Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Thursday, December 04, 2008

What's on your Face?

Quote of the day:


'What's that socialising thing they do on the computer now... MyFace??'




Saturday, November 29, 2008

Zion and Bryce Canyons, Utah

A couple of weeks after, we loaded the car and drove through the desert, past Las Vegas(there's a big toy castle in Las Vegas!) and into the Red State. We spent 2 nights each in Zion and Bryce. I loved the clean, easy camping and the spectacular views in the canyons.

The first day we unwittingly did an 11 mile hike, and barely made it to the bus before it got pitch dark. And though we had kept our spirits and optimism up, it would have been most unpleasant if we had had to spend the night out there in t-shirts and shorts.

Not withstanding that, the trip was a lot of fun - we hiked through the trails, woke up for a beautiful sunrise, took photos of everything from mountains to rocks to water, stalked mule deer, chased after pronghorns, visited an amazing wildlife museum, saw some elk locking horns and a couple of great bisons, and a cow with the most massive horns I've ever imagined, and even hitched a ride in the back of a convertible driving up Zion.

*******

In my girl scout days, we pitched a tent with stakes, rope and a square of tarp, cooked our food over twig fires and did our business with a shovel behind the bushes.

Boy am I glad camping now is much more evolved. YAY for pop-up tents, flushable toilets and hot water showers!!

As I have also learnt, a plain steaming pot of instant noodles is great comfort food when you're out camping, so is a jar of Nutella :D

Some photos for now

********


Pantanal, Brazil

Back in September:

Awesome trip, loadsa fun in a stick-drive, and wa-aay too much doodoo everywhere

http://scottpenny.smugmug.com/Pantanal,%20Brazil

Friday, November 14, 2008

Natalie Comes To Visit!

When I was back in Singapore last year, I spied Natalie behind the pharmacy counter at a drugstore. We exchanged emails.

Back in junior college, we were in the canoeing/db team together. Those were happy, splashy, fit days of abs and biceps.

Now that Natalie is in California waiting to start on her new job, she comes to stay with me for a week while Scott is away diving in the Philippines. Why has he gone diving without me, I'm asked. I can drive, and I have the car and my credit card - I'll be fine, I say ;)

Me and my partner-in-crime, we tore through town and raided the malls, combed through the bargains and rung up the register with a vengeance. We huffed and puffed up the mountains, lamenting our soft thighs and weak lungs. We more happily padded barefoot down the beaches and sunned ourselves silly. We yakked through it all and late into the night til we fell asleep.

We had many shared and unshared memories to talk about, more than 10 years of catching up to do. It was all very comforting and very heart-warming and I couldn't have asked for better company.

Thanks Natalie! I'm so glad you came to visit! :D


more photos in title link


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Don't Forget To Flush

Aboard the Sea Bass yesterday, as divers waited for the head (i.e. toilet, on a boat):


"What's taking him so long, is he fixing on his pee valve?"

"Yeah, it's a pain"

"I know a guy who sells them cheap, for like $20, but they're not balanced, so water could go up the valve while you're descending."

"I'd rather just pay for a balanced one, you don't want critters swimming up the valve either you know..."

"So, how do you women do it in that drysuit underwater?"

"(She)'s got something similar to the valve."

"(She) uses one of those gadgets, what do you call'em? (everyone else: "the She-wee") so it's like a female p***s you hold up against you, do it standing up. You can just throw it in the purse and carry it around."

"Yeh, but she also has a zip at the crotch, so she doesn't have to undress to do it"

...

"I just hold, cut my dive short, come up and strip down quick"

...

and She Who Dived In A Wetsuit shrugged it and said:


"I flush."


*************


We had beautiful clear, cobalt blue water at Farnsworth yesterday. I call it Farnsworth Blue.

On a great boat with a group of wonderful funny people, that made the trip all the merrier.


Torpedo Ray aka Electric Ray
video


Dana brought me a raspberry chocolate cake for my birthday, and cuppy cakes with little sea creatures on it - Woot! love the crabby!


BeBe popped a baby!

Hubby gives each of our 3 girls a piece of cucumber, and we set out to the store for some dinner.

30 minutes later, we come back home, and I go to give them a piece of tomato.

Bebe was sitting way in the back of the cage, it was dark there, and I reached in with the tomato for her. There's a little dark something in front of her, I half-wondered what it was and prodded it without thinking.

And suddenly there was a flash of what looked like an eye, and then something scrambled away!

I gasped and I scrambled away.

