Sunday, December 19, 2010

Decisions, decisions...

I have my first ever visitors (non-work related) coming over Christmas for almost two full weeks.  What, oh what, will we do??  I want to be a good host and have been thinking of how we will occupy ourselves.  Generally speaking, I am not known as the most decisive person.  So I have been creating a list of various activities and places to eat (since food is one of the major things to experience in Singapore).  Now, I know my visitors, and they are even more indecisive than me.  Well, I guess it's not that we're indecisive but rather we don't usually have strong opinions and can go with the flow.

Well that times three may mean two weeks without much accomplished.  We need someone to start the flow after all!  I figured I needed to be more proactive with my lists.

Result: Singapore Wheel-O-Fun! and Circle of Food

At least now we can have some fun with it and I'll have my list ready for any subsequent visitors who brave the crossing of the Pacific.

I hope to have many fun stories to share from our adventures!  Tuesday at midnight the fun begins :).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Tis the Season (but which season?)

It's suppose to be Christmas time but it still doesn't feel like it.  It is light out at 5:30pm.  I have to run my air conditioning at night.  The only ice I have is quickly melting in my drink. I am still shaving my legs because it is not "pants-only" weather (okay - sorry, probably too much info there).  And my decorations are sorely lacking....thanks to the two stockings from last year's Christmas, I do have something up this year though :).  Fireplace, air conditioner, it's all the same, right?




On top of all this, I've also had a new spring-time visitor.

*Disclaimer:  I know I am messy, but please note that this is a ledge off the wall of my building and not part of my laundry area or apartment.  Looks like someone else's laundry must have fallen down there and a new tenant made themselves right at home.  I was ready to kick the bird out when I found it, until the two eggs appeared.  Guess I'm stuck with mama pigeon for now.

Egg discovery a couple days ago.



Mama bird heading out for a few seconds.

One down, one to go. No crazy chirping yet.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving readers!  I hope this finds you comfortable at home with family and friends with wonderful aromas throughout the house.  Then, gorge yourselves and take a well deserved nap :).  Leave those dishes for later....

Or, follow my lead and eat out on Thanksgiving!  I wouldn't really recommend this unless you're outside the U.S.  I mean why wouldn't you want home cooked food??

My Thanksgiving was rescued by a fellow American, arrived only a few weeks ago.  She arranged dinner for 10 of us expats to have Thanksgiving buffet at a very nice, well known hotel here in Singapore.  While it was named Thanksgiving and there was turkey....we can only conclude that no Americans were consulted :).

Missing: mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, can-molded cranberry sauce (although real, warm cranberry sauce was there) and green bean casserole (or any casserole for that matter).  The only potatoes were German potato salad...not screaming Thanksgiving.

However, present was: assorted cheeses and breads, sushi bar, oysters, hot fudge (ice cream too), black pepper crab, nutmeg pumpkin soup, smoked salmon, cinnamon squash, crème brûlée and more!


Sorry - was caught up in great conversation and forgot to get pics.  Enjoy the long weekend!!  

Friday, November 19, 2010

My favorite Bali

So I've only been there twice, but man if you are looking for a great get-away, Bali is it.  I will have to visit again during my stay here.  It has been my only vacation of pure pool-side laying out, reading and sleeping.  I know I've been lazy lately and not keeping up with posts - but here's some pics from my October vacation (I had to put in a couple of the cows from home....those are not in Bali :)!)

The black one in back - yeah that will be me basking in the sun in a couple days.

Hmmm....now how do I get out??
The low tide was at 10am, so it was weird in the morning to see the water recede.

The Bali Dragon ;)

My pool-side club sandwich and pineapple juice.

Yes, I was actually up at 5am one day to watch the sun come up and water run out.  Believe it!

Almost stepped on this bad boy while wading out into the water.

Locals would go out fishing or crab hunting or something.  
I think you could walk all the way out to the reef and only be chest deep.

View of one of the hotel buildings.  Bali Hyatt - very nice.

