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!

We drove past Jalan Besar yesterday Sunday late-morning on our way to brunch, and it occurred to us that it’s already been past six months where we’d spent most of our spare time outside work on the hunt for electrical fixtures and installations for our Minton home. Ever since moving and settling into our home, our leisure hangout places have also gone through a bit of a shift. Back at our old place, the places where we’d head out to on weekends would routinely be Compass Point, Hougang Mall, Hougang1, and Greenwich Village, where both our workplaces are situated. Nowadays, it’s Serangoon Nex, City Square Mall, Bugis Junction, and we’ll be also adding Toa Payoh hub soon enough to that mix too.

What has helped a lot of course is that our Minton home is located at a relatively centralized location than the north-easterly Rivervale was. And that in turn has made getting to downtown places easier too via private transportation. Unfortunately, the same can’t be quite said for public transportation. It’s closer to downtown, but our new home requires quite a bit more walking distance to get to either one of the two MRT stations that the condo is equi-distance from.

Ling has lots of little anecdotes to share too about our two kids. For instance: a month ago, Hannah surprised her by saying this:

Hannah: Mommy, thank you for growing didi for me.

Mommy: ?? You’re welcomed, sweetie.

Both Hannah and Peter enjoy playing with each other since Peter started to sit up and recognise faces and voices. Sometimes we wonder whether the age gap of 4 years has something to do with it. We were certainly surprised to hear the daughter thanking us for giving her a brother.

Another one of these conversations:

Hannah: Mommy, what are you going to do with the cheese?

Mommy: I’m going to let it melt and mix it up with the corn.

Hannah: What is melt?

Mommy: It’s when something solid becomes liquid. Okay, it’s like when you put ice on the table and it becomes water.

Hannah: Okay, for example ah, when you eat ice cream and it du..du..du..du..du…and it melts. The hot air around it makes it melt.

Mommy: Oh yah…

Cup corn-styled!

Cup corn-styled!

And more pictures now.:)

Got no clue what is going in Peter's head when this picture was taken!  He's got four teeth coming along now.

Got no clue what is going in Peter’s head when this picture was taken! He’s got four teeth coming along now.

Peter can easily hoist himself up, and is almost able to walk on his own now. The terror to come LOL.

Peter can easily hoist himself up, and is almost able to walk on his own now. The terror to come LOL.

A couple minutes of iPad time. This one's that popular (among young girls?) Toca Hair Saloon game. on iOS.

A couple minutes of iPad time. This one’s that popular (among young girls?) Toca Hair Saloon game. on iOS.

Not sure what she's thrilled about, but that's the Fairprice Supermarket cash receipt for our groceries.

Not sure what she’s thrilled about, but that’s the Fairprice Supermarket cash receipt for our groceries.

 

Feeding Peter solid foods has been a different experience altogether as compared to Hannah’s. Hannah readily accepted almost any type of food I introduced to her. Peter was almost the total opposite.

At 6 months, it was a real challenge to get any food pass his lips. And he enjoyed making a show of spitting bits of food noisily out of his mouth if we could shove it in before the clam-down. Cooking tiny portions was another challenge as we prefer not to cook in bulk and then freeze in small portions. I have a thing about feeding our children freshly cooked food. Porridge was rejected at the start. However, we had some success with avocado, sweet potato and carrots. It was with a lot of perseverance that the little prince finally opened up to the idea of eating something that is not milk or water.

His nanny has been feeding him porridge on weekdays and I try to provide variations on weekends. Not much variation actually. Just a change of the source of carbohydrates from rice to potato and do a mash up with an orange veggie, a green veggie and a meat. I like this mash-up meal as it is quick and easy to prepare. It is tasty too – Hannah often asks me for leftovers. Below is the recipe for Peter’s mashie meals.

Ingredients

  • 1 small potato (I recently discovered Australia’s red potatoes available from NTUC. It makes a creamy, yummy mash)
Creamy Australian red potatoes

Creamy Australian red potatoes

  • 1/2 a small carrot stick (about 6-7 cm long)
  • 1 broccoli floret (or 4-5 spinach leaves)
  • 1 small piece of fish (I alternate between threadfin and salmon) or minced lean pork or chicken

Method

1. Prepare a boiling water bath (I did this with a covered wok over a gas stove.)

2. While waiting for the water to boil, peel and slice the potato and carrot thinly. Spread them out on a porcelain plate.

