Memories of 2016?

4seasons

Guess this blog has truly been gathering cobwebs 😀 It is at this moment at the start of 2017 that I wished I wrote a bit more for 2016 so that I could remember the little moments that have happened. My memory is like Swiss Cheese sometimes. Luckily, I do take copious amount of photos, so that certainly helps to recall the memories of 2016.

Jan – Feb: Winter was superbly kind to us this year and was no where near the polar vortex double digit negative C temps we experienced when we first moved here. I think I can count on one hand how many times it snowed. And no slipping or falling this year! So that was awesome.

I remember feeling rather lonely this time of year. The husband was traveling every week for work and I was on an internship as well on top of 3 classes. It was hard to juggle both work, school and home on my own. I remember having to walk Rusty in the wee hours of the morning and then rushing right home after work to walk him again. Rusty never saw daylight much during that period because it would be still dark when we did our morning walks and already dark when I reached home at around 6pm each day. The husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary over FaceTime #consultantlife, both of us eating our respective dinners as we chatted. He was away during my birthday as well, but thankfully I was showered with lots of love by eveeleva and family. ❤

March: March was a month of friendships. We had 2 sets of visitors from Singapore and had such a good time bringing them around Chicago and Evanston. I did have to take the Chicago River Cruise twice, go to the Bean twice, eat frozen custard twice, eat deep dish twice, eat fried chicken twice (the one opposite our house is the yummiest!) within the span of 1 week.

After finishing up my final thesis, I also went on a trip to LA to meet up with K, M and A for a short weekend vacay to celebrate. It was really a treasured trip since 3 of us flew in from different cities (Chicago, Seattle & Houston) just to spend time together. We went to Disneyland for free (K works there!), drove along the coast to Santa Monica and Malibu, went to see the Hollywood sign at the Griffith Observatory and ate hipster vegan food. 😀

April: Celebrated the husband’s birthday this month. We ate lots of pancakes on the actual day. The husband was traveling a lot less by this time (yay!) and started working a lot from home. We  hung out quite a bit at the library together, he with his work-work, me with my school-work. We also went to the Lincoln Park Zoo for the first time and the weather was nice enough to picnic with Rusty by the lake. Fun times!

May: Spring was in full bloom here in Chicago/Evanston. We went to the Botanic Gardens multiple times to see all the flowers that were popping up. Love the poppies and explosion of apple blossoms (like cherry blossoms). Also hosted another group of friends from Singapore who came in from California and a Mee Pok party for our Singapore friends living here.

June: Finally graduated! Though the feeling was a lot more bittersweet. Couldn’t believe how 2 years just flew by like that. While we celebrated the accomplishment, it also felt sad knowing that I may never see some of my friends again.

The parents and brother were here to attend graduation and vacation in the US. We did a short road trip to Michigan. And I did the cruise, bean, frozen custard, deep dish and fried chicken circuit again. lol. It was great to connect as a family. I think the last time we were all together traveling in a foreign country was almost 10 years ago. The apartment felt a bit crowded at times but it was also an unforgettable and precious experience.

July: The husband had to go home to Singapore to settle visa issues for the first 2 weeks of July. We missed watching the 4th of July fireworks together this year. 😦 The house wasn’t empty though as we hosted our Singapore friends with their 3 kids during their transition period of moving to New Haven.

The 2nd half was July was a lot more fun. The husband had to travel to Orange County for a work meeting and we planned an impromptu vacation around that. It was crazy going to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree at the height of Summer (40+C weather every day!!) but it was loads of fun. I loved how the desert landscape was so different from what I have ever seen. Most memorable trip for me for sure. And all that yummy Asian food in California, wow.

August – September: Took advantage of the great weather and went out a lot! Ate the rainbow cone at Navy Pier, went for sunset walks by the lake, scored last minute reservations at a hot new restaurant, went to watch a performance at Second City, hiked at the Morton Arboretum, went to a Renaissance Faire (so weird), outdoor movie at Ravinia Park and watched our first and last night time Northwestern Football game.

October: The colors of the trees were changing beautifully by now and I snapped so many fall color photos. We were transfixed by election news and watched CNN every night plus all the Presidential debates. Our obsession was a bit cray-cray.

When we weren’t glued to the TV, we went out quite a bit too. We went to an outdoor Fall festival with our friends and had super yummy food cooked by some of the best restaurants in Chicago. Attended the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House event for the first time and toured several historical properties in Evanston. The husband ran the Chicago marathon and came in with his 2nd worst timing because he didn’t have time to train #consultantlife. We had kind friends who let us and Rusty bunk over in their home the night before the marathon. They stayed much nearer to downtown and it was a super kind gesture. Was also super fun to hang out with them.

