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

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

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

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

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

…according to mommy and Hannah, of course :P

My recipe for chicken soup has certainly come a long way – erm, since Hannah was born. And I’m sure it would continue to evolve.

If anybody has tried using lentil for soups, then it is no surprise that the chicken soup recipe which I’m going to share here doesn’t require additional seasoning. The lentils make it SO good – it is that good.

Okay, here we go.

Ingredients

  • Skinless chicken thigh – 1 piece, fats trimmed with scissors
  • Fresh corn on cob – 1/2 cob, chop into 2 chunks
  • Carrot – 1 small stick, peeled, chop 1/2 of the stick into big chunks and the other 1/2 slice thinly (~2 mm)
  • Celery – 1 stick, chop 2/3 of the stick into big chunks and the other 1/3 slice thinly (~2 mm)
  • Ginger – 1 slice (~ 3 mm thick), peeled
  • Organic red lentils – 1 tbsp
  • Water – 250 ml

Method

1) Place all the ingredients into a small pot and bring to boil.

2) Cover the pot and lower the heat to simmer the soup for 45 mins – 1 hour.

The use of low heat (老火) to simmer the soup

3) Discard the ginger, big carrot and celery chunks.

4) Remove the chicken thigh and shred the meat with a fork. Remove the corn and slice off the kernels. Place the shredded chicken and corn kernels in a serving bowl and set aside.

Suggestion to make this chicken soup into a one-dish meal: Soba Noodles in Chicken Soup

5) Add dry soba noodles, sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms and green leafy vegetables (e.g. xiao bai cai, cai xin) into the chicken soup and bring it to boil. Lower the heat a little and let it boil gently for 5 minutes.

6) Empty all the contents of the pot into the serving bowl containing the shredded chicken and corn kernels. Use a pair of clean scissors to cut the noodles into short strands for easy consumption with a spoon.

Hannah's latest fave! :)

Yup, absolutely no salt required. This soup is very flavourful on its own. Below is a video clip of Hannah enjoying the dish :)

Hannah is fast growing away from her budding cuteness as a junior tot.  She is taller now and not easy to carry her in our arms for too long. And that simple innocence in her round eyes and pure happy delight in her giggles – I’d miss them when she is past that stage. *Emo-ing*

But we have a consolation. A good video camera to capture those precious moments so that we could enjoy her little-ness anytime. Below is a small selection of these moments we managed to save.

1) Hannah trying her first popsicle (alas, it was too sour for her!). I love her tender ‘bye-bye’ at the end of it.

2) Hannah at her favourite playground. She always asked to watch this video clip. :) And she always laughed at herself when watching it.

3) Hannah upgraded to using adult spoon one of the dining-out occasions.

4) Hannah enjoying herself in front of the video camera. :)

Aside from the daily battles with mosquites, her encounter with other creatures include our resident load of pet fish, urbanised birds, domesticated dogs from neighbours, stray cats, ants and millipedes. Yeah, millipedes.

Hmmm, millipedes?

Story goes like this. We happened upon them on our way home from the nanny’s on a fine sunny afternoon. I saw one stray millipede on the pavement we took and stopped to point it out to Hannah. Unguarded and full of curiosity, she just stared and followed its trail. Soon enough, it crawled back to its homeground – a patch of soil fertile with its kind. Suddenly, we were all too conscious of their presence. Undulating little worm-like bodies weaving in and out of the leaf litter and amongst the industrious big red ants.

Hannah was drawn to these fascinating little bugs while most of us folks prefer to cast them just yonder creepy crawlies. Since the discovery of their habitat, Hannah has been paying regular ‘visits’ to spot these guys. I just played along to encourage her at nature appreciation. There was a recent episode where another toddler (and much older) came along to watch these little critters with Hannah. She called them centipedes and to my surprise Hannah told her, “no, it’s millipedes, millipedes”. The toddler’s maid rescued her from embarrassment by saying that she has not seen a millipede before. The older toddler girl quickly identified another critter on the grounds to show off her side of knowledge. :) Yoda speaks “Outdo one another, people will.”

