Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Apple Picking Fun

October 5, 2014

Carter Mountain Apple season is here! We forgot all about the weekend crowds and braved the apple orchard today. We still had loads of fun and came back with 13 lbs of apples and half a dozen of apple cider donuts. Next time, I’ll remember to visit on a weekday. At least we packed lunch and didn’t have to suffer the long lines at the food bar.


Hiking at Shenandoah National Park

September 29, 2014

074We took advantage of the good weather and the free park day to visit the national park again. We had to squeeze in our weekly shopping trips in the morning before We packing a picnic lunch as per Calvin’s request – a grape and tomato and cucumber (instead of lettuce) salad, chips for snack; papa had a turkey bacon wrap from HT; I made some ham and cheese rolls and a banana and strawberry yogurt that Calvin and I shared.

This time, we tried the Story of the Forest trail, which is a well maintained nature trail that brings you through the forest from Big Meadows to Black Rock trail. It was about 1 mile and mostly flat ground. Not terribly exciting but it was a nice place for a walk. Having gamboled through it, Calvin was naturally tired and we waited by the road close to Black Rock campsite while papa walked the remaining 0.7 mile back to get our car. While I whipped out Calvin’s chip snack (it is a rare treat for our outing), a group of three deer wandered out frommthe forest and started grazing at a patch across the road. It is funny how we didn’t see any wild life during our walk, only to find some out here in the open.

When papa came back with the car, we went off to Blackrock trail. This has been our 3rd time there I think. Calvin enjoys it a lot. It is a very short and easy trail to the outlook and he likes to play among the rocks. Today, there were a couple of puddles there and we spent our time trying to write and draw with water and a variety of painting implements – rocks, ferns, leaves, cattails… After we tried to have our little waterfall on the rocks, which turned out to be more like a trickle, we decided to head home. Being in the sun totally knocked me and Calvin out in the car. Poor J had to drive on with two snoring piglets behind him.

On our way back, we stopped to see a monster truck called the Raminator on display outside a car showroom. Calvin was very excited though he started off a little drowsy and reticent. It turned out that the Raminator team is as famous as the Big Foot team in monster truck circuits.


Day Trip to Staunton

September 2, 2014

We took a day trip to Staunton to visit the Frontier Culture museum and the miniature train at Gipsy Hill Park. It was a perfect day to be out – sunny but not scorching, cloudy but not raining and blustery gusts to cool our weary feet. We started at the museum since it involves a lot of walking and a good thing too because about an hour after we started, Calvin was already clamoring to go home. We still had half the exhibits to explore and we haven’t even been to the park yet! We persuaded him to have a rest and a snack to refuel before continuing since it was close to noon, which is our customary lunchtime. Children can be such primal creatures though, tired = rest = go home. I guess he has not learnt that sometimes being hungry or thirsty may affect energy levels too.

True enough, after some refreshments and a cooling face wash, we were able to continue and finish walking through most of the exhibits. My favorite part was the live animals. We saw a dirty pig squelching in the mud, half his body submerged and his snout all covered in mud from rooting around in it. There were plenty of  other farm animals like ducks, geese, chickens, cows and goats too. The authenticity of the place was refreshing – you could really draw water from a well, they had working looms that can weave, they planted real corn, sunflowers, squash, the forge was burning coal and had bellows attached etc. In fact, the farm buildings were even moved all the way from the various places in Europe i.e. England, Germany and Ireland.

We had lunch and set off to the park. It was pretty fun even though we arrived in the heat of the mid afternoon sun and couldn’t enjoy the playground very well. There were ducks to feed at the duck pond, the miniature train ride, a big playground with some interesting equipment, exercise station, swimming pool … Me and Calvin were both tired out by the time we headed home. I was admittedly the stronger “carcoleptic” – I fell asleep almost instantly. I blame it on the sun.

