Hannah and Peter’s first Blurb book arrived just before the Deepavali public holiday yesterday. This is the seventh book I’ve worked on, with a two year gap from the sixth book. Funnily, every time I finish one, I tell myself I’ll want to do the next one in a year – largely in view that I take so many pictures of our kids that I need an annual schedule to keep up, or be forced to drop a lot of pictures that should go into their printed photo collections. For the next time round though, I’m gonna have to figure out a way to make sure I do get Book VIII out in a year’s time, hopefully easier since we should have plenty of great pictures to select from our upcoming family vacation at year’s end.

The new Book VII covers the period when we’d just returned from our Telunas Beach Resort trip in 2012, up till early October this year. The new book is also just a shade thinner at 214 pages than the one before, which finished at 220 pages; though there are a lot more pictures in the new one – 346 versus 289, largely made possible because there are a lot more multi-picture page panels, and also by reducing the number of blog posts included in the book’s appendices. The cost of book production has gone out significantly on the other hand. Two copies of Book VI, and printed using all the best print and paper options on offer – ProLine Pearl Photo paper, ProLine Black End Sheets, ProLine Charcoal Linen, hard cover with dust jacket – cost US$218.84 two years ago, and two copies of the slightly thinner Book VII cost US$263.18 now – an hefty 20% increase. Ironically, right after the books arrived, the store ran a 25% discount for printed books. Gaah. If I’d only waited for a fortnight more.

The book as arrived continues to feel very premium. Great photo paper quality, and no printing errors. I didn’t feel as satisfied with the photos inside it this time though. There were odd color casts in a couple of pictures that I didn’t observe in the on-screen previews before I sent to print, and my workflow has not changed from the last book. Or maybe it’s also that the work on this book was a little rushed, and more thought should have gone into the selection and touch-up of the pictures.

The new book!

The new book!

Matching pictures from two books covering the birth of our two kids - 4 years apart.

Matching pictures from two books covering the birth of our two kids – 4 years apart.

Still, the effort was justified against the outcome. Hannah was thrilled with the book, and enjoyed going through each page of pictures of her growing years. Peter can’t quite enjoy the book yet – he’s more likely going to lick, or worse still, chew on the pages if he has his hands on it – but in a year’s time, he should be able to.:)

We benefited from a long holiday/weekend last week by taking advantage of a public holiday with an additional day of Leave added on to do things with Hannah and Peter. The highlight of the four-day break was to bring Hannah out – on Children’s Day – for a visit to the Singapore Science Center, followed by a ballet appreciation performance @ Esplanade with the Singapore Dance Theater. Going to the Science Center especially brought about a huge sense of déjà vu. It wasn’t so long – alright 35 years ago – when my parents brought us to the Singapore Science Center, and now we’re bringing our kids there too to, hopefully, inculcate in them an early appreciation for science.

Hannah’s reaction to the ballet performance was a lot more mixed though. She enjoyed the first couple of numbers, and possibly because there were too many numbers in the about 80 minute performance, she got distracted and started fidgeting mid way through. From a look around the the reasonably packed theater, lots of other kids too were also getting restless. Still, at least for the attending adults, I learned a thing or two about ballet – like what it means and takes to earn the title of ‘ballerina’, the trust they need to have with their (male) partners, and why their costumes are adorned in certain ways. Watching the performers and especially the two or three lead ballerinas, left me again with awe on the kind of physicality their art demands.

Pictures.:)

Hannah is getting better at the art of taking selfies. She still has yet to fully get a handle on the zoom lever though.

Hannah is getting better at the art of taking selfies. She still has yet to fully get a handle on the zoom lever though.

Interacting with the exhibits at the Science Center. Ling was able to explain the science behind the exhibits, while daddy was easily distracted by everything. "Oooooh - shiny!!"

Interacting with the exhibits at the Science Center. Ling was able to explain the science behind the exhibits, while daddy was easily distracted by everything. “Oooooh – shiny!!”

Family Selfie @ Esplanade!

Family Selfie @ Esplanade!

Several of our FB friends still remark how alike Hannah and occasionally even Peter looks like me. Still just can't see the immediate resemblance though!

Several of our FB friends still remark how alike Hannah and occasionally even Peter looks like me. Still just can’t see the immediate resemblance though!

Coffee Bean @ Suntec City. We haven't gone by the very large mall for ages, and were surprised at how different the place looks today after years of refurbishment.

