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Kidzania Malaysia 19 October, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Travel & Discovery, Vroom Vroom.
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Our second road trip in one month, to Kidzania KL!

Over the Hari Raya Haji long weekend, we headed on a road trip to KL. Got stuck on the Second Link for 1.5 hours (as expected, though the stuck could have reduced if we had reached the Tuas Customs before 8am as planned; what to do, it’s the long weekend, and Woodlands Customs recently imposed a toll…). Once cleared the customs, we got stuck in slow traffic twice (can you believe this!?) on the North-South Highway.

Stopped over at Machap for some lunch, and continued the drive to our KL apartment. It was 4.30pm by the time we reached the apartment, and because we didn’t check out the KLCC Aquarium’s opening hours before we came, we ended up just doing some groceries shopping (mainly for drinking water) at Ampang Mall and went back to the apartment to admire the KL view.

The great view from our apartment at Damai Vista

The great view from our apartment at Damai Vista

Next morning, following our Australia experience, we woke up at 6am, fed the kids milk, and rushed everybody out of the house. It was already 7.30am when we left the house though the plan was to finish breakfast and start on the drive to Kidzania by 8am. I had read a blog on Kidzania earlier, and the review was to reach earlier to buy the tickets and do the check in before the doors open at 10am.

Without GPS or any data plan, we tried to find the way using printed maps and instructions. We could have reached Kidzania at Petaling Jaya without a hitch, but we took an exit too early and veered off the path. Paid for a taxi to lead the way, and we were finally there.

Hmm… At 9.30am, the queue for online booking was pretty long, but for the regular walk-in queue, there was only 2 families in front of us. Quickly got in line, and saw the notice that says “counter open at 9.30am”. Hmm…. At 9.45am, we finally bought the tickets, put on the wristbands, and proceeded upstairs. As we were one of the first few families, the Check In process was fairly a breeze too.

The check in counter at Kidzania just before opening hours

The check in counter at Kidzania just before opening hours

First stop: Fire Station. It was said that this is one of the most popular station, so in order to minimize waiting time, this has be the first station to go to. The Fire Station is undoubtedly fun! The kids donned on their firefighter uniform and hat (Baby1 maintained a straight face throughout, and I think she was trying very hard not to let the hat drop!), and boarded the fire engine which went one round the premise to put out a fire at a burning Hotel. Cool!

The fire engine driving through the streets of Kidzania City

The fire engine driving through the streets of Kidzania City

For public holidays, the opening hours are 10am to 3pm (first session) and 4pm to 9pm (afternoon session). For normal days, you get to play for 7 hours. So since we have to leave at 3pm, no time can be wasted here! Baby1 tried 13 other professions, including Cashier, Petrol Kiosk Attendent, Sushi Chef, Marybrown Attendant, Nurse, Vitagen Maker, Medic, Photographer, Optician, Painter and Policewoman. For the 3 food related industries, you get to bring back the food that you prepared too. The sushi, sandwich and burger became Baby1′s lunch for the day! And there was a bottle of Vitagen each for the kids, supposedly to be the one which they made earlier, haha!

Putting our fire at the hotel

Putting our fire at the hotel

As we did not buy a ticket for Baby2 (we under-declared her age and reported her as under 2yo though she just passed her 2 yo birthday a few days earlier), so she did not get to participate in any activities, poor Baby2. But even if she had a wristband, I doubt that she can participate much as most of the Level 1 stations have requirements of minimum 4 yo. There were a couple of rooms on Level 2 for babies to play, I mean really play with toys, so not so much of role-playing. Nevertheless, we managed to sneak in Baby2 to be role-play as a Patient when Baby1 was the Medic.

A sample of the activities available at one of the activity stations

A sample of the activities available at one of the activity stations

There were a couple other stations which we didn’t get to do. We saw the Flight Simulator on Level 2 too late – there was a long queue for this. And the vitamin research looks fun too, but it was already nearing closing and that was already the last session for the day.

At 3pm, everything closed, so we went to redeem the Kidzos (monies) earned. We were handed a 50 Kidzo cheque when we first arrived, and at the end of the day, we were up to 90 Kidzo. Baby1 had a busy day doing so many professions and earning so much money, haha! We went to the Department Store but were told that most of the merchandise were more expensive (more than 100 Kidzos). There were cheaper stuff down at the Shopping Alley. We paid for a 70 Kidzos body tattoo for Baby1 which we requested the kind attendent to apply it for her on the spot.

We took 40min to reach Kidzania, and 20min to return to our apartment. Sure enough, both kids were KOed on the drive back, but totally rejected sleep when we reached the apartment. We headed for a swim in the pool before quickly heading back again as Baby2′s lips were turning purple from the cold. Brr…

Next morning, no rush, so we woke up at 7am, packed up everything, returned to the same place at Imbi for breakfast (KL roads are really very complicated, and since we do not want to risk getting lost again, familarity is best), and headed for the drive home. There were many rest stops along the road, but we stopped at Pagoh, another of the bigger stop for lunch, petrol, and some authentic otah to bring home. Dear1 and I had a Magnum each too – it cost only 4 Ringgit each!!

Reached Jurong at 3pm. As expected (heng ah), this timing was good so as to avoid all the returners who will come back in the later part of the day.

