December 28, 2015

A quick trip to Singapore

We usually use Singapore as our southeast Asian hub, so we've been in and out many times, but since it had been a few years since we stayed there we decided to sneak in a quick trip before Christmas, and relax for the week.

Our hotel had the cutest bear tree set up in the lobby.


Swimming on a rooftop in Singapore. Check. 

Our first night, we headed over to the Garden's by the Bay, for their Christmas light show, via the bay walkway. Singapore is a beautiful, clean, safe and exotic city, and English speaking!

The light show was beautiful.

But, there was something odd about listening to "Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland", while drenched in sweat, but we enjoyed singing a long anyway.

The next day was a museum/walk-around-town day.

We happened upon the beautiful St. Andrew's Cathedral, and popped inside to take a look.

Gorgeous. I really loved the stained glass work.

There is a lot of colonial architecture in Singapore, due to the early English settlers. Love it!

And we came across some sort of photo shoot. Not sure what to make of it, but we chuckled because this girl was Japanese. Of course!

I really like the river front area, so we spent some time there as well.

It was a really fun area to walk around.

Learning to ski, Singapore style! We saw this inside a mall.

On the walk back we noticed all of these balls in the bay, and later that night, discovered their purpose.

On our nightly stroll, we saw a kiosk set up where you could write a wish for the new year on one of the balls, and then your ball would be placed in the harbor as part of the New Year's celebration. Count us in!

My wish.

And Ella's wish. I actually hope her's doesn't come true for a long time!

**( I did a google search to see how the balls were used for the New Year's Eve celebration, and it looks like they were part of the light/fire works show. Our wishes are out there somewhere,,,,)

A quick stop to "smell the roses".

The next day was spent at the Jurong Bird Park.

Isn't this a magnificent looking bird?

We watched a few shows, and Eva was chosen to be a volunteer at one of them. 

She held out her arm, and the bird delivered a coupon for a free soda, into her hand. She was very proud.

And the after-show photo op.

The girls also fed the penguins, but didn't love the smell of the food too much!

The tropical surroundings were just so beautiful!

Now, on to the lorikeet enclosure. For some reason I was a bird magnet! ME! All those who know me, know that I am not exactly an animal lover. But I had a lorikeet land on my head on three different occasions!

The third bird refused to leave. I was starting to panic because he was pecking at my earrings and hair (not to mention the fear of being pooped on!), so I asked Matt to help me get rid of the bird, to no avail. He wouldn't budge. Matt finally started to blow on the bird, since we didn't think giving him a swat would be a good idea right in front of all of the handlers. I'm sure we were quite a sight! But, alas, the bird finally left and I got outta there!

Meanwhile, the girls were desperately trying to lure the birds onto their arms. I was amazed at the birds' beautiful and brilliant colors.

Mission accomplished for Ella!

Later that evening we went back to that beautiful cathedral to hear a Christmas concert performed by The Bryson Consort of Harrow School. Harrow School is one of the oldest and most famous boy's school's in England, with Winston Churchill among their famous alumni.The choir regularly sings at Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul's Cathedral, among others. The sound of those voices filling the beautiful cathedral was awe inspiring. It was one of those moments you hope to always remember.

We spent our last day in Singapore at their world famous zoo. This time Matt was asked to volunteer for the sea lion show. They needed a "macho man" volunteer, I can see why he was chosen! 

His job was to stand at the very back of the ampitheater and throw a frisbee into the mouth of the waiting sea lion. (The lady who had gone before him got to throw the frisbee from very close range.) His first attempt was a no-go, but he asked for a second chance. The host let him try again and it was PERFECT! Right into the mouth of the sea lion! We saw the host later that day and she said that she had only seen that shot made, a handful of times. Macho man indeed! The rest of the day he kind of had a following of fans, too.

We love this zoo so much. The animals are always very active.

This guy was on loan from Australia while we were there.

Ella always loves to ham it up for the camera.

The free range orangutans are one of our favorite exhibits. They allow photo ops during one of the daytime feeding hours. The orangutans were MUCH more interested in their sunflower seeds than they were us, thankfully.

And, with that, we were headed home. This is Eva's Mt. Fuji selfie.

We love Singapore!

December 6, 2015

A visit with Grandma and Grandpa

We were so happy to find out that grandma and grandpa (Matt's parents) were planning to visit Japan! It was their very first trip out of the United States, and we couldn't wait to show them more of this wonderful place that we have been so lucky to call home. Here are just a few highlights from a great visit....

 Hooray! We were so happy to see them, and they were so happy that the long trip was over with.  (Now, for the 2-3 hour drive to our house.)

We took them to our Costco. There is a large parking terrace and you ride these long moving walkways to get to the store. The cart wheels hook into the walkway to hold it securely in place.

And, of course we had a hot dog! Some things are the same the world over.

Lots of card games were played. This was a highlight for the girls, for sure!

What is a trip to Japan without a visit to Mt. Fuji?

There are five lakes surrounding the majestic Mt. Fuji, and we took a boat ride on lake Kawaguchiko. It was cold, but beautiful and we had fabulous views of Mt. Fuji. 

A little cold has never bothered Ella. She rode on the top observation deck, 

while the rest of us viewed from the inside.

The sun was SO bright that we had a hard time getting a good picture, so, this is as good as it gets.

We ate at our favorite ramen shop.

Matt prefers this restaurant because they use pork broth, rather than a miso base.

We also celebrated Ella's 9th birthday during the visit. Ella was very happy!

This is a beautiful shrine very near our home.

The red pagoda makes for a great photo op!

We happened to be the only people at the shrine that day. Tokyo is usually not that quiet!

Japan has such beautiful, long seasons. This picture was taken the first week of December, and the tress were still such vibrant colors.

A visit to Japan also calls for SUSHI! I don't think grandma and grandpa loved it, but we found something on the menu for everyone.

Lots of empty plates! They charge you by the plate at this restaurant, (about $1.00 per plate), and they literally count them up when you finish. 

Eva found some new friends at Joyful Honda, a large housewares store that sells everything!

We love trick art. 

We finally tried a local restaurant that has been on our list for a while. I loved how the benches opened up for your coats and purses. Brilliant!

The concept of this restaurant was to fry different skewers of stuff at your table, similar to The Melting Pot, in the States. There were all sorts of meats and vegetables to choose from.

Then you batter your selection, roll in bread crumbs and fry.

There was also a large buffet of different salads and fruits to accompany your meal.

Also, lots of condiments and sauces.

They give you 90 minutes, and it is all you can eat, during that time. It was actually a lot of fun!

Grandma and grandpa even approved!

But, the best part was the chocolate fountain.

And, the soft serve ice cream. Yum!

It was a quick, but fun visit! We were so happy that we could spend the week with family. Thank you for coming, grandma and grandpa!