"SWEETIE!! THERE'S AN EXTRA PIGGY IN THE CAGE!!" I ran out of the room to fetch the hubs, shrieking like I was struck with leprosy. At this point, I wildly imagined that the piggy had jumped in through the open window and somehow into the cage right where it sat.

The hubs stared at me with eyes stretched wide, in his 'No-Way!' manner, went "Whaaa?" and then marched right into the bedroom.



.."I told you!"




We adopted Bebe from an official rescue that had screened it for pregnancy, but I guess some things are hard to tell. Bebe got a little chubby, especially over the last week, but it never occurred to us that she could actually be pregnant. We just thought she was getting lotsa good stuff to eat.

This is the loveliest surprise, and boy are we glad that it was a normal, healthy labour and delivery for Bebe. And she is being such a good mommy too, always cleaning the baby and laying still for it to feed.

Sigh, happiness comes in such surprising ways.






Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

31

Just when I stamped a label on the hubs, he goes out and proves me wrong.

I was at work on Friday, when I called him during a break to say hello, and what does he tell me?

He tells me he's out shopping.

For my birthday(the next day) present no less, but make no mistake about it - the hubs is out. Shopping.

Not a targeted-purchase operation, not a hunger driven grocery cart pile-up, not a necessary 30-sec stop, but a true searching, looking escapade.

Sure I wished sometimes he'd just be my company when I shop, which he does too, but I never expected that he would venture out at it alone.

I love my hubby, he does everything and would do anything to make sure I'm always happy :)

In the end, just as even the most avid shoppers do once in a while, he aborted the mission when he remembered me delighting in a pretty charm bracelet a week ago (I hadn't meant it to be a hint on a birthday present at all then).

At once, he reclaimed his hunter-gatherer instinct and set out to secure the item of desire.

Target acquired~



I absolutely love it!!


How happy for a woman to get something so chirpily frivolous for her birthday, even at 31 ;)

Thank you sweetie!


Charms, beads, and lovely jewelry all handmade by Judy Carlson. Thank you Judy! :D

~
For my birthday, we biked down to Manhattan Beach for the day in beautiful sunny weather, and even met a group of bikers on the way - one of them had ribbons all over her helmet and a big birthday smiley with a party hat on the back of her jersey - I guess it's her birthday too!

Finally got back home and then a quick splash in our little pool in the courtyard to cool off. Ahhhh, I always liked that last bit the best. :)




31 and never happier :)


Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Anti-Retail Man

Walking along the Promenade yesterday, we strode along a young couple on vacation from England (I presumed from the invariable bright pink of tourists in Santa Monica, and from their accent). We come to a stop at the light.

Across the street was the Victoria Secret store of sexy lingerie fame, that women adore in all its Pinkness. To the left was a pizza stop. At the crossroads of a fledging relationship, the guy gives a grimace.

"Oh I know that look, it's the but-I-don't-wanna-go-shopping look." chimes my jolly-wolly hubby to them.

The guy shoots us a look of self-pity and moans "We've been at it for 3 hours."

To which the hubs heartily dispenses some empathy and oft-executed advice

"Oh I totally understand. There's a Borders right down the block - make a dash for it."


How's that for instant camaraderie.



How Long Can You Hold Your Breath?

After a nice long sleep-in on my day off, hubs and I took off to Malibu for some freediving. There was a little bit of surf, not too much, but enough for me to feel wooozey after about 75 minutes. We went right through the mass of kelp, got tangled a bit, but without scuba equipment, it was much easier to get out and get through.

Looking down snorkelling was like looking through a haze, but once you dive right in, the water column clears up and there are beautiful sights - the bright green sea gras swaying back and forth with the surges, red algae, kelp forests, schools of baby perch darting about, rock fish, kelp bass hanging out, a couple big guitarfish cruising by, silvery baitfish everywhere, giant kelpfish playing hide and seek.

As I was taking a breath at the surface, I spotted a harbour seal about 60 feet away, doing the same and checking me out for a bit. Through my foggy mask, I thought it was hubs, albeit strangely grey and spotted, until the real McCoy bobbed up right in front of the imposter, just as it ducked, splashed, and dived down under1 ~ Whaa..???

Freediving was a lot of fun - much lighter, streamlined, thereby faster, and quieter without the bubbling(you hold your breath and dive under for as long as you can). You can sneak up on fish and get up closer, that's what the hunters and photographers( like hubby) do. But really, I just think there's a lot more freedom of movement and speed, you feel like a mermaid!

case in point: Feeling and looking like a mermaid are two very different things.






Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bubble Bubble

Hubs and I went swimming in Laguna early in the morning yesterday, it was a beautiful sunny and the water was clear as can be. With all the fishes and reefs under us, it was like swimming in a huge aquarium! I saw lots of silvery topsmelt swimming just under the water surface, a school of barracuda, a harbour seal cruise by on the sandy bottom, a baby bat ray, and the hubs saw a dolphin close by.




Monday, August 25, 2008

My Little BeBe!

We have a new piggy!!! She's a little 8 month old abby-peruvian mix, and she's a little darling! We got her from a rescue. Her name from the rescue is Phoebe, I'm calling her BeBe. She has a plume of hair on her hiney!






And here is the love of our lives, Mousey. She's been with us since she was a little baby, now she's almost 5 yrs old, somehow she still seems like a little kid that's never really quite 'grown up', if you know what I mean.






So now we have Mousey-Pie and Cookie-Pie and Bebe-kins to rule this house - the guinea pig way - once again everybody! ~




She's A (Weather-Man's) Lady

I saw a weatherman dance on the news tonight, to Tom Jones' She's A Lady. Boy was he really enjoying it, rockin' it, and even unbuttoning his jacket at one point. He had not a care that he was on national tv, he did not once look into the camera. Just doin' his thang, and finally dancing off the screen with the warm and cold fronts billowing around behind him.

Of course, I was so amused watching him, it didn't even matter that not a word on the weather was said.

That was some spontaneous en-ter-tain-ment :)

Seriously, who can resist Tom Jones?




Well, she's all you'd ever want
She's the kind I like to flaunt and take to dinner
But she always knows her place
She's got style, she's got grace--she's a winner
She's a lady
Oh, whoa, whoa, she's a lady




Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Hope BW Has A Solid Evacuation Plan

So the earth shook beneath my feet today. Technically, under the feet of the massage table I was on.

It was a 5.4 on the Richter scale. Even if it were a 7, I was too noodled to gather enough strength and power to jump off the table and duck under it.

In my semi-consciousness, what registered was a gentle rumble accompanied by chandeliers tinkling. It might very well have been a new spa relaxation technique before I snapped out of my dreaminess. Anyway, it was over before I had the chance to panic.

The epicenter was 40 miles away, so we didn't get the worst of the earthquake. Although we're probably about 10 or 12 meters above sea level, so the tsunami that may or may not happen could bury us in a tremendous flush.

On that note, geologists are warning of an impending BIG earthquake(since San Fransisco) courtesy of San Andreas. It's been 150 years and no one can hold anything in that long.

Seriously, I think we need a portable radio and a bigger dining table.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

1st Anniversary!


On April 4, to mark the day of our customary wedding, I made the sweet dessert soup that we had during the tea ceremony in Singapore.

Sunday, 25 May marked our first year anniversary. A year ago this day, we were in Letchworth State Park, Buffalo, saying our vows and drinking champagne to cello music with friends and family, and ended the day with the wedding reception in the beautiful Botanical Gardens.


I had to work the afternoon, but that evening, we went down to our favourite grassy spot on the beach, stood close under the palm trees, and said our vows to each other once more. I bawled my eyes out again and felt more thankful and more loved than I had a year ago.


Blessed always, blessed always
For the arms of God surrounds us
Let our joy be so triumphant, that we rest in God and say Amen
- "Blessed Always"

***

Wish I had some photos to share, but I forgot the camera.

Dinner at 26 Beach Cafe was excellent, they have the best salad ever - pan-fried goat cheese medallions in a summer salad blend with sundried tomatoes, berries(raspberries, strawberries, blueberries) and walnuts, served with the most heavenly raspberry vinaigrette.

And a good ol' slab of lasagne, you know it's freshly made when the lasagne doesn't come shaped like a box.

The smiley waitress, having learnt that it was our wedding anniversary, even brought us a surprise - oozy chocolatey brownie topped with a huge dollop of vanilla ice-cream with chocolate fudge and powder - yumMMY!!



Saturday, May 17, 2008

Constant Vigilance!

Got into an accident on the freeway - it was not major. It was bumper-to-bumper traffic and slow-moving, but I guess this is where constant vigilance for brake lights in front of you comes in.

No one in all three cars involved were hurt(can't say the same for the cars though), although the impact gave me a sore neck for a c0uple of days after. The car got smashed in with the hood half crumpled up, so we were at the mercy of the nearest mechanic. Luckily for us he's our regular mechanic who doesn't try to rip people off.