It was a really short holiday, but totally fun! As we stayed in the grandparents’ apartment for the trip, so accommodation cost was zero. No airfare, so only have to pay the petrol and toll which cost not more than 100 Ringgit. Food in Malaysia is cheaper too. The chicken rice we had in Pagoh cost only 4 Ringgit, and total Kidzania entrance fees for 4 adults 2 kids was only 255 Ringgit (about SGD100). A very value-for-money trip!

Will we return to Kidzania again? Yes, hmm, but maybe no. Kidzania is coming to Singapore (Sentosa) in June 2015, but I can’t imagine what kind of professions will be exibited. SIA Stewardess? Tiger Beer Manufactor? (ermm, maybe not). RWS Casino Operator? (ermm, surely not!) Seriously, in Singapore’s context, we have more white collar professions. Do you think Kidzania will be fun if there’s only Office Workers kind of professions? And also, it’s the staff that brings out the atmosphere. Even though adults are totally not allowed into the room when the activity is conducted, you can tell that the Staff are all putting their hearts into the interaction that they have with the kids. Kudos to them, when you have to role-play the same activity over and over and over again.

Hmm, but maybe we can consider Kidzania at other locations. We read afterwards that the Kidzos banked in can be used at your next visit. No wonder we saw many children queuing at the CIMB Bank at closing time.

Will we return to Malaysia again? Yes, road trip to Malaysia is fun! The drive to KL is probably too long (350km away!), but Malacca (halfway there) or even Desaru seems manageable!

- Dear2

Western Australia Road Trip Sep 2014 14 October, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Travel & Discovery, Vroom Vroom.
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Our very first real road trip ever~

Day 1

Took the 7.45am SQ flight from Singapore to Perth. No more overnight flights, thank you. While ascending, Baby2 had her milk, and Baby1 had some Ricola Pearls. As expected, Baby1 was kept entertained throughout the flight watching cartoons. Baby2 unexpectedly fell asleep halfway through (good for us), and we had about 2 hours of quiet and peace before reaching Perth.

Once landed, we quickly hailed a cab to the campervan rental office. Waited for quite a while as the staff forgot about our orders! We rented a 6 berth campervan because Dear1′s parents were along for the trip.  Once the campervan was retrieved, we raced down to nearby Belmont Forum to get lunch/dinner. :( Alas, by 4.30pm, all the shops were closing, and there wasn’t much edible food left. We had Japanese take aways. Mad rush to get a SIM card (to call the campervan park to confirm our late check in), get groceries and water, and dinner. We couldn’t get any SIM card. It was kinda a bad start to our holiday.

Dear1 started driving at 80km/h. But as the night and roads got darker, we were literally toring through the night at 100km/h. Finally after 2.5hrs of drive, we reach Koombana Bay Discovery Holiday Park. Luckily the Park left the keys in the “Late Check In” safe for us as agreed in our email. We drove to the designated lot with our ensuite toilet. Being our first night, in a windy rainy night, where the surroundings seemed void of anybody else, we quickly showered. Brr, the night was cold!

Our KEA KQ Series 6 Berth Campervan at our ensuite site at Koombana Bay Discovery Holiday Park

Our KEA KQ Series 6 Berth Campervan at our ensuite site at Koombana Bay Discovery Holiday Park

Throughout the night, our campervan kept swaying in the wind. Even after we turned off the lights for the night, I was really worried that our campervan might be blown away by the wind. Sleep was bad, being awaken constantly by the passing beating rain.

Day 2

Good to see some daylight. We drove to nearby The Happy Wife and had a sumptous breakfast. Nice! Did the Check In and Check Out, and off we drove over to next-door Dolphin Discovery Centre. The narration by the retired uncle was informative and interesting. If you leave the tank open, the octopus will just climb out. Can you believe that!? Dear1 was quite disappointed that we can’t waddle in to the sea to see dolphins. With that kind of cold and drizzle, we are better off staying in the warm indoors.

Great breakfast at The Happy Wife

Great breakfast at The Happy Wife

Interesting octopus feeding session at Dolphin Discovery Centre

Interesting octopus feeding session at Dolphin Discovery Centre

Some quick grocery shopping at a nearby supermarket before setting off again.

Busselton Jetty is the next stop. What strong winds! At the counter, we were told that the Train and Observatory was closed due to bad weather. Baby1 was very disappointed; she was so looking forward to take the train to the jetty. I was equally disappointed after realising that the Observatory that Dear1 mentioned was actually underwater. No wonder I don’t see any lighthouse. :p We bought a stamp and sent a postcard from the Interpretive Centre.

Busselton Jetty Underwater Observatory closed due to poor visibility

Busselton Jetty Underwater Observatory closed due to poor visibility

Lunch was at nearby Old Post Office Tea Rooms. It was a simple cafe, but the sandwiches were pretty not bad. After lunch, all of us headed back to the car first while Dear1 went to the washroom. And it started to rain again. Dear1 braved the rain back but got all soaked. The passing shower stopped completely barely 5 mins later. “Passing Showers” totally took on a new meaning for us…

Following the GPS, we headed on the route to the Margaret River Dairy Company. And we past by the sign that says Margaret River Dairy Company, though we were still a distance away from the exact location according to the GPS. Alas, the GPS was off!. Made a U-turn (not easy when our campervan is so huge, on a single lane dual carriage road). At the so-called facory, we didn’t see any machinery, though we had a sumptuous sampling of the various cheeses there. Bought a large tub of yogurt (since we can’t appreciate cheese!)

