Tokyo Japan Year-End Vacation – Tokyo Disneyland

We have been looking forward to our year-end vacation in Japan, specifically to Tokyo Disneyland for E. I am currently 7 weeks pregnant, and morning sickness had just started to reel in its gut-wrenching powers. It is amusing to note that I was also 7 weeks pregnant with E back then in January 2013 when we travelled to Tokyo for transit en-route to Calgary AB, Canada!

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E sleeping comfortably in the bassinet while I keeled over because of morning sickness.

We did thought of canceling this trip but since we had planned this way in advance, and the pregnancy news came just 1+ week ago and was only confirmed 3 days ago, we decided to brave it through, keeping our fingers crossed that this pregnancy won’t summon the morning sickness syndrome as bad as the previous one.

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From the airport, we boarded a limousine coach and arrived at the 5-star Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel after sunset, famished and all ready to feast on a well-deserved Christmas buffet dinner! Check-in was prompt, and we were very happy with the room we were assigned to, because we could see the fireworks from Disneyland from our balcony every single night.

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The Christmas dinner buffet served at the hotel’s Grand Café is incomparable. Let’s just say we were really spoilt for choice and the quality of the food was superb! Despite my mild nausea, I really enjoyed topping up my plate for seconds, and even thirds…

I loved how generous they were in providing such a huge range of Haagen Dazs ice-cream and condiments to complement them. What a treat!

We turned in early and were all excited about visiting Tokyo Disneyland for the following 3 days (20 – 23 Dec). Our collative experiences in the “Kingdom of Magic and Dreams” (as known to its Japanese guests for Tokyo Disneyland) are condensed and encapsulated within this one long blogpost below:

Getting to Tokyo Disneyland

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It was a short 5-min walk from Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel to the nearest shuttle-train station, Bayside Station, to board the Disney Resort Line Monorail that is operated by Disneyland. There was also a complimentary hotel shuttle bus that takes us to the monorail station, but we mostly preferred to walk, because the fresh breath of clean and crisp air along with some activity seemed to help with my morning sickness.

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The Christmas-theme decorated monorail was delightful and everything was Mickey-inspired. Many passengers also had their own Mickey and Minnie adornment of various kinds and sizes. We felt very special merely being on board the monorail and definitely the atmosphere was simply mood-lifting and anticipative of what we would be experiencing at Disneyland itself.

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When we reached the Resort Gateway Station, we were greeted by this huge fairytale-inspired, expansive shopping and entertainment “town” located near the gateway to Tokyo Disney Resort®, the Ikspiari.

We grabbed some light bites to stave off hunger (and morning sickness), so as to enjoy Disneyland with vim and vigour!

The cloudless sky in its beautiful cerulean veneer was flawlessly brilliant and marvellous. We thanked God for the great weather and were definitely snugly dressed in warm clothes to beat the chilly air, since expected long queues for the rides were our postulated conjecture.

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Surely a WOW experience for both children and adults alike, to be in the cream of the crop amongst all Disneylands worldwide. Tokyo Disneyland has consistently be rated as the best Disneyland in the whole world.

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There was no hesitation when we decided to visit this jewel for the sake of our precious E, even though we had just visited Hong Kong Disneyland in April, and celebrated J’s birthday then.

Dazzling Parades

Throughout the 3 days of exploring Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, we really loved the lively parades that brimmed with sheer exuberance. From the upbeat music, professional performers, fascinating chariots and the entire captivating atmosphere, right down to the fellow visitors (mainly the Japanese) who were beside and around us, were ever so polite and rule-abiding, who never once stood up to hinder another’s view or dampened another’s experience.

The evening parade, though not as vibrant as the afternoon parade, was excellent as well, with the newest characters from the Frozen movie making their debut appearances in Disneyland this year. We were so blessed to catch it live, right before our very own eyes.

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As we waited for the parade to commence, J went to the patisserie and bought such delightful treats for us, his thoughtful gestures lessened the dull pangs of anticipation as we sat near the parade ground waiting eagerly for chariots carrying Disney characters to appear.

As night draws nigh, I was exhausted and preferred to rest in bed, while J and E went on to enjoy the night parade and to catch the fireworks!

Fascinating Rides – It’s a Small World

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Besides the exhilarating parades, we loved most of the rides too! One of our favourites is definitely the whimsical boat ride through the “Small World”! Throughout the 10-min ride, we were encompassed by vibrant, multi-coloured backdrops that are exquisitely crafted out of papier-mâché, glitter and fabric. It was spellbinding, because the cast of countless traditionally-dressed dolls enthralls our attention as they sang and danced.

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We love that the tour sails us across all 7 continents, allowing us to experience a rainbow of diverse cultures, all while listening to the classic anthem of world peace – “It’s a Small World”, lovingly sung by children from nearly every corner of the globe, in their native languages – including French, Italian, Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, English and Arabic.

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Despite the change in languages as we sailed from one continent to the other, one acknowledges that a single musical theme could rivet populations of various ethinicity, uniting people of cultural diversity and thereby reinforcing universal harmony. By the end of the voyage, all could see for ourselves that it truly is a small world after all. This one song quickly became an earworm even after we departed from the Small World. Our hearts were reminded of how this world is indeed that small, for the common bonds of friendship, laughter and happiness could be shared amongst all.

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Dumbo Elephant

Another of our favourites was undoubtedly the Dumbo Elephant ride! Who wouldn’t want to take to the sky with everybody’s favourite flying elephant for a breathtaking view of the magic below?! I seriously know no one who doesn’t like it! The ride is always placed in a strategic central location in the Disneylands across the world, it is simply too hard to miss! That is why it is always spotted with long snaking queues that do not seem to end!

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Cinderella Fairy Tale Hall

We also entered the real castle of Cinderella, where E had the opportunity to be Princess of the Day as she sat in the throne room with all eyes on her, and even tried on the glass slipper that Cinderella dropped while running home when the clock struck twelve!

Western River Railroad

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Then we climbed aboard an authentic steam train for a round trip through Adventureland, Critter Country, and Westernland. We went on a journey that took us through a tropical jungle and on to the American Old West.

Miscellaneous Rides

From Adventureland to Fantasyland, we boarded and alighted miscellaneous rides that included: Alice’s Tea Party, Castle Carrousel, Snow White’s Adventures, Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, etc., it was jollification at its best!

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At the sight of larger-than-life-sized Disney mascots, E had her thrill of touching them and waving at them, even I couldn’t resist hugging them!

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And that was all on Tokyo Disneyland alone! The following post will cover Tokyo DisneySea and the rest of our trip in Japan. Stay tuned!

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Our 2nd Blessing

My appetite had been very well the past couple of weeks. I was consuming more than usual and somehow felt famished by the next mealtime. And a whole lot of symptoms dawned on me during this time, that I just had to get myself checked. And voila!

It was immense joy when we learnt that God has blessed us with a 2nd addition to our family! My menstruation (and thus presumably my ovulation) finally returned last month after a long hiatus of 26 months post-delivery, while we were still in U.K., on that last night in London before we travelled to Edinburgh the next morning. It was through prayers and a couple months of night-weaning that possibly led to its return. And the following month, we conceived! God is ever so faithful, allowing us to experience yet another miracle in our lifetimes. He did not let us wait for long, and I didn’t have to stop breastfeeding altogether.

We tested for pregnancy at home on 10 December 2015, and confirmed it on 16 December. After the Fetal Care Centre appointment, we celebrated over a healthy brunch at The Green Bar in ARC. The following is a breakdown of timeline of the days leading up to the knowledge of our 2nd pregnancy – Enjoyable and never a dull moment!

10 December 2015 – Sensory Bin Trial by BusyFingers Play

On the day we found out we were pregnant, Yinlee came over to let us try out her “BusyFingers Play” sensory boxes, a company she started on her own. We were very very privileged to be one of her first “clients” to undergo a complimentary trial session at the comfort of our home!

We have always loved sensory boxes, and had the chance to experience them while Little E attended the Holiday Programmes in Wee Care @ Tanglin. Oh! Where do we begin? the zillions of benefits that sensory bins can bring to your child. E was totally engaged in the sensory bins for at least a good 1 hour, exploring, creating and imagining… These sensory bins will make great playdates!

05 – 15 December 2015 – Holiday Programme in Wee Care

Those days after we knew I am pregnant, we continued going about doing our usual routine, attending the December Holiday Programme (which ran from 5 to 15 Dec) in Wee Care.

We were swarmed with  tons of engaging and delightful activities, which we utterly enjoyed and wished for more literally.