We also had the foresight to have all our registrations and insurance updated just a week ago, thus avoiding more complications and paperwork.

The price paid is small, the lesson taught is huge - buckle up, and put your cellphone away. Unfortunately, in LA, where people spend half their day sitting in traffic or on the road to the nearest store, such precautions are often conveniently forgotten.

I really think it's just a matter of developing good precautionary habits and behavior, which in our case, everyone did for the large part and had their seat belts buckled in. This, undoubtedly, more than saved us from further and more serious injury.



Constant Vigilance!
-Professor Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hello-OH COOKIE!




Say hello to Cookie!

Cookie is a sweet, bright, 3yr-old black and white abby. She came to our home as a companion for Mousey, who's been very lonely and depressed since Tobey passed away. Cookie also lost her cage-mate, albeit to more tragic circumstances.

When we visited Cookie at her home in the previous family, she was named Oreo. She looked lovely, but had a very extensive balding patch on her back near the rump. The owner said some baby piggies that were there a year ago had been pulling out Oreo's hair, and being the sweet little pig that she is, she let them. The hair never grew back.

Back home, we re-named her Cookie and put her with Mousey. Cookie is the sweetest thing ever, and wow, we've never seen Mousey so bossy! Mousey's just running around Cookie, sniffing her, following her around like she's guarding Cookie and checking what she's up to, planting herself next to her at the hideys, giving her big wide yawns to show teeth. Even when we tried to tempt her away with some lettuce to give Cookie a break, Mousey would come over, grab the lettuce and run right back to station herself next to Cookie. But it's all good, Mousey seems a lot happier with something to do. Cookie's just completely blase about it.

3 weeks later, they are happily trotting after each other, running around the cage and apartment, looking for secret hiding spots, chomping on lettuce and hay, chasing each other and sometimes just sitting side by side in the hideys.

Mousey has since recovered from an unknown source of URI, and sustaining her weight. She is a lot livelier, and I have seen her popcorn (a quick jump-n-twist that guinea pigs do to show they're happy!) more often than I've ever seen her. Cookie has since grown back all her hair in that bald spot, and she looks lovely and healthy - she's even gained 2.5 ounces!


On a different Cookie note: I'm rooting for David Cook to win AI Season 7 cos he does such wonders with some of those songs, although D. Archie gives me goosebumps every time he sings, I so love his voice! It's a tough choice, and I can't wait to find out who wins! :D



Monday, April 07, 2008

We miss you Tobey


Tobey died last Tuesday on April 1, on the surgical table, struggling in the midst of an enema. It was painful to watch her, and then her heart just stopped. Even as the good doctor tried to resuscitate her, I watched her fall limp and go.

Tobey ate everything we fed her, she loved big green leafy lettuce, parsley, spinach, carrots, cucumbers, apples, strawberry tops..anything, she was such a voracious eater.. Blueberries, Tobey loved blueberries and wanted one after another. She loved oranges, even when the other piggies turned away in uncertainty after sniffing at them. Tobey would linger for minutes and lick at the spot on the carpet, where the orange juice had dripped. Tobey loved tomatoes, just like Mousey.

Tobey liked her cheeks rubbed, burrowing under and into the fleece, blankets and pillows. She loved exploring. She was the fastest and the strongest. Of 6 piggies, she was the fastest by far to reach the top of the stairs. She dashed all over the apartment during floortime. The piggies loved getting under the bed, and we would set up a barrier using all sorts of stuff - boxes, baskets, bags, boogie board, but Tobey would find her way through a crack, or make her way by chewing, pushing, butting at, jumping over the obstacles. She was not one to give up easily. She knew where to go and remembered how. She was such an gregarious, amazing little thing.

Tobey had malignant cancer, but she lived such a vivacious life. In her last days, she had terrible bloat, and that broke her.

We had hoped to bury Tobey with her mommy Fluffer in Solstice Canyon, because they were so close when Fluffer was still alive, but Solstice Canyon was closed for restoration. We buried Tobey in Temescal Canyon instead, in a private little corner sheltered by overhanging branches and surrounded by lovely soft green grass.

We love you Tobey. We miss you in the apartment. We know you are now under the rainbow bridge with Fluffer and Scrappy, in a big field happily chomping on all the grass and veggies together.

video

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sick

I have never been so sick in my life.

Fevers, chills, sweats, coughs.

Throat infection. Ooohhh. So, SO Nasty.

Severe throat pain. Se-VERE.

Coughs..

