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2015 Fly Cruise to Shanghai 31 July, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Dear2, Travel & Discovery.
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Let’s do a recap of this trip.  It’s the first ever trip that our family of four went on (previously, there was only Baby1, or we brought the grandparents along to help take care when Baby2 came along).  For Dear1 and Dear2, it was a test to see if traveling with a 2.5yo and 5yo by ourselves is do-able.  Gegege….

We had such great fun on board!

We had such great fun on board! Parades, shows, sports, or just chill out!

Let’s first talk about the routine for the first 8 days on the Mariner of the Seas, cruising days.  We’ll wake up at about 7+am (as usual, Baby2’s biological clock), both kids drink milk, head out for breakfast, have a morning activity, lunch at 12nn, nap from 1 to 4pm, bath, dinner at Top Hats and Tails at 5.45pm (first seating), walk around until Show time at 8.45pm, watch Show, bedtime around 10pm.  Very nice schedule!  For port days, we’ll usually head out after breakfast, tour the port (Vung Tau, Hong Kong and Xiamen) in the morning, and return to ship by mid afternoon for the kids’ nap.  The evening plan remains.  Nice again!

We visited Ho May Park at Vung Tau.

We visited Ho May Park at Vung Tau, and also bought some *very* aromatic coffee from the local supermarket.

As for what we did, we did lots!

Adventure Ocean: Baby1 was old enough to join the programme (for 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12) so we left her there on some days.  Baby2 was not toilet trained yet so we can’t smuggle her in for the 3-5 group.  :)  Baby1 had so much fun there.  She had superhero theme, made some snacks, pyjamas party, came in tops for standing board jump (she was disappointed that she didn’t win a prize for hula hoop, and strove to learn this properly!), made a bacteria house, etc. She even won the grand prize in Family Bingo! Adventure Ocean is really good; kids enjoy so much fun, and parents get to take a breather.  There were very few kids onboard the entire cruise, so Baby1 had lots of attention and lots of opportunities to play. We target to sail with Royal Caribbean again in 3 years time, when Baby1 is 8yo and Baby2 5yo, kekeke!

We visited Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery before settling for lunching at the 1 Michelin Star Lei Garden  Restaurant for lunch.

We visited Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery before settling for lunching at the 1 Michelin Star Lei Garden Restaurant for lunch.

Royal Tots: The last time, we couldn’t find the Royal Tots.  This time, there was a room with many toys, so Baby2 spent her mornings there playing while Jie Jie is at Adventure Ocean.  There were only a few toddlers onboard, the most we saw at Royal Tots was 2-3 other toddlers. So Baby2 had nearly all the toys to herself. And Dear1 and Dear2 just sat around and relax, hehehe…..

Shows: It was a nightly look-forward for us, the kids included, to the singing and dancing shows, piano show, music show, magic show, ice-skating show, entertainment show.  The kids may not understand or appreciate fully, but they do enjoyed them very much!

Spent half a day exploring Gulangyu Island (very touristy, felt somewhat like Sentosa of the yesteryears).

Spent half a day exploring Gulangyu Island (very touristy, felt somewhat like Sentosa of the yesteryears).

Food: As of any cruise, eating forms a very large part.  We had 3 full meals everyday; breakfast and lunch at Windjammer or Rhapsody Blue (ordered room service breakfast once and had hotdogs lunch another time), the nightly dinner at Top Hats and Tails, and the occasional snacks from the Royal Promenade (that’s too much eating!).  The spread was sumptuous, service people entertaining, Baby1 learnt to order her own dinner (she liked the congee so much that she ordered it almost everyday), and Baby2 tried to do magic – make the butter disappear (without success!).

Utterly pampered the the sumptuous food and our fantastic dinner crew.

Utterly pampered the the sumptuous food and our fantastic dinner crew.

Outdoor Activities:  Dear1 and Dear2 did rock-climbing, Baby1 tried ice-skating, we ‘swam’ in the hot tub, played a bit of basketball, did 2 rounds of Mini Golf  (Baby2 too!).  A pity we didn’t get the chance to play table tennis.  A note: We should have capitalised on those times when the ship was not cruising to do mini golf, else it’s too windy to play outdoors.  Hmm, plus the sun must not be too hot too.