I particularly treasured the bonding time I had with Little E during these days, as much as I could, knowing that I may now soon have to divide my attention and love…

Which mother does not hope to focus 100% on each and every single child they have? I am no exception! But who has succeeded in doing that if you have more than one child? I couldn’t help but felt a smorgasbord of bittersweet feelings creeping on me… Overjoyed to know that we are bearing another fruit of love given to us by our gracious God, yet also feeling afraid of losing time with Little E…

11 December 2015 – Flower Dome @ Gardens by the Bay

The day after we knew of our pregnancy, we went to Gardens by the Bay to visit the Flower Dome with our neighbours! The cooled conservatory was a perfect haven to cool off the heat from our hot and humid country. The beautiful floral display was the cherry on top!

12th December 2015 – Omnitheatre

The following day on the 12th, J brought us to the Science Centre and we had a ball of a time exploring and watching “One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure”, a 30-min movie following the Sesame Street characters such as Big Bird and Elmo on a “space-tastical” adventure. It was an eye-opener for us all to be encompassed by the screen, we did feel we were truly immersed in the movie!

12th and 14th December 2015 – Evening jogs

We took advantage of the absence of morning sickness and went about our usual routine, enjoying our evening jog around our favourite places:

Henderson Waves – Mt Faber loop

Marina Bay etc.

16 December 2015

Today was the day we confirmed our pregnancy, and in 3 days time, we will be travelling to Japan for our year end vacation!

Thought I should end this eventful post with our beautiful Little E dressed up in pretty bunny ears, photo taken at Takashimaya this evening. 😉

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Pororo Theme Park with Cousins

Today was the day we met up with my cousins Edmund and Agnes for a playdate at Pororo Theme Park! This was their first time exploring the theme park with their kiddos. Having heard that it can get rather roisterous and rowdy, they both brought their mothers along too! Turned out that 小姑 and Aunty Helen enjoyed catching up with one another as well while their grandchildren lost themselves in having a ball of time in Pororo-related activities!

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Our children namely 3+ yo Chloe (Edmund’s daughter), 2.5 yo William (Agnes’ son) and 2+ yo Little E were shy towards each other upon meeting, but the ice was broken once they boarded the Polar Express!

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Most of the time, Chloe was all over the theme park, spending mere minutes here and there, before zooming off to another spot in excitement. Her energy was zestier than the Energizer Bunny!

Little E was thrilled to be spun around on the foam merry-go-round, being knocked over and getting back up time and again, countlessly. I was dizzy and exhausted just watching her! 😄

Before 2 hours were up, the children were already geared for lunch! All that mindless running and boisterous laughing had zapped them of any remaining energy left within those tiny bodies of theirs. They were definitely in need of some refuelling before their engines could go huffing and puffing again.

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Even I was feeling famished somehow, despite having consumed a bigger than usual breakfast this morning. Instead of having lunch together, I bade them farewell at the Korean BBQ restaurant they chose, because “hangry” (aka hungry + angry) Little E was throwing up a storm due to fatigue. I headed straight to The Soup Union with Little E, who had fallen asleep in the pram by the time I reached Raffles City Shopping Centre. By then, I felt a little weak at the knees upon feeling unusually palpitated as well. I sat and wolfed down the meal I ordered after reserving a portion for Little E, who woke shortly after and enjoyed her meal on the go.

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We reached home and opened up the Christmas presents they gave Little E. We were thrilled to receive the very first My Little Pony from Edmund – Pinkie Pie! Generous Agnes gave E a gorgeous dress and a bunny softie called Tiramitu (提拉米兔)! Christmas did came early for our little precious! 😍

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Christmas Gathering @ The Ngs

It is an annual tradition that we gather together for Christmas, and almost every year at The Ngs. They are by far, the most hospitable among us. This year was no exception, and Christmas came early for all of us 😉

Great food was prepared and served, from appetisers to mains and even desserts to end the sumptuous fare in a sweet note. Kudos to the lady of the house, Rachel for initialising each year’s gathering, planning the menu and executing the dishes to perfection. I could still remember the delicious baked chicken.

The men made merry with their usual card playing in the lounge, while the ladies and children had a ball of time in the girls’ room.

The whole gang consisted of 4 families and 1 bachelor. We have been friends since about 10 years ago, even before we were all married, except for the Ho’s who were already married when we knew each other.

We had a great time catching up with one another, for everyone had been busy in their own lives and hey! there was general merriment in the air! Children were more than happy to receive so many presents , especially when they all gathered round the Christmas tree and wondered which ones belonged to them. =D

Merry Christmas everyone! I would like to end with a rhyme followed by some personal thoughts:

There’s Christmas in the home and church,
There’s Christmas in the mart;
But you’ll not know what Christmas is
Unless it’s in your heart.

The bells may call across the snow,
And carols search the air,
But oh, the heart will miss the thrill
Unless it’s Christmas there.

What is Christmas to you?

It isn’t just tinsel and ribbon, unless we have made it so in our lives. Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting, for it is true happiness when we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values. It is peace because we have found peace in the Saviour. It is the time we realise most deeply that the more love is expended, the more there is of it for others.

As the Christmas season envelops us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us to our Christmas opportunity in service to our fellowman. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Saviour. And may one and all have a joy-filled Christmas. In the sacred and blessed name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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The Enormous Turnip @ SOTA Drama Theatre

This morning, we were all excited to watch the play – The Enormous Turnip presented by I-Theatre at the SOTA Drama Theatre. We still relish over the fond memories when we watched “What the Ladybird Heard” the last time we were there, I remembered the seat arrangement within the theatre was very favourable regardless where we sat.

Back by popular demand, the production team seemed set to captivate the little ones with an improved and more colourful version of the sold-out 2013 production of The Enormous Turnip! It has always been a thrilling affair for us when we venture out to catch a play or arts event, more so for a raved one such as this!

I-Theatre’s unique blend of professional actors, catchy tunes and masterful puppetry employed in this interesting and interactive play had us cheering and singing along while watching the entertaining colourful characters performed their act, and successfully crooning us with that catchy memorable chorus respectively.

Pulling the turnip

The 50-minute play looked like it was staged right out from a pop-up storybook. Everyone was clearly seen to have enjoyed the interactive play with many call-outs and counter-responses thrown to the spontaneous audience by the engaging cast who, time-and-again received overwhelming replies from the enthusiastic crowd.

As you can see from our pictures, it was “child’s play” (pun-intended) to have countless hands shot up to volunteer to pull out the enormous turnip during the last act. Mr Diggory (the farmer) must have had a tough time taking his pick!

And POP! out comes the turnip!

Valuable Teaching Points

The enormous turnip may represent any activity or thing in our lives, especially one that is difficult and cannot be done alone. As our society grows and develops, we rely more and more on others to do almost anything. We live in communities of families, clans and societies. We also need to participate in functional groups with other people to be able to accomplish otherwise impossible tasks. To do this, we have to value the skills and abilities of other people and relate nicely with them. We also need to be at peace with everyone; not hold grudges, and endeavor to build friendships and cordial relations so that we do not focus on tearing one another down, but on building them and our communities up.

The original story is often told to illustrate the value of teamwork. We could in fact draw more teaching points from this simple tale:

  1. Value of teamwork and synergy
    • We can accomplish a great undertaking (one that cannot be done by yourself alone) if we all work together in the same direction (all the characters in the tale pulled in one direction).
    • 1 Corinthians 12:12-14,20, Romans 12:3-5, Ephesians 4:16
  2. Every member is important and valuable, however small or insignificant one may appear to be.
    • The turnip could only be pulled out successfully with the help of the tiny mouse.
    • 1 Corinthians 12:15-26
  3. Enlightened self-interest – a valuable idea for the workplace and the classroom.
    • Natural enemies, like the cat and the dog, as well as the mouse and the cat, can find it worthwhile to work together.
    • Mark 12:31
  4. We reap what we sow
    • There is fair and just reward after the job is done. The farmer’s wife gave turnip soup to everyone, not just her favourites.
    • 2 Corinthian 9:6, Galatians 6:7-9, Romans 2:6
  5. Honour each other
    • Respect and value every effort and everyone.
    • Have a modest opinion of yourself, and learn to recognise the outstanding contributions that others have to impart.
    • Honour is the foundation of trust, and trust is critical for long-term, beneficial relationships, whether the relationships be personal or business.
    • Philippians 2:3-4

I-Theatre’s rendition of The Enormous Turnip was presented differently

Amidst all the fun, I had my reservations about the values behind this adaptation. Mr Diggory was portrayed as a rather reluctant, lazy farmer, who sits around dreaming to win the enormous turnip prize. By chance, he received a few enchanted seeds from a magician (a character who is not found in the original story). Later, Mr and Mrs Diggory revealed their excitement for winning the enormous turnip prize, in a rousing song-and-dance number, claiming that they will be rich! This is in contrast to the original Russian fable, in which the old farmer is rewarded with a giant turnip due to his hard work. Eventually, he shares the turnip with everyone who helped him to pull it out. Sadly, I did not see the idea of ‘reaping what you sow’ in this adaptation. The story seems to have been given a modern twist that upholds materialistic ideals.