It was pure torture. PURE TOR-TURE. I felt like acid was burning through my pharynx. Whenever I coughed, my throat felt like it would EXPLODE in pain and tears streamed uncontrollably down my face. I was pathetic. I was certain that my voice would never be the same and that I would have a permanent hoarse-y, raspy voice which might not be so bad, but my point is it was, like, life-altering painful.

Hubs was doing no better. Chills and heavy sweats in the night. The mattress and pillows were soaked. He had a low-grade fever running persistently, which was really worrying.

But even in his great discomfort and fogginess from the flu, he had the presence of mind(or not) to research our symptoms online over the weekend, talk to the doctor, drive us to the doctor and get our prescriptions and drive us home; all the way holding my hand and comforting me, giving me hugs and generally just wearing a sick-with-worry-about- wifey-even-though-I'm-miserable-myself look.

That just says everything about how much my hubs loves me. I'm the luckiest girl - I have the best hubby a girl could want.


A couple more days on Vykedin and Tylenol and we were both pretty on the well-paved way to recovery. By the time we got to the doctor's though, I had lost my voice and was thereafter silenced for the week. And no, my voice did not attain that somewhat appealing raspy quality.










Sunday, March 09, 2008

New York, Baja, Costa Rica, Singapore & Manado



This month, we are seeing one of the best blooms of wildflowers in Southern California in recent years, a happy consequence of the past month of rain (usually rare) and sunshine. Fields are carpeted in pretty purple, pink, yellow and white. Trees and shrubs are flowering and putting out their biggest, brightest, boldest. Everywhere we go, we ooh and ahh at spring come early at the Pacific Coast!

Hubs and I were away for most of December, January and all of February, and returning to Santa Monica to such an uplifting sight was a big welcome for us.

Here is a summary of our travels: (pictures in process)


****************************

NEW YORK

My second trip to NY city, woohoo!!!

I loved New York City the first time I was there a year ago. Then, Scottie showed me the city, where he lived and hung out, and visited with his friends I met for the first time. It was a blast.

This time, the hubs was there for work and we stayed in Greenwich, Connecticut, at the company's residence which was a lovely old manor house with about ten rooms that was thoroughly romantic in a gentle white flurry of snowfall. I think it was my first snowfall. I took the train out to Manhattan everyday when the hubs went into the office.

our PT Cruiser in the snow


The best part about this trip was getting to hang out with Angela, who had moved to NY for a year at this time. We chilled out in her apartment and wrote nonsensical emails to all our friends, walked the cold, windy streets of Manhattan, explored the Grand Central and huffed-puffed in the gym together - a throw-back to the good ol' NJC days.

Angela and I in SoHo!

The second best part was getting to go to a super-chic party at The Pierre, for hubs' company Christmas party. Violinists lined the grand stairs up to the party hall, coats were checked in, waiters gliding around with cocktails on their trays, men and women gathered around the grand piano chatting. I made my way to where the party was (hubs and I had arrived separately - he was chauffeured from his office, and I took the cab from Angela's) and amidst the ocean of partyers, my husband emerged to meet me, smiling broadly, told me how beautiful I looked(my boy is such a charmer) and led me into the crowd. I could tell he was having a good time and I was glad. It was a beautiful room, with huge chandeliers, which always adds grandeur. Well, I didn't think it was NY culture (nor did it look very chic!) to be toting a camera and snapping away at every little thing, so I didn't. Moreover, there was already a photographer with a quirky curly red moustache going around doing his job. There was such a great buffet spread - sushi stations, dim sum stations, pasta choices, and as much lobster and shrimps as you can devour. By dinnertime, we were all stuffed. A waiter actually carried a set of bells out to the hall and struck each one with a stick, from the smallest one to the largest one. I thought that was rather quaint!

At dinner, we mostly chatted and then the live band came on, and the dance floor opened up! And everyone donned pink feather boas and retro sunglasses and danced away to some awesome rockin' music! Wooohooo!

BUFFALO

We also flew into Buffalo to spend an early Christmas with the family. We had a BIG CHRISTMAS TREE!!! Complete with dozens of packages in all sizes wrapped in happy Christmas paper underneath it! Ooh Scott and I must've gotten most of the boxes I felt like a very lucky kid! Thank you to Dad and Mom and Grandmas and Chris and Julie for the many presents for Scott and I!
Christmas Tree all the way up the the ceiling!


Buffalo was snow-white everywhere, with about a foot of snow. Early mornings we spot deer tracks in the snow, and looking out the kitchen one midnight, there was a big deer chomping on our bushes right outside the window!

