth garnished with scallions. A fitting end to our day. 

Tomorrow I pick a few more (but not too many) places to see and eat at. Tomorrows gonna be a good good day. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How Monday became the new Sunday

In our nearly 3 years in Singapore I got into the habit of going for a movie every Sunday evening. It was a good ritual to end the week and meant I kept on top of the goings on in Holly/ Bollywood. It started with the time V had long work hours and I was home with a small child all week, every week. Sunday evening was when I'd leave them to it and have a few hours of eacapism into the Screen.

Toward the end of our stay in Singapore the movie watching rate dropped and I was watching every 3 out of 4 Sunday's. I put this down to the pressure of the impending move and vowed to get back to it with gusto once here in HK.

HK is a whole different ballgame though. I live on the Southside and there is not a single movie theatre on the entire south of the Island. I'd have to go north via shuttle/ bus/ taxi to find a decent cinema hall. Even when I do this is I am at least half an hour away. In addition the few apps that show the movie schedules weren't great. Also the whole settling in to new city meant a lot of weekend activities to help settle and meet new people. So needless to say the first few months were movie light. 

Subsequently though I found myself watching stuff on a plane journey and resolving to get back into it. I was missing too much! 

During a conversation with someone about how hectic the weekends are she was telling me how she 'celebrates' Sunday on a Monday by vegetating in the house once everyone has left for work/ school. It sounded like an appealing idea and that very Monday I decided that I too would lounge around on a Monday morning, admiring the view, reading and nibbling on chips in front of the TV, instead of getting into errands and chores. 

By the second Monday I figured out that this wasn't for me. I needed to do something to celebrate my 'Monday is the new Sunday' existence and so I decided to look up the movie schedule and hit a theatre. Et voila, Monday is my new Sunday. I now pick one of three equidistant cinemas and an early-ish show and watch a movie in peace every Monday. 

The only grouse is the lack of any Hindi movies on HK island. Surprising considering how many Indians seem to be in this country! All the Hindi movie screenings seem to be at awkward times of night and in Kowloon. Got my quick fix by watching 2 in a row when in Singapore 2 weeks ago: Te3n and Dhanak. I like the make believe world of movies: where their problems are not my problems and I can be a mere spectator. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Steam

I'm feeling like a pressure cooker today. And urgently needing to vent else I might explode. Luckily none of the people mentioned below know of or read this blog....

Things that are currently annoying me:
1. People with more than one child who hold both the holier-than-thou stance and the 'I have too much on my plate; it's much harder to coordinate with two/ three' stance. No shit. Not your business that I have 1. Frankly don't care if you have 6. 
2. Misspoken words: I've been accused of this recently in regard to holiday plans and its led to an all out fight from which yours truly quickly has now clammed up and retreated. I know I am right but shouting it louder won't get me the result I want. Turns out I don't have to be an idiot just because everyone else is. I'm all zen. 
3. Stupid swimming pool rules which say there must be 2 lifeguards by the pool at all times. This means no early morning or late evening swims - too costly apparently - and its too hot the rest of the time. This is my way of letting of steam - 50 lengths - and as I don't have it these days I have this blog to shout at. Not sure what the lifeguards will be saving me from anyway - they are too busy looking at their phones. 
4. Predominantly white women's clubs - or rather the assumption that if we are of Indian descent we possibly couldn't be any fun socially. I swear, the amount of time I have invested in friendships and relationships is turning out to be so not worth it. Watching as people I thought were friends go out to lunches and the like in big groups but exclude me is painful. This has been a problem for a few months now. Luckily I moved past it and stuck to my small group of pals (which in itself needs a lot of effort) till this week I was invited to coffee by one lady who proceeded to tell me that normally she would have invited x y and z but since they have left for the summer she is lonely (and the unspoken assumption is that she invited me only because I am still here). I wish I could say I am imagining all this being slighted but no it's all too real. 
5. Demanding quality: I've seen this happen recently. A product and service being paid for and a crap job being done with it and no one saying anything because it's a pal that did it. People not taking responsibility and blaming me/ us for things not working. Ruining friendships is what going into business with or relying on a friend has done. And in both cases my reaction has been disproportionate to the situation. Like V says I have to think of these things as monetary transactions and not get emotionally bound within them. 

Maybe it's me. It probably is. But frankly I don't give a damn. Also now that I'm a curmudgeonly 40 I don't think there is much scope for change. 

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.