Monday, July 24, 2017

Malaysia - Our First Cruise Experience

The most restful part of a holiday for me is definitely the break from planning every meal ;). And what better place to do that than on a cruise.. where food is so plentiful you really need to be careful to not overeat and gain a few pounds. After wanting to try one for ages, and thanks to mom-in-law who was also keen to go on one, I finally zeroed in on one by Star Cruises to Malaysia that fit our schedules and dates. So in the 2nd week of July, to Penang and Port Klang for 4D/3N we went :).

First impressions on Day 1: Seeing the huge ship docked before we got on it was a revelation, all the photos you see in the brochure and online can't really do it justice. I realized it's pretty much a floating hotel, and this feeling persisted and was justified throughout our 4 days on board. Even finding our rooms took some time, especially on the first day as we learnt to negotiate the decks and passages, and though the rooms/cabins felt a bit small at first, we quickly realized that the view looking out at the ocean makes up for it :). I took many photos and videos trying to capture the beauty of looking out at the open seas, but will not torture you with too many of them ;)..

The cosy room

Colors of the ocean
Activities on board: There are quite a few shows and other activities that you can take part in, such as a free magic show (this was a bit more sophisticated than our usual birthday party fare ;)) and many planned activities for kids, including paid ones. We didn't make use of too many on board as we were on shore for half a day at both destinations.

Basketball court on board
First Day Explorations.. How high can we go?
Food on board: On this cruise, there were 3-4 restaurants that were free of charge i.e. inclusive in the fare. As the majority of passengers turned out to be Indian, there was no dearth of familiar cuisine, but we also tried out the european/continental fare for a couple of meals and found it of a good standard.

On the highest deck - Deck 12
Natural hair styling - on Deck 12 :)
Shore excursions: As we had only about 6-7 hours at both destinations, we decided to make use of the planned tours rather than try to negotiate the taxi system, as we wanted to make sure of getting back in time. While time management was definitely to our advantage, it did feel a bit rushed at some points. The end learning was that a cruise may not be the best way to explore a new place, it can only give you a "feel" of the city :). The rest mostly in pics below..

  • Penang on Day 2: The tour covered a few points, but the most memorable was the peak of Penang Hill, that we reached by traveling on the Funicular Rail. Lovely views all around made me want to plan a longer and more relaxed trip in the future :). We also had a great tour guide, who gave us a lot of interesting info about the history of the area.
View from Penang Hill
At a Ginger garden on top of the hill
Penang night lights just before boarding the ship

  • Port Klang/Kuala Lumpur on Day 3: Since the journey to KL city takes a bit more than an hour, the tour only consisted of the KL Tower (the world's 7th highest at 421m), where we headed to the top and clicked the customary view photos, followed by a mall situated at the base of the KLCC Twin Towers.
At Independence Square

My best click of the view
And of the Twin Towers as seen from KL Tower -
though it looked as though the KL Tower was higher, this is because it is
situated on a hill that adds to the height (info from our tour guide)
The Petronas Twin Towers, just before we set off back to the ship 
Day 4: Just a relaxed last half day on board, with time for a few more meals ;), and we were safely back in Singapore by 2 pm.

Note: Though we were a bit worried about sea-sickness, due to varying experiences with motion sickness for me and the kids, it turned out to not be a concern at all! I was probably the most affected, with a bit of vertigo every time I saw the open water, but it was easy to adjust to, and nobody else even mentioned the movement at all :).

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Letter to My Near-Teen

My dear darling D, 

As you are on the verge of becoming a teenager, I can't help but think about

- The baby that you were, the one who cried the loudest of all the babies in the hospital, but was also the most inquisitive and active one with the loveliest smile when you quietened down. You hated the act of going to sleep, and made me hate it wholeheartedly too, but also gave me a surprise by started to sleep through the night at 7 months. Now, it's the waking up in the mornings that's the problem :).

- The little bundle that was a terror to feed, whom I sang songs to and probably even had to do a dance or two just to get a few spoonfuls into your mouth, is now a completely non-picky eater who's always interested to know what the menu is for the next meal - Not completely sure what I did right there but I'm taking the credit for it ;).

- And the young lady you are turning out to be, taking on challenges and finding some times that you might even enjoy an activity that you weren't too keen on to begin with.

You turn 12 tomorrow.. I can't quite wrap my head around it.. but then I see you in front of me and I have to believe it's happening. My cute little baby has turned into a long-legged teenager, and one with strong opinions ;). You are so different from me in some ways, yet we are also a lot alike I like to think.

