MOMENTS IN 2016

‘Tis the season of the year.  It’s Christmas and year-end again.

Time seems to have slipped away so super fast this year.  9 months have passed since I last wrote on this blog.   Before I go on,  if you are following my blog, you may want to note that I have started an account of the same name as this blog on Instagram, since late March.  While I had been quiet on the blogsphere, I share on Instagram. 🙂

2016 surely is going to be a year to be remembered, both good and not so good sides.

Hubby and I moved twice this year – first to a temporary accommodation in a friend’s home for 6 months, in Marine Parade, and finally settled down nicely in our new home in the city fringe, after going through much cracking of our heads in the design and all the hassles in the renovations.  With more than 35% reduction in terms of floor area, home now is a small, cozy 4-room flat which is much easier to manage in terms of housekeeping and cleaning.  I also like the convenience now, in terms of location and transportation.  Never had I live this near to the city before! 🙂  However, there are still issues with high-rise littering from extremely inconsiderate and uncultured neighbours upstairs which seem so hard to resolve, even  after repeatedly reporting the issues to the authorities.  Sometimes I wonder what the priorities of the authorities are and if  they are actually keen in helping the residents!

Just as I thought I could be thankful that my mum who had been suffering from cancer had lived another year as year-end approaches, she passed on last month, kind of sudden, although we were mentally prepared that her days were numbered.  My mum has lived to a ripe old age, and despite being a cancer patient for over 2 years, she had been strong and positive,  and able to live an almost normal life, keeping up with her routines as much as possible.  My two late grandmas died of cancer too.  I find it so hard to forget how they had to be bedridden and suffering in pain in the final months of their lives.  So I am thankful to God that my mum did not have to go through this.  That’s my only consolation now.

This year-end I have been blessed with opportunities to attend a few special performances, with compliments of organisations like Embassy of Japan in Singapore, WAttention Singapore and Popular Bookstore.  That somehow cheered up my year-end.

The Graduate Singers

the-graduate-singers

One Asia Joint Concert was one unique performance that brought together musicians from Japan and ASEAN (Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore)

one-asia-joint-concert

Liang Wen Fu “我等到天开始亮了“ Music Showcase at BookFest 10th Anniversary

liang-wen-fu-musci-showcase

Last Saturday, I finally went down to the Christmas Wonderland at the Gardens by the Bay.  “Finally” because I was actually not sure whether or not to go to this Iluminarie display again this year since it is expected to be more or less the same as the previous years.  Moreover, there is now a charge of S$8 per person for the entrance fees.  My good old friend from Malaysia was visiting, and so I thought that’s one good place to take her to and be soaked up in the Christmas mood.  Indeed, the mood was great and we enjoyed ourselves.

Ilumiarie01.jpg

Iluminarie02.jpg

iluminarie04

iluminarie03

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So it does snow in Singapore!  And it’s quite a heavy one! 😀

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s wishing you a blessed Christmas!

Advertisements

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN THE TROPIC!

Cherry & peach blossoms in the hot & humid island of Singapore?  Yes, no kidding about it.  It’s happening right now in the Flower Dome, even earlier than Japan and Korea.  What a treat!

This first-ever experimental blossom display – Blossom Beats – is presented by the Gardens by the Bay.

Blossom Beats celebrates the delicate nature of life.  It features a good variety of blossoms including cherry (sakura) and peach.  The overall display was designed in the setting of a Japanese garden, decorated with a Torii (a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found in Japanese Shinto shrines), kimonos and other Japanese-themed decorations.

Torii in the midst of a variety of beautiful blossoms

IMG_2155IMG_2205 (1)IMG_2135IMG_2141IMG_2235Not all had blossomed yet at the time of my visit last Sunday (13 Mar)

IMG_2188IMG_2237Near the entrance of Flower Dome, a Japanese garden with cherry blossoms (behind the bridge).

IMG_2109Bonsai arrangement is another highlight in this two-week (only) display.

