Pumpkin Patching 2015

It seems like each year we go pumpkin patching, the farms we go to get smaller and smaller, and less commercialized. No complaining of course. Over the years, places that are small and cute with less crowds suit us a lot better than sprawling grounds with throngs of people.

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Was an awesome autumn day when we rocked up Kroll’s farm with our friends and their little ones in tow. Pumpkin patching with kids makes it a lot more fun for sure! This auntie loved seeing wonder and fun in their eyes.

Kroll’s is a small and rustic family owned farm about 45mins away from Evanston. It was a nice size with just enough to see and do to keep us entertained for a few hours.

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Little kids and big ones (namely the husband) had fun exploring the grounds and feeding the animals in the small petting zoo. The goats were actually fed what looked like cheerios! We also saw humungous turkeys with elaborate wattles and those black and white feathered chickens that you only see in children’s story books.

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A highlight of the trip has got to be meeting Mr. Kroll himself and going on a hay wagon ride with him. He was incredibly friendly and kind, taking time to share with us his knowledge on all things pumpkin and gourd related. Did you know that if you kept gourds for a whole year, they dry up and harden? The dried up gourds can be made into maracas, utensils and yes! those water “bottles” you see in those kungfu tv shows set in ancient China. You bet I bought some gourds back to experiment even though I told myself not to when I first arrived on the farm. Need to keep them soon because Mr. Kroll said that they will become gross and moldy first!

Another thing about a small farm is how everything was affordably priced! ๐Ÿ˜€ We ate the most delicious hot pumpkin donuts, popcorn and drank yummy apple cider without burning holes in our pockets.

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New York New York

I should really be writing about the Alaska trip since it came first but with New York and its experiences fresh on my mind….why not?

I should caveat that I am not a huge fan of New York. Blame it on my first trip staying in the heart of the action, Times Square – all that noise, filth and crowds really got to me. Give me the wide and clean streets of Chicago or the quiet and greenery of Evanston anytime. But New York remains a destination I would go again, only because we have good friends living there and there really is ALOT to see and do. (Still want to visit Ellis Island one day, the 911 memorial museum, SOHO and catch more musicals!) Not staying in Manhattan also makes a huge difference in maintaining sanity, Brooklyn really is the way to go. ๐Ÿ˜€

Spent a whole day alone exploring as the husband was working. Only had time for one museum, so I chose MOMA for the Impressionist paintings that it had in its collection. Rediscovered Botero (love all his chubby chubby subjects), realized that I don’t really mind Monet and discovered that I really like the works of Gustav Klimt. Breezed past all the contemporary work, especially installations that had a technology element (computers, audio, video). I just don’t get those AT ALL. Hung out at the gift shop for a super long time too.

The main purpose for this trip was for the New York marathon (obviously the husband ran, not me!). Unfortunately, as the husband was still on a big project for work, the trip was super short and we only had one full day to spend together. The High Line was high on my list and I’m glad we managed to make a trip there as its starting point was right next to the marathonย expo.

We both loved The High Line and appreciated how it is now a great leisure space in a busy city like New York. Really an oasis. Fascinated by how the designers retained many little touches that remind visitors about The High Line’s previous life as a railroad track.

We also walked across the Brooklyn Bridge the same day. A classmate asked why we walked so much since the husband was running the marathon the very next day! I told her honestly that I didn’t even think about it! But the husband didn’t really mind, he really enjoyed himself. It was also not his first marathon, so knowing his body and what it can take was more important.

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is one of those touristy things that I guess you have to do in New York. I was told that no New Yorker walks across it. And if they ride their bikes, they have to watch out from being stabbed by selfie sticks! lol. Having said that, it was an enjoyable walk and it is one of the more beautiful bridges I have seen in my travels. In fact, I really loved all the bridges dotting New York and even bought a dishcloth with drawings of the bridges as a souvenir. Incidentally, we realized that between the 2 of us, we both crossed all the bridges, whether as part of the marathon route, us walking across together or in the Uber driving across.

The most fun part of our trip has got to be hanging out with close friends. And we did it in the most unique way – trick or treating! Our AirBnb was located in an upper middle class residential neighborhood and Halloween is celebrated in a huge way there. Lots of cute kids running about in cool costumes and lots of beautiful homes decked out in amazing decorations with smoke machines and huge cobwebs. There’s this particular house that displays 100s of pumpkins at their doorstep each year and is THE house where trick or treaters gather in the lovely neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights.

My favorite costumes include this baby dressed as Leia in a Millennium Falcon made out of her stroller and an old swimming pool, and another tot dressed up as Nemo with her dad dangling “bait” in front of her with a fishing rod. The Nemo baby was literally mesmerized by the “bait” and followed it as she walked down the streets.