Indoor Activities: We went for a Detox Seminar and an Art Seminar while Baby1 was at Adventure Ocean, and brought her to a towel-folding activity on the day when she had bad behavior and no Adventure Ocean as punishment.  She had so much fun folding turtle, swan, elephant, rabbit out of towels though!

Photos:  We bought the Photo Package on the first day and had the next 8 days going from one booth to the next.  We ended up with slightly over 200 photos in total.  So for USD 250 (usual price USD 349), each photo costs ~USD1.50 (usual price per piece is about USD 18), 1hr free internet too, plus a CD to take home, and lots of fun posing away!

What have we learnt?:

1) Fly-Cruise is definitely a Yes-Yes!  The Ship was at 65% capacity only, and about 90% of them Caucasians! We couldn’t figure out where did all these Caucasian retirees from all over the world came from, but it definitely means no crowd at all the physically active places (rock climbing, skating, arcade etc).  We even managed to get front row seats at the Savoy Theatre every time, and front row seats meant that our kids have unblocked view throughout the entire show!  And no kaisu Singaporeans nudging forward at meals; it was simply great. There was plenty of personal space for everyone and no one place was over-crowded. We never had difficulties getting a seat at Windjammer.

2) Adventure Ocean was great! It keeps the children fully occupied and engaged. Baby1 asked to attend Adventure Ocean every day.

3) We missed out on night activities such as disco parties, pool parties, late night outdoor movie screening, karaoke competitions, late night talk shows at the theatre because of the children’s bedtime. Perhaps we’ll be able to attend some of these activities on our next cruise while the children are older.

Just a quick description of our 3 days stay in Shanghai. We stayed at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel along Nanjing Road. We spent quite a bit of time exploring Nanjing Road throughout the day – searching for local breakfast food along the side streets, shopping for souvenirs in the malls, traveling up and down Nanjing Road on the pedestrian train! In addition, we also visited The Bund, Yu Garden, Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, People’s Square, and the district around the Oriental Pearl Tower. We didn’t go up to the observatory because it was covered in fog. Finally, we end off our trip with a “gala dinner” at 海底捞. The next morning, we took the Maglev train to the airport and flew back to home sweet home.

A glimpse of our itinerary in Shanghai

A glimpse of our itinerary in Shanghai

Food galore!

Food galore!

We had great fun travelling as a family! Looking forward to our next family trip!

-Dear1 & Dear2

Saving Every $ part 4 30 June, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Uncategorized.
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We emptied our piggy banks again! :D

This time, we employed the help of Baby1 and Baby2 to sort and help to pack the 50 cents and 1 dollar coins. We counted a total of $1090. As usual, we exchanged the coins with my mummy so that she can bring it for use at her workplace.

Normally, we would deposit this savings into our designated savings account for it to start earning interests for us. However, since the saving of coins was to contribute towards our Baby Savings Plan, and we also have a plan to invest in gold coins for our kids, we decided to use this money to buy a gold coin instead. In addition, we topped up the total sum with Baby1’s POSB Kids Savings account (which wasn’t earning much interests at all) and bought a larger gold coin for the kids.

One thing we noticed about buying from UOB is that, for the same weight, a gold bar is cheaper than a bullion coin. See the price list here. We’ve already bought a bullion coin this time, but perhaps we should be buying a gold bar instead the next time.

-Dear1

Pre-reno Spring Cleaning 24 May, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Around the House, Dear1.
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We’re currently in the midst of preparing and converting our study room into a children’s bedroom. And there is a big list of things that we are planning to do to realize this mini renovation project. For the study room, we have:

  1. Clear out all the cupboards in the study room (Spring cleaning).
  2. Give away old furniture to make space for new children furniture.
  3. Paint the room.
  4. Replace the air con (because the existing air con broke down a few weeks ago).
  5. Replace the curtain/blinds (to block out the sunlight, heat, and sounds from the coffeeshops below).
  6. Buy pull-out bed and mattresses.
  7. Buy study tables.

For the rest of the house:

  1. Clear out the toys area.
  2. Re-organize Dear1’s collections (board games and Gundams).
  3. Create more space in the living room.

For the past weeks, we have been slooooooowly clearing out the cupboards. We’ve given away lots of baby stuff to Dear2’s sister. We’ve dug out lots of old bills and statements and receipts and books dated as far back as 2006 when we first moved in. Wow! We’ve really accumulated lots of things over the years.