Gipsy Hill Train

Sep 1 – Gipsy Hill Train Ride

Frontier Museum

Sep 1 – Frontier Culture Museum

San Francisco (V) – Christmas and Flight Back

December 30, 2013

Just to finish off our adventure at San Francisco, because we cheaped out and were flying back on Christmas day itself, the kids opened their presents on Christmas eve. We were shocked by the huge and generous presents his sister gave to Calvin, well most of the shock was from wondering how we were going to pack the Lasy toy that was brought from Singapore, then another a big box of Legos and a really big rocket wall decal. In the end, we managed to fit most of the blocks in one carry on and the decal was rolled up and tucked into my travel backpack.

Except in the end, we forgot to grab our stroller from the garage and Calvin was wailing about it all the way through security. He was crying loudly while we followed the line through security. For some reason, the special line for family was only for those with strollers. He insisted that he was too tired to walk even though we woke up not too long ago. For some reason, after we came back from SFO, he started having lots of little tantrums like that for a few days. Maybe it was jetlag.

The flight back was 5 hours to Washington, then an hour-ish before our 50 min flight back to Cville. Everything else went pretty smoothly. We had our bagels with ham and cheese lunch again and plenty of snacks. The trip back somehow felt much easier. Maybe not having to wake up before 5 am helped.

San Francisco (IV) – Golden Gate Bridge

December 24, 2013

On Monday, we decided to bring Calvin to the Golden Gate bridge just because we were in San Francisco. Initially, we wanted to leave in the morning but we ended up doing up the gingerbread house and by the time we were done, it was 10am so I thought we could go after lunch instead. Lunch ended up late because apparently we were having sandwiches but most of the food was not defrosted yet. By the time we got to leave it was 2pm and Natalie was tired and didn’t want to go.

It turned out to be a good thing because our excursion started out all wrong. There was a bad traffic jam on the bridge that brought us across to San Francisco city. We saw many cars with the 49ers flag flying and thought maybe there was a game going on. It turned out it was the very last football game that will ever be played in their historic stadium in the city, which would subsequently be demolished, so it was a very big game. We didn’t think too much of it except to make sure we beat the rush hour crowd when we return.

So we got to the infamous Golden Gate Bridge at around 3:30pm. Calvin just woke up from a nap in the car so that was good. We walked down till we reached the middle of the bridge and turned back. The view was pretty nice since the bridge has rolling hills on one side and the ocean on the other. Other than that, it was a pretty normal suspension bridge except it has the distinctive red color. To be honest, we are just not the types who can appreciate the scenery, at least not more than 2 minutes. I doubt Calvin really cares either but it just seemed like such a waste to come to San Francisco if he does not see the iconic bridge.

Golden Gate

At 4pm we thought we would start heading back. To our horror, the traffic was terrible on the highway. The GPS started trying to direct us to all sorts of nook and cranny towns to go around it but it turns out that lots of people probably had the same GPS because the roads were packed wherever we went. And the funny thing is, from 5pm till 6pm, whenever I look at the GPS, it always says we were 1 hour away from J’s sister’s place. We finally reached home around 7pm when dinner was just ready. What an adventure! Calvin was surprisingly good. He would bemoan the fact that we were still in the car, saying ‘How will we get home?” but he was pretty patient about it. We amused ourselves playing silly games in the car and looking at interesting shop names when we went past the town where UC Berkeley was. Nonetheless, it seemed to have put him off car rides at least the day after because when his sister wanted to drive them all to the neighborhood playground, Calvin said he would rather walk, because you can’t do anything in the car and you can do lots of things walking. He even walked home after playing at the playground.

San Francisco (III) – Clear Lakes Cabin

December 22, 2013

On J’s sister’s suggestion, we decided to all go on a short trip to a cabin near Clear Lakes. Initially, we thought it was about 2 hours drive but it turned out to be about 4 hours after two short stops for potty and gas. There were two portions of the trip around the mountains that were rather tortuous – one was a 45 min winding path that left us feeling a little dizzy and then there was the 30 min drive up the dirt track to the cabin itself.

