Monday, December 17, 2012

I Want More Sausages!

Madoc was sleeping in our bed last night.  Tossing and turning.  Kicking us in the head.  Whacking us with her arm.  And then she started saying, "I want more sausages!  I want more sausages!"

Hubs, fortunately had this under control - I heard him tell her gently, "okay, Madoc, you can have more sausages."

She quieted down immediately and slept very soundly for the rest of the night.

Loving This Collection of Collages

Courtesy of Nitty Gritty Images!

Christmas Tree Shopping

Photo: Its beginning to smell a lot like Christmas!

Girls Making Ornaments

Photo: Salt dough ornaments

First Santa Visit


Sunday Morning Bliss

Photo: Sunday morning bliss.

Our new security system, courtesy of Madoc

Photo: Our new security system, courtesy of Madoc security.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kota Kinabalu

We just returned from a lovely holiday in Kota Kinabalu.  While it accomplished our goal (to find a place to relax, with sun, fresh air, pools, fun for girls with a dash of eco-tourism), I can't exactly recommend it.  I found the mosquitoes, sand flies, and the fact the girls couldn't actually go in the ocean (due to stinging jellyfish) troublesome.

After I found out about the jellyfish, I asked the hotel staff if there was anywhere I could take the girls to see the fish (I had heard the scuba and snorkeling was supposed to be amazing - one reason I picked Kota Kinabalu) and she said "the fish market."  Not exactly the answer I wanted to hear.

So anyway, there are two Shangri-Las - one in Sabah Borneo (where we stayed) and one in town (Kota Kinabalu).  The Shang where we stayed was beautiful, the people were lovely, but it was in the middle of nowhere - 45 minutes from the airport (making Mads car sick).  The bonus is that it backs up onto a Nature Reserve and Orangutan rehabilitation center - which was the main draw for us.

I have to say that I was struck by how groomed the land was on the way out of town, perhaps because seeing trash by the side of the road in Hong Kong is common.   I'm not sure why, but I was expecting it to look like Bali, when it didn't at all.  I must also say there are a ton of things to see/do in Kota Kinabalu, and that we chose not to do them for various reasons.  For example, there was a steam train that went back into the mountains and stopped in a craft village.  We elected not to do it because it was USD300 for the trip, and quite frankly Hubs and I are utterly burned out on local craft markets and handicraft villages.  There are loads of little islands you can go out to - but not being able to get into the ocean made that idea less attractive.  Plus it was very, very hot and the sun was very, very strong.  We had to keep the girls in the shade from 11am - 3 pm every day to keep them from burning to a crisp.

As our return flight to Hong Kong departed quite late (8:50 p.m.), we decided to spend the last day at the Shang in Kota Kinabalu as it would give the girls a change of scene (with water slides, lounge chairs, pool-side dining, kids club) and we would be able to drop our bags with the concierge.  That way we could shower-up at the end of the day and take a quick ride to the airport - also we could compare the two hotels for ourselves.  This turned out to be a great idea, and I would highly recommend it to people staying at the Rasa Ria.

En route to Rasa Ria from the airport, we passed the floating temple, which was lovely ...I would have liked to explore a little but girls were fussy...

Upon arrival at the Rasa Ria, we received cold towels and a gorgeous peach tea ... mmmm....

The view from reception...

Happy girls...

After a day of sun and fun, we signed Chase up to be a ranger for the day.  In order to do this, she needed long pants and long shirts (lucky I packed some) and she had to have a health check from the hotel doctor (temp, throat check, breathing check), as one of her duties was to cut up the food for the Orangutans   She was also responsible for feeding the ducks and goats.  When asked how it went, she said, "it was kinda boring."  I was really hoping for a more enthusiastic response, like "wow, it was great!" or "I want to be a ranger."  Oh well, she did look cute!

So off she went, while we waited for the informational video to start.  The idea was that we would all meet her up at the platform where they feed Orangutans  We had no idea how many mosquitoes there would be.  Swarms and swarms.  We had three different kinds of bug spray on and we were eaten up.

On our way up to the monkeys, we saw a pit viper (light green with dark green stripes) with two hatchlings, who was an arm's length away.  I really don't like snakes, and I really don't like pit vipers.