IMG_2167 IMG_2219

It has been almost 9 years now since I last saw cherry blossoms and it was in South Korea.  Though I have also seen it in Japan, it was certainly a joy to have this opportunity to appreciate these beautiful blossoms again, more so for the first time here in Singapore.  I was actually hoping for another holiday in Japan later this month for a true Hanami experience in the parks but my plan could not materialise due to other commitments.  Save it for next time.

IMG_2183Prunus Accolade – pink flowering cherry

IMG_2186Prunus Yodoenis Yoshido which are white in colour

IMG_2203Peach blossom Prunus “Genpei Shidare” which is characterised by flowers of two colours – red and white

IMG_2133OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPrunus Fujishidare which has pendulous branches

IMG_2159Close-up of Prunus Fujishidare

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cherry Shirotae (Prunus Shirotae) – known to flower abundantly. Flowers are white and lightly fragrant

IMG_2178Prunus “Okame”

IMG_2191

IMG_2149

Later in that afternoon, we were treated with a beautiful traditional Japanese music performance – Blowing in the Sakura Wind : Sounds from Japan – by two renowned musicians from Japan.

Mother & son pair : Kaho Irie, Koto (Japanese stringed music instrument) Grandmaster and Yosuke Irie, Shaku Hachi (Japanese end-blow flute) artiste from Japan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis performance was a joint collaboration between Japan Creative Centre Singapore and Gardens by the Bay, held in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of The Great East Japan Earthquake (11 March 2011) and also in celebration of SJ50 (50 years of Singapore-Japan diplomatic relationship) in 2016.

I was glad that hubby could finally take a breather from his furious work schedule for many weeks now, and joined me in this special experience in the Gardens by the Bay.  I think our government should do more to enforce work-life balance in private corporations and take action against companies that make their employees work like headless chickens!!

Blossom Beats is surely one unique event not to be missed especially for those who have not seen cherry blossoms before.  I imagine it involved massive efforts from many to make it happen.  Beautiful blossoms aside, a visit to the Flower Dome is educational too, as I always find it.  There is always something new to discover, and new knowledge to bring home too.  All we need is just to pay a little bit more attention to what’s being displayed together with the flowers, like these ones below.

IMG_2129 IMG_2161IMG_2224Should there be future cherry blossom displays planned, I think it will great if the designers could consider creating a better Hanami experience like organising the trees more closely in rows and allowing visitors to walk under the trees.

This time, while the blossoms are beautiful, I find the overall display too cluttered with irrelevant decorations such as the huge artificial rocks and wood-carved monkeys from the past display (Dahlia Dreams) that was held over the Chinese New Year period.  These don’t seem to fit into the theme, and the huge artificial rocks are too overwhelming and distracting.  Perhaps there was not enough time to clear them since Dahlia Dreams had just ended on 8 March and the people had only 3 days to put up this new display.

If time permits, I may make my way down to the Flower Dome again for another round of visit before the display ends on 27 March. 🙂

More photos here

MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL AT THE GARDENS

After visiting the Flower Dome for the Celebration of Chrysanthemums floral display, I decided to stay on for the lantern sets display in the Gardens by the Bay since I was already there.  If I don’t remember wrongly, the lanterns event held in celebration of the Mid Autumn Festival (中秋节), started in 2013 at Gardens by the Bay but I had not been to the past two events.

With my mask on, I sat on a bench in one corner of the gardens and waited patiently for the lantern lights to come on at 7pm.  But they didn’t, not even 15 minutes past 7pm.  It was only after I approached a staff that I realised that the lanterns event that evening was the first day, and Minister Khaw Boon Wan was on his way to the Gardens by the Bay to grace the opening of the event at 7:30pm.  So I decided to wait for another short while and luckily I did or I would have to miss the event again due to the bad haze condition in the days that followed.

Minister Khaw and his entourage making their way in for the opening ceremony

IMG_6866

After witnessing the very simple ceremony to light up the lantern sets by Minister Khaw, I had to rush through the lantern sets (spread out in various locations in the gardens), and even give a few of them a miss because I didn’t want my hubby to wait for me too long for dinner.

