Friday, June 29, 2012

Our staycation

Last week Tim had 4 days off, and instead of going on yet another beach holiday to Thailand/ Malaysia, (lol), we stayed in Singapore, and booked a room for 2 nights at the Marina Bay Sands.
Google it. It is an engineering marvel.
When we first arrived it seemed a generic very fancy hotel, could be anywhere, very pretentious, huge security, and we thought "two nights?".

Well, we loved it. Our room was gorgeous, looked up the East Coast and in the far distance we could see our apartment building. Down below, was the new "Bay Garden" that opened this weekend. There was mention of it in the Toronto Star. It is unbelievable. I heard a city official interviewed and he said Singapore is one of the most densely populated cities, if not the world's most dense, and they are committed to making beautiful places for Singaporean families to enjoy their city. Well, they sure do that well.
The pool up top is unbelievable. The hotel is 3 towers 57 stories high. They are curved in at about floor 35 and back out to the top. How does that work? And the top holds a swimming pool that spans the three towers. An infinity pool. It is heavy. How does that work?
The rooms have balconies with planters, and bougainvillaea in bloom. So from the outside it is very friendly, homey and not a huge blight of towers. And the curves are beautiful.
The pools are fantastic. One for children, and one for over 14. We arrived Sunday, so it was crowded with families, but the adult pool was fine. Monday morning we went up, and sat in a lounger, reading the International Herald Tribune before breakfast. And Tuesday morning as well. Ah the good life. It is so good to read a familiar newspaper.
And what a breakfast. A buffet, with everything thinkable. Chinese, Indian, Western, Dutch, you name it. We had been in the night before for a drink, and our server asked how she might address us (?). I said "Jane and Tim?". So the next morning she greets us 'Hello Jane and Tim".
We did museums, galleries, the very posh mall part of the hotel, had amazing meals, and swam morning, afternoon, and night. It was wonderful.
It was a great vacation, and no airport, or flight. It was brilliant.

the amazing pool

 the art science museum shaped like a giant lotus flower
 the hotel, an engineering marvel
 Tim poolside
 the infinity pool
 Jane (squinting in bright sun) on top of the world

Friday, June 22, 2012

Some coffee party

I have mentioned that I joined some groups to meet people. One group is Canadian Association of Singapore.
One of the things CAS does is Canadian expat women meet for coffee at a Starbucks, every second week throughout the school year. Because most of them have their children in the International School, which takes North American summer holidays, we had our last coffee clatch until September, this week.
But it was special. The wife, Mary Broderick, of the Canada's High Commissioner, David Sevigny, hosted the coffee party at her home. She lives in an area of the city I had never been to- I didn't know existed. It is a few blocks from Orchard Road, THE shopping street of Singapore. Gucci, Versace, all the big designers selling items costing thousands of dollars.
This area, I think called Dempsey Road, has homes that far out-do Forest Hill. Rosedale, anything I have ever seen. Homes on acre lots, treed and manicured, with huge beautiful homes. The High Commissioner's home is new, and elegant, and fabulous. A gate at the driveway, with a guard house and a guard, who, having checked that we were on the preregistration list, then let us in. You walked up to the front door, past an infinity pool, and a huge outdoor kitchen, to the front door. There, a maid checked our names off again on another list, and we entered. The home is beautiful, perfect for entertaining. I am sure that they could entertain a hundred in the living room. We were only about 20, and it was potluck, so coffee and sweets.
The group of women are wonderful. They certainly lead a different life to the one I have in Singapore. We really live in a resort, and I never wear anything fancier than a tank top, cargo pants and sandals. I did the panic as to what to wear, and ended up wearing a bathing suit coverup that looks like a dress, over legging pants, and my fanciest rubber sandals (thank you Jill Foster). The sandals were  huge hit, several asked where I had got them!
Mary Broderick is a gem. We are well represented in Singapore. Their posting ends at the end of July. I just loved her, and am sorry she is leaving. Apparently it is not a given that the High Commissioner's wife would entertain CAS in her home. But Mary has done it her four years here.
I got a ride from a woman I have be-friended, Laurie Whittaker, from Calgary, her husband is in oil and gas. They came here from a posting in Aberdeen Scotland, so she had a car, and drives on the wrong side of the road. I am very impressed. She drove me around the area after, and we went to a tiny high end mall, that makes Pusaterie's look like a dollar store!
It was a delightful coffee clatch.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Okay folks,
There is a feature now, on my blog page, that tells me how many hits I get in the past 7 days.
I have often said how I feel it is a one way conversation and I wonder if anybody is out there.
So now I can see how many are reading my blog!
Do you know there are 70 people that read  my blog last week?
I had NO IDEA there were that many of you. I didn't think I had that many friends!



Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I have been holding off this HUGE news. I am not sure why. But it is BIG!

Tim and I have bought my Mom's home in Bala from the family estate!!!!! It is where we will live when we move back to Canada.

My Mom spent her 97 years in Bala Muskoka. Her grandfather bought many acres, sight unseen. He got off the train, riding from Winnipeg to Hamilton in 1904 in deep snow of winter, snowshoed in to look at the property, snow-covered. He built 2 family cottages, for each of his sons, and many smaller cottages were built as the family grew. I grew up summers with my cousins at our beach.

The property has morphed in to many new places, but my Mother owned two cottages on the other side of the road, on Long Lake not Lake Muskoka. One was built by her father for her in 1956. But it burned to the ground in 2001. So when it was re-built, it was fully winterized, and at age 85 my Mother moved full-time to Muskoka. (Most move south when they get to that age - not my mother!)
She loved living full time in Bala. She got to know "locals" for the first time. Cottagers and locals do not often mix. She was a local after 85 years! She loved her new friends. It did complicate things for us children. We went for the weekend, rather than dropping in for a meal, as when she lived in Niagara Falls previously.

The last few years were tough for her, and tough for us. But it was where she wanted to be.
She passed last October, and Tim and I  have been lucky enough to buy her "Southwinds" from the family estate.
As much as I am thrilled to have a place to call home, and what a home, I know that we can continue family traditions started with Mom in the last few years. I hope it will remain the hub of our family.

Tim and I head back to Ontario this summer. July 28 or so, and will be at "Southwinds", for my Mother's celebration of Life August 5th, then we take possession August 7th. We will stay on, Tim for 10 days or so, me for a few more weeks.
I can't wait to see my kids, to see my sisters, my bother, my family, and my friends. And it is all overlaid with the joy of known that my future home is "Southwinds" in Bala.
I am one lucky girl!
I don't have many photos of Bala on my computer but here are a few. I might send some of Tim's. He has more.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

where to start

It has been busy and there are so many things to tell you about.
We just got back from yet another holiday. 5 days to Thailand. Our friend Norm was going to sail Phuket to Krabi, we were to fly to Krabi and sail back with him. But we got an email, "high winds meet me in Phuket" so we changed our flights and flew to Phuket. Norm met us at the airport and we went to his boat, moored at a marina in Palong Bay. His son and fiancee were there. The winds were too high to sail, and it was pouring buckets ( ah this is what they mean by monsoon season), so we went in to town to a movie. Guys' choice, Men in Blue, but in such a rain. The town was flooded. I do not exaggerate - up to the door of the car. I was reminded that the terrible floods of Thailand last year in December started with the rains in the monsoon season.
Well, it sure was wet. Back on the boat, big winds while tied up over night. The next morning, although overcast, in fact raining, we set out!!!! I was not happy, but was silent. I like blue sky to fly in little airplanes, and blue sky to go sailing in the big waters of the Indian Ocean. YIKES!
So we set off, with blustery rain, and wind, and I was not really enjoying it. Many hours (4?) later we anchored, sort of out of the wind. And had dinner and spent the night anchored. And I actually slept well. I kept myself pumped with gravol. I did not want to find out if I was sea sick.
So next morning was sunny and lovely. But bloody windy again. So we sailed back to Phuket. 4 hours. At about 45 degrees and going 32 knots. That ladies and gentlemen, is VERY fast for a 52' boat. Over  so far, the leeward railings were under water. I was single-handedly trying to level the boat. I was exhausted. But after about 2 hours of squealing in fright, (damn I am a squealer) I got used to it and actually loved it. Tim was in heaven, he was sailing. Tight in to the wind. It really was fun. (Finally)