Lounges in the gardens and in towards the pool.  I quickly learned that the garden ones were under trees with birds.  Almost pooped on....returned to the pool quickly.

WHOA! See the giant lizard that snuck by me??

More snail friends.  No rain, so he was all curled up.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Surprise!!

I had a fun last couple of weeks - I was on vacation!  My original vacation plans to India and Thailand fell through about a week before hand, so I decided to go to the Maldives.  Stranded in the middle of the ocean south of India and West of Singapore - each island is its own resort.  Awesome right??




Wouldn't you guess though....it's uber-expensive.

I searched for an affordable hotel but then gave up, maybe a splurge for the big 3-0??.  Next was Thailand or another beach nearby - but monsoon season had the weather forecasts calling for stormy skies...boo. 

By two weeks ago Sunday I'd decided to go home, but didn't tell anyone.  This would be a fun surprise ;).  Monday morning I bought my ticket for Tuesday and arranged for the rental car.  I avoided talking to Mom so I wouldn't give it away.  By Tuesday 2pm I had landed at O'Hare.

I headed out to the farm, planning to have my Dad call my Mom at work and surprise her at dinner out.  He wasn't home (not surprising).  Went to Grandma's....no answer there.  I mean c'mon people, it's no fun surprising if you're not there!!  :) 

Well Grandma was there, but she didn't have her hearing aid in and was in the back room with the TV up loud.  So I snuck in, hoping I wouldn't give her a heart attack from a home invader.  I didn't and she said, "Oh, hi" like it was normal I should be there.  Then I think it dawned on her :).  Surprise #1, success.

Grandma and I are catching up and I find out Mom is getting her hair done in the next town over....should we surprise her? Yes! Grandma leads the way and we walk in on Mom getting a perm - staring at the wall perpendicular to the doorway.  I think she'll see me, but it's not until I said something that she heard my voice, popped around, jumped out of the chair to come over and hug me - tears streaming down her cheeks of course.  Mom's a crier.  Surprise #2, success.

We wait for her hair to be finished and then head home, hoping Dad's back by now.  Lights are on, he's on the phone.  I think he went a little speechless when I popped around the corner, but couldn't tell because he was just finishing and hanging up.  Definitely was surprised though.  Surprise #3, success.

My Aunt and Uncle from IN happened to be coming to town Wednesday, Mom took off work and we spent the day together and Dad joined for dinner.  It was a wonderful day spent with family.  Too bad sister and brother are so far away (SC and TX) - would have loved to see them on this trip!

Spent Thursday morning loading up at the outlet mall, then to Peoria for the evening with friends.  Friday was a wonderful Panera breakfast with Shaun - oh how I miss bagels!! (or the sweet goodness known as bagels - cinnamon crunch and pink ribbon)  Lunch and afternoon was with work colleagues.  Back for dinner and party at the Party House - tons of great food by Shaun & Mandi.  Fun evening of karaoke! :) 

Saturday I got to visit a cute little munchkin after family pics, then Shaun and I shopped some more (lots of things to buy!).  Headed back home Sunday evening - got lost on the back roads north of Princeton...duh!  Took an extra 45 minutes, but made it in time for beef tenderloin that was delicious.  Sunday was church and an appreciation dinner for Pastor's service - 30 years I think.  Then to see two more cutie munchkins.

By Monday morning, it was time to pack up and head to the airport.  Had a quick detour to Target on my way there.  All that shopping wouldn't fit in the bags I brought with me, even after leaving some clothes for goodwill with my parents.  Flight was delayed two hours, but that meant my connection in Tokyo was literally off one plane and right onto the next, no wait.  Made it home and to my own bed.

Sorry - no fun pics this trip.  But when I woke up, immediate plan was to figure out what beach to spend the rest of my vacation on.  Beach side pics to follow on the next post....