The Orangutans were awesome! It was a short hike uphill.  Unfortunately I had to carry Madoc the entire way, so I was in a full sweat by the time we got to the platform.

And then it was back to the kids club to give the girls a way to cool off.  I was impressed with the staff and the activities at this kids club.  I must say the facilities didn't seem quite so bright and cheerful when we were there - it seemed kind of dark and a little musty, but the photo came out quite nicely.  At any rate, Chase loved it.  She would ask to go back and we were delighted to have it as an option - plus it was free except a couple activities (always a bonus).


There was a lovely little goat habitat right next to the kids club and the girls loved the goats.  I wanted a goat by the time we left.

And one of the best parts about this trip, was that due to the kids club, Hubs and I spent a couple hours everyday with each other, just the two of us, hangin' out.  It was really so wonderful.

Here are the pictures of the Orangutans by Chase and Madoc.

And then I let them buy a little stuffed Orangutan as a keepsake.  Little did I know they would be given one later by the kids club and then would actually win more later.  So we ended up with six of them.  Four of them had bikinis on.  Weird.

On the last night, Chase really, really wanted to participate in the "lighting ceremony" at the hotel.  And so we  left her to it, and when we arrived she was all dressed up.  And then the kids all proceeded to a small platform where they basically stood there, for about 10 minutes.  While a guy came out first with a knife and did a weird dance (I admit, I wanted to pull her off the stage and run for shelter).  And then the same guy came out with a fire stick and waved it around (again, a little scary for small kids and nervous parents).

And the next day we were off to the Shang in Kota Kinabalu.  Also lovely, but much smaller.  Way more pools, shade and water slides - along with a crazy kids water play area - it was kind of a mini water park.  We opened a tab there and hung out all day moving from pool to pool.  Definitely the better hotel of the two for families with kids, as it had a very big, very shallow pool area with shade cover.  I had also heard the kids club was amazing - maybe it was just the day we were there, but there was very little going on and it seemed really empty with not much to do except watch TV (they had about 5 flat screens all lined up).  They also had a good baby section with big plastic toys, but for Chase and Mads they didn't seem to have much to do.  Hubs and I agreed we liked Rasa Ria better, but that in the future, we would actively look for places in the future where the kids can go into the ocean.

And just before it was time to go, the sky grew dark and a few drops of rain fell, and then we saw this...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Chase had a really hard time deciding what to be for Halloween this year.  After much (days and days) deliberation, she decided to be a witch.  Madoc, on the other hand, knew at the beginning of this month, that she would be Bat Girl.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Funny Halloween story.

We have a lovely Chinese neighbor, who asked me "so how does Halloween work?"

I told her how kids go from door to door.  They knock; they ask for candy.  She looked worried.  She said, "but my house is so small, I don't think I can fit so many people in my house?"  So I explained they don't actually come in and hang out, they only stay long enough to grab a handful of candy.  She was relieved.


Madoc was busy in the playroom this morning.  When she emerged, she had something for our cat, Dagney.  Here it is.  Funny enough, Dagney was really impressed and couldn't stop looking at it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Proud Mum

I'm so proud of you, Chase!  Excellent!  

And what I am most proud of, is not that you can actually ride a bike, it's that you didn't get frustrated and you kept trying until you got it.  Really good job, my girl!  Really good job.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A quick note about bike riding

Chase learned to ride her bike yesterday.  It was an amazing day.  Not just because she learned to ride her bike, but because she was taught by her father, and there were no tears, no scrapes and so many smiles.

I learn more about Chase every day.  She is a perfectionist.  She expects to get everything right the first time.  She gets frustrated easily.  She gets discouraged and shuts down quickly.  And so while she is incredibly clever, and learns quickly, we have to tell her time and again that her best effort counts more than her (immediate) success.

And so that is why yesterday was such an important day, and why I am so very proud of her.  Bike riding is not easy.  But she did not cry.  She did not shut down.  She did not get discouraged.  She stayed focused and gave it her best effort.  And her hard work paid off.

And I'm proud of Hubs, too, for keeping his cool and making it fun.