When we got there, we almost turned back immediately. Firstly, the cabin was pretty small. There were 4 beds in the cabin and a couple more in the tents outside. Secondly, it didn’t help that the cabin looked like a mess and the owner(?) was still cleaning it out when we got there. Thirdly, the only bathroom we saw was the slipshod outdoor lavatory that had no door nor roof. But it was already 2pm and most of the grownups were hungry, so we decided to sit down and eat a little before deciding what to do. Calvin was all filled up earlier with a burger we got at a rest stop, some fries and half a banana. I gave him a snack pack while we ate. Since we won’t be getting any refunds from a last minute cancellation, we decided to use the 100 year old stove to warm up some food. When we were done, we managed to get a glimpse of the room upstairs and found the the fairly nice bathroom up there. Apparently, the tents can be heated too so we decided to give it a try for the night.

His sister and family decided to stay in the tent while the rest of us fit into the cabin. Calvin was more than happy to sleep up in the loft the moment he set eyes on it. The two kids climbed up and down the loft ladder numerous times during the day. There wasn’t much of a place to hike to our disappointment but we managed to keep the kids entertained by getting them to pick up twigs and pine cones for the campfire. As usual, we played babysitter to the two older kids the whole afternoon.

When it was close to dinnertime, my MIL was still asleep. Since no one else was taking charge of getting dinner ready, I became chef too – cooking rice, peeling and slicing the cucumbers and frying up the roast duck and then noodles for Nat. Well, I certainly hope we head back tomorrow because the amount of work we are left with is starting to make this whole vacation start to feel more like a work-cation.

It’s a good thing I got dinner sorted out because by the time it was ready, everyone was ravenous and that left us with a good amount of time for the kiddies to get their roasted marshmallows, graham crackers etc and then get settled in for bed. And now here I am, yawning as I type this at 9:30 pm. It has certainly been a tiring day. I think the kids had fun but next time, I think we should politely decline and explore somewhere a little closer to home and a little less rustic.167

P.S: The next morning, we drove up the road in search of a trail that was supposed to lead to some good scenery. The trails weren’t marked and several places seemed to be private property. We stopped at a couple of trails though none of them looked like they led to where it was supposed to go. We had fun anyway stomping on patches of ice that had accumulated overnight and picking up huge sugar pine cones.

When we got back, the kids started another fire and spent quite some time just climbing up and down the clearing close to the cabin. At one point, Calvin walked off further from Natalie and she called “Don’t forget me.” Calvin replied:”I’m coming”. And then Calvin started going down the slope and Natalie called, “Be careful!”. Calvin called back, “I’ll be careful.” It was a pretty funny and adult-like conversation that parroted what we say to them all the time.


San Francisco (II) – Cousins and Babysitting

December 21, 2013

Calvin and Natalie surprisingly hit it off pretty well, considering their disparate interests. Calvin loves all those boyish things like dinosaurs and cars; Natalie likes dress ups, princesses and pretend play. But I guess there are always universal things like running around giggling and chasing each other, jumping on the bed, climbing around tunnels, playing at the playground that appeals to both genders.

Calvin is a lot more open to trying new things with Natalie around. He’s been climbing all over the playground, up ladders, jumping off the sofa, climbing over the sofa, riding on a carousel, even though there are still some slides that he still needs us to go down together with him. He even wanted to dress up in a tutu and crown like her, much to the chagrin of his dad. He did get bored of that fairly quickly and I hope it gets it out of his system to try out dresses.


The two of them have their little quarrels when they fighting over the same tunnel or crashed into each other while running along the corridors. But think it’s a great experience for them to learn how to deal with conflict. It’s kinda like an extended playdate and since they are stuck with only each other for a while, it’s hard for the kids to just run away and play the avoidance card. All in all, I was very pleased that they were both very civil to each other – sharing well, taking turns obligingly and generally having a good time together.

