The Sigma 70-20mm f2.8 has been getting neglected, so it was time to take it out for a spin over the weekend. The amazing bokeh that Matt’s 1.8mm lenses on his full-frame D800 was still clear in my memory. A crop-sensor body like the D7000 is disadvantaged in the depth of field immediately achievable, so the compensating factor here is a lens with longer focal length. The pictures here were taken at home, and at a short visit to the Lorong Halus wetland (somewhat underwhelming). All at between 70-120mm, and excepting the pond shot, at f2.8.

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Just woke up from her afternoon nap, and still feeling quite lethargic.

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Funny story. Hannah had just learned how to sing the National Anthem.
Me: “Gaah. She’s growing up so fast. We don’t have much time before she brings home her first boyfriend!”
Ling snorted in derision: “What makes you think she’ll bring him home to see us?”
Me: “AGGGGHHH!!!!!”

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North-Eastern Riverine Loop on a hot and humid Sunday late afternoon.

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A pond at the Wetlands. Didn’t quite have the right lens for macro shots though.

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We’re lucky Hannah didn’t insist on getting carried. That 2 hour hike carrying her up to the waterfall at Telunas still lingers in our minds.=)

26. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Baby Blues · Tags: ,

One of Hannah’s favorite evening routines is to do sticker book exercises with us. Ling first bought her one such book at the start of the year, and it contained several hundred stickers spread out over 36 pages. That book lasted Hannah a good month or so, after which she asked us for more. Since January then, I’ve gone on to buy seven more such books; about half from Amazon.UK, and the other half from Book Depository – both stores have different discount policies, pricing and availability. I’ve mostly assumed sticker book time from Ling for the last several months now. It’s become a routine that Hannah looks forward to every night, and will even raise a ruckus if either of us even shows a moment’s delay for this activity time with her. And after this activity, we’ll usually close off with another 10 minutes of play time with her toys, usually involving me throwing her big duck up high and letting her catch it!

The funny thing though is that Hannah doesn’t always want to peel and paste stickers into the book herself. She seems quite contend to get us to read the page’s descriptive text to her, and for her then to select which stickers to peel/paste first. Starting this week, I’ve been trying to diversify these evening activities and include wholly reading activities back instead. It’s working well so far, as long as I give her plenty of advance notice that “we’ll be reading books tonight” rather than “doing sticker books”.

Couple of pictures from one evening ago. This was after our sticker book activity; I got her to hang around a bit longer for me to snap these.

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22. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, Baby Blues · Tags: , ,

Couple of developments over the last fortnight. We found that Hannah was in the (bad!) habit of saying “What???” whenever we called out for her. Not sure where she picked that up from! We took to gently correcting her to reply more politely when someone calls her, and within 2 days, she was able to say “Yes, Mommy/Daddy”?” instead of a “What?”.

A harder habit to correct though is her inclination to go all emotional and near tears and look pitiful whenever she doesn’t get her way or we don’t respond to her instantly when she calls for us. Whether it’s wanting to go to the toilet, wanting to take certain toys with her etc. Each time, we get her to stop crying first, and only then allow her to express her request. Not quite an easy behavior to correct, though we still manage to get her to stop crying each time first before telling us what she needs from us.

A couple of pictures from the weekend. =)

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Brunch at the newly opened Toastbox @ Hougang Mall. She loves the Usborne sticker books I ordered for her.

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At 3 years 1 month, she can climb up the playground ladder @ Punggol Park on her own now, though Mommy is still ready to catch her if she missteps.

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Navigating the rope ladder on her own.

Despite my best efforts at selecting fresh foods sold at our nearby NTUC supermarkets, getting decent eating quality stuff can still be a hit-and-miss affair.

The latest disappointment came from 2 boxes of blueberries sold at a discount. They were more tart than sweet.

*Think, think, think! What to do with them if I don’t have the time to bake blueberry muffins?*

Banana-blueberry smoothie, of course! :P

Banana is a good companion to sour fruits as it lends sweetness to the overall taste. If further sweetening is required, the good ‘ol honey will get the job done. :) There, problem solved!

The beauty of making smoothies is that the proportions of ingredients need not be strictly precise. Just use what you have at hand. The texture can be adjusted by using more or less milk.

The banana-blueberry smoothie I blended contained 1 banana, 1 box of blueberries, 1 tbsp of organic honey and some milk.

This smoothie is a great way to include milk in your toddler’s diets especially if he/she doesn’t like the taste of plain milk. In addition, eating blueberries (both fresh and frozen) is beneficial to health as they contain vitamin C and cancer-fighting antioxidants on top of many other amazing phytonutrients.

One cup for Hannah and one cup for Mommy :)

15. July 2012 · 1 comment · Categories: All Posts, New Home · Tags: ,

It’s been more than two months since our last entry of our new home @ The Minton condo. We’d actually visited the construction site as recently as a month ago with Matt (the next time he visits us we’d probably would have moved out of The Rivervale already and into this new home) but didn’t blog about that visit then. Our vantage point again was at Blk 158 Level 11.