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Time to Play Dress-up

This Friday I attended our annual work event and the theme was 'Bling on the Glam!' and my group at work decided to go as stars and paparazzi.  About 10 or so famous people were picked and matched up with team members.  I was first assigned Marilyn Monroe, but there were issues with finding the white dress and a good blond wig (there would be no air vent).  A second option which I thought was probably going to be easier would be Katy Perry - no particular iconic look (well now we've got the Elmo t-shirt but that wasn't glam) so just a short, low cut dress with bright colors and a little funky. 

How do you think it turned out?? Who's who?? ;) 


Granted, I was missing the low cut, cleavage-baring part of the dress and the rest of Katy's fabulous body, but the headshot looks pretty darn good!!  Kudos to our hairstylist and make-up artist (by the way, that's a wig I'm wearing). 

It was a fun evening and I was very proud of our group - we all looked wonderful and very glamorous!  Here's some pics from the evening.  I hope to get a better group pic next week.  My new look was growing on me throughout the night....maybe it's time to change up the hair-do a bit??

Getting ready (make-up lady is in the back and hair guy is standing)

 


















Me & my co-worker

Michael, Korean Elvis and a famous Asian with a fro that I don't know :)


Kiss entourage with the two Lady Gagas

Audrey Hepburn & Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie)

Lady Gaga & Audrey

 Our group! We should have won best-dress but lost to a group of pirates.  Yes, pirates!?!  What a gyp.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Warm Up Midwest!

In Singapore, I have lost all reality as it relates to the four seasons of the year.  I see everyone's facebook posts about the weather getting colder.  I forgot it was that time of year already.  I mean it's almost Halloween!?  What's up with that?  I still have sunny skies and 90+ degree afternoons.  Here is the thermometer from my kitchen - pretty much looks like this every day.  There is no air conditioning in my kitchen, but I leave the door open, so it receives some of the air con from the rest of the apartment.  Although it also has a door to the outside area where my washer/dryer are with a huge crack at the bottom.


I've also forgotten about humidity.  Notice the level in my kitchen - imagine what it feels like outside.  Yes, a hot August day in Illinois with no breeze.  But even after it rains, the humidity is still there.  It was not until about a month ago that I realized I was acclimating so well to my new surroundings.  I travelled for work, stepped out of the hotel in the morning and had a nice, fresh, cool breeze hit my face.  What is that ?!  There was no humidity.  It was so refreshing and I realized then and there that I had actually forgotten what no humidity feels like. 

I'll try not to rub it in 3 weeks into January when everyone is sick and tired of the snow and cold. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

rrrrrRRRRRRrrrrrr

I had my first racing experience tonight and boy was it LOUD! :)  I got a late start, but that turned out to be a good thing.  I didn't wear quite the right shoes, ended up walking quite a bit and under-estimated the noise from the cars.  I did find my margarita stand :).  I didn't get super good pics, but here are a couple.




Tomorrow I will be wearing better shoes; take my better camera; buy ear plugs; wear suncreen; take something to read; bring a better bag/purse; take some wet naps. 

Entertainment tomorrow will include Daughtry, Ojos de Brujo (maybe my new favorite spanish band) and Adam Lambert.

video
video

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Moon-what? Mooncakes!

I love cake - and the moon is nice too.  So how could I not love mooncakes? I'm not sure of the significance or history around mooncakes - you'll have to wikipedia-it yourself.  What I do know is that they come out this time of year for Autumn Festival. 

In the shopping centers there are lots of temporary stands set-up in the middle of the mall with various vendors selling mooncakes.  Last year I didn't try any.  The lines were too long, I had no idea what I was buying and I had heard they were expensive.

This year I got a mini-mooncake at work, someone brought in a bunch.  And, I got the one pictured above from someone else at work.  I have gotten a lot of little gifts while working here in Singapore.  Everyone seems to like to give them out at any occasion - I'm leaving work, I had a baby, or just because.





