February, 2012

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Learning Chinese Through Songs

Be it pop or kiddy songs, I’m of the opinion that music makes learning Chinese (or any language I supposed?) pleasurable.

We have been quite surprised (and pleased, of course) that Hannah’s kindy has become a positive influence to her liking for Chinese children songs. Despite all the good advice I got from MIL, relatives and friends, I confess that I didn’t really make a conscious effort to converse with Hannah in Mandarin. The best attempts so far were haphazard phrases and naming of objects. The product? An angmo-sounding Chinese toddler. Well, mommy fails big time. *sigh*

Of late, Hannah would try to sing or hum those Chinese children songs she was taught at school. I still have a vague recollection of those childhood tunes but the lyrics were mostly forgotten. I went onto the Internet in hope to find the lyrics to a particular train song she was trying to sing for the past few nights but alas, I had little success. Arghh!!! I don’t even know the title but my guess is that there should be a train somewhere in it. Here I am trying to water the seeds sown by her teachers but I realise that I am a CMI case. I think I shall call her 老师 to find out la.

I wander whether anyone who reads this blog has a good recommendation for Chinese children songs on CD. I bought a couple of CDs a year ago but somehow the singing made me cringe.

It hasn’t been easy to catch Hannah in the mood for singing. Below is one of the rare video recordings where she tried to sing a Chinese New Year song taught at school. She sang off-key. See if you could make the song out LOL :D

Weekends and 35mm – Part 2

The more pictures I take of Hannah, the more I’m convinced it’s incredibly hard to take pictures of children! Specifically; they don’t pose on demand, and they’re constantly on the move. Out of say every one hundred pictures I take of Hannah, roughly about three quarters would be usable (as in in-focus + correctly exposed + acceptable composition with cropping), and of that number, perhaps just a quarter of them would be memorable.

The biggest challenge I face now is subject motion – Hannah will not remain still. So the only thing left for me to do is to ramp up the shuttle-release speed to 1/250s or faster when possible , and it’s not always so unless there’s reasonably good light. Shooting wide open at f1.8 isn’t always viable either, with the shallow depth-of-field I have to deal with as I typically take pictures of Hannah up-close.

In any case; pictures taken today on Sunday, and just before we headed out for dad’s birthday lunch at Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant.=)


At Greenwich’s kopitiam. Hannah was moving about, so some sharpening was necessary in post-processing.


Getting fed french-toast for her breakfast.=)


She wasn’t really dressed to play in the water feature area of the compound, so we’ll return here on another date for more pictures.


The sunflowers at Lentor were in full-bloom. There’s a bee collecting nectar which you can just about spot in the lower-left flower.=)


Shot with the very non-macro 35mm, and as far as minimum focusing distance allowed me to!


Hannah learning from Daddy.=)

Moments Like These

Lucky moments like these where I can get a picture which captures our girl in a memorable moment.=)


Using the 35mm, and at ISO800 f1.8. Hannah’s often at her most cheerful self right after her evening bath, and here she is playing with her hair accessory tube.=)

BlackRapid RS4

I’ve finally picked up a replacement strap for the Optech. Many photography enthusiasts will be familiar with the BlackRapid series. Basically, rather than a strap that goes around the neck and gives you strain right about there when you’re lugging around a few kilograms of glass, metal and plastic, the BlackRapid straps are designed for you to sling your camera around your shoulder, with the camera resting at your hip.

The company manufactures a range of straps, and also isn’t the only company producing straps of this broad design. The local shop I made the order with carried also the Sun Sniper series, which produces similar straps with its own innovative design features. But reading the couple of horror stories on Amazon of its swivel coming loose and sending the owner’s camera and lens crashing onto pavement were scary. Moreover, Sun Sniper straps don’t have the BlackRapid stoppers that I felt would be real helpful for limiting the amount of strap movement around my shoulder.

The BlackRapid product arrived in a rectangular box, with the strap itself wrapped with an elastic band and accompanied by an illustrated instruction leaflet. Though the manufacturing company is based – I think – in Seattle, the product itself was made in Taiwan according to the box sticker. The strap on the overall looks quite well-made. Photos and comments follow:


Designed in the U.S.A. Looks and feels premium.


The steel fastener and connector. Looks tough and solid, but nope – I’m not going to let my DSLR and lens dangle free at my hip.


The strap’s built-in zipper pocket. The strap can be nicely folded for quick storage too.


The strap can coexist with my Herringbone handstrap. The fastener can be attached to the Sigma 70-200mm’s tripod collar, but the balance of the unit becomes quite different.

Full sentences

Rarely does a day go by when we don’t find ourselves surprised by how quickly Hannah is learning to communicate with us! For instance, she was having her routine 15 minutes of Where’s my Water last night, and upon an unsuccessful completion of one level leading to a little in-game animation of Swampy the crocodile bursting into tears, Hannah said mournfully to me “Hannah made the crocodile cry cry.” We’re also teaching her new words whenever we can. Like helping her identify that the Bach Goldberg variations played in-car is a “piano” type of music.

