Alaska! & Seattle Day 5-9

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Another bright and early day where we hopped off the ship for another shore excursion. Day 5, we’re in Skagway and had planned to hop on the White Pass Railway for a 2 hour ride.

Actually, we only thought we were early because many others had already scored prime seats on the train by the time we got on. Don’t think kiasu-ism is a Singapore-only disease ok?

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Skagway was considered the gateway for the Klondike gold rush in the late 1890s. The railway was built specifically to transport prospectors to the gold fields 500 miles away. Prospectors then had to travel by foot and carry a ton (literally!!) of supplies to be able to get to the gold fields up near Canada. Unfortunately, the gold dried out shortly after the railway was built! Now, it exists only as a tourist attraction. And more appallingly so, only a Summer attraction mainly for cruise passengers like us! Ultimate touristy!

Thankfully, it was a really beautiful ride and we had great guides who pointed out scenic spots and points of historical interest to us. We also stepped out to the viewing deck from time to time to feel the breeze and get better views of the surroundings. A really relaxing and informative ride.

Random little nuggets I learnt from the ride… Most people made their riches during the gold rush not because of the gold itself but through the services that they provided to prospectors. Donald Trump’s grandfather made the family riches by opening a hotel and casinos for prospectors. The family name was also Drumpf and not Trump, he was a migrant from Germany!

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The surroundings in Skagway were beautiful but again nothing much to see in the city itself. Most buildings were also re-creations of old buildings and not really historical. We did have yummy King Crab (my current favorite now) and elephant ears, fried dough coated in cinnamon sugar!

We spent the rest of the cruise mostly out at sea back to Seattle. Days were spent chilling out at the pool, reading and snoozing. In other words, perfect. ๐Ÿ˜€ The ship did make a stop in Victoria, British Columbia but it was a short stop and I had a virtual class at that time. So I attended class online during the cruise itself, it was quite a cheap thrill really. But I ditched it halfway to get to a spa appointment. ๐Ÿ˜› Don’t tell my professor!

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We decided to spend one night in Seattle since we both have never been there. It was a whirlwind trip but I think we covered most of the main things.

Seattle was especially exciting as there was a Din Tai Fung there! It was the first thing we went in search of after dumping our bags at the hotel. Hadn’t eaten it for the longest time and we definitely over ordered. The food there pretty much tasted the same as back home in Singapore although the sauce for the ็บขๆฒนๆŠ„ๆ‰‹ was a tad sweet.

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Spent the rest of the day admiring the glass sculptures at the Chihuly Glass Museum. So so pretty. My favorite were theย multicolored glass orbs in a boat. There were also several sculptures in a garden setting and I can so imagine the Gardens By the Bay commissioning Chihuly’s works one day for display.

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Of course we couldn’t leave Seattle without visiting Pike’s Place. Ate crumpets, bought multi-flavored Orzo (our current favorite pasta), drank homemade ginger ale and gawked at the crazy lines in front of the original Starbucks. Avoided the bubble gum wall (click if you dare) like the plague but still accidentally caught a glimpse of it. It’s as disgusting as you can imagine.

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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.

Singapore Day 10-14

I don’t have that many photos of my last few days in Singapore. Probably reflective of the fact that I tried to stay home as much as possible since the parents were back from their holiday. Wanted to be a “guai” (good) daughter and show face at home. But you know what, I was “abandoned” for half a day on Saturday, so I went out to do my own stuff alone, on my own. The solitude I had was actually very much welcomed!

One thing I really hate seeing in Singapore is the scene of domestic helpers walking their employers’ dogs. I don’t know why people have pets when they throw them to their helpers to look after. The poor dogs are often used as an excuse for the helpers to head out of the house to make their phone calls on the sly. These furry cuties don’t get to explore, play and walk much. Many of them end up sitting on the pavement, sometimes in the scorching sun.

I don’t really blame these helpers because they too need their private time away from their employers and this is usually the best opportunity. I blame the employers, the pet owners who don’t look out for the welfare of their dogs.

Love this photo of Elsa and the mouse. I had forgotten that I had given my ex-boss the mouse as well, so it was a surprise when she posted this photo of my gift of Elsa to her. Am glad they both went to someone who really appreciates them, and to a boss that I appreciate for all her help and generosity to me.