Birds Singing in Harmony – at the main entrance of the Gardens by the Bay

IMG_6870

IMG_6880

IMG_6881

Arches of Floral & Insects

IMG_6872

IMG_6875

IMG_6876

This year, there is a total of 17 lantern sets compromising of some 300 handmade lanterns.

Otters and Koi Fish

IMG_6885

Year of the Goat – In conjunction of Singapore’s 50th birthday, these specially designed goat lanterns were hand-painted by the public, in the form of a competition

IMG_6888

IMG_6894

IMG_6891

  IMG_6899

I found the goat lanterns too cluttered up, thus making it a bit difficult to appreciate the painting on them.

Lively-looking Giraffes and Zebras

IMG_6904

IMG_6907

IMG_6908

The 12 Chinese Zodiac.  Can you recognise them all? 

Zodiac 1Zodiac2

At the Supertree Grove area, there were also food street, cultural performances, games such as solving lantern riddles (猜燈謎) and huge vertical Chinese chess game, but I didn’t have the time to check them out.

IMG_6922

Lions, Tigers & Jaguars

IMG_6925 (1)

 IMG_6926

IMG_6929 (1)

Garden Rhapsody @ Supertree Grove (25 September)

Racial Harmony (Indian & Malay)

IMG_6930

IMG_6932

IMG_6934

More animal lanterns along the way to Dragonfly Lake

IMG_6937

IMG_6938

Arches of Sea Animals on Dragonfly Bridge.  It was quite crowded on the bridge as visitors continued to flood in.

IMG_6940

IMG_6948

Majestic Sea Palace on one side of Dragonfly Lake

IMG_6952

2 of the 3 Dragon Boats on the other side of Dragongfly Lake

IMG_6957

IMG_6959

IMG_6960

I missed out the Elephants, Dinosaurs, Tree of Life and Racial Harmony (Chinese) lantern sets.

IMG_6864

Nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable evening going around “hunting” for the lanterns.

The lantern event at the Gardens by the Bay was spectacular.  I was impressed with the designs and the quality of the lanterns.  I  can only imagine that it was a very massive task and costly too, to put up such a public event.  Perhaps if would be even better if the event could run for a longer duration like 2-3 weeks or even a month so that more people (both locals and tourists) get to enjoy the lovely lanterns.  I think 10 days are a little too short. 🙂

CELEBRATION OF CHRYSANTHEMUMS

For the first time since last Monday (28 Sep), I woke up seeing the sunlight today!  I was able to see the tall building and even the ships again from my window!  What a nice way to kick off my Sunday!

For the past week when the haze was bad and the PSI readings remained mostly at unhealthy or very unhealthy levels, I stayed at home most of the time.  It was definitely not wise for me to go out unnecessarily, especially given my nose and ear conditions.  No thanks to the haze, one visit to the ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) doctor a few days ago has made me almost S$500 poorer!

So I was really glad that I was able to make a visit to my favourite place – the Flower Dome @ Gardens by the Bay – on 25 Sep when the air quality was much better that afternoon, for its new floral display named The Celebration of Chrysanthemums which started just the day before. I always like to go to the new floral display in the Flower Dome when most of the flowers are still fresh and at their best.  This latest display is the fifth of the six chapters in the Gardens by the Bay’s storytelling journey in 2015.  I went to all the past four chapters (even though I didn’t write about them all), and I won’t want to miss this and the next ones too. 🙂

Celebration of Chrysanthemums : 24 Sep – 10 Nov 2015 @ Flower Dome

Chrysanthemums01

Chrysanthemums02

Oops, this shot was photobombed by a man and a woman (behind the wood sculpture)!  It was not easy to snap without being photobombed even though I patiently wait to have my shots.