That said, I felt like I’ve been doing a lot of babysitting of the three kiddos. I’ve been spending a lot of time playing with them, either individually or together, helping to get their food ready so they can eat first etc. It’s a little tiring because I end up with not much private time but it’s also satisfying in a work kind of way in that you feel pride in a job well done. Maybe I have potential to be a teacher after all. When I was young, I did aspire to be a teacher before though maybe it was because I thought teachers get holidays off with no homework?

It’s funny because their kids seem to like me. Maybe because I pay attention to them and have floor time with them, playing things that they like. When I read those articles about how parents should reward kids by giving them floor time, sometimes in units of 5 minutes, I used to wonder how that can be a reward because I already do that a couple of hours a day. In reality, many parents are probably too busy or thinks kids should be entertained by toys. We are just very involved parents in comparison.

By the fifth day,  Calvin got a little jealous of how Natalie was trying to monopolize our attention and apparently started throwing a tantrum at the playground. He would sit in the middle of it and say he is feeling sad. I was out with the mummies buying groceries for the cabin trip. Or he’ll try to use his saw blade hands and try to ‘cut’ Natalie off or tell her to “get off my mum/dad” when she jumps on us.


San Francisco (I) – The Flight

December 17, 2013

We had to wake at 5 am in the morning to catch our 6:20am flight to San Francisco. I thought we had a little buffer to get to the airport, park our car and go through security since we already had boarding passes. When the whole ordeal of loading all our stuff onto the scanner and then trying to put it all back on ourselves, we just managed to get onto the plane as the last passengers right before takeoff. The flight to Washington was really short, just like the flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. We managed to finish a breakfast bagel we brought along while the plane was taxiing for takeoff.

We had a 50 minute connecting time to our SFO flight but after walking between the terminals, going up and down on various elevators, we only had time for a potty break before it was time to board again. Good thing I had packed plenty of food since I didn’t want to be forced to endure expensive and not too tasty airline food if we won’t have time to stop to buy something at the airport. Turned out to be one of those brilliant ideas, because in fact, we had almost no extra time at all. Once we got on the 6 hr flight to San Francisco, the three of us handily devoured 3 of the bagels, 4 soft boiled eggs, half a pound of ham, 4 slices of cheese, an apple, an orange, a pack of dried fruit, 3/4 lb of carrots and 1 cucumber. It was a pretty good picnic lunch.

Apart from the food, Calvin was fairly well entertained by the two coloring and activity books, a game of Go Fish and some new Paw Patrol videos. The DirectTV offered by United seemed fairly tempting since they offered lots of programming, a variety of channels for a reasonable price. We saw many passengers paying for that though we didn’t succumb since we rarely watch TV anyway.

We tried hard during the flight to get Calvin to take a nap since we had to wake him up early in the morning. He was all groggy and told us he wanted to go back to bed. He was fairly accommodating in lying down for some quiet time for short periods before his excitement overtakes him. And what do you know it, in the last 10 minutes when the plane was beginning its descent, I suddenly noticed a droopy head bump into my arm. And there he was, fast asleep while sitting up with his seat belt fastened. Kids, they really pick the most inappropriate times to fall asleep. Kinda reminds me of the time in Washington when we were eating at a restaurant and he fell asleep while chewing on a piece of meat – literally dozed off with a half chewed cud of it.

Washington Trip

December 13, 2013

Day 1: Sunday – Getting There and Museum of Natural History
Just as we are going to Washington, a snow storm started today. We were rather worried about the road condition. For the first hour, we only encountered light hail, but we gradually drove into towns that were covered with a powdery snow and the pitter pattering hail turned into fluffy floating snowflakes. That’s when we skidded on a patch of ice at the traffic light. The light was orange and J was trying to slow down, we ended up swerving left and right on a patch of ice and had to run over a red light. Good thing there was no one around us at tht time. The rest of the trip was thankfully uneventful and we got to the hotel around 11am.