Coffee Bean @ Suntec City. We haven’t gone by the very large mall for ages, and were surprised at how different the place looks today after years of refurbishment.

We've started dropping Peter into the child seat on the supermarket trolleys now that Hannah has all but outgrown it. He finds the experience novel.

We’ve started dropping Peter into the child seat on the supermarket trolleys now that Hannah has all but outgrown it. He finds the experience novel, even if his facial expression here doesn’t show that.

 

One of the main reasons why I started moving in 2010 to the micro four-thirds system was the general sizing of the camera bodies and lenses. Basically, the removal of the reflex mirror found in traditional (D)SLRs meant that camera bodies could be made smaller, and the smaller imaging sensor also meant that lenses didn’t need to be quite so big to cover a larger sensor. Things have changed quite a bit since then, since we now have full-frame mirrorless camera systems, and debate continues to rage among enthusiasts and loyalists of different camera systems on the merits and disadvantages of different systems. For the moment though, the truisms that still apply are, that generally micro four-third systems compared to full-frame systems…

Occupy less mass/weight

Lenses cost slightly less than the full-frame equivalents (thought not always)

Handle low light images less well

What has also changed is the emergence of larger sensor compact cameras too. The initial wave of models weren’t very good – they tended to be bulky, slow, and using batteries that didn’t give quite the same life as micro four-third systems. That has also been changing too, which brings me to this post: that I’ve been revisiting the most recent and upcoming range of large sensor compact cameras and exploring if this is the right time now to get one. I still have the almost two year old Panasonic LX7 which I bought for cheap during a crazy discounted offer on Amazon, and several of those wide-perspective shots of The Minton development in progress were taken on that little compact. But the camera has never been a low-light wonder. Heck; there’s a perceptible loss of detail even at the lower ISO settings already.

The bunch of models I’ve been keeping my eye on include:

Sony RX100 III

This compact features a 1″ sensor that reviewers have raved about, is in its third iteration already, and Sony managed to squeeze in a small viewfinder to it even. I’ve been playing with a demo set at the Sony showroom @ Nex. The compact feels solidly made, and the rear LCD screen is sharp, bright and colorful. The viewfinder though is a little clunky in actual operation (one has to first pop it up, then pull it towards oneself for it to work). The camera is available now but also dreadfully expensive at USD899. Ouch.

Canon G7 X

This yet-to-be released compact looks like Canon’s answer to Sony’s RX100 above. The upcoming compact uses a 1″ sensor, shoots as wide as the Sony but also offers a slightly further zoom at 100mm compared to Sony’s 70mm. Interesting. The CIPA rated battery life is worrying though at just 210 shots, compared to the 300+ shots that the Sony can muster. The expected retail price is substantially lower than Sony’s too at USD699.

Panasonic LX100

Of the bunch of large sensor compact cameras, this is the one I’m most interested in. Unlike the Canon and Sony models above, this fellow uses a nearly m4/3-sized sensor, a max aperture range of f1.7 to f2.8, built-in electronic viewfinder, and a reasonable battery life rated at 330 shots by CIPA at the moment. And as a bonus, it offers 4K video recording too. The general feeling among enthusiasts is that this is the one compact that could give the equivalent large aperture and pricey lenses in the m4/3s system a good run for the money, since the sensor is almost to m4/3s and max aperture is right there too at f1.7 to f2.8. Ticks all the boxes, excepting size – it’s larger than the above two models, which significantly reduces the space advantage in comparison to my E-PL6. This forthcoming compact is priced similarly to the Sony at USD899.

Panasonic GM5

This one isn’t a large sensor compact, but an interchangeable lens camera of the same breed as the line of m4/3 cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. I included this forthcoming model here only because it’s a baby-sized camera that allows you to leverage on the full range of m4/3 lenses. The second iteration of this camera also improves on a bunch of things off the first generation: including a viewfinder and a hot-shoe! Size-wise, it’s about the same as the already diminutive RX100, and is expected to be pegged at the same asking price as the LX100 – USD899.

All very tempting. Gonna be hard to decide which of these four if I eventually find myself deciding to pick up one of these at the end of this year!

 

 

I’ve been using m4/3 cameras for more than 4 years now, and was running through my records the various camera bodies of this system I’ve picked up over the period.