Chrysanthemums24

Chrysanthemums25

Chrysanthemums03

This is the first time the Flower Dome is holding a chrysanthemum-themed display.  The flowers are mainly from China, Japan and Malaysia.  Chrysanthemums are largely in the familiar white and yellow blooms.  They also come in a spectrum of reds, pinks, purples and ambers.  Though not as colourful as the tulips, they are equally attractive.  The chrysanthemum is one of the “Four Gentlemen” (四君子) of China and it represents autumn.  The other three being plum blossom, orchid and bamboo.

Chrysanthemums04

Chrysanthemums05

Together with the chrysanthemums, there are also maple and bonsai trees.  As I read from newspapers, the 8 majestic bonsai trees are on loan from ChengTai Nursery, and they are all above 100 years old!  The maples (not so outstanding though) are from New Zealand.

Chrysanthemums06

Chrysanthemums26

Chrysanthemums07

Chrysanthemums08

Beside appreciating the beautiful floral display, I always find my visit to the Flower Dome educational too, as I get to learn more about flowers, their varieties, characteristics etc. etc. – something which I had never appreciated when I was a student. I did a module on Botany during my tertiary education but unfortunately, it was a drag then!

Do you know that these daily-like flowers with a centre disk and one or more rows of ray florets (petals) are actually chrysanthemums?  This is new to me.

Chrysanthemums09

Chrysanthemums10

Chrysanthemums11

Chrysanthemums15

Pompon – small, globular blooms

Chrysanthemums12

Chrysanthemums27

Irregular Curve – the florets loosely incurve and make fully closed centres

Chrysanthemums14

Rare Spiders – long, tube-like ray florets which may coil or hook at the end.  The florets may be very fine to coarse

Chrysanthemums16

Chrysanthemums13

Chrysanthemums19

Other variety of chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums20

 Chrysanthemums17

Chrysanthemums18

Chrysanthemums21

Chrysanthemums23

These are chrysanthemums too!

Chrysanthemums22

It was slightly past 6pm when I walked out of the Flower Dome.  The haze had thickened a little by then and the PSI reading was climbing back to above 100 but I was in good spirits.  Thanks to the chrysanthemums!  It was nice to be able take a breather from the haze that afternoon, and soak up the autumn atmosphere in the comfortable, cool Flower Dome.

This was not all for the day.  To be continued.

THE JOY OF WALKING

Recently, hubby and I have embarked on an intensive jogging/walking and stairs-climbing routine.  When I say intensive, I mean doing it on a daily basis within a duration, and with a target to register at least 10,000 steps a day (using the Apps available on our iPhones to measure the steps).

Why 10,000 steps?  Well, this is not new but a recommended number by the exercise experts.  There has been research that supports the benefits of this recommended number such as weight loss, increase physical activity and reduce blood pressure, to name a few. We all know that it is important that we do not take our health for granted, and prevention is always better than cure regardless of our age groups.

Just how easy or difficult it is to achieve 10,000 steps a day? I would say it is not that easy but not impossible with some conscious and good effort.  Simple ways could be like walking to/from the nearest MRT station instead of taking a bus, climbing the stairs instead of taking the lift.

But of course, these are still not enough to achieve the desired 10,000 steps.   Hence, we are making an effort to jog/brisk-walk on a daily basis.  Our dilemma which I believe is also common to many Singaporeans, is about having time and making time for such exercises.  It is really not so easy given the long working hours, and the tiredness after a long day of work.  I would say we are making good progress since early this month, after hubby settled with a special work arrangement for a temporary half day work from home with his boss.  So we are making full use of this duration.

An average of 11,000+ steps since early April 🙂

Dashboard

As we jog/walk more, we began to venture out to areas slightly further away from where we live.  We began to use the park connectors a lot, and are getting to know our neigbourhood better.  I am enjoying and am beginning to appreciate the Park Connectors Network that we have in Singapore.  Thanks to the great job by the NParks (National Parks) Singapore!  The park connectors have provided very convenient and pleasant paths for people to exercise despite the limited land space in Singapore.  Greenery, shady and flowering trees, shrubs and colourful flowers aside, there are also fitness equipment, children playgrounds, benches etc. within the park connectors.  What else can we ask for?