There are all different sorts.  The one above of course is chocoloate (chocolate almond butterscotch).  The mini one I had at work was....I'm not sure, but it was white with a nuttish center.  It was okay - not my favorite flavor.  And the center was cremier - like a ball of creamy white chocolate, rather than the one above.  However, I think these are the western flavors :).  In my box above came a listing of other varieties.  Here are some:
-Pure Lotus Single Yolk (yeah, I think they might mean actual egg yolk)
-Red Bean
-Green Tea
-Pandan Lotus (pandan is like a green bread from what I can figure)
-Pandan Pumpkin
-No Sugar Added White Lotus
-Grand Ruby

For my nutrition friends out there - the ingredients are lotus seeds, sugar, refined vegetable oil, maltose, wheat flour and melon kernel seeds (plus all the chocolate & butterscotch).  It is about 180 grams, think the diameter of a donut, but densely packed filling about an inch or so high (giant cupcake stump??).  It is meant to provide 8 pieces/servings.  Here's some nutrition info per serving (whole).
-calories 97kcal (776 kcal) - not sure if kcal is same as calories
-fat 4.5g (36g)
-carbs 12.3g (98.4g) - assume this is sugar
-protein 1.4g (11.2g)
-fiber 1.1g (8.8g)

I almost forgot - these are like $10 a piece!  Well, I finally went looking over the weekend and the ones of equivalent size that I saw started at $8 - and they weren't the fun chocolate flavors either.  The high end ones, go for like $88 for a box of 4 - or maybe more than that. 

While they don't taste too bad, I'll stick with my $1.20 donuts for my sugar fix :).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another New Toy

Saturday was a wonderful day!  I caught up on some much needed sleep and when I awoke, the mail fairy left me a present.  My new Kindle!!  It was in a small little box with only a power cord, which nicely doubles as USB and wall plug-in.  It had some plastic protector sheets on the front and back and I figured the message on them was pre-printed to provide a "fake" screen.  Nope! The instructions for installation were on the screen as soon as I took it out to plug it in.  The instruction manual immediately popped up and took me through the quick start guide.  I was pretty impressed with the easy set up. And it only took an hour or two for the initial charge.  Which was perfect to allow me to take it for spin out by the pool in the afternoon.

...charging up.....

I sprung for the handy cover.  It's an orange leather with dark grey felt on the inside.  There are hooks in the crease to keep the Kindle in place and they power a light that pops out of the back upper right corner.  You need it to read in the dark.  The Kindle uses a different kind of screen/ink than a normal computer/phone with no backlight. So, you can read it in the sunshine with no glare.  But, you can't read it in the dark without a light.  The cover has an elastic band to keep it in place.  It's perfect, like a little notebook or journal.  My work purse is a little small, so I'm in the market for a new one now. 

I had already accumulated a few books on my wish list knowing that the Kindle was coming.  First up is a $0.99-er that I found in the spanish section, El secreto del tio Oscar.  I like to read a spanish book every now and then to try and keep my language skills up to date.  The other few include Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation; Brain Candy: Science, Paradoxes, Puzzles, Logic and Illogic to Nourish Your Neurons; Generation Kill; and Wanderlust and Lipstick: For Women Travelling to India.

I have more on my list but decided to hold off on buying them for now.  I think this will keep me plenty occupied.  Quite a variety of topics, I know. 

So far, it is weird to get use to not having a paper copy with a cover and picture, but I'm slowly adjusting.  One thing I already love is that there are no pages! Out at the pool with a slight breeze - no worries about holding down fly-away pages.  And reading in bed at night, I don't have to flip side to side to read each page, there's only one :).  It's pretty light weight and easy to use.  I have really just used it to read and haven't tried some of the other features.  I did try to look up some spanish words, but the dictionary is english only. 

Books tend to be pretty expensive here in Singapore, however the Kindle version ones seem to be $10 or less.  That was my main reasoning in getting one since I've found myself reading a lot more.  It's working out great thus far! Looking forward to having it on vacation.

A final pic to demonstrate the true size (and show off my new manicure ;) ).



Thursday, September 2, 2010

Our One-Year Anniversary

The "our" I'm referring to is me and Singapore.  Yep, it quietly snuck by last week...1 year since I arrived in Singapore.  It has definitely gone by too quickly.  I am finding it is so true that if I don't plan, time will pass me by and I won't get anything done.  I'm in the Asia travel hub and I went to only Bali for my personal travel fun.  My travel report card is currently F-.  Hope to add some more destination(s) here in October. 