Nonetheless, we did enjoy the entertaining play, and I did my part in teaching Little E the above points. And oh, you can even meet and greet the cast for a group photo right after the show!

Watching plays exposes children to what I call “theatre magic”, where they could pick up literacy knowledge such as fluency, vocabulary and comprehension in the most subtle way ever. More so when we as parents further expound on the learning points and inculcate the moral message of whichever play we watched together – these are the significant take-homes one could gain from theatre plays! At a young age, these children get to experience theatre as an immersive experience that encourages interaction rather than designating them as merely passive witnesses of the story.

We passed by Plaza Singapura and stopped to snap a photo of Little E at one of the Christmas decorations!

We ran on further towards our favourite mall of all, Takashimaya, and was surprised to catch Robocar Poli performing at the atrium.

By night, we went for dinner with J at Marina Square, and did some post-dinner shopping at Millenia Walk. It was an eventful day indeed. Good night!

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Great UK Family Road Trip – Arthur’s Seat

Day 11: Edinburgh. Max 14ºC to Min 7ºC

Today was the last day we had in the great UK. We woke up naturally with no alarm, had breakfast in the nice lounge upstairs and headed out slightly past 10 am. Because there was one thing we had set our minds to get done today – Hike up Arthur’s Seat.

The weather was still a little chilly despite the strong sun rays that were already striking since early morning. Most of the shops were already opened and welcoming early tourists like us!

We strolled down memory lane aka The Royal Mile and came across the shops we used to frequent while we were here 5 years ago. One particular shop worth revisiting was The Fudge House.

We bought a piece of deliciously handmade fudge and continued on our way down the gently sloping pavement towards the Scottish Parliament Building.

Maple leaves near the Scottish Parliament Building

We started our hike on Radical Rd, a track that runs just beneath the steep cliffs of Salisbury Crags, paved with pebbles that were admittedly a little too harsh on the wheels of our stroller which faithfully carried E without any complaints or mishaps.

We reached a grassy plain and was shortly joined by a playful labrador! E and I welcomed the chummy company and enjoyed patting and running rounds with the amiable pet.

About an hour into the hike, we have reached the foot of Arthur’s Seat after mounting up several rocky steps that wound through the circumference of the hill. By this time, we had already ditched our stroller somewhere we deemed safe, that was not causing a road block to other hikers.

At a distance, we admired the phenomenon ahead of us, where a cast of translucent light fog wafted through the atmosphere over the hamlet beneath it. And the Duddingston Loch exuded its charm through its cerulean waters that was as blue as the sky above it.

We stopped for a family picture with the slow and steady drifting fog behind us as our backdrop.

We pressed on and ascended further up the hill… towards the assemblage of hikers spotted  at the top…

Then voila! We reached the top of Arthur’s Seat! A wish that we both made 5 years ago, accomplished today! and the bonus part of it was – our almost 26 mo Little E was with us!

We huddled up close for a family picture, right at the top of Arthur’s Seat, overlooking the entire Holyrood Park and the beautiful town of Edinburgh.

We spent some time up there, soaking in the breathtaking panoramic views of Edinburgh.

Feeling on top of the world with Daddy!

Even our little one was caught to be in deep thoughts as she sat at the tip alone, basked in the warm light of the noon sun, silently admiring the stunning view on display.

About 20 min later, we started the descent. Clambering through the rocky terrain, we reunited with our abandoned stroller and began a steady and easier walk once we reached the plain.

By then, visibility had decreased because the town was now blanketed over by the fog which had became thick and heavy. And Little E had already fallen asleep.

We laid down on the grassy prairie and tried to recreate the picture we took 5 years ago in this same Holyrood Park. J framed up the original picture as a gift for me on our 3rd wedding anniversary, and that picture is still mounted on our bedroom wall. (Read post here: http://wp.me/p48223-YJ)

We made some resolutions right there, determined to enhance our relationship and drawing closer to each other through the elimination of bad habits and continuing with good ones for a better future.

Half an hour later, we were back at the Scottish Parliament Building, feeling famished and in need of food! What better to have than some delicious, moth-watering and finger-licking pulled pork sandwich!?!

We loped upslope to the joint and briskly ordered their signature items – Oink pulled pork with homemade Haggis served with mustard mayo; and Oink pulled pork with sage and onion served with apple.

We devoured the Haggis one in less than a minute, and enthusiastically unfolded the foil wrapped apple one like kids who could no longer contain their excitement. We very much preferred the Haggis bun, perhaps because eating the Haggis brought back fond memories when we last had it in 2010 within the early 12th century Stirling Castle, which was closed to the public that night to cater for the conference gala dinner. Below were some photos of that eventful night 5 years ago.

The Oink pulled pork buns were a delish reward for what we had accomplished, the treat left us hungering for more as it didn’t fill us up. We walked on and entered Noodles ‘n’ Rice along South Bridge. It was there where we found the best Pad Thai in the world.

We took our time savouring every bit of the meal we had in the restaurant, till we were full and well-rested. Then we ventured on and shopped around the vicinity as we slowly made our way back home.

Came across a jocular sign outside Burgers & Beers Grillhouse. Hee hee! No my dear, we won’t allow you to be made into burgers even if you misbehaved!

Instead of going home, we strolled on towards the top of the Royal Mile to visit The Scotch Whisky Experience, a five-star visitor attraction telling the tale of Scotland’s national drink with high-technology exhibits and a barrel ride. J even bought a bottle of the famed single malt whisky, how not to after such an in-depth learning experience at this museum?

Dinner was simple fare we made up from leftovers, to clear the kitchen since this was our last night. We had an early train and flight to catch come morning! Good night!

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Great UK Family Road Trip – A Trip Down Memory Lane

Day 10: London → Edinburgh Max 15ºC to Min 7ºC

Today was the day we left the family to continue our last leg of this journey in the U.K., having our last two nights to be spent in old town Edinburgh. Mum and Dad, together with Shen would continue to stay with JMIDM in their London home until they return to Penang and New Zealand respectively.

Early in the morning, we returned our rental car near the Kings Cross station in London. Dad and Shen were very kind to come along with us so that they could see us off and also assist in our luggage. We had breakfast together at a duplex MacDonalds nearby, because we needed a bite before boarding the 4.5 hr long train ride, and also to clear our British coins. We were more than thankful to find a spiral coin rolling funnel in the restaurant. E and I particularly enjoyed watching our coins spiral into the gravity well!

After stuffing ourselves with sausage and egg McMuffins, we rolled over to the adjacent train station and bid farewell to Dad and Shen.

To brace ourselves for the long ride over a distance of 632 km between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh Waverley stations, in particular to keep Little E entertained, we brought along our Usborne activity books which we ordered in advance while in Singapore, to be delivered to JMIDM’s London address. We found the books very engaging and markedly beneficial for toddlers who are developing language and acquiring vocabulary. By God’s grace, we received 2 sets of the 5 activity books that I ordered! and Matthew got the chance to keep one set of them!

During the journey, E napped for 2 hours! J and I enjoyed the comfortable train ride, and had ample space to stretch ourselves, enjoyed a cuppa or two, nibbled on some tasty snacks available on the train, and most rewarding of all, the beautiful scenery along the way.

The train departed at 10 am, with us reaching Edinburgh Waverley station slightly before 2:30 pm. It was refreshing to arrive in Edinburgh, the old town retains its charming appeal on us due to its dimensionality (probably the best word for the Old Town), in its spaces, its rich history and its multifaceted allure.

We reached Edinburgh!

We stayed in St Giles Apartments which is located on Edinburgh’s renowned Royal Mile and merely minutes away from the train station, albeit an uphill stroll with the luggage. We checked into the apartment and was very pleasantly surprised upon stepping into our residence for our remaining 2 nights in the U.K.. This was because the interiors were a stark contrast to the facade of the building within which the apartments were housed in.

We had to walk down a a steep and narrow passageway that led to the gates to which our apartment is situated. Surrounded by century-old stone walls believed to date back from 1544, we felt a little unsure of how we agreed upon booking this apartment in the first place…

We didn’t have much high expectations when we were checking in, at what seemed like an administration office that manages the apartment. But thank God for the wrong perception we had! We absolutely loved our stay in St Giles! ❤

Our master bedroom offers views of the Scott Monument at not too far a distance away. The 19th century gothic monument was prominently seen due to its scale and elevated position relative to the sunken gardens surrounding it.

After resting for a little, we set off for a leisurely walk around the medieval old town, trying to trace back our footsteps we once treaded while we were here in 2010. Five years ago, we came upon this enchanting town because I had the opportunity to attend an ophthalmic ultrasound congress at its George’s Hotel. We rented a 2-bedroom flat in the Royal College of Surgeons that came with a sharing kitchen. The flat had a view of the old street below, as well as the Holyrood palace at the lobby. It was basic yet adequately equipped and comfortable.