Last week, after our visit to Tulipmania 2015, we had a walk along the bayfront area, from the Gardens by the Bay to the Marina Barrage bridge, in the dusking sky.  It was our first time to walk this part of Singapore.  It’s such a beautiful area.  Perhaps this explains why many have chosen to exercise there in the evening.

Waterfront01

Waterfront02

Our pleasant surprise that evening….. can you guess what they are?

Waterfront03

We saw 6 wild otters!  We have read reports on wild otters being sighted in different parts of Singapore but little did we expect to see them, right there in the Marina area!  No wonder we saw signboards reading “Otters Crossing” along the bayfront area.  I hope these otters could find enough fish and food to eat!

Otters01

Otters02

Marina Barrage

Marina Barrage

Bayfront skyline after dark

Gardens by the Bay & Marina Bay Sands

Waterfront04

Singapore Flyer

Waterfront05

The night joggers

Marina Barrage02

It looks like we have to move beyond our neighbourhood, explore other park connectors on the island and at the same time, get to know and appreciate my homeland better.  It is like killing two birds with one stone. 🙂

TULIPMANIA 2015

Tulipmania is back again, for the third consecutive year.  I thought it was just not that long ago that I wrote about Tulipmania 2014.  So, time really flies!!

Tulipmania2015

Tulipmania 2015 is on for a longer duration this time, from 20 March to 10 May, in the Flower Dome of Gardens by the Bay.  In the past, it lasted about 3 weeks to a month.

This year’s Tulipmania uses the theme of magical fairy tales featuring Snow Queen, Cinderella, Rapunzel etc.

Tulipmania2015 02

New batch of tulips in this section – most of them have not bloomed yet at the time of my visit on 2 April afternoon

Tulipmania2015 10

Flower Field with a huge gingerbread house of Hansel and Gretel, surrounded by a variety of tulips and a tall Rapunzel’s tower on the right.

Tulipmania2015 03

Due to the large gingerbread house structure and also other fairy tales designs and plants, the overall display did not impress me this time as it seems a little bit messy, and has somehow diluted the focus on tulips.  Though it is said that there are over 40 varieties of tulips on display this year, the quantities seem to have lessened as compared to previous years, and the flowers seem a little loosely planted too.

Tulipmania2015 11

In my opinion, this tower with the long “hair” of Rapunzel could be more appealing if it were decorated with colourful array of tulips in vertical planting!  But of course, this is just a thought since I am not a floral designer.

Tulipmania2015 12

Tulipmania2015 05

The Cinderella’s carriage seemed very popular

Tulipmania2015 04

There were also Little Mermaid (not so little, actually) and The Ugly Duckling (the swan, actually) surrounded by blue (called Blue Pearl) and purple (called Purple Sensation) hyacinths.  I suppose these hyacinths were to symbolise pond/water but too bad, they did not bring out the effect.  There was just too much green.

Tulipmania2015 13

Tulipmania2015 14

The Windmill with a variety of tulips and hyacinths

Tulipmania 2015 15

If I had to pick a display that I like most, The Snow Queen would be my choice.

Tulipmania2015 16

Tulipmania2015 17

The “Snow Queen” section is planted with many white hyacinths (White Pearl), white and cream tulips.  White tulips represent purity and forgiveness while cream tulips signify love forever.   Too bad, most of them were either over-bloomed or already fading at the time of my visit.

Tulipmania2015 18

Many tulips in other segments were also over-bloomed or fading. I think the timing of my visit was not very right as it had already been about two weeks since the event started.  Tulip flowers have a relatively short life span of just a few days to a week, as I understand.

Fading Bright Parrots

Tulipmania2015 19

Although I was a little disappointed with the overall display/design and also the condition of the flowers, I always find the vivid, colourful tulips a delight to look at.  They simply attract me.  This is partly the reason why I have been going to this annual event since 2013.

Tulipmania2015 20

Tulipmania2015 21

Tulipmania2015 22

By paying a bit of attention to the brochure, and the small signboards on display, the event can be educational too.

