Sydney with the girls (a Mommy and daughter trip)

It feels like not too long ago, I was tumbling down the slopes of Tomamu in Hokkaido and a couple of weeks later, we packed our bags to head down under for a Mom-and-Girl Brat trip. Yes, sans husband/ father for 5 days and 4 nights.

Pretty manageable now that the girls are older but also pretty crazy because even though the meltdowns are lesser, there were moments where they individually drove us moms bat-shit crazy. I guess the expectations of them as little girls are higher compared to when they were toddlers where we could just brush it off and say that they are still young, they don’t know. But they do know.

Our itinerary this trip was pretty much rest and relaxed. Well, largely because Libby and I were so busy with MAPL days leading up to the trip that we didn’t really have much time to do much planning. I guess the whole point of a holiday is that we just figure out along the way and just have fun. Which we did.

Here’s a quick summary of what we did, what we ate and basically, how we survived with two little kids in tow.

How we traveled around Sydney:

We took the red eye from Singapore to Sydney and about 1 hour into the flight, both girls slept for a good 5-6 hours which allowed me to catch up on all the movies that I really wanted to watch but didn’t get a chance to. Win! After we landed into Sydney, we booked our airport transfer from babytaxis.com.au simply because we heard/ know that it’s pretty strict in Australia and kids needed to be strapped in with their own child-seat. Initially we wanted to bring our own Trunk booster seat but realised that we couldn’t as the seat did not comply with the standards of car safety stipulated by the Australian Government.

How we got around Sydney? We relied heavily on public transport such as the train and taxis. We used Uber alot and indicated clearly to the assigned drivers that we had two kids at the age of 4. Some days we were lucky and the drivers actually accepted our booking and insisted that we belt them up. On some occasions, we would get rejected. We later found out that if you are traveling with young kids and do not have a car-seat, you could simply book a cab or flag down a taxi. All you needed to do is to belt the kids up with the safety seats. So that became our favoured mode of transport for nearby locations.

Otherwise, most of the time, we really explored the nearby attractions by foot and pushed the girls around in their compact city strollers by Mimosa. We were invited to test this newly launched product by Mothercare and it was a life-saver. The girls are at a age where they are slightly too heavy to be carried all the time. If we drag them on their feet to walk, I’m sure we will be stopping every 1 minute or so only to hear their complaining and whining that they are simply too tired. The city compact stroller was lightweight and easy to maneuver around the crowded streets of Sydney. The girls loved being in the stroller and when it was time for a nap, they happily snoozed in it while us moms continued shopping. Not bad at all. Highly recommend a compact stroller if you are planning your next city getaway with a kid.

Where we stayed:

Libby suggested that we get a 2-bedroom service apartment located near shops/ restaurants around Darling Habour. It was a lovely and comfortable stay that provided all the comfort of what a home would give for a short-stay. The girls had a great time play-pretend camping and swimming in the make-shift pool which was actually their bath-tub. The apartment was close to Darling Harbour where we brought the girls too on Good Friday when almost everything was shut. It was also close to Surry Hills where the girls enjoyed a scoop of that creamy artisanal Gelato Messina before burning their energy at a nearby playground.

What I particularly liked about the area was that shopping was also a stone’s throw away from where we were. A walk down the street and Queen Victoria Building plus the swanky Westfield shopping mall were just within our reach. For ease of convenience, Coles supermarket was just downstairs our apartment. That really helped when we needed to stock up fast on groceries plus wine or even grab a bite or two.

Where we went:

On entertaining the kids, again, we had grand plans to bring them to the zoo, to Bondi beach, to check out the Sydney Opera House (which we did for all of 10 minutes), but I guess nothing really mattered to them except being around each other to play with. I did manage to score a reservation at the highly popular Grounds at Alexandria Cafe. But, guess what? We overslept the next morning – girls slept at 1am and the moms slept at 3.30am. So our best laid plans went awry. We settled for a leisure breakfast around the hood and then chilled out.

Ahead of our trip, we did purchase tickets online to the Sydney Royal Easter Show which was this grand carnival affair where the highlight of the show was the Easter Showbags filled with merchandise that you probably may or may not want at a value that you will certainly get for more.