Dad driving through the snow in his John Deer

We visited with hubs' cousin, Mark, who owns a hot-air balloon-flying business, one of those big ones fired by propane that you climb into a basket and fly in. We definitely want to go up in one when we have a chance, and fly over Letchworth State Park, where we got married in!


complete photos!



***

BAJA PENINSULAR, MEXICO

Soon after Christmas, in the quiet pre-dawn hours, we loaded our car with clothes, tents, sleeping bags, scuba gear, cooking pans, and a big jar of Nutella, and set off south on a Mexican adventure. 3 hours later, we were across the border and headed into the deserts of Baja.



We found the camping spot in the desert just before it got dark that same evening - just 100 feet from the Transpeninsular freeway, under the star-crusted sky. No one else was around, except for trucks roaring past the freeway. Setting up the tent was as hard as it got, the wind had kicked up to a howling gale by that time and our car proffered no respite. The tent barely held up under the pounding wind - one of the poles actually snapped. The temperatures had dropped to the 30sF and the two of us huddled together, still freezing under numerous layers of blankets and sweaters. To top it all off, the howling wind drove me half-crazy with irrational thoughts of being bloodily murdered by axe-wielding Mexicans out in the middle of nowhere. I laid awake all night, almost frost-bitten and mentally terrorised. Boy was it a miserable night, neither of us got any sleep at all.

The next morning, it was like a new revelation: the wind had died, the sun was rising. The morning glow lit up the cactus and flowers all around, the air was fresh and cleaned out by the morning dew, there was such stillness and quiet you could hear your heart beat by beat.



The rest of the trip we decided to convince the manager of a 5-star resort to let us set up camp on their beautiful green lawn, under a grapefruit tree laden with harvest. When we did not camp, we booked ourselves into a motel and took a shower.

One of the intended highlights of the trip was a whale-watching boat trip. Well, we did spot a couple of grey whales, but it was hard to get up close and personal. I guess I wasn't being really realistic when I thought we could actually go up and pet them, like we see on all brochures and commercials. For one, it's against the protection of endangered mammals law to touch these whales; secondly, we're in a little boat and we could put ourselves in some serious danger should the whales decide to play 'toss-the-dinghy!'.

where are the whales...


Other fun stuff: dives off a beach, a cove off a rocky cliff, and a lighthouse, watched flocks of pelicans dive-bomb for fishes, kayaked to a small island in a beautiful cove, drove for miles across the desert and marveled at the expanse of land and vegetation; often, for as far as the eye could see, there were more cactus than you could shake a stick at; yakked our time away in the car and listened to Metallica, The Gypsy Kings and Michael Buble. As we drove along the Californian gulf, we were awestruck by the beauty of the ocean scenery, it so much reminded us of Hawaii.


Miles and miles through the peninsula, by the end of our Baja adventure, our car tires had gone bald.





photos!
photos by hubs!




***

COSTA RICA!

Once we got home, my very restless and resourceful hubs found cheap tickets to the ecological paradise, Costa Rica; barely a week into unpacking, we were hauling another luggage out to the airport.

Costa Rica was an unforgettable trip - hikes through cloud forests and majestic rainforests, guided walks through ecological sanctuaries, spotting numerous wildlife, listening for bird-calls, hitchhiking, dusty bus rides to our various stops, white-water rafting along the way(this is possibly the most fun thing ever, I even flew out of the raft at one of the rapids! it was totally awesome!!), a village of hippies, coastal hikes, staying in a dream villa on top of a hill overlooking the forests and ocean.

**

Here are some of the creatures we met:

MAMMALS:

1. SLOTHS are really hard to spot cos they look nothing more than a ball of.. nothing. You don't even realise they are there, they are a neutral shade of brown and mostly just sleep and don't move at all in the treetops. Apparently, they come down the trees just once a week to defecate, and go right back up.

2. COATIS are in the raccoon family, and we met a couple of individuals - they mostly travel in groups so we reckon these loners got too aggressive, or too fussy.
video


3. KINKAJOU
4. AGOUTIS look like big brown rodents
5. MONKEYS - Spider, Capucine, and you can hear the Howlers for miles around

video

and many species of butterflies, insects and frogs.



BIRDS
Too many, too exotic, too too beautiful.

hummingbird in flight

the beautiful motmot

Tried as we did, we did not spot the elusive Quetzal, the most beautiful bird in the western hemisphere, and supposedly even more resplendent than a camera could capture.

the Resplendent Quetzal
photo from National Geographic



And I met a(nother) turkey named Penelope.