March 2010 – Olympus E-PL1

April 2011 – Olympus E-PL2

May 2012 – Olympus E-M5

October 2013 – Olympus E-PL6

The E-M5 has been my workhorse camera for almost 2.5 years now and while it’s starting to show its age through the usual nicks and bruises, still functions otherwise well. The E-M5 was joined by the E-PL6 a year ago, and both cameras have found permanent spots in my Messenger bag whenever we’re out of the home.

I was curious though to see how pictures on a camera with an APS-C sensor fares against these m4/3s. Nikon has been pumping out new models of its full-frame cameras, but disappointingly, seems to have become uncertain on what to do with their APS-C DSLRs. The D7000 – which I bought in January 2012 – hasn’t seen much use since I bought the E-M5. So, over the weekend, I dusted it off, brought out my two favorite primes for it – the 50mm and 35mm f1.8s – and took pictures at home of our kids.

Peter still as stony-faced as ever.

Peter still as stony-faced as ever.

Deep in contemplation o things important to 5 year olds.

Deep in contemplation of things important to 5 year olds.

She doesn't pose as willingly anymore though - so memorable shots are harder than ever to come by.

She doesn’t pose as willingly anymore though – so memorable shots are harder than ever to come by.

Probably not evident here, but I messed up the focusing point in this picture, so Peter's face is somewhat out of focus.

Probably not evident here, but I messed up the focusing point in this picture, so Peter’s face is somewhat out of focus.

Still extremely attached to Mommy.

Still extremely attached to Mommy.

With the 50mm, wide-open.

With the 50mm, wide-open.

The results were pretty mixed for sure. Running off my head:

I realized again how helpful the 5 axis built-in optical stabilization on the E-M5 is to picture taking. A small number of shots with the two Nikon primes – and these are both non-stabilized lenses – were out of focus to varying degrees because of camera shake.

The D7000’s ‘kaplak’ mirror slap each time I released the shutter was very loud compared to the E-M5’s very quiet shutter that I’d gotten so used to.

The D7000’s back panel buttons and command dials feel a lot more premium than the squishy and small buttons off the E-M5.

I like the colors coming off the E-M5 than the Nikon D7000’s – so much so that I found myself dialing up the image color saturation setting on the latter.

Bokeh off the two Nikon primes were marvelous, but the thinner depth of field caught me off guard. Made me realize again how forgiving are m4/3s when it comes to errors in focusing points.

The last observation was especially pertinent, since I sometimes wonder if I should give a (mirrorless?) full-frame system a go, and then become cognizant of that adage; that those systems can be extremely unforgiving, and your photographic techniques had better be pretty good already. There is a new but future camera purchase I’m thinking of though at year’s end – will blog about it soon enough.:)

 

 

Our extended family had a wedding over the weekend when a cousin had her traditional wedding ceremony. The cousin is actually from Hainan, but has been working in Singapore for almost a decade now, and has become close to our family – especially parents – over the years. I guess it’s also Mom’s connection back to her birth country from so many years ago. Our cousin is a sweet lass and she married a local Singaporen who works in the infocomm sector and who during the groom’s speech at the banquet wowed everyone with his mastery of Mandarin.

Hannah was fascinated with the entire occasion; right from when the groom came to the family home to ‘win’ the bride (the gate custodians – who would have guessed – were her cousins and her, none of whom were older than 10 years old – to seeing the new bride in her gown, and the 10 course dinner – “Wow daddy – there’s so much food!!”

Peter on the other hand has been a little more cranky than usual in the last week. In fact, he whines and goes into mini-bawls too easily, which Ling guesses is partially because of his inability to articulate his wants and desires to us. Totally unlike Hannah at the same age, who was often contend to wait for us. We’re really hoping that come December when we go on our vacation, Peter would be better able to communicate and hopefully be a little less impatient.

On the other hand, we’ve been trying whenever opportunity presents itself to let Peter exercise his little legs outside, under our and Hannah’s close watch though. It’s always fun to watch toddlers walk. They basically just baby-stomp around all over!

Peter stomping at Serangoon Nex. New-found freedom!

Peter stomping at Serangoon Nex. New-found freedom!

A minder on each hand. Won't be long before he discovers running - then we'll be in trouble.

A minder on each hand. Won’t be long before he discovers running – then we’ll be in trouble.

Peter at 1 year 2 months 2 weeks old.

Peter at 1 year 2 months 2 weeks old.