Spring Flowers

Felt kind of sad looking at my Spring flower photos and realized that I didn’t blog about them at all! So here they are!

Spring is definitely my second favorite season (Fall is a clear first). I love seeing different flowers blooming at different times throughout the season. A patch of grass can have a few different kinds of beautiful blooms coming and going in a span of a few weeks. It’s so fleeting and you really want to appreciate them all you can when you see them.

Unfortunately, one of my favorite “sakura” trees was fell by a lightning storm earlier this Summer. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Will miss its canopy of pink come next Spring.

Summer of 2015

What an awesome and full Summer it has been! But like all good things, they come to an end way too fast. I can definitely understand why Summer is such a huge deal over here. After all the cold, you really want to get out to feel the sunshine and embrace all the activities Summer has to offer.

This Summer has been a fulfilling one, it was not just play but a good balance of everything – fun, school, work, couple time, family and friends. Although perhaps I needed just a bit more “me” time and down time, paying for it now nursing a nasty flu bug.

The highlight at the start of the Summer has got to be the husband’s graduation. I love that he is well loved by his classmates and instructors. As expected, he received really good praise and a special mention for his final capstone paper. He’s really the super hardworking one and even continue to give himself homework to read and write AFTER his graduation.

It blows my mind to think how 2 years passed in a flash. If I didn’t also start school, we probably would have packed up and left for home already. As much as home is on my mine, this life we have here is really hard to beat and would be terribly missed.

We received our first visitors this Summer in the form of the inlaws, who flew all the way from Singapore to watch the husband graduate. They were obviously terribly proud and happy. It was also their first visit to the States so everything was exciting and new to them. They stayed with us for a whole month! (Yikes!) Looking back, I wondered how I survived. lol. As much as we loved having them around, I’m super grateful that I was never made to live together with them. Let’s just say that everyone has their little quirks in how they choose to live.

It was our hope that we can bring the inlaws to experience different sides of the US while they were here. We also wanted them to experience traveling with Rusty, whom they loved and pampered so much.ย So, a road trip to nearby Michigan was planned.

We booked a cute cottage in Union Pier, MI through AirBnb again and it didn’t disappoint. It was well decorated, well stocked and I especially loved the outdoor patio which was screened in, Rusty had a super fun time running about. The weather was great albeit with a few short showers. Come night time, it was magical with fireflies everywhere.

The trip also included a day trip to lovely Saugatuck, where we found the lost city of Singapore, Michigan! Thrilled to bits. We also took time to walk about the little streets, sip great coffee and do some cherry picking. Unfortunately, it was not convenient for me to walk into the shops and galleries as freely as I wanted to. Hope we can go back one day. Definitely a quaint little pretty town that was very worth the visit.

When the inlaws left, we also crossed off an item on my bucket list with a cruise to Alaska! Details of which would deserve a separate post. ๐Ÿ™‚

By and large, Summer was pretty Chicago centric as well. I took up a part time internship this Summer and spend 2 days a week traveling to the Loop for work. It has been an interesting experience working in an American environment. It’s definitely less social and more work focused compared to back home. Everyone gets in early and goes off pretty much on the dot. And everyone eats at their desk during lunchtime so that they can power through the work. It has been a shock to the system considering how I’ve always worked in places where having friends at work is the norm and eating together and socializing after work is the norm. I’ve not been treated badly but the feeling is just a tad bit cold. The consolation is that I have a gorgeous view of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan from where I sit. ๐Ÿ˜€ And I do feel that I have contributed my experiences and talents in what I have been assigned to do.

Decided to take Summer class as well since this subject is only offered in the Summer quarter. Even though we had virtual classes most of the time, there was still readings and homework to catch up on every week. It was an amazing class on Cognitive Design and one of the best classes I’ve taken so far. It helped that we had great instructors and I had a really good project team that churned out a good piece of work which we think will be implemented in real life.

Outside of work, we manage to fill up our time with trips to various attractions and events around Chicago – the Ba’hai temple, Adler Planetarium, Taste of Chicago (so so so hot!), Shakespeare in the Park. We also found a great great spot this year on campus to catch the 4th of July fireworks. Not sure if we will still be here to see them again next year. They rank highly on my most memorable experiences living in Evanston.

Summer came to an exciting end with more visitors to our household. We had a good friend visiting from New York and friends who have moved from Singapore to do the same program as us in Northwestern. It’s been a noisy few weeks with extra people in the house, but I loved the fun and energy that surrounded us. Rusty especially enjoyed the extra treats given to him. Though I’m quite sure he was overwhelmed most days as well and appreciated the quiet moments when everyone is out of the house.