So, just as we’ve sold our old clothes for recycling the last time, we sold 8kg worth of old clothes and 18kg worth of paper this morning and received $3.40 for our recycling efforts. Thus far, we’ve sold more than 70kg of recyclable stuff and we’re 30kg away from earning our first loyalty reward of $1.50. :)

We’ve also sold off an Osim uPen and a set of speakers that we don’t use anymore to some friends. Dear2 is also taking the opportunity to clean the windows that we have not cleaned in a long time. It’s quite satisfying to clear out the clutter every once in a while. The house does seem brighter and more spacious.

Looking forward to see the final product of our renovation project.

-Dear1

31 May 2015: We sold another 10kg worth of recyclables.

Terrible daddy 6 May, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, For Him For Her.
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The change was gradual. I probably didn’t notice it myself at first. But the signs were there. I was ill tempered, I was irritable, and I had unreasonably high expectations for the children. I was yelling at the children more and more frequently and I became impatient to see “results”. And I was hurting Dear2 because there would be constant yelling (and the resultant crying) around the house.

I’m the problem.

I didn’t think that I had a stress management issue, but now I’m convinced that I do. I’m stressed out when things go out of my control. Like when the air con broke down. Like when Dear2 or the children fall sick. Like when my parents don’t practice my instructions to them. When I get stressed out, my coping mechanism was to get grumpy and to snap and yell at the people around me. And the children were at the receiving end of those far too often.

I’m guessing I had a lot more stress since I started my new job. I agree, it is a stressful job. I’m not going to blame the job. I just means that whatever coping mechanisms that I’ve been using so far to cope has failed miserably. I need to acknowledge that and I need new coping mechanisms.

I need a lifestyle change.

I still don’t have a very concrete idea of how to implement this change. But I know that the simplest guidelines work the best. I’m going to start with helping out more around the house. Working the body is a good way to de-stress. And I can also let Dear2 rest a bit more.

Also, I’ll practice the ABCD model for anger management. I have to become more self-aware of my emotions and belief so that I will have more control. I will practice identifying the Activating trigger, my Belief model, the Consequences of my actions, and final to Dispute the flawed belief/expectations.

More shall come into practice as I read up more on stress management and design a routine that is suitable for myself.

Last weekend, while Dear2 was doing up the photo album, I had a chance to look at many of our recent photos. I see so many happy moments of our family together. At that moment, my heart just broke and tears flowed down my cheeks. I quickly moved to the bedroom so nobody would see. I feel so heartbroken that I’ve been venting my stress on my family members.

I’m so sorry.

I’m also so thankful to be surrounded by my active and cheerful kids, and my supportive wife. I will make that lifestyle change. I’m determined to make it work. I have to appreciate Dear2 more. I have to appreciate the kids more. I have to enjoy my time with them more rather than correcting their behaviours. I have to draw a clear line between work and home.

-Dear1

Baby2 Hospital Bill 26 April, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Baby, Dear1, Dollars & Cents.
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Dear2 and I are in the midst of spring cleaning our house. The purpose is to convert the current study room into a children’s bedroom, and thereby “chase” the children out of our master bedroom and “reclaim” the master bedroom for ourselves once again. Hehe…

In the process of spring cleaning, we came across old stacks of bill from TMC for both Baby1 and Baby2. It was then that I realized I had not documented Baby2’s hospital bill here. So here it is (following the same format).

Item description Baby1 (2010) Baby2 (2012)
Mummy hospital package $3175 (4 nights) $3115 (3 nights)
Companion package $240 (4 nights) $170 (3 nights)
Drugs, medicine, supplies, procedure, facilities $263.90 $931.92
FBI/SBI discount for 1 bedded -$100 -$100
GST for hospital $250.52 $288.18
Gynae fees $2461 $3424
Anesthetist fees $450 $600
FBI/SBI discount for professional fees -$100 -$100
Medisave deduction -$4400 -$5500
Cash payable (mummy) $2240.42 $2829.10
Baby package $388 $388
Drugs, medicine, supplies, facilities, etc $593.90 $976.35
FBI discount for hospital -$28.16 -$48.82
GST for hospital $66.77 $92.08
Baby doctor fees $406.40 $395.90
FBI discount for professional fees -$40.64 -$39.59
Medisave deduction -$1181.13 -$1350
Cash payable (baby) $205.14 $413.92
Total cash payable $2445.55 $3243