3. Steam the plate of veggies for 7 minutes.

4. Slice the broccoli thinly (or chiffonade the spinach leaves). Wash and place the meat in a small porcelain saucer.

5. At 7th minute, open up the water bath and place the saucer on the plate and spread the green veggie over the potato and carrot. Cover and continue steaming for another 7-8 minutes.

All steamed and ready for mashing

All steamed and ready for mashing

6. Once time is up, remove the plate of steamed food and mash them up. Pour the leftover liquid in the saucer and plate into the mashed up food to moisten it. Test the consistency of the mash and add a bit more hot water to soften it if your baby prefers it softer.

Soft and tender veggies for mashing

Soft and tender veggies for mashing

Nice consistency for Peter

Nice consistency for Peter

7. I usually place the small bowl of mashed up food in a hot water bath to keep it warm while I feed Peter.

Sometimes I pack this mashed meal in a small tupperware to feed Peter if the family is going to dine out. I would bring along a small bowl and then request for hot water from the restaurant to heat up the meal before serving Peter. My tupperware can sit directly in the hot water bath and it takes only minutes for the heating process. Peter would be fed while the rest of us wait for our food to be served. Then we can all eat in peace – or so we always hope.

My next challenge is to get Peter to accept fruits! Urgh.

 

Been another long while since I did a post on our kids! So, lots of pictures in this update post. I think we’re blessed in that both Hannah and Peter’s birthdays are in the month of June – which nicely coincides with the stipulated school holidays in the public school calendar. We celebrated both their birthdays at home; with friends in Hannah’s case, and with our larger family for Peter. Hannah is of course at an age now where she recognizes the significance of having a birthday, and that it’s not just about having more presents and toys to play with. Peter on the other hand was completely nonplus about it and probably wondered what all the fuss was about when the family all gathered around him for the celebration song.

Hannah just turned five!

Hannah just turned five!

And received from us a Nikon compact camera as a birthday present.

And received from us a Nikon compact camera as a birthday present.

Hannah admiring her just taken-selfie, while Peter looks bewildered at the bounced flash that just triggered to take this picture.

Hannah admiring her just taken-selfie, while Peter looks bewildered at the bounced flash that just triggered to take this picture.

We haven't bought Hannah a lot to swim in the new main pool @ Minton, given that our weekends have been quite packed with activities. She's been taking swimming lessons too at school, so is more comfortable now in the water.

We haven’t bought Hannah a lot to swim in the new main pool @ Minton, given that our weekends have been quite packed with activities. She’s been taking swimming lessons too at school, so is more comfortable now in the water.

We've started letting Peter have his tidbits of food with us when we eat out of home. Necessary method of engagement, otherwise he'd just bawl (out of boredom?!).

We’ve started letting Peter have his tidbits of food with us when we eat out of home. Necessary method of engagement, otherwise he’d just bawl (out of boredom?!).

Peter more interested in his birthday cake than the singing.:)

Peter more interested in his birthday cake than the singing.:)

Peter is nearly able to stand unsupported on his own now. At the moment, he can keep his balance for a few seconds, but he's getting there.

Peter is nearly able to stand unsupported on his own now. At the moment, he can just barely keep his balance for a few seconds, but he’s getting there.

Catching up on another post of our children in the last fortnight. Another recent thing we’ve gradually realize of our new home is that the Tranquil World-facing bedrooms of our unit – which includes Hannah’s room – gets a seasonal blast of direct sunlight. We didn’t observe this earlier in the year at the time we collected our keys, but possibly also in good part that the weather has turned hot and humid again, their room gets a good toasting in the early to mid-afternoons every day. As a result, We’ve been looking closely at solar films and will have some notes to write on very soon.

We’re still thankful that Peter sleeps soundly every night, but boy – can he make a royal din in the day time. It might be the effect of his room facing inwards against other neighboring blocks and how sound bounces around coupled also with his very healthy pair of lungs, but when he yells, we’re pretty sure everyone can hear it. Yep; he yells for attention, not merely cries for it! Hannah loves playing with him still, but when she’s busy with something else (like her art n’ craft), our boy gets all moody and will holler when he’s left alone in his cot.

Ling was sharing too the other morning that our girl has reported being occasionally called names by her friends in school. Nope we’re not going to step-in at the moment, since this is part of growing up and she doesn’t seem too bothered by it. But if that’s indeed happening, it doesn’t surprise us too much either – on account that Hannah is just a little bossy and has no compunctions telling other kids off when they engage in acts she believes are wrong. She has the makings of a a social butterfly for sure.