Next stop: Margaret River Chocolate Factory. We reached at 4.30pm, half an hour ahead of its closing time. But the main doors was already locked! We were literally locked out though happy satisfied shoppers were continually streaming out with their bags and bags of shopping. Angry!!

Headed off to Morris Anytime for our dinner. As a family friendly restuarant, they provided coloring paper and pencils for the kids to doodle while waiting for the food. But at AUD 38 for a main course, we thought that the serving was very un-Australian – smallish….

Baby1's drawing while we had dinner at Morris Anytime

Baby1′s drawing while we had dinner at Morris Anytime

After dinner and it was check in at Sunflowers Animal Farm. Finally located the owner in the dark farm house, and finally looking forward to a proper shelter over our heads and some warm steady water for bath. But as soon as we unloaded our luggage and got the fire place burning (yes, real fire place, need to start your own fire, and load with real fire wood), there was a power outrage! It was pitch darkness and the only light source was the dancing fire lights. Luckily the power came back on about an hour later, but we were mindful that power might go off anytime soon so didn’t quite want to risk taking a shower…

First time using a real fireplace at Sunflowers Animal Farm

First time using a real fireplace at Sunflowers Animal Farm

Day 3

Next morning, the weather seemed very fine. Still a bit chilly, but at least it wasn’t wet like the past 2 days. And indeed we were lucky to have good weather this morning. Toured the farm, had 2 bucketfuls of animal feed where we went around feeding all the farm animals. The kids had a chance to pick up little chicks with their hands, and ride a pony too.

The view right outside our doorstep at Sunflowers Animal Farm

The view right outside our doorstep at Sunflowers Animal Farm

After check out, we drove back to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory (this time with a vengeance) and sampled and bought chocolates. Lunch was at Cullen Wines, one of the many wineries in Margaret River. Again, it’s location was not accurately marked by the GPS, and we were really relieved to finally reach here for our sumptuous lunch. We also bought a bottle of wine to enjoy for the rest of our trip.

Chocolate tasting at Margaret River Chocolate Factory

Chocolate tasting at Margaret River Chocolate Factory

Our campervan at Cullen Wines

Our campervan at Cullen Wines

On our way to our next destination, we stopped at Augusta to stock up on groceries.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse was next. As Baby2 was not allowed to go up the lighthouse, we got the grandparents to go up while we stayed on the ground with the paid audio tour. As usual, the kids had fun playing with the radios (which were meant as audio guides). Dear1 and I didn’t get to hear much of the audio from the radio, so the only explanations were what we could read from the numbered signs. Still an interesting experience for us both.

Walking up to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

Walking up to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

As the wind was still cold, we headed back to the campervan while waiting for the grandparents. An opportune time to bring out the road trip presents – a Lego car and an Lego campervan, one each for the girls. Papa was more excited in assembling and ‘helped’ Baby2 complete the campervan toy. So much for being her present. :p

Taking the Caves Road, we reached Hamelin Holiday Park before night fall. No dinner tonight as when we reached Karridale Tavern, they were not serving dinner that night! Luckily we had instant noodles with us so dinner was a simple meal of instant noodles with sausages, cooked at the outdoor kitchen.

Maggie Mee dinner at Hamelin Holiday Park

Maggie Mee dinner at Hamelin Holiday Park

Day 4

We were supposed to empty the toilet waste every other day, but as there wasn’t much waste on our first 2 days, we decided to only empty it today. Alas, we were told that we needed to go to a Shire in order to dispose ‘chemical waste’. Oh dear, means that we need to make another trip somewhere. Emptied the ‘gray Water’ (water from washing) nonetheless, and we set off to Lake Cave.

Morning walk at Hamelin Bay

Morning walk at Hamelin Bay

Again, the GPS was not accurate and we had to locate the entrance of the Caves based on road signs. Once reached, the counter chap confidently told us that Baby2 has no problem going down to the cave, unlike the Lighthouse which we presume had difficult-to-climb steps. Nervous and full of anticipation, we descended into the cave, stopping now and then when it was time to listen to the Guide. There was a long flight of steps down, and I had to grip Baby1′s hand real tight. Dear1 carried Baby2 all the way down, and had to stoop and bend over a narrow and low part. “No problem into the cave, just that you’ll gain a lot of muscles!” we thought afterwards.

View from inside Lake Cave

View from inside Lake Cave

Next, we went to Bootleg Brewery for lunch. Ordered this tray of 8 beers. A very interesting mix – first time trying coffee-flavoured beer. All the main course were very generous and yummy too. It’s the first time since arriving in Australia that we got a sense of the “Australian size” meal. Bought a bottle of beer to enjoy later too. After lunch, we sat by the lake enjoying the warm sunshine and view, and even watched a group play giant sized Jenga.

People playing Giant Jenga (right in the middle of the picture) at Bootleg Brewery

People playing Giant Jenga (right in the middle of the picture) at Bootleg Brewery

After the sumptuous lunch, we proceeded to Simmo’s Ice Creamery which was a short drive away. The ice cream scope was generous too. The adults ate ice cream while the kids played at the play ground.

By the time we reached Harvey, we were still feeling very full. Decided to order take aways from Trattoria Briscola (Italian restaurant) to bring to the Harvey Hills Farm Chalet to eat. The portion was generous too, but I was still too full to appreciate it. The fruit wine that we bought from Cullen Wines was surprisingly nice, which we drank out of wine glasses provided in our farm house.