There were like nearly 100 different types of showbags to cater practically every age group. Our eyes widened when we entered the grounds but we tried our best to control given that we have limited luggage space plus we didn’t want to bring home more things than what the girls actually needed.  So we let the girls choose one showbag each. I would have loved for mine to pick either the Disney Princess or My Little Pony themed showbag, but she went straight for the LOL Surprise Doll showbag. Well, since we don’t get much LOL Surprise Doll merchandise in Singapore plus each doll actually cost so much, I decided to let her get it. One of the other reasons is that the merchandise that were in this particular showbag actually looked quite pleasing to the eye.

We also brought the girls on some rides and then each of them had a scoop of ice-cream as a treat while we Mamas rested on the bench with cold coffees/ beverages. For Autumn, the weather in Sydney felt surprisingly hot.

But we are thankful for the warm weather and the blue skies that allowed us to fully enjoy the Sydney Royal Easter Show. We spent about 4 hours exploring the area which was really huge. We heard that there are several activities that are lined up for kids and adults that will go all the way to the night but well, we didn’t have enough energy to last till then.

Where we ate:

There are no lack of restaurants and cafes in Sydney. Prior to the Bub’s arrival, I would have taken the time to go hunt down the coolest cafes and restaurants to dine in. But I find it somewhat harder to do that with a kid because truth be told, their schedules (as erratic as it sounds) do take precedent. Luckily for us, we had Libby who already knew a couple of hip/ cool places that we could go to so I felt comforted of being part of the dining scene in Sydney.

While the girls took their naps, Libby and I had a good work-out from our hotel to Surry Hills and hunted down Bourke Street Bakery. The sausage roll (fresh out off the oven) were divine and what I really enjoyed more was this ginger creme brulee tart. The caramelised sugar crust had a nice crunch and there was just about the right amount of ginger flavouring to the creme brulee as the dessert entered my mouth. By the way, we didn’t just stop at one tart. We decided to bag one back to the apartment as well.

On Good Friday when most of Sydney was shut, we managed to find Devon Cafe open and we headed there with the troop. There was a short 15 minutes wait where we got the girls to run around before we were promptly seated. Devon Cafe serves up hearty Asian fusion meals and we really enjoyed the miso grilled salmon while the girls couldn’t pass up the fries during the meal.

And I guess no trip is complete if we didn’t make our way down to the Adriano Zumbo kiosk for macarons for the little ones. They really enjoyed it and so did we. The salted caramel ones were my fave.

There you have it, a quick round-up of our 5D4N trip to Sydney. Lovely memories to last us till our next holiday! 🙂

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Being a cheerleader

As a kid, my mom used to sign me up for art classes and I really did love them. In fact, I enjoyed colouring and drawing a lot growing up. So now that the little one is slightly older, I got her a jumbo set of colouring pencils that we try to bring out to occupy her instead of screen-time.

In church today, we had these colouring sheets where I distributed to the kids and her older cousins helped to colour. The little girl felt a little dejected when she saw that her colouring wasn’t as good as her older cousins. She’s kinda free-spirited by nature so I guess it shows up when she colours. She picks up different colours depending on her mood and the colours are often not within the lines. Even though I’m a tad bit OCD (meaning I would love for her to colour within the line and frame), I let her be. She does give up a little when she sees her colouring a little haphazard and messy. Today, she came up to me with tears streaming down her cheeks and told me “Mama, I’m not good at colouring. Help me…”

My heart broke a little when those words came out of her little mouth. I told her to just give it her best shot, try harder and not give up. On our way home, I reminded her of the times when she didn’t do too well in a certain task, but she tried over and over again; and got better as time went by. She nodded and then we repeated our little cheer to “Never Give Up!”

Perhaps this is my motto to live by too.. to never give up, to keep trying and soldier on.

Whitening… Ageing…

Had dinner with some friends one evening and the issue of skincare specifically whitening products was brought up. The person who raised this said that this is a segment he would not prefer not to pursue business in. I was taken aback because I thought that the area of whitening products would clearly be a lucrative business. This of course piqued my interest and I asked “Why?”

His response was one that I didn’t quite expect, he said that personally he had as issue with promoting products for people in pursuit of a fairer skin. On the other hand, I didn’t have an issue. I just felt the reason why people would even go into whitening products is not to lighten the skin-type but more for reducing the spots due to pigmentation. Well, at least that’s what I would do for I did freak out a little when I saw spots appearing on my skin.