We had a late lunch at Zenobia restaurant and shared a hefty portion of chicken kebab served warm on a bed of salad and freshly baked Arabic Khobz bread and hummus on the side. Looking at the picture now, I could almost taste the juicy marinated tender chicken breast cutlets that were grilled to a tandoori colour.

Our lunch bite was quick, afterwhich we walked on along South Bridge towards the Royal College of Surgeons. The sweet tooth in me and Little E beckoned us to take an extra glimpse at the homemade gelato that were gloriously displayed by the roadside.

The love of arts in the form of dance and theatre within me couldn’t take my eyes off from the Festival Theatre, for it is nicely clad in opulent glass windows that allowed its ambient lights from within to shine through in a splendacious way… Oh, how beautiful… I wished I could watch the Scottish Ballet perform Cinderella that was on show.

My fantasy ended quickly as the darkening daylight saw us trotting on. Our lively footsteps halted at the Royal College of Surgeons and the flat we stayed in during our time here in 2010.

A flood of fond memories washed within our minds as we recollected cherished reminiscence of the site. Then we walked further down South Bridge to arrive at the same Tesco we used to frequent, purchased some usual fare for our dinner tonight, as well as some activity books that cannot be found in Singapore for Little E.

The sunlight over Edinburgh began to fade despite being only 5 pm. Nonetheless, the evanescing daylight was our cue to return home to enjoy a home cooked dinner in the comfort of our luxury apartment.

Good night!

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Guest Article on Pembury, Kent Visit by the Grannies!

Day 09: Kent – Pembury – London. Max 17ºC – Min 5ºC.

The 9th and last day of our wonderful family tour has finally come. It started off in the morning with Touch-Rugby Football on the spacious lawn of Broome Park Mansion House! Evidently, this was a consequence of the inspiration from watching the Finals of the World Rugby Football the evening before, especially as it was won by the New Zealand All-Blacks.

On our way back to Putney, London, we made two stops at Pembury, Kent. These stops brought back unforgettably cherished memories to four members of our family that happened over 35 years ago, mainly in 1980.

Indeed over these intervening 35 years, our family has been extended and blessed with our younger son, Shen Leong; Mei Tsin’s family with Josh and their 3 adorable & talented children (Isabella, Daniella & Matthew); and Yoong Leong’s family with Rebecca and a lovely daughter (Elizabeth).

The first stop was at the Royal Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury. In 1980, the hospital was simply called Pembury Hospital. I was then working as a Senior House Officer in the Geriatric Department while at the same time studying for my MRCP in Internal Medicine. Our modest 2-room apartment was within the grounds of the hospital. The advantages are that the heating in our apartment was as warm as in the hospital wards [almost tropical] and so very convenient for me to commute to work and back. Furthermore, I could be staying at home even when on active call days! Not surprisingly, after 35 years, the wards, doctors’ common room, etc. that I had been so used to, have now all been replaced by much bigger, modern and better concrete facilities.

Whilst wandering inside the hospital reception area, we came across this wall-poster depicting the ‘History of NHS in Tunbridge Wells”; a photo was taken with me on one end of the poster and Yoong Leong at the other end. Indeed, I was quite naturally reminded that in life, inevitably we encounter changes – some may be happy & good but some may also be stressful & even painful. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms 90:12). Thankfully, we can always rely on Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). Carol & I are also at the same time much thankful to God, that although I’m no more active in hospital practice, both our sons are.

The Wall-Poster in the Royal Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury.

The next stop in Pembury was the Primary School, where Mei Tsin, our eldest, then 5 years old, attended the Preparatory Class.

Carol used to faithfully walk her through the shorter public ‘Forest Footpath’ to the school, pushing along Yoong Leong (then 2 years old) in his beloved Mother-care pushchair. Unlike the Pembury Hospital, the school buildings seem to have stood the test of time and remain quite the same as they were in 1980, as far as we could recall.

Below are a few nostalgic shots from 1980…

Mei Tsin and Yoong Leong in the cosy hospital.


Market-day shopping to Tonbridge; note YL’s beloved pushchair.


Quite a bookworm then because of the exams!

After the 2 very nostalgic stops at Pembury, we tried to locate the famous Pantiles of Royal Tunbridge Wells but were not successful. Much has changed with the town and its roads. We then drove straight back to London.

JRE dropped us at JMIDM’s home at Roskell Road, Putney, before returning to their hotel. About an hour and a half later, Carol and I then walked to JRE’s accommodation, and walked together with them back to JMIDM’s place. There was an evening fog that clouded over the capital city, which grew thicker and denser by the minute as our steps quickened through worsening visibility. Even River Thames seemingly vanished before our very eyes in a matter of mere mintues, as we treaded alongside its banks to reach JMIDM’s place.

While waiting for dinner to be delivered by Rasa Penang Restaurant, we relaxed in the living room and the children gathered to play. We also became the keen audience to Isabella’s poem recital as she was practising for her school’s showcase later that week.

After over a week on the road trip, we all must be somewhat missing ‘Malaysian’ home cooking and cuisine. All of us enjoyed the hearty dinner within the kitchen, reminiscing over the experiences we were blessed to encounter over the past few days as one family.

We happily shared further our post-trip experiences and sentiments, recalling some of the memorable highlights with the whole ‘extended’ family driving in 2 cars the length of England’s Southern Coast from Land’s End in the west to Dover in the East. I thank God for His protection and watch-care over all of us throughout the whole trip. Most of all, I’m so thankful to God for the bond of love we have for one another; my prayer for each of us in the family is that our love for God will also grow more and more in the days and years ahead. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18).

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Great UK Family Road Trip – Kent, Pembury and London

Day 09: Kent – Pembury – London. Max 17ºC – Min 5ºC.

Autumn leaves

Window view from our cabin lodge in Broome Park. I could wake up to this forever…

It was early morning when we explored the grounds of Broome Park where our lodges were situated.

E was already eager to look for Matthew to begin a day of exploration in the “woods” together!

Everyone assembled in our lodge to have breakfast, then we all packed and were ready to head back to London where it all began… We prayed together as one family before we all set off.

We drove and gathered in front of the Broome Park mansion, to return the lodge keys for checkout, and to have a much desired family photograph taken at this memorable place.

For our journey back to London, we will be passing by Pembury, a much-cherished destination for Dad, Mum, Mei Tsin and J some 30 years ago. It is my honour and pleasure to invite Dad to pen down his walk down memory lane for the upcoming part of our trip in the next blogpost. Stay tuned!

 

 

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Great UK Family Road Trip – Eastbourne, White Cliffs, Kent

Day 08: Eastbourne → Kent. Max 15ºC to Min 7ºC

We woke at 7+ am this morning to the sound of the waves and the call of the sea birds, still lulling us to snooze on… By 9+ am, we were all gathered in the dining hall at the basement of the B&B we stayed in Eastbourne. The breakfast was not the most elaborate but it was more than substantial for all 11 of us!

Breakfast at Eastbourne B&B

After the satisfying breakfast, we took a leisurely stroll along the seafront towards the Eastbourne Pier. The sight and outlook of the beachfront is entirely different from what we experienced last night. As it is, light always brings the better side of things in view. Nothing is obscured, the entire facet is brought out in full view to its own glory.

Stroll towards Eastbourne Pier in daylight

We had lots of fun during the stroll. The older children had a ball of time riding atop the men’s shoulders, while Little E was contented with sitting in her stroller, sharing the laughter with her beloved cousins.

The short after-breakfast walk to the pier was refreshing to our minds and bodies. Then we stopped to have a family photo taken – A much treasured photo of our entire family at Eastbourne, to remember we were all there together once.

Family Photo at Eastbourne

The well-preserved Victorian pier is Eastbourne’s stunning seafront landmark, that boasts of fantastic views of the English Channel. A variety of interesting shops including the enchanting Victorian Tea Rooms situated in the middle of the pier, a traditional Fish and Chip shop and an eye-catching colourful ice-cream parlour located at the front of the Eastbourne Pier bring much life to the iconic landmark.

We headed back to the B&B and had time to enjoy a game of Bingo at the relaxing lounge while waiting for the men to bring down all the luggage. Then we set out towards the Beachy Head which is nearby. However, due to time constraint, we somehow did not make it to the attraction. We merely saw paragliders at a distance while on our way towards Beachy Head.

Paragliders towards the Beach Head

Then we turned back, and began our journey towards Kent. The drive was visually rewarding as we were warmly greeted by rows upon rows of beautiful fall colours. We have driven through innumerable passages of glorious displays of autumn leaves during this family road trip. This was taken somewhere in Battle, England while we were on our way to Kent, Canterbury, UK.