Enjoy our wine at Harvey Hills Farm Chalet

Enjoy our wine at Harvey Hills Farm Chalet

In between transporting our barang barangs from the campervan to the house, Dear1 and I took the chance to admire the stars. The farm was really in the middle of no lights, so the sky view was really excellent.

Day 5

Woke up to a refreshing farm atmosphere. In the brightening morning light, the scenery was even more charming. Lush green pastures and clear open skies, in a cool light breeze. So fresh!

That's our chalet in the middle of the picture

That’s our chalet in the middle of the picture

View from our balcony at Harvey Hills Farm Chalet

View from our balcony at Harvey Hills Farm Chalet

Today, the farm activities were entirely different from those in the first farm. The children got to hold a rabbit each in their lap, we went around scattering the feed to the chickens, fed the ducks out of our palms and had sheep nibble carrots out from our fingers. So very up close!

After check out, we went to Harvey Fresh. Wow, so many orange trees! Orange trees are not very tall in actual fact! And seeing so many brightly oranges on trees lifted our mood even more. We bought a packet of orange juice from the store and it was so orangey and nice too. Thumbs up!

First time at an orange orchard at Harvey Fresh

First time at an orange orchard at Harvey Fresh

Before returning to the rental office to return the campervan, we had to empty the waste first. Along the way, we stopped by a Shire. Apparently you need to do it at a sullage point. Oh my. Finally found the place with directions from the lady at the Shire. It is basically just a hole in the ground, like the one where we emptied the black water. As socially responsible people, as with the Australian culture, we finally emptied the waste. Phew.

After we returned the campervan and got our 8-seater car from another car rental company, we proceeded to Cottesloe. We had to go to the office to retrieve the keys first. The staff there were very nice, and the lady assigned to show us on how to open up the sofa bed kindly agreed to lead the way and show us the sofa bed after we told them that we had to go off for a dinner appointment soon.

Our KIA Grand Carnival

Our KIA Grand Carnival

Our bedroom at our Cottesloe Beach Apartment

Our bedroom at our Cottesloe Beach Apartment

Day 6

After a good night’s sleep and a nice warm bath (the apartment bathroom came with a warmer, and there were sufficient blankets for all of us, geez), we set off on foot for breakfast. But after walking for 15 min, the shops were still not in sight, though we clearly past by some resturants on our drive up from the office to our apartment yesterday. We decided to head back and finish up the remaining rations of bread, baked beans and noodles.

Today is Fremantle day, and we drove to Woolstore Shopping Centre to park the car first, after hearing that car park charges are pretty expensive here in Perth city. The parking coupon is only available for max 4 hours, so means that we’ll need to come back to top up the ticket later. Hmm…

Did some shopping at the Fremantle Market and proceeded for our Fish and Chips lunch. A friend had recommended Sweet Lips but we couldn’t find it (by this time, we were already very tired taking turns to carry Baby2, so didn’t want to explore further), so we headed to the popular Cicerellos. Ordered 2 fish and Chips, and a seafood platter. The fish and chips was considered okay for that price, but it’s not a taste that I’ll want to come back again. Also, Cicerellos as well as Fremantle, is the first place in Australia where I felt was very touristy – there was really a lot a lot of tourists everywhere!

Colours colours at Fremantle Market

Colours colours at Fremantle Market

Fish and Chips at the famous Cicerellos

Fish and Chips at the famous Cicerellos

Went to the Shipwreck Museum, found a cafe where we had drinks while Baby1 had her afternoon nap (finally).  It was supposed to be a relaxing day today, but the children’s naps completely drained my energy, so much so that we bought Chinese take aways for dinner (again!?).  We went back to the apartment, exhausted.

Baby1 enjoyed herself very much at the Shipwreck Museum

Baby1 enjoyed herself very much at the Shipwreck Museum

Enjoying the evening from our balcony at Cottesloe Beach Apartment

Enjoying the evening from our balcony at Cottesloe Beach Apartment

Day 7

Another good night of sleep. This morning, we were determined to locate a proper breakfast place. There was brochures in the folder that Cottesloe Beach Apartments provided, and we went along with Bluewaters.

After the yummy breakfast, we went to Caversham Wildlife Park. Dear1 had borrowed a GPS from his friend, and we had a bit of getting used to before we are familiar with this GPS (the one in the campervan was provided by Kea and had to be returned with the campervan; that device was more user friendly compared to this one). As Dear1′s friend had bought this about 6 years back, the Wildlife Park was not marked in this GPS. We can only key in the coordinates and try to locate its entrance using the road signs. At one point in time, we almost lost the way, but luckily we did not retreat. The wildlife Park is so fun! Baby1 held a real snake over her arms, we stroked some iguana and had a picture taken with a wombat. Also, Baby1 got into the kangaroos’ enclosure and went up close, and we all touched and had many photos taken with koalas up very close. Never before have we had such up close interactions with so many animals all in the same zoo.

Up close with sleeping Koalas at Caversham Wildlife Park

Up close with sleeping Koalas at Caversham Wildlife Park

After trying to appreciate art in Western Australia Art Gallery, we went over to Murray Street Mall to people-watch. A busy shopping street, but as it’s quite hard to lug 2 toddlers for any shopping, we felt that it would be more fruitful to proceed to King’s Park for some quiet time. Alas, the Stickybeaks Cafe where we wanted to have our dinner closes at 4.30pm (we reached at 4pm), and that totally spoiled our dinner plan. With only a ground sheet and a drink, we had a little “picnic”. In actual fact, the kids spent all the time playing at the playground. The camera battery had to go flat at this time, and we forgot to pack spares in our day bag! No chance to take pictures of the brilliant sunset which we saw the previous day along the coastline where we stayed.