And of late, she’s returned again to carrying sheets of stickers that she brings along with her when we’re out of home, and passes them out to other children that she walks past. “Mommy/Daddy/whoever’s nearer, can you cut this sticker out? I want to pass it to that 妹妹 (little sister)!” In fact, we’ve had to reign her in a little one time when she wanted to run off to the other side of a Metro store to look for a girl that walked past her several minutes ago LOL.

The two kids at play at our new home on a weekend morning.

The two kids at play at our new home on a weekend morning.

Hannah having fun with ice water and a straw. This was over dinner at a Malay-Muslim cafe @ Hougang Avenue 1. They whipped up wonderful Roti Johns (our Ang mo friend will be thrilled to hear that!).

Hannah having fun with ice water and a straw. This was over dinner at a Malay-Muslim cafe @ Hougang Avenue 1. They whipped up wonderful Roti Johns (our Ang mo friend will be thrilled to hear that!).

Peter's gonna be one year old very soon.

Peter’s gonna be one year old very soon.

Her new post-it notice board mounted in her room. Hopefully, no more loose pieces of all her drawings all over the house now.

Her new post-it notice board mounted in her room. Hopefully, no more loose pieces of all her drawings all over the house now.

It finally happened. We were at Isetan department store @ Nex just before the Labor Day public holiday when store patrons heard the following over the PA system:

Paging for the parents of a 4 year old girl who got lost; her name is Hannah Foo and she has a Pluto plush toy. Please come to the customer service counter at level 3!

We were at the store to pick up a Panasonic microwave oven (I finally reconciled against my long fears of eating microwaved food). Hannah wandered off to look at toys after I joined a long queue to pay for the appliance while Ling was looking for some face towels, and somewhere in between our girl couldn’t find her way back to us. Hannah was completely red-eyed and sobbing when we picked her up clutching onto her constant companion Pluto, and in uncontrollable tears. But just 30 minutes later when we were driving our way back home to Minton, she was rattling off to the both of us that she wasn’t lost, but it was mommy/daddy who were lost, and how we should know better!

Our two kids have adjusted very well to our new home @ Minton, with Hannah easily having the best view in the house now. Her bed overlooks Tranquil World, and it’s quite a pretty sight with the nearly a hundred path lights lining the many walkways and ponds. Every night, we’ve taken to spend time to look at the sights with her on her bed before she turns in. Peter has also a larger floor space now to crawl around too.

The adults though are still gradually easing into the new home. Perhaps because that the space is now larger with a lot more partitioned areas, we found ourselves having to walk a lot more and turn around corners to get to everything in the house! Frequently heard of late also – especially from me – is the line “Dear, where did you put the spatula / Hannah’s milk carton / table spoon / plastic bag / dishwasher capsule / masking tape / Hannah’s socks / Peter’s towel / coffee powder…??”

Couple of pictures using the 17mm and 25mm primes:

Hannah loves her new brightly colored and lit room!

Hannah loves her new brightly colored and lit room!

The two kids enjoy each other's companies; especially Hannah who almost a year in still loves to play with her little brother.

The two kids enjoy each other’s companies; especially Hannah who almost a year in still loves to play with her little brother.

Still wearing her pair of kiddie sunglasses that we bought her for a third year old birthday two years ago.

Still wearing her pair of kiddie sunglasses that we bought her for a third year old birthday two years ago.

 

Amidst the torrent of blog posts on our Minton home renovation project, it’s been a while since I wrote a post on our kids, so here’s one. Of the big changes in the last month or so, we experienced a one in the form of a change of the children’s nanny. It wasn’t an easy change as we weren’t given much time for both parents and kids to make the change, but we were fortunate (and definitely very blessed!) to find one at short notice who’d be able to take care of both kids, and whom is also a Christian too. The new nanny’s home is also situated at both our work places’ general vicinity – which has both pros and cons. Good because picking up the children after work is easy, bad because it means Hannah has to wake up even earlier now to make the time for her daily school-bus pick-up (the school bus needs to travel further from the new nanny’s place to her school).

Peter has also just started teething, which he’s – thankfully – been able to ease into, alongside an increasing acceptance of solid foods that both nanny and Ling has been continuing for him. Unfortunately, he’s also been experiencing a bout of gastric flu, which – operationally – means that about five to six times a day, he’ll unload big time baby-style into his diapers! Each unloading has required a quick shower of his bottom, an exercise he initially wailed loudly about but seems to have gotten used to the routine.