The kids wanted the groom to sing tracks from 'Frozen', but forgot about it the minute the groom fished out the ang pows.:)

The kids wanted the groom to sing tracks from ‘Frozen’, but forgot about it the minute the groom fished out the ang pows.:)

Dad with Peter. I haven't used the 45mm f1.8 lens a lot in the last few months, so the weekend wedding was one opportunity to get some shots in.

Dad with Peter. I haven’t used the 45mm f1.8 lens a lot in the last few months, so the weekend wedding was one opportunity to get some shots in.

Hannah had lots of fun with her En, her cousin who's younger by just a year - but loads more confident and chatty!

Hannah had lots of fun with her En, her cousin who’s younger by just a year – but loads more confident and chatty!

We finally decided last evening on our December vacation spot, going ahead to book a flight for all of us, and also put in a booking for our choice of accommodation too. For a week in December, we’ll be at Ko Pha Ngan – an island just north of Ko Samui – and likely staying at the Santhiya Resort. Though I had a budget to work with, there were so many options and accommodation permutations within that budget trying to find that elusive mix of the best accommodation with the best options on the best travel times and dates that I pretty much gave up and went with what looked like the best balance between our requirements.

Of the places:

Nha Trang was a real possibility but we ended up dropping the city from the shortlist as the layover period time would had just too long for Peter. We did think about spending a couple of days in Ho Chi Minh to ease out the layover, but that would have stretch our vacation period even longer. We were told by the resort that while the weather was going to be cool, it would likely also be rainy – what a bummer.

Maldives got added to the shortlist late in consideration, but got dropped just as quick after the projected cost of an approximately week-long stay would have over-shot our budget by quite a bit.

In the end, it was basically a toss-up between Ko Samui and its neighboring island Ko Pha Ngan, both on the east coast of Thailand. The resorts we especially liked in Ko Samui were pretty decent, well-appointed for the most part, and many had their own pools villa-styled, and were pretty large, with several unit areas of a hundred square meter area and more. The size of a middle-size HDB apartment easily. But the cost of these accommodation at Ko Samui were relatively high, and the beach qualities quite variable. We did especially like the Buri Rasa Village, as it had among the most promising beaches around, was nicely located – but the cost accommodation unit we looked at was a tad small at 80sqm, and the main/common pool rather small too. But we eventually decided on Pha Ngan.

Pha Ngan is less dense in terms of its accommodations but also less varied in range, and also reputedly offering slightly better beaches too. Accommodation options were very slightly cheaper if also less swanky. While the pictures of the beaches looked more attractive than the ones we saw at Ko Samui, we weren’t willing to chance for a swim only at beaches. That meant we needed a resort with a decent-sized main/common pool, and also – if we could find it – a unit with a larger private pool too. There weren’t many accommodation options of a particular ‘quality class’ on the island, and among these, only the Santhiya ticked all the boxes: a fairly large villa at 115sqm, a larger than normal villa pool, and a large common pool, and the accommodation cost somewhat high but just within what we were prepared to spend. As a bonus too; the resort had its own private beach, the villa option we booked was well-away from the beach-front too  (and thus hopefully quieter), and the resort grounds apparently quite spacious.

Ling was initially a little skeptical about heading up to Pha Ngan rather than staying on Samui, and wondered if it was a self-contained island; because if it wasn’t, it’ll mean we’ve have to frequently travel back to the main island every time we wanted to do something else (like eat outside the resort LOL). Thankfully, the island seems the former – with its own town center, restaurants, infrastructure, natural areas and the like. Not that there’s a lot to do in either island, but this trip we’re primarily intending to just stone and vegetate rather than sight see.

The island from the air.

The island from the air.

Santhiya Ko Pha Ngan - hope it's as good as it looks on the travel brochures!

Santhiya Ko Pha Ngan – hope it’s as good as it looks on the travel brochures!

More to come later once I’ve worked out a sort-of itinerary!

2014 is almost over, and it struck me earlier this year that we haven’t traveled nor gone on a family vacation in 2013. Not that I need vacations because I’d go crazy without one, but vacations are always opportunities to take pictures of places other than the usual staple that we frequent as a family. The big event we’ve had for 2014 was our move to our new home at The Minton and now that we’ve settled in nicely, I revisited plans for a vacation.