Since tonight’s dinner plan was thrown off, we found a restuarant, Barchetta, along Cottesloe facing the ocean on our way back to catch the sunset. The daylight got dimmer as we ate our dinner. Halfway through the food, we saw the sun disappear under the horizon. Wonder if Baby1 will remember this? (14 Oct 2014: Dear1 asked, Baby1 remembers.)

Day 8
Finally it’s time to go home. Packed up everything, put the keys to the apartment under the mat, and went back to Bluewaters for breakfast again. As we were early, we decided to do some last minute shopping at Belmont Forum which is near to the Airport. Alas, the shops only open at 11am!

Back at Bluewaters Cottesloe for a second time, their Crab and Chilli Scrambled Eggs is exquisite

Back at Bluewaters Cottesloe for a second time, their Crab and Chilli Scrambled Eggs is exquisite

Finally bought the nogurts (as requested by a relative) from the Airport, and it was home sweet home to Singapore.

Once out of Changi Airport, we smelled haze. Did we escaped any haze??  It turned out that the haze in Singapore had worsen that very day! Urgh!

- Dear2

Our Roomba 650 30 September, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Around the House, Consumer Electronics, Dear1.
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We used to dry mop our floor with the dust mop. It work decently but it always required time and effort. Any parents of young kids will tell you that time and effort is something that they cannot afford much of. Initially, we thought that a regular vacuum cleaner solve our problem, and so we bought 1. After using it for several months, we realized that it didn’t really reduce the time and effort required. As of now, the vacuum cleaner sat in the storeroom, it hadn’t been used in a looong time.

That was because we bought the Roomba 650.

The idea of buying a Roomba surfaced when I heard my colleague was using it in his rented room. In fact, the Roomba belonged to the lab that he was working at. However, he brought it home to clean his room on occasions. I borrowed it over 1 weekend to test it out. Wow. I wouldn’t say the cleaning was fantastic, but it was quite decent. At least Dear2 and I don’t feel the thin layer of dust that tends to accumulate on the floor after just a few days. And the best part was, it required no time and effort. Probably just a bit of electrical bill to charge it up.

With that, we made up our mind and bought one.

At first, we were rather cautious and decided to monitor it during its operations. As such, we tend to only run the Roomba on weekends and always with supervision. It wasn’t until perhaps a year later that we decided to let it run on the timer instead. Currently, the Roomba runs nearly every day, alternating between the living room + bedrooms, or the kitchen. This was because our kitchen floor is lower than the rest of the house, hence we had to decide which section to set up the Roomba in before it starts.

Now, the floors are always decently dust free and we wet mop the floor on a monthly basis. I would say that the $580 we spent on purchasing the Roomba and the electricity that goes into charging it was money well spent. Anything that helps with the housework and can free up time that can be better spent with family members is worth it.

Right on, we’re considering several other devices that may help us reduce the time and effort spent on housework. One of it is a washer/dryer. In washing/drying, a lot efforts are spent on hanging out the clothes to dry. A lot of weekend time is hinged on whether the weather is good or whether the laundry can dry on time. A dryer may go a long way to address this. We’re also considering the Scooba which is able to help with floor scrubbing. This may help us to eliminate even the monthly wet mopping that we’re currently doing. Another possibility might be the dishwasher. Anyone who cooks at home will attest that the bulk time spent in preparing a meal goes into food preparation and the washing up.

In our busy lives, time is really precious. If a little money spent on kitchen appliances can buy additional time for the family, I think it is money well spent.

-Dear1

Paid off our car loan 31 August, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Dollars & Cents.
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Yes! We did it! We paid off our car loan.

We’ve had this idea of paying our car loan for a long time. Ever since we decided that we wanted to get a new house. Sometime last year, I visited a banker to explore the idea financing our new house based solely on my income instead of the combine income of Dear2 and I. This is to keep Dear2 financially ‘open’ to future investment options. To cut the long story short, the banker advised that I have to pay off my car loan and cancel most of my credit cards to be in line with the new TDSR policy.

Earlier this year, I called up Maybank to enquire about the settlement amount. I can’t recall the amount right now but it would save me roughly $20 to settle it then. However, the only Maybank branch to repay a car loan is at Textile Centre, and they only open on weekdays and closes at 2pm. It was sort of inconvenient to visit their branch. Since we were only intending to start house hunting later this year, I decided to repay the car loan at a later date.

Bad idea.

Earlier this month, I called again to check the settlement amount. In absolute terms, it was of course a smaller amount at $6559. However, it was $43 more than if I let the loan run its course ($6516). This was mainly due to a component called the early settlement fee. Oh no. If I delay any further, the disparity will only increase. With renew motivation, I visited Textile Centre last week over my lunch time to pay off our car loan.

I immediately SMS Dear2 to announce that we are debt free.

It felt like a big burden lifted off our shoulders. Now, with both of housing loan and car loan paid off, we are one more step closer to our dream of a new property. On a monthly basis, we will also see more positive cash flow in our accounts which will likely translate to higher savings. To be debt free at the age of 33, we felt delighted and fortunate.