Autumn beauty

The splendour of autumn in full display of its glory. It is so beautiful and spectacular (whether the leaves were crowning the trees or carpeting the roadside), you could hear them proclaim the glory of God.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3, KJV)

Autumn beauty

After a 2 hr drive, we saw the chalk walls from afar… It was mesmerising! to me at least… As we draw near towards the white cliffs, one can understand why these White Cliffs of Dover are England’s most spectacular natural feature.

White Cliffs of Dover

Officially designated an Icon of Britain and recognized throughout the world, they have been seen by the nation as a sign of security, inspiration, hope and freedom for centuries. These prominent cliffs were used for defence in both World Wars, and were the first thing many returning soldiers saw as they came home from war. The sight of these white cliffs represents being home and being safe and the peace they can bring. The whiteness of the cliffs also holds significance as the colour is associated with innocence and peace.

White cliffs of Dover

The white cliff was the first thing returning soldiers saw as they came home from war.

But the cliffs are not only important for the Britons, they are world famous as they occupy a very special place in the collective imagination of many, even for those who have never seen them. This is because these cliffs were featured in many songs and poems, most notably by Dame Vera Lynn in her wartime classic “(There’ll be bluebirds over) The White Cliffs of Dover.” It was also mentioned by William Shakespeare in King Lear.

White Cliffs of Dover

These towering chalk cliffs are formed naturally from a very pure form of limestone, and is found to be very rare geologically. Even the flora and fauna across this chalk grassland are unique and can only be found here.

White Cliffs of Dover

Walking along the cliff-top paths was, to say the least, breathtaking. The crisp breeze and quiet serenity further prompted us to appreciate the beauty and to enjoy its special appeal as we took in unrivalled views of the busy English Channel and the French coast. We are very blessed to have set foot on and to have seen these iconic white cliffs today, because researchers have found that the cliffs are undergoing constant erosion. With its importance and prominence, the White Cliffs of Dover should be listed as one of the seven wonders of the world before it disappears in the near future. We will highly recommend anyone to put it on their bucket list!

Seeing that it was already 3.oo pm, we hurried down the cliffs and whisked off to the nearest supermarket. All Blacks was playing against Australia in the Rugby Finals at 4.00 pm! Such an important match that cannot be missed by the Oh family!! We reached the mart and split ways to gather the things we needed to buy, mainly the ingredients for Mum to prepare dinner for tonight. When we reached the mansion, it was a pity we couldn’t check in, so we watched the game in the Broome Park Mansion House, while waiting for our lodges to be ready.

At Kent mansion watching All Blacks

We received our lodge keys at about slightly past 4.30 pm, and headed there immediately. Everyone gathered in our lodge to continue watching the exciting game, while Mum got busy whipping up a feast for all 11 of us.

All Blacks in Kent

Mum made her delicious soya sauce chicken with black eye beans, pork shoulder with bay leaves and garlic, and blanched green beans. We ate all these with a good serving of angel hair on each of our plates! Yums!

And, the cherry on top to cap off this wonderful night? All Blacks won!!!! Hurray!

All Blacks won!

After the game and dinner, we convened for fellowship and devotion led by Josh. He led us to a Christian book he was reading, on Joshua. And we all shared and exchanged some pointers as led by the Holy Spirit. We also shared our prayer items and prayed for each other tonight.

Update: Looking back almost a year later, God answered all our prayers that we brought to His throne of grace, together as a family on the night we spent in Kent, UK. God is so good. My heart sings, “Before I asked, my God meets my needs…”

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Great UK Family Road Trip – Weymouth

Day 07: Weymouth → Eastbourne Max 17ºC to Min 9ºC

We woke up this morning feeling invigorated and J was determined to buy a pair of new boots for me. So off we went strolling along the streets of Weymouth right after a hearty wholesome breakfast at our B&B. However, it seemed we were up and about too early because none of the shops were opened yet.

Strolling along the streets of Weymouth

Hence, we did some window shopping first and I had set my eyes on a prospective pair from a shoe shop that is not far from our B&B. We waited for it to open, tried on the boots and purchased it right away.

Morning walk in Weymouth

Our last minute shopping in the seaside town Weymouth was brief but purposeful. We also bought a busy book for Little E before driving up to a lookout point on the Isle of Portland that overlooks the Chesil Beach and cove area in Dorset.

Lookout point over Chesil Beach

We played catching with Little E at the lookout point and allowed her to run and loosen up before we journeyed on to the next destination.

Thanks to Dad for capturing a really nice photograph of us at the lookout point! A much treasured family photo with the Chesil Cove as the backdrop.

JRE at lookout point overlooking Chesil Beach

Even though we did not manage to tread our foot on the shingle upon Chesil Beach during this trip, it was already a bonus for us to be able to have a bird’s eye view of the famous Chesil Beach at such a prime location. This UNESCO World Heritage site is considered seen!

Chesil Beach

Then we ventured further south towards Portland Bill till we reached the iconic lighthouse tower, located at the southern tip of the Isle of Portland.

Portland Bill Lighthouse

The Portland Bill Lighthouse Tower is still functioning as a remotely controlled lighthouse that guides vessels around the dangerous coastline to protect shipping from its strong tidal race and shallow reef. The landmark tower is also a visitor information centre, still standing strong. 

RE with the lighthouse

The cliffs at Portland Bill were quarried until the early 20th-century, evidenced by the shedload of large stones near the coast from ex-quarrying in the area. Besides the piles of rocks, we could also see the Pulpit Rock in our photograph below. People had stacked the excavated stones to depict an open bible leaning on a pulpit, hence its given name. As a coastal feature at the southern tip of the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England, this artificial stack of rock was intentionally left in place as a quarrying relic since the 1870s, and remains as a popular tourist attraction on the island, and is often photographed and climbed.

Billowing waves

Instead of walking towards the Pulpit Rock, we were contented to have it grace our photograph in the background as we marvelled at the relentless billowing waves hitting the rocks with great spumes of foam lashing onto the coast where we sat. Having experienced the strong gusts of wind and witnessing the fearsome tidal race, we acknowledged the importance of the iconic lighthouse as a beacon of light and life to vessels that are near.

RE by the coast at Portland Bill

From the most southern tip of Portland island, our road trip journeyed on towards our next destination – Eastbourne in East Sussex, England.

Portland Bill Lighthouse to Eastbourne

By the time we reached the seaside town and checked into our B&B, the sun has already set. Famished and exhausted from the car ride, our growling tummies were gratified at a highly raved and crowded Italian restaurant – Pomodoro e Mozzarella. Our 3-course dinner was very satisfying, given its huge portions. And have I mentioned? Dinner was absolutely delicious.

Service was lively and vibrant, which gave us a much needed uplifting after the long unexpected drive from Weymouth to Eastbourne due to the long weekend traffic. By the time we finished our dinner, the restaurant was already fully packed with patrons. JMIDM and Shen had also just arrived at Eastbourne, but they eventually decided to walk further into town and settled with a quick bite instead.

The night finally ended after a leisurely moonlit stroll at the Eastbourne Pier, one of the most popular piers in UK. We’ll see more of Eastbourne come morning…

Later into the night, while the little ones slumbered away into dreamland, knocks on the door of Dad & Mum’s room could be heard… To have your grown-up children still come knocking on your door, one after the other, just to sit down together to share their life happenings with each other, is a very much-cherished blessing, certainly a memorable time of family bonding carried on into the night.

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Great UK Family Road Trip – Stonehenge

Day 6: Weymouth. Max 15°C to Min 9°C.

J went out for a morning run while Little E and I were still sleeping soundly. He explored the town of Weymouth, crossed the Town Bridge, past the North Forte, and went all the way to the Weymouth Stone Pier, enjoying the serene morning atmosphere.

He came back, in time to enjoy a very satisfying breakfast at the café in the B&B we stayed in.

Breakfast at Weymouth

As there were no tables big enough to fit all 11 of us, we slowly savoured our delicious breakfast and enjoyed the hearty shares of conversation over 2 nearly adjacent tables.

After the filling breakfast, we went to the Stonehenge with Dad and Mum. Stonehenge has been on our bucket list since J and I decided to visit the wonders of the world when we started dating. I was all agog once the decision was made and couldn’t help but feel so blessed to be able to visit this world famous World Heritage prehistoric monument. It’s hard not to feel a certain level of excitement when you know you’re about to see Stonehenge.

Stonehenge entrance

On arrival at the visitor centre, we were drawn to the world-class exhibition which was divided into 2 segments: before we entered the gallery, we had the opportunity to “stand within the stones” and enjoyed a 360° virtual experience of summer and winter solstices inside the ancient monument through the use of state-of-the-art laser scans.

