Archive for August, 2011

Home made cookies

August 30, 2011

20110830-114800.jpg So here I am, suffering still from the sticker shock of food prices here in Charlottesville though my only reference are prices from Ithaca 10 years ago. We’ve been eating at home since dining out isn’t as enjoyable when one of your companions have wander lust and doesn’t let you have two consecutive bites without interruption and also to save on food costs.

Today, I’ve baked up the remaining of the home made cookies. Gee, I sure feel strangely domestic/ Martha Stewart wannabe. I haven’t baked anything since home Econs classes which was like eons ago. After eating homemade ones, I’m starting to wonder why anyone would even buy the store bought variety. If even a noob like me can churn out decent cookies by hand, It can’t be that hard for other people either.

I’ve also tried pancakes again with a little more success than the goopy mess I made the last time in Ithaca. It definitely still needs some work. And yes, I’m turning into some kind of cooking fanatic – NOT! I do want to be competent enough whip up some easy stuff when I need to. Cooking is a good life skill to have.

The non-event and cooking Sunday

August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene turned out to have little impact on C’ville, thankfully. There wasn’t even a fallen branch near our house as far as we could tell. Somehow it feels funny to have lived so close to these major events like 9/ 11, a 5.9 earthquake and a major hurricane.

Today was a really sunny day after the constant rain yesterday. It’s also a major cooking day for me. The plan is to cook the week’s dinners over the weekend to freeze/ refrigerate and take them out when I’m simply too overwhelmed by Calvin to cook a proper meal. I made a small batch of cookies today too as a treat. It turned out to be ok and I’m eager to try another recipe once we go through this batch of cookie dough. I don’t think I’ll actually bake that much though since I don’t have any real baking tools like a mixer, parchment paper nor cooling racks. Not even a little whisk! My primary aim is still to cook our main meals. We eat surprisingly well considering we are trying to cut down our expenses. Maybe it’s because we are eating food we like everyday instead of the meals that are catered more to others’ tastes, not to mention that it’s healthy as I’m very careful about things like fat and sodium. I’m quite proud to say that most meals so far are made from scratch since I’m particular about the chemicals and additives they put in processed food. I may yet succumb when I grow tired of this cooking business. We’ll see how it goes. =)

Our first natural disaster

August 25, 2011

Maybe we are jinxed or something but there’s always some major disaster or incident shortly after we arrive in the US. Last time, 10 years ago, it was 9/11. Yesterday, we experienced our first ever earthquake. We were all in the house at that time. The quake was a 5.9 magnitude that was about 30 miles from Charlottesville. Nothing really happened except the ground shook but it was alarming all the same because we didn’t expect it at all. This Saturday, hurricane Irene may be passing by the area as well. We’ll be buying some emergency supplies just in case.

Calvin is a little boy now

August 25, 2011

Calvin’s little antics are getting more cute than notty nowadays. In fact, his growing independence means that we can actually both sit down at the table for a meal while he plays (and runs back demanding his share – ‘ahm’ ‘ahm’ goes the relentlessly hungry bear).

He seems a different boy altogether since we came here. He’s a lot more vocal and seems to be much happier than before. For one, he’s eating very well, three decent meals, a good amount of milk and snacks in between. In fact, he is so hungry that he’s the one demanding to be fed most of the time. It seems like he has put on more weight as well. We don’t have a weighing scale here, but our sore arms are testament to how heavy he really is.

Things that he does
– Puts his hands to his eyes and waggles them saying ‘glasses’
– crawl under our legs while chanting ‘tunnel’
– Playing with Maisy and panda, telling them to ‘sleep, sleep’ then tossing them out
– getting ‘Stuck’ by stuffing his hand between the mattresses
– Learning patty cake
– calling ‘all board’ at the conductor picture in the train book
– stridently demanding his melon to be served
– grabbing his shoes and then point at himself saying ‘baby’ indicating that those belong to him
– chanting ‘baby’ whenever I whip out the camera. He thinks it’s just a device with photos and videos of him.

Settling in

August 19, 2011

It’s been 11 days since we got here. We now have some minimal furniture and Internet though the wireless modem will only be here next Monday so we only have access on one PC at the moment. I’m not so sure if/ when we should get another computer for me. For now, the iPad will suffice even though I can’t access sites that use flash.

We’ve been spending a lot of money furnishing our place. When I think of the fact that we only have whatever came with us in the three suitcases, it shouldn’t really come as a big surprise but given that we still haven’t set up an easy way to transfer our money from Singapore, cash flow is a bit of a problem. So now I feel like a really poor housewife. Trying to save money all the time is stressful and not very fun I must say. Since the food here is pretty expensive (I’ve already spent $400 on groceries alone) – even Chinese takeout are $9 per dish, plus the serving sizes are not big enough for us to split one main course between us – I’ve had to cook most our meals. My sad repertoire of recipes is slowly expanding since it’s either that or eat the same things over and over again. For instance, i made some pretty yummy chicken and black bean quesadillas and also sloppy joes.

Calvin has been eating very well recently. Maybe he’s hitting another growth spurt. The little sack of potatoes is getting harder to carry each day.

We also have access to zipcars now. This allows us to rent cars by the hour. It’s cheaper than owning a car but thinking of the out of pocket costs every single trip makes shopping trips a rather rushed affair – it’s hard not to tag on the cost of the rental to the trip, making it sometimes seem more worthwhile to shop online. I wish I could browse at leisure rather then have to watch the clock all the time. Granted that most trips out with him is constrained by his nap times anyway. He sometimes sleeps in the ergo carrier but the nap doesn’t seem to be as restful.