We were initially deciding if Peter was coming with us, and if not, if grandparents are still able to take care of him for a couple of days we head out as a family somewhere. Going with this arrangement, it would have had to be somewhere close to home and a relatively short trip as well so as not to stress our parents out when they care for Peter. Couple of ideas, and they included:

Legoland in Johor: Hannah has a special interest in this one, and was in fact just asking us about it earlier this year after seeing that NTUC Fairprice had a couple of promotional vouchers for trips there.

Cruise: this has been long on our list, if also because neither of us have been on cruises yet. Oh, it’ll probably turn out to be guilty-laden event where we’ll eat so much food that it’ll be coming out of our ears, but that should be provide equivalent incentive for us to make use of the fitness facilities onboard too.

Staycation @ Sentosa: We had a wonderful, if dreadfully expensive, staycation at Capella Sentosa when Hannah was 2 years old, and were thinking of returning for her to enjoy Resort Worlds Sentosa and Universal Studios.

We decided last week though that Peter would join us for the family vacation of about a week, and that it’d be at year end. Hopefully by then, he would had been better able to walk long distances without tiring quickly. That expanded our travel options quite a bit, though we’re still ever mindful of being financially prudent, and also of prevailing weather conditions in various parts of Asia.

Nha Trang Bay, Vietnam. Neither of us have been to Vietnam before. From what we’ve read, neither Hannah nor Peter would be able to handle a walking-heavy itinerary of the city and sights, and the capital Ho Chih Minh was dense with all the intricacies of a developing city. The coastal city we’re headed to though is some distance away from the capital, necessitating a connecting flight from the capital. The resort we have our eye on at Nha Trang Bay is lovely, but we’re a little worried about the return leg – as the layover at Ho Chih Minh before flying home to Singapore would had been about 8-9 hours. Way too long for Peter!

Koh Samui, Thailand. We haven’t been to this island either, though we’ve both gone to other parts of Thailand several times now. There are direct flights to Koh Samui from Singapore – more convenient – but also a less ‘new’ place for both of us on the other hand.

Perth. Ling is especially interested for the family for a self-drive trip in Australia, as the place is (probably) more child-friendly. Unfortunately, having spent three years in Perth, I’m not wild about going back again so soon! Still, if we were to make the trip there, it’ll be an opportunity to catch-up with my old supervisors and friends at University.

More to come very soon, since we’ve just had Peter’s passport made and will be deciding on the vacation place very soon.

Mmhhmm - a big possibility!

Mmhhmm – a big possibility!

One key decision we had to make this year about our Minton home was what we’d do with our current and first family home @ The Rivervale. Truth be told, most people around us advised us not to sell our old property but to rent it out instead, as the long-term returns were higher. For instance, the rent alone from the home would have paid off our monthly installment of our home loan for Minton, and with spare change too. On the other hand, we (or rather, it was mostly just me) didn’t want the hassle nor potential complications of renting out an apartment, and wanted to be debt free sooner to that we could start significantly investing in our children’s education funds.

We finally decided to sell away our Rivervale home only in February this year – about a month before moving to Minton. The next decision we made was not to sell away the old place before we had properly moved and settled into our Minton home. Much of it lied in that we didn’t want to rush through the sale process. We wanted a good sale at a price we were comfortable with, and to owners who would, hopefully, treat the place with the same respect and care the first owners did before they sold it to us in 2006.

Unfortunately, our delaying the sale of our old home also meant that the general price trends of resale homes were depreciating over the last months. It wasn’t a disconcerting drop fortunately, but not small enough on the other hand to make us laugh it off.

We didn’t spend a lot of time in our hunt for the right property agent to sell our old home. We simply collected a stack of publicity collateral various agents had been stuffing into our mailboxes, shortlisted a couple of them (don’t laugh now – but we went mostly with how nice they looked in their pictures!), invited them over for discussions, saw their portfolio, then decided. Of the three agents we interviewed, one was nice and probably competent but seemed somewhat unfamiliar with the nuances of Rivervale units or the general area. Another was quite aggressive, had a fabulous track record, but didn’t quite endeared herself to us. The third – but actually first agent we spoke to – was – a jovial and bubbly lady who was apparently specialising in the sale of Rivervale units. As it turned out too, her daughter was Hannah’s friend and bus-mate in school too. A lucky match. We negotiated the asking commission, decided on the targeted yet achievable sale price, signed off on the exclusive arrangement to sell, and went with it in early June.