My little astronauts

A custom rocket, back by popular demand.  Amazing to watch them play.  Chase made a very complex map with all kinds of adventures on it and they've packed their rocket to make sure they have enough things (like lassos) to help them fight aliens.  They play so very well together.

Photo: My little astronauts

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Odds & Ends

Nothing gets my creative juices flowing like really bad air pollution.  With my girls spending most of their time inside these days, I've had to come up with lots of ideas to keep them busy.

Green spaghetti, it turns out, is really fun for about 5 minutes.  I also learned that it doesn't keep overnight.

Photo: Made spooooky noodles and hid critters inside.  Crappy air = get creative about keeping Madoc entertained inside.  Play dough and baked cotton puffs also on the schedule for this afternoon.

We also baked cotton balls covered in flour and food color. Great fun!

Photo: Keeping Madoc home due to high air pollution. So we are making jello stars, pretzels and baking cotton puffs, which will smashed with hammer.

Shaving cream and cotton wool was also a hit.

Photo: Shaving cream and cotton wool.  Oooooh fun times.PhotoPhoto: More fun. Now in the tub.

We tried to make bouncy balls.  Not exactly a success.

Photo: Home made bouncy balls.  Nailed it.  (Not)

I've also started working with the girls on their manners.

Photo: Kicking off manners and responsibility for kids.  Btw, "no smacking" refers to chase smacking her food in her mouth.

Chase has become an incredible artist.

Photo: Latest

And Madoc is, too!  Here is her self-portrait.

Photo: We have a visitor.  Yes, it is Madoc's self portrait.

Life is good!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Long time, no post

Quite a lot has happened since I last wrote.

Chase started a new school.  She had some growing (shrinking) pains at first but seems to have settled in nicely.  She tells me she has a lot of friends, but for some reason I always hear about the kids that aren't nice.  She is swimming once-a-week there, and taking Mandarin.  She takes a taxi to and from school with two other girls, it still makes me very uncomfortable, but the other option is to be in the car for 3 hours every day.

Madoc is at her same little school, which is lovely and fun and supportive.  We have decided to hold her back a year, because she was born in December, which makes her the absolute youngest in the class.  And as she is also the youngest at home, if we don't hold her back she will never have a chance to lead, whereas if we do, she will be the oldest, know the most and have a chance to help, guide and lead younger children.  She will also get more out the curriculum.

Hubs is still happy at work.  We have our fingers crossed for another relocation in the next 6-months.  The air pollution here is absolutely the worst part of living here and downright depressing after almost 3 years.

Funny little conversation between Madoc and Chase yesterday.

Chase - "Don't tell Madoc which garden I'm going to tomorrow.  Madoc, you guess."
Madoc - "um, Kadoori Farms?"
Chase - "no"
Madoc - "um, school Garden?"
Chase - "no"
Madoc - "um, kindergarten?"

Funny girls!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


The Balinese have a traditional herbal (medicinal) drink called Jamu.  It's supposed to slim the waist, make women more voluptuous, smell less, be good for your stomach, and basically cure every ailment.

So I asked the Bali Intercontinental for their recipe, which they gave me (thank you!).  But I was determined to get a real Jamu recipe off the Internet.  Not so easy.  Most involve plants and herbs that I can't get -- like Chinese Keys (which are supposed to be used for Chinese medicine) and Betel leaves -- the guys at the Chinese medicine shop even gave me a crazy look when I tried to explain what I needed.  I showed them pictures and they were still scratching their heads.

So I gave the Intercontinental recipe a go... following is a slightly modified version for family and friends (so that I don't get in trouble).  I haven't actually used the measurements exactly, so start with one cup of OJ and add in a little of each to give you a general idea of how it will taste and then give it a real go and adjust according to your personal taste.  It's glorious and makes you smile.  Best after a long meditation first thing in the morning.