Stonehenge exhibition centre - 360-degree virtual experience

Then we were absorbed by the grand display of hundreds of prehistoric objects housed within the gallery from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

Before we took the free shuttle to reach the prehistoric site of Stonehenge, we found ourselves just in time to watch an interactive fun theatrical performance that attempted to unravel the mysteries of Stonehenge through recreating the auction that happened in 1915 when the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe was put up for sale. The play which only ran for 1 week was specially developed for English Heritage as it marked the 100th anniversary of Stonehenge after it was sold at an auction to local Wiltshire man Cecil Chubb. The auction marked a turning point in the care of the ancient monument. A series of major restorations and excavations began a few years later and Stonehenge went from isolated ruins to national treasure. Today it is cared for by English Heritage, and thanks to extensive work, now sits within a restored landscape that gives a sense of its original setting. As it was drizzling, the play was performed in the café instead of outside the Visitor Centre. Not a bad thing after all! we bought a cornish pasty as a snack to share while watching the performance!

As the shuttle approached the prehistoric site which was about 2 km from the Visitor Centre, we were all intrigued when we saw the Stonehenge slowly emerge on the horizon. We could have alighted and walked from half-way, or walked the whole way while soaking up the atmosphere of the ancient landscape. However, we decided to take the bus ride all the way for the sake of our little one.

Stonehenge

With a history spanning 4,500 years, the Stonehenge is a wonder of the world, a spiritual place and a source of inspiration to many. We were so blessed to be able to explore the ancient landscape on foot!

JREDM at Stonehenge

It was not easy to take a picture with the Stonehenge without having any photo bombers included in the photo. The above was the best we could find in our camera roll, t’was a pity Little E was looking down…

We walked around the Stonehenge, planting our footsteps upon the ancient landscape that surrounds it, all the while listening to the free audio tour downloaded into our iPhones.Stonehenge up close

The Stone Circle is such an intriguing masterpiece of engineering. Building it would have taken tremendous effort from hundreds of well-organised people using only simple tools and technologies back in those olden days!

Another view of the Stonehenge up close

As we explored and pondered the story of the gigantic stones, the vast ancient landscape surrounding the captivating monument, the neolithic people who assembled it, and the meaning of Stonehenge, Little E dozed off into dreamland…

Little E was here!

When we finished exploring the Stonehenge, the captivating prehistoric monument with its riveting history and possible explanations left us feeling fascinated and pining for more low-down on the masterpiece. The shuttle bus took us back to the Visitor Centre and we alighted outside the Exhibition Centre, where we were greeted by 5 shacks.

Neolithic houses

The dwellings are furnished with replica Neolithic axes, pottery and other artefacts. Our curious minds were fed as these Neolithic houses reveal the type of homes that the builders of the ancient monument might have lived in 4,500 years ago. We could imagine what life would have been like for a Neolithic family when we went inside the Neolithic houses to have a feel of the tools they used for daily living.

These recreated houses are closely based on the remains of Neolithic houses discovered during excavations in 2006 and 2007 at Durrington Walls, a large ceremonial earthwork enclosure, just over a mile to the north-east of Stonehenge. Radiocarbon dating showed that these buildings were built at around the same time as the large sarsen stones were being put up at Stonehenge, in approximately 2,500 BC. A ginormous Sarsen stone can be found right outside the Visitor Centre, a model stone showing one way in which the sarsen stones (which have an average weight of 25 tons) could have been moved.

Dad and J attempted to move the stone

Dad and J attempted to move the Sarsen stone which could have required 100 strong men to move it. The electronic indicator meant to measure the pulling force exerted, specified they needed 95 more men together with them to move the large boulder. Hey! We are just talking about moving it, what about erecting it and assembling it?!!!

The Stonehenge Experience

Many historians have puzzled over why Stonehenge was created, by attempting to unravel the mystery behind the building of this monument. Not surprisingly, plenty of theories were hypothesised. Was it an ancient temple, a burial ground, a place of healing or a site of ritual? With no written records from the time, it is impossible to know for sure. Nonetheless, piecing together this ancient jigsaw puzzle was a fascinating experience. It was interesting to play prehistoric detectives as we wandered around the site which covers a large area consisting of Neolithic remains, burial mounds and assorted ruins. Strangely, despite the huge crowd present, the experience with Stonehenge is peaceful and intimate, allowing you to get as close to the stones as it is possible and to understand how each piece fits together.

Chesil Beach

While we were at Stonehenge, JMIDM and Shen rented bikes and rode along the Rodwell Trail which is a nice off-road trail through Weymouth using a disused railway track, with the intention to arrive at and explore the Chesil Beach, bracing fresh air and wrapped up in the grandeur of natural beauty.

Chesil Beach

The Chesil Beach is part of and lies east on the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site among other natural wonders of the world. Laced with an intriguing geology and history, the Chesil Beach is an extraordinary, narrow stretch of millions of shingle about 27 km long, that have been washed up by storms and forms a barrier ridge with a lagoon behind it.

Chesil Beach

For our group of 11, to visit 2 World Heritage sites within a day, would have been too rushed. Hence, we split into 2 groups. Since JMIDM and Shen had visited the Stonehenge many years ago (before the revamp), it was understandable that they chose to see part of the Jurassic Coast and experience the natural wonder. For us who have not been to both, the lure of the Stonehenge was irresistible.

After half a day and having bagged 2 World Heritage sites into our travelogues, all of us reunited back in Weymouth, and we hopped onto their bikes for a little bit of cycling and to feel the breeze tousling our hair before JMIDM and Shen had to return them. Well, as the saying goes, “Breezy days deserve the union of two old friends”, the breeze that day saw our blessed reunion of all eleven of us, after a long day of experiential learning and discovery.

The day was short, it was dark by 5:30 pm. The strikingly dazzling lights from the funfair a distance away beckoned to us. We bought tickets for Little E to enjoy the circling parade of Disney car rides, and were also offered free rides at the brilliant carousel! Of course, for Little E, the funfair was the highlight of the day.

We walked back home to join the family for a home-cooked dinner. While on the way home, walking along the astir streets, we relished the moments spent together in this quaint town.

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Once back home, J cooked chicken ala king and fed everyone. I love it whenever J puts on his chef hat. As a perfectionist, he always makes sure food at its best standard is served.

Chef J at work

And the children? They were well entertained by the cartoon Inside Out, put up by Shen on his computer to keep them occupied while waiting for dinner to be ready.

After the simple yet satisfying dinner, the family gathered around for Bible fellowship facilitated by Mum. We are ever thankful for every opportunity to come together as one big family to study His Word and to pray for and along with one another.

As I laid on the bed thinking about the Stonehenge, I couldn’t help but praise God from the bottom of my heart for calling us out of darkness and into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9). It is God who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9). We are not lost people, who needed to go to great extents in the hope to appease God by offering various gifts or sacrifices, like what the ancient people who built Stonehenge, for the purpose of making it a temple for rituals or a place of animal as well as human sacrifice (based on the massive numbers of bone remains found near the site).

Everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, is under the condemnation of God and deserving of His wrath (Romans 1:18), for everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve His wrath and punishment. However, God Himself, in His infinite grace and mercy has provided the only means through which His wrath can be appeased so that we sinful people can be reconciled to Him. Believers in Christ Jesus have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.” The wonderful truth of the gospel is that Christians are saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to God not because “we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Upon knowing what Stonehenge is all about after our visit, I had a feeling of regret for visiting a questionable site that was built solely by people who didn’t know God. However, lamenting over it led me to ponder and continue to marvel over the wonderful and important truths that God has revealed to us… And I slept with God’s peace covering me.

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Great UK Family Road Trip – Village Stonehouse, Lizard Cove, Plymouth

Day 5: Penzance → Weymouth. Max 15°C to Min 7°C.

We were very blessed to have found a country house that was not only spacious and cosy, the whole abode is a beauty filled with old charm and a flair of elegance. Although the quest to locate it on our first night was a little bit of an exciting adventure, given that we arrived after sunset, the bliss that this private accommodation provided us for the 3 nights while we were there was indescribably incredible.

Rosemerryn, Edwardian Artist House.

Rosemerryn Edwardian House

Hidden away in private woodland, the house was built as home and studio for artists Benjamin and Isabelle Leder. Off the beaten track, and yet close to both Penzance and St Ives, as well as some of the most beautiful sandy beaches and coves, this quaint beautiful house and its accompanying garden is reminiscent of a slower more pensive way of life – just what we needed for our holiday.

The woodland

The private woodland that surrounded the house. This was the route we drove in and out daily through the woods.

Narrow path that led us to the house

The narrow path that leads us to the house.

Lounge

Stairway upstairs leading to our bedrooms

Stairway upstairs leading to our bedrooms

We spent most of our time in the large spacious lounge, that houses bold and arrestingly interesting art and sculpture that allowed us to embrace the peace of the environment and really relax among, and on the beautiful pieces of formal furniture.

Lounge view from the fireplace

The living room was spacious and bright. We felt at home sitting around the wood stove surrounded by the giggly chatter rising from our children playing together.