The next step will be to cancel any unused credit cards that I have. Meanwhile, build up our savings and be ready to enter the market.

-Dear1

Garfield Run 2014 31 July, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Baby, Dear2, Leisure & Games, Sports & Health.
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In June, Dear1 and I did the Jurong Lake Run. In July, I did the Garfield Run with Baby1.  It was fun!!

As usual, 1 week before the Run, we collected the Race Pack from Orchard Central. The running tees looked too big for Baby1 and me, so I went to exchange for 1 size smaller.  Alas, both adult and kid’s tees were OOS, and we ended up with 2 sizes smaller.  The length was ok, but the width was just right – let’s hope Baby1 don’t outgrow it too soon, and let’s hope mummy don’t get too fat again!

Actual run day on 19 July, it was a NDP rehearsal day too.  Means there’ll be fireworks!  We reached the Promontory@Marina Bay exactly 15 mins before the Kids Run flag off at 4.30pm.  If we thought that it’s crowded, wait till you see the Family Fun Run crowd – it’s at least 10 times bigger!

At exactly 4.30pm, the Run was flagged off with us waving to Garfield and Odie mascots on the stage.  Omg, Baby1 do not know who is Garfield, much less Odie!

Jog, run, jog, tired, jog, encourage to go on, jog, tired, walk, encourage further that running is not easy but we persevere, jog, oh there’s a U turn point ahead, jog, cheer leaders around, jog, tired, see we’ve past the U turn point, less than halfway to go, walk, encourage see can enjoy the beautiful scenery while jogging, jog, walk, oh I can see the Start Point, means End Point should be coming in view soon, jog, walk, yeah, there’s the End Point, walk, yeah we’ve past the Start Point, last 100m, jog, sprint, Yeah we did it!  Pant pant!

Sooooo proud of Baby1 for completing the 1.5km run all by herself.  Thought we were definitely the less 10 percentile of the pack, but she completed it all on her own!  After checking the time with Papa, we realised that it was barely 20mins!

By then it was only 5pm, and we had to wait till 8pm for the fireworks, oh gosh.  Ate our packed bento ricebox which Papa decorated beautifully, along the Bayfront at the Promontory, and we decided to head over the MBS Shoppes for some air con and shopping,

Oh, there’s a Marina City Gallery along the way. Wow, there’s going to be more developments out at the Marina Bay area, amazing.  Oh, there’s a DBS free movie screening at 7.3opm right outside MBS Shoppes.  Ohhhh, MBS is so big and quiet.  And thank god for the air con!

At 7.45pm, we headed outside to get a good spot.  By then, the Promontory though recommended for fireworks watching, should be packed full of all the runners from the Garfield Run, so we stationed ourselves on the waterfront outside MBS Shoppes.

At 8.10pm, the display of fireworks was amazing!  Those at the Floating Platform were partially blocked, but those from the water was in full view right in front of us.  As Baby1 and I were seated on the floor, I ended up having slight strained neck from all that head raising! Baby2 was interested in watching the fireworks but was equally frightened by the loud Booms.

The scenery at the Garfield Run was definitely fantastic.  We even went back to the Promontory for more fireworks watching the following Saturday, and contemplated to go back again this Saturday!

Will we join he Garfield Run again next year?  Hmm, if they are giving out another Garfield plush toy next year, then I’ll have to seriously consider -we don’t have the space for more plush toys!  Btw, the plush toys were only available from this week on, means we actually have to go down to Orchard Central twice! And we bought the Jumbo Garretts popcorn twice!

- Dear2

Jurong Lake Run 2014 in 1hr22mins 30 July, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Sports & Health.
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Dear2 and I had always had a special place for Jurong Lake Run. Why? Because it is near to our house and our parents’ house. So it is convenient for us to drop off the kids at our parents’ house while we attended the run. That is exactly what happened this year.

The night run this year suited us particularly well. Instead of having to wake up the kids up early to drop them off, this year, they woke up normally after their afternoon naps and off we went to my parents’ house. They will have their dinner there while we went for our first run of the year.

We started training probably 2 months earlier. With our tight schedule daily, it was really difficult to squeeze out any time for exercise. However, we found a solution. On weekends, Dear2 would wake up early at about 6 am and she would go for her run. At around 7 am, she would have returned and I would go for my run. All these while the kids were still asleep. So, by the time of Jurong Lake Run, we were not entirely unprepared.

Due to multiple road closures around the running route this year, we decided to take a bus to the starting point. However, also due to road closures, we had to alight 2 bus stops earlier and walk to the starting line. It was indeed a long walk but luckily the weather was good.

Near the starting point, we thought there were glow-in-the-dark tattoos. The tagline was to Light up the Night, right? We struggled to get the tattoos to stick to our skin. It didn’t turn out well, so we took it off instead. Later during the run, we would find out that these tattoos do not glow in the dark at all. Slightly disappointed.

The run started fairly well for us as both Dear2 and I felt good. The first leg of the run along Boon Lay Way was great. There was ample space and the evening glow was wonderful. At around the 5 km mark, we started to slow down. After a short walk, we decided to press on and keep running.

Once the run entered the Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden area, the old problems started surfacing. The running path was as narrow as before. It seemed like the organizers did not learn from their lesson. Either they have to find a better, wider running route, or limit the number of runners. I would have preferred the former.