To our agent’s credit, and probably also because she had a well-honed system (i.e. do A, then B, then C, then D etc.), there were quite a few viewings over the next few weekends, and she kept us posted each time on these viewing arrangements. The actual confirmed sale of our unit to a family came almost exactly a month later with the new buyer exercising the Option to Purchase. We were alright with the counter-proposed sale price offered by the buyer, appointed the lawyers at our own end, and began the sales paperwork. The sales transaction would take three months to complete.

Almost two months have passed since that point, and earlier this week, we just almost finally cleared everything in our Rivervale home. We arranged for the handymen who work the condo to come clear off the bulky items – the Ikea sofa, the handed-me-down TV console, our master bedroom frame, the IKEA bookshelves and chairs, the Zen-like dining table etc. Thereafter, we took the opportunity to take a final round of pictures to remember our first home. As Ling mused; seeing our old home bare off furniture reminds us of what the place looked like 8 years ago too. Peter will be too young to remember the place, but Hannah might – and there will certainly be pictures to remind her!

Hannah (and Peter's) old room. Hannah likes her Minton room more.

Hannah (and Peter’s) old room. Hannah likes her Minton room more.

The living room sans furniture.

The living room sans furniture.

Thankfully, our new Minton home doesn't exhibit such strong wall colors!

Thankfully, our new Minton home doesn’t exhibit such strong wall colors!

The bulk furniture at the basement carpark awaiting for the handymen to cart them over to the bulk disposal point. Most of these in the picture here were from Ikea.

The bulk furniture at the basement carpark awaiting for the handymen to cart them over to the bulk disposal point. Most of these in the picture here were from Ikea.

We’ll miss our Rivervale home; the cool breezes we enjoyed in the living room everyday, the great neighbors, the large space the condo sat on, and the general serenity in the condo’s amenities and common areas. Hope the new owners take care of the place!

Another three weeks since my last post on our two kids. The most significant development between the two is that Peter is now – for all purposes and intent – mobile. Yep, he’s able to confidently prop himself up and briskly baby-stomp around the house now, and only occasionally losing balance. That’s added a new spin to home safety, since one of us parents need to keep a loose eye on him when he’s awake and scurrying around our home – it’s not entirely baby proof yet – and it helps that Hannah is like a Meekrat, playing sentry and alerting us loudly if she sees her baby brother doing something dangerous!

The two kids have been taking turns becoming mildly ill over the last fortnight though. Nothing serious and just minor colds and some coughing on Peter’s part, but it might be again due to the changing weather over the last month from warm and humid to somewhat cool most days.

We’ve also been finding ourselves lightly comparing between our two kids at similar ages and developmental ages. Peter is of course a lot stronger as a baby and louder than Hannah was at the same age years ago. Must be a baby boy thing. Hannah on the other hand picked up simple words a lot quicker. In fact, at 1 year 2 months, we recall that she was able to call either of us, while Peter at this point is just managing “da… da”, presumably in reference to his daddy. Similarly, we had our small group friends over at our home last Friday, and observed that comparing him to another baby boy who was younger by a few months, Peter still seems… baby-ish, while the other boy was looking distinctly more mature!

Our small group gathering during the mid-autumn lantern festival. The baby boy to Peter's left is younger than he is!

Our small group gathering during the mid-autumn lantern festival. The baby boy to Peter’s left is younger than he is!

Dinner at Tim Ho Wan, the famed dim sum restaurant. During the restaurant chain's opening in Singapore, people lined up for hours just to get a seat. The crowds have tapered off, so we were able to walk right in without waiting for am early weekday dinner.

Dinner at Tim Ho Wan, the famed dim sum restaurant. During the restaurant chain’s opening in Singapore, people lined up for hours just to get a seat. The crowds have tapered off, so we were able to walk right in without waiting for an early weekday dinner.

The two kids at Hannah's kindergarten mid-autumn festival celebrations in Punggol.

The two kids at Hannah’s kindergarten mid-autumn festival celebrations in Punggol.

We haven't previously brought Hannah to an indoor playground, and finally did so earlier this week. This is at Pollywogs @ East Coast. The place has the usual suite of kiddie-play areas, is attractively priced, and parents can accompany their kids without additional charge.

We haven’t previously brought Hannah to an indoor playground, and finally did so earlier this week. This is at Pollywogs @ East Coast. The place has the usual suite of kiddie-play areas, is attractively priced, and parents can accompany their kids without additional charge.