1 ltr Orange Juice
10 gr Cinnamon Powder
8 gr Clove Powder
5 ml/ 2 dessert spoon Lime Juice
10 ml/ 2-3 dessert spoon Honey
8 gr/ 8 pcs Mint Leaves
18 gr Fresh Ginger or Galganal
Pinch of Tumeric
Blend all of the above ingredients and then strain.
Ready to drink.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


This was the first time our family traveled South of the equator.  We were expecting Bali to be hot.  Or humid.  But it was a breezy 87 degrees and absolutely gorgeous.  At one point we asked our driver if it ever got hot, and he said yes.  And we asked when.  And he said he couldn't remember.

We decided up front that this vacation would be different; that we would actually stay put and not run from one place to another.  I had heard the roads to Ubud were curvy and as Madoc gets car sick just driving to the airport on an interstate, the idea of puke in my lap, while on holiday, just didn't motivate me to travel the hour and a half there (despite the fact there was a burial ceremony where they were burning a giant paper cow).  No, the idea of this holiday was to actually relax.  And we did.  Completely.  In fact, I'm not sure we have ever been so relaxed in our whole lives.

This resort offered an absolutely perfect family get-away, but I must add that this resort is definitely for families that don't need or rely heavily on a kids club.  The club was small, had an open (shallow) swimming pool and an old jungle gym. And it was a ghost town.  We chose not to use it.  Why? Because all the kids were out on the beach, hanging out with their parents, running in the grass.  It was truly a family-style vacation.

The first morning, we were delighted to find the hotel left out giant bowls of fish food so the girls could feed the fish every morning.  

We stayed at the Bali Intercontinental and it was so gorgeous.  
The grounds were just beautiful with Balinese statues everywhere.
Chase ran through the gardens singing "this is the happiest day of my life."
Madoc said repeatedly "I love this country.  I really love this country."

We water-colored every day on the beach.

The girls would run to and from the frog water faucets to wash their feet when they came off the beach.

The hotel had a great beach.  It was quite long, and shallow for quite a ways, so the girls could easily look for shells and play in the ocean easily.  The waves grew larger in the afternoons and the adults spent a lot of time body surfing.

This guy cracked me up.

More painting....

Swimming at the pool.

What a fabulous shade cover...

We were outside every day.  All day long.  The air was fresh.  There were no bugs.  The girls could run through the grass barefoot without worry of snakes or dog dirt.  It was heavenly.

This little boy was super cute and his dad didn't seem to mind being his prop.

A very happy Chase.

A very happy mum with a very bummed Madoc who wanted to actually grow fins and stay in the ocean.  Pulling her out was always hard to do!

Okay, so we did get off the resort.  We took an afternoon and visited one of Bali's oldest temples, Uluwatu, which is perched on the edge of a cliff about 90 meters above the ocean.  It's just over Hubs' shoulder below.  I had heard temples were hard with kids due to all the stairs, but this one was easy.  And there were monkeys, which Hubs and I dislike because they are mean and steal things, but the girls were of course, fascinated by them.

My gorgeous girls ...

We did have to do some walking.  And for the first time it did seem a little hot.  But it was worth it.  Here we are perched on the edge of the cliff with no guardrail.  Eeek.

And here is one of the "friendly" monkeys. 

And here's another gang, of not-so-friendly monkeys.

Our guide taught Chase how to use his slingshot (to keep the monkeys away).

And then it was back to the hotel for more rest and relaxation.

Before a "Spirit of Bali" dinner.  Complete with a buffet of Balinese food and dancing.

The girls were given fans.  Hubs was given a Balinese head wrapper.

Mads liked the Balinese desserts...

The dancing started off innocently enough....

But then it got scary...

And scarier ...

And scarier... The rest was too scary so I had my hands over the girls' eyes.
I would not recommend this for young children.

Oh but wait.  At the very end the kids were invited up to dance.

And of course they loved it.

Chase ran back up after all the kids had left for one more photo.

But I have to say I was most impressed by this fruit carving.  The face is a watermelon. The rest is papaya, watermelon and pineapple.  How cool!

The next day was more of sun and sand.  For our last dinner we took the girls out to another restaurant.

Madoc ordered passion fruit sorbet for dessert.  Yummy.

And the sun set...

And the next day we did it all again, but had to pack up our things just after lunch and head back to Hong Kong.  But before we did, we built one last sandcastle.