There were 4 double bedrooms, 2 on the ground level occupied by JMIDM, and the other 2 were on the second level, occupied by Dad and Mum, and us.

Matthew and Little E loved the stairs

Matthew and Little E loved the stairs

There were 2 other twin rooms, of which one was taken by Shen, while the other was an extra room.

There were altogether 5 bathrooms, more than enough for all 11 of us to use comfortably.

Conservatory

The lounge led us to a stunningly gorgeous conservatory that was adorned with hanging grapes and pieces of furniture that spells of the country life.

Conservatory

The big farmhouse kitchen was very well-equipped, complete with an AGA unit! It served as a frequent place of gathering where we all dined together as one big family around the communal table, and even had games of Scrabble among the grown-ups.

Kitchen

There was also a barbeque area in the garden and we had access to the 7 acres of woodland of which the house was situated in.

View of the garden from our bedroom window

View of the garden from our bedroom window

We had such an amazing experience staying in this beautiful house. It turned out to be the highlight of our family road trip! The house is perfect for big families with both young and old members. It was such a gem! We seriously thought that the house exceeded our expectations, especially the table tennis lodge that still smelled of new wood!

Little E walking towards the lodge. View from the conservatory.

Little E walking towards the lodge. View from the conservatory.

We had such a great time in the lodge, be it just the children playing and enjoying each other’s company…

… or a much-anticipated ping-pong competition between the brothers… The lodge served its purpose and provided us with a lasting memory of fun times.

Before we left the house today, we took a family picture in front of the “flaming tree” that aptly reminded us of autumn. It is such a precious photograph that we will treasure in times to come. I could still remember the dreamy orange glow that bathed the atmosphere while we were getting ready for the picture. It was so tranquil as the woods behind wooed us with winged creatures soothingly buzzing and bleeping into the birds’ song, serenading us as we departed the rather spectacular cottage. It was unforgettable.

Family photo at Penzance

Thereafter, we made our way towards Weymouth and made a stop at Kynance Cove first.

The Lizard and Kynance Cove

St Buryan to The Lizard

Described as one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the South West, Kynance Cove is a cove where rocks so beautifully carved and polished by the sea can be found on the Lizard peninsula found in Cornwall, England.

Kynance Cove

Before we reached the spectacular cove, we had to take a gentle stroll along the serpentine paths that cruised up and down the rocky terrain, with alluring views that peep at us at the crests.

M and E sharing a Babybel

M and E sharing a Babybel before the stroll.

As we approach the bay, the terrain evolves from a well-treaded pebbly path to become a rough rocky descent onto boulders and finally fine sand, with a little scrambling over rocks on the beach.

Kynance Cove

We had a great fun time on the beach as we watched visitors fought the tide that came rushing in, children gleefully chasing after the receding waves, while others patted moist sand moulding castles out of their imagination.

Kynance Cove

Little E and M were just happy to touch the powdery sand and grab handfuls of it, feeling the texture and seeing it slip through their tiny fingers.

On the way back from the cove

We climbed the steep ascent and made our way back up towards the car park, to be ready for our next leg in the journey towards Weymouth.

Shen and E

We made one more stop at Plymouth to visit The Hoe. The Plymouth Hoe is the natural heart of Plymouth with breathtaking panoramic views across Plymouth Sound, touted as one of the most perfect natural harbours in the world.

Map to Plymouth

We spent some time enjoying the park and savour its unique atmosphere – the culmination of a long and colourful history. The significance of the Hoe to the City of Plymouth has seen the park develop as the civic memorial site and major events space.

Plymouth

Standing tall on the luscious green-lawned expanse of the Hoe is the iconic Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse.

Smeaton's Tower lighthouse

Standing at 72 foot high, the landmark Tower offers a wonderful vantage point of fantastic views of Plymouth Sound and the city from its lantern room, which is open to the public year-round.

Besides the Tower, there were other sightings that speak volumes of the rich history that laid the foundations on the grounds of Plymouth – The Armada Memorial is a monument built in 1888 that celebrates the tercentenary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada (a fleet that unsuccessfully attempted a naval invasion of England), which was sighted by English captains stationed in the city.

The Armada Memorial

We walked through the park admiring the sights and the expanse of land that The Hoe offers. We chanced upon a café that sells “Seriously Good Ice-cream Made in Plymouth”, and just had to give it a try!

Ice cream at Plymouth

Meanwhile, Dad was determined to locate the world famous Mayflower Steps, and J was more than eager to accompany him in the quest! The Mayflower Steps marks the spot close to the site on the Barbican from which it is believed the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for North America in 1620. The Mayflower Steps are flanked by the British and American flags and mark the final English departure point of 102 passengers who set sail on the Mayflower in 1620.

Mayflower steps in Plymouth

The actual steps the pilgrims left from no longer exist. A granite block bearing the ship’s name marks the approximate site, while a tablet commemorating the voyage was erected alongside in 1891. Below, are the pictures of Dad and J taken at the Barbican & Sutton Harbour.

As for the rest of us, we were chillaxing in Rhodes @ The Dome, a waterfront bistro restaurant and cocktail bar perched on Plymouth’s iconic Hoe with great views overlooking Plymouth Sound.

We ordered some finger food and a couple cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows to share while waiting for Dad and J to complete their mission in locating the Mayflower Steps.

Then off we went to our final destination for this long eventful day! Weymouth, here we come! We arrived at the quaint town after sunset, while Josh and J went out scouting for food to feed all of us, we spent some time chilling out in JMIDM’s and Shen’s family suite.

For dinner, Josh and J found the renowned Sea Chef, touted as the best fish & chips shop in Weymouth. All of us enjoyed the succulent cod fish and thick fries, and went to bed happy.

Dear loving Heavenly Father, thank You for the journey mercies You have graciously granted us throughout the many trips that we set forth this day. Indeed, You alone whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth. Show us Your way O’ Lord, that we may live as Your children, and strive for perfection, as You, our God and Father in Heaven is perfect in every way. Thank You for all the blessings, big and small, that You have showered upon us along the way each day. We love because You first loved us. May we learn to know and rely on the love God has for us. In the name of our Lord Jesus, we pray these. Amen.

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Great UK Family Road Trip -Minack Theatre & St Michael’s Mount

Day 04: Penzance → Marazion. Max 14ºC to Min 11ºC.

Minack Theatre

We had an eventful day filled with fun, love and explorations today! Our first destination was Minack Theatre in Porthcurno, which is rather near to Land’s End in Cornwall, England.

We were amazed at the grandeur of the world famous open-air Minack Theatre. Set against the backdrop of the spectacular panorama of Porthcurno Bay, this open-air amphitheatre was hand-carved into the granite cliffside, with its intricate design of the sloping gully that is adorned with gorse and heather that blossom so beautifully in autumn. The glorious gardens add a dash of colour to the otherwise greyish facade of the Minack Theatre. It was simply too beautiful to behold.

Minack Theatre

The Porthcurno Bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

The Porthcurno Bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Among the rows of stone seats in the theatre bearing the name of a play or performance, each carefully carved into the concrete when it was wet, we found one that has “Elizabeth” on it. We showed it to Little E and sat beside it, she was simply delighted to see her own name carved onto the seat!

While at the theatre, we also had some fun creating panoramic photos, one of which is seen below, “Which one is Daddy?”

Which one is Daddy?

And of course, family photos that are to be treasured as time passes…

JRE at Minack Theatre

… including this precious one of the Grannies with their beloved grandchildren.

The Grannies with the grandchildren

Over the past 80 years, the living theatre has evolved into today’s professionally-equipped venue that incorporates the latest technology in lighting and sound. The Minack Theatre welcomes more than 80,000 people every year to their performances and attracts more than 150,000 visitors like us who come to experience the breathtaking views and learn more about the story. One thing is obvious: the atmosphere of this unique theatre still reflects the vision of its founder Rowena Cade who created one of the most beautiful theatres in the world.

Merry Maidens

On our way home, we were delighted to have found the Merry Maidens, which are 19 granite stones that form a perfect circle in one part of the wide prairies in Penzance, near the stonehouse where we were staying…

Merry Maidens

There is a fascinating legend associated with the Merry Maidens: As the tale goes, 19 pretty maidens who were on their way to Sunday vespers couldn’t resist the beautiful sounds of music played by two pipers, and wandered into the field to laugh and dance to their music. But as they were in full flow, a mighty thunderbolt came out of nowhere and turned them all to stone for the sin of dancing on The Sabbath Day.

JE at the Merry Maidens

We were thrilled to have found this site on our way home! That was J and Little E posing with the Merry Maidens before we left the still-erected cornish stone circle that have inspired folk tales of dancing maidens turned to stone for merrymaking on the Sabbath.

St. Michael’s Mount

Another highlight of our family road trip today was visiting St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, England.