The experience between Peter’s first year has been very different from Hannah’s. We only now realized how true is that old mommys’ observations of how much stronger baby boys are compared to baby girls. Peter baby punches, pinches, kicks, squirms, and scratches – and the both of us have our battle scars to show for it LOL.

Peter looks like another truck is about to him him! He doesn't drool as much now though, something we're thankful for.

Peter looks like another truck is about to hit him! He doesn’t drool as much now too, something we’re thankful for.

Hannah at a very precocious 4 years 9 months old. I think she looks tall for her age, though Ling says she only seems that way - until she's standing beside her peers.

Hannah at a very precocious 4 years 9 months old. I think she looks tall for her age, though Ling says she only seems that way – until she’s standing beside her peers.

Parents at Lentor have been very helpful this few months when we're madly running around over the weekends shopping for furniture and checking on the progress of our Minton home renovation and the like.

Parents at Lentor have been very helpful this few months when we’re madly running around over the weekends shopping for furniture and checking on the progress of our Minton home renovation and the like.

Hannah in her school uniform and waiting at her new nanny's place. Our morning routine involves us driving to the new nanny's place, and waiting for her bus pick-up. That's meant at least 5-10 minutes more of bonding time each morning while waiting for her ride.

Hannah in her school uniform and waiting at her new nanny’s place. Our morning routine involves us driving to the new nanny’s place, and waiting for her bus pick-up. That’s meant at least 5-10 minutes more of bonding time each morning while waiting for her ride.

Girls in green, and on another morning while waiting for Hannnah's ride; she's out of uniform as it's Friday - which occasionally is home clothes day for the kids.

Girls in green, and on another morning while waiting for Hannnah’s ride; she’s out of uniform as it’s Friday – which occasionally is home clothes day for the kids.

Using as a reference our annual family photos taken during the Lunar New Year, it’s fun to watch how we change over time. Not the adults mind you, but the kids. My oldest nephew is now so tall at just 14 that he’s nearly at his dad’s height. Hannah is also fast closing the height gap with her cousin, and this year too, we had Peter in the pictures as a new addition. Too bad he looks a little sickly with the return of mosquito bites he suffered over the last couple of days.

Funnily, post-first days of CNY, Hannah, Peter and Ling are all down with varying degrees of illness. Peter and Hannah have got mild colds, and Ling is down with mild fever too. The weather has certainly been odd for this time of the year, with the cold front lasting longer than normal. It’s been quite dry – it hasn’t rained for a week now – and yet relatively cold too with evenings for the last week now hovering at 22-23 degree celsius lows.

Like the last year, the Nikon D7000 stayed at home, with the two micro four-third cameras pulling all photographic duties. The family pictures below were taken using the 17mm f1.8, and stepped down to f4.0 offered sharpness that was almost scary.

Just a few days ahead of CNY and heading out early morning for her school's CNY celebrations. The lift lobby at our home was actually quite dim, so some post-processing in Adobe was required to lift out details.

Just a few days ahead of CNY and heading out early morning for her school’s CNY celebrations. The lift lobby at our home was actually quite dim, so some post-processing in Adobe was required to lift out details.

Hannah in her Cheongsam on the first day of CNY. She's carrying a little Panda bag ("To hold all my ang pows!") that a visiting friend from the US brought along last year.

Hannah in her Cheongsam on the first day of CNY. She’s carrying a little Panda bag (“To hold all my ang pows!”) that a visiting friend from the US brought along last year.

Hannah with her favorite cousin. Her dress looks like it still has some space to grow - perhaps still wearable next year.

Hannah with her favorite cousin. Her dress looks like it still has some space to grow – perhaps still wearable next year.

Most of the family, excepting my younger brother/SIL - who is out of the country. Peter was struggling!

Most of the family, excepting my younger brother/SIL – who is out of the country. Peter was struggling!

Our yearly CNY picture. Peter is still struggling to break free.

Our yearly CNY picture. Peter is still struggling to break free.

In a red polka dot dress, and visiting a Minton neighbor's home.

In a red polka dot dress, and visiting a Minton neighbor’s home.