We were able to check in to our room early. It was a good thing I brought lots of snacks and food stuff because we ended up eating those English muffins, eggs, smoked salmon, carnita and tomatoes for a quick and easy lunch. Later that evening, we realized that most of the restaurants around us were closed today and we managed to avoid having McDs for both lunch and dinner. And I thought I went. little overboard with the food I brought along.

After lunch and a little rest, it became apparent that Calvin was too excited to even have some good quiet time. I decided to bring him to the Museum of Natural History while Johnny attended his conference. It was snowing heavily during the 10 minute walk. I got out the raincover on the stroller and so Calvin was spared the fate off having snow in his eyes. Then we finally got to the much awaited dinosaur exhibit. I wonder if it was a little disappointing for him because the dinosurs filled only a small room. We also looked at the gem collection which was very popular. I think Calvin was more impressed with the semi-precious stones display where they had big chucks of rocks the size of a person compared to the relatively smaller diamonds and emeralds in the jewelry. He was also very amused by the meteorite and rock display. We visited the butterfly hall too. I promised to bring him back on Tuesday when they had a free butterfly tour. I guess we’ll finish exploring the rest of the museum then. He refused to go to the Egyptian mummy display. We had been out for abut two hours. After that, he was pretty much tired out by all the walking and into the stroller he went as I pushed him back. I’m glad I brought it along though it is more difficult to navigate the museum with it.Washington Day 1

I got lost on the way back, walking past our hotel twice on the opposite side of a wide road. I had forgotten that it was not at the same side of the road. I was mighty tired too after walking around, getting wet in the freezing rain. Calvin was blessedly dry except for his pants and shoes that stuck out of the rain cover. We weren’t that fortuitous in keeping him (or the bedlinen and our pants) dry the rest of the day. It’s a good thing I brought extra clothes for him but I think all but one of his pants were soaked with urine.

We spent the rest of the afternoon resting in the hotel room, snacking (again). Calvin declared that his favorite part of the fun day was (drumroll)……. the orange and (another drumroll) the tomato snacks. This boy certainly falls into the live to eat category. He was awfully delighted with his first McDs meal of mainly French fries, half a bacon McDoubld, 1.5 nugget and half an apple pie.

Day 2: Air and Space Museum
Today, we decided to tackle the air and space museum. It’s a little further away, about 20 minutes walk. Thankfully it stopped raining so I could merrily push him along in the stroller. Except of course my snow boots started hurting my foot. I should have brought another pair of walking shoes =_= Calvin was all excited to see the planes. We saw several commercial plane mockups and a simulator though Calvin as usual wanted to see if he could climb in. He was afraid of the WW II exhibits which he thinks was spooky because it was dark and I think one of the war videos had scary sounding music. After a quick jaunt to the sea-air exhibit where we saw the aircraft carriers, Mr Calvin decided he’s had enough of boring exhibits that you can only look at and said we should go back to the hotel. Looks like 45 mins is the linit on his stamina but since we are unlikely to come back, I suggested that he climb into the stroller while I push him around the exhibits. Stroller saves the day again as we went around to see the Kitty Hawk, the solar systems and space shuttle and also the children’s room which was a big hit because of all the hands on experiments.

We ended up eating an overpriced turkey sandwich at the Smithsonian castle cafe. I had read there was a large food court there but I didn’t have the energy to look for it since the security at the front told me there was only the cafe. And then there was an agonizing 20 minutes walk back since my new boots were chafing the back of my feet. It was probably not made for hours of walking. We were both pretty pooped so we rested at the hotel for the rest of the day. J had a dinner as part of the conference so we went out in search of dinner. The food court near by didn’t look particularly appetizing and we couldn’t find the Subway restaurant. We ended up with McDs again. While we were waiting, Calvin saw the big M and said “McDonalds. Is this restaurant called McDonalds, mama?” Oops, add that to the list of random TV vocabulary he picked up including Pokemon, Pikachu (he was highly amused by the line pikachu, I choose you), paw patrol, not to mention countless ads trying to ask the kids to get the latest toys for Christmas.