Well, that’s the sunny side of raising our dear girl. As for reality snippets, over the last week, she wet her bed on both early weekend mornings. She goes to bed wearing panties and on weekday nights, it’s usually not really a problem. However, she wakes up later during weekends, and we’re guessing that those additional hours of sleeping are instrumental in her bladder control ability at this point.

The obligatory cute photo for this post too – this one was taken with the 35mm, ISO1600 @ f1.8.=)


Happy Meals on Weekends

It has been more than a month since I last blogged. I have switched to a new working environment since the beginning of the year and the workload has been heavier than before. I have not had the time or energy to prepare home-cooked meals on weekdays and the most I could manage was a simple dinner on weekends.

Weekend lunches for Hannah have been mostly buns filled with meat / veggie stuffing plus one or two other items. The girl seems none the worse for wear but mommy does feel a mite guilty. The photo below shows what she had for lunch over the last weekend:

1) ham & sweet corn bun

2) peach vanilla yoghurt

3) banana

4) water

Happy Meal @ Home :D

Yang is not too worried about her nutrition intake as our girl seems to have put on weight (she has double-chin!) and the nanny has been feeding her nutritious meals on weekdays. I guess it is probably just me.

Feb 14

We were expecting the worst when heading out for a family dinner this evening after work. It’s Valentine’s Day, and every Singaporean couple and family are out for a celebration dinner. We raced off after work, drove like crazy to pick up Hannah, and got into Hougang Mall and the Ichiban Japanese restaurant five minutes before every restaurant in the mall saw long, snaking queues forming (yep; even for Subway and Pepper Lunch).

The D7000 and 35mm f1.8 went for the ride. Pictures of the two women in my life.=)


Both at ISO640; the first at f3.2, the second at f1.8. There’s still some softness when I pixel peep, so I’m going to have to check my focusing charts again.

We were asking Hannah (just for fun, mind you, so don’t read any more into it) if she would prefer a 弟弟 or a 妹妹. She thought for a minute, and said confidently “弟弟”!

For our ang mo bud in Missouri, 弟弟 means “younger brother”, and “妹妹” means “younger sister”. =)

Bay Windows

The last of our weekend pictures taken of Hannah. This bunch was just after she woke up from her afternoon nap on Saturday afternoon. Our girl has taken to sitting on it and looking out to the swimming pool, trees, blue sky and what not.


The exterior windows are a little dirty – only noticed it after the picture was taken.

The bay window in her room is more than a meter from the floor, so she has to be carried up to it, and watched too. She knows it’s too dangerous for her to try climbing down on her own, but Ling was hovering right outside the camera frame in case Hannah had any funny ideas.=)


She’s holding onto two little cat figurines that are decorations on the window panes.


A student of mine who happened to glance at my notebook wallpaper on Thursday afternoon remarked that Hannah looks exactly like me. But I still can’t see the resemblance!

All taken using the 50mm. Lighting was a little tricky given the relatively brighter backdrop.=)

Punggol Waterway

The Punggol Waterway is a pretty easy spot to find for us, since we’ve driven past it before when on our way to Hannah’s nursery school. The place was officially opened on 23 Oct last  year, and features a roughly 4 km walkway on both sides of the man-made waterway. We checked out the place after dinner and just now at about early evening, so the colors look just a mite washed-out.

The lenses that came for the trip was the new Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 (first four pictures in this post), and 50mm f1.8 (the last picture). I wasn’t the only visitor totting around a DSLR for sure. Counted at least half a dozen other photographers carrying DSLRs equipped with something other than kit lenses.=)


One of the several bridges linking both sides of the waterway.


Took a couple of short videos too. Hannah’s always interested in watching herself on video, and will ask us to rotate the viewfinder just for her look-see.=)


A street pilferer in the making.=)




Took turns to piggy-back her.=)

Judging from the pictures taken by other visitors in better light, I imagine we’ll come by here again soon in perhaps mid-morning

Hannah @ 50mm

OK; it’s official. I have to squint real hard if I want to read the viewfinder’s information display now. !@#!@#!

We’re gonna be heading out later in the afternoon to check out the new Punggol waterfront area that our friends suggested during last night’s bible study, with the 70-200mm is going out for another test-drive. In the mean time; now that I’ve corrected the 50mm f1.8 for front-focusing problems, here’re pictures of Hannah from it.


Getting her hair done in the early morning before heading out to the just opened Greenwich for brunch. Those are little hair-clips on her fingers.


Eye-balling the milk-powder container.=)


Connecting the dots!


No we’re not gonna let her get into this habit of reading in this posture.=)

Even after focusing correction using AF fine-tune, results off the 50mm were still mixed. All of these four pictures were taken at f3.2 to f4, and when blown up, it’s still very slightly soft in the center when compared to the 35mm.