Next year at this time will see Peter just over a year and a half-old, and Ling should be able to dress him up in little boy clothes then.:)

We went by The Minton over the weekend for a meeting with a curtains/blinds maker we’re interested in engaging. This particular contractor is based in Johore Bahru, but commutes to Singapore every day for work. He was a particularly jolly fellow and we like him, though at times he was chuckling at his own jokes! There’s no lack of curtains/blinds makers in Singapore of course, but for those of us on a budget, the contractors who’re located across the causeway are possibly a more affordable alternative. For our home, we’re looking at day and night curtains for the living/dining room, blinds for the bedrooms/study, and frosted films for the master bathroom windows, and hopefully we’ll receive a quotation from him soon enough as to how much it’s gonna cost us for all these.

Rectification work has also started for the long list of defects we forwarded to the Developer too last midweek. A good number of chips and cracked lines along the wall edges at the front balcony and also bedrooms have been rectified, though others at the back balcony and kitchen have not been touched yet. Workers were also sanding down the parquet flooring on Saturday, and during a follow-up visit on Sunday afternoon, the same floor had just been varnished too. A couple of residents were reporting that the defect rectification team have (accidentally) caused a few more defects when they did their patch-up work – we’re hoping that that doesn’t happen too much for us. We wouldn’t want a continual cycle of new defects caused by rectification teams!

Sunday mid-afternoon yesterday was quite cloudy, but there was some brief direct sunlight, which allowed for for this picture - bubbles reflections against sunlight @ the cascading waterfalls. I'd forgotten to bring ND filters, so will probably redo this picture again soon.

Sunday mid-afternoon yesterday was quite cloudy, but there was some brief direct sunlight, which allowed for for this picture – bubbles reflections against sunlight @ the cascading waterfalls. I’d forgotten to bring ND filters, so will probably redo this picture again soon.

Asymmetrical lines between Block 10A and 10B. The bright sky would have killed most of the shadow details, so some post-processing was necessary in Adobe Raw.

Asymmetrical lines between Block 10A and 10B. The bright sky would have killed most of the shadow details, so some post-processing was necessary in Adobe Raw.

The flora in The Minton is thriving, and I went all nuts with the m4/3s macro setting on the 12-50mm lens.

The flora in The Minton is thriving, and I went all nuts with the m4/3s macro setting on the 12-50mm lens.

We visited a friend whose staying at Block 10B and facing Fun World. Here's her level 10 unit looking down at the Grand Clubhouse. We don't get this view from our unit.

We visited a friend whose staying at Block 10B and facing Fun World. Here’s her level 10 unit looking down at the Grand Clubhouse. We don’t get this view from our unit.

Flowerbed just in front of the Badminton Dome. Very pretty!

Flowerbed just in front of the Badminton Dome. Very pretty!

Hannah finally at the slide at the Children's Treeouse @ Tranquil World. She's been pining to try this out for months now ever since spotting them in visits last year!

Hannah finally at the slide at the Children’s Treeouse @ Tranquil World. She’s been pining to try this out for months now ever since spotting them in visits last year!

Mommy and Hannah trying to attract the attention of the Lily Pond's kois @ Tranquil World. These are the mega-sized monster kois we see elsewhere - hopefully they'll grow over time.

Mommy and Hannah trying to attract the attention of the Lily Pond’s kois @ Tranquil World. These are the mega-sized monster kois we see elsewhere – hopefully they’ll grow over time.

At the contemporary bridge. Peter is more interested in the bridge's wood decking.=)

At the contemporary bridge. Peter is more interested in the bridge’s wood decking.=)

More pictures of The Minton flora here.

It’s the end of another year, and Ling was asking just the other day when I was going to do another one of my end-of-year review of our big ticket and asset decisions in 2013. To be fair, we’ve kept the decisions that cost a lot of $$$ somewhat minimally this year, given the large expenditures we’re projecting for 2014 i.e. home renovation. Looking through the list, we had a large number of interesting (or just fun) purchasing decisions though mostly still relatively small purchases. Going with the list again in chronological purchasing order…

Panasonic-Leica 25mm f1.4 (Win). 2013 was the year where I picked up a number of micro-four-thirds lens, all of which turned out to be great purchases. The first one in the year was the 25mm f1.4, which is closest the m4/3 standard has to a ‘standard’ focal length reach. The lens focuses very quickly, and has become one of the two main-stay lenses for my two m4/3 cameras. The only issue I can think of – and this is really being creative – is that the lens makes an odd soft squeaky sound when it focuses. And er, that’s it.=)

Panasonic-Lumix 14mm f2.5 (Win). This lens normally comes bundled with an earlier generation Panasonic m4/3 cameras, and lots of people were selling the lens out of the bundle for cheap on eBay. In terms of focal length, the lens is redundant since it’s covered by several other kit zoom lens already, but as a semi wide-angle and very compact prime, it works great. Attach it to the E-PL6 and the form profile is small enough for the camera to be pocketable. I don’t use the lens as much, favoring the 25mm and 17mm, but it’s still a win because of how cheap it was.