Still no visitors (hint, hint), but the tickets are booked for the family (Mom, sister, sister's bf, brother) to visit over Christmas.  My poor brother and sister - I think my mom is so excited she's driving them nuts about it.  But I'm SUPER excited too.  I can't wait for them to come!!  Hopefully we all survive almost 2 weeks of family bonding ;). 

Recently a couple things have made me realise just how much I've settled in here.
  • I just typed "realise" instead of "realize".  I'm using British English by habit now - well at least spelling with an 's' instead of 'z'. 
  • I was in India this week and walked from my hotel to work in beautiful, sunny, mild, breezy weather.  Not too hot.  I wasn't sweating after 2 minutes.  AND there was no humidity.  I think I had actually forgotten what no humidity felt like.
  • With the Olympics in town, I was reminded how nice and outgoing Americans are.  At two of the four events I attended, a random American spoke to strangers.  In Singapore, no one - and I mean no one - talks to strangers.  I've gotten use to it.  Then I have an American comment to me and a couple other randoms on what a nice day it is.  Of course none of us respond, because we don't talk to strangers.  Then I was debating on what drink to order and the kind teenager offered me his unsolicited thoughts.  I have forgotten how nice it can be to talk to strangers. (fyi - nonalcoholic drink)
  • I find myself naturally walking to the left, expecting cars to drive on the left, etc.  I don't even drive here!
So I am definitely getting settled in, but I don't know that I would ever call Singapore home.  It's a nice place to live for a few years :).  It has to be the easiest place to live if you're moving out of your home country.  Goal for year 2 - focus on incorporating more non-work activities :).  Very much looking forward to year 2 now that I have one under my belt and happy that I'm only a third of the way through and not half!

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

U-S-A

Okay, so I was probably a bit harsh on my last post about the American presence in Singapore :).  At the suggestion of friend, I visited the Team USA website to try and get the rest of the story.

The U.S. sent the maximum number of athletes possible.  They were restricted to 70 individuals who could qualify in their individual sports and one girls and one boys team for team events.  This does help explain to me why we aren't represented in some areas :).  There are even 6 from Illinois!! 

The Youth Olympics is suppose to be about more than just winning, so the lack of presence in the medal count shouldn't bother me (but I admit it does).  Maybe it's partly because China was the leader through yesterday with the US not even in the top 8 for total medal count.  I saw this on the news, haven't been able to find it listed anywhere else to get regular updates.  Apparently they're serious about it not being all about gold :). 

Tonight I watched the US women's volleyball team play Belgium and they went back and forth but finally won the match 3 games to 2.  It was very close.  The Belgium fans were loud and good.  The US fans weren't bad, but lost the battle :).  Myself included...I've never been much good as a cheerleader.  I can clap, but I don't really yell.  I caught the men's Cuba v. Argentina game beforehand.  Here are some pics of our ladies in warm-ups and play.  I tried to get some good action shots.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Americans....where are you??

We're wrapping up day 7 of the Olympics now and one question I am repeatedly asking myself is where are all the Americans?!? They don't seem to be in any of the gold/silver/bronze finishes but also don't seem to be anywhere else either.  Maybe I'm use to seeing only US coverage of US sports? I also don't know how you could be selected for the Youth Olympics or if you had to pay your own way. 

Either way, there are far less Americans than I expected.

I'm putting together some pictures from my attendance at the badminton, table tennis and volleyball events and hope to share those experiences shortly.