FORESTS
Both the cloudforests and the rainforests were indescribably lush, tranquil, breath-taking, especially when the sun beams down through the foliage and the forest shines like an epiphany. Up north, we walked through the Monteverde and Santa Elena cloudforests, and took a guided walk at the ecological sanctuary with local expert, Eduardo, looking for everything from leaf-cutter ants to toucans to howlers and sloths. Til now we are still amazed at how Eduardo actually spotted a sloth, sleeping on a tree, through the canopies somewhat 5 miles away! Even through his super telescope, all we could make out was a furry butt.

friendly collared peccari named Charlie
he came up to nuzzle with me!


The forests were just magnificent, lush and splendorous with ancient trees, giant ferns, snaking vines....through an intense competition to survive, whether to grow, creep, expand, strangle, usurp, flourish..exhibiting a vigour that makes the whole forest seem to move and come alive. It was better than the Omnimax.

lush green forest
(our guide at Santa Elena, who is also a Biology teacher)

the forest shines in the sunlight


birds singing in the cloud forest
video





WHITE WATER RAFTING
On our way down south to the Caribbean coast, we hopped into a raft and paddled our way down the River Pacuare. This is my first white-water rafting adventure! but years of dragonboating and rowing have made me quite comfortable with handling the paddle, boy I was SO excited!

There were 6 paddlers and the leader who sat in the back and steered, in addition to shouting out commands, 'Right! Right!! Left! Hard left!! Stop!! Alante Alante!!!' And here we go, paddling with all our might, with water splashing all about, scrambling left or right to avoid getting stuck, smashing into boulders or crashing into rockwalls, flying out of our seats in the boat and barely managing to stay IN the boat. We went through 7 or 8 rapids. At our worst it was like a giant baby getting all excited in the bathtub, at our best it was like a scene out of The River Wild. At one of the rapids called Wildhorse, I actually flew over the guy behind me and out of the boat! I crashed into the water and the current swept me along the boat, but just out of reach of my team. I had a hard-hat on and bobbed nicely in my life-jacket, so although the current was swift and my team was desperately reaching out for me, the world came to slow-motion. I was really on a high. It was such a rush. I blinked and grinned like a fool. I felt happy, very, very happy. I now think my white-water experience would not have been complete without getting thrown out of the raft. I highly recommend it.

Although it was a 5 hour trip, we rested often and allowed the river to carry us forward gently, as we went by soft waterfalls raining down on us, through gorgeous canyons and wide open rocky banks, spotting birds and giving rides to children waiting to cross the river, stopping for a sumptuous lunch, jumping into the fresh cold water for a swim.

When we reached the end of rafting tour, our luggage was there waiting for us, and after a quick shower, we continued on our way to our next destination by the Caribbean coast.


VILLA TOUCAN

By an immense stroke of luck, we got to stay in a villa that was the stuff of dreams, well my dreams anyway.

THIS is it..ALL of it!! :D

Dream villa in the rainforest (with wireless!)
with a patio looking out to the oceancomplete with a trampoline!!



The villa was in a wonderful place filled with beautiful flowers and fruit trees specially planted for the toucans. Dozens of beautiful toucans flock the grounds in the mornings and late afternoons. Every day, we would spend hours roaming the grounds or just laying back in the deckchairs, watching these beautiful, colourful birds flit from tree to tree, amongst many other exotic birds, big and small, listening to their calls and twitters and songs. From time to time, the howler monkeys also staked their presence by roaring through the forests. Sometimes we felt obliged to return the greetings, and joined in the cacophony. The many sloths that inhabit the trees were always fun to spot. Mostly, they just slept or remained very still. Once or twice we spotted one on the move - it was actually much faster than I'd thought it would be, but maybe in was in a bit of a hurry to get to the next branch of leaves..' bit late fer tea, sir?

chestnut mandible toucan


The owners also had several cats and 2 dogs, a spaniel and a german shepherd, that followed us everywhere we went on foot - through the trail behind the house, to the road as we tried to hitch a ride, as far as they could possibly go. The spaniel was particularly adventurous, disappearing into the trees and bushes for most of the time, and emerging all muddy and happy every few minutes to check us out and promptly disappear into another bush again. The german shepherd was a lot more like the guard dog, and stuck by us closely or scouted the path ahead momentarily with her buddy. They were totally awesome dogs. I think their names were Marley(spaniel) and Jessie. Marley had such a stubby tail that when he tried to wag it, his whole hind quarters waggled. He might have been about ten years old. Jessie was the young one, we reckon around 3 or 4 years old, that loved a good wrestle. The cats mostly cried for food and made a nuisance in the kitchen, crashing a plate or so every now and then.