Billingham Hadley Pro (Win). My luxury camera bag for this year, and the last messenger-styled bag I’ll need for a while. The bag normally costs a lot when purchased here and nearly as expensive even through Amazon stores. For some odd reason, the bag is much cheaper in South Korea, and after assuring myself I wouldn’t buying an imitation, I picked up one through eBay. The bag has accompanied me for all of this year’s Minton shoots from March, and it holding my two m4/3 bodies, several lenses, filters, and a camcorder.

Olympus 75-300mm II (Win). This lens is a consumer-grade long zoom lens – as compared to the f2.8 equivalents which cost twice as much – and an improved model over the earlier generation lens of the same focal length range. I picked it up locally mostly for the Minton pictures. There’s some very slight perceivable loss of resolution and image degradation at its longest focal, but with the 2X crop factor, it’s a pretty cheap way to reach up to 600mm.

Zojirushi Bread Maker BB-HAQ10 (Win). The first of three presents I got for Ling this year, and I’m one of the main beneficiaries of it! I’ve been able to enjoy home-baked bread in the form of packed lunches to work, though Ling is quite concerned with the flour-intake when she bakes an entire (small) loaf for me to finish in a day.=)

Olympus 17mm f1.8 (Win). The second of my preferred lens for m4/3s. Robustly constructed, focuses very quickly and reliably, and nicely balanced between offering both a very slightly wide-perspective, and also capable of subject isolation when used wide-opened. I picked up the silver edition of the lens, and it looks gorgeous when attached to the similarly-colored E-PL6.

Shortly after this photo was taken, Peter reached out and pulled Hannah's hair, leaving her just a little crossed with her baby brother.

Pictures like these are why good prime lenses are worth every cent.

Olympus 45mm f1.8 (Win). The fifth and last m4/3s lenses for 2013. The lens is a small telephoto prime and while it doesn’t quite have nearly the same kind of reach as the 75-300mm, it’s a fast prime. The lens has allowed for some very nice close-ups of the two kids with plenty of subject isolation. The focal length also lets me put some distance between myself and them too, and Hannah is also less self-conscious as a result for it too.

Viking E20 Sewing Machine (Win). Ling’s birthday present this year. She hasn’t blogged about it yet though, but she’s already sewed a dozen baby bibs for Peter. She mused that these bibs sell for $15 each. This could easily become an alternate source of income if she ever decides to churn these out like a sweatshop.=)

Olympus E-PL6 (Win). The best sensor that Olympus has created in a smaller body. Handling is quite different from the older E-M5, the mode dial is fiddly, and you don’t really get to use the full 3 inch screen when previewing RAW images. But the camera allows for selfies and was picked up for cheap. Both the E-PL6 and EM-5 are in my bag whenever we’re out as a family.

Samsung Galaxy Note III (Win). A new phone that came out of my renewal of a teleco plan this month. Snappier and looking more gorgeous than the earlier generation device. I was considering numerous devices to upgrade to – including the LG G2 and the even humungous Sony Xperia Z Ultra – but none of them offered the stylus.

Google Nexus 7 (2013) (Win). Not an easy decision here as there are so similarly sized tablets. Among them included the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 (nearly bought this because of its stylus, but did not because of the comparatively low-resolution screen), the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.0 (low-resolution screen – ugh), the LG G Pad (ideal size, high resolution, metallic back place, but no 4G/LTE arrgggh!!), and the new iPad Mini Retina (but didn’t want another iPad). The updated Google Nexus 7 won out in the end, given how reasonably future-proof it is, low-cost, great screen, and that it’s such a popular device that custom ROM developers have been churning out builds for it like no tomorrow.

Krups Dolce Gusto Circolo (Win). Ling’s Christmas present from me, though we’re again both beneficiaries. We’ve been enjoying gourmet coffees every evening now, and are gonna try the entire range of brews over time. The machine is one of mid-range models in the popular line of coffee makers, and is for the most part well-reviewed by purchasers. Interestingly, a couple complained about the apparent lack of full automation, but I actually appreciated that you can control the amount of water you’re using when brewing each cup.

Check out the stack of coffee capsules of differing blends.

Check out the stack of coffee capsules of differing blends.

That’s it. Happy 2014.=)