We then went to an unbelievable hotel for 2 nights. Indigo Pearl- google it- it is fantastic. Luxurious, wonderful to have the shower, the gorgeous sheets on the king size bed, after the boat, and it really was beautifully decorated. Celebrating the tin mines which were the industry of Phuket, until the tin market fell out. And tourism took hold. Found art made of metal, light fixtures made for them, with Indigo glass and iron/tin. The toilet paper holder was a giant nut and bolt! Swimming pools, open wall-less dining rooms and lobby.
We had a massage together. Tim had a woman massage therapist, I had a lady-boy! Introduced to me as "his name, er, her name is Tony) At one point they got up on the massage table and straddled us,  to work on our spine. Tim's lady started to laugh, and my lady-boy started to giggle too. I said Tim, they are laughing at us. It was that she saw herself in the mirror, straddling Tim and found it funny. HA.
We went to one of their restaurants for dinner. You need a map to find your way around the place, and our map reading took us to a wharf and a little lake, across from which there was this floating building, with dry ice coming out from under, all lit in blue. It was surreal. Then a raft came across on a rope to pick us up and take us over to the restaurant across the away. It was fabulous. It actually reminded me of the Tiki Room at Ports of Call in TO  years ago!
I can't do this little trip justice. I was too busy righting the boat to take pictures, and too busy gawking at the hotel to take pictures. Sorry.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

the worst meal ever I think

And it was mine!
I cooked an awful supper tonight. I might start by saying both Tim and I have lost weight. Not what I was expecting, with the eating out, the Indian food laden with oil, and oh so good, and the beers with friends. But Tim has lost probably 10 lbs, and is the weight he was in high school, and when I met him 30 years ago. I am down probably 15-20 lbs. I don't know for sure. But in our gym is a machine you put in your height, age, sex, and with your weight, it tells you underweight, okay or overweight. It says I am underweight! I love it! But I think it is wrong, or it is different for Asians or something. But it is wonderful to be down. I just hope I stay down. And I don't recommend Tim's and my diet of unbelievable stress to get down in weight. But better than the stress adding lbs.

At any rate, maybe some of the loss is because of my cooking. Chickens here are wonderful. I am sure they are range fed, they are fatty, juicy and fresh and packed with flavour. But not the one I torched on the bbq tonight. I wanted to learn our new bbq. It is the best bbq we have ever had. Tim bought it on craig's list. It lights on the first click of the starter, imagine that! We have never had one that does that for more than a few weeks. Well it is hot damn hot and my poor spatchcocked chicken was awful.
The chicken is great (usually). Fresh fish is wonderful. I don't buy beef (Aus). The fruit and vegetables, that are local, continue to be in season all year, (at least so far). Imported fruits and veggies, from Japan, NZ or Australia are like at home, packed as a flower and ripened on the trip to here, and VERY expensive. $16 for strawberries. But the local  mangoes are divine. And probably 10 varieties of bok choy. Which lasts for weeks in the fridge, because it is so fresh in the store.

My next project is to find a wet market and shop there. I find every trip to the grocery store is $100. At the wet market it will be a third that. Wet market means that every night it is washed down. So farmers come in every day with their products. They have fish, seafood, chicken, on shaved ice, not refrigerated, and there is no smell at all. The food is so fresh and the market is washed down every night! Apparently you go, find your dealers and be allegiant to them, they get to know you and they teach you. My next project.

We eat at this unbelievable dim sum restaurant nearby. It started was a hawker in Taiwan and now has 38  restaurants around Asia, and has been reviewed by the New York Times even. We have one in our 'hood! We eat down at the beach, at East Coast Park Hawkers (one of the 10  things to do in Singapore!) probably once a week. I will take pics and describe that experience another time. It is like no other.

Today coming home from church, from the bus along a residential street, I saw a hanging basket of petunias at someone's gate. I went over to admire them and the home owner came to talk to us. Very unusual. Singaporeans are nice, but they do not initiate contact or seek out a conversation. But this guy , Mr Sim, invited us in to see his garden and his home! It was a treat. He has a mango tree, a star fruit tree, a banana tree, many flowers, and probably 8 ponds. One had koi 12" long. One was under his coffee table! He was such a sweetie. He told us to drop in for tea some time! Yikes, that is so unusual.

Well, feel sorry for me. I have just put together our next trip. Thursday we will fly to Krabi. We went there on our first foray. We will meet our friend Norm (the reason we are here- a retired AC pilot who came here and told Tim to come). We stayed with him when we first arrived. He lives downstairs in our building. He has a sailboat in Thailand. He treats it as his cottage. With 2 days off he will jump on the plane, fly to  Phuket ($25), rent a car ($25) and stay on his boat for the weekend.

He is going to sail from Phuket to Krabi. We will meet him on Thursday at the marina in Krabi, and sail back to Phuket with him, his son and fiancé. and a lady friend. 6 of us. It is a big sail boat. I am beside myself with excitement. Then Tim and I will have 2 days in Phuket. How fun is that?