Wireless internet connection in the middle of the rainforest???!!! Incredible? IN-credible! Unbelievable, UN-be-lieeeeee-vable!!! We HAD to JUMP for JOY!! We even watched episodes of House on FOX.com without a hitch!

The last day was absolutely perfect, it rained all day. After 2 weeks of hiking and exploring, we were more than happy to chill out in the big open villa, watching and listening to the rain, and feeling the cool breeze. It was like our very own sanctuary.


This was a dream villa...we contemplated doing a Ripley on the owners.


atop the continental divide in Monteverde Reserve



more photos!



***

SINGAPORE


Home for the new year!!! YAYYYYY!!! We arrived just in time for the reunion dinner, having been stuck overnight transiting in HK.

It was Scottie's first Chinese New Year celebration! Dinner was at Uncle Freddy's where the entire mom side of the family gathered. We had Lou Hei, which was the usual messy affair, with salad flying all over as we tossed enthusiastically with our chopsticks. We had a huge huge feast of hot pot, with all and every one of the usual suspects - prawns, chicken, beef, lotsa veggies, mushrooms, tofu, abalone, scallops, rolls, braised pork etc etc, and also fishballs, cuttlefish balls, foo chow balls, fishballs, prawn balls, meat balls, vegetarian balls, and more fishballs, did I say fishballs??

We ate til we could eat no more, and we ate some more. I was perfectly happy, but the hubs disapproves of the constant eating, which went on for the next few days as we visited with my dad's side of the family.

After a prolonged dinner, we gave out the Ang Pows. More than the monetary value, this practice is a gesture of blessing and good-will. This is my first year giving out ang pows as a married couple! I experienced a pleasant sense of empowerment to be in the position to say a blessing as I handed out a red packet, and a sense of fulfilment as the ang pow was received with both hands. There is a meaningful connection that is now different from when I was the recipient. I was surprised by how this simple tradition touched me the way it did this time.

My report on Scottie's first CNY experience: He loves Bak Kwa and cashew cookies, and had a lot of fun hanging out with the aunts and uncles, finding out more about Singapore and Asian culture, and also trying to pry into the dating/love lives of my cousins. My cousins have endearingly come to the conclusion that he is quite the 'kay poh', which is marked as a very Singaporean trait.


Grandma: Grandma is in good health with memory lapses, and enjoys the company and gatherings at CNY. New memories may be a problem, but old memories stick like glue. She tells me about her life in China, when Grandpa, whom I never met because he died before I was born, was forcibly enlisted in the communist army in the early years of marriage. When he fell ill in camp, Grandma walked from the wee hours of the morning only to reach the camp in the early evening. She would rent a room with a family and cook for Grandpa, bringing the food to him, because their ration in camp was a watery rice porridge, that provided no nourishment for a sick man. Grandma would bring him the food she cooked, and eat his porridge instead. When he was better, Grandma would walk home. She would make this same journey several times, until the day Grandpa escaped from camp. He ran, hid and dug sweet potato from people's gardens for food. When he finally made it home, Grandma said, he was so filthy he was infested with fleas. These are stories I never had a chance to hear before this, because I didn't make the time to sit in her company.

Grandma speaks only Hokkien and has received no formal education, but she tries her darndest to communicate with the hubs with her best vocalisation of the few English words she has come to learn. Her vocalisation of 'Scott', for example, translates from Hokkien to 'one cent/penny', which makes her laugh. Grandma likes to laugh at Scottie's gibber(as she understands it), or when he flashes her a grin. Grandma has episodes of hysterical laughing, when she laughs so hard tears come into her eyes and her teeth pop out of her mouth. Grandma laughs so hard she's wiping away the tears and putting her hand over her mouth to save her teeth. Everyone in the room can't help but laugh with her, and we all turn into one big silly laughing forum for a while. Scottie, like the rest of us, calls her Ah Ma, and gives her a big hug.

ah-ma chio! :D


***
MANADO, INDONESIA

We were there to dive, and dive we did - 32 dives for me and 35 for Scottie in 9 days. It was awesome, loved the diving variety, loved the crazy currents, loved the peculiar critters, loved the idyllic cottage-by-the-water we stayed in. Hated the mosquitoes.

The hubs has industriously written out dive reports, so here they are for Bunaken and Lembeh.



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And then we are home to sunshiney Santa Monica :D