Washington Day 2

Day 3: Natural History Museum & American History Museum
We went back to the Natural History Museum with J today. It was free admission day for the Butterfly Pavilion so we went to see that and the insect hall. The insect hall was plenty of fun for kids since you actually real insects crawling around. They even had some humungous cockroach, caterpillar and stick insect that you can touch. The butterfly pavillion was basically a warm house where they have lots of flowers for the butterflies to feed on. One butterfly even stopped on my colorful bag thinking it was a flower. The funniest part of the museum was when we showed up on a projection screen with animated dinosaurs, making it look like the triceratops and T rex were right next to us. We went to the dinosaur hall again before we finally went off to hunt for lunch. We wanted to find the food trucks but because of the snow, the government was closed today so none of the food trucks were around though we did get a rather pathetic glimpse of the White House.

We ended up at a food court nearby. I had some pretty mediocre teriyaki beef. J and Calvin shared a much better gyro meal. We went back to the hotel for a little rest while J went to attend another presentation. Basically I napped a little while Calvin capered around trying not to get scolded by a tired grumpy mama. After that, we were off to the American History museum to see the locomotive. After a quick uninterested time there, since most of the exhibits cannot be touched, we took a subway to Chinatown for dinner. We got some duck noodles and some pretty terrible steamed dumplings

Washington Day 3


Day 4: Back Home

We packed up in the morning while Calvin was watching more cartoons. We decided to get an early start back. I wanted to stop by at a store in a town along the way to make some returns. When we got there, we found that our car couldn’t start. Luckily we were at a big mall with a comfortable Wegman’s, plenty of choices for food and potential entertainment. J had to call for a tow truck to bring it to the nearest repair shop. We were horribly fleeced but it was unavoidable since we don’t know anything about the place and just wanted to get home. It took us about 3 hours before we managed to get going again. Calvin was really good and endured the wait with me at the cafe area in Wegman’s. It’s a good thing I had plenty of paper and crayons so we passed most of the time eating lunch, then doodling, resting, snacking etc. When we finally got home, it was almost 6pm and the worst part of it was, the house heater was off and our house was a chilly 50F because of the snow storm. We tried calling the landlord but they couldn’t get it checked that night, so I ended up sleeping with my hat and scarf on. What a day it was!

Shenandoah National Park – Dark Hollow Falls

November 12, 2013

We took advantage of the wonderful weather today to visit another trail at the Shenandoah National Park. It’s a little more than an hour to get to Big Meadows and the visitor center there. This time, we decided to visit a waterfall since Calvin has never seen one before. After some research, we decided to try the popular Dark Hollow Falls. It’s the shortest hike around to get to a waterfall, is about 1.5 mile roundtrip with a 440 ft descent. It was a Sunday morning after all so it wasn’t as crowded as the last time we were there.DSCF5266  DSCF5295 DSCF5289

The leaves have mostly fallen inside the park so the trees are mostly bare. From afar, some of the vestiges of the fall foliage could still be seen.

Calvin was all excited about hiking at the park, especially the meal at the restaurant near Big Meadows which he has come to associate with a trip to the park. He was walking on all the rocks and wanted to step into the stream, which we forbid because the water is cold and we didn’t even have a change of clothes if he gets wet. We had to dissuade him from going off the trail too, knowing that we had a long climb back up after we reach the waterfalls.

It rained a few days ago so there was plenty of water. So the falls actually look pretty impressive. We took a long time getting back up though, coz Calvin was all pooped out. We took many breaks but he managed to get back to the car park all by himself!