When I did actually hang out with the parents, it was always about the food. I am definitely my father’s daughter as we both live to eat! My dad really travels for good food, even bringing us to JB when we were young. We had the most decadent of dishes, this cold crab with abundant roe was one of them, and the simplest of fish ball noodles. Although for the latter, I had to wake up at 6.30am to go beat the queue with mom and dad!

Suggested that they go try out FIX today, a new cafe in the Balestier area. The donuts with ๆตๆฒ™ sauce were da bomb. Made hot and fresh with a wonderful sweet/salty egg custard dipping sauce. Dad said it was better than eating the bun version from dim sum restaurants as you can control the amount of sauce you want. Mom was seen mopping up the sauce when all the donuts were gone. Looks like they enjoyed this place that I introduced them to.

On my day alone, I decided to head downtown to run some errands and pick up some yummies to bring back to the husband. He had a short list of requests and I made sure to fulfill them. ๐Ÿ™‚ Popped by one of our favorite sushi places for a one person lunch. This place is by far one of the cheapest conveyer belt sushi joints around. Quality is clearly not the best but I don’t mind it much since it is so cheap. And if you stalk the belt long enough, the aburi salmon sushi is really quite yummy. But terribly illusive to eat since you cannot order it off a menu at all!

Missed the husband very much this day. We used to eat here fairly often and it was always fun to just sit there and hunt down our favorite sushi plates together. Even the aburi sushi didn’t taste so good without him around you know? Missing him terribly and so glad I am heading home to Evanston soon!

Singapore Day 7-9

I am getting to the end of my social tether in terms of my appointments in Singapore. Some people might find this hard to believe, but I am actually an introvert at heart, or at least slowly and surely becoming more of one when I get older. Feeling that I just want to stay at home and chill for the next few days! And also counting down the days to heading back to quiet Evanston where I feel less harried and rushed. It’s not that I don’t enjoy meeting up with my friends and all but after being away from them for so long and suddenly condensing all engagements in one week is pretty overwhelming!

Woke up bright and early on Sunday to head out for breakfast with the brother. We ended up at this prata place that we’ve been eating at since we were young. We’ve not had many opportunities to spend time alone together so this breakfast was quite special to me. I don’t think I have ever had him queue and buy food for me before, so it was a pretty sweet feeling.

I was introduced to Coin Prata, a new invention of sorts in the prata world. Essentially just miniature sized versions of this yummy fried Indian pancake. They were extra crispy on the outside and nice and doughy on the inside. I think I prefer them to the normal ones. Each set had 6 pieces and it was easily polished off.

Did my envoy duties and trooped down to the in-laws for dinner. As expected, I had a feast waiting for me when I arrived. And mind you, this was only for 4 persons including the helper. My in-laws eat really simply on normal days, like a bowl of oats, porridge or just some boiled sweet potatoes. But they always become OTT when the husband and I head over. He wasn’t with me this time but the quality and quantity of food was no less! While I really wished they didn’t go through all that trouble, I do feel terribly loved by them. And that is such a blessing when it comes to relationships with in-laws, I know not everyone has that!

I did have to sit through a few hours of non stop talking though. The MIL was evidently very excited that I was back. Perhaps she hasn’t had many people to talk to for some time, so I sat through a really long spiel. I told the husband that I wished he was around then. He’s really the best person to help control the situation. ๐Ÿ˜€

I made time to meet a special bunch of people this trip, a group of women bloggers I was introduced to online several months back. It’s been a community that I have really appreciated being part of. Everyone is just so nice and we share fun/funny conversations as well as issues relating to our blogs and real lives. All of them have awesome blogs, some award winning no less. So I feel fortunate to be included into their fold just because I happen to keep a humble blog that is an embarressing mish mash record of my life. Even though I have never met them in real life before this, our lunch together was not at all awkward and seemed like a gathering of old friends. If ever I need to cite an example of a successful online community, this is one group that I will definitely talk about. haha ่Œไธš็—…

Took time to make everyone little brooches since I had been sharing photos of my craft works with them. Loved how the brooches turned out with all the different color permutations I made. Thankfully there were enough pieces to go around in the end as the attendance for our gathering really ballooned! Am so grateful that so many made time to meet during my short trip home. Thank you!