The sky turned dark as Dear2 and I exited Japanese Garden. Quite frankly, with a tagline like Light up the Night, the least I had expected was lit running routes. But no, Japanese Garden was poorly lit and we were running in dim light. Well, it got worse. Once we entered the park area around the old Tang Dynasty, we were practically running in the darkness. It was so hard to see the running path and the drains beside. Not to mention, the crowd of runners was just as dense as before, the path were just as narrow. It wasn’t a good running experience.

Dear2 and I were getting really tired as we hit the 9 km mark. We persevered and finally crossed the finish line at 1 hr 22 mins. To us, it was a great result. It was even a little faster than many years ago when we were actively running. We queued up for our finisher entitlements, only to be greeted by another horror.

We were stuck in queue for the next 30 mins, packed like sardines with other hot sweaty tired panting runners, and with no place to sit or rest. I overheard some runners saying it was the same situation the previous year and nothing had improved. Dear2 and I were irritated. With so many years of experience behind them, how can this happen?!! We challenged ourselves, pushed ourselves, crossed the finish line with delight and get stuck in human traffic?!! Utterly disappointed. Just for this alone, Jurong Lake Run 2014 gets a 1/10 from me for organization.

Eventually, we got through the queue. We hurried off to pick up our kids. However, due to road closure, the nearest bus stop was very far away. I estimated that we must have walked for as least 20 mins before we reached an operational bus stop. Overall, it was a terrible event. The only saving grace was that we achieved a good running time and we stayed nearby so we got home rather quickly.

Epilogue: Dear2 and I fell sick the following day. It was a major illness for us, including running several days of fever. We agreed that we most likely had caught the bug during the human congestion at the finish line where the ventilation was so bad and we could feel other runner breathing hard and catching their breath all around us.

-Dear1

Great Deals shopping in Jurong 3 June, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Dollars & Cents, Shop till you drop.
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Dear1 and Dear2 do not like to go shopping outside of Jurong.

Orchard – The parking charges itself is already a killer, nooooooooooo!

Nex – Too big, and too wheels-unfriendly.

Bugis – Just imagine the human traffic………

Anywhere else, including all the new malls in town – Too many people, too few lifts, expensive parking charges etc etc.  Opps, actually the biggest problem is, we are not one of those families who can lug a couple fidgety kids and go out shopping in style. When we go shopping, it’s either grab-and-go, or walk-an-hour-while-Baby2-naps-in-stroller.  What shopping is there to talk about….

Anyway, our favourite weekend morning activity is grocery shopping recently.  After breakfast/milk, we’ll troll the supermarket until lunch, and have a quick bite before heading back home for Baby1′s afternoon nap.  Apart from IMM (best deal – free parking for 3 hours, but we don’t like Giant), there’s also Jurong Point (best raved – whatever brand you want, you can almost find them there).  JCube, Westmall, Bukit Panjang Plaza, Lot 1 – these are all very nearby too.

Until the rise of JEM and Westgate, shopping has become more varied now.  Which mall do we go today!?

For the month of June, the choice is very clear – JEM and Westgate! (Opps, my bad, though they are just besides each other, JEM and Westgate are technically still two separate malls.)

JEM: Go figure out the large number of retail and fashion stores yourself, but take note that until the last weekend of June, be sure to spend $200 and qualify for a $10 JEM voucher + $4 parking coupon;  $80 gives $2 parking coupon..  And don’t forget to get a copy of this little booklet of JEM deals which gives you some discounts from the stores.  Our favourite is this $2 discount coupon for minimum $60 spendings in NTUC (ok, just 3.33% savings, but still savings right?)

Westgate: $60 (hmm or is it $80??) spendings qualify for 5,000 capital points, which is equivalent to a $5 Capitalmall voucher.  $120 gives 5,000 capital points + a sure win game (we played spin-a-wheel and got 7,000 points in total.  Minimum win is 2,000 points).  $180 gives 10,000 capital points + the sure win game.  Very good deal!

Opps, got too carried away with the freebies, forgot to mention the stores at Westgate. Frankly, if you ask me, Westgate seems to have more food than shopping.  Tim Ho Wan, Paul, Poulet, Paradise Dynasty, some Japanese H-shape ramen shop, and a lot more other atas-looking eateries, do take your time to explore!

JEM.  Westgate.  JEM.  Westgate.  Jurong Point.  IMM.  JEM.  Westgate.  JEM.  Westgate.

Shopping in Jurong is so much fun (hmm, or rather, savings savings saving!)

- Dear2

What a fun 2D1N stay at Legoland Malaysia! 9 May, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Travel & Discovery.
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Saturday

7.00am: The 17-pax mini bus picked up the first family from Punggol. We’re going with our cousins’ families!

7.30am: Bus arrives at our house in Bukit Batok. 17-pax mini bus to ferry 10 adults and 8 children, with luggages?! Hmm… Baby2’s stroller barely had enough space at the back of the bus.

8.10am: Picked up 2 other families from Jurong West.

8.20am: Reached Tuas Checkpoint. Told you there’s a bus lane/ bay here. Tour agent whom we booked the bus with insisted that there’s none, and if we insist on using Tuas Link and not Woodlands Link, we need to top up $40 on top of the $400 that we are already paying. What the!?!?!?