Do you know that tulips are the third most popular flowers after roses and chrysanthemums?  And do you know that tulips are believed to have originated from Central Asia and brought to Turkey by nomadic tribes?  Interesting, isn’t it?  I always thought that they originated from Europe, if not Netherlands.

Tulipmania2015 01

Tulipmania2015 06

Tulipmania2015 07

Tulipmania2015 08

Tulipmania2015 09

Now, my dream is to go to the Netherlands to see the tulip fields.  I imagine that would be fantastic!

ASIAN TALES @ FLOWER DOME – USHERING IN THE YEAR OF THE GOAT (2015)

Last Sunday (18 Jan), hubby and I made another visit to the Flower Dome at the Gardens by the Bay.  It was my fourth visit in the short span of less than two months. Ah, it looks like I am well suited to be an ambassador for the Flower Dome! 😀 😀

The Asian Tales floral display in celebration of the Year of the Goat, started on 16 January.  The floral display ends on 8 March.  I always prefer to visit the Flower Dome as soon as I could whenever there is a new display, as the flowers are still fresh and at their best. 🙂

Asian Tales01

I like this year’s Chinese New Year (CNY) floral display much better.  I didn’t make it last year (Year of the Horse)  but I remember the one two years ago (Year of the Snake) did not impress me at all.

Setting against the backdrop of scenic landscape of mountains and valley, the theme this year showcases three stunning goats sculpted out of wood perching on the ridge, and many goats made out of flowers (mainly chrysanthemums) grazing in field, along with an array of vibrant dahlias specially cultivated for this festivity (some of these descriptions taken from the brochures).

Entrance area

Asian Tales04

San Yang Kai Tai (三阳开泰) is a Chinese idiom that refers to the bestowing of good fortune on everything under the sun, with the onset of Spring

Asian Tales05

Central Floral Display Field with the 12 Chinese Zodiac (十二生肖) signs, and CNY decorations.

Asian Tales06

Can you recognise these Chinese Zodiac?

Asian Tales07

Were you born in the Year of the Goat?

 Asian Tales16

An interesting legend about Chinese Zodiac which is a bit different from what I knew from young

Legend of Chinese Zodiac

These three wood-sculpted goats are simply a delight to look at. Kudos to the sculptor(s)!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Asian Tales15

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Asian tales12

There are nine basic flower forms of dahlias.  If you do visit the Flower Dome for the Asian Tales, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the brochure to learn more about dahlias

Dahlias

Beside floral displays, visitors to the Flower Dome are also treated with various activities held in there, in conjunction with this Chinese festival.  There are Rainbow calligraphy, New Year calligraphy (春联), oriental paper-cutting and mask-painting.

Rainbow Calligraphy Shifus from China.

Asian Tales 19

Instead of name painting which most people choose, I requested the Shifu to write me four Chinese words with one of them having the same pronunciation as Goat in Chinese, ie Yang.

Huan Le Yang Yi meaning overflowing joy – one of my wishes for the Year of the Goat

Asian Tales17

These two Chinese calligraphy Shifus are from China too

Asian Tales20

Another phrase with words having the pronunciation of Yang.  Xi Qi Yang Yang meaning full of joy.  I have pasted it near the entrance of my home.

Asian Tales18

Since it was not crowded at the time of my visit, and I could afford some time, I decided to have some fun in oriental paper-cutting and mask-painting which I had never done before.

Asian Tales22

Paper-cutting of Chinese Eternity Knot, the easiest of all

Asian Tales21

Asian Tales23

My ugly painting.  The instructor said I have very bold strokes in my painting but my hands were not stable enough.  This mask which has red as its main colour, represents loyalty and braveness.

Asian Tales24

Another 3 big Yuan Bao (“gold” ingots), a symbol of fortune and prosperity, near the exit of the Flower Dome

Asian Tales14

Here’s a video that I have put together, with nostalgic CNY songs.

26 days to CNY.  CNY light-up in Chinatown will start next weekend (31 January).  I am planning to go check it up next, before I travel. 🙂