The combination of our girl with nature is too tempting to pass up and so I whipped out our video camera to capture a snippet of it for memory’s sake :)

We bought Hannah a small tube with eight colored hairpins the other week, and our little girl has been having a ball of a time playing with them. Ling has been doing up her hair with the pins – though it usually lasts for about half an hour before Hannah starts removing them – and it’s made for great photo opportunities too.:)

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We’re also surprised to see how much she resembles her cousin Natasha when her hair’s done up this way. Also, video taken during the weekend brunch at Swensen’s, and at her most delightful; just watch her play with utensils, call Daddy and wave.:)

Ling’s just captured this afternoon a video of Hannah walking.:)

blog-Pana58The second day of the trip – Sunday – saw us getting up bright and early, and heading from our hotel in Buffalo City to the Falls again. The first item on the itinerary was a 45 minute IMAX movie at the Niagara Adventure Theatre situated at the Visitors Center. The movie explains the history of the falls, starting with how the old Indians native to the continent worshipped it, to early explorations, and finally to crazed thrill seekers wanting to challenge the power of the Waterfalls.

For those persons who’re going to visit this place at some point, you can skip the film if you’re in a rush or on a tight budget. It’s watchable and informative, but you’re not missing too much if you give it a miss.

The massive structure on the right is the Observation Tower, situated on the American side. The ticketing and admission booths for the famed Maid of the Mist boat trip is situated at the Niagara Falls State Park – which is ground level – but to actually get to the boat’s berth area on the river, you take a fast elevator within the Tower all the way down to the river bed. The tower is massive and I judge it to be about 14 floors high. Most of the pictures later below are all taken from the tower’s observation deck.

From the Wikipedia entry of the trip, a number of the Maid/Mist’s boats work the area – as many as seven. I didn’t see all of them out on the Sunday morning; just perhaps four boats. So, while the area was pretty crowded on the weekend, crowds going for the boat trip were moving along briskly.

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The above picture is of the Canadian side of the Boat ride as seen from the Observation Tower.

The boat trip itself lasts for a brisk 15-20 minutes. Yep, it’s really short. But if you’re going to the Falls, this is the only way to actually experience the sheer power, noise and din of one of nature’s most spectacular sights. Victoria Falls is of course even better than this, but also in a far less accessible location in Africa. But Ling now wants to go there – maybe we’ll end up skipping Japan this December and going to Zimbabwe instead.:)

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The above four pictures were all taken on the Observation Tower’s deck at various perspectives and zoom levels, and of the American and Bridal Veil falls (the smaller one). You can’t really quite see the Horseshoe Falls from the American side because of the huge mist that’s thrown up. And yeah, the weather was no good. Very little sun, all cloudy. Both the E-Pl1 and D300 had difficulties dealing with the poor color tones, and I tried to recover whatever I could from Photoshop.

OK, two more perspectives of the falls. The picture below is taken of the Crows Nest, a small stoned paved walk away that brings you to take a really close look at the American and Bridal Veil falls. Lots of tourists walk this route, but because the path way is so narrow, a lot of human traffic jams result, thanks to persons who stop and pose to get their pictures taken.

Funnily though, I didn’t get drenched when I made the climb myself. The wind was blowing the mist in the other direction.:)

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The below was taken at the Niagara Falls State Park, which lets you get a great review of the Rapids leading to the American Falls.

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To be honest, I don’t think the pictures have turned out well at all. The weather was less than pleasing, and the viewing perspective of the falls the Americans get is all wrong, though admittedly if you want to experience the physical prowess of the falls and are less interested in taking great pictures, this is the preferred side rather than the Canadians.

The videos fared a little better, if nothing else they give you an idea of how big the area is. The first video was taken on the climb up the Crows Nest:

And the second video below is taken from the Observation Tower’s deck:

I still have a whole bunch of panoramas taken of the area, which I’ll comment on at the end of the trip. If I’m coming to this region ever again, I’ll want to be on the other side – and hope for better weather too.:)

Videos taken during the Maid of the Mist boat ride.

Passing by the American Falls:

Passing by the Horseshoe Falls:

If you listen hard enough, above the din you’ll be able to hear Mandarin-speaking voices. There were these two aunties standing beside me yelling at their top of their heads to be heard.:)

There’s a bunch more of other videos taken from the Observation Tower that’s easier seeing the waterfalls from. I’ll post them up later alongside the other photos taken from the tower.

The pilgrims from England first made landfall in the America in Provincetown 400 years ago. To commemorate their landings, the Pilgrim Memorial Monument was built between 1907 and 1910, with then President Theodore Roosevelt laying its cornerstone in 1907. The tower itself is about 77 meters tall, and is 106 meters above sea level in view of it being built on a small hill:

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At the base of the tower is the town’s museum.

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Admission to the tower itself wasn’t free though – an admission charge of USD7 was levied. It was a non-brainer: just about every visitor to Provincetown has climbed the tower, and we weren’t going to be left out. The store below even sells T-shirts for visitors who complete the climb.