Highlight of October has got to be the impromptu trip to Door County with eveeleva and family. First time driving in the dark but it felt safe with another family with us. Having a hot McDonald’s filet o fish supper on the way up during the 5 hour drive was one of the highlights. 😀 We went trigger happy exploring the parks and crazy gorgeous colors in Door County. My newly acquired iPhone 7 Plus was the best investment ever because it turned out so many beautiful family photos. And who can forget the scrumptious Swedish pancakes we had on the last day. The husband would like to forget the lunch we had at the Goat Creamery on the first day. 😀 lol

November: Month of crazy devastating news because of the election results. We felt so lost and depressed, and everyone around us was so sombre. Basically sealed our decision to head home to Singapore sooner than later.

December: Swung by Boston for a week long trip for the husband to attend a workshop and for us to visit good friends. Ate too much good food, especially seafood. First snow in Evanston when we landed, which didn’t stop for a day and a half. Freezing cold for about a week just before Christmas. Took it easy during Christmas and New Year’s, no big parties or anything, just quiet and cosy.

….and 2017 is here.

Grieving from Afar

The tears have finally stopped flowing at every little trigger.

It has been a surreal week watching the grief unfold in Singapore. The stories of kindness and dedication of Singaporeans have been immensely moving.  Being away has been extra difficult. And for the first time since coming to the US, I felt a huge yearning for home and wanting to be with family, friends and fellow countrymen.

I feel especially embarrassed that I knew so little of the man who made Singapore. And for my 36 years of life, taken so much that I have enjoyed as a Singaporean for granted. The fact that so many, even those in the international community hold him in such high regard speaks of his talents and vision as a leader. I am humbled by the way he has lived, his discipline, his passion for his beliefs and his love for his country. It has triggered a deeper sense of Singaporean-ness and a deeper love for Singapore, somehow especially so when grieving from afar in a foreign land.

Watching the funeral from half way across the world was the only way to say a proper goodbye. The pledge taking and national anthem have never been more meaningfully said and sung. The most beautiful lyrics that I never knew and understood till now.

With a more grateful, giving and open heart, I hope I can play a better part in our country’s future success and not squander away all the good that we have been blessed with. Let us always remember this time in our history.

Thank you for everything Mr. Lee.

MAJULAH SINGAPURA

ONWARD SINGAPORE

Come, fellow Singaporeans

Let us progress towards happiness together

May our noble aspiration bring Singapore success

Come, let us unite

In a new spirit

Let our voices soar as one

Onward Singapore Onward Singapore 

Thankful 2014

It seems odd to have a blog and not do a look back kind of post for the past year. So here goes what I am thankful for in 2014…

Travels, including a trip home and my childhood dream of Disneyworld.

Healthy most of the year, wish I could be fitter! But I did try Bodypump and loved it!

Autumn for its wondrous colors and cool breezes. It is my favourite season, a close second is Spring!

New friends who make living here more fun and meaningful.

Knowledge from school that has made my brains work overtime, but in a good way!

Family, because they are everything.

Understanding and great bosses whom I always seem to be lucky enough to have no matter where I work.

Love from the husband, which is what I have in abundance and really everything I need.

2015, you are a mystery… yet with a lot of known changes on the horizon. I hope you will be kind to me.

Surreal

So I’ve been trying to get back into the groove over here in Evanston. Feels good to be back in my own kitchen, sprawl unglamorously on my sofa and sleeping in my own bed. Have also been trying to catch time together with the husband and Rusty since my carefree days will be coming to an end soon when classes officially begin.

The Lovers, 1928 by Rene Margritte

Last weekend, we made our last trip (for now) to the Art Institute of Chicago. I say last because our 1-year membership has officially come to an end. Making sure we got our money’s worth, we headed down for our last viewing as members.

The Institute had a special exhibit going on featuring the works of Rene Magritte. Well we actually had no idea who he was going into the gallery but ended up enjoying much of his surrealistic works. The Lovers II above was one of my favorites. And if you wonder who he is also, one of his most recognizable works is that of a man in a bowler hat with an apple in front of his face. Yes, that’s by Magritte.