To be quite honest, I don’t really miss living in Singapore a whole lot. But after meeting an old neighbor for morning coffee and walking around my old hood, it felt kind of sad that I wasn’t living in my old apartment any more. I miss my neighbors especially, the best kind anyone can ask for in HDB style living. In modern apartments where closed doors are the norm, interacting with your neighbors, sometimes even knowing their names is a rarity!

I hear that the kids no longer play at the lift lobby outside my home as the new tenants on the floor (including mine) are not so friendly and find them noisy. That’s sad because it’s the funnest experience I find living there, to hear kids play, laugh and enjoy each other’s company in the communal space. I have great memories of Rusty sitting by the door and watching the kids play, longing to join them as well. And me handing treats and berries to the kids so that they could command Rusty to do his repertoire of tricks. Amazing memories.

Where I can, I have been trying to catch up with the husband over FaceTime. Of course I try to talk to my darling Rusty too. But it has been difficult. Dogs don’t seem to get video chatting much. lol ๐Ÿ˜€ And the computer must distort my voice quite a bit as Rusty doesn’t hear or acknowledge that I am there even. Can’t wait to give him hugs and kisses (which he absolutely hates) when I am home. In the meantime, I’ll just live with hearing stories about him from the husband and staring sillily at old photos on my phone.

Singapore Day 4-6

I basically devoted Day 4 to heading back to the old office to meet with the colleagues. Even went down to the nearby hawker centre to say hi to the drinks stall Auntie & Uncle. Glad that they still recognized me! ๐Ÿ˜€ Of course their Teh Si Siu Dai is still the best around! Also caught up with my old team mates over a yummy Ipoh Hor Fun lunch.

It’s funny how 1 year can make a lot of difference to a place yet have some things stay completely the same. The office looked more run down somehow but people were still as warm and friendly as I remember. Unfortunately I was wilting from the heat and jet lag still and couldn’t stay long enough to be able to chat at length with everyone. Had to even resort to standing outside the Board Room to catch people who were heading in for the monthly management meeting. lol Had no more energy to ply all 6 floors of the building to hunt for people. Even then, I had to “sacrifice” some meetings.

Resorted to Melatonin and Counter Pain to help me sleep better this night. These were such a godsend! Switching to a bigger and less springy bed (my parents’!) also helped immensely. My nights have become less miserable from henceforth.

One thing I was afraid of coming back home to Singapore was the weight I would pile on again after eating all the yummy food! I mean, I can’t really reject people when they offer to treat me too right? Thankfully, the jet lag has helped me to temper my appetite. So I eat enough to be satisfied as opposed to enthusiastically stuffing my face. Also conclude that I don’t miss local food as much as I thought. Everything has been good and yummy but not earth-shatteringly so. I’d be happy eating salads again soon.

Found time to chop of my locks. Was getting pretty annoyed with longer hair, especially since I seem to be having an oiler scalp and more hair loss due to the change in climate. Haven’t been brave enough to venture into a hair salon in Evanston to cut my hair the past year. I still trust my local hairdresser more. I always love what she does for me.

Dinner was with my mala buddy. We definitely over ordered this night but it brought back such great memories of our Shanghai trip many moons ago. Thanks to Amazon, I actually get to eat mala pretty much anytime I want back in Evanston. But it cannot beat the heart to heart talks and catch up on our lives over a hot pot dinner together.

Crazy appointment filled Saturday that started bright and early at 8.45am queueing up for this Michelin Star restaurant. The legendary Char Siew Baos were indeed to die for! The husband would have loved the gooey, sauce drenched and ingredient ladened Lor Mai Kai. The rest of the items were ok only. I don’t know how Michelin decides on its star system….

Checked myself into a spa for 2 hours to get my knots tackled. Returned to our go to place before we left Singapore. The staff still remember me! And sent regards to the husband. How sweet. Shows how regular we were as patrons previously huh? Had a glorious rub down and a good nap. Finally finding long lasting comfort after 6 days in Singapore!