St Michael's Mount

This was the view of the iconic castle from where we parked our car.

Marazion

We walked a fair bit of distance from the car park, along the streets of Marazion, and onto the pebbly coast.

Marazion

Here were JMIDM tackling the rock-ribbed terrain in their gumboots…

Marazion

That was Bella exploring the collection of puddles by herself, in her striking yellow gumboots, with St Michael’s Mount in the background.

Due to the high tide, we couldn’t walk across the bay from Marazion. To reach the island, we had to take a boat ride. The boat ride was made exciting by the choppy waves from the incoming tide.

Dock at St Michael's Mount

We reached the island within brief minutes, and were greeted with the amazing view of the small village town that is adrift from the mainland.

Bella and Daniella at St Michael's Mount

Upon embarking on the castle quiz offered by the ticketing counter, it took little time for Bella and Daniella to track down the giant’s stone heart, embedded within the steep cobbled slopes leading up to the castle. It was sheer pleasure watching our children seek out the clues in every room, while also learning what makes the castle so special. The Mount is indeed made for imagination and adventure for all ages!

Thanks to Shen for helping us capture such a great family photo with the castle in the background. How we wished we could eliminate the photobomber behind us!

JRE on St Michael's Mount

Our family photo of all 11 of us at the fort canons.

Family photo at the fort canons

Treading on ancient cobbles laid upon medieval pathways and hiking up the ascent till we entered the iconic castle, the views were breathtakingly refreshing regardless where our lines of sight landed.

We admired the distinguished castle, peered through the fort towers, stooped beneath ancient doors, wandered along century-old corridors, etc.

Medals won for completing the castle quiz!

The children dancing and posing with their medals for completing the castle quiz!

The children even won medals for completing the castle quiz as they explored and discovered the details within the castle. Thank God for the lovely day for us to unearth a rich vein of history that flows through time and tide on St Michael’s Mount.

We returned home for a wonderful home-cooked meal of wine-infused roast pork served with a unique mustard sauce prepared by Shen, our popular honey mustard glazed salmon, Mum’s beef patties and blanched lady fingers.

The dinner was lip-smackingly awesome, and we were so blessed to be able to enjoy this feast on our last night in this rustic village stone house tucked away in Penzance.

Dinner at the table

A family who dines together, stays together.

May the Lord remember us and bless us; and let God bless all who fear Him, both the small and the great. May the Lord give increase to both us and our children! May we be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth! (Psalm 115:12-15)

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Afternoon Delights

There’s nothing like a little something special to get you through the dreary endless drag of the afternoon. And the perfect way to while away the lazy afternoon is to be surrounded by wonderful treats while basking in the elegant colonial splendour under the arches of the Clifford Pier, right? Checked!

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What more to love and cherish when we have the opportunity to bring 婆婆 along? We totally enjoyed the Singapore Heritage Afternoon Tea which brings about the perfect modern twist to tasty local classics – definitely right up the alley of all 3 generations of us. 婆婆 loved the savouries and her kopi kosong, I loved the signature buns served on a separate platter, and the girls loved the sweet treats and complimentary milo. 

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E and I simply love the concept of Afternoon Tea! Which mommy & daughter pair wouldn’t? or haven’t? especially when your daughter is of age to play-pretend tea parties regardless at home or in kindergarten. Our go-to Afternoon Tea venue used to be Food for Thought @ the Singapore Botanic Gardens, where we enjoyed savouring its rainbow cake and sipping hot Camomile tea after scooting around and visiting the Heritage Museum nearby. But since its closure, we had also ceased our afternoon escapade. 

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One can imagine the unanimous delight when we decided to revive our fanciful Afternoon Tea affair! And what better place to go to than The Clifford Pier, which boasts of its splendacious and grand decor, that carries a rich history that dates back to 1933 when it was built as a landing point for immigrants.

I had been yearning to visit The Clifford Pier after it was revamped, and I’ve heard and read countless reviews of its exquisite Afternoon Tea, I just needed a companion and the perfect timing to do so. Today was that momentous day! I thought the Pier would make an ideal venue to bring my mom to, where she could appreciate the modernised-overhaul that it underwent following its refurbishment from what it used to be in olden-time Singapore.

Old Clifford Pier.jpg

The Clifford Pier in the early 50’s.

Furthermore, as its name suggests, the Singapore Heritage Afternoon Tea at The Clifford Pier serves up the best of local Singaporean culinary delicacies inspired by the diverse melting pot of cultures of our forefathers, of whom some were local hawkers who once plied their trade in the area. My mom will definitely appreciate these local delights more than the usual Western classics consisting of scones and sandwiches.

Singapore Heritage Afternoon Tea

The delightful morsels of sweet treats and savoury bites made an impressive arrival at our table, daintily perched on a triple tiered display. Made up of a total of 8 savoury items and 8 sweet items, coupled with an impressive selection of excellently curated tea, each touting a fancy name such as Silver Moon and Magic Moment, these refreshments are innovative interpretations of Singapore’s culinary past and present, and are thoughtfully presented to represent the many culinary influences in Singapore.

We all enjoyed the Kurobuta Pork Kong Ba Bao with Man Tou and the Chilli Crab Bao which were served on a seperate silver-lined plate, even Little H took several mouthfuls of the decadent saucey tenderlicious pork, that left me wanting for more. The other savouries worth mentioning were the Chilli Bak Kwa Jam on Savoury Egg Tart, Wagyu Beef Rendang Croqeatas and Carrot Cake with XO Chilli and Scrambled Egg.

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No afternoon tea will be complete without an assortment of sweet indulgences. Continuing in the line of heritage goodies, we were treated to a spectacle of old school treats which occupied the bottom tier. E immediately reached for the Bandung Macaron, a dainty and pretty confection in pink that conjures up childhood memories with sweet flavours of the rose syrup often used in local beverages and desserts. Even Little H finished one on her own! E also liked the Honey Mango Financier, a mini French style cake made with tropical mango, caramelised honey and almonds. Both my mom and I liked the Pandan Swiss Roll and the soft-centered Coconut Chocolate Cake that was crusted with kerisik (toasted dessicated coconut).

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Paying tribute to the pier’s colonial past, the afternoon tea menu also offers traditional English scones, but not without a twist. Both girls loved the pearl sugar studded scone for its rich, buttery flavour and crunchy sugar crystals atop, which pairs perfectly with the platter of spreads provided on the side, which included Butter, Clotted Cream, Passion Fruit-Mango Jam and Homemade Pandan Kaya. E particularly enjoyed smearing her scones with hints of each to find her concoction for the best scone combination.

Ambience at The Clifford Pier Restaurant is smashingly sensational. The rich colonial heritage is evident in the restored facade as well as its opulent interiors. Large chandeliers hang from the roof structure that comprised of arched trusses in a riband form. Floor to ceiling glass panels let in ample natural light, which also allow us to admire the stunning Marina Bay view. The gleaming marble floors and plush European-style furnishings in muted neutral hues lend an elegant sophistication.

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Fullerton has done extremely well to preserve The Clifford Pier’s hawker culture while honouring its historical role as the landing point of Singapore’s forefathers. The tremendous efforts that were invested in the restoration and refurbishment of The Clifford Pier is worth saluting.

It was an afternoon to remember for years to come, to thank my mom for taking care of us selflessly and accompanying us whenever J is away. We love you lots Mommy/婆婆!

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Blessed 2016

After what-seemed-like an indefinite hiatus, we felt it is only responsible for us to explain our lack of blogposts for the past 4 months. We want to thank our close friends and relatives (both near and far) who had expressed concerns in the midst of their curiosity regarding the lengthy break.

I had been suffering from morning sickness and found myself unable to continue investing energy and time in blogging. Days passed miserably as my heightened sense of smell sent my digestive tract yodel with anguish and the sight of raw fish or chicken left me reeling, causing me to vomit up to 7 times throughout one day. Moreover, extreme pregnancy fatigue left me bed-bound most of the days.

Nonetheless, I thank God that He faithfully saw me through the most difficult period, by empowering my very capable husband, who selflessly stepped up to care for Little E and managed the household chores while I rested and slept whenever I wasn’t hugging the toilet bowl. As the morning sickness gradually eased up, my mother-in-law also came from Penang just to babysit Little E as well as took care of us by doing exceedingly more than anyone could have done, in the period when she was with us.

CNY 2016

CNY 2016 in Penang. Photo credit: Darren Yau (J’s cousin) of Darren and Jade Photography. Taken at Uncle Eng Hin’s front yard.

With the soon-addition of another member in our family, we will be leaving this online journal of ours at the close of 2015. As such, we will be taking our time to finish the many drafts we have penned for the year of 2015, as a closing chapter of our remembrance of the days we have Little E as our only precious child. Soon, she will have a sibling and we could only see days of joy ahead, waiting for us to embrace.

CNY 2016

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