In a way, my year in the US has been somewhat of a fantastic and surreal journey. My heart survived flying Rusty across the globe in the belly of a plane, adapted to left-hand driving, overcame -25C temperatures in winter, learnt to love American coffee, lived a life with no salary coming in (what!?) and the list goes on. I thought I would miss home a lot, but no offense to friends and family, I didn’t really… Social media and technology has made it so much easier to keep in touch anyway, sometimes abit too much – I opened a pandora’s box when I taught my MIL Whatsapp and we get “spam” videos and photos ALL THE TIME now. And honestly, it comes as somewhat of a relief to me when I can legitimately step away from the drama, especially the work related kind. But I still love you all lah ok? 🙂

My trip home to Singapore has also helped me redefine what home is. I used to tell people that while living the States has been comfortable, I’m not sure I would ever consider it home. As cliche as it sounds, I have realized that home really is about the relationships and not the physical space. Despite the good food and good company, I just couldn’t wait to get home to Evanston in the 2 weeks that I was away. Home, Evanston, 2 words that I never thought I would clearly put together till now. Because 2 people (ok 1 person and 1 furry one) were waiting for me in Evanston and they were my real home. Don’t worry! It’s not that I won’t go back to Singapore. It’s just that I have found new perspectives about what home means, giving me confidence that I can probably survive anywhere as long as my closest kin are with me.

La Clairvoyance, 1936 by Rene Magritte

And who would have known, not even myself, that I would change my mind about attending school after wishing so hard to live a homemaker life. Clearly, it would be a struggle giving up the freedom that I have learnt to enjoy over the last year. Knowing myself, I know that it will challenge me and take a whole lot of discipline. But I also know that stepping into this future would give me new opportunities far greater than if I had done nothing at all.

I leave you with another painting by Margritte called La Clairvoyance. It isn’t a pretty work but I love the message behind it. That we often only see and accept what is presented in front of us when we can do more in creating the possibilities, potential and future. Something good to remember.

Reminiscing and The Pirates of Penzance

For a long long time when I was in school, being part of the choir was a large part of my life. So much so that I chose a junior college specifically for the quality of its choir. It meant waking up at the crack of dawn to make the long trek to the east side of Singapore. My poor mom did the same, to send me to the bus stop that had a direct bus to school and eventually sending me all the way to the school gates later on in my 2nd year. Thankfully it was not too bad a JC, in fact it was no.1 on the rankings at some point in time, so I guess my parents didn’t mind. Unfortunately, I never had good results while in JC, not that my parents really pressured me to do anyway. For that, I am really grateful for their parenting style.

My choir days were the best memories of my schooling life. And I made the best friends who till today are still very close to my heart. The camaraderie that we built practicing hours upon hours for performances and competitions really made us very tight as a group. Performing groups also get the best deal among all other ECA groups you know? We get to travel for performances and to far off lands no less. We always remember fondly our US trip – of flooded toilets, spooky rooms and a noisy amorous couple in the next door hotel room.

Even after graduation, I continued singing for a year or 2 with the alumni group. One of the more memorable performances we did was the operetta “The Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan. It’s a comedy musical performance about a guy who was accidentally apprenticed to a bunch of pirates when he was young boy instead of to a pilot as per his parents’ wishes. He also falls in love with a Major General’s daughter who has a bunch of giggly and bimbo sisters. Yes, I played one of the bimbo sisters. lol 😀

Watched a very modern adaptation of the operetta at Northwestern last Saturday. Northwestern has a wonderful theatre program that routinely churns out really awesome performances and at really affordable prices! We only paid $10 per ticket. And the productions are not mediocre at all, very professional. I truly believe many of the students we see performing today will one day make it to become leads in Broadway, as have many in previous years.

Was filled with a sense of nostalgia watching the production and amazingly realized that I had forgotten a lot of the plot already, much less the lyrics of the songs. Utterly impressed with the staging and clever use of space as the theatre was quite tiny. The costumes were simple but yet had elements reflective of the victorian times that the story is set in. Reminded me so much of the grief I experienced hunting for costumes on a super tight budget when I was assistant wardrobe mistress during my time. We should have just made it more interpretive rather than making it too exacting. It’s a comedy after all, so some fun and surprising elements make it more interesting.

I also liked that some of the roles were switched up. Like how they replaced a middle aged woman character (Ruth) with a guy in drag, super funny. The bumbling policemen in the original were also switched to a girl scout troop, who IMHO sang the best among the ensemble. Another clear difference between the production I was in and this one was the level of talent in acting. We were obviously more comfortable as singers but the NU cast had both the acting chops and voices. They also had better direction and choreography, while we obviously were a bit more amateurish doing what we used to joke among ourselves as 骗钱 (literally cheat money) choreography as dreamt up by our choir conductor in the past. But you know, we did it for fun while these guys are working towards doing it as a living some day! Nevertheless, am sure anyone who loves performing will agree that it is always always a fun and satisfying journey.

Photos credited to Northwestern School of Communications and Northwestern University Theatre and Interpretation Centre