8.40am: Cleared customs and asked Driver to bring us to a local Kuay Teow Soup shop. 1 bowl of small Kuay Teow Soup cost only RM4.80!! Total cost RM60 for 10 adults 8 children, unbelievable!!

10.00am: Reached Legoland Malaysia Hotel. Deposited 4 hard case suitcases at the concierge, day bags to be lugged to the parks. For our family (Dear1, Dear2, Baby1, Baby2, Uncle), we had a stroller, diaper bag, swim bag, snacks bag, and Uncle’s backpack. Heavy…….

10.30am: Finally reached Legoland Water Park. We bought the 1 Day Combo tickets. Plan is to play water park in the morning, then afternoon Land Park till closing. Baby2 was having her morning nap, so we chose a well sheltered place where Papa helped to look after all the bags while everyone go out to play! Baby2 slept for a good 2 hours while Mummy and Papa took turns trying out the rides with Baby1. She went 4 times on the big 6-pax float, twice on the Lazy River, multiple waddles on the Wave Pool, and played at the Water Zoo.

12.30pm: Lunch time. RM25 Nasi Lemak for me. RM15 Kids Meal (Fish Nuggets + Fries, 1 packet Ribena, 1 cup fruits) to be shared with Baby1. Hmm this is more worth it than the Lemak meal! Baby2 woke up, had milk, and after that, our family went back into the Wave Pool. It’s the first time that Baby2 went swimming (such was the treatment for #2s…). She loved it lots!

1.00pm: Our family showered while the others had lunch after their showers. Poor poor design for the toilets. There wasn’t a children shower area; kids have to either go with Daddy to the Male Shower Rooms, or with Mummy to the Female ones. What if only Daddies are available with older girls!?!? Mummy took Baby2 while Papa and Uncle took turns with Baby1 in the Gents.

2.30pm: Finally everyone bathed, off we went to Legoland Land Park. The older kids (9, 8, 7, 5 year olds) went to take the Roller Coaster. The younger ones (2x 4 year olds) couldn’t even clear the height limit to sit the Tea Cups. Big Uncle brought them to the Water Ride as there wasn’t any queues. Hmm… It’s way past nap time for them both le……

3.00pm: The older kids went off to the Dragon’s Cave while the rest of us stayed under a hut to look after the bags. Sudden downpour! Decided to head to the Hotel to keep away from the rain, and to find somewhere where Baby1 can take her nap. Cannot do without a nap, she’ll surely KO if she goes without one! Raincoats, umbrellas, finally reached the Hotel but the rain had subsided by then…

3.45pm: Finally can check in. Our Adventure-themed room is so cool! Very big King-sized bed overlooking Legoland; Double decker bunk bed with a pullout too. SGD 391 for 1 night’s stay is indeed very expensive, but I think it’s well worth the money.

The younger kids proceeded to take their naps, and the older ones continued on their quest in the Park. Baby1 napped. Baby2 played with the Lego bricks in the room. Papa tried to solve the code for the treasure chest. Mummy KOed too.

5.45pm: Mummy woke up with a start. Both kids are awake le. 15 more minutes to the closing of the Park, not enough time to go down le. But we paid for Combo tickets, only to go 2 rounds on the Lego car!!! (Much later, we realised that today the Park closes at 7pm. The Concierge gave us the wrong info!)

6.00pm: Arranged dinner time with the cousins, and went to Hotel Lobby to play Lego.

7.00pm: Went to Merdini Mall for dinner. We ate Mexican Food (about SGD 10 per pax) and had Secret Recipe cakes. Very full!

8.30pm: Went back to room, showered everyone, and lights out. Finally solved the puzzle and opened the Treasure Chest and found 3 packets of Lego inside! Baby1 slept in the bunk bed all by herself!

Sunday

8.00am: Breakfast buffet at the Hotel Restaurant. Luckily we were early, the queue got very long shortly afterwards. Food so-so, but the dinnerware were very dirty……

9.00am: Swimming in the Hotel Pool. Baby1 and Baby2 had so much fun in the kids pool!

10.00am: Back to room to shower and pack.

11.00am: Hotel check out. Driver brought us to Sutera Mall which was just a short drive away. You can go to Bukit Indrah Mall too, which is another mega shopping centre here in JB.
Baby1 and Baby2 fell asleep while we had lunch in Ajisen Ramen. Papa and Mummy sat and chat while Uncle walked out in search of Secret Recipe. The Durian Cake yesterday was yummy!

1.30pm: Baby1 finally woke up, got her a loaf of raisin bread, and we went outside the Mall to a durian shop. Driver said that the durians are cheap and good, but they were the same prices in Singapore! Hmm……

2.30pm: Went back to shop, and played catching running around with the cousins.

4.30pm: Driver picked us for dinner. The first dinner place was closed today; the second one was not opened for dinner yet, finally reached a third place. We wanted to eat seafood, but turns out mainly Zi Char Food….

6.15pm: Finished dinner, and proceeded to the Customs. Spent some time queuing, and saw much more crowd coming in..….

7.30pm: Dropped us off at Bukit Batok. Still in time to watch Star Awards 2014!

What a fun trip! We paid $722.60 (SGD) for hotel, driver, Park tickets, Travel Insurance for 3 Adults 2 Kids. For a 2D1N, it was considered very expensive, but being able to travel with the cousins (first time for all of us), and the Legoland Hotel being so cool, I think it’s worth the money! But we’ll probably wait till the kids are older (and taller) to go again.

- Dear2

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