These days…

These days, I haven’t been at my best. I feel rage, I feel sadness, I feel a sense of loss and some days, hopelessness. I feel a whole range of emotions ranging from anger to then just pure tiredness.

I hope this is just a phase… a black hole that I have just stumbled upon and then I WILL myself to pick up, stand up, dust off the dirt and then move on. This is how I’ve dealt with setbacks and this is how I will continue to deal with it.  I know I can, I know I will be able to get through this. Just like I have done so before…..

Hokkaido for CNY 2018

This Lunar New Year has been quite a muted affair for us as we decided to make a trip out of it instead of staying in for the festivities. Partially because the Man has been on the road quite a fair bit and family holidays are probably the best time we see each other every waking moment so late last year, he decided to book us three for a winter vacation.

The challenge we did find was where? Okay, so #firstworldproblems. But the highlight of the trip was for me to eventually head back to the slopes and for the little one to eventually learn skiing. The Man did some research and found out that because Bub was under 4, many of the ski resorts would not allow her to join in the group classes (we later found out it was because of insurance undertaken by many of the schools). So the only way that we could possibly let her learn skiing was through private lessons.

So the nearest place that offered skiing/ snowboarding with child-minding services would be Club Med in Hokkaido. We last visited Club Med Sahoro nearly 12 years ago and had quite a fun time learning how to snowboard then. We knew that the premises would be slightly dated given that it has yet to undergo a major renovation. That said, we weren’t highly impressed with the rooms then and I don’t think it would impress us 12-13 years on.

That’s when the Man (through more planning) discovered Club Med Tomamu, a newly opened sister resort also opened in Hokkaido. The place looks spanking new and huge! So he decided to book it for our #limfambamvacay! I will share more about our Club Med experience in the next blog post but for now, I really do want to share about how traveling to Hokkaido (that looks relatively near) is actually quite a “pain”.

Apparently, we have been told that ANA and Singapore Airlines operate direct flights to Hokkaido during the winter season. When the Man tried to book our flights via Singapore Airlines, it turned out to be crazy expensive. Since we were already going to splurge on the all-inclusive stay at Club Med Tomamu for our trip, we decided to take JAL Premium Economy for the holiday which suited our family budget.

It took us almost a good 14 – 16 hours to get from Singapore to Hokkaido. Our flights from Singapore to Tokyo was about 8plus in the morning and by the time (inclusive of transit time and traveling time on the road) we arrived at our hotel in Sapporo, it was nearly 12 midnight. The Bub was really tired and I had to carry the child in the cold while the Man juggled with our 2 large suitcases and 2 snowboards.

Our trip was all of 9 days but we broke it up and stayed in Sapporo for 3 nights and another 5 nights at Club Med Tomamu. The break was quite good as we took it slow and easy in the city before heading out to the mountainous area. The train ride from Sapporo Central Station took us about 2 hours and there was a shuttle from the resort that brought us to the door-step.

For our return, we left Club Med Tomamu at about 9am in the morning on Sunday and only arrived back in Singapore at 1am, Monday morning. The journey felt incredibly long probably because of the transit time again and also partly because the Bub fell sick on the way back with a sore throat and a high fever. That said, we made it back home in one piece even though we are really quite tired.

Also, last we checked, Scoot also offers direct flights to Hokkaido. But there are pros and cons in taking low-cost carrier flights so do weigh your options. 🙂

Will be summarising our little trip to Hokkaido and Club Med Tomamu real soon (where the Bub learned skiing) on the blog but for more current updates, do follow us on our Instagram Account: Sophie_x_mama.j0.

That’s it for now, nights!

New routine for Saturdays

Most of our Saturdays used to be filled with play-dates with our BFF but since the start of the year, the Bub decided that she wanted to learn ballet. Since the Man has his round of golf on Saturday mornings often leaving us both to our own devices and coupled with the Bub’s desire to learn ballet, I decided that maybe it’s time to let her take on a new activity to fill up our weekends. Trying to find things to keep a toddler occupied can sometimes be quite mind-boggling as well.

Thanks to a recommendation from another Mom, we managed to find a ballet school that’s quite close to home and the timing also suited as well as it was in the morning. The Bub did a trial class with the school last year and had a great time prancing around in her tutu skirt with the rest of the other girls. Right after the lesson, I asked if she wanted to continue, to which she answered “YASS!”. So I signed her up.