As a side note: the noticeboard on display in front of the museum’s entrance states clearly “There is no elevator in the tower.”:)

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The museum houses many artifacts from the early settlers of Provincetown. There are more pictures of the museum in the Flickr album.

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One particular set of paintings caught my attention: it was a series of five paintings depicting the key events of the Pilgrim landings. Below is a picture of the first event (there are four more such paintings):

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Onto the tower itself! While 77 meters doesn’t sound like much, I judge it to be about 12-13 levels high. That’s a view from nearly the top floor downwards, taken with the D300 pointed downwards. The camera strap was coiled twice around my wrist – if the D300 slipped, it would have shattered into a couple million pieces:

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The view up top was incredible. It was terrifically windy (you’ll be able to hear it in the video segment below) up top. The view was blocked by glass and iron grills, ostensibly to stop people from taking the fast elevator down, head first.

How did we get such pristine pictures though? Well, the D300 (and Matt’s D90) was stuck through the metal grills, and I turned on Liveview.:)

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I managed to get a couple of really nice panoramas from up top, though the view range and number of composite images were limited because of  how little I could turn the D300 in a panorama sweep.

Just to show how tall the tower is, below is a snapshot of Matt going to the ground to get as much of the tower as possible.:)

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Videos next. The first one’s a pan around the tower’s base:

Another video showing me struggling up the final steps and emerging at the top of the tower. The color balance on the camcorder’s a bit messed up when I emerged at the top, so I restarted a new clip for the third video below.

And finally, the magnificent view of Provincetown from the top of the tower. Very windy!

Next post: Provincetown’s Commerical Street.:)

Come to think of it, it isn’t entirely true to say you can’t go East when in Boston – you just can’t drive as it’s all Massachusetts Bay and the Atlantic Ocean in between you and Provincetown.

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There’re a couple of ways too to get to the small town: by air, by ferry, or by fast ferry. The latter would get us from Boston to Provincetown harbor in 90 minutes over the approximately 100 km distance over sea, but it would cost a royal bomb at USD168 for a pair of return tickets – ouch!

There was of course the option of driving south from Boston along the Interstate, then make a sort of U-shape drive around Cape Cod Bay. The 182km drive would take 5 hours, and on weekends, possibly 2-3 hours longer. Everyone we spoke to said it would be crazy to drive driving to Provincetown during weekends. So, it was the fast ferry for us on the Sunday morning trip:

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The fast ferry – Provincetown III – looked like a recently commissioned vessel with most of the luxuries of a mid-class ferry. Carpets, comfortable and roomy seats, air-conditioning, full galley and the like. I guess you get what you pay for.

The ferry departed Boston at 8:30 AM. Below is a picture I took from the ship’s stern of the Boston skyline:

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The journey took just over 90 minutes and was pretty smooth and comfy. So comfortable that the both of us napped for most of it. It was pretty cloudy when we arrived at Provincetown though at past 10:00 AM.

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Provincetown is a very small town of just about 3,100 residents, though its population swells by several factors during the holiday periods with many persons coming to stay at their vacation homes. The most distinctive feature of the town is its Pilgrim Memorial Monument, a tower that overlooks the island:

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There are two streets that run almost parallel to the coast line of the town: Commercial Street that runs on either side of the town’s harbor and the town’s main commercial and art district, and Old King’s Highway, which isn’t an expressway by any measure: just a two lane road further inland with mostly residential houses and many small inns and guest houses.

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If there’s any one thing I can say about small towns like this, it’s that the houses are all so colorful and wonderfully decorated with flower beds and landscaping as much as the house’s space allows.

The first spot we checked out was the Pilgrim Memorial Monument. It was a gentle walk uphill, passing through small town America. Below is Provincetown High School – and yep, it looks exactly like a frame out of The Simpsons.:)

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Our visit to the Monument was memorable and deserves a post on its own (see next post). On our return back to the town area, we further explored the place. Below is the Chamber of Commerce, again the first-stop information center for visitors:

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The Provincetown Town Hall:

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The front of the Town Hall stood a statue of what looked like a British (or Aussie) World War II soldier. I didn’t read the statue’s plaque – there were a couple of big dudes sitting at the statue’s base and blocking and plaque, and I didn’t think about getting them to move.

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Provincetown has a reputation of it being a gay town too, and there were many (as in a lot) of male-male and female-female couples about. Most of their activity was low-key, but several were holding hands, sitting on each other’s laps and the like. There was a funny cafe that was touting customers from the street – the cafe had male strippers, trannies, and cross-dressers in the cabaret performances. We didn’t take photos though – something Matt regretted LOL.

OK; very short video I took just after we landed and looking a little lost:

Next post is on the Monument itself.:)