It looks like the temporary workers’ accommodation and office building has been completely torn down, and in its place, what seems to be the clubhouse. I’ve been looking at the suggested project layout though and the spot where that building’s constructed should be actually the drive way LOL.

Hannah extra chirpy with her toy fashioned out of Fairprice receipts.

Next visit we’ll check out the view from Blk 142 Lvl 12.

Our Ang Mo bud took a lot of great portrait pictures of Hannah using his new and very tok kong (Hokkien for top-of-the-line!) D800 over the three weeks he stayed with us. Here’re some of my favorites, including several that were taken before and after out Telunas visit.

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Hannah posing for a little birthday project Ling is doing.

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Ling has a fishing board game that she enjoys, though the rods easily get entangled.

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Hannah’s “big sheep sheep”. Check out the eyes LOL.

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With two of her birthday presents; a pair of sunglasses, and a huge duck.

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Not smiling for some reason! This was during her birthday dinner event.

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Hannah is three years old!

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On our way to Telunas.

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Mommy, Hannah and Daddy!

09. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, Baby Blues, Traveling · Tags: ,

Ling remarked over the weekend that I haven’t been doing any of my usual posts on our three year old girl. One remarkable change that’s become evident in the last month is her growing ability to link sentences together to form conversations. Just earlier this year, she had difficulty stringing together sentences, but these days, she’s able to reason and hold a two-way conversation. How quickly she’s growing!

Here’s the first of two posts, and it comprises several pictures of Hannah during our recent stay at Telunas Beach Resort. The bunch here were all taken using the E-M5 and 12-50mm lens. The next post will be Matt’s pictures.=)

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Vegetating at the private balcony at our chalet. This was early morning right after she woke up.

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You’re seeing it right – she’s using her crocs to shovel sand into the bucket.=)

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Having an interest in her own shadow.

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With Mommy on their daily morning walks on the beach.

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She had an comfortable bed and doesn’t want to get up.

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We packed in a dozen small milk cartons for her twice-day milk.

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Interacting with ‘Uncle’ Matt, which is just out of the picture frame on the beach.

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Mommy’s designer sunglasses, which cost Daddy a bomb!

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Her two Hello Kitty dolls, courtesy of Lentor, which made the trip with us.

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Daddy, Mommy, Hannah and Hello Kitties!

09. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, Traveling · Tags: , ,

I’d originally intended to spend just 2 days in Shang(ai, but because of last minute changes to my business itinerary, ended up staying for 5 days. Unfortunately, the city – like Beijing just prior – was all smoggy that I had to drop some of the places I wanted to check out. Worse still, it rained three out of the five days, and the rain experienced there was monsoon-like over here – i.e. non-stop rain all day.

The place I stayed at – Howard Johnson Huahuai Hotel – was pretty decent at least. It’s located on a side road off a not-too-busy main road. The room was well-accorded with modern amenities. Unfortunately, the floor was very low – third floor – that I enjoyed the chorus of round-the-clock honking just outside, even for a relatively quiet main road.

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Nice, comfortable room for 5 days. Rather thin walls, and low floor in my case too though.

Shanghai boasts of a complex subway network, with low-cost fares and easy walking from point to point. Traffic, like Beijing, is crazily scary. Pedestrians are like fodder and crossing even at designated pedestrian crossings are contests of wills! Parents were remarking over Sunday brunch that despite the numerous times they’ve been to China, they simply don’t dare cross the roads there.

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Huai Hai Zhong Lu in the French Concession, also known as the Paris of the East. Lots of classy boutiques for sure.

Curiously though, prices of goods were anything but cheap, at least in the core Shanghai city. In fact, in most cases – even fastfood – they matched or surpassed local prices here. I’m certain that costs of living are lower outside the core city (Shanghai is one of the largest and most densely populated cities in China) but never got the opportunity to check those precincts out.

So, despite the uncooperative weather, during the two days where the sky did clear and I was free off work, I visited a couple of the key sites.

Yu Garden. This garden is rated as one of the top tourist spots in the city and a must-see. It’s pretty small at just 2 hectares, but surprisingly very dense. There are so many ponds, pavilions and inner gardens in the little area that you could easily spend a few hours in it checking out every nook and cranny. The Garden was constructed in the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty, but after suffering damage in the 19th century has since been repaired. The place was pretty crowded on the damp morning I was there, so the pictures here sans visitors was possible only through a combination of sheer luck and clever cropping!

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Sneaked in a panorama sweep to construct this composition when no one else was about. A second later, visitors walked right past!

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Beautiful garden, just a little crowded.

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Long handheld exposure of 1/4s + art filter + good breathing technique!

Shanghai Museum. The Museum, situated at the People’s Square, houses five floors of numerous artifacts. Each floor comprises several viewing galleries arranged by themesk(e.g. pottery, paintings, coins and currency, costumes). The museum has no admission fee, and is large enough that even on crowded days, there’s enough space for you to linger around and take your time to investigate each exhibit.

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Entrance to the Museum.

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Let loose with the macro feature on the 12-50mm lens.