It’s been about 3 weeks since we formally started her on lessons and she is having a good time at class. Her coordination seemed to have improved but she can’t still exactly articulate fully what she is actually learning during the class so I’m hoping when it’s time for the parent to sit in and observe what the child did during the term, I am able to see how the Bub did.

One thing I did notice that has improved for the Bub is that she is usually famished straight after ballet lesson which finishes at 11.30am. It actually is a good timing for we head off to lunch and I don’t need much cajoling for her to finish off everything that I place on her plate until she tells me she has enough. Win for me!

Now, the next part of my post relates to a “What in the world am I thinking of?” kind of moment. The Man and I often talked about this.. letting the Bub have a care-free childhood, one that’s filled with play so we really did refrain from signing up on too many enrichment classes. But then, there’s swimming where it’s an essential life-skill that she needed to have. There’s also Berries. That’s non-negotiable as the Man strongly felt that learning Mandarin and having the ability to speak it fluently is an essential skill in today’s world. So for the past year, those were the 2 classes we have signed the Bub up for.

Then, there came Ballet. That was what the Bub really wanted and given that we often have to fill up Saturdays with things to do, I might as well let her take something she really wanted to do.

And the last class that I am now thinking or rather have signed her up for is Phonics. Why phonics? Although it’s already built in to her new school curriculum, I realised that her foundation to phonics isn’t quite as strong yet. She recognises all the letters in the alphabets but not the sound that each letter makes. If she possess a basic understanding of phonics or have a foundation in phonics, she would be able to go on to reading and recognising the words faster when she starts formal primary education. Or so I thought.

We recently did a trial session for phonics at School of Concepts and parents had the option of sitting in for the first lesson with the rest of the sessions being a drop-off class subsquently. I appreciated the fact that parents could sit in the first session to understand the principles behind the school’s methodology; understand how the teachers ran the lesson as well as to observe how the chilid would behave during the session.  Sophie attended the lesson with 2 of her friends from her previous school. There were loads of screaming throughout the 45 minute session but the teachers were very patient and managed to draw their attention using interesting props to teach them about the letter ‘A’ and the sound that it makes.

We’ve decided to let her try out a term at SoC for a while and see how that goes. From the looks at how she is enjoying herself during the first lesson, I’m really hoping that this will get her all excited about learning something new in a non-threatening manner.

 

Cute Disney Dim Sum at Crystal Lotus

At the start of 2018, we made a trip down to Hong Kong and stayed a total of 3 days/ 2 nights at Disneyland. This time round, we decided to check ourselves into the Disneyland Hotel (which is the main hotel for Disneyland). Even though it was slightly older than the Disney Explorers Lodge Hotel, the benefits as a guest of the Disneyland Hotel room package was quite attractive. We received complimentary fast passes for several rides in the park itself as well as a reserved sitting area at the Night Parade. The hotel also house one of the must-visit Chinese restaurants in Disneyland so I’m glad we didn’t have to move too far in order to get decent Chinese food.

One of the things I had wanted to do was to try out the Disney-themed dim sum available only on weekends at Crystal Lotus Restaurant. But as our trip didn’t extend beyond the weekend and I didn’t want to miss out on trying the utterly cute and possibly over-priced cute Disney dim sum, there was an opportunity to preorder these items if an advance notice of 24 hours was given. So bascially, that was what I did.

Here was what we ordered for our lunch:

  • Duffy and Shellie May Steam Sweet Buns, 2 pcs: HKD 78
  • Three Little Pigs Barbecue Pork Buns, 3 pcs: HKD 88
  • Little Green Men Pork and Vegetable Buns, 3 pcs: HKD 88
  • Mickey’s Seafood Glutinous Pancake (with Hot Sauce), 4 pcs: HKD 78

 Of all of the dim-sum served, the most intricately designed ones were the Three Green Men and the Duffy and Shellie May buns. They looked almost too cute to be eaten, but we did anyway.

The Bub had a fun time plucking out the eyes from the alien buns and the ears off the bears. She even nibbled them. That to me is quite a feat as she is no fan of steamed buns.

She did enjoy the Mickey shaped seafood glutinous pancake and finished one piece of it on her own. Again, she’s no fan of sweet stuff so if this came in the shape of a waffle or pancake, it will be left untouched on her plate.

Overall a fun dining experience to remember by one’s Disney holiday. The dim sum was cute to look at but beyond that, taste-wise would not leave a lasting impression.