Charlottesville 14 Aug

August 14, 2011

Our flight on United turned out to be a better experience than SQ. We purchased 3 seats instead of the bassinet seat that we got on SQ. Since Calvin had a hard time sleeping in the bassinet, he ended up on our lap most of the time. The bassinet seats doesn’t allow you to lift up the arm rest so it was hard to give him enough room to lie down flat. The united flight was a far cry and we had a relatively good 4 hr flight. The last 1 hr leg on the little mosquito aircraft was as bad as I expected but given the amount of luggage that we had, taking a bus or driving from Washington wasn’t really a great option either. It’s a good thing we decided to cut down on the amount of luggage we brought, from 4 suitcases to 3 because we would surely not be able to handle 4. Especially not with the stroller, two backpacks, one hand carry bag plus a food bag that we still had to deal with as carryon.

So we arrived rather uneventfully, except that the house was truly unfurnished in every sense. The electricity wasn’t even activated and we had to spend the first night without any power at all. We were pretty jet lagged anyway so that’s fine. It was kinda warm though and we had to resort to a hand powered paper fan to keep the little Calvin heat monster from rampaging.

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It’s been 6 days now since we arrived in C’ville. We have electricity now and two cellphones, but no Internet yet and probably won’t have it set up until late next week when the modem finally arrives. The food around our place is limited and not very appealing, so I’ve been cooking a fair bit recently. I definitely still need quite a lot of kitchen supplies though and more counter space. there’s barely any room in the kitchen to put anything down. We are also still looking for furniture. The only thing ‘furnished’ right now are two mattresses on the floor, a pot, one sauté pan, cutlery and some bowls and plates.

We’ve been walking out about 3 minutes to the on campus area so we can use the wifi, so I’ve managed to make some purchases online. I’m expecting about 6 parcels next week and probably more when I have the time to sit down and shop properly.

Calvin and I seem to not be that jet lagged anymore, thankfully. He’s been taking long late afternoon naps and waking up at 3am every night for. Which means that’s what the rest of us are doing too.

I’m a little fretful about taking care of him and having to cook the whole day. I think we’ll need some convenience food for a while to give myself a break in the early days. Little Calvin just doesn’t let us have a moment to ourselves. On the one hand, I’m happy that he enjoys being read to the whole day, but i don’t really relish reading ‘my truck is stuck’ on repeat mode 10 times in a row, twice a day, every day… Do you think he will settle for an audio book instead? He’s also so into watching videos on the iPad, that I’m tempted to use that to give myself time to cook every day. The cost of eating out is quite alarming indeed. I guess they weren’t joking when they said C’ville has a relatively high standard of living.

Tokyo 7 Aug

August 7, 2011

Here we are in Tokyo. Right now I’m sitting in ichiran waiting for my nice bowl of ramen while Johnny walks the little boy around. The flight was ok except I seem to have lost the ability to sleep on the aircraft. My body aches all over from trying to find a decent position to sleep in. Flights are naturally anti-infants — small cramped space, no seat for infants except the tiny little bassinet where they can’t even flip without getting stuck, and worst of all, the frequent turbulence announcements that means you have to remove the sleeping child out of the bassinet.in the end, he ended up sleeping in Johnny’s lap most of the way.

One particular stewardess also seemed fairly new and zealous about keeping strictly with the rules of having absolutely no bags under my chair so I had to make do without all the stuff in our hand carry. I.e toys, jacket, inflatable neck pillow etc. It wasn’t a particularly great flight for us because we were so pooped out but at least Calvin managed to sleep almost the whole way through, minus the initial part before takeoff when he was all grumpy and crying.

And now I’ve woken up from a long afternoon nap in the hotel room. It’s 6 pm now and both the two boys are still asleep. I wonder if I should wake them up soon. Silly me forgot to pack in Johnny’s spare change of berms. And to think our hand carry luggage is so unmanageable as it is with all the omissions I’ve made. I blame it all on calvin’s stuff — just the diapers, milk powder and drinking water is a pretty hefty bag in itself. Add in almost a dozen of his favorite books and some toys and viola, we have almost two bags fills of his stuff. The rest is filled up with our own personal documents which can’t be put in the checked baggage. Speaking of which, we didn’t manage to check them through to LAX and had to put them in storage lockers at the airport. Rats, and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to burn our limited yen budget on that.

We saved a little by taking the keisei limited express instead of the skyliner. The new skyliner takes about half an hour whereas the limited express which is only 1000 yen per pax took about 1.5 hours. Calvin seemed to have enjoyed himself being on the ‘choo choo’ though. So far, apart from the lack of sleep, we are enjoying our first real holiday since Calvin came into our lives. Ichiran and the hand rolls are great as usual. I can’t it for more great food to come. We’ll have to try and survive the next sector to LAX though.

It is now midnight. Calvin enjoyed himself immensely. I still can’t believe he sang to one of the Japanese commercial jingles. He was also a lot better when I took the iPad away from him when it’s time to sleep. Recently, he’s been wanting to be read to a lot. Looks like he has gotten to the phase where he wants to reread the same thing over and over again. ‘Gain, Gain’ says Calvin. I wonder where he learnt that from. He picks up so many things so quickly now. He’s a real little monkey. We’re thinking of bringing him to the ueno zoo tomorrow since we didn’t manage to go to the Singapore zoo with him.

P.s The zoo plan fell through in the end coz the zoo is closed on Monday. There was a dinosaur exhibit at the park but the lines were terrible, so we ended up going to the airport earlier though the check-in still took a long while as we were trying to through check for the United domestic flight.