In the meantime, here are some interesting tid-bits from the past week.
  • The Iranian women's soccer took the field in full gear.  They were appropriately covered from head to toe.  It looked like they had something similar to swim caps for their hair.  I guess you'd have to in order to keep in place while running around.
  • I did see a U.S. athlete - he won silver in the men's triathlon.
  • Badminton is a serious sport.  One kid's racket broke in mid-swing.  The round part snapped right off and was bent.
  • In one of the women's taekwondo weight categories, we did have a U.S. representative.  She screamed with every kick and had a helmet that allowed her a pony tail to stick out the top. 
  • I found out more about the 3-on-3 basketball games.  They consist of two 5 minute halves or end with the first team to 34 points.  Must make for quick games!
  • There are all sorts of 'mixed' competitions - mixed swim medley - 2 boys, 2 girls; mixed triathlon - 2 boys, 2 girls, each from different countries!  Different, but interesting and helping to promote the good spirit of the games I guess.
  • Did you think the 2008 Chinese gymnasts were young??  You should have seen the Chinese "youth" gymnast.
  • The Youth Olympics allows competitors aged 14-18.  I think most competitors I've seen are 17-18. 

**UPDATE**
Sure enough - I type this and then the U.S. women win gold in the 400M and bronze in the long jump.  Must just be the more evenly distributed coverage :).  By the way...gold winner in the long jump was Lena from Germany :).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Opening Ceremonies

A while ago, I entered the "raffle" to be eligible for tickets to the opening ceremonies.  I don't get the sense that the YOG (Youth Olympic Games) are super popular here, so lucky for me, my ticket was drawn.  I bought the cheapest ticket there was.  Seating was first come, first serve. Gates open at 4pm, be in your seat by 7:30 for a 7:45pm start.  That was a long wait and it was raining at 2pm when I went to pick up my F1 tickets (!woohoo!).  I came prepared - ziploc bag for my camera, hat for sun and/or rain and my trusty raincoat.  I headed over to the stadium (The Float @ Marina Bay) which is floating on the water, no rain, very hot and humid.  I found a seat around 5:30 and was stinky, sweaty...but so was everyone else ;).  I'm in the upper right corner - far green seats behind the big light post.  For some reason, I couldn't get the picture any bigger.


At one point the clouds started rolling in, but thankfully no rain!  Everyone got big bags with goodies - bottle of water, program, light-up heart, light-up dove that can fly, lion bread, batteries for the toys, an YOG flag and Singaporean flag.  Everyone else seemed to also get thunder sticks, clappers, whatever you call the inflatable tubes that bang together for a boom.  I searched and searched, but mine must have gotten lost.  I was disappointed - those had lights in them too!  These were all props for the show.


Before the show started, apparently broadcast to 2 billion people world-wide, we had some instructors come out to help us learn a dance, when to use the light-ups, etc.  The practice didn't really pay off...at least from where I was sitting :).   At 20:10 (military time for 8:10pm), the ceremonies officially started with lots of fireworks. I had my new DSLR camera but have failed to really learn how to use it.  Thus, my pics are not as wonderful as some others I've found.  Enjoy a few professional YOG pics I got in my newsletter (yes I'm an Olympic nerd who subscribes to the newsletter).  Or, view the entire slide show .


I did not see this spelled out from my vantage point :).



Now, some of my amateur pics ;) :

They had big screens which really helped - although the cameramen did not always seem very practiced.  But they had actual people all along the top of the stage...can you see the orange/red specks??


Here was a crazy monster.  It was like the anime (sp?) portion of the program.  I didn't get it.


Awesome fire-breathing dragon.  At the end, he lit up in fire all along his back and his tail.


Flag procession.....the United States of America!!  We actually got quite a large crowd cheer.  I was worried after hearing the cheering sections from other countries.  But we represented.


The last pass before the torch was lit.  Do you see the lighted figure in the background, right side? It's a dragon, I think, that came across the water with the torch bearer...it was pretty cool. 


And the torch was lit from the bottom of the lighthouse winding its way upwards.  It was pretty cool as well and fitting for Singapore being a hub for water transport.

I taped/DVR'd the televised version.  I still need to watch it, but I'm sure it'll be pretty awesome :).  The program was over ~10:20pm and I was home before midnight.  Actually better than I thought - I was not looking forward to the crowded ride home.  The bus was a much better alternative to the train.