Build sandcastles at East Coast park after Pollywogs!

Build sandcastles at East Coast park after Pollywogs!

Getting Peter to learn to drink from a sippy cup. Ling thought this might help Peter transit to learn to speak words.

Getting Peter to learn to drink from a sippy cup. Ling thought this might help Peter transit to learn to speak words.

The weather has turned – surprisingly – cool since last week after the National Day weekend, with flash storms occurring at several points during the week. Quite interesting to think about it, since just over a year ago, we were pretty much living in daily smog, and for some reason, the haze has not returned for the most part to our island. It did hit a few parts of our neighbors up north in Malaysia, but judging from the news, it still wasn’t up to the extremely unhealthy levels of June 2013 even then. There are still a few dengue clusters about the island, but thankfully too, our area in Hougang has dropped off the dengue hotspot list since the last fortnight too.

Today and the next 3 days of weather. This is considered pleasantly cooling by local standards of humidity!

Today and the next 3 days of weather. This is considered pleasantly cooling by local standards of humidity!

On the personal front; my detailed health screening returned the other week to report that I was in good health at the age of 42, for the most part. Because the report also noted that I was approaching high-blood pressure and also have high (bad) cholesterol. Quite a timely wake-up call, because I resolved immediately thereafter to exercise regularly and eat healthily. For the former; I tried swimming at the Minton lap pool, but unfortunately, the pool gets frequently misused by residents who treat the pool as a water play ground for young kids rather than an exercise pool. Next best option; stairs-climbing! I’ve been walking up from the ground to the top floor at our apartment block at least 3-4 times a week now, and have been steadily improving the number of iterations I do a complete cycle. Started off with 2 iterations and I’m now up to 4 – the latter of which makes it roughly about 56 floors of stairs. Good stuff!

As for our two kids, we have a few developmental notes to make since the last fortnight too.

Hannah having fun with the Nikon Coolpix L29 we got her for her last birthday. She might just have the photographer gene, as some of her pictures are pretty nicely framed! We'll post up some of her shots soon enough.

Hannah having fun with the Nikon Coolpix L29 we got her for her last birthday. She might just have the photographer gene, as some of her pictures are pretty nicely framed! We’ll post up some of her shots soon enough.

Peter has got to the point where he can squirm free from the seatbelt restraints. The situation got so bad that on a couple of occasions, we had to stop the car by the roadside, and carry him out to sit with us in the front compartment.  Since then, we've reversed this seat location so that it faces front now, and added an additional restraining strap (courtesy of Ikea, and sewed in by Ling) so that he can't easily get free from the car seat belt... until he figures out how to unbuckle himself altogether!

Peter has got to the point where he can squirm free from the seatbelt restraints. The situation got so bad that on a couple of occasions, we had to stop the car by the roadside, and carry him out to sit with us in the front compartment. Since then, we’ve reversed this seat location so that it faces front now, and added an additional restraining strap (courtesy of Ikea, and sewed in by Ling) so that he can’t easily get free from the car seat belt… until he figures out how to unbuckle himself altogether!

Celebrated mom's 71st birthday over the National Day weekend. With all her grandkids in this picture.

Celebrated mom’s 71st birthday over the National Day weekend. With all her grandkids in this picture.

We also started Hannah on introductory Ballet lessons too. Our Saturday weekend mornings are now spent hanging around Ang Mo Kio central while she's at her classes. She enjoys the classes tremendously, and we'll see how far she'll want to take this new found love.

We also started Hannah on introductory Ballet lessons too. Our Saturday weekend mornings are now spent hanging around Ang Mo Kio central while she’s at her classes. She enjoys the classes tremendously, and we’ll see how far she’ll want to take this new found love.

Another one of those 'in' activities now for kids. Ling bought her a large jar of Pyssla beads from Ikea. She's put together simple patterns and have been proudly presenting them to everyone around her.

Another one of those ‘in’ activities now for kids. Ling bought her a large jar of Pyssla beads from Ikea. She’s put together simple patterns and have been proudly presenting them to everyone around her.

Started Peter too on a variety of fruits, including banana and apple slices. He's apparently more interested in upsetting the apple cart here then just eating the slices!

Started Peter too on a variety of fruits, including banana and apple slices. He’s apparently more interested in upsetting the apple cart here then just eating the slices!