Shangai Urban Planning Exhibition Center. Located very near Shanghai Museum, this place is a bit of a propaganda piece for how extensive and forward looking were the city’s planners. The two showcase pieces of the Hall is a huge scale model of the core city, and a really nifty circular theatre room showing a ten minute 3D rendered flythrough of the city.

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Panorama composition of the scale model. It occupies most of the floor, with viewing walkways running along the circumference of the model.

The Bund. Shanghai’s waterfront area. Imagine Marina Bay multipled by a few times in length. On one side is the river; and the other side is the city’s historical buildings. I was there twice on separate days hoping for clear weather, but ended up experiencing raining, and dry + smoggy.

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The Bund on a dry + smoggy day.

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The financial district of Shanghai on that rainy day.

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Lots of historical buildings and people carrying umbrellas!

Fairmont Peace Hotel. Located near the Bund. Splendidly refurbished with a real sense of calm once you walk from the bustling sidewalk outside and go inside it. Got chased out alongside other visitors by staff though when they saw that we weren’t guests. Funny; because the travel guide recommended visitors to take a look inside.

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Lovely stylized dome in the hotel.

Tianzifang. An arts and crafts enclave located near the hotel in the French Concession area. Quite an experience walking through the maze-like narrow alleys. Didn’t spend too much time in the area though as we were passing through and on our way to a business dinner.

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Lots of little shops to pop in and browse their wares. Place seems a bit of a fire hazard though!

Next and last post of the series; dining in Beijing and Shanghai.=)

Home-made teh halia :)

This recipe is for our ang mo friend, Matt :) He’s a big fan of our local version of ginger milk tea aka teh halia. And he only gets to enjoy the beverage every two years he visits us.

Actually, I love this spicy hot tea too. I almost always order teh halia to go with my prata whenever we patronise an Indian stall.

Matt, I tried a recipe which was found through an Internet search and below is my amateurish recipe which I hope could satisfy your craving until 2 years later. :D

Ingredients (for 1 serving)

  • ginger – about 3 cm of bulb lengthwise, peeled and grated (mine was old ginger, young ginger will work as well)
  • tea bag – 1 bag, I used Lipton’s
  • water – 300 ml
  • condensed (sweet) milk – 3 tsp (heapfuls)
  • evaporated milk – 3 tsp

Method

1. Grate ginger into a saucepan / pot.

2. Add 300 ml water and bring to boil.

3. Once the water is boiling, lower the heat to simmer, and add tea bag to infuse for 3 – 5 mins.

4. Turn off the flame.
5. Filter the hot tea-ginger mixture using a sieve or cheese cloth into a big mug.
6. Add condensed milk and evaporated milk to the mug and stir to dissolve.
7. Tarik (i.e. pull) the tea by pouring it into another mug. Do this back and forth a few times to achieve that foamy layer.

My verdict: definitely do-able and drink-able :P

03. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, Traveling · Tags: , ,

If Changchun was a up and coming albeit a little rustic city, Beijing in my view was a busy, smog-ridden, bustling city that was all stone, glass and concrete! I was already aware prior to the trip of the serious air pollution in the city. When stopping in Beijing for the transfer to Changchun on a domestic flight on the first day, the city was blanketed with a fierce smog that made it impossible to see anything from the air. But upon leaving the airport and getting picked up on Day 3, I was still unprepared for the thick layer of gray dust in my view everywhere I turned!

The strange thing though is that the smog Beijing experiences isn’t as bad as over here, smell wise, when the yearly Indonesian forest fires take place. There’s a somewhat acrid smell in the air, but nothing quite like the burning charcoal we experience every August to November here.

I spent just one day in the city though. We were picked up by the visitation company at the airport and dropped off at Novotel Peace Beijing hotel to settle in and for us to find lunch; then it was off for a mid-afternoon business meeting that stretched into dinner. The hotel was pretty decent and along Jin Yu Hu Tong road, and within easy walking distance of Tiananmen Square – but there was no time for us to go by. We did have a lot of Peking Duck though for lunch and dinner – and there was so much of it that by the end of the day, I was pretty much sick of it, delicious as it was!

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Any higher and you can’t see anything from the plane.

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Quite a concrete jungle of glass, stone and concrete. The traffic on the main roads wasn’t as bad as I fear though.

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The Novotel Peace Beijing hotel gets a lot of mixed reviews, in part I suspect because there are two different hotel wings. We stayed in what I assume was the new and refurbished wing, and found the room pretty comfortable and quite well-kept.

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The hotel I think was right in the business and financial district of the city, with tall hotels and shopping malls. Didn’t bother checking out these shops – they were right beside the hotel i.e. likely tourist traps.

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Peking Duck at Da Dong restaurant. Will blog about my dining experiences separately.=)

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Workers taking a break during lunch hour. So like Singapore!

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The Legendale Hotel Wangfuqing Beijing, and very near the Novotel. Sure looked impressive from the outside.

Early on the next day, we took off back to the airport and headed to the third city – Shanghai. Next post to come.=)