Some observations:

  1. The 3 nights package for Baby2 was just as expensive as the 4 nights package for Baby1.
  2. The hospital facilities, etc fees was much more expensive for Baby2. This could be because Baby2 was born in the wee hours of the morning while Baby1 was born in the middle afternoon.
  3. Our gynae is $1000 more expensive than before.
  4. Anesthetist fee also went up, but I can’t confirm if it is the same person.
  5. Baby package remained the same, but the facilities, etc fees were up just as with mummy’s cost.
  6. Baby doctor is slightly cheaper. The 2 baby doctors were different and I guess Baby2’s doctor was slightly less experienced.
  7. Despite medisave deduction was increased by $1100, we ended up payable roughly $800 more in cash.

What a big difference! And this was without factoring in ante-natal costs (which was increased as well). There were of course other savings, such as the many baby equipment that we could reuse and therefore did not need to buy.

At the end of the day, nothing is more important than a healthy baby and a healthy family. :)

-Dear1

Glad to be Home 28 March, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Slice of Life, Travel & Discovery.
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Dear1, Dear2, Baby1 and Baby2 are back from a 11 day Fly-Cruise holiday to Shanghai.  The 8-day cruise departing from Singapore brought us to Vietnam (Vung Tau), Hong Kong, Xiamen, and finally arrived at Shanghai where we stayed for a further 3 days before flying back to Singapore.  Though another eye-opening trip for us (especially for the kids, we tell them “When we travel, we learn things that cannot be taught in schools.”), boy, was I glad to be home when we came back.  Home to Singapore, our home.

Vung Tau was a very quiet town on a weekday.  We went to the Ho May Theme Park.  Though big and with lots of interesting sights, animals and rides, it was way too dusty for my liking.  And the attendants, oh the attendants.  There’s one attendant at every ride, but they’re sooooo glued to their handphones to notice any patrons.  And when we finally managed to catch their attention, the attitude was just nonchalant.  And the shops, oh the shops.  Very big and spacious with lots of items on the shelves.  But customers?  Hardly any.  And if you think being the only customer in an empty shop will excite the sales attendants ($$$!!!), you’ll be surprised that none even batted an eyelid.  Seems to me that people here are merely passing time all day long….

Hong Kong was as usual, busy and bustling.  A little too cold for my liking, and way too crowded for our comfort.  Not surprisingly, traffic was congested on an off-peak morning.  We reserved a table at the One-Michelin star restaurant Lei Garden, and as expected, had to enjoy the dim sum with the clock ticking down to the time given to us to clear the table.

At Xiamen, we decided to take a ferry from the same Cruise Terminal to this little island, Gulangyu.  But the queues to purchase the tickets were horribly full of people!  What’s with Gulangyu or this Cruise Terminal, that’s way too many people!  (Now I finally understood what it means to be 1 billion…)  At Gulangyu, we concluded that it’s another Sentosa.  Full of tourists, tourists who were just walking up and down and up and down the beaches’ shorelines.  Baby1 and I had our first China-toilet experience here, and it was definitely unforgettable.  I had expected dirty toilets, but the very first one that we picked greeted us with a big explosive mass of extremely smelly poo, unflushed.  I never want to mention this horrible experience to anyone again, and I hope Baby1’s memories of China is not marred by this frightful sight and smell.

In Shanghai, I was constantly on my toes.  There’s so many people, adults actually (we didn’t see many kids throughout here), and people are cutting queues at most queues.  I was fearful for the safety of my kids.  On the roads (or even pavements), pedestrians liked to stand any where, and there were constantly many sounds of horns.  But no one even cared about the horns!  For food, we tried a variety of the local meat paus and dumplings, and by the second day, I was very suspicious of these relatively cheap, strongly flavoured meats (think, human meat char siew pau…).

On the flight back, I read from the Straits Times that it was Crimea’s 1 year anniversary joining Russia and separation from Ukraine.  The photo shows a child holding the country’s flag.  To think that in this time and world, there are still people fighting for better living.  And look at our neighbouring countries, haiz…..