- You draw, and love to create something fresh. I can copy a picture (very well, I should add with no humility whatsoever) and the occasional zentangle fascinates me, but ask me to draw a tiger or a human face, for example, and I'm stuck. You on the other hand, seem to effortlessly draw anything from a birthday card to a nature scene for a school project.

- You write.. oh can you write! With the added support of a lovely and encouraging English teacher at school last year, your creative writing has just flourished. You read like crazy, sometimes to the exclusion of things like homework.. but then so did I at your age, so I know your writing talent doesn't stem from just that ;). I am really fascinated by the ideas that come out of your mind. For a recent A-Z challenge that many bloggers took up, you decided that you wanted to give it a try, and I was amazed by the short stories you came up with. 
* Waiting for her to finish the "Z" entry, and then wondering whether I should make that blog public.

- You imagine. Ok, this is probably the part I find toughest to handle as a parent. You do or say something, sometimes impulsively, and then later think about (in great detail) the impact it might have. Or you just worry about something that might probably never happen, because "What If?". I remember similar situations when I was young, but in your case, I think the possible results are like a complete story in your head so somehow bother you more. It is sometimes tough for me to put myself in your place to try and understand, but I try my best. I tell you "Life is not made of What Ifs".. but I'm guessing this is not something that you're going to just accept because I say it, and I hope you will learn, and gently, from experience.

- You share. A LOT. With me and with your Appa.. and it surprises me when you even tell me something that you know I might not approve of. I might sometimes react angrily, but then I immediately realize that it's more important that you come to me with these things. I end every such discussion with "I'm glad you told me.".. and I hope that's the memory that stays with you.. because not having this bond, this communication, with you is just not an option.

Here's wishing you always soar high my darling..
I am super proud of you, my dear "first" baby. Stay funny, stay imaginative, stay creative, stay YOU.

With lots of love,

Monday, March 27, 2017

2017: Fitness and Focus

3 months of 2017 have already gone by, and this post has been lying in my drafts much too long. Much too late for a resolution, but no harm in aiming at April for a fresh start right ;)?

Last year was my year of #fitbyforty and it felt like I got so much closer to my goal of getting fitter. 2017.. well, not so good so far. Too many small niggles with health and a lack of motivation. Every time I have a slip-up or a gap with working out like this, I can feel the stamina getting lower and it doesn't feel good.

We saw an elderly person in a motorized wheelchair the other day, and I had the following conversation with my 8-year-old athlete:

S: Amma, would you like to use one of those when you get old (he thought it would be like a cool new toy I suppose)
Me: (slightly aghast) No darling! I hope I can be walking around all by myself even when I'm quite old.
S: Oh ok (considering this new light thrown on his simple question)

S: So when you're a 100..
Me: 100?! I don't think I want to live that long baby!
S: Of course you must!
Me: But then you'll end up spending all your time looking after me!
S: That's ok. I'll just tell my teammates that I can only run important races, and will spend the rest of my time looking after you.

Me: (Reminding him that he'll be close to 70 by then, but he is sure he'll still be "racing" around then)

I can feel that as I enter my forties, I am having to work a lot harder to retain a decent level of fitness. I know that strength training is even more important now for bone health after this age. While weight has never been a major issue, there are definitely certain fat deposits that I would like to get rid of. I KNOW all this in my head, so I need do-able workout plans for the rest of this year which will help me be consistent.

This is it. I can feel it. My turning point. My Now or Never. If I don't get my act together and make it happen now, the downslide will begin. Bad knees, joints and other aches and pains will take over. I absolutely do not want to go there, and that will have to be motivation enough.

"Focus" is something I am beginning to think of as my Word of the Year. It definitely doesn't feel like "my" word yet, but it needs to be at least by the time the year ends ;). Not just in fitness, but in so many other parts of life too.

  1. For fitness, I'm going to start small. Aim at doing some form of exercise everyday - It maybe even just a 15 min walk on some days, but I need to set that schedule again and then build on it further. 
  2. Daily planning with the Bullet Journal is something that I have been trying for a while, but have not been consistent with. I even tried using the nicest of planners for motivation, but then I didn't have the heart to write in it too much ;). I am beginning to feel that a weekly format will work better for me, though some details might still need to be on a daily level. I am going to restart with this in April and see where it takes me. Maybe that elusive menu planning will finally make it into my life at last ;).
  3. Life just seems to get really busy with regular weekday and weekend activities and I need a reminder to take time out and explore more around Singapore, and of course as always - take more photos as well! Hoping to set a reminder and do something once a month at the very least , and ideally as a family. With school holidays coming up, there's no better time than April to start. Putting it down here is also good for accountability, so let's see how it goes.

Thanks for reading this far! If you have any fitness or planning tips for me based on your experience, do let me know in the comments.