A Very Belated Post on Washington DC

I know I need to stop this… taking such a long break between posts. ๐Ÿ˜€ But in between writing weekly assignments on strategy schools and change management models, sitting down to write a blog is really far from my mind. Don’t forget capstone…. my final thesis blearggghhhh… I conclude that my career will never ever be in research. And I have the toughest supervisor/grader ever who picks up on the tiniest things. Arghhhh.. oh well… happy thoughts, need to have happy thoughts!

This is a very belated post on our spring break vacation to Washington DC. To be fair, it wasn’t really a suitable time for blogging about fun then since Singapore was still in mourning. We actually found out about the bad news while in DC and wanted to pay our respects at the Singapore embassy over there. Unfortunately, we were due to fly out the day that the condolence book was available for signing.

The husband has been super obsessed with American history since the start of the year. I think he has probably watched all the available documentaries on Netflix that has to do with the history of America. Btw, the PBS versions narrated by Ken Burns are supposedly the best out there. I suggested that we head to DC so that he could get his fill of all things American. It was a place that he had never been and a place that I had been to only very briefly many years ago. We also had family and friends whom we we were more than happy to catch up with. To prepare for the trip myself, I binge watched all the episodes of House of Cards! hee

We booked ourselves into an AirBnb place again and it was the most lovely of stays. The apartment was in the basement but so spacious, clean and bright. The first thing I noticed and loved was the DC print on the wall from Rifle Paper & Co. I wish they have something similar for Singapore . I am already eyeing the Chicago one to bring home when we move back. Even though I have yet to step into Wrigley Field lol.

What we didn’t expect during our stay was that our hosts had a baby just a few hours before we checked in! But they were still so sweet and responsible to text us and check if we were settling in ok. We even heard and caught a glimpse of the newborn when they came home 2 days later. Of course we had to leave a little gift and card to thank them for everything before we left.

To be honest, we went to DC at a not so great time. I was hoping for some cherry blossom viewing but they were a no show due to the unusually cold winter and the tons of snow that dumped on to the east coast. The iconic Capitol Building dome was under major repair, so no photo opportunity there. The dinosaur section in the Natural History Museum was also under renovation.

The night monuments tour we took was quite blah. It was too cold, so the “open” trolley become a covered up one with plastic sheets and the view to the monuments were pretty obscured. The tour wasn’t as informative as I remembered. It probably is a luck of the draw thing as the tour guides are volunteers. Hence, the quality really depends on how experienced and knowledgable your guide is. Sigh. But my very positive and happy husband didn’t really care. Again, I am so thankful and grateful that he is always the cheerleader in the family.

The great thing about DC is that the majority of museums are free and there is always something for everyone. And if you didn’t like what you saw, just hop to the next museum. Or if you can’t finish what you want to see, just come back another day! We hopped in and out of the American History museum 3 days in a row!

My favorite was the National Portrait Gallery. I didn’t recognize more than half the people on the walls but taking a tour with the docent there was super informative. Free too!! Btw, that middle photo is Pocahontas after she got married and moved to England. Lost all her Native American-ness unfortunately.

The portrait gallery also had a pretty covered courtyard where we chilled out for a bit. The husband also sat here to do his work (he had to grade his students’ assignments during spring break! sigh) while I wandered about on my own first. He said if we lived in DC, he would come here all the time to do his work since it’s so serene, pretty and free! Aiyoh…

The presence of internationals from near and far in DC meant that food choices were a lot more varied than Chicago. The quality was pretty amazing as well. Our friend drove us to this amazing Korean BBQ place in the burbs and we had awesome seafood too.

Most unforgettable was our meal at Little Serow, a Northeastern Thai place in the Dupont Circle area which our friends recommended us to go to. Even though it was a place run by a through and through American chef, they weren’t stingy on the spices! For this Southeast Asian couple, everything pretty much hit the spot for us. It was so good feeling the burn of chili padi!! The restaurant serves a standard set meal made up of little plates for $45 each person. The menu is changed every week. Sticky rice and veggies were free-flow! So we had 3 rounds! (sheepish smile)

The restaurant is teeny tiny (only 28 seats!) and very nondescript. They take no reservations so a queue forms at least an hour before it opens! We were very lucky to squeeze in for the first seating and managed to make friends with a nice little old lady who was in the queue ย behind us. It was also her first time and she was excited. Service was great and the waitresses all wore cute vintage floral dresses. Very hipster! The decor really doesn’t match the food but well, food is more important!

So despite some of the not so great parts, I really enjoyed the trip to DC. It really is a very livable city. Unfortunately, many areas are getting very gentrified, driving many prices sky-high. It feels very different from the DC I visited in 2009 which I remembered to be a boring government administration kind of a city. Some say it’s due to the Obama effect where all the young, talented and idealistic have come to DC wanting to contribute and play a part in national policy. It may change if/when power returns to the Republicans.