I am so glad to be home, home to this clean, fresh air, stable, nice weather, safe, mostly civilised and educated people country.  Though it’s back to the routine, but, ah, I am really glad to be back.

– Dear2

2015 New Year Resolutions 8 February, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Baby, Dear2, Dollars & Cents, Food & Beverages, For Him For Her, Learning Training, Slice of Life, Sports & Health, Travel & Discovery.
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We had a bad end/ rough start to 2014/ 2015, so only managed to review and plan out our 2015 new year resolutions recently.  Who cares, there’s still 11 more months in 2015.

As usual, we reviewed our 2014 resolutions first, before coming out new ones.  Though Dear1 and Dear2 did occasionally bring out the 2014 resolutions to remind ourselves, we failed quite miserably in meeting them at the end of the year.  Nonetheless, they did serve as good reminders for us throughout the year.  :)

As of any NYR, the 2015 new year resolutions should be SMART.  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and with a Time.  Here goes:

For Dear2:

– Beauty (take good care of oneself first before you are able to take care of your loved ones): Do daily skin moisturizing and monthly face masks + exfoliation

– Waist: Attain 28″ by year end

– Exercise: Do daily planks (minimum 2x 1min)

– Self Improvement: Try cooking new dish every month

– Cook: Master (盆菜 or other dish) for next CNY by next CNY

– Speak slowly, Listen carefully, Smile more

– Post: Write at least 1 post per month

– Drive: Do 1 morning routine by end of year

For Dear1:

– Weight: Reach 68kg by year end

– Exercise: Do daily planks (minimum 2x 1.5min)

– Self Improvement: Learn 2 programming languages (Python and Julia)

– Temper: Be more tolerant with Baby1 and Baby2

– Post: Write at least 1 post per month

For us:

– Family Activities: Out-of-house/ malls activities once a month

– Couple Activities: Just for Dear1 and Dear2 activity/ new experiences bi-monthly or join 1 (dance) class

– Hugs & Kiss: Hug and kiss Dear1, Dear2, Baby1 and Baby2 everyday

– Travel: 1 long and 1 short trip for this year

– Finance: Save more money in this year

– House: Continue to view house

– Friends and Relatives: Have quarterly gatherings with friends/ relatives

– Nutrition: Eat at least 1 fruit every week

– Family Events: Participate in 1 (cycling) event

– Couple Time: Have just Dear1 and Dear2 time every week

A lot of times, when one reviews the new year resolutions at the end of the year, one will be dismayed that the goals might has changed course along the way.  Time does not stand still, and things are constantly evolving.  So take heart if the circumstances do not go as you’ve wished, for these new year resolutions still serve as a reminder to what your goals were one year back.

Happy New Year!

– Dear2

PS: Last year, we had a couple of monthly goals, but 1 year 12 times was quite hard to achieve given our busy schedules.  So we changed some of these to lower frequency.  Nonetheless, these still require conscious tracking, hence we decided to draw up a list and have them displayed on the kitchen fridge!  :)

100% Authentic 6 January, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Slice of Life.
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Dear2 recently came across this battle between Xiaxue and Gushcloud, and suddenly realised that I have been so living behind times!  People are getting famous and earning bucks out of writing blogs, but why has our this blog been so quiet!?!?

Gosh, there are soooooo many newfound ‘celebrities’ now, no bother that you don’t see these celebrities on TV or movies or radios or ads (hmm actually some of them do get to become some form of celebrity afterwards, not only the exposure (read, exposed), but the endorsement money too $$$).  Nowadays, you don’t need to join the Star Search or Project Superstar or Miss Singapore to become known, you just need to write enough juicy blogs and post enough juicer photos and voila, this has become a form of means to stardom too.

But then again, the private lives of these celebrities become part of the excitement too.  Or if you have a super duper cute baby, he unknowingly becomes the attention of xx numbers of fans worldwide, unknowingly.  I wonder what will his thoughts be when one day, he realised what his mum has been doing to his private life all his life, posting every little bit of his growing years to everyone except himself.  The New Trumen Show??

Anyway, as you can tell, Dear1 Dear2 are very primitive/conservative in this aspect.  So we have no endorsement or sponsorship, so you know that we are all natural.  No Gushcloud or Nuffnang, so if we say, yes we like a product or no please steer clear of this, this really comes from